The Quarterly Audit:


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The Quarterly Audit: Why It’s Always Good to Give Your Print Collateral a Once-Over a Few Times a Year

An opportunity that far too many people don’t take advantage of is the idea of a quarterly audit. Don’t worry; it has nothing to do with your taxes. Instead, it’s a process that you should go through a few times a year that provides you a chance to re-assess and re-evaluate. It’s a time where you force yourself to stop and think "This print mailer was designed in January, and it worked great in January. It’s April, now. What needs to change?"

Stop and Smell the Roses

When performing an audit of your print marketing materials, make a list of everything that has changed since the last time you had the chance to re-evaluate things. How have your business goals shifted in the last few months? Have you accomplished more or less than you thought you were going to at this point? What does your average customer look like today, as opposed to three months ago? How have your campaigns been performing?

If you can provide business-specific answers to questions like these, you create for yourself a valuable context that you can then use to make the right, actionable decisions regarding things like design and distribution moving forward. What you’re doing is taking a process typically completed at the end of the year, looking backward and seeing what worked and what didn’t, and then forcing yourself to do it as often as you can.

Trends and Best Practices

Another reason why the idea of the quarterly audit is so important is that, by and large, the world of print marketing is changing rapidly. New technologies, techniques, tips and best practices are emerging all the time. Taking the time to go back over everything you’ve done so far a few times a year gives you a chance to incorporate all of this into your workflow as soon as you can.

Think about it this way: maybe you designed new buyer personas in January with an aim towards attracting a different type of customer. You’ve produced everything with those buyer personas in mind, trying to maintain a consistent voice across all collateral. If things aren’t working quite right and need some tweaking, would you rather know in April or wait until December?

In the end, what you’re doing is strengthening your foundation. Many people use January 1 as a great chance for a "fresh start." It’s a time where you stop and think about where you are, where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there. If you do this multiple times per year, however, it puts you in a much better position to be responsive to both internal and external changing factors. Above all else, it’s an opportunity to make sure that you’re still headed down the path that was important to you on January 1, if that path is still important to you at all.

The Hyphenation Zone

The Hyphenation Zone is the distance from the right margin within which a word may be hyphenated, usually around 1/5 to 1/10 of the measurement of a line so that a really ragged right edge is not created.

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Unless you’re setting extremely wide line lengths, no hyphenation is likely to result in a very loose rag (ragged edge) with lots of distracting white space.

Hyphenated words are sometimes considered a necessary evil in typography, but proper hyphenation allows for a better-looking, tighter or in the case of justified type, a more natural, even text.

The ending of two (or more) lines or type in a row should not be hyphenated to increase the ease of reading.

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their coun-
try for the quick brown dog jumped over the lazy good for noth-
ing dogs.

courtesy of Tom Crouser

What Happened to Summer? Back-to-School Marketing Starts Earlier Than Ever

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What Happened to Summer? Back-to-School Marketing Starts Earlier Than Ever

The temperature is soaring, steaks sizzle on the grill, and kids play in the pool, but not everyone is thinking summer. Back to school season is starting earlier than ever for big retailers and the impact trickles over into all aspects of marketing. Both Office Depot and Land’s End launch back to school campaigns at the start of summer – in some cases before school even ended in some parts of the country.

This is a change even from last year; according to AdAge, 2016 saw back to school marketing head into full swing around the middle of July. Time magazine cites the need for retailers to make as many revenues as possible during the highest spending periods as the reason Black Friday, Halloween, and Back to School promotions are being scheduled earlier than ever before.

When does Back to School Begin?

Big retailers working on the premise that earlier is better have begun pushing back-to-school marketing back each year. Back to school is big business for retailers, since it is worth about 78 billion; it is second only to the major holidays for revenues, according to AdAge.

How Early is Too Early?

Office Depot’s back-to-school advertising rolled out June 25 of this year, a full three weeks earlier than 2016’s July launch. Other retailers are following suit, but there is some consumer backlash against the early push. Lands’ End received public criticism on social media when their back-to-school catalog dropped while kids in many parts of the country were still in school.

