Archive | March, 2019

Small Business Twitter Tips for 2019

29 Mar

If you’re a small business owner, you know time is limited.

Usually, your task list far outweighs your capacity for meeting your goals. When identifying social media objectives, you have to be clear on the what, why, and where you will engage.

How Can Twitter be a Valuable Resource for You?

Stats show that Twitter is still an effective way to connect with a broad range of customers.

Forty-seven percent of people who follow a brand on Twitter are more likely to visit that company’s website, and 75% of companies with an online presence are now using Twitter for marketing. Twitter’s own study found that Twitter users, compared to the general online population, were more likely to discover or try new things and were more receptive of change. Twitter can help you reach broader audiences and engage with a generation that values interaction and experience.

As you evaluate your Twitter marketing in 2019, be clear about your goals. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Offer customer support or increase online sales? Also, evaluate what kind of Twitter voice you want to have. Some Twitter accounts exist to respond to customer complaints while others seek a playful or promotional tone. Find a persona and stick with it to build trust and continuity with readers.

Twitter Metrics That Matter

Next, take a peek at these performance metrics as you consider how to engage:

Post Native Media

Twitter favors posts that are uploaded to its own platform more than sharing from another platform, so it’s always better to upload something directly.

Uploaded photos and videos will receive a larger preview treatment than external links.

Use Video Frequently

Video Tweets are six times more likely to be Retweeted than photos and three times more likely to be Retweeted than GIFs.

Studies found that regardless of length, in-feed video ads were effective in introducing products, creating buzz, or communicating a brand message.

Get Eyes on You

Want people to Tweet more about your brand or product?

Add a branded generic business hashtag to your bio and share it in all your print and digital marketing. Pin upcoming events to the top of your page, tag other businesses or customers when you post, or consider giving people discounts when they make a reservation or win a special trivia challenge through your feed.

Play With Words

Part of Twitter’s appeal is that it’s short and sweet.

Marketing hashtags are a punchy way to launch a campaign or to connect all other Tweets about your company or product (classics include #TweetFromTheSeat by Charmin or the #WantAnR8” driving surprise days by Audi).

Hashtags give your Tweets context and give conversations longevity and momentum. Hashtags aren’t case sensitive, but adding capital letters can make them easier to read, like “GoForGold” versus “goforgold.” Short, distinct hashtags are more likely to get used. During recruitment season, colleges on Twitter may use the hashtag “#NSD2019” instead of this, “#NationalSigningDay2019.”

Refresh and Repeat

Many users are on Twitter for quick bursts of time so even daily posts can be missed.

Don’t be afraid to resource your material and Retweet the same material several times. You can change photos, captions, or the featured media but attach the same content several times over the course of your marketing schedule.

As you grow on Twitter, be sure to listen! Twitter offers a great platform to hear what customers are saying, to keep a pulse on industry opinion, or to network with other businesses. Some of these people may end up being your most valued customers or your next project partner!

Four Design Keys Every Novice Can Master

26 Mar

Ever feel stuck in a rut when it comes to your print or graphics capabilities? “It’s impossible,” you say. “I just don’t have an eye for design.”

There’s hope for even you!

In today’s generation, incredible graphics, fonts, and digital capabilities are literally at our fingertips. And while design may not come naturally to you, everyone can make their projects look better. Whether you’re creating newsletters, small advertisements, or presentations, here are four concepts that are fundamental to every well-designed print project.

1) Proximity

The main purpose of proximity is to organize.

When you begin your layout, remember that items relating to each other should be grouped close together. This reduces clutter and gives your reader a clear sense of structure.

When you’re thinking about proximity, organize your elements as groupings that form one visual unit rather than scattering around several separate pieces. Physical closeness implies a relationship, so items not related to each other should be spaced apart, while elements you want to connect should be grouped.

Don’t be afraid of white space! Sprawling elements throughout a page to avoid white space will make a piece more visually challenging for your viewer to comprehend.

What to Avoid: Too many separate elements on a page, grouping unrelated items in proximity, sticking things in the corners or the middle to avoid empty space.

2) Contrast

Contrast is one of the best ways to add visual interest in your page.

