News & Articles Archives

We’re talking about Facebook and Google+1. Is it worth the time and effort to incorporate these social networks into your marketing, and make the effort to collect “likes” or “friends?” More importantly, is it worth the time to network with your friends?

Yes, it is.

There are more than 500,000,000 people on Facebook, and half of those people log in daily. The average user has about 130 “friends,” and boy, do they share links and interesting pieces of information — about 30,000,000,000 per month.

Think about this. Just for FUN, people log on and read the bits and pieces of special deals, interesting articles, fun pictures, articles and more. If you as a business owner can get just one person to “like” you, then you are instantly recommended to an average of 130 friends. If you get “liked” by a power user, then we’re talking hundreds or thousands of friends. By any definition, that is good marketing

What’s the commitment of time? You need to put up the pages that describe your business. You also need to occasionally post an interesting picture or bit of information.

What’s interesting? Anything that speaks to the benefits your product or service offers to the consumer. Here’s an example:

Not Interesting: We just added 3 new chairs in our hair salon. We welcome Joni, Andrea and Hank as our new stylists.They’re great! Stop by soon!!!

Interesting: We’ve all but eliminated wait time with the addition of three very talented stylists. Joni is an expert in color and we are seeing some marvelous updates to our clients’ hairstyles with highlights. Andrea is our new men’s stylist who understands how to adapt a haircut to a client’s hairline. Hank is our new make over specialist all the way from the big salons of New York. All I can say is WOW! You gotta see this!

You get the idea. Talk about the things your customer wants to hear and tell them how you have just made their life a whole lot better.

Social Media is really just “organized recommendations.” People like discussing the goods and services they buy, and this is the opportunity to add a name to it. We always hear from our clients that “word of mouth is the best advertising.” We agree, and social media harnesses that power. That is worth a little time and effort.

During my years in the design and marketing industry, I’ve spent a lot of time on the bleeding edge of technology, keeping up with new hardware, software and techniques, constantly training and re-training myself to take advantage of all these wondrous things that are supposed to make life easier.

A few years ago, I stopped doing this. I did not choose to do this. Stopping was imposed on me by all that new technology.

It seems that every time I upgraded hardware or software, I was stopped in doing the most important thing I can do for clients — producing their work on time and on budget.

You know the drill: Load a new program, then deal with the consequences of that action, which might include something a small as learning where your favorite keyboard shortcut went to in this version, to fixing the hardware that no longer runs the more powerful, and demanding, software.

Or, if you buy some new hardware, you then spend a week integrating it into your workflow and work habits.

I finally got tired of the rat race in technology, as I spent long years in various art and creative departments where the latest whiz-band shiny tech thing was a mandatory acquisition, if for no other reason than to stay compliant with clients new toys.

Enough.

So, in 2000, when we went full time with Wells-Smith Partners, I decided to use ancient technology, including my trusty Mac G3, a couple of small Raspberry iMacs, and a couple of hard drive to hold files. Our network was “sneaker-net” based — we went from one office to the next with files on a floppy disk or Syquest or Zip disk.

And I used that setup for three years, until I finally needed a little more speed, and invested a whole couple of hundred dollars in a new — wait for it — used G4!

From 2000 to 2010, I would not buy a new computer or upgrade my major software, because I simply did not want to invest time and money in getting the darned stuff to play well together.

The other graphic designers in my neighborhood laughed when I sat down at my computer, but I churned out a lot more work than they did, with a lot less downtime. My systems were tested, trusted, and (almost) never went down.

Of course, all good things come to and end, and my systems started failing. I saw the writing on the wall: doom and gloom from more and more crashes and incompatibilities.

Time to jump ahead in technology again. Nice thing about waiting for the bleeding edge to pass you by is that the hardware and software get better and cheaper.

So we bought new computers for eveyone, including a new server, with AppleCare for each, and all new software upgrades. We even added a single, lonely Windows PC, which sits in my office.

Happy, fast, reliable production days are here again. Everything just works, and I concern myself with satisfying clients, not troubleshooting.

At least for a couple more years.

Later…

 

We think they do! In fact, if you don’t have a web presence, then you are missing 71% of the prospects looking to make a purchase of your product or service. That’s the number of consumers who do Internet research prior to making a purchasing decision or even prior to leaving the house to make a buy.

About 79% of all adults are online for more than 11 hours a week. That’s a lot of potential customers to ignore. Yet, many small business owners think a website is something only a larger company needs — one with a national customer base. In fact, not having a web presence is a bit like locking your front door for 70% of your business hours.

Small business owners often hire someone to put up a website for them, but they don’t do the second, and equally critical, step if search engine optimization (SEO) work. When they don’t get any response from their website, they tend to dismiss the websiite as “this Internet thing doesn’t work,” forget about it, and their website becomes a lovely scrapbook and not much more than that.

SEO is how you get Yahoo or Google to index your site and rank it on the search results page. When a search is made for a product or service in your area, these search engines call up all of the web pages with relevant information to the search term. If the SEO work is done correctly, your site will appear on page one or two of a relevant search. If it hasn’t been done or its been done badly, your site will be somewhere around page 4,992, if that high.

