Why You Should Serve, Not Sell

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Why You Should Serve, Not Sell

Social media is an increasingly dominant medium for modern communication.

According to facts from the Pew Research Center and the Hootsuite Social Media Barometer Report 2018:

  • There are now 3.196 billion people using social media (up 13% from last year)
  • 11 new people start using social media each second, which is about one million people every day
  • 88 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds say they use social media
  • The total number of mobile phone users is 5.14 billion (up 4% from last year), which means people are increasing in their social media accessibility

As you look to grow your digital reach in conjuction with your print campaigns, social media is an obvious choice to feature ads, products, and (let’s be honest), to feature yourself!

But, how well does this go over with consumers? Not swimmingly.

Take a quick scan through the business posts you see online. How would you best summarize these? Does the content bring an encouraging word to you, the reader? Or do the majority of these posts seem narcissistic?

Bruce Kasanoff, author of “How to Self-Promote without Being a Jerk,” summarizes it like this:

“Two-thirds or more of the business posts I see on social media can be summarized in one word: Me. They are all about the person or company that shared the post: what they are selling, what they want, what they did. Yawn. Pause. Where’s the unfollow button?”

Instead, Kasanoff coaches entrepreneurs to embrace this mantra: serve, don’t sell. Intrinsically, people respond to those who approach them in a friendly, helpful manner. Social media is no different. When you take a self-centered or pushy tone it is a turnoff, whether you’re sharing online or in person. In contrast, everything you share on social media should offer a benefit to those on the receiving end. Kasanoff gives this example:

“Imagine that you are delivering a webinar in Chicago, and you share this news via social media. Don’t just say, ‘Come to my seminar.’ There are a ton of people who don’t live in Chicago or will be busy that day, so they can’t come. Instead, offer a lesson related to your seminar, and then say, ‘By the way, if you’re going to be in Chicago next Tuesday, I’ll be talking about this and related lessons.’ Thus, members of your network benefit even if they can’t do what you want them to do.”

Grow Influence Through “You-Centered” Communication

Living in the information age, people have grown increasingly resistant to interruption marketing, or “in-your-face,” one-way communication.

Instead, they crave engagement marketing: brand-consumer relationships built on trust and mutual respect. The foundation of this trust is thoughtful communication specifically tailored to the consumer’s needs. Effective communicators make the audience believe that the most important person in their correspondence – in their business relationship – is "you," the consumer.

The key to successful communication is to make the reader feel – in every memo, letter, printed piece, or social media post – that the most important person is the reader.

Consider this contrast:

Option A: “Pixie Dust Cleaners brings a dazzling deep clean, offering eco-friendly products at the best possible price.”

Option B: “Looking for freedom from chaos? Pixie Dust Cleaners gives you a dazzling deep clean, with eco-friendly products that allow you to take a deep breath and enjoy every minute at home. Your peace of mind is worth every penny!

Before you communicate, ask yourself what your audience needs, wants, or values. Consider what is most important to them and try to personalize your correspondence or social media posts to these felt needs. As you produce more customer-centered communication, you will grow sales, enrich your reputation, and enhance the well-being of your business.

How to Use Customization to Gain Customers

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Coca-Cola is a brand built on scenes of enjoying life together.

Coke has worked tirelessly to promote not only its product, but the message behind it: that sharing, or gathering family and friends together, brings happiness. “Enjoying a coke” is the message in every ad, every culture, and every medium Coke communicates through.

The company’s 2014 "Share a Coke" campaign was one of its memorable marketing initiatives in history. That summer, Coca-Cola removed its iconic logo on 20-ounce bottles and replaced them with 250 of the country’s most popular names. Consumers were encouraged to find bottles with names that held personal meaning and to share them with others or post photos online with the hashtag #ShareaCoke. Within the first year, more than 500,000 photos were posted. Consumers ordered over six million virtual Coke bottles, and Coca-Cola gained roughly 25 million Facebook followers.

A Distinctly Personal Experience

What did Coke tap into that prompted this momentous reaction?

In part, it was the desire for a personal experience. For teens and millennials, personalization is not just a fad, but a way of life. Today’s consumers place a high value on self-expression, individual storytelling, and staying connected. Coke powerfully aligned playfulness, fun handheld products, and customization in a campaign for the ages.