Contrast excites the atmosphere, draws the eye, and clarifies communication. Contrast is nothing if not bold, so one goal of contrast is to avoid elements on the page that are merely similar. If fonts, colors, or outline borders are not the same, then make them extremely different: white on black, 24-point font above 12-point font, or neon shapes near pastel text boxes.

What to Avoid: Being wimpy, using similar typefaces, highlighting a non-focal element, creating unnecessary chaos on a page.

3) Alignment

Alignment unifies a page and creates flow and personality.

Nothing should be placed on your page haphazardly. Every element you use should connect with other elements to create a clean, sophisticated look. When items are aligned, the result is a stronger cohesive unit. Be conscious of where you place elements and align pieces in a page even when the two objects are physically far apart (like a top headline with the bottom footnote).

What to Avoid: Using multiple alignment styles (i.e. some center, others left) on one page or always defaulting to centered alignment.

4) Repetition

Repeating visual elements of design throughout a piece will bring consistency and strengthen the unity of your projects.

Repetition can be used with colors, fonts, bullets, graphics, borders, subheadings elements, or anything a reader will visually recognize. Repetition is a conscious effort to unify all parts of a design: elements repeating through various pages, colors displaying patterns, drop caps in lead paragraphs or sidebars in successive layouts.

What to Avoid: Making repetitive elements too subtle or infrequent, being haphazard rather than intentional, or repeating an element so often it breaks the flow or the document as a whole.

While design may not come naturally to you, everyone has room to grow. By using these four principles, your work will look more professional, unified, and interesting. And you will have more fun creating!

How to Survive the Off-Season Sales Slow-Down

22 Mar

Vancouver’s Whistler resort, owned by Vail Resorts, is currently the most-visited ski venue in North America.

But as one of Vail’s 19 prestigious resorts, Whistler still deals with the reality of seasonal slumps. Part of Whistler’s off-season strategy includes summer activities like carnival games, ziplining, and bear-viewing.

Vail has recently taken a more aggressive ticketing strategy as CEO Rob Katz made the $899 “Epic Ski Pass” the centerpiece of its pricing structure. This upscale pass provides visitors unlimited skiing at Vail’s 19 resorts and partial access to dozens of resorts worldwide.

The effect has been substantial, with 2018 revenues rising 41.5% in just one quarter! With the Epic Ski Pass, Vail also removed discounts for skiers paying in advance on one- and three-day passes, instead limiting these discounts to early-season purchasing. While this has drawn criticism, county councilman Steve Anderson praised Katz’s bold move in incentivizing off-peak sales:

“For a company that runs a ski hill, that makes good sense because they get a lot of cash coming in when they are not in peak operating season, and as you get closer to the lifts opening, these bargains start to disappear,” Anderson told Business in Vancouver.

Strategic Sales Cycles

Every business has its slumps, and accounting for slow days is critical.

As you prepare your yearly budget, consider peaks and valleys in revenue and be creative in planning sales or service bundling options.

Resourceful entrepreneurs say it is helpful to break sales cycles into six seasons:

January-February

Post-holiday lulls may bring purchasing drop-offs, so smart businesses work to craft sales around health-related themes, branding or re-order opportunities, February holidays, bedding/linens/cozy comfort items, or electronic upgrades.

March-May

Spring is a time for renewing, cleaning out, or vacation planning.

Incorporate “think spring” themes like outdoor activities, Easter or gardening, trimming or tidying, tax-time incentives, or “going green” options. By April, finalize your summer sales campaigns and prepare to roll out hot new products or services.

Early June to July

Enjoy that summer freedom with longer days and lazy schedules.

People are spending plenty of time outside, so build your messages around recreation, refreshment, family, and everything that’s free and easy. Think weddings, outdoor gatherings, or strategic fall planning as you connect with your clients and plan your next move.

Mid-July to Early September

As vacations become memories, think ahead on school prep, fashion, fall landscaping, and new routines.

At this time, people are ready to stock up, plan ahead, or solidify year-end business goals. Also, a relatively new phenomenon is changing the second half of summer: Amazon Prime Day (mid-July).

As people take advantage of Amazon’s sales and free shipping that day, many online and e-commerce retailers also offer Back to School specials on this day. Even merchants who aren’t on Amazon tend to see a bump on Amazon Prime Day, so consider how you can grab this momentum and turn it your way!

