Do You Play Offense or Defense at Work?

kirkWhether or not you are a football fan, there are many similarities between the workplace and the football field. The biggest similarity is understanding the difference between playing offense and defense.

No matter if you are on the field or in the office, it is often easier to learn defense, meaning you are simply reacting to the actions of others. When we are on defense, we typically don’t need to think as hard or make as many decisions, although defense can also be more exhausting and mentally draining. Many of our workdays are bogged down playing defense – answering phone calls, replying to emails, and attending meetings.

In comparison, playing on offense requires a proactive approach. In the workplace, this means creating goals and setting priorities for items you want to accomplish above and beyond the typical daily tasks. Being proactive requires more thought, planning, and dedication to achieve success, and also results in a greater sense of accomplishment and excitement for the future. So, what do you play most frequently at work – offense or defense?

Here’s the way I see it: A wise man once said it best: a good offense is the best defense. Give us a call if we can help you create print materials that will crush the competition.

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5 Ways to Skillfully Handle Criticism With a Smile Instead of a Frown

GettyImages-663360750.jpg“This work is sloppy and does not meet the needs of the company. You’ll have to completely rework it.”

“Is this all you’ve gotten done for today? You’re going to have to step up your pace.”

“Why didn’t you follow the instructions I gave you? This is terrible work.”

“I liked your old hairstyle better.”

Criticism, no matter how delicately someone gives it to you, hurts.

Being criticized makes us feel worthless, painfully vulnerable to our own negative thoughts and unsure of our abilities. Some inexperienced managers think criticizing their employees will incentivize them to work faster and harder but, of course, we know this tactic is the absolutely wrong way to motivate employees.

Scientists speculate there is something instinctual, or innate, about our adverse reaction to even mild criticism. Just like the human body is hard-wired to instantly move into a “fight or flight” state when confronted by danger, our psychological self (psyche) reacts to criticism defensively. In other words, being physically struck closely parallels being verbally “struck.” Our heart and breathing rate increases and we may start perspiring as our internal temperature rises. Depending on the type and level of criticism we hear about ourselves, some people tremble, feel extremely anxious, and may even start crying.

How to Give Criticism Positively

Before you criticize a family member, friend or fellow worker, stop and think about how you could rephrase what you are going to say to sound more like constructive criticism.

Examples of constructive criticism include:

  • (When someone fails to complete a project on time): Next time we have a project to work on, we’ll make sure there are enough resources and time for you to finish it as planned. In fact, perhaps we can schedule the project in advance so you are not inundated with work?
  • (When someone has been “slacking” in their work): You’ve done a great job reaching several goals lately. Nobody can achieve every goal they set for themselves so don’t let this affect your sense of accomplishment. Maybe your goals are a little too aggressive?
  • (When someone isn’t contributing to a group effort): I’ve noticed you haven’t wanted to take an initiative lately. I would really like to see you take a leadership position because I think you have the talent and skills to be successful.

5 Ways to Handle Criticism Positively

  1. Objectify Yourself

As soon as you realize you are being criticized unconstructively, step away from your emotions by imagining yourself as a life-size cardboard cutout.

Wait until the person criticizing you leaves before allowing yourself to think about what they said. Consider who criticized, what they criticized you about, and whether it was actually warranted. Remember that people who are criticized are usually doing something new, different, and possibly daring.

  1. Don’t Cross Your Arms

Adopting a defensive posture may provoke the criticizer into extending their critique of you.

Simply stand with your arms at your sides, nod, and show that you are listening.

  1. Learn from Criticism

Is there a grain of truth in the criticism you received?

Don’t let strong emotions cloud your ability to judge truths about yourself. Many of us say or do things that are not in our best interest but fail to realize our error.

  1. Get Feedback from a Friend

Tell a trusted friend about the criticism you received.

Getting another opinion can help mitigate the negative feelings you experience from a criticism.

  1. You Control Your Emotions and Thoughts

Nobody is in control of what you think or feel.

The way you think and feel about criticism is all up to you, not the person who criticized you.

“Criticism is something you can avoid by saying nothing,
being nothing, and doing nothing.”
~Aristotle

How to Mobilize People Through Powerful Writing

Businessman Writing in Planner at Cafe Window“Darkest Hour,” a 2017 war drama film, devotes its narrative to the early days of British prime minister Winston Churchill, who rallied a nation against the merciless Nazi onslaught of World War II.

The film chronicles Churchill’s authentic, soul-stirring speeches and the Shakespearean gusto with which he delivered words like these: “Let us, therefore, brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”

Though the world still heralds Churchill’s heroic statements, few people knew that Churchill overcame a lisp in his childhood by practicing his enunciation. Churchill understood the power of words early in life, and historians estimated that he spent one hour working on each individual minute of a speech he gave! Churchill sought to portray England’s struggle in a larger historical context: good outlasting evil, hope to overshadow the impossible, and perseverance overcoming persecution.

The result?

The entire fate of world history shifted through the hearts and hands of the people he inspired. President John F. Kennedy summed up Churchill’s influence like this: “In the dark days and darker nights when England stood alone — and most men… despaired of England’s life — he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

Writing: The Building Block of Success

What can we learn from Winston Churchill?

While not all of us have oratory giftings, be encouraged that Churchill was also a student of language, and he overcame his limitations with study, practice, and passion!

Would you like to be more successful in your personal and professional impact?

Writing is the foundation of modern education and fundamental to all business success. Whether you’re penning a quarterly report, crafting an in-house memo, giving a congratulatory speech, or even dashing a quick e-mail, here are some tips for writing in a professional, persuasive manner:

  1. Grab them early.
    Great writing doesn’t allow readers to look away! Use punchy headlines, riveting stories, or gripping questions to draw them in immediately.
  2. Get to the point.
    After you use that “luring” intro, don’t let them linger! Get to the point quickly and efficiently, without “burying the lead” too deep in the text. Eliminate unnecessary words and use language that is clear and efficient. An energetic, fast-paced tone will assure them that reading to the end is worth their time.
  3. Be convincing but not too clever. Persuade your readers with clarity but also with logic and facts. Providing evidence (or examples) for your premise will build momentum and increase authority. As you write, keep a personal tone that is warm but convincing. Ask yourself, “would this make sense if I was sharing it with a friend over coffee?” Phrases with an awkward, artificial ring should probably get the ax!
  4. Keep it moving. As you lead readers toward a closing statement or action step, take a broad glance at the entire piece. Does it flow smoothly with a directional movement that builds toward a thoughtful climax? Does it read well on the page with adequate breaks and subheadings? Consider adding skim layers or reducing the size of a document if you sense people will be bogged down in your thoughts.
  5. Add depth and dimension. As you seek to add that extravagant bow to your smartly wrapped package, review your piece and look for ways you can really make it “sing.” Consider colorful vocabulary, punchy alliteration, or rich rhythms as you vary the length of your paragraphs. As French writer Charles Baudelaire once said, “always be a poet, even in prose.”

Why Aesop Would Have Been More Successful Than Bill Gates Today

Tortoise and Hare Story Alternative VersionAn ancient Greek storyteller and fabulist, Aesop is thought to have been a slave who eventually acquired his freedom by reciting clever moral fables involving animals with human characteristics.

Insightful and astonishingly original even today, Aesop’s fables continue to delight and educate us with their startling observations of human failings and strengths.

We all know who Bill Gates is–only one of the wealthiest people in the world and founder of Microsoft.

Although Gates is the epitome of the successful businessman, Aesop would have given him a run for his money, so to speak. Aesop’s keen intuitiveness into the human psyche would have made him the ultimate inspirational and motivational manager or employee. In fact, Gates may have chosen to work for Aesop instead of running his own business!

Check out these three fables from Aesop and how you can apply their moral teachings to your own business:

The Donkey and the Mule

The owner of both a mule and a donkey loaded them with supplies before making a long and arduous journey. When they reached the hilly country, the donkey begged for help by asking the mule to take some of his load. The mule said no. “I’m carrying too much now as it is. You’ll just have to deal with it.”

Within days, the donkey stumbled from weariness and died. The owner had no choice but to put the donkey’s load on the mule’s back. Now the mule had to carry double the load he was once carrying.

What was Aesop trying to say with this fable?

When you help others, you are helping yourself.

In a real-world setting, this fable is about teamwork. Although we all have encountered problems when trying to accomplish projects as a team, trying to do something by yourself means you are stuck with only your skill sets, your ideas, and your extremely subjective perception of how satisfactory the project really is. Ultimately, refusing to help others limits your ability to help yourself.

The Cat and the Mice

An extended family of mice needed to develop a good plan to protect themselves from a devious cat. One of the younger mice spoke up and said: “I think we should tie a bell around the cat’s neck. That way, we’ll know when our enemy, the cat, is coming for us.”

An older, wiser mouse asked: “That is a great idea, but who is going to undertake the dangerous task of belling the cat?”

The mice fell silent, realizing this plan would not work.

Moral of this Aesop fable:

Successful ideas are ideas that can be fully implemented.

While it’s great to throw around ideas, only realistic, sound, and sustainable ideas are the ones that provide satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and financial benefits. The next time you are involved in a strategy meeting, remember the importance of challenging everybody, but keep in mind Aesop’s catalyst for true achievements: can anybody bell the cat?

The Lion and the Oxen

A lion took to prowling a field where several oxen were grazing. The lion tried to attack the oxen many times but they always positioned themselves in a way that protected their vulnerable bodies. They met the lion with their horns instead of their tails. Eventually, the oxen started fighting with each other and went to separate areas of the field. Without the protection of their fellow oxen, each ox died a horrible death as the lion attacked them one by one.

Try this one on your own. How could you apply the moral of this story to your own business?

The Way I See It

kirkI heard a story about a lady driving to work who followed a car which had a sign in the back window that said, “Learning stick – sorry for the delay!” Knowing this information, she was very patient with the driver’s slow shifting and gave the car plenty of space at red lights and stop signs. After thinking about this, I asked myself a tough question… would I be as patient with someone driving like this without a sign? I can definitely say no.

We don’t know what other people are going through. We don’t wear signs that show our personal struggles, such as “Going through a divorce,” “Lost a child,” “Feeling Depressed,” or “Diagnosed with Cancer.”

If we could read signs of what others are going through, many of us would be nicer. But the truth is, we shouldn’t have to see signs to treat strangers with kindness. We should be kind regardless of whether we know what struggles others are dealing with or not.

Here’s the way I see it: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. And think of us the next time you need help with your printing so that you can focus on more important things in life

The Way I See It

kirkHere’s a true, inspirational story about an American Navy fighter pilot in Vietnam, named Captain Charlie Plumb. On his 75th mission, with five days left before he was to return home, his jet was shot down. He was ejected and parachuted into enemy hands, resulting in his capture and torture. He spent a total of 2,103 days as a POW (prisoner of war) in Communist prison camps.

After returning home, a man came up to him and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. I heard you were shot down!” Surprised, Plumb asked how the man knew about that. The man smiled and said, “I’m the sailor who packed your parachute, and I guess it worked!” Plumb thanked him profusely and said, “If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb became a motivational speaker, sharing his POW experiences with audiences around the world. One of his signature messages describes the chance meeting with the sailor who packed his parachute, which ultimately saved his life. After telling his story, he always asks his audiences, “Who’s packing your parachute?”

Here’s the way I see it: Never underestimate the impact you may have on someone else’s life. Let us know if we can help with your next printing project so that you can focus on more important things in life.

How to Chart Your New Future

Young African female entrepreneur dreaming up new business ideasIrene Obera is an 84-year-old southern California native who loves bowling, tennis, and educating others.

She also happens to be the fastest woman on earth for her age. Irene has been breaking records in Masters athletics for forty years, and her aging philosophies are captured in her own words:

“If you don’t move it, you lose it.”

And:

“A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits – and I want to be a winner.”

Irene is one of many “superagers,” a term for people in their 70s and 80s who have the mental or physical capability of their decades-younger counterparts. Irene serves as an inspiration, not only for the power of dedication but the promise of possibility when we harness our full potential. Living well is a goal we all desire and living fully alive is the essence of life. No matter what our strengths or sphere of influence, each of us has the potential for success and impact. This potential is a treasure that should be uncovered, protected, and stewarded!