In today’s global economy, consumers are more aware of product options and of what other people are buying. Subsequently, they’ve become more demanding about the products they purchase. Deloitte Global found that 36 percent of consumers expressed interest in purchasing personalized products or services and one in five were willing to pay 20 percent more for these options. Customization gives companies an edge in cosmetics, clothing, food prep, and toys, to name a few.

Personalized offerings add costs to the manufacturer but frequently result in higher profits because of:

  • A price premium associated with the benefits
  • More loyal, satisfied customers
  • Greater word of mouth because of the increased satisfaction and the “surprise factor” associated with an unexpected range of options
  • Enhanced customer experience via creativity and individual expression
  • Precise taste matching and less need to compromise

How About You?

Do your customers value experience and self-expression? How could you offer this more in your products or services?

It may be as simple as engraving someone’s name in a glasses case or upgrading products with matching accessories. French cosmetics brand Guerlain started offering customizable lipsticks by allowing clients to choose their own combination of case and lipstick color. Customization allows brands to grow consumer engagement and solidify brand loyalty, which is especially powerful in younger markets.

Forbes offers several talking points for firms considering customization:

  • What are the incremental costs associated with the customization options and how will they impact profitability?
  • How many options are necessary and what’s the incremental benefit as the number increases? What price premium will consumers be willing to pay?
  • Which customization options will be the most incremental to maximize sales? A research tool called a TURF (Test of Unduplicated Reach & Frequency) Analysis can help you assess.
  • What level of logistical, operational, and labor complexity will this involve? How often should customization options be updated?

Charlie Gu, CEO, and co-founder of marketing agency Kollective Influence, says one budget-friendly customization strategy is the “module” approach. Instead of creating a product from scratch, businesses can offer several component options that can be mass-produced and easily assembled:

“Give customers choices, and then let them choose—customization within a framework,” he advises. “It doesn’t actually require any customization of the actual product. The consumers are essentially just picking their own color, but to them, it feels totally customized.”

USPS postal price increases for 2019

We had a very busy year with our mailing services in 2018, and with that, more and more questions started to be raised around the Postal Service™ next round of price changes. While no specifics were ever provided, the general signal to the industry is “if the price increases are approved” the 2019 price change would be roughly a 2.5% increase which is was the expected available Consumer Price Index (CPI) amount.

As the mailing industry started reviewing the proposed prices for 2019, it quickly became apparent that there were several parts of this price change that was far from the vanilla price change. While the price change is capped at the class level, the individual prices within each class can be changed any amount as long as it averages out at the class level. As the mailing industry started looking over the rate filing, there were some prices being increased well above the 2.5% cap at the mail class level.

  • First Class mail will see the single piece stamp price jump 10% from 50 cents to 55 cents. This 5 cent increase took much of the available CPI for the mail class. This means that the First Class Presort had a below CPI increase with most of the rates increasing a little over one percent.
  • Periodical mail saw the closest to a “vanilla” price change of the classes of mail, but even in this class of mail, there were still some winners and losers. In general the larger volume, heavier publications will see a less than CPI increase and the smaller, lighter publications will see an above CPI increase.
  • Marketing Mail saw saturation, high density plus, and high-density rates get hit the hardest with a well above CPI increase. Some saturation mailers are seeing price increases as much as triple CPI with an 8% increase. Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) – or Print & Copy Factory refers to "Neighborhood Mail" prices will also see increases over 5%. It should also be noted that the Full-Service discount is being increased from 0.1 cents per piece to 0.3 cents per piece which will now be the same as the First Class discount for Full-Service mail.

The USPS also introduced some new concepts in this price change. Dimensional (DIM) weight pricing is being introduced for Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and Parcel Select. This will complicate postage calculation because instead of paying postage based only on the weight of the piece, parcels that are large and light will be subject to this new DIM pricing calculation and pay whichever is greater. This price change item received a significant amount of industry pushback, noting that many parcel mailers would need to invest in equipment to support DIM weight pricing. It was also noted that the majority of parcel mailers enter a system lockdown period through the busy holiday mailing period and required software changes to support DIM weight pricing could not be made. Based on the feedback the Postal Board of Governors along with the PRC have both approved the delay of DIM weight pricing until June 23, 2019.

