October 31, 2017

What's Black and White and Read All Over?

OK so the joke is ancient... and really only works when spoken. The answer has even changed - now it's newsletter instead of newspaper. But people are still reading, and more than ever.

Whether you choose informational or promotional marketing or both, you're missing opportunities if you're not using email to market your small business.

B2B: Email is the third most influential source of information for B2B audiences, behind only colleague recommendations and industry-specific thought leaders. (source)

B2C: 80% of retail professionals indicate that email marketing is their greatest driver of customer retention. (source)

If you're going to invest time and money in email marketing, you want to step out strong. Feel the pressure to get it right. Here's a checklist to help you gauge your readiness.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder newsletter October31, 2017

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October 27, 2017

What Do You Need To Say YES To?

(guest post by Natasha Marchewka)

Do you find you are saying NO to everything lately, to keep the status quo?

I was... because I was overwhelmed and afraid. I already had enough daily commitments to keep me busy for the next 10 years.

And then, I had a shift of perception.

I realized that to grow (or be happier or fulfilled), I needed to say YES to things that stretched me. Further, what is entrepreneurship without risk taking? It doesn’t exist.

That said, I’ve taken on MANY new commitments that I suddenly have the energy for because they all seem like where I need to be. In all cases, the yes’s come in the form of helping others in some way.

When’s the last time you said yes to something that you felt enthusiastic about? Even when our plates are full, I believe there is room to say yes to commitments that ring true with us on a deep level. Taking a risk is part of living fully with the potential to fail or succeed. Either way, you succeed.

I’m saying YES because I know how to say no. I’ve made room in my business and my life for new risks to help me to continue to evolve.

What can you say YES to?

October 20, 2017

Are You Ready to Start a Newsletter for Your Small Business?

An email newsletter is a well proven way to provide value to your customers and contacts. But the competition for space in people's inboxes is fierce. If you're going to invest time and money in email marketing, you'll need to step out strong. Your first message will set the stage for what your readers can expect in the future. Feel the pressure to get it right.

The trouble is, you don't know what you don't know. While there are many things you'll learn from trial and error, there are a few critical things you need to do well from the start.

Here's a checklist to help you gauge your readiness:

1. Have you clearly defined your goals? If not, write them down now. Here's a list to help.

2. Do you know what your potential readers want? What's of value to them? If not, get this straight before you go further. Here are some ways to think about that.

3. Are you ready to commit to a schedule? Once you start sending a newsletter, an erratic schedule will also make you appear erratic. You want to be consistent and repetitive.

4. Do you know what bulk email software you're going to use? Ask others for advice - make sure you're hearing from people who have actually used the application. Pay money for a good, unbranded app because free is free for a reason.

5. Have you assembled your mailing list? And do you understand how the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation (CASL) affects your list building efforts and sending procedures? Here are several articles about the various aspects of CASL and the possible impacts on your small business.

These items are hefty and each requires considerable thought and research. It's worth it to make the effort to get it right!

Want a little help? Or a lot of help? Schedule a virtual meeting with me to get your questions answered and receive my best advice - click here.

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October 14, 2017

Using Pinterest to Create Brand Moodboards: Part II

(guest post by Alison Knott)
Nailing it down with a pin!

Now that you’ve spent some time getting up close and personal with other brands in Part 1, it’s time to find those patterns on Pinterest!

You know 30 ways to look for ‘healthy snack recipes’ (who am I kidding, I’m married to Frito-Lay), so I know you’ll be set to start searching on Pinterest. But don’t stop at the obvious keywords like ‘bespoke logo’ or ‘life coach brand’. Branch out to of all kinds of brand application.

Parrot Party: our new venture

For this exercise, let's pretend you're starting an online store and forum called Parrot Party - a site for all the things parrot owners want and need. Most parrot-owner related websites are just breeders with old websites, and you want something that's going to appeal to parrot owners. Fresh, vibrant and speaks to owners ready to spend big bucks and share their knowledge on owning these birds. They choose to live with loud, colourful pets that live for 30+ years, and you want to connect with that market. Where do you start on Pinterest, then? Well here are some ideas guaranteed to get you started.

Colour Palettes: because there’s literally 500 shades of light blue out there

What common colour combinations did you see in your research? Maybe it’s a good thing that they’re all the same and you want to do different. That will set you apart. On the other hand, it’s possible you will lose credibility for certain industries, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons. Additionally, a colour palette may contain a surprise tint you didn’t consider!

Using Pinterest for branding: colour
tropical colour palette

In the case of Parrot Party, we started with searching "tropical colour palette" but didn’t like how they leaned more toward beach scenes. What we were attracted to are these, inspired by flowers. Also, it turns out some of these swatches are similar colours to the plumage of various parrots - bonus!