Late September-October

Now those new rhythms are established, and the holidays are just ahead.

This season sees people finalizing home repairs or DIY projects, locking down system upgrades at work, and making major contacts before the holidays arrive. Find your client’s problems and find creative ways to help, because everyone likes a strong start to the fall season!

November-December

In this season retail sales explode and businesses plan for changes in the new year.

Whether this is your slow season or total survival mode, these months can make or break a business. Review data from previous years, tighten up shipping, or set aggressive agendas for the new year. Woo customers through holiday sales, Christmas greetings, or other incentives.

No matter when your slump hits, remember to push hard during the busy months and be strategic in the off-season. Set aside cash for slow months, plan for busy seasons in advance, and keep evolving in your skills. Your best years are still ahead!

Four Strategies for Crafting Unforgettable Content

19 Mar

Andi Bell, the World Memory Champion of 2002, appears to have memory superpowers.

He can memorize the order of several decks of cards and recall them on the spot. How does he do it? Bell uses a location-based memory strategy, like this:

Bell picks a route through London and walks it repeatedly until it is fixed in his mind. As he walks, he associates cards of the deck with a character (like a bear or a pineapple), then connects each character and card with a site along his route: the bear becomes the House of Parliament, the pineapple becomes Buckingham Palace, etc. In this way, the deck transforms from a string of facts to a story to share. Each deck has roles that come to life mentally as Bell “walks the plot” of his route in London.

Make Your Words More Memorable

While you may not have memory superpowers, we all recognize the power of retention and its impact on marketing.

When you share memorable content, it shapes people’s perceptions and positively disposes them toward business with your company.

Do you want to bring your brand story to life and make your marketing messages more memorable?

This is harder than it used to be. In a recent study, Microsoft found our average attention span has decreased from 12 seconds (in 2000) to about eight seconds today, with viewers exposed to up to 5,000 ads daily.

Audiences are bombarded by content, so yours needs to be memorable! Here are four principles to keep your communication as “sticky” as possible:

1. Follow the Rule of Seven

Sales are more than transactions; they involve a journey of decision.

People can’t buy from you if they don’t know you exist, and they won’t buy from you if they don’t trust you. Typically, people need to see your message at least seven times before they consider your offer. Don’t expect people to respond immediately. Offer different methods to replicate your story to increase the odds that they’ll respond.

2. Use Powerful Headlines

Advertising guru David Oglivy estimated that, because four out of five people only read the headlines, when you write a good headline, “you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

Since we encounter volumes of content each day, we can’t possibly read it all. Great headlines come in many forms. Some are short, others are newsworthy, and many feature a strong product benefit. The best headlines are specific. Which of the following impacts you more?

“How to Improve Production Yields This Season”

OR:

“This Little Mistake Cost One Farmer $3,000 a year”

3. Be Funny

The most memorable messages make you laugh.

When Clutch Media interviewed consumers to find what kind of ads they prefer, people overwhelmingly chose ads that made them want to eat or laugh!

Humor is key to making content memorable, especially when messages are specifically tailored to your audience. Data showed that 53 percent of consumers are likely to remember content that is humorous!

4. Use Detailed, Personalized Stories

Which is more memorable: A stroke response fact sheet or a heart-wrenching brochure about a woman who dismissed her husband’s fatal symptoms when he said he was “just tired?”

Stories share messages in solid, emotionally moving, unforgettable ways. The more people connect with a story, the more they’ll remember it, so use stories that are specific, personal, and relatable to the clients you want to reach.

Package It With Perfection

In the end, HOW you share is just as important as WHAT you share.

Looking to package your content with noteworthy style? From stunning sell sheets to dynamic postcards and brochures, we’ll bring superior craftsmanship that is guaranteed to add impact!

Use Powerful Visualizations to Make Your Message Clear

15 Mar

Communication is the key to human connection.

But adequately sharing information can be more difficult than you may think. George Bernard Shaw said the single biggest challenge in communication is the illusion that it has taken place!

Experts estimate that 65 percent of people are visual learners, so one of the easiest ways to communicate with people is with pictures. A well-structured chart, graph, or data visualization can do wonders for sharing your insights with customers, team members, or your superiors. And with easily accessible tools you can use illustrations to:

  • Get your message across quickly
  • Make complex data accessible to many
  • Make your report or presentation more visually appealing
  • Create a more memorable, lasting impression

Whether you’re reporting the household budget or spicing up slides for a presentation, stretch yourself to try one of these options this month.