Another new concept being introduced is zone rates for First Class Parcels. Unlike DIM weight pricing, this new zoning remains on track to be implemented with the price change on January 27, 2019.

The industry was happy to see the 2019 price change also included a full calendar of promotions. Essentially all the promotions that were run in 2017 are now back again for 2019. It should be noted there are some modifications to some of the requirements for these promotions. Some have slightly modified timeframes for when the promotions are being run. The Earn Value promotion will be 3 cents per piece in 2019 compared to 5 cents per piece in 2017. The postal service also split out the Informed Delivery promotion to be its own standalone item. If you haven’t done an Informed Delivery campaign, now is the time to start looking into doing one, the promotion doesn’t start until later in 2019 so you have time to start working with it before it goes into effect. Print & Copy Factory is delighted to be offering this service, paying just a touch more for notifications on when a bulk mailing has been delivered.

We hope this information is helpful, and consider planning on doing more direct mail in 2019. It will save you money, it is more tangible – people hang on to them.

Becky Raney, COO

Print & Copy Factory

information pulled from our mailing software blog.

Print: Use Faces to Command Viewer Attention

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Did you know that humans are the only primates with eyes that contain a white sclera around the dark iris and the pupil?

Consequently, unlike our animal counterparts, we have the ability and tendency to follow each other’s eye gaze, to pinpoint precisely what someone is focusing on, and even to read into the emotion behind a viewer’s eye. This also gives us an innate ability to sense when we’re being looked at or to hastily avert our gaze in awkward moments.

Eye contact plays a crucial role in human communication, and faces have an incredible ability to command a viewer’s attention.

Imagine yourself walking down a busy street in a large city where you don’t know anyone. Suddenly, among a sea of faces, you spy a family member. Among hundreds of people, you can immediately recognize one individual and you have a strong emotional response.

Why is this experience so powerful?

Scientist Nancy Kanwisher identified a special part of the brain called the fusiform face area (FFA). The FFA allows faces to bypass the brain’s usual interpretive channels and helps us identify faces more quickly than objects. Because the FFA is so close to the brain’s emotional center (called the amygdala), the time lapse between recognition and response is nearly non-existent.

Faces Add Impact in Marketing

How does this play into marketing and print? First, it’s important to recognize the impact of faces so we can prioritize them in design.

Research by Catherine Mondloch (1999) shows that newborn babies less than an hour old prefer looking at something that has facial features. Humans prefer humans, and people buy from people! It would be careless to overlook these statistics while continually deferring to inanimate objects. When you’re looking to add that personal touch to your marketing mix, remember faces can help you to:

Connect With People

Large, faceless corporations feel cold and manipulative.

Putting faces on your brand allows people to connect with your audience in a way they can relate to. As you position faces in your ads, remember eyes looking right at people will have the greatest emotional impact, because the eyes are the most significant part of the face.

Create Curiosity

If a face on your poster is gazing toward another spot or product in the margin, people will also tend to track toward that area.

Emotions can be carried from a subject to a viewer as you set a tone within your design. The emotion in the faces you display can draw people to linger at your design or to be drawn deeper into the message.

Cultivate Trust

People react to a photo on a page faster than any other design element, and seeing the people behind a business can establish credibility very quickly.

You can use faces to cultivate trust by using staff profiles on your website, facial photos in welcome displays or high traffic areas, or by utilizing brochures that include testimonials and photos from real customers. If viewers can relate to the people enjoying your product they will automatically build positive associations.

When used properly, the use of people and faces can help you connect with people, create curiosity, and cultivate trust. Bypass resistance and build connections through the magnetic power of people!

Small Businesses Have a Big Reach

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A tiny, Ohio-based Vita-Mix corporation has been grinding and blending for 70 years.

Known for its high-powered, durable blending machines, “Vita-Mix” was coined with an emphasis on “vita,” meaning “life.” The company was born in 1921 when founder William Barnard, after helping a friend through a significant illness, realized the tremendous impact whole-food nutrition had on health. Simple Vitamix products evolved to industrial strength mixers that could puree raw foods, blend hot soup, grind grain, or knead bread dough.