Shake Off That Slump

Then what do you do when you’ve hit a slump? When complacency has settled like fog, or when you want to grow but feel stifled professionally (or personally) at almost every turn?

Maybe you’re satisfied, but not feeling sufficiently challenged in your daily tasks. What should you do?

Here’s the truth: small adjustments DO make an impact. But we tend to enjoy comfort and resist change, making it harder and harder to change gears.

So, how can we move forward in a positive way that will impact us for years to come?

It Starts with Education

An easy place to start is where many of us began: with education. Education is a gift! The opportunity to learn can unlock our potential, grow our social circle, reap financial rewards, and energize our mind, careers, and health! Consider this statistic:

The Rush Memory and Aging Project, conducted in 2012 in Chicago with more than 1,200 elders participating, showed that increased cognitive activity in older adults slowed their decline in cognitive function and decreased their risk of mild cognitive impairment. The study showed that cognitively active seniors, whose average age was 80, were 2.6 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than seniors with less cognitive activity. Studies also show that educated people tend to enjoy better mental health, increased emotional well-being, and expanded opportunities.

Add Spring to Your Step

Whether you desire personal or professional development, growth of any kind has the potential to chart a new course for your future.

Ready to increase your mental capacity, improve your quality of life, and enrich your emotional health? In this two-part series, we’ll look at four avenues for gaining ground that will enrich your life and expand your opportunities.

  1. Stretch Yourself. 

The first step in continued growth is your own buy-in.

Take ownership over your desire to develop and look for new challenges, side projects, or free professional development opportunities offered in or outside your company. Seek out webinars and podcasts on a weekly basis or consider short online courses. Be curious about aspects of the workplace that don’t directly affect your job. Ask questions and get involved where you might not otherwise. When you show others that you are interested in learning, it communicates a proactive spirit and opens invisible doors to future opportunities.

Living fully engaged brings richness and reward. Join us for part two of this series, as we look at four more avenues for personal and professional development that can bring impact for decades to come!

Down-Selling Pays Off

SHOW YOUR CUSTOMERS YOU HAVE THEIR BEST INTERESTS IN MIND

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While we’re all familiar with upselling and cross-selling to boost sales, few salespeople will practice down-selling. Although your higher-priced items likely have a more substantial profit margin, down-selling can be just as, or more, important to your company.

Down-selling is a great sales technique to show your customers you have their best interests in mind. For example, if you think a customer is considering an overly featured product that has no value for their simple needs, down-selling can be a great way to build rapport with a customer and still get a sale.

Down-selling can also be used as a backup if customers reject your original offer or have budgeting issues. For example, you can suggest a comparable product or service at a lower price that better matches their budget or needs. If you haven’t already, this is an excellent example of the importance of categorizing your products when possible, ranging from value/entry level to premium.

Down-selling is a great way to keep the customer engaged in the sales process. In addition, if a customer trusts you and appreciates your honesty, they will likely purchase from you again in the future, creating a loyal customer. After all, a satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.

Promotional Labels

ENGAGING PROMOTIONS YOU CAN STICK ALMOST ANYWHERE

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Promotional labels are a fun way to make engaging promotions you can stick almost anywhere. Not only are they affordable and unique, but they are also often a crowd-favorite at trade shows and other company events.

Promotional labels are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, durability, and colors/finishes, such as square, circular, or die-cut, as well as embossed, laminated, or foil printed. They are also designed for easy handling and can be created as individually cut labels or rolled labels with a scored backing for easy distribution.

In addition to handing them out, promotions labels can be applied to marketing materials and packages as a way to grab attention and spread the word about a new product, or upcoming sale or event.

Let us know if you’d like help designing the perfect promotional labels that will look as polished and professional as your brand.

5 Reasons Why Print Marketing Still Pops

GettyImages-695773692.jpgWith all the buzz around social media marketing, leveraging influencers, and digital retargeting ads, has print marketing lost its luster?

Smart marketers know that just as there are millions of individuals in the U.S., there are hundreds of ways to reach them. As more people flock to the internet to shop, do their taxes, and connect with friends and relatives, you may be surprised to know that the digital proliferation of messages has brought consumers’ attention back to a tried-and-true favorite: print marketing.

Here are five reasons why print marketing still pops for your next promotion.

1. Print is Surprising

Think about it. You may receive dozens or even hundreds of emails each day. How much time do you devote to considering each one?

An unexpected advertisement may receive a brief glance, or it may go directly to your spam folder if it is poorly written. Contrast that with the number of pieces of printed mail that you receive on a daily basis. If you’re like most people, you probably get less than ten pieces of written correspondence each day. That gives your message that much more of an opportunity to make an impact with a well-designed and colorful print piece.

2. Print is Memorable

Reading a newspaper or other longer-form printed media is considered “lean forward” reading — while skimming emails is something you’re likely to be multi-tasking and “leaning back,” or being less engaged.

Studies show that people are up to 70% more likely to recall businesses when they see their information in print versus online.

3. Print is Easy

The same study that tested customer recall also explored the effort required to process print materials versus digital materials.

The findings are unexpected: direct mail requires significantly less mental effort to process, by over 15 percentage points! Printed ads in newspapers or delivered via direct mail are more memorable because they’re often mostly visual instead of packed with words. According to a Temple University study, physical media wins out over print in nearly every category, including engagement, memory accuracy and speed, and desirability.

4. Print is Trusted

The recent outbreaks of viruses make online advertising a dicey proposition — at least in the mind of many Americans.

You don’t hear the news media touting the number of people who lost their personal information to a newspaper, right? This familiarity with printed media helps give messages received in this format a more comfortable and trusted feel than advertising that arrives in a digital package. This is especially true for demographics of a certain age, where printed mailers were the way to receive valuable information.

5. Print is Creative

Sure you can argue that digital advertising is incredibly creative and interactive.

However, print media allows you to effectively cross genres with your messaging, switching between print and digital with ease as long as you have an effective strategy in place for messaging. A truly cohesive experience from print to digital makes consumers feel unique and valued, but that conversation begins in the print space.

These are only a few of the many reasons why print marketing and advertising is still at the top of the heap. The additional mental space and recall, opportunities for creating a cohesive brand feel, and the ability to cross platforms from print to digital make postcards and other mailers a compelling proposition for businesses.

These Two Things are the Keys to a Successful Business

The physical and emotional abuse began when she was five years old.

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By the time she was 13, she was homeless and relying on the kindness of strangers to feed and house her. At 14, she gave birth to a son who died in infancy. Shortly afterward, she was sent to live with an uncle in whom she later referred to as her “father.” Even though this teenager had suffered years of poverty and abuse, something fierce and fiery within her would not give up. She attended a Milwaukee high school and earned grades good enough to get her into the Upward Bound program, a federally funded program to help gifted students achieve academic success.

This determined, courageous young woman was later transferred to a suburban high school where she was picked on by her more affluent peers. After being caught stealing money to keep up with the lifestyle of her peers, she was once again sent to live with another relative in Nashville, TN. Here, she became an honors student and joined a speech/debate team that eventually took second place in a nation-wide dramatic interpretation contest.

After winning a college scholarship, working as a news reporter, and ultimately, landing her own TV show, Oprah Winfrey is now one of the world’s most famous, most beloved, and most successful women in history.

Attitude is Motivation and Motivation is Attitude

Imagine you are the owner of a bakery that was handed down to you by your parents and grandparents.

One of the traditions you continue to keep as the owner is wearing a large pin on your uniform that says “Business is Awesome!” While all business have down times, the idea behind the pin is that, no matter how the business is doing, your attitude remains the same.

What do you tell customers who ask you what’s so great about business? In most cases, people asking you this question are going through a rough time in their lives or may be coping with business problems themselves. You might tell them business is awesome because you love meeting new people every day or that business is great because you can work in an environment where everybody gets along and enjoys each other’s company.

At the heart of this story lies the power of embracing a positive attitude. When you anticipate the good things and refuse to become a victim of negative thinking, the motivation to continue naturally emerges, sustained by your sense of renewal, hope and expectations.

Falling Down 10 Times Means You Have to Get Up 10 Times

“I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. Many times I have been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I am not afraid to say that I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” — Michael Jordan

You have to keep “getting up” (as Oprah Winfrey did) to take those next steps toward meeting or exceeding your goals.

The motivation for getting up and getting back on track is more powerful and rewarding if it is for personal rather than material gain. Keep reminding yourself that the most significant accomplishments in world history all started because someone fell down and got right back up again without even giving it a second thought.

Print Made Digital: How Business Cards Are Still the Best Way to Connect

GettyImages-1003427474.jpgDigital communication and marketing tactics may be the hottest topics on everyone’s tongues, but there are still some serious limitations to connecting your physical and digital worlds.

There are ways that allow you to quickly trade contact information, but they can require both parties to download the same app and are difficult to coordinate in quick hallway conversations. Business professionals will tell you that you never know when you’re going to meet someone who can tie together the pieces of a particular project, so it pays to be prepared to capture contact information regardless of your physical location. That’s where business cards come in as one of the best ways to connect with people in person.

Boost Your Brand Recognition

Keeping your branding on point can be an ongoing challenge, especially as your business grows.

Marketers must be diligent to ensure that all marketing materials are consistent and cohesive with colors, fonts, styles images, and even the tone of language that is used — or your brand voice.

One particular printed item that often ties together all of your branding is a simple business card! Business cards are relatively inexpensive but can pack a big branding punch when they provide each prospect or contact with the look, feel and logo of your business.

Convenient Communication Tool

Business cards are one of the most convenient communication tools available because you can simply slide your hand into your pocket or purse and immediately be able to share your contact information with others.

If you’re in the middle of another conversation, there’s no need to break off topic and attempt to program a number into your cell phone; instead, you can simply pop a business card into someone’s hand! If you’re at a conference or trade show, business cards allow you to jot questions or topics of interest on the back, which can help jog your memory of the contact and how you need to follow up with them in the future.

Ideal for Direct Marketing

Sending emails and even text messages may be one of the most effective ways to reach a wide range of individuals, but an old-fashioned phone call packs an impact.

Including a handshake with your business card creates a personal connection that people will remember. If the person you’re speaking with isn’t the perfect contact for your business, the good news is that your business card can continue marketing to the next person who receives it, too! Digital marketing tactics such as QR codes add extra bang to your business card by providing your prospects with additional information that couldn’t fit within the space available on a small business card. Have a special offer that you’d like to share? Drop a discount code on your business card and you’ll be sure to create a lasting impression!

Print marketing tactics such as business cards are still one of the best ways to reach your target audience in a personal way that builds long-term relationships. Business today is still driven by relationships. Ensuring that you have personal knowledge of the people you are working with — and that connection — is best formed by creative printed materials that reinforce the look and feel of your brand.

The next time you’re shaking hands with someone, be sure you’re sliding a business card to them at the same time, and your message will be reinforced even after you are long gone!

The Black Dot

kirkI heard this inspirational story the other day and thought you might also enjoy it.

One day, a professor told his students they were going to have a surprise quiz. He handed out the quiz, placing it facedown on each student’s desk. He then asked the students to turn over the paper. To everyone’s surprise, there were no questions – just a small black dot in the center of the paper. The professor told them, “I’d like you to write about what you see on the paper.” The students looked very confused but completed the project. At the end of class, the professor read each response out loud. Every single student wrote something about the black dot, either explaining its size or position on the page.

Then the professor said, “I’m not going to grade you on this, instead, I just wanted to give you something to think about. No one wrote about the large, white portion of the paper. Instead, everyone focused on the tiny black dot. The same thing happens in life – we tend to focus on only the black dot – whether it be a frustration or problem, a fight with a friend, the lack of money, or other issues. In reality, the dark spots are tiny when compared to the blessings in our lives, yet they tend to monopolize and pollute our lives.

Here’s the way I see it: When you focus on problems, you will have more problems. When you focus on possibilities, you will have more opportunities. We’d love to offer a creative solution for your next challenging printing project. And remember, other printers may be nearby, but nobody comes close.

