Creative Combustion Blog
Marketing and branding tips for the badass small business owner.
Showing all posts from May 2011.
May 20, 2011
Up until about a week ago, I'd never heard of the Awesome Foundation or the Awesome Foundation Pittsburgh. And as I'm sure you can imagine, once I did I felt like I'd been missing out on...well...something awesome. Curious, I had to learn more.
Thanks to a little web research, I learned the Awesome Foundation was created in Boston in 2009 to help fuel and fund ideas by providing monthly $1,000 grants. The money is given upfront by groups of 10 or so self-organizing “micro-trustees,” who form autonomous chapters around geographic areas or topics of interest.
What makes them different from much of the seed funding that's usually available to aspiring entrepreneurs, artists, technologists, and others is that its provided with no strings attached or claims of ownership over the projects they help to fund--something they refer to as "a micro-genius grant for flashes of micro-brilliance."
Mike Capsambelis and Matt Gaston are hoping to bring that same "awesomeness" to Pittsburgh by starting an Awesome Foundation chapter in their own backyard. They're currently looking for folks interested in serving as trustees. If you're interested in awesomeness, spread the word.
[Image: Flickr user EvanHahn]
May 19, 2011
The folks over at Ketchum stumbled across a recent post I wrote about FedEx Office and asked me if I’d be interested in giving the new FedEx Office Print & Go smartphone app a try. They also offered to give one lucky reader a free Print & Go “Test Kit” that includes a USB flash drive preloaded with instructions on how to use the service and a $25 gift card to FedEx Office.
In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t received any compensation or incentives for writing this review. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the app and details about the giveaway.
As the name implies, FedEx Office Print & Go lets you print presentations, pictures, posters, emails and web pages from your smartphone directly to your nearest FedEx Office location.
I found the set up was really simple, taking less than 2 minutes from start to finish. I downloaded the free HP ePrint app from the Android Market, confirmed my email address and then clicked on a link that was included in an email to activate my account.
From there, I was able to choose what I wanted to print (photos, emails, web pages, and files). Once I selected the document, I was able to locate my nearest FedEx Office by clicking the “Near Me” button. The app also included their phone number, address and a map as well as a list of other FedEx Office locations in my area—a nice added feature.
Once the job was submitted, I was redirected to a dashboard letting me know the print job had been received and would be ready within 15 minutes. I was also given a code that I could use at a machine in their self-service area to preview my order, select my print options, and submit the job. I actually found this step a little confusing as I was expecting the job would be printed and ready to go for me when I arrived. However, it was still much quicker than waiting for my laptop to boot up or paying to use one of their computer terminals.
The app is particularly great for those who get stuck in a pinch when their print cartridge runs out at 11pm the night before a big business meeting scheduled for early the next morning and those who work out of their cars. All in all I have to say it was a fairly smooth process.
Now on to the “Test Kit” giveaway. Leave a comment below about how the new Print & Go app will help you and/or your business. One lucky winner will be chosen at random
May 10, 2011
“Happy Birthday. Enjoy the $20 gift card from your friendly Ichiban Steakhouse!” was printed prominently on the outside of a small envelope I received in Saturday’s mail.
So what if it arrived a few days after my birthday--it’s the thought that counts, right? Not to mention the fact that I’d been looking for an excuse to go out for some sushi and I figured their generous birthday promotion just had to be it. That is, until I read the rest of the gift card.
“…with minimum purchase of $100 dinner.”
With minimum purchase of $100 dinner? Am I reading this right? That seems like a ridiculously high minimum for a “birthday” promotion. After all, what if I want to celebrate alone? $100 in sushi and stir fry would almost certainly put me on par with some of the world’s most famous competitive eaters or even possibly Adam Richmond, star of television’s Man vs. Food.
Beyond the exorbitant “minimum order” dollar amount, they also completely missed the boat by stipulating the offer was only good the week of my birthday. Remember, the gift card arrived in my mail box a few days after my official birthday so that technically left only one day before it expired. So much for allowing me enough time to actually redeem their gift card.
The final blow to their (and most other) direct mail birthday promotions is asking for ID. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are dishonest folks out there who lie and say it’s their birthday just to get a free piece of pie, but do we really have to card everyone to prove it's their birthday?
Restaurants and other small businesses create direct mail campaigns to attract and retain customers and drive sales. However, as was the case with Ichiban Steakhouse, all too often the attractiveness of their direct mail incentives are outweighed by unreasonable, and often unnecessary.
As you plan your next direct mail (email) campaign, keep the following three tips in mind:
- Think like your customers. How much money do they typically spend on your products and services without a discount? Look at your average transactions over time for some insight. Then, based on that information, determine how much of an incentive they’ll need to convert your coupons into actual sales.
- Avoid quick expiration dates. You must give your customers enough time to actually redeem your coupons. When you only give them a week, there’s a pretty good chance the promotion will expire before they ever have a chance to use it.