Vitamix rarely sold products internationally before the late 1990s. But as sales slowed in the U.S., the third generation of Barnard family owners decided to go global. After hiring international sales manager James Smith, exports soared to 20 percent of yearly profits, growing hundreds of new jobs in the outskirts of Cleveland. “Exporting is the salvation of our standard of living and the security of our workers,” said Smith. “It makes me proud as heck.”

A Growing Reach

Vitamix is just one small business with a large global reach.

According to 2017 statistics from the Small Business Association, nearly all of U.S. exporters are small businesses. Small businesses exported $440 billion in 2015, from nearly 288,000 firms representing 97.6 percent of all exporting firms in America. Forty-eight percent of businesses said it took them just a few months of research before they started exporting, while 36 percent said it took them a month or several months to get started.

Small businesses that export report increased sales, diversified markets, and increased long-term stability. Vitamix CEO Jodi Berg said Vitamix now exports at award-winning levels to Europe, Asia, and Australia. But before that could happen her team had to disrupt a stable business plan with a new, global vision. Does she see herself as an entrepreneur who took risks?

“I don’t,” Berg said. “To make big things happen, you have to make big moves. But big moves don’t have to be risky. If you describe a risk taker as someone who takes big moves, I’ll be that. But we did our homework."

Four Remarkable Small Business Facts

While big business often dominates headlines, small businesses play a vital role in exporting products, creating jobs, and producing wealth for thousands of families.

Here are four remarkable facts about the big impact of small businesses:

1. Nearly all are small.

Small businesses make up the vast majority of companies in America, comprising 99.9 percent of all firms. Out of 29.6 million businesses, all but 19,000 are small!

2. Half are home-based.

A home-based business may have activity outside of the home, but it is operated primarily from the home.

Industries, where home-based businesses dominate, include information (70 percent), construction (68.2 percent), and professional, scientific, and technical services (65.3 percent).

3. Involve family and personal financing.

About one in five small businesses are family-owned, and 21.9 percent of small firms have used personal or family savings (versus business or banking loans) to resource expansion.

4. Durable.

The one-year survival rate for businesses hit 79.9 percent in 2016, the highest level since 2006.

About half of small businesses survive five years or longer, and one-third survive 10 years or more. The longer a company is in business, the more likely it is to stay in business.

According to the National Association of Small Businesses, entrepreneurs say economic uncertainty, health insurance costs, and a decline in customer spending or cash flow are the biggest challenges they face. Still, most business owners are fairly optimistic: 75 percent say they’re confident in their own business and its future.

Grow Your Business Through Successful Staffing

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Todd Fishman and Hunter Brooks were childhood friends who attended the University of Washington before heading to corporate Manhattan for several years. The friends reconnected in New York, bonding over their love of great salad.

Yes, young men eating salad.

Salads are so trendy that in Manhattan the lines for gourmet salad bars stretch around the block. While waiting in one of these lines, the friends had their “Aha” moment. They looked at each other and said, “This would be killer in Seattle!”

A Quickly Budding Dream

Enter Evergreens healthy food chain, co-founded with their associate Ryan Suddendorf in 2013.

Over five years, Evergreens has seen 200% revenue growth each year, with six stores in Seattle and a projected 11 more by 2019. Evergreens caters and offers salads, wraps, and grain bowls while keeping food fun with names like “Dice-Dice Baby,” the “Cobbsby Show,” and an Asian mix called “Pear-ly Legal.”

While entertaining, Evergreens is rooted in a focused business strategy to ensure the start-up succeeds. Successful staffing has been fundamental as Evergreens has scaled for growth and shaped a positive culture to attract the very best team.

Infrastructure that Keeps Pace with Growth

People are the backbone of every company, and Suddendorf said staffing was lean in the early days.

Chaos abounded, with lines out the door and the three founders acting as the company’s only corporate employees.

“It was like changing the car tires on a moving car,” said Suddendorf. “There was no time to step back and establish a process and then try to teach it to everybody in the stores.”

“We were working in the business rather than on the business,” Fishman said. “We were very much in the weeds.”

In retrospect, the friends say they would have raised more money upfront and contracted consulting from restaurant specialists or professional staffing agencies. Simultaneously growing a business and a competent staff is like parenting: along with joy and new discoveries, each phase presents greater challenges.