"We got your #backtoschool catalog in the mail. Our kids still have two weeks of school left this year! #fail #marketing," tweeted Greg Magin.

@GregMagin helpfully tagged his rant with #fail, #backtoschool and #Marketing, so it was seen by far more than just his followers. This backlash from consumers shows that a too-early launch can backfire. Right now, the sweet spot for back-to-school marketing seems to be right after the 4th of July through the end of the month.

Back-to-school marketing is all about timing. Being aware of this pitfall, and of the enormous potential of this busy season, can help you make the most of Back to School season for your brand and ensure your organization has a visible presence during this often overlooked marketing opportunity.

Make Back to School Time Count for your Brand

Positioning your Back to School promotions in July and working to build not only sales but also awareness can help place you in front of consumers when they’re ready to outfit the kids for the next school year. Since most consumers begin searching online well before they part with actual money, building awareness ahead of this busy season can help you get the results you want without irritating consumers.

Social Media and Your Marketing Strategy

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When you are trying to reach a wide demographic for your business, you must get on social media. By developing a following on social media and learning how to use text messaging to get customers interested in your brand, you’ll be on your way to building up a solid customer base.

Do You Have Followers on Your Facebook Page?

Most businesses use their Facebook page to post links to informative blog posts on their website or to share relevant news about their industry in general. To gain followers, you will need to get people to share the posts that you create and to gain interest by advertising your page. You can also gain followers by creating printed marketing materials that provide information on how to find you on Facebook. Almost all of your printed marketing products should contain information on all of your social media accounts to encourage customers to sign up.

Utilizing an Opt-In Texting Campaign

Think about how you currently communicate with your customers. In any business, the ability to ask questions and to get those questions answered quickly is important. When you create an opt-in texting campaign, you build a list of subscribers that you can send marketing materials to through text messages. You can grow this list of subscribers by creating a short code and printing it on your marketing postcards. For example, "To learn more about our business, text the word SHOP to 12345." You can send text messages that point people to your social media pages and share links to your social media accounts that will allow them to sign up for your campaign.

Consider Trying Twitter

Twitter can be a very useful platform for your industry once you can gain an audience and you learn how to strategize hashtag phrases. If you’ve ever seen a person write a status on Facebook such as "I love my dog, #labsrule, #dogsarethebest, #familypet," these hashtags do more than confuse people who don’t know what they are. Hashtag use started on Twitter, and this is one way people follow industry news. People can search hashtags on Twitter. Anyone that types in "#labsrule," or any of the other hashtags written, will see the post written by the Twitter user that wrote the hashtag after their post.

Try to engage your customers by asking questions or sharing interesting news either through social media links or text messages. If customers start commenting on posts, keep the conversation going by responding. The more you can get your customers interested in your brand on social media, the larger the following you will create.

Improving Your Organizational Skills With Technology


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Improving Your Organizational Skills With Technology

If you’re the type of person who wants to improve your time management skills, there’s a good chance that what you really need to do is improve your organizational skills. We spend so much time each day trying to remember where we put that important memo, when that upcoming meeting got rescheduled to, or simply trying to get our heads around what obligations we have today. All of this is wheel-spinning certainly isn’t driving your productivity forward in the way you need.

Thankfully, modern technology can be a huge benefit in terms of improving your organizational skills. You just have to keep a few important things in mind.

If You Can Add A Digital Version, Do So

One of the most important ways to use technology to help improve your organizational skills involves finally embracing some of the “digital” versions of “hard copy” techniques you may be holding out on. Case in point: an astounding amount of American adults own a smartphone, a device that is literally more powerful than the equipment used to pull off the NASA moon landings in the 60s. Yet many are still only using them to send and receive calls, respond to emails and send text messages. These are communications benefits, not organizational ones.

As an example, some people still like using a paper desk or wall calendar not only because of the intimacy, but because nothing can really go wrong with it. You make an important appointment, you write it down on your calendar, end of story. That information is always there. However, there’s also a chance to go one step further.