- Limit the small print and stipulations--they only create barriers that will keep potential customers from making a purchase. For me, there’s nothing more frustrating than going to redeem a coupon only to find out it isn’t good on Saturdays, requires a really high minimum purchase, or requires proper ID to get a free birthday dessert.
I want to hear from you. Small business owners: which direct mail promotions do you find work best with your customers? Consumers: which direct mail promotions do you typically gravitate towards and why?
Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy the $20 gift card from my friendly Ichiban Steakhouse. I guess there’s always next year?
May 3, 2011
My name is Amy Levin-Epstein, and I’m thrilled to be guest-blogging for Shawn. My own blog is at CBS Moneywatch, where I report and write stories on career topics like salary research, interview tips and timely trends. I’m also a freelance writer. My stories have appeared in magazines like Glamour and Redbook, on websites like Babble.com and Details.com and in newspapers like The Boston Globe and the New York Post.
Before I started this freelance career, I was an editor at two magazines, Best Life and Page Six. When the latter folded into a quarterly publication, I started working for myself. Building my own business has been exhilarating and exhausting, in equal parts. Here’s my take on what to consider if you’re thinking about focusing on freelance:
Patience Isn’t A Virtue, It’s A Necessity
I spent the first three months of freelancing doing all the right things -- reaching out to my network of editors, cold-pitching, building a web presence. At times I felt like I was spinning my wheels. But the wheels finally caught -- about four months later.
Feast Or Famine Is For Real
Scarily slow and beastly busy times are just part of the freelance framework. The trick is to work with the natural ebbs and flows. For instance, knowing when assigning editors go on vacation (late in August and December) helps me expect a slow period and book some vacation time for myself.
Make Tangible Goals
I draw up lists of publications I want to pitch as well as financial goals. These help me stay on track and act as an internal review, since I don’t have a manager to tell me how I’m progressing. And while these goals have helped me maintain focus, I’ve also stumbled upon a few unexpected opportunities, like corporate projects and blogging.
Be A Better Budgeter
Passing up Starbucks. Learning to cook. Reducing my rent. Early on in my freelance career, all of these helped me create a financial cushion that I didn’t need when my paychecks were bi-weekly. By taking steps like these I’ve been able to save more aggressively and learn a lot about what I need and what is just nice (tall iced coffees from the ‘Bucks falls squarely into this second category).
Spend Money To Make Money
Budgeting is key, but spending a little cash can make you more money in the long run. For me, that meant a 4-in-1 printer, a Blackberry and a laptop. These gadgets have paid for themselves many times over by making me easily reachable. Hope these tips will be helpful if you’re considering launching a freelance career.
Get Free Marketing Tips
Sign up to receive your very own small business nuggets, specially hand crafted and delivered fresh to your inbox.
Get the freshest content from Shawn’s Blog via RSS
May 14, 20138 Tips for Meeting Your Next Customer
May 8, 2013Join Me At The Entrepreneur’s Growth Conference Pittsburgh
May 2, 20135 Highly Effective Email Newsletter Examples
April 18, 2013[Survey] Small Businesses Struggle with Facebook
April 17, 2013What Should Be On A Business Card For Small Businesses
Hall of Fame
- Visual Interest: The Rise Of Photos In Online Marketing (15 comments)
- The Golden Rule Of Successful Social Engagement (14)
- Are Business Cards On Their Way Out? (13)
- Don’t Be An SEO Chaser (12)
- Using Holiday Cards To Deepen Customer Relationships (10)
- Is Going Viral An Effective Marketing Tactic? (10)
- 5 Must Read Books For Small Business Owners (8)
- Using Social Media To Break Into Your Local Market (8)
- Pittsburgh Young Professionals, PodCamp Pittsburgh, And Paneling (8)
- Delivering Killer Customer Service (8)
@markmcneilly Thanks for the RT, Mark. In other news, Brian Urlacher retired. about 4 hours, 37 minutes ago
@rpetrocelli Thanks, Ross! about 4 hours, 57 minutes ago
@philsimon Thanks for the RT, Phil! about 7 hours, 22 minutes ago
My Fast Company Blog
Creative fuel for intrapreneurs and chronic idea generators
- The Telecommuting Genie Isn't Going Back In The Bottle; Here's How To Strengthen Its Magic
- Why Invasive Marketing Will Come Back To Bite You
- Managing Customer Service In The Age Of Instant Gratification
- 5 Smart Sources For Finding The Best Startup Talent
- The Key To Successful Cross-Channel Marketing
Sites I Like
- Get Your Own Badass Business Cards @Moo
- Build Ecommerce Stores That Exude Badassery @Shopify
- Make Your Phone System Simply Badass @Grasshopper
- Manage Your Social Media Badassery @Argyle Social
- Brand Marketing
- Customer Engagement
- Email Marketing
- Lead Capture
- Marketing Inspiration
- Marketing Strategy
- Social Media Marketing
- Website Design
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- November 2010