To grow effectively, healthy businesses need to adopt staffing strategies that meet current needs but also anticipate the future. Since Evergreen’s early days, Brooks says great people have been key to scaling growth without sacrificing quality. The founders gave intense focus to its corporate team in 2015, bringing on a COO and aggressively hiring HR, business development, IT and accounting specialists shortly afterward.

“There’s part art, part science to staffing the corporate team when your store count is growing,” said Brookes. “Sometimes you’re going to be a little heavier on the corporate overhead, and sometimes you’re going to be a little leaner.”

Attracting Engaged, Competent Employees

People are your company’s biggest asset, and engaged employees can give your business a huge advantage.

Finding and maintaining great staff requires a people-focused approach. As you develop short and long-term staffing goals, hiring should align with your business objectives.

Whether you want to expand certain sectors, launch new products, or grow online visibility, your hiring strategy should be totally in sync with these objectives. While you proactively work toward long-term objectives, temporary or contract staff may provide the essential support you need for specialized projects, seasonal rushes, or particular areas of expertise.

Evergreens strives to grow a brand that generates inbound applications versus actively recruiting staff. This means prioritizing a supportive, energizing work environment that includes above minimum wage pay, free employee meals for each shift, and $40 monthly bonuses for employees who lead healthy, active lifestyles.

Suddendorf says the company also makes a point of promoting employees to maximize unity and momentum:

Four Reasons Great Promotional Products Work

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Four Reasons Great Promotional Products Work

Branded products are everywhere: featured in movies, professional sports, and even on your favorite jacket or thumb drive.

These products bring pleasure and familiarity while sending a message of brand support to friends and casual observers. And these ideas carry substantial weight.

Another Washington First

The first known example of distributing promotional products was in 1789.

Commemorative buttons, created to celebrate George Washington’s inauguration, featured a crisp, stamped profile of Washington and the Latin phrase “Pater Patriæ,” meaning “Father of his Country.”

Sported by patriotic Americans, the buttons celebrated American democracy and support for the first president. The passion behind this message continues to live on: in February of 2018, one of the inaugural buttons was auctioned for $225,000!

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Washington’s buttons fueled momentum, and your customers are wired to respond to promotional products too.

Eight out of 10 U.S. consumers own at least one giveaway item, and 60 percent of people who receive a promotional gift keep it for up to two years! If those stats don’t speak for themselves, here are four reasons that branded merchandise will work for businesses of any size:

1. Free Stuff Grabs Attention.

Like candy at a parade, free stuff draws people.

Promotional gifts catch their eye and make them wonder what the hype is about. When you give gifts, people are attracted to you. Whether its curiosity, playful interest, or eye-catching designs, giveaways generate interest and ignite conversation.

2. Product Giveaways Pave Pathways for Loyalty.

Once you have their attention, you open the door for further interaction.

This happens, in part, as new customers warm in their perception of your brand. According to Tourism Consumer Insights, 52% of those who receive your product are more likely to think highly of both you and your business. As affinity increases, so does their interest in your business, because it’s human nature to want to give back to someone who has given to us.

In a Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) study, 85% of consumers who received a promo product said they ultimately did business with the advertiser.

3. Brand Recognition Peaks Through Repeat Exposure.

What is the ultimate goal of branded products? To engage and influence buyers.

Tangible, useful products offer your business endless opportunities to distinguish itself and to do it repeatedly! According to PPAI, 73 percent of those who receive a promo product said they used it at least once a week.

Offering free items to consumers is an incredible marketing tactic that will keep your company on their minds anytime your product is in use.

4. Giveaways Extend the Life of your Message.

How long does it take you to forget a text message or delete an e-mail? Seconds.

But tangible products (especially stylish or fun items) are much harder to toss aside. As you weigh your best product option, consider the interests and needs of your target customers and create the kind of products they’ll actually want. If 75% of your prospects use public transportation, tasteful branded umbrellas might become a constant companion during their morning commute.

People love stuff. It’s just a fact. And while only 28 percent of people are able to recall a TV ad, 57 percent are typically able to recall an advertiser on a mug.

While promotional pieces bring upfront expense, the longevity and brand recognition they create is an investment that keeps on giving.

Reel in Prospects by Adding Print to Your Content Marketing

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Reel in Prospects by Adding Print to Your Content Marketing

Researchers estimate that in 1984 a person saw an average of 2,000 ads per day.