Your paper calendar doesn’t travel with you – your smartphone does. Get in the habit of using both a paper calendar for the tactile quality it excels at AND a "Calendar" app for the organization and especially the travel benefits. If you make an entry into your “Calendar” app on your iPhone, that data is automatically synced to your iPad and MacBook Pro, too. The same is true of data you enter into your “Reminders” app, your “Notes” app, your… well, you get the point. Making a habit of keeping both the paper and the digital version of something in this case creates a "best of both worlds" scenario.

The Cloud Is Your Friend

Along the same lines, let’s get one thing straight: it’s time to move as much of your daily life into the cloud as possible. Cloud storage isn’t just a “virtual hard drive.” If you’re only thinking of the cloud like a digital version of something like a flash drive, you’re not even hitting the tip of the potential iceberg.

When you upload a document into the cloud, it’s instantly available on all of your devices. It can be shared with anyone – both other employees and clients – in a mouse click. Anyone can edit those documents and you have complete visibility over all changes and access permissions. It’s also protected from things like hard drive failure and even theft. Thanks to both the military-grade encryption that services like Dropbox use and techniques like two-factor authentication, your data has never been more secure or accessible at the same time.

The most important benefit of all is that you always know where your data is – available, end of story. You don’t have to worry about what you’re going to do if you can’t take your laptop on a plane with you because you can be just as productive and have access to all of the same information on your smartphone.

These are just a few of the simple ways you can use the technology you probably already have access to. Once you take the time to setup something like cloud-based storage, the hard part has already been done. You won’t have to spend an hour or more each morning trying to remember where you put this or that. You’ll just know. You won’t need to wish there were more hours in a day because it’ll be easier than ever to do more with the ones you already have.

Master the Light With Custom White Balance

Not so long ago, color photographs were developed and printed in a darkroom. Colors were adjusted using chemicals, graduated color filters, and hundreds of dollars worth of equipment. The process of developing and printing photographs was long and grueling. Fortunately, today, things are different. Film photography has become a fine art, and digital photography has taken the helm because of its quick and efficient turnaround. In the digital world, images can be edited, re-edited, and manipulated before they go to print. Instead of the enlargers and chemical baths found in traditional darkrooms, we now have the technology that gives us the post-processing power to tweak and change photographs to enhance them, sort of like a digital darkroom. Adobe Lightroom is an inexpensive post-processing program used by amateur and professional photographers across the globe to edit and refine images. It includes many great features, one of which is a powerful White Balance tool that allows you to make color-tint adjustments that will help normalize the color tones you just couldn’t land in-camera. What Is White Balance And Why Does It Matter? White Balance, which is measured in Kelvins, represents the temperature of light (cool or warm) recorded by your camera. Kelvins range from 1,500K (very warm) to 15,000K (very cool). It’s important to stay aware of your White Balance setting as it could save you hours of editing time later. Most cameras today have pre-programmed presets such as Tungsten, Shade, Flash, Florescent, and Cloudy that all record temperature differently and help you capture colors as accurately as possible. WHITE BALANCE COLOR CHART How Can I Make White Balance Changes In Lightroom? When things aren’t exactly what you’re looking for, and you need to make adjustments, there are three ways you can adjust White Balance in Lightroom: 1) Eyedropper tool Select the eyedropper tool from the Basics Panel and find an area in your image with light gray or neutral tones. Click that spot with the eyedropper tool and let Lightroom calculate the White Balance for you. Eyedropper tool GIF 2) White Balance presets (RAW images only) If your image is in RAW format, you’ll have a list of White Balance presets available to you through the Basics Panel. Using the White Balance drop down menu, select an option that best describes the lighting conditions you shot in. White Balance presents GIF 3) White Balance temperature and tint sliders The temperature and tint sliders are an advanced setting that allows you to manually adjust how warm or cool an image is, in addition to adjusting the tint between green and magenta. This setting is the most powerful option of the three. White Balance Temperature and Tint sliders GIF Go ahead and test the waters, and don’t worry if you’ve made a mistake with your settings. Lightroom is a non-destructive editing program, so you can always get back to square one if you’ve made changes that just don’t work well. Simply use the Reset button to remove all adjustments and return your settings to what they were when the image was captured, and you can start again.