Typography: we’ve all got opinions on fonts, who are we kidding?

Jokes about Comic Sans aside, different fonts evoke different sentiments. What fonts will best represent your business when you’re not around? Is it always script-like? Very stern blocks? A lot of detail or very straightforward typography? Bonus points if what you pin includes the font name. But if you’re not sure, there’s a great website called WhatTheFont? that can help you identify the typeface just by uploading an image.

Using Pinterest for branding: typography examples
bold fun fonts

For Parrot Party, you didn't like all the super whimsical, so you search "bold fun fonts", thinking about all those funny parrot videos online. Bingo - lots of character in these picks.

Patterns, shapes and graphic representation of your keywords

A designer can do a LOT with a great pattern. They’re an excellent way to create graphics when you don’t have any photography available. I recall a branding session with a client in which we spent 20 minutes just looking around us for what sort of patterns she liked. My idea of ‘geometrics’ was way different than hers. Are we talking tiny, intricate repeats? Bold circles of two colours? Again, pin with purpose.

Additionally, you can be literal with a word that's in your branding, and then search to see how other designers and illustrators have designed that item.

Using Pinterest for branding: feather graphics examples

You don't have a clear idea of the Parrot Party logo yet, but you do know that you want to represent all parrots. Using "feathers" in some capacity would keep the brand inclusive. That turned into another search for "feather illustration" to see how other people render feathers. There were lots of watercolour options but they're too soft for your audience. Instead, you're drawn to these more bolder, graphic renderings.

Storefronts, office design and other interiors

Even if you work exclusively in digital/online, who’s to say you can’t dream. What would the physical location of your company look like if it did exist? A brand is more than a logo – it’s a whole experience.

Using Pinterest for branding: interior examples
Aviaries and flight cages

So what if Parrot Party had an office space? "Aviaries and flight cages" are every parrot owner’s dream – a large space for their pets to fly around. Then you think about other online giants like Google and their wide open spaces... there’s something to pin there, too. Now you've seen some design pattern themes of natural wood, green plants, black or metal wire. There may be merit in drawing upon those textures later on.

Stationery, such as business cards, envelopes, letterheads

This isn’t to dictate to your designer how to design your calling card, but rather to get your head wrapped around execution possibilities. Explore words like foil, spot varnish, handmade and so on for more unique applications.

Your initial search of "feather stationery" didn't really reveal the level of bold you're looking for, but there were some neat ideas around cutouts and geometric shapes to render birds that you might consider for your business card.

And there you have it.

A whole bevy of imagery that you curated and approve of to start designing with. They say an image is worth a thousand words, and you, dear reader, just collected about four billion.

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Alison Knott is the owner of Eraserheader Design, a one-stop web consultant and brand shop. She’s been turning client napkin scribbles into purposeful business brands since 2007. You can find more great branding and online business tips from her weekly Facebook Live show LunchPress

October 8, 2017

What Will You Write After the Conference?

Many business people are busy preparing to attend large conferences this fall. It can be quite an expense and a lot of hard work to prepare for these big events... booking sales meetings with other attendees, preparing marketing collateral, booking flights and hotels, and maybe even training in sales skills.

Certainly when you return from the conference, you'll have lots to write about for your blog or newsletter.

1. Summarize the overall experience of preparing and attending. Perhaps include 'what to do or not to do' tips for future attendees.

2. Summarize the conference itself, highlighting key learning points.

3. Write articles about each of the presentations, focusing on what's important to your readers.

4. Capture and share the data, the important statistics and trends impacting your industry and customers.

5. Interview presenters and attendees. Prepare a series of questions in advance. This could be video or audio transcribed into text. The really good interviews can be used for blog posts.

6. Do market research. You don't often get the chance to be in the same place as so many industry counterparts and potential customers. Prepare one or two questions in advance and ask those same questions to everyone you meet. Your questions might be specific, like "How many times do you ...?" Or your questions might ask for opinions or advice, like "What do you think about ...?" or "What do you recommend for ...?" Collate the responses and share the results with your readers.

You will learn many things at the conference. Figure out what's important to your readers and prepare beforehand to create compelling content upon your return to the office.

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October 2, 2017

Good, Fast, Cheap

On the inside of one of our garage doors, in black permanent marker, the previous owner - a mechanic and race car driver - wrote:
pick 2!

I know Mike was talking about cars but this trifecta has implications for other (small business type) things, like marketing, product development, project management, and problem solving.

Let's say you can get a good website built fast; you shouldn't expect it to be cheap. If it's fast and cheap, don't expect quality, and so on. If you think you're getting all three, beware! Economics - and people - don't work like that.

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