By 2014, they saw about 5,000. With the explosion in spam and social media ads, that number increases daily. But consumers are fed up with in-your-face advertising that seems disruptive or manipulative. Instead, they’re attracted to authenticity and friendliness in a brand.

How can you build that kind of culture in your business?

It’s All About Content

Narratives and content marketing can bring fresh life to your marketing mix!

Content marketing is a strategic approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. It shifts your team away from a “message” focus to a more optimal “people focus,” building trust and driving more profitable consumer action.

Content marketing generates stronger leads, increases sales, and enhances customer loyalty. Consider these facts:

  • 77% of internet users read blogs
  • Small businesses with blogs get 126% more lead growth than small businesses without blogs
  • Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times the leads
  • A 2014 Brandshare survey found that the majority of consumers are suspicious of brands’ intentions, but 87% said they would like a more meaningful relationship with their preferred brands

Why Print + Content Marketing = Success

When people consider content marketing, they typically think of digital media.

However, true diversification means thinking bigger. The Content Marketing Institute suggests two out of three marketers don’t include print in their content marketing, but there is strategic value to including printed content elements.

Why?

1. The Information Factor

Nielson found about 56% of consumers rely on printed matter for sales information, and:

  • 56% preferred mailed or delivered circulars
  • 52% relied on newspaper circulars
  • 37% relied on in-store printed pieces or store-generated e-mails
  • 27% relied on store websites

Print is seen as a concrete, reliable source, especially by prospects nearing a decision. If you neglect printed content marketing you may minimize your chance of landing a valuable client.

2. The Trust Factor

With today’s “fake news” paranoia, trust in digital media has decreased.

A 2017 study showed that printed news magazines are the most trusted news source (72% rated them positively) while only 33% believed social media provided honest information.

Even print versions of national newspapers were regarded as more trustworthy than the websites of that exact same publication!

Because of the physical nature of the medium, print is naturally viewed as more informative and trustworthy than digital media.

So how can you add print to your content marketing strategies?

  1. Use embedded QR codes in game-style promotions or in-store displays. Check some inspiring examples here or here.
  2. Look for ways to get your business or product featured in magazine or newspaper articles.
  3. Employ printed “how to” postcards or maintenance checklists with online coupon discounts included in the text.
  4. Print inserts for invoices or point-of-sale kiosks that highlight an excerpt of your blog to lead them online.
  5. Consider generating your own quarterly or bi-annual niche publication.
  6. Print custom thank-you notes with a snippet of your brand story or the first paragraph of your blog on the back.

Printed content marketing should be used as “bait” to generate nibbles from your potential customers.

If you don’t have a place to reel them in (like a “get started today” link) or a way to keep them in the net (a defined sales funnel or a customer retention program), all your time and energy will be useless. So be strategic, be customer-focused, and get out there and fish!

Four Tips for Authentic Photography in Marketing

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In a digitally saturated generation, today’s marketer’s need great stories and striking, memorable images.

Regardless of your business or your market niche, powerful visuals can make all the difference! Consider these statistics:

  • Articles with relevant images average 94 percent more views than text alone and a press release with photos increases online views by 15 percent.
  • Sixty percent of consumers who use online searches prefer to contact a business whose listing includes an image.
  • 70 percent of e-commerce shoppers say the product image is very important for purchasing decisions.

Your viewers crave expressive images, so photography is crucial in marketing. Photography offers a slice of life view that communicates authenticity and value to your customers. How well do your images translate the nature of your business? Are you using drab photos or bland stock selections? Three benchmarks to evaluate your images are:

Engagement and Emotional Response

What emotions do your photos evoke?

How does the atmosphere of the photo connect with your viewer’s passion or life experience? Does it compel viewers to lean in or linger?

Brand Story and Context

What is the bigger brand story you want to tell?

Excellent photography adds credibility to this message because visuals increase the detail you bring to your message. Do your images hammer home your story?

Momentum and Shareability

Photographs can send numbers skyrocketing because people love to share captivating images!

As you employ vibrant photos, you increase your chance of people passing along your name, chatting about your product, or returning for a purchase. How much momentum do your images create?