25 April, 2017 10:44

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Don’t Fear Your Marketing Competitors. Learn From Them

Regardless of the products you’re trying to market, the audience you’re trying to cater to, or the industry you happen to be operating in, all businesses face competition. This is just a fact of life. But it’s important to realize that a competitor isn’t just another company that is trying to go after the same pool of customers that you are. Competitors are invaluable learning opportunities that are just waiting to be taken advantage of, provided you approach things from the right angle.

Learn About Your Audience

One of the most important lessons that you can learn by taking a closer look at your marketing competitors has nothing to do with your competition itself and everything to do with the shared audience you’re both going after. For the sake of argument, let’s say that your number one competitor offers products or services that are very similar to yours.

How is your competition marketing those products and services to that audience? What types of print materials are they designing? What tone do they use when speaking to them directly? What prices do they charge, and why do they feel like the market can sustain that? What values do they choose to single in on when representing their brand?

All of these choices, along with the public reaction to them, can tell you a great deal about what your audience is looking for. Marketing is all about making a connection, and if you can pick up something through observation that you can adapt and make your own to strengthen that connection, you should absolutely take that opportunity.

Learn About the Competitors Themselves

The second lesson you can learn by taking a closer look at your marketing competitors comes down to how they choose to run a business that is very similar to yours in many ways. This goes beyond just the products or services they provide. Look at how they choose to distribute and deliver those products. Look at the steps they take to enhance customer value or build loyalty. Have they recently instituted a rewards program with great success? If you were thinking about doing one yourself, congratulations, someone else just did your trial run for you.

Perhaps the most important thing you should be watching out for when it comes to your marketing competitors is how they react when they make a mistake. These days, everything is essentially an extension of your marketing arm – from the print collateral you’re putting out into the world to customer service interactions on a site like Facebook. Everything is taking place in the public space, which means that other customers (and you and your associates) can all see everything go down in real-time.

Did your biggest competitor have a particularly nasty public interaction with a customer? What factors caused it to occur in the first place? How did the customer react? How did the business react? What did the rest of the audience have to say at the end of the day? Remember that mistakes are only a bad thing if you choose not to learn from them. If you can get someone else to make a mistake and arrive at the same lesson, you come out all the better for it.

Competition in the world of business (and especially regarding marketing) isn’t going away anytime soon. However, it’s not something you should let get you down. Instead, look at it for what it is: an incredible ongoing education into your market, your industry, and even your own business that someone else is paying for.

Master the Light With Custom White Balance

Not so long ago, color photographs were developed and printed in a darkroom. Colors were adjusted using chemicals, graduated color filters, and hundreds of dollars worth of equipment. The process of developing and printing photographs was long and grueling. Fortunately, today, things are different. Film photography has become a fine art, and digital photography has taken the helm because of its quick and efficient turnaround.

In the digital world, images can be edited, re-edited, and manipulated before they go to print. Instead of the enlargers and chemical baths found in traditional darkrooms, we now have the technology that gives us the post-processing power to tweak and change photographs to enhance them, sort of like a digital darkroom.

Adobe Lightroom is an inexpensive post-processing program used by amateur and professional photographers across the globe to edit and refine images. It includes many great features, one of which is a powerful White Balance tool that allows you to make color-tint adjustments that will help normalize the color tones you just couldn’t land in-camera.

What Is White Balance And Why Does It Matter?

White Balance, which is measured in Kelvins, represents the temperature of light (cool or warm) recorded by your camera. Kelvins range from 1,500K (very warm) to 15,000K (very cool). It’s important to stay aware of your White Balance setting as it could save you hours of editing time later. Most cameras today have pre-programmed presets such as Tungsten, Shade, Flash, Florescent, and Cloudy that all record temperature differently and help you capture colors as accurately as possible.

WHITE BALANCE COLOR CHART

How Can I Make White Balance Changes In Lightroom?