Create Custom GIFs

EASILY CREATE YOUR OWN CUSTOM GIFS

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Animated GIFs have become a popular way to communicate on social media, blogs, and even texting. While many people download pre-made GIFs, you can also easily create your own custom GIFs. Here are a few examples of popular iOS and Android apps that allow you to turn almost any video clip into a GIF:

  • Giphy is not only the internet’s largest GIF search engine, but the Giphy Cam app enables you to film videos directly through the app, create animated stickers, and more.
  • Gifx is a creative and customizable app that allows users to apply more than 200 GIF effects to photos and videos, as well as add music, adjust opacity, size, etc., and add creative masks.
  • GifLab (iOS only) offers one of the easiest ways to create GIFs from your own videos. It has minimal effects yet the essential features for beginners.
  • Gifs Art (iOS only) enables users to create and customize GIFs from almost any type of media (photos, videos, existing GIFs). It also features a built-in library of masks, stickers, and creative effects.
  • Tumblr features a GIF tool directly in its mobile app so users can easily create GIFs from videos or photo bursts from their camera rolls.

If you’d like other tips to stay ahead of the creative curve for work or fun, check out the tips on our website or give us a call today!

Boost Your Facebook Reviews

FACEBOOK IS ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR REVIEW SITES

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While there are many online resources where customers can leave reviews, Facebook is one of the most popular. Since the majority of your customers are likely already on Facebook, writing a review and recommending a business takes minimal effort. While you can also ask customers to write Yelp or Google reviews, they may not already have a Yelp account or Gmail account and may be less likely to open new accounts just to review your business.

Another benefit when customers choose to review your business on Facebook is that their review is also visible to their friends, family, and other connections, extending the reach of their review.

When you search for a business on Google, a box on the right side appears showing an overview of the business with photos, hours of operation, Google reviews, AND overall review scores from the web, such as Facebook and other sites. This enables anyone to view your Facebook review score, even if they don’t use Facebook.

One of the easiest ways to get Facebook reviews is to ask your loyal customers directly. Make a habit of asking customers how their experience was, and when they provide a positive response, say, “We’d appreciate it if you would take a moment to share your experience on Facebook!” Or “We’re glad to hear it! Please review us on Facebook!”

You can also include review requests as a note enclosed with a package, as a tagline on your email signature, in a handwritten thank you note, or even post a public request on your Facebook page, such as “We hope you enjoyed our latest promotion! Leave us a review to let us know what you think.”

Before requesting a review, ensure that your Facebook page has reviews enabled. Go to Settings > Edit Page > scroll to the bottom and select Add a Tab. From there, select Reviews. Then, drag and drop the order of your tabs to position them the way you want on your Facebook Page.

When asking customers to provide a review, include the direct URL for your Facebook Reviews tab: www.facebook.com/pageusername/reviews.

Why Your Brand is The Most Important Asset in Your Business

GettyImages-664463046.jpgYour brand may not be as recognizable as Coke, Pepsi or Walmart, but it speaks volumes about your business.

Your brand is much more than a simple logo or tagline; it is the sum of all the different interactions that your prospects and customers have with your organization. This could include printed correspondence, your website, phone conversations with your sales reps, and more. It’s an intangible asset that is captured on your balance sheet in case you are selling your business, and it should be treated as your most valuable asset. Creating a cohesive brand experience for your customer begins with expressing your brand consistently across your various channels of communication.

Digital Presence

Your website is your digital front door, and when your brand isn’t well represented on your website, then you can cause significant confusion among your core audience.

When you work closely with a designer to translate your brand from printed pieces to the web, you’re ensuring that customers and prospects are comfortable with interacting with your brand on any channel. If you are using social media channels to promote your brand, you may want to audit the design look and feel for consistency. Many brand managers find it easiest to define a brand across all channels during a refresh of the look and feel of your digital presence. Everything down to the color that you choose for your logo mark will help tightly define your brand.

Brand “Voice”

Is your brand a little smart and sassy, or cool and classy? Slightly high-brow or ready for some fun?

The brand “voice” that you define is essentially the personality for your brand. It’s unlikely that a well-established bank would want to suddenly start using emojis in their brand communication, for instance. Alternatively, a fun and feisty new design firm would want to use different messaging than a financial institution! Your voice should be made up not only of the way you want your brand to appear, but also allow you to communicate effectively with your core audience. Based on demographics, your brand may have a slightly different voice when speaking to various audience segments.

Marketing Collateral

Each piece of marketing collateral that you create — from letterhead to your website to your latest printed sales brochure — should all have a cohesive design that sticks close to your brand guidelines.

That doesn’t mean that everything has to look the same, but when someone looks at a piece of your marketing materials, they should have that “Aha! I recognize this brand!” feeling immediately. In today’s fast-paced digital world, it can be easy to create a new look for your website or emails and forget that your printed materials, such as business cards and letterhead, need to be refreshed to match an updated look.

Finding Your Identity

Each interaction, each step of each process, and each conversation that happens between customers and prospects is yet another piece of your brand identity! You can see why this makes your brand one of the most critical assets in your business.

While all of these pieces work together to create this mystical thing that we call “brand identity,” there are some definite hallmarks that help set the tone.

Ready to freshen up the look of your business cards, letterhead, envelopes and other identity materials? These items are often the initial introduction to your brand, and you want them to make a great first impression!

Getting Creative at Work May Be the Best Use of Your Time Today

GettyImages-697661006.jpgBetter. Faster. Cheaper.

Those are the siren calls of managers today — always on the lookout for ways to make their workers more productive.

What if you discovered that your teams would actually gain productivity by taking the time out of their day to be creative? While carving out time for creativity may feel like a waste of time upfront, you may be surprised to find that the results of making this space will be far-reaching. The daily grind and immediate needs of others don’t leave a lot of time for thinking outside the box, but you’ll see that scheduling time for creativity is a critical ingredient for high-performing individuals and teams.

Small Investment, Big Rewards

Getting creative doesn’t mean you need to pull out the fingerpaints and scissors in your common room.

It just means that you should offer your team members a variety of ways to choose their own path when it comes to specific tasks, brainstorm new ideas (and implement them!) or look for ways to help others. Taking as little as 90 minutes every week two weeks gives people the time and space to unleash their great ideas and helps them work smarter — not harder. This small investment can pay off with big rewards. Even if you don’t implement every idea, your team will be excited to get together and share their thoughts and suggestions and know that they’re being actively listened to.

Creativity Takes Many Forms

Brainstorming is an easy way to build camaraderie within a team and also generate some amazing ideas, but what are some other ways to bring creativity into the workplace?

These tips can help you get started on a productive time together.

  • Create effective work groups. It’s important to ensure that your teams are well-balanced when creativity is your goal. If you have one individual who tends to overpower the conversation, it can be tough for others to join in on the fun.
  • Make it challenging. Consider asking your teams to solve a unique challenge — maybe one that’s not even related to your current situation, but designed to help people come together around a common goal.
  • Give them space. Not physical space, mental space! If individuals are so concerned about daily tasks that they’re unable to devote the mental capacity to the project, you’re not going to reap the benefit you might expect.
  • Allow freedom to choose. If you’re offering a specific work opportunity that needs to be overcome, don’t get too tied down in the details of how it needs to happen. Ask that teams consider the “Blue Sky” approach, where there are no boundaries, no limitations (systems or individuals) and just go for it. The sky’s the limit!

Perhaps the most important thing to remind your teams going into a creative space is that all judgment should be suspended.

There are no bad ideas. Every individual deserves to have their idea or direction fully listened to. Don’t evaluate ideas before their time or you will interrupt the flow of information that is what brings true creativity to light. After a few sessions, you may be surprised to find that your teams are excited — and not reluctant — to join in on the fun.

With luck, this openness, creativity, and conversation will begin to flow throughout your teams on a more regular basis. As people come to realize that others will listen, they are more likely to share without fear. Let your creativity free and reap the rewards!

Labels Are a Promotion that “Sticks” With Your Customers

GettyImages-917368066.jpgCustomers can be a difficult and fickle lot.

They’re always shopping around for the “Next Big Thing,” surfing your competitor’s websites, and price-checking on their phones. With all the different business options available today, it can be tough to keep your business in their mind without spending thousands of dollars on local and digital advertising.

There’s a smarter way to keep your customers engaged with your brand’s identity without breaking the bank — labels!

Labels are the ideal way to turn a basic and ho-hum bag or box into a full-color masterpiece that is interesting and fun. See how you can leverage labels to create a promotion that truly sticks with your customers.

Adding Excitement to Your Packaging

Basic white or kraft boxes and bags are simple, inexpensive packaging for your products, but they don’t do anything for your brand identity.

When Maggie, a bakery owner, recently visited her local print shop, she was looking for a logo that could be printed on her various sizes of packaging. What she learned was that each size of packaging would require different setups to print the logo, and full-color printing on non-standard size items could get add up. After speaking with the sales team at the print shop, Maggie realized that there was a better option that would reduce the overall costs of using different packaging for her products.

Full-Color Labels in Any Size or Shape

Part of the challenge of running a bakery is that you’re selling all different sizes and shapes of goods.

You may need a small bag for a donut or bagel, a nearly-square box for layer cakes, and a large rectangle for sheet cakes or a dozen baked goods. Creating a single logo for packaging that would look good on all of these sizes and shapes would be difficult. However, labels are so easy to create that you can utilize a variety of labels to make a custom-printed look that features a stunning full-color image.

Add Promotions When You Need Them

Labels are an incredibly versatile promotional tool.

You can add them to a package or leave them off to create a different mood or message for your customers. If you’d like to offer a coupon on a particular type of order — for instance, a dozen donuts — then you can utilize a label to attach a printed coupon to draw added attention to the offer. The label itself could become the offer, too. You could have a batch of labels printed offering “10% Off, Tomorrow Only” and then be able to pull out this promotion anytime sales are experiencing a bit of a slump.

Operational Labels

You can also use labels within your business to classify items at a glance.

For instance, a tiny sticker that denotes which day of the week a particular item was baked, or showing a ‘Sell by’ date. Write-on labels and waterproof labels are available based on your particular needs and are a great way to keep your business organized and running smoothly.

In this particular instance, Maggie was inspired to create a series of labels for each day of the week to indicate freshness to her customers. She also worked with a designer to envision a new look for her packaging that included a single-color package and full-color labels that added a pop of color and plenty of personality to her baked goods. Since people “eat with their eyes” it made good business sense for the packaging to be as appealing as possible!

Ready to revamp the look of your products or rev up your organizational skills?

Print is Alive and Well

Is Your Phone a Part of Your Body?

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This may not be far from the truth! Recent research found that the average person reaches for their smartphone 150 times a day, including e-mails, calls, photos, messaging, or checking the time.

This begs a crucial question. In terms of modern day marketing, does this rise in digital dominance erase the power of print? Not a chance!

Hard Copy Rules

Naomi Baron, author of Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, surveyed university students worldwide and came to a profound conclusion: young people have a near-universal preference for print.

When given a choice of various media – including hard copy, phones, tablets, or laptops – 92 percent said they could concentrate best on hard copy.

Respondents said drawbacks of digital media included distraction, eye strain, physical discomfort, while hard copy benefits included stronger visual memory, an increased desire to “re-read,” and sensory connection enabling one to touch, experience, and “keep” printed materials. Baron said that in the Slovakian respondent data, one out of TEN mentioned smell. “There really is a physical, tactile, kinesthetic component to reading.”

Don’t Forget the Fun

Looking to draw attention back to print marketing but need some inspiration to get you started?

Print comes alive through color and texture, but also through humor. Here are a few spunky print ads that helped restore our faith in the creativity of the medium in 2017:

Snowbird Ski Resorts.

Snowbird was looking to overcome its ho-hum ski magazine campaign with something different. Cloaking its sales pitch in sarcasm, Snowbird featured one-star reviews from complaining customers.

“Too advanced,” read one review. “I’d heard Snowbird is a tough mountain, but this is ridiculous. It felt like every trail was a steep chute or littered with tree wells. How is anyone supposed to ride in that? Not fun!”

Snowbird’s agency hand-picked reviews that would tantalize hardcore athletes to give the resort a try. “We’re known for our steep terrain, long runs, and deep snow,” said Snowbird marketing director David Amirault. “Beginner skiers and snowboarders . . . often find this a challenge. However, for our core guest, it’s what makes them come back year after year.”

Creative campaigns like this will definitely keep print marketing fans coming back as well!

Burger King.

One audacious print campaign was Burger King’s “Burning Stores,” which showed actual BK restaurants on fire with the headline “Flame grilled since 1954.”