4 Tips From Photography DIY-ers

What if you want to use more realistic photos but can’t afford to hire a professional?

By pairing modern technology with a few photography guidelines, even an amateur shutterbug can make photos pop! Here are four tips from the pros to get you started:

Rule #1: Avoid Low-Resolution Shots from Your Phone

While a casual snapshot can work for social media, if you are planning to share photos regularly, invest in a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) and check out an online tutorial. Even small investments will ensure the quality of your photos reflects the excellence of your business.

Rule #2: Use the Rule of Thirds

Most DSLR cameras can display their grid, which includes nine even squares. If your subject is directly in the center of the grid, the image will be more static because the eye is drawn to the image but has nowhere to travel from there. When your subject is positioned closer to the edges, the eye is forced to track toward it or be “drawn in” to the bigger message.

Rule #3: Think Slice of Life

What do you want to tell your clients about your business? Say it in photos! If social media or reality TV have taught us anything, it’s that people love following the ordinary activities of others. Casual photos of your team doing business are perfect for showing off your identity and featuring your unique competitive advantage.

Rule #4: Make Use of Natural Lighting

Ever think you’ve captured the perfect photo only to find the sun has wrecked it? On a sunny day, most photos will be compromised by shadows or overexposure. Overcast hues are better because the light is softer and more diffused. For best results, place your camera in a position where the light is coming from behind you and shining directly on your subject.

Marketing is all about communicating value to your clients. For more tips on putting photography to grow momentum and authenticity, give us a call!

Grow Productivity Through Purposeful Leadership

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Replace Chaos with Focus

Lost productivity costs companies millions each year.

While it is hard to quantify exactly how much is lost, certainly distraction alone prevents daily peak performance. Besides hunger, sleepiness, bodily functions, and simple brain fatigue, productivity research shows that 48% of employees waste time surfing the web (including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), 33% lose work time socializing with co-workers, and 49% are managing personal calls, texts, and e-mails.

It’s true: time is money. But time is more easily lost than dollars, so how can you push yourself or your team to be more focused? Maybe you want to spend your time wisely, but find yourself running in circles or falling short each day. How can you shift from being “busy” to being more effective?

By re-focusing on one thing: purpose.

Your purpose is more than what you do while you’re checking e-mail. It’s more than what you do while compiling reports or sitting in meetings. These activities may be part of your job, but they don’t define your role or your unique identity. Every person is driven by something. Often, we are driven by deadline pressure, interruptions from co-workers, or by an unexpected project delay. But what would it look like to focus on a more purposeful vision?

Grow Productivity Through Purposeful Leadership

Purposeful leadership requires we take a step back, focusing on our unique identity and skill set so these aren’t drowned out by the frantic activity of the day.

Do you long to overcome chaos? Here are three steps to organizing your outlook in a way that maximizes your time, priorities, and productivity:

1. Develop goals around your purpose.

If you were to define your top work priority, what would it be? To give vision? To provide team leadership? To design or create?

Before you can effectively use your time, you need to clarify the most important role you play. Start with your unique purpose and draft at least three goals that would help you fulfill your primary purpose. If your job is to work with people but you spend most of your time answering e-mails, maybe a change is needed. Set goals that are specific, measurable, and that put feet to your purpose.

2. Sharpen focus around your goals.

How well do these goals match your weekly tasks? Many people have goals, but do these goals translate into functional realities?

To strategize your time, make a master list of tasks that need accomplishing, then group together tasks in specific categories and rank these categories by importance. Low-level categories could be delegated, dropped, or restructured. As you brainstorm, involve your spouse, mentor, or co-workers. Sometimes it’s hard to see life through an honest, critical lens without encouragement from others.

3. Build your schedule around these priorities.

Intentional scheduling is like budgeting: it means telling your time where you want it to go (instead of asking your time where it went!).

Now that you’ve ranked your categories, assign the top activities to your most productive, interrupted blocks of time. Use your less productive times (late day, “filler” slots between meetings) to address lower priority categories.

Scheduling is where the rubber meets the road – where you close doors and ask for zero interruptions, where you stop doing one task and go on to another (even when it hurts), and where you refuse to let other people determine what is important every day. Your schedule is ground zero for living up to your purpose, so take it seriously and you’ll experience greater satisfaction in the way you spend time each week.

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