When things aren’t exactly what you’re looking for, and you need to make adjustments, there are three ways you can adjust White Balance in Lightroom:

1) Eyedropper tool

Select the eyedropper tool from the Basics Panel and find an area in your image with light gray or neutral tones. Click that spot with the eyedropper tool and let Lightroom calculate the White Balance for you.

Eyedropper tool GIF

2) White Balance presets (RAW images only)

If your image is in RAW format, you’ll have a list of White Balance presets available to you through the Basics Panel. Using the White Balance drop down menu, select an option that best describes the lighting conditions you shot in.

White Balance presents GIF

3) White Balance temperature and tint sliders

The temperature and tint sliders are an advanced setting that allows you to manually adjust how warm or cool an image is, in addition to adjusting the tint between green and magenta. This setting is the most powerful option of the three.

White Balance Temperature and Tint sliders GIF

Go ahead and test the waters, and don’t worry if you’ve made a mistake with your settings. Lightroom is a non-destructive editing program, so you can always get back to square one if you’ve made changes that just don’t work well. Simply use the Reset button to remove all adjustments and return your settings to what they were when the image was captured, and you can start again.

The Best Marketing Solves a Problem

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The Best Marketing Solves a Problem

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, right? Unfortunately, not always. After learning about some of the poor working conditions and high levels of violence associated with most diamonds on the market, many girls (and guys) have decided that a conventional diamond is not the ideal expression of their love. While some have turned to vintage pieces or alternate stones, one Los Angeles entrepreneur has provided a third option: high-quality jewels grown in a lab instead of under the ground.

Vanessa Stofenmacher did not know much about the jewelry business when she started VOW, her line of engagement, wedding, and promise rings. To cope with the limitations of current diamond-tracking laws, she opted to have the stones for her jewelry line made by Diamond Foundry, a laboratory that makes diamonds in California.

In her market research, she found that women in their twenties were likely to be concerned about the source of their diamonds. They typically did not mind wearing lab-grown stones as long as they looked as good as natural ones. This research made her line a success; the company, beginning with $8,000 in seed money, was valued at $3 million in 2016.

Don’t Be Afraid to Live Your Values

Many of us feel that, in business, our personal convictions should stop outside the doors. However, if we do not create products and marketing campaigns that align with our own values, the chances are good that they will not hit the mark with anyone else.

By choosing a product that she felt strongly about, Stofenmacher found the characteristic that makes her product line different from every other one out there.

Millennials, in particular, are happy to do business with companies that take an ethical stand. By doing something about your beliefs, you can increase connection and engagement.

Think Like Your Customer

The other thing that Stofenmacher did right was seizing an idea that had been troubling many people in the market for diamond rings.

Is there an issue in your industry that you are in a position to address? It does not have to be an ethical concern. It can be a common pain point, such as:

  • the amount of waste currently associated with a product.
  • the inconvenience of current ordering practices.
  • a lack of educational materials about your product and others like it.
  • an area where prices are out of line with consumer expectations.

By looking at what your customer cares about most, you can increase the chances of creating a product and a marketing campaign that will resonate with them.

Listen to Your Customers

How can you find out what people want? Just listen. Stofenmacher learned about the desire for ethical lab-grown stones by perusing Instagram. You can set up social listening on platforms that include Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to see what people are talking about in your industry. Many brands also use customer surveys in front of gated content to learn more.

Over time, you will find that your customers respond best when you directly address an unmet need. The marketing campaigns based on this concept will get higher levels of engagement, a better conversion rate, and will help you build long-lasting relationships that are good for you and your customers.

Winner of the 2016 Whatcom Business Alliance – Small Business of the Year!

Small Business of the Year Finalist – Print & Copy Factory

Print shop evolved into a full-service digital marketing force

By Mary Louise Van Dyke

Peering into a crystal ball might have given Becky and Larry Raney interesting insights into the evolution of the print business when launching Print & Copy Factory LLC in 1992. At that time that industry was focused primarily on paper solutions.

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http://www.whatcombusinessalliance.com/articles/changing-with-the-times/

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