Showcasing one of its worst moments was ridiculously brave, tying BK’s “flame-grilling” service near a flame-grilled franchise in a shocking, hilarious graphic. “Burning Stores” reminded us that engaging modern audiences includes a willingness to be vulnerable. Grey Africa’s Fran Luckin, chair of the Print & Publishing jury at Cannes, called “Burning Stores” the ideal print ads for a social media age:

“We’ve got a brand being brave enough to be authentic,” she said. “It’s a move away from having every single piece of print communication be so carefully crafted and put out there as an official announcement. There’s a sense here of being more playful, more authentic, a sense that you can be a little bit more edgy in your communication.”

Luckin reminded content producers that it’s ok for companies to laugh:

“I once heard a Coca-Cola executive use the work ‘flawsome,’ which I loved. In the social media age, where people can find out information about your brand quite easily, you have to be a little bit more real. You embrace your imperfections. You have more of a sense of humor about your corporate image. [Burger King] is a brand that’s brave enough to stick its tongue in its cheek and be a little bit young again.”

Custom-Tabbed Resource Booklets

A GREAT WAY TO ORGANIZE A VARIETY OF INFORMATION

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If you’re looking for great way to organize a variety of information in a sleek, bound booklet, a custom-tabbed resource booklet may be just what the doctor ordered.

Custom-tabbed resource booklets are an ideal tool for emergency guidebooks and can include site-specific procedures, policies, contacts, maps, and more. Colored subject tabs enable readers to quickly find the topics they need without having to open the book.

While you may have an official ERP (Emergency Response Plan) that is 100+ pages long, a custom tabbed resource is a great way to ensure critical information can be easily found and used in a real-life emergency. While many organizations publish emergency information on the internet, remember print is the best policy in the event of an emergency. Even if your internet goes down, your emergency response plan will still be available.

They can be spiral bound and available in any size you need, varying from small pocket guides to oversized displays that can be hung on cubicles or breakroom walls. They can feature layered tabs that are color coordinated and organized based on your specific categories. We can also laminate or coat your booklet pages for extra durability.

If you’d like help creating the perfect tabbed resource booklet for your organization, give us a call today. And remember, other printers may be nearby, but nobody comes close!

Printed Banners Work Wonders for Upcoming Events

GettyImages-911142722.jpgPromoting your event in your community without a large budget can feel like an overwhelming task.

While there are plenty of things that you can do with unlimited budgets such as billboards, printed mailings or even postcards, the larger items can be costly and mailings take a bit longer than you may have to publicize your upcoming event.

As a community events coordinator for the local YMCA, Danny L. knew that he needed suggestions for his frequent activities that would bring in additional funds for local groups without breaking the bank.

Raising Awareness (and Dollars!)

From fundraisers for local families experiencing medical challenges to Daddy/Daughter dances at the “Y”, there is no end to the number of events in the community on a monthly basis.

The YMCA has a long history of supporting the community by offering reduced-cost monthly fees and other support mechanisms. However, they are not able to financially support the needs of these worthy groups for promotion in any meaningful way. Instead, any promotional dollars would need to come from the group — and they are generally running on an incredibly tight budget that makes advertising difficult. The tremendous good that is done on a daily and weekly basis through community walks or 5k runs, pancake breakfasts and other fundraisers is significant, but without publicity, the scope of these events is very limited.

Go Where the People Are

Danny realized while looking at a yard sale sign on a busy corner one day that there was a better way to get out the word on upcoming events — banners!

He tested his theory and had an inexpensive banner printed for an upcoming event. He then asked people who attended the event how they learned about it. Surprisingly, quite a few mentioned that the banner prompted them to drop in for a few moments and make a donation! Ever since that time, Danny has been using large printed banners placed in strategic locations throughout the city to drive traffic and interest in upcoming events. He found that placing them approximately two weeks before the event worked best, as people were able to plan ahead to visit, and then also were reminded to come closer to the event.

Creating the banner was very straightforward, and involved Danny sketching out the times and dates as well as a quick call to action that described the event. He found that there was only a little information that could be placed on the banner without it becoming overwhelming for people to read. Let us help you create a banner for your upcoming event today!

The Seasons of Life

kirkHere’s a thought-provoking story about a man who was raising four sons. He wanted them to learn how to make wise decisions without judging things too quickly, so he sent each of them individually on a quest to look at a pear tree that was located a long distance away.

The first son went in the winter, the second in spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall. After returning from their quests, the father asked each of them to describe what they saw.

The first son said the tree was ugly, twisted and harsh, and recommended it be cut down. The second son said it was sad-looking but was starting to get green buds and seemed full of promise. The third son said it was stunningly beautiful, covered in blossoms and smelling sweet. And the fourth son said it was drooping with fruit and full of life.

The man explained they were all right, but they should not judge the tree’s value because they had only seen one season in the tree’s life.

Here’s the way I see it: Just as you should never judge a tree by one season, you should never judge a person by one difficult season in life. After all, no matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.

The Communication of Change Keys to Meaningful Change

Hand flip wooden cube with word "change" to "chance", Personal development and career growth or change yourself conceptThe oil crises of the 1970s rocked many industry giants, including the transportation industry.

In 1981, British Airways was reeling from massive financial losses and a reputation for terrible service. Nearing meltdown, the airline brought on a new chairperson, Lord King, who quickly spotlighted three areas where the company was operating inefficiently: careless spending, disorganized staffing, and inadequate communication. King’s leadership quickly produced results. After only ten years, the company became the largest airline in the UK, reporting the highest profits in its industry ($284 million, to be exact!).

What was the key to this turnaround?

Large-scale organizational change. King made major structure changes, including a reduced workforce (from 59,000 to 39,000), elimination of unprofitable routes, modernization of the existing fleet, and marketing upgrades to revamp the airline’s image.

Did King make these massive changes by crossing his fingers and wishing for the best? Hardly. British Airlines combined accurate research with a clear strategy that informed their decisions and overcame resistance.

Discontentment: The Shadow Side of Success

One thing King had in his favor was discontentment, which was at an all-time high.

While many of us believe contentment is key to a happy life, sometimes pain (including frustration with “business as usual”), is a gateway to greater fulfillment. Experts find that a shadow side of successful people is this common personality trait: they struggle with perpetual discontentment. Forbes columnist Brianna Weist says this:

“There is a difference between people who are content and people who are successful, and it is because the latter push themselves whereas the former tries to sustain the status quo. Without a certain measure of growth or expansion, the human mind gets bored, or tired. This will, eventually, lead to a tipping point at which the content person becomes discontent… and then change is made.”

Change as a Formula

Pain moves us: to make radical shifts, to take risks we wouldn’t otherwise consider, and to get the full potential out of life.

Dissatisfaction, combined with a skill set and action plan, can be the most essential agent for change. But far-reaching change can be tricky to maneuver, requiring precise timing and a thoughtful strategy.

Organizational change experts David Gleicher and Kathie Dannemiller coached change strategists with a model that looks something like this:

  • If change were a formula, it is this: “D * V * PF > R” (Dissatisfaction * Vision * Preferred Future > Resistance)
  • Dissatisfaction paired with a vision for a preferred future motivates people to overcome resistance to change.
  • To catalyze change, an idea or product must possess a clear path for a breakthrough while fanning the flame of frustration with the current state of being. If the product of those three factors is greater than the existing resistance, change will occur.

What This Means For Your Business

It means you can relax, even when people are unhappy!

Intentionally listen to your employees and customers and consider rising frustration as the first step to positive change. Use the change model to evaluate whether the time is right to communicate early steps towards meaningful shifts. Find healthy networks or professional development opportunities where you can reflect on industry trends, process leadership ideas, and analyze competitors to identify areas of opportunity.

Finally, cut yourself some slack if you feel irritated with your own areas of personal frustration. Great futures can come from great pain, so allow your dissatisfaction to chart a course toward exciting new destinations. You’ve got this!

CD Mailers

CREATIVE AND AFFORDABLE WAY TO MAIL DIGITAL CONTENT

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If you’re looking for a creative and affordable way to mail digital content on a CD, we can help with the perfect solution!

Custom-printed flat mailers that include a CD slit are a great way to combine a creative marketing message with low-cost packaging. CD mailers can be designed as a durable mini folder and feature full-color, custom messaging artwork on the outside and inside flaps, as well as a designed third panel if needed.

Sending your marketing materials digitally on a CD can be a great way to save money, such as when distributing large annual reports, customized welcome information, confidential financial documents, and more.

CD mailers are available in a variety of sizes, as well as vertical or horizontal. We can help you choose the correct size for USPS automated processing. Give us a call today if you have questions or need help designing the perfect mailer.

Takeout Menus: Functional and Promotional

GettyImages-86508173.jpgMost restaurant owners know that their menu is one of their top selling tools.

While this may surprise the average consumer, restaurant managers often use their menu to upsell pricey items such as appetizers, drinks, and side items. The placement of each item within the menu is of the utmost importance, and even small changes can cause a jump in sales of ten percent or greater — or a similar-sized drop in sales if item placement doesn’t work for buyers!

Printed takeout menus are still one of the best printed promotional tools that restaurants can use. Consumers are more interested in ordering food ahead of time for takeout, and having a menu visible when hunger hits really boosts your brand to the top of your consumer’s mind. See how takeout menus are one of the most functional and valuable tools for your restaurant business.

Strategically Situated Items

Restaurant menus are highly tailored, and often tweaked multiple times a year by consultants or managers to ensure that consumers are selecting items that are the most profitable and pleasing to their tastes.

If a menu isn’t easy to read, consumers can become confused and take additional time before placing their order, which may lead them to look elsewhere.  Guests are easily confused and overwhelmed when there are too many choices presented. Restaurants often try to limit their choices to a maximum of seven options per food segment to reduce the chance that people will default to a known option that may be less expensive.

Shifting Consumer Habits

Rachel V. noticed that her restaurant was gaining significantly higher dollars from takeout orders than at any time in the past.

In order to capitalize on this trend, Rachel decided to work with her local print shop to create a friendly takeout menu that highlighted a variety of their in-house favorites that were less likely to lose quality if they were boxed and transported elsewhere.

While customers were welcome to order anything on the main restaurant’s menu for takeout, the items the team added to the takeout menu were the “recommended” options. Rachel decided that not only could she use the menu as a functional piece that listed their phone number to call ahead for orders and the appetizers and entrees that they offered, but also as a promotional vehicle to offer seasonal discounts and special deals.

Smart Menu Design

Rachel knew that creating a takeout menu with enough food variety to interest her clientele was important.

With the limited amount of space available on the printed takeout menu, Rachel decided to leverage the space by putting visual cues around the most expensive items. This served to set these foods apart and draw the eye with small pockets of negative space.

She also decided to get a little creative with the descriptions of the food that she added to the menu. Oddly enough, she soon noticed that these menus were drawing in new customers — customers who were purchasing some of the higher-priced options that her traditional visitors were not necessarily drawn to.

As time went on, Rachel continued playing with the options that were on her restaurant’s takeout menu. Seasonal favorites were added, coupons made an appearance, and special items were a high point for returning customers who valued the convenience of being able to order their food ahead of time. The small print runs offered by her local print shop allowed her the flexibility that she needed to test, adjust and test again!

Four Savvy Strategies for Crafting Unforgettable Content

GettyImages-685165732.jpgIn the age of visual brilliance and short-lived attention spans, sometimes we wonder if content really counts. But no matter how glamorous the graphics, they simply cannot stand alone. (Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto, right?) Today, we’re looking at this question: How do you write exceptional copy? Content that commands attention, arouses interest, or compels people to action? Last week, we discussed slogans and sensory appeal. Today we’ll consider one final, fun technique.

Jaw-Dropping Surprises

Remember the “no way!” stunner at the end of The Usual Suspects? Kevin Spacey shakes off his signature limp and strides to freedom as his police interrogator gradually realizes Spacey is a mastermind killer who lied brilliantly for hours. Or remember how your jaw dropped when Darth Vader revealed he was Luke’s father? While these movie plots were phenomenal, the surprise factor was what drove them home.

That same principle applies in writing. As Chip and Dan Heath discuss in their book “Made to Stick,” our brains filter out consistency to focus on differences. Marketing “surprises” may include splashy headlines, shocking graphics that bring your message to life, or a story that encapsulates a core message.

In 2009, copywriter James Chartrand of a prominent website design company “Men with Pens,” dropped a bombshell on the writing world with this plot twist:

“Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants.”