Vertical Bar Charts

This is a simple option for comparing data grouped by distinct categories. Vertical bar charts are better when sharing 10 groups of data or less.

Horizontal Bar Charts

Typically, horizontal bar charts are effective when you have more than 10 groups of data or if you have long category labels to share.

This format makes labels easier to read because they are displayed in the proper orientation. Vertical and bar charts are excellent for comparing any sort of numeric value, including group sizes, inventories, ratings, and survey responses.

Pie Charts

Pie charts are fun to look at and helpful for understanding parts of a whole.

Remember to order the pieces of your pie according to size and to ensure the total of your pieces adds up to 100%.

Line Chart

Line charts are used to show data relative to a continuous variable: calendar months, years, budget allocations, etc.

Plotting data variables on line graphs makes it easier for readers to identify useful trends or to evaluate comparable products or challenges.

Bullet Chart

Bullet charts are typically used to display performance data relative to a goal.

A bullet graph reveals progress toward a goal, compares this to another measure, and provides context in the form of a rating or performance.

Flow Charts

Following the proper process is something that can make or break an organization or its employees.

Flow charts are used typically in medical, educational, or manufacturing fields to bring quality control and to ensure procedures are uniformly followed.

Pictographs

Here images and symbols are used to illustrate data.

For example, a basic pictograph might use a frowny face to signify sick days and a happy face to symbolize healthy days. Because images hold more emotional power than raw data, pictograms are often used to present medical data. An illustration that shades five out of 20 people has a much more significant impact in sharing a 20-percent death rate.

Sharpen Your Image

When finalizing your data visualization, here are ways to bring your best to the table:

Less is More.

When creating illustrations, consider which gridlines, borders, or numbers can be removed to make the essential parts speak for themselves.

Let White Space Shout.

Minimalist designs like this Congressional gender chart can highlight areas where a gross imbalance exists.

Interpret Data for Readers.

Viewers can understand data more easily when you offer compelling titles and well-placed labels.

Use a Call to Action.

To move your readers, encourage them to take action and make changes.

A great example of this comes from Sebastian Soto, who built a single-color pictograph about the decline of Zambian malaria. Using quotes from key research and health ministry directors on the poster, he closed the graphic with this phrase: “Let’s Collaborate. againstmalaria.com.”

If you need help creating visualizations for your next print project, give us a call today!

Grow Creativity with the Brainstorming Strategies of Walt Disney

12 Mar

From Tarzan’s treehouse to the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Disney’s creative team has spent decades constructing fantasy lands depicted in Disney movies.

Bringing dreams to life is Disney’s business, and its empire spans 11 theme parks, a town, four cruise ships, dozens of hotels, and many waterparks and restaurants that help guests experience the happiest place on Earth.

The dreamers, or “Imagineers” at Disney are the brains behind the vision. Peter Rummell, who served as chairman of the Imagineers for 12 years, said creativity doesn’t just happen. It has to be engineered:

“It is a process and if you don’t understand that and if you sit around and wait for the lightning bolt, you’re not going to be very productive.”

Walt Disney himself was a master of creative thinking and brainstorming. Not only was he talented in discovering ideas, he knew how to convert possibilities into reality. One associate said this about Disney:

“There were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler. You never knew which one was coming to the meeting.”

Disney’s Strategic Brainstorming Techniques

Over time, Walt’s team used his own attributes for guiding thoughts to build parallel thinking in groups, while at the same time generating concepts, critiquing ideas, and solving problems.

NLP expert Robert Dilts helped bring the technique to life, like this:

  • Four parts of a room were set up for different thinking methods: imagining, planning, critiquing, and for stepping outside the concept. Arranging a physical space for each mindset prepared teams to switch from one thinking mode to another.
  • Teams gathered with a target objective: an innovation to brainstorm, a problem to solve, or a process to improve. While dreamers practiced unhindered green light thinking, planners used red light critiques to define the how, the timeline, or the plan.
  • Meanwhile, critics and the concept overseers analyzed weaknesses of the plan, defining missing elements, gaps in the process, or obstacles to address.