Buying a website without SEO is like buying a billboard on the Interstate where all of the local commuters pass daily. Right before rush hour, you cover your billboard with a tarp. Just as this would be a crazy waste of time and money, it’s equally crazy to put up a website without SEO.

A site that is well indexed has been especially written for certain keywords and phrases that match popular search terms for a particular product or service. These terms are selected in advance of writing the site and woven into the text so it reads naturally. If the text doesn’t read well, the search engines assign it a low priority and send you back to the badlands of page 4,992.

A well optimized website is central to any marketing program for a small business, if it is written and indexed to attract local searches. So, to answer the question in the headline of this blog, yes, you really, REALLY need one.

Last week I heard from an old friend of mine, a fellow independent designer here in Atlanta. She’s been in graphics about as long as I have, and has spent many years freelancing, in addition to working for me as a contractor or employee a couple of times.

She had a question about a new client and project she was working on, basically building ad campaigns on various topics. Good gig: regular, fairly easy work, you can be creative, and hopefully, the client pays well. The question was routine: how do I convert Mac InDesign files to Windows Publisher format? There’s no direct conversion program for that task (that I know of), so it has to be done by re-creating the file in a new format. Tedious…

The problem: she has no PC and no software, although she was thinking of purchasing the program and running it.

Of course, the answer to this question is obvious: outsource the task!

I use a vendor in India for this type of work. They’re a large firm, with people on staff that specialize in Publisher, but also know InDesign. Very handy folks, at a cost of $5 per page. I’ve tried building ads in Publisher, however, since I don’t normally use the program or a PC, I’m very slow, and it takes me a while. Which is a complete waste of my time, even if I enjoyed the routine of a production task from time to time, which I don’t! So, out to India it goes.

Which is what I suggested to my friend. It would be an expense associated with the project, and therefore, billable. But since she forgot to include that detail in her proposal, she’ll have to re-negotiate with the client, who very well could balk. Ouch!

We’ve all done that, regardless of the industry. It’s very easy to leave out language in the agreement about billing for expenses. You’re trying to get the gig, and don’t want anything to get in the way. So you just assume it will all work out.

Except, with some clients, it doesn’t. And then YOU pay.

Protect yourself with some good expense-recovery clauses. You can get samples almost anywhere, but for graphic designers, there are three great sources:

Check the last estimate or quote you got from a good printer. Chances are they attached their terms and conditions, and it may have a useful expenses clause you can adapt.

Secondly, purchase the “Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines,” which contains great, great information. Every design professional should have this book in their library.

Or, more expensively, if you have a lawyer, ask him (or her) draw up a simple agreement. The expense of the attorney time will repay itself many times over for you.

Remember, it’s the small stuff — the details — that can rob you of profit.

Later…

When we first talk to a new client about how to market their business, the very first thing they tell is how great their product or service is. They’re always surprised when we tell them their customer is not that interested in knowing this. “Of course, the customer is interested. That’s why they buy it,” we are told as they look at us as if we had two heads and start to show us the exit.

The truth is the customer is less interested in the details of whatever product or service you are selling, but are extremely interested in how you are going to solve whatever problem they have. They are interested in the benefits of the product and not the specifications.

People make purchases because they have a need to fill or a problem to solve. When they are looking for a vendor from whom they can meet this need or solve this problem, they are looking to find someone with an acute interest in their situation.

Let’s consider the example of a heating and air conditioning company. Marketing that speaks to the “high quality” of their brands or their “best service” doesn’t say anything that will attract the attention of a potential customer. Marketing that says, “lowers your electric bill by 30%” or “20 years in business and ZERO service complaints” will get the attention of anyone who wants to buy a new unit.

The customer relies on YOU to know your business and your product. What they really want to know is how can you use what you know to make their life better. Heating and air conditioning clients do not care nearly as much about performance ratings on the equipment as “how cool will my house be on an August day when the temperature rises above 100?” You tell them the answer they what to hear and they will be very interested in your message.

To create an effective marketing message, answer the questions that your potential customers want answered. If you do that, your marketing will result in people calling to ask how you can help them.

A week or so ago, I took a close look at this website and was dismayed and disturbed

Dismayed because I had not updated it in more than a year, and the design was just a theme with no personality or real creativity — meaning, not something that showed my own personal design style.

Disturbed, because as a graphic designer, I do a lot of work each week, and should be making the effort to keep our portfolio up to date, especially the work that Jackie has been doing in the editorial department.

I’m a bad boy.

So I’ve been re-working the site furiously, loading work samples from the past ten years, plus current work, and updating the organization. Best of all, I’ve moved everything into a new design that has a little more personality. It’s not overly pretty, like many websites for creative people. But it’s colorful and organized (I hope) so you, kind visitor, can find your way around. Just like my client projects are designed.

Then I released it to the search engines to re-index. A  bit like turning the light on so everyone could see.

It’s still a work in progress and will be for a little while longer. I have some “tweaks” to do to the header design and the color scheme. And I need to flesh out some of the newer services we’re offering, such as Facebook Fan Pages and Google Places. But that will all come very quickly now that I’ve scheduled some regular “update my own darned site” time each week!

So have a look around. Hope you like the new site!

Later…

gary