Chartrand went on to reveal that SHE was actually a (literal) woman, a woman who had previously struggled as a freelance writer and single mom. As she labored to gain credibility, she decided to experiment with a male pseudonym, and quickly found her blog in Micheal Stelzner’s list of the Top Ten Blogs for Writers. Chartrand’s biography post was brilliant, authentic, and fun. But the surprise factor (that “he” was really a “she”) was the kicker that kept people talking about the company for years.

While you may not be able to drop a bombshell in all your copy, you can upend reader expectations in three other ways:

First, break the norm whenever you can. Offer unconventional advice, provide simple techniques or little-known shortcuts, or use angles you would normally avoid (like blatant typos in upscale literary magazines like we mentioned in part one). In life, and especially in art, people crave the unexpected. Surprise people consistently and you will be rewarded!

Second, defy expectations. Writers can do this is with odd pairings or disrupted patterns. For example, serene words like spa, relax, and peace can be disrupted by words like devastate or scandalize. Avoid traditional clichés (knight in shining armor, white as snow) in favor of words that overhaul expectations. A spa ad could feature odd word combinations like scandalizing serenity, gluttonous, self-gratification, or services that are devastatingly delicious. Surprise them as you shatter clichés or use tonal dissonance that is abrasive to the ears.

Finally, build a logical flow and then intentionally disrupt it. Check out these “surprise factor” car advertisements that perfectly illustrate the point. A romance spoiled. A hero thwarted. Ridiculous ideas grab us as things are placed out of context (like dogs driving a car). As you watch these clips, consider what you thought was going to happen versus what actually happened. Pay attention to the emotion you experienced when the surprise was unveiled. Did you enjoy it? Of course you did! And you’ll remember it longer as a result.

Whether it’s a plot twist, shattered clichés, or unexpected humor, readers crave fresh content and they will thank you for providing it. Now go create some surprises of your own!

An Honest Smuggler

kirkLong ago, James the smuggler was leading a donkey with large bundles of straw on its back. An experienced border inspector spotted James coming toward the border. “Stop, sir. What is your business here?” he asked James. “I am an honest smuggler,” James replied with a smile. “Well, I need to search those straw bundles. If I find something, you are required to pay a border fee,” the border agent said. “No problem,” James replied. “You won’t find anything in those bundles.”

The inspector searched the straw thoroughly but couldn’t find anything. He was suspicious, yet he let James pass the border. The next day, James came to the border again with his straw-carrying donkey. The border agent thought “I’ll get him for sure this time,” as he thoroughly searched the straw, James’ clothing, and the donkey’s harness. But once again he came up empty-handed and let James pass. This happened again and again for many years.

After the border inspector retired, he ran into James and asked, “It’s been driving me crazy for years… I must know what you were smuggling across the border!” James simply smiled at him and said, “donkeys.”

Here’s the way I see it: The only thing predictable about life is its unpredictability. Give us a call if you’d like help ensuring your marketing efforts don’t feel like marketing.

Change Your Scenery, Change Your Outlook

GettyImages-673592950.jpgOn the sixth floor of a Boston office building, a sprawling Art Deco lounge gives way to a row of small, glass-walled offices. While the offices seem identical, the residents are not. As you stroll down the hall, you’ll encounter data scientists developing smart-home technology, tech rooms packed with drones and virtual reality headsets, a venture capital start-up, or even employees of Amazon, General Electric, or Liberty Mutual insurance. What do they have in common? A desire to change scenery and synergy through shared office space.

“Moving out of the corporate office empowered us to think and work differently,” said Adam L’Italien, Liberty Mutual’s director of innovation.

While Liberty wasn’t short on space, three years ago the company moved its Boston-based innovation center to a rent-by-the-month office space called “WeWork.” WeWork is one player in a co-working explosion in Boston. Since the start of 2017, co-working operators have leased 1.3 million square feet of office space for collaborative bullpens that attract smart young workers. Collaborative spaces offer employees the flexibility to work remotely, ease in moving around the city (versus locking into a longer lease), and the creative energy co-working can bring. Ann Smarty of Entreprenuer says this:

“Co-working allows you the opportunity to network and collaborate with a wide range of bright minds. Proximity gives you the chance to ‘pick the brains’ of professionals in your own line of work as well as those in related fields. Working across the desk from someone with a completely different skill set can help you discover a new source of ideas . . . (and) you might find your brain is starting to work in different ways, too! Taking the risk to invite others to work alongside you breathes new life into the creation process and shows in the finished product.”

Relationships: Our Most Valuable Resource

Whether it’s networking or collaborating, we know that together we can achieve things we never would alone. Business is constantly changing, and collaboration can shape insightful new perspectives. So where does meaningful networking fall in your list of professional priorities?

A recent LinkedIn study revealed that 70 percent of people in 2016 were hired at a company where they had a previous connection. But while 80 percent of professionals consider networking to be important to career success, 38 percent said they find it hard to stay in touch with their network.

What is one natural, rewarding way to overcome this obstacle? Doing business locally.

While it can be difficult to plug into regular networks or co-working opportunities, connected local communities are a great avenue for inspiration, feedback, and opened doors in the future. And vibrant local business relationships are a refreshing antidote to the isolation of the daily grind!

The Best Business is Born From Relationships

They say your “net worth” is only as good as your “network”. Local business partnerships foster a thriving business community that empowers us to grow in our goals, to collaborate on custom solutions, and to connect with important relationships and resources. It is our privilege to serve you, building a trusted partnership so that your print experience is better every time.

As you print here at home, we guarantee timely, best quality work from a printer who personally knows your product preferences, your past print specs, and the tailor services you’ve come to enjoy. As a bonus, staying networked with local businesses is thought-provoking, energy-boosting, and empowering! We enjoy our clients and look forward to great conversations with you this year. Thank you for your business.

Printed Reminders Keep Sales on Track

GettyImages-683737016.jpgRemembering to go to the doctor or dentist’s office was much simpler back in the day when nearly everyone had a printed calendar. You would go home after a visit and immediately add your next visit to your calendar. The complexities of life today means that it can be tough to keep track of everything, even if you’re putting follow-up visits in your smartphone. The cost of a missed office visit can really add up over time, causing professionals to lose thousands of dollars per year. The tiny cost of creating a simple printed reminder that can be saved to your patients’ fridge provides an extra touch point for busy individuals.

Improved Experiences

Improving the experience of patients in today’s competitive environment may mean the difference between a growing and robust practice and one that dwindles away over the years. One physician’s office saw the benefits firsthand when Dr. Marcus L. decided to implement small printed reminders for his patients. As a family health practitioner, Dr. Marcus would often require follow-up visits with patients after their blood work was returned to review their results. Many patients would forget about this check-point, costing his staff time and money due to blank spots in their schedules with no billable time.

Boosting Revenue

Dr. Marcus was already working with a local print shop on some flyers for an upcoming health fair, and his account manager heard his woes and recommended a short-term test of some printed reminders. Dr. Marcus agreed and printed up a 3 month supply of the small reminders for his staff to pass out to patients. What he discovered after that test period was quite surprising! His staff helped track the number of empty slots. He discovered that there were 25% fewer empty slots on his schedule due to the reminders!

Printed reminders help keep patients and staff on track with follow-up visits for doctors and dentists — and could benefit many other professional offices as well! Think hairdressers, aestheticians . . . the list is endless!

How to Bring in Trade Show Traffic

GettyImages-887680492.jpgPicture this: it’s three weeks before your next trade show, and you’re no closer to formulating a plan of attack. Last year, the public milling about your booth was polite but lackluster. Your IT business may not be the most exciting one at the trade show, but you know you can do better. The good news is that you can. Here are some unique things you can combine with your print marketing efforts for maximum trade show results:

Look for Ways to Be Different

A company in Los Angeles called Finders Key Purse found they got the notice they wanted at trade shows by thinking slightly outside the box. Their product was aimed to make it easier for women to find their keys in their overflowing purses. Because they wanted to market their product primarily to college women, they decided to dress up as cheerleaders to make their booth both themed and identifiable.

The tactic had nothing to do with looking like a group of sorority sisters. The actual staff of the company was mostly composed of older women. With tennis shoes and silly outfits, they looked fun, friendly, and focused. You certainly don’t have to dress up as cheerleaders to gain attention to your IT booth. But you may want to come up with a way to give your company a fresh makeover when it comes to your trade shows. Clothing is one major way that you can set your company apart, but it’s certainly not the only way.

Stock Up on Freebies

Trade show freebies are some of the best parts of going to a trade show. Practically every company is giving out some type of gadget or item with their name splayed all over it. These are a great way to get noticed because it provides immediate gratification and keeps your company name front and center.

And of course, you’re going to need a friendly staff and excellent printed materials. Once you hook people in with a little gimmick, you have the opportunity to introduce your business and give people an idea of how you can really help them get where they’re going.

Thinking Like a Child

kirkOne Sunday morning, a class of first graders was learning a lesson on the plan of salvation. The teacher was testing her class to see if they understood the concept of getting to heaven, and asked the class, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale, and gave all my money to the church, would I get into heaven?”

“No!” all the children exclaimed.

The teacher asked again, “What if I went to church every Sunday, helped clean the church every week, and mowed their yard; then would I get into heaven?”

Again, the students exclaimed, “No!”

Feeling proud of their answers, the teacher smiled and asked her students, “Then, how can I get to heaven?”

One boy confidently answered, “You’ve gotta be dead!”

Here’s the way I see it: There is joy and wonder everywhere when you see the world through the eyes of a child. Give us a call if we can help with your next printing project so that you can focus on more important things in life.

Coupons that Count Persuasive Promotions Can Transform Browsers to Buyers

GettyImages-92235929.jpgAre you the child of a parent who meticulously clipped coupons to pinch pennies?

As the pace of life has accelerated, the frequency of in-store couponing has decreased, in part because online coupon codes and apps have blossomed.

But coupon promotions are not a thing of the past!

According to the 2017 Holiday Shopper Report, 92 percent of consumers say promotions influence their holiday purchasing decisions. And coupons can be the catalyst that converts people from browsing to buying.

So which types of promotions do your clients want, and how can you use them most effectively? Here are a few tips to sharpen your focus.

Keep it Simple and Straightforward

Have you ever tried to use a coupon only to find the fine print disqualifies almost every purchase? This “fake sale” frustration can turn off clients from your company for good. Keep your coupons and discounts simple – avoid the fine print and honor the effort consumers have made to connect with your business. The same goes for referral campaigns – if a customer provides a valuable referral, honor their effort with a quick, valuable, and personal token of thanks.

Try to keep things simple with your product presentation as well. Remember, an overload of options can lead to “analysis paralysis,” or situations where a customer finds it too difficult to decide which product or promotion is best. When it comes to numbers and features, promotions should be clear and compelling enough to comprehend at a glance.

Push the Freebies

Shoppers often value freebies more than they value discounts.

Whether you offer a “buy one, get one free” or you include a complimentary gift with a particular purchase, often a free item is more psychologically compelling than a percent discount that actually brings greater savings. Free stuff also warms the heart and builds goodwill with loyal customers. If a free product is too great a stretch, consider offering limited time offers for free shipping, gift wrapping, refills, or deliveries.

Price it Right

In his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, marketing professor Jonah Berger explains how our perception of numbers affects how we understand a discount price.

He called this theory, “The Rule of 100.” Berger’s research highlights two pricing cues:

  • A percentage discount off an item under $100 off will always look larger than the dollar discount. For example, 25% off of $75 appears larger than $18.75 off of $75.
  • A dollar discount on an item over $100 dollars will always look larger than a percentage discount. For example, $93.75 off of $375 appears larger than 25% off of $375.

Offer Tipping Points to Incite Action

A tipping point can be anything that creates urgency or builds customer confidence to the point they’re willing to pull the trigger.

As you craft coupons or print promotions, remember to highlight time-bound flash sales, limited product quantities, or how your promotion is most relevant to your customer’s calendar or budget cycle.

Alternatively, the right emphasis on product quality can also move prospects to bite because your item is “worth it” or because they “deserve it.” Discounts are great, but sometimes value is even better!

Make Your Move

Ready to transform your browsers to buyers? Printed inserts and coupons are a great way to make your offers leap off the page! We’ll help you craft clear, compelling, visually stimulating promotions that reel in prospects and keep your loyal customers coming back again and again!