Rotating between spaces allowed teams to transition from unhindered passion to logical plans. Impossible ideas weren’t immediately squashed. And through this defined creative process, teams could generate solid creative ideas with an action plan to apply it.

Unlock Creativity in Your Team

Though Peter Rummell has since moved on from the Imagineers, he says his time at Disney taught him three valuable lessons for guiding teams in creative thinking:

1. Entertain ideas from everyone.

“I think one of the major lessons I learned was that despite the hierarchy of an organization, an idea can come from anywhere.”

Top leaders should be willing to listen and younger team members should be encouraged that everyone has a voice.

2. Build an eclectic team.

“An accountant sitting next to a poet is a really good idea,” Rummell said.

High IQs are not pre-requisites to creative success. When teams are full of variety, often the least likely people can generate the best concepts. Varying skill sets help to energize the best ideas and to round out gaps in the plan.

3. Vet even the strangest ideas.

When Rummell’s team was brainstorming waterpark ideas, they were totally stalled.

“We didn’t want to do another Pirates of the Caribbean or some Caribbean island,” Rummell said. “We were trying to figure out what would be fun or different.”

Everything sounded silly until someone left for the bathroom and walked by a cubicle decorated in snowstorms. Though the idea of a freak Florida snowstorm sounded ridiculous, eventually the idea became “Blizzard Beach,” the theme of an entire waterpark in Orlando.

Creativity doesn’t just happen, so get resourceful and create some new brainstorming processes of your own. When you’re ready to roll out new concepts, we’ll help you bring them to life in print!

MI4P Content – Your New Blog Post

8 Mar
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Go Off the Grid with Transparent or Overlay Design Options

Want to stretch your designs or look your very best in print?

Consider the bold, creative flair overprinting or transparent layering can bring.

Typically, when you generate multi-layer designs your design software will cause one element to cover the artwork below it. Graphics obscure backgrounds, fonts cover image details, or text wraps around focal points as you format it to your preference. This layering process organizes your piece and prevents the muddy look that can occur when colors bleed together.

Overprinting allows you to use one color on top of another in a way that blends two colors to make a third. This is especially useful if you’re working with a limited selection of Pantone colors or to create a unique, funky feel when two pieces of artwork overlap.

Overprinting is an element that can be turned on and previewed in the attributes panel with your design software, and flattened (or exported) in the print settings.

Want to try it? Here are some basic examples to experiment with:

1. Blend text over images.

Start with a simple, uncomplicated photo like three bright citrus oranges.

Choose a photo with fewer details so your design isn’t too busy. Add text over the image in either a lighter shade of the same citrus hue or a totally contrasting color (white font on orange fruit, for example). Blending the words and image will create a new, third color where the font overlays the fruit.

2. Apply a typographic hierarchy.

Create order in the way your design is read by adjusting font transparency levels throughout the image.

For example, try a textured wood background but allow it to peek through your text by adding transparency to your type. Primary headlines should be less transparent for a bold, commanding presence. Secondary heads or copy text down the page can increase in transparency for a more faded, mysterious feel.

3. Overlay a graphic with a solid color.

Use color to make a statement with a solid color overlay over the whole page.

This means that you cover an image or page with a semi-transparent colored box. The effect can add meaning to an image, bring attention to a design, or help you get creative with limited image options. Another option is to use gradients or filters to fade a background image or bring a bright hue to give a boring image some spark. A neutral color or sepia overlay can add a rustic flavor, then be paired with a bright or transparent font that really pops out.

Transparent Layering in Print

Transparency is also a great layering option that can also be used in all kinds of designs to bring exquisite elegance or unforgettable flair.

Curious? Feel free to visit with us about outstanding options like these:

  • Clear frosted business cards
  • Arresting posters printed on translucent stock
  • Frosted tote bags with artwork or logos foil-stamped on the surface
  • Translucent vellum paper used in formal invitations
  • Oversized translucent stickers for windowfronts, clever displays, or sharp packaging
  • Catalogs or booklets featuring bold text overlaid by a simple, transparent cover

Transparency can be a great way to reveal what’s inside your package or under the project cover, letting the product inside sell itself! Use transparency and overlay techniques to give your project more depth, structure, or sophistication.

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