How Building Effective Teams Can Supercharge Your Business

GettyImages-881068442.jpgTeam building can be an overused cliche in business circles, but there is something truly magical about what a cohesive team can create together. Individuals working alone are able to contribute specific tasks towards a goal, but a team working together adds energy and power to push their achievements higher. This is one of the reasons there are so many books and manuals focused on building effective teams. If you have never seen this in action you may not believe the synergy that can be attained — it is almost like a force of nature. See how building effective teams will maximize employee productivity and happiness as well as helping you retain your hardest workers.

Effective Teams Bring Their “A” Game

A Gallup article from a few years ago stated that up to 70% of employees are showing up to work disengaged, costing the American economy billions of dollars every year in lost productivity. When you find ways for these individuals to connect to one another, they become invested in seeing each other become successful. Engaged, enthusiastic employees are ones who are constantly looking for ways to innovate and exceed expectations. If you could move the needle on even 20% of your mediocre performers, the impact to your bottom line would be significant.

Effective Teams Provide Diverse Ideas

The age-old saying that ‘two heads are better than one’ is extremely valid in today’s business world. The complexity of ideas and interconnectedness of our systems means that it is difficult for any one person to have the knowledge needed to innovate and excel. Bringing together your team in a safe space allows for the free flowing of ideas between members — and the ability to synthesize these great ideas into something actionable for leadership.

Effective Teams Blow Through Restraints

Where one person working alone may be worried about going down a specific — and potentially risky — path, a cohesive team has the bravery to take the leap. These leaps are what drive lasting change in an organization. Without this shared risk-taking and an ability to literally blow through restraints, your business can become stuck in the rut of doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Effective Teams Inspire Others

Let’s face it, everyone wants to be a part of a winning team. When you see one team that seems to get all the awards, recognition and respect, you want to see what makes them special. Many times, it’s their ability to work effectively together and collaborate to achieve a shared vision and goals. When one team in your organization is able to attain this level of cohesiveness, it will inspire and motivate others to do the same. This breeds a more positive working environment for all.

Effective Teams Have Fun Together

When work ceases to be work and becomes something that you enjoy doing during the day, you are able to devote your heart more fully to the tasks at hand. This joyful passion shines through in everything that you do. Ineffective teams can cause this light to dim, but having fun together can create a bond where individuals connect at a deeper level.

There are so many ways that effective teams create a sum that is greater than the individual parts. When the team truly works together as a single unit, the strengths of each person are multiplied allowing for an oversized impact on your organization’s effectiveness. Bring your teams together if you want to truly supercharge your business!

Get Proactive With These Summer Marketing Ideas for Outdoor Events

Family Relaxing At Outdoor Summer EventWith school ending and summer starting, adults and children alike will be spending as much time as possible outdoors at home and community events. In most locations, summer weekends are chock full of local and regional events that attract a wide array of people. Some events attract local residents of a community or region, while larger events can bring tourists into an area for a few hours, day or an entire weekend.

Summertime creates both opportunities and challenges for marketing to clients. While you may have more opportunities to provide products and materials for events, getting customers to walk in your front door is more difficult. Customers who like to participate in summer activities spend as much time as possible out of doors including taking vacations, days off and leaving early. So how do you take advantage of summertime doings instead of having them take advantage of you?

Opportunities

Let’s start with the opportunities. Since people are out and about during summer at farmer’s markets, fairs and concerts, you may run into clients in one or more of these casual setting simply by participating in them yourself. You should always be ready to hand out marketing materials everywhere you go, especially if most of your clients are local. Fill a pouch or tote with apropos marketing handouts for people you meet when out. Handouts should be family-friendly and summer appropriate such as:

  • Water bottles
  • Water toys
  • Lip Balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Visors
  • Hats

If you give out marketing items that people actually will use in the summer, they will love getting them which puts your contact information in front of them for at least that day. Parents will also love anything that you hand out to occupy their children’s time such as foam fingers or other toys.

Beat the Heat

If handing out materials isn’t appropriate for an event, another idea is setting up a mister tent to help people beat the heat. In fact, handheld fans, water bottles (with water in them), squirt guns and other products that help people cool off will always be appreciated by prospects. Just be sure that your logo and contact information is big and bold. Misters are so delightful during hot summer events that they are very popular with all ages. To engage prospects, hand them small towels with your logo and information to dry off after they get wet.

Keeping Drinks Cool

For food events, cup or can holders that insulate are a fantastic handout. Arrange with food vendors to give them to every customer that gets a drink. Or create event promotional materials such as cups that have a coupon imprinted on them. The ultimate goal is to invite people into your brick-and-mortar business or visit your website, so a coupon offer for a free or discounted service is ideal for giveaways.

Challenges

The biggest challenge for marketers during summertime is to drive customers indoors to your business. People are inclined to spend time outside during warm weather. Additionally, customers may be out of the office for a significant number of days and can’t be reached. Therefore, it is important to think outside the box creatively to find prospects and offer them an incentive that will overcome their reluctance to come in. Every locale has one or more special events unique to that area. Go out of your office to where you will find crowds of people and offer them something that they can’t wait to use.

Branding Equity: What It Is and How to Build It

GettyImages-849106564.jpgCarl is a business owner who is experiencing firsthand just how much the internet has revolutionized the consumer buying process. It used to be that a simple look at your products’ features was enough to sway consumers to make a purchase. But now, it’s all about the brand. In fact, Carl’s brand has become his most valuable asset. That is why he is doing all that he can to build his brand equity and distinguish himself from his competition.

What is brand equity?

Brand equity is what your business is worth without its inventory. Or, more simply stated, it’s about how valuable your brand is in the eyes of consumers and the relationships that you have with your customers.

To build brand equity, you must leave a lasting, positive impression regarding your brand in the minds of consumers. Your products and services and their demand and usefulness, of course, play a role in how well you can satisfy your customers, but they alone do not generate brand equity.

Top Tips for Using Marketing to Build Brand Equity

The steps outlined below are not in any particular order. They are three examples of essential steps that Carl has used to build brand equity, and each of them is an ongoing process. You don’t build brand equity overnight, and then suddenly get to take a vacation. You must work at creating this type of equity on a daily basis just like Carl has done.

  1. Release Information About a New Product

You can have a quality product that you know consumers will want to purchase, but they have to know about it first. This is why you should always distribute information about your products. Whether it be creating a product brochure or a how-to guide that goes into the packaging of a new product, you will want to provide as much detail as possible. In fact, Carl has found that the more in-depth and more detailed his brochures and how-to guides are, the more engaged his customers are.

  1. Monitor Trends and Perform a Competitive Analysis

Building brand equity means you can adapt to changes as they occur, especially changes related to new trends that hit the marketplace. The best way to monitor trends is to keep a close eye on Google searches. You will also want to perform a competitive analysis to see how your competitors are keeping up with the latest trends. Chances are, you can benefit from employing many of the same tactics your competitors are using. Carl, for example, performed a competitive analysis and discovered three of his competitors were enjoying an increase in sales by offering seasonal discounts. Carl then went to a local print shop and had 1,000 business cards printed with a discount code on the back. Over the period of six months, the discount generated an eight percent increase in his sales.

  1. Collect, Use and Distribute Customer Feedback

Lastly, since brand equity is all about how you appear in the eyes and minds of consumers, you will want to use their feedback and respond to it appropriately. Carl publishes his customers’ feedback in the brochures and how-to guides he creates. Customer testimonials have been proven to be a huge asset in generating sales.

The Company You Keep

kirkHere’s a little story I thought you might enjoy about the company you keep.

A family of parrots had a large, cozy nest in a tree. One morning, when the parents were gone to gather food, a hunter took the two young birds from their nest. One of the birds managed to escape and flew away from the hunter. The bird who escaped joined a loving family and grew up listening to kind words and compassion. The bird who was caught was put into a small cage and heard nothing but harsh, angry words from the hunter.

One day, a passing traveler stopped to rest outside the hunter’s shack. Sensing that someone was outside the window, the parrot exclaimed, “Fool, what are you doing here? Leave, or I’ll cut your throat!” Scared for his life, the traveler continued on his journey and wound up at the farm where the other parrot was. The parrot gently said, “We welcome you, traveler! You are free to stay here as long as you’d like.”

Surprised at his kindness, the traveler told the kind parrot about the mean parrot he encountered down the road. “How is he so cruel and harsh, and you are so kind?” the traveler asked. The parrot explained, “That must be my brother. While I was lucky enough to find a loving family who taught me their ways, sadly, he was taught by the hunter.”

Here’s the way I see it: We are the company we keep. Dr. Steve Maraboli said it best, “If you hang out with chickens, you’re going to cluck; and if you hang out with eagles, you’re going to fly.”

Please consider us for a quote on your next printing project. We promise to help make your sales soar!

Every Extrovert Can Learn to Listen The Courage to Connect

GettyImages-952769054.jpgWhen research professor Brené Brown opened up to a TedxHouston audience about shame, vulnerability, and courage, she had no idea her message would become one of the most wildly popular TEDx talks of all time (with over 24 million views). Brown has spent the last ten years studying the power of authenticity and empathy, and poses wonderful questions like these:

  • How do we embrace vulnerabilities and imperfections so we can live from a place of authenticity and worthiness?
  • How can we engage people in a way that makes them feel worthwhile, brave, and willing to commit to something bigger than just a project or deadline?
  • How can we choose courage over comfort, stretching our team to connect in ways that powerfully motivate everyone?

Every Extrovert Can Learn to Listen

Brown’s work hits home in the hearts of many who long for authentic relationships and want to see this come alive in their workplace. While there are many hindrances to open communication, one of the greatest barriers is simply our personality differences. Over half the population are considered introverts, but research shows that introverts make up only two percent of senior executives. Which gives extroverts a great opportunity to do lots of talking. But studies show that business leaders who prioritize listening are perceived as considerably more effective than those who dominate the conversation.

Invite Them to Engage

We all have room to grow, and great interactions begin with intentional listening. Here are three ways to quiet your mouth and open your ears as you seek to engage others in meaningful ways:

  1. Start every meeting with a question.

Imagine yourself standing before your team with an invitation instead of a megaphone.

Seek to motivate conversation rather than charging into a meeting with a tight-fisted agenda. Opening your gatherings with dialogue can shake out the nerves and cobwebs of the entire team, sparking creativity and building interpersonal collateral. Increasing dialogue can catalyze more “green light” brainstorming and bring a fresh, life-giving dynamic to your entire company. When you formulate meeting agendas, push yourself to start with a prompt and to leave more tangible space for discussion.

  1. Listen with action.

How can you show your teammates their insights really matter?

Often people are tentative about sharing constructive criticism, fearing negative repercussions or believing “nothing will really change.” Great leaders surround themselves with those who will give honest feedback, and they intentionally close the “listening loop” by following up with some sort of action. Close a meeting by thanking your team for their honesty, or sending personal e-mails telling them you valued their input. Make a list of things to look into, review, or change, and add timelines to these goals so your ideas aren’t lost in the weekly grind. Even if you can’t implement suggestions, make a point to tell people they are valuable and you have actually heard what they are saying.

  1. Embrace vulnerability as a step toward courageous communication.

What do you do when someone asks you a question you can’t answer? Saying, ‘I don’t know” can be the most significant reply of all.

When you acknowledge your limitations, it opens the door for your teammates to step in and shine or to admit their own uncertainties or frustrations. Vulnerability can grow powerful partnerships and prompt growth in areas you hadn’t previously targeted. Ultimately, vulnerability builds engagement, which grows teams and enriches the atmosphere. Push yourself toward bold, transparent communication, and you may be surprised at the results. Brene Brown says it like this:

“Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s the most accurate measurement of courage.”

Ready to open a new pipeline of thoughtful teamwork and open communication? Be brave, be intentional, and sometimes . . . just be quiet.

Everyone Is Looking to Save a Dollar: How Discounts can Improve Your Sales Revenue

GettyImages-809095240.jpgMany businesses look at offering discounts as a method for losing money. But, what they don’t realize is discounts actually generate revenue and improve their brand equity. Let’s take a closer look at how discounts increase sales and can put you a step ahead of your competitors.

Improve Sales Revenue

First and foremost, discounts, whether they come in the form of online codes or paper coupons, will draw the attention of consumers to your business. They increase traffic and, most times, lead to a sale. Even better is that while customers are using their discounts codes on your website or in your store, they tend to look around at other products and services you have for sale, which can further boost your sales.

Spread Brand Awareness

By offering discounts, you are putting your company’s brand name into the minds of consumers. Even if consumers don’t come to your store to use a discount, your brand name will at least be implanted into their minds. Also, if they don’t take advantage of a discount, they may know someone who can and offer to let them use their discount code, which only expands your brand awareness even more.

Increase Social Media Fans and Followers

Everyone is out to save a dollar. When they come across companies that offer great discounts, they tend to look them up on social media and either hit the Like or Follow buttons. And if you’ve ever used social media, then you know that when one of your friends hits the Like or Follow button, it shows up in your newsfeed. When you offer discounts, you have the potential to greatly increase your social media fans and followers.

Build a Strong Reputation

Consumers really love purchasing products and services from companies that offer regular discounts, like military and senior citizen discounts. As you continue to offer these discounts on a regular basis, you will build a strong reputation for your company and showcase to the public that you are a socially responsible organization.

Clear Out Space for New Inventory

Have you ever wanted to bring in new products to sell but you didn’t have room because you had too much old inventory sitting around? One of the best ways to clear out this old inventory is by offering discounts. Having a weekend sale where you offer a 20% discount on the products you are trying to clear is an excellent way to:

  • Free up space
  • Increase sales
  • Spread brand awareness
  • Increase traffic to your store
  • Establish Loyal Customers

Your customers deserve a discount, especially if they do business with you on a frequent basis. This is why creating a loyalty reward program that offers returning customers a discount is essential to establishing long-term relationships with your existing customer base.

Meet Your Sales Goals

You know that to maintain a profit, you must meet your sales goals. Offering discounts may decrease profit margins for a bit, but they can most definitely help you meet sales goals to ensure you keep maintaining a profit. End of the season or end of the quarter discounts should be offered at least four times a year.

The Takeaway

Don’t be fooled into thinking that offering discounts are going to hurt revenue. It likely will do the exact opposite as well as bring several other advantages, like expanded brand awareness and the establishment of loyal customers

Top 5 Ways to Create an Eco-Friendly Workplace

Many organizations today are looking for ways to become more sustainable. While there are some pretty out-there options for going green, most businesses can find more moderate ways to reduce their overall impact on the environment. Improving the energy efficiency of your office is really only the first step as there are plenty of options such as rescheduling offsite meetings as a conference call and more. See how these eco-friendly workplace initiatives not only tell a great story for the public but also benefit your employees and other stakeholders.

1. Limit Disposables

Many offices have a shared kitchen or break room, and you might find them stocked with a multitude of plastic cutlery and plates. One quick way to make your office more eco-friendly is to limit the number of disposables that you use in the office. You can easily encourage staff to use coffee mugs instead of foam or paper coffee cups, spoons instead of stir sticks, and real silverware instead of disposable options. Getting everything washed up only takes a few seconds, but this small measure can have a dramatic impact in terms of saving our environment.

2. Ditch Bottled Water

One of the perks available in many offices is bottled water or other drinks. Water bottles are one of the key issues with overfilled landfills, and swapping from individual bottles to a filtered water system or larger bottles can make a significant difference in the long-term quality of life on the planet.

3. Use Recycled Materials

Whether you are updating some of your office’s interior or moving into a new place, look for ways to incorporate recycled materials in your office scheme. Using recycled materials allows you to reduce your carbon footprint and show your customers your commitment to doing something nice for the environment. Look for opportunities to recycle in all corners of your office — from using recycled paper for your business cards to upcycling older office chairs and furnishings.

4. Adjust Your Thermostat

Did you know that a single degree adjustment can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year based on the size of your office? Your employees are unlikely to even notice a small change of only a degree or two. You might be surprised to find that many of your staff actually appreciate not freezing in the summer and sweating bullets in the winter!

5. Update Your Appliances and Light Bulbs

Your appliances and light bulbs could be costing you money! That little red standby light that you can see on many electronics means that there’s actually a trickle of electricity pumping through at all times. Turning items completely off will save you energy.  Swapping traditional light bulbs for low-energy fluorescents is another eco-smart change!

Have you gained some inspiration for ways to make your office more eco-friendly? These easy tips are ones that — once you get in the habit — you’re unlikely even to notice are there. Some of the changes may even benefit your staff, and all will help make the world a better place to live both now and in the future.

Why Your Marketing Should Be Actionable Above All Else

GettyImages-819013660.jpgOne of the traps that even seasoned marketing veterans often fall into involves crafting collateral that has far too much information for its own good. Marketing messages start out simple enough, but as brands continue to grow and evolve, the marketing messages do the same until it can be difficult to remember what that short, sweet, actionable idea was in the first place.

And if you think your marketing has lost focus, just imagine how your audience members probably feel.

When your marketing starts to suffer from a lack of direction, it starts to become much too passive. Thankfully, the solution is simple – strip away the noise and focus on the action of it all. This, of course, requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

What is Actionable Marketing?

Think about your marketing the same way you would something like a call-to-action. A CTA is effective because it’s clear and concise. It tells your readers exactly what you want them to do, how you want them to do it, and most importantly, what they’re going to get in return.

It’s a way for them to take the experience they’ve already had and elevate it to the next level by continuing their relationship with your people or your brand.

Passive marketing, on the other hand, does the exact opposite. People may see one of your flyers and become aware that your brand exists, but they’re not motivated to do much with that information. They certainly don’t know why they should care or what you can do for them that nobody else can. Passive collateral just… is. That, most definitely, is a problem.

To put it another way, every element of your collateral – from the color design of a flyer to every last word on a brochure – needs to be building towards the eventual action that you want someone to take. It’s like a CTA on a larger scale and rest assured, it pays dividends.

The Byproducts of Actionable Marketing

Actionable marketing requires you to target your audience. You need to know who people are, what demographics they fall into, what they like, and what they don’t like. You then have to address a specific need that they have and direct them to take your desired action.

If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because these are the types of things you should already be doing. Making action a priority simply allows you to double down on these efforts, allowing them to rise to the surface.

The real benefit of actionable marketing is precisely that – it creates its own momentum. It has an energy that passive content just can’t match. You can use that energy to create new opportunities for yourself, not only in terms of up-selling or cross-selling your products but also with regards to increasing the overall lifetime value of your customers.

Simply put, if your marketing content is active your customers will be, too, and that’s the type of opportunity you do not want to overlook.

5 Ways to Find the Strength to Try One More Time

GettyImages-698056614.jpgHave you ever wondered what it takes to become an Olympic athlete, a NASA astronaut, or a leader in a major organization?

The one trait that all of these individuals likely possess is persistence: the ability to get back up, dust themselves off after a fall, and keep trying. No matter your talent, regardless of your genius and irrespective of your education, persistence is often the trait that sets people apart from their peers in terms of their level of success.

Succeeding at anything in life requires a great deal of effort over a period of time — very few people simply decide to be the best at their craft and are able to do it without a battle. How do these individuals find the strength to try one more time . . . repeatedly?

1. Be Prepared

Planning for success helps you think through all of the reasons why someone would disagree with your ideas, and also gives you the bulletproof mentality that you’re prepared for any question that comes your way. Think of all the reasons why something won’t be successful, and then consider arguments against that point. Become your own devil’s advocate, and it will be that much easier to find a positive response and an open door for your next request.

2. Be Adaptable

Being adaptable provides you with the mental agility to not hide in a corner when you’re kicked to the curb. As Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle Corporation states:

“When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for people telling you that you are nuts.”  

You have to be willing to adapt your thinking and your processes and find a way to create change while not straying from your core ideas. You can’t listen to every naysayer, but you can look for the nuggets of wisdom that they share and use that information to your advantage the next time you try to move forward.

3. Be Confident

You may be surprised that confidence is not the first attribute we consider, but the reality is, you need to have a plan in place that you can trust and support before confidence will help you through to success. Confidence in yourself, your family, and your ideas — as well as a burning passion to make a change in the world — are what can help you continue on even when it feels as though there’s no path forward.

4. Do the Work

Unfortunately, there are few things in life that can replace hard work. Whether that hard work is from an athlete completing the same moves repeatedly for months or even years or a business leader who is told “No” more times than they can count, the ability to simply buckle down and execute on your vision is critical to long-term success.

5. Inspire Others

Perhaps one of the most rewarding things you will ever do with your life is to inspire others to be their best. Take the time throughout your life to inspire others. When you realize how many people you have impacted and how many are watching your success, it’s a lot easier to find the strength to try again in difficult times.

Finally, in the words of Thomas Edison: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Shouldn’t you give it one more shot?

6 Steps To Customer-Centric Writing

LISTEN. SOLVE. REPEAT.

Most business owners come ingrained with a laser-like focus on their business. They’ll swell with pride and “shout it from the rooftops” to tell you about their newest, exciting product or service. However, like the majority of people in business, they tend to take a business-focused approach, focusing on promoting the features or specs of the product and making sure that you know how this new product or service is the best of the best.

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Herein lies the rub, as they say. While shouting it from the rooftops might seem like a good approach, customers don’t necessarily want to hear about your business. Instead, they want to hear about how your company will help THEM. They are more concerned that you understand their need and are offering a solution to address it.

Here’s where customer-centric writing and promotion comes in. Instead of writing with the focus on you and your business, you can stand out from the crowd by thinking about how your new product or service will benefit your customers. Writing with your client in mind demonstrates that you understand their needs and want to help them achieve their goals. Writing with empathy creates better connections, improved communication, and happier outcomes. Happy customers become your business’s greatest fans.

Here are six steps to help you shift your perspective to be more customer-centric:

  1. List at least three to five main features of your business.
  2. Arrange the list beginning with the most important feature.
  3. Now look at the list, select the first feature, and dig down to what that feature means to your customer. For example, if you are in the tire business and one of the features is that you’re within walking distance of a mall, then you might put “location” on your list.
  4. Step into your customer’s mindset. What does your location mean for them? How will it solve their problem? The benefit is they can drop off their car, shop, have lunch, or meet a friend instead of sitting in a dull waiting room.
  5. Take the next feature you listed and then go through the same process. Rinse and repeat with the rest of the features.

If you’ve never looked at your business this way before, it’s likely that you might not be sure of what your customers do want and need. How can you find out? That’s where tip #6 comes in. Even if you’ve been in business for a while and think you know the needs of your customers, it’s good to refresh your viewpoint.

6. Pay attention to the questions they have and ask them for more information about what they’re trying to do. Don’t assume you know what they want, find out by talking to them.

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Your customers are individuals, with goals and dreams unique to them. They come to you for help to make these happen. What does your company do for them? That’s the direction your marketing writing needs to take.

When you practice customer-centric marketing, you not only differentiate yourself from competitors, you establish the basis for customer loyalty, repeat business, and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Print Marketing Is About Selling Value, Not Services

GettyImages-826040844.jpgThere’s a common misconception that far too many marketers have that needs to be put to rest once and for all.

A lot of people still seem to think that if you’re really going to carve out a stronger competitive advantage for yourself in an increasingly crowded marketplace, you need to make your services appear objectively better than everyone else’s. You need to talk about how your products are better, stronger, faster, longer-lasting, more cost-efficient, etc. All this to steal as much attention away from your competition as you can.

In truth, that is a myth. You shouldn’t be selling services at all. You should be selling the value that those services provide. In other words, the thesis at the heart of your print marketing campaign shouldn’t be “here’s what I can do that nobody else can,” but rather “here’s what I can do for you.” Mastering this approach requires you to keep a few key things in mind.

Everything Begins and Ends With Your Customer

The art of selling value instead of services is one of those situations where buyer personas come in handy.

When you begin to come up with a buyer persona for your ideal customer, you try to add as much information about that person as possible. But once your persona has been completed, you shouldn’t be asking yourself, “Okay, what do I need to tell this person in order to convince them to give me money?” Instead, you need to get answers to questions like:

  • What problem does this customer have and how do my services solve it for them?
  • In what ways will that person’s life be easier after their purchase than it was before?
  • What does that person want to accomplish, and how can I help make that happen?

Then, you work your way back to the products and services that you’re trying to sell, thinking about the problem and positioning yourself as the solution.

A Whole New Approach

This is one of those areas where specificity will carry you far. Think about the individual portions of your sales funnel and what someone needs to hear at each one to move from one end to the other. Use this “value-centric” approach not to convince someone that the time is right to make a purchase, but to give them the actionable information they need to arrive at that conclusion on their own.

In the end, there are probably a lot of other companies in your industry who do what you do – but nobody does it in quite the same way. That key thing that differentiates you from so many others is the value that only you can offer and what should be at the heart of all of your marketing messages.

The Way I See It

kirkA kindergarten teacher was helping a boy with a math question and she asked, “If I give you one apple and one apple and one apple, how many apples will you have?” The boy confidently answered, “Four.” Surprised, thinking the boy didn’t listen properly, the teacher asked again, “Listen closely this time… If I give you one apple and one apple and one apple, how many apples will you have?” Seeing the look of disappointment on her face, the boy hesitantly replied, “Four.”

Assuming maybe the boy didn’t like apples, she asked, “If I give you one strawberry and one strawberry and one strawberry, then how many you will have?” He replied, “Three.” The teacher smiled victoriously and asked one more time, “Now, if I give you one apple and one apple and one apple, how many apples will you have?” Without missing a beat, the boy again replied, “Four.”

Confused and becoming slightly annoyed, the teacher asked how that could be possible. The boy smiled and replied, “Because I already have one apple in my bag.”

Here’s the way I see it: When someone gives you an answer that is different from what you expect to hear, don’t always assume they are wrong. If you’d like answers to all of your printing questions, we’re here to help!

Connecting Your Online and Offline Marketing Campaigns

GettyImages-674565164.jpgNo matter the industry your business operates in, it is imperative to connect online and offline marketing techniques. Many entrepreneurs have found that the better they market themselves offline, the more well-known they become online, and vice versa. For now, let’s take a closer look at how you can connect your online and offline marketing campaigns to improve lead generation and increase your sales revenue.

Tracking URLs Is a Must

Many website development service providers provide a variety of automated analytics that are simple to use and easy to understand. When you market yourself offline through print advertising, it’s a good idea to make sure to use unique tracking URLs for the links you provide in your ads and direct mail. In doing this, your web analytics can track how many people are coming to your site via the URLs on your offline marketing. You’ll love being able to see how well your offline marketing efforts are paying off, and these unique tracking URLs enable you to do this.

Promoting Yourself Online to Attract Offline Customers

Tom is a freelance writer and the majority of his clients connect with him online. They perform a search for freelance writers, and they hire him through his website or one of the content creation platforms he is featured on. Still, there are several clients that he has secured via offline tactics, including direct mail, trade shows, and conferences. To boost prospective clients’ awareness that he is going to be present at these events, he uses social media. Posting on social media can educate your prospects about the reasons they should connect with you at an offline event.

Use Your Social Media Profiles to Boost Brand Awareness

Any offline marketing materials you distribute should include your unique social media profile URLs. When a person connects with you via social media profiles, this shows up in their news feed, which is viewable by their friends and followers. Tom has had numerous clients tell him they became aware of his services due to a friend following him on one of his social media profiles. When advertising your presence on social media on your printing materials, make sure to include an actual URL to each of your profiles. If you only include a social media logo, this doesn’t help them find you on each platform.

Provide Coupons In Person to be Used Online

When marketing yourself offline, such as through direct mail, or at a tradeshow or conference, make sure you include printed coupon codes. There’s a good chance the people you give them to will stuff in them their wallets or lay them on their desks once they get back to the office. Either of these places is a great place for your coupon code to be because it will give them a reminder of your brand and the services you offer. More so, it will entice them to hop online and visit your site to make a purchase using the discount code you gave them.

The Takeaway

No matter the industry you are operating in, connecting your offline and online marketing efforts is crucial. As your business grows, you will quickly see how the two of these interconnect with one another. More importantly, the more you integrate the two together, the quicker you will become an industry leader.

Create Your Own Vanity URL

A SHORT VANITY URL THAT IS SPECIFIC TO YOUR COMPANY

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While many people use popular URL shorteners (like bit.ly or goo.gl), did you know you can create a short vanity URL that is specific to your company or product name?

A custom vanity URL provides consistent branding, no matter where your content is shared. It also creates link trust, meaning readers will feel more confident sharing your content from a source they trust. Examples of vanity URLs include: nyti.ms (The New York Times) or huff.to (The Huffington Post).

Here are steps to create your own vanity URL:

  • Choose a vanity URL that resembles your regular domain name and is less than 8 to 10 characters. Consider abbreviating your company name, removing vowels, or using initials. Domai.nr is a popular domain suggestion tool if you need ideas.
  • Choose a hosting service, such as Bit.ly – which offers very detailed stats about link sharing, clicks, and more.
  • Buy your vanity URL using any domain registration site, such as GoDaddy or iPage. For convenience, consider purchasing your vanity URL from the same place your website is hosted.
  • Set up the shortener. If you are using Bit.ly, go to “Account Settings” and then “Advanced.” Select either ‘Personal’ or ‘Business’ under the “Custom Short Domain” header and enter the vanity URL you purchased.
  • Create a DNS record for your new vanity domain. If you need help with this step, consider asking your domain registrar.
  • Verify your tracking domain to ensure all click traffic will appear on your dashboard. To set up your tracking domain in Bit.ly, go to the “Advanced” tab in Settings. Enter the domain name you want to track (your site’s long domain name) and verify that you own the domain.
  • Share! As long as you are logged into your Bit.ly account, any URLs from your long domain will be automatically custom-shortened.

If you’d like ideas or samples for creative print marketing tips, contact us today. We’d love to help.

The Difference Between CMYK and PMS Colors

PASS WITH FLYING COLORS

The complexity involved in color and how big of a difference various color profiles can make on your print project is something you’ll want to pay attention to. Is there a specific shade of orange or blue that is included in your logo? Depending on who created your logo, your color scheme may include CMYK colors, PMS colors, or both!

CMYK Colors

The term CMYK refers to the four ink colors that make up the schema: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, which is considered the key color. This particular model mixes together the three primary colors and includes black to produce darker shades. To create an image, printers define four separate plates that make up a full image. One plate is used for each of the four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) and is designed to lay down a very specific amount of pigment on the image. While this may sound like a simple way to print, it has worked effectively for hundreds of years.

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PMS Colors

PMS (or Pantone Matching System) colors are slightly different than CMYK colors because they are mixed before they are applied to a surface. The pure spot color, or PMS color, is a mixed ink that allows for a wider range of reproduced colors than the CMYK spectrum. Each PMS color contains a unique hue, which can be matched by a number that is associated with the Pantone Matching System of swatches. PMS inks are not laid in a dot pattern but can be screened in a halftone to produce a variety of shades

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Viewing Colors

Viewing either PMS or CMYK colors on a computer screen is a challenge due to lighting changes and the display variation. Fortunately, Pantone LLC provides a printed color chart for PMS colors that allows anyone to see the exact color that will be printed on your project. A unique set of numbers allows printers and customers to communicate effectively about what can be a challenging and variable subject: color. What looks like magenta to one person could easily be described as a red-purple by someone else — making it tough to describe specific colors without the common language available with PMS standards.

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Ready to get started on your next printing project? Our color professionals are experts at matching current color schemes or helping you find just the right shade to communicate your brand. Contact us today to learn more and get started on your next project!

How Has the Internet Changed Lead Generation?

GettyImages-536026639.jpgThere is no denying that technology has greatly revolutionized lead generation, especially in regard to the internet. Gone are the days of having to cold call prospects and knock on their doors. Sure, these tactics still work, but business owners are continually finding ways for lead generation to be more cost-efficient and effective. For now, let’s take a quick look at how the internet has changed lead generation and the many reasons you need to be taking advantage of technology to expand your customer base.

Artificial Intelligence Technology Enhances Lead Generation

Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence technology, you can engage with leads online like never before. In fact, you don’t even have to be the one engaging with them. An AI software program can do the engaging for you. Take, for example, if your website offers a chat feature. Before connecting the customer with an actual representative, artificial intelligence software can engage them in a natural-sounding conversation to determine which department the customer needs to be directed to.

Targeting Leads Has Become Incredibly Simple

When you distribute content, whether through direct mail print marketing or online, you need to have a specific target audience in mind. This target audience, of course, needs to represent people who are likely to be interested in the product/service you are selling. Thanks to the internet, it is now easier than ever to target leads.

It’s All About the Analytics

If you aren’t using analytics to track website visitors, you need to be. An easy-to-use tracking platform that is excellent for determining which pages on your site are performing the best is Google Analytics. There is a good chance the service provider that is hosting your site also provides some type of analytics to take advantage of. Regardless of the tracking tools you use, though, analyzing data on page performance can help you pinpoint which pages need to be further optimized and which ones need to be left alone. This enables you to improve time management because you can focus your attention on the pages that need improvement rather than wasting time on the ones that are already attracting quality leads.

Automated Email Sequencing

You want your emails to be as personable as possible to improve the odds of turning a cold lead into a warm lead, but you can’t accomplish this through a single email. Instead, you need to create an email sequence that is automated; this will engage your leads in a systemized manner and it allows you to warm them up to an offer.

The Takeaway

Your existing customers deserve your attention, but at the same time, you need to be focusing some of your operations on lead generation. Thanks to advancements in technology and the internet, it is now easier than ever to generate leads in a timely and cost-efficient manner. By deploying the four tips outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to capturing leads and improving customer satisfaction at the same time.

6 Over the Top Things to Look for in Business in the Future

ThinkstockPhotos-502868039.jpgBusiness isn’t going anywhere. In fact, here’s where the most probable types of market exchange will happen with customers according to famous futurists:

  • Remember those Star Trek episodes where people used a transporter to go from place to place? In the future, it’s likely that business will use something similar to deliver goods, from your printed materials to food to durable products delivered right into a person’s room as ordered, bought, and sent from a business electronically.
  • Michio Kaku sees a technology-driven convergence of thinking, consciousness, and the internet. Instead of thinking of the internet as a tool, people will become the Net by connecting their brain to it for full immersion and interaction, as well as contributing to real-time synergies in information generation and use. Business, no surprise, will become far more intangible as a result, adapting to the mind-environment to keep pace with where the new demand exists.
  • Personal augmentation with technology will be commonplace. Just being a regular, average human being won’t be good enough. Instead, people will carry their technology within them. Not to be confused with “on” them, but tech actually integrated with their bodies. We won’t need a computer to design what we want to print; the idea will come straight from a digital connection to our minds translated to electronics and then produced by a vendor as we desired.
  • James Canton sees robots and artificial intelligence giving human-led business a run for its money due to the fact that robots and AI will be able to easily grind millions of bits of statistical data and produce probabilities of what consumers want well before any humans can realize that want or need on their own.
  • Some folks don’t even look at business in typical environments. Instead, Jason Silva sees cars becoming so advanced, our need to drive will be replaced by our need to get lots done in a car while it dries itself. And that includes business, generating new ideas, printing and producing inside a car, and getting work and life done while traveling from point A to point B every day. Business services will tailor themselves to people working remotely all over the place, delivering what they need where they are, and when they need it.
  • Finally, our bodies won’t necessarily want to live longer just because our technology advances. So instead of relying on a failing system, the medical community will embrace body part production and printing, creating organ replacements designed by computer to work specifically with an individual patient. The term “batch order” printing replacement organs will take on a whole new meaning in hospitals.

    Long story short, business will likely still be around years from now, but how it delivers goods and services to consumers will change dramatically.

A Bag of Tomatoes

kirkOne day, a school teacher asked each of her students to bring a plastic bag of tomatoes to school with the number of tomatoes equaling the number of people each child dislikes. Some children brought a bag of two or three tomatoes, while others had up to 20 tomatoes.

The teacher then told the children they had to carry the bag of tomatoes with them everywhere they went for two weeks. As the days passed, the children started to complain about the awful smell of the tomatoes, and some also complained about the heavy weight of the bag.

The teacher explained, “This is similar to what you carry in your heart when you dislike people. It makes your heart bitter, and the effects of negative feelings get heavier and stronger every day.”

Here’s the way I see it: Every time you let go of negativity in your life, you make room for positivity. Let us know if we can help with any upcoming printing projects so you can focus on the more important things in life.