Creative Combustion Blog
Marketing and branding tips for the badass small business owner.
Showing all posts from January 2012.
January 30, 2012
January has been a busy month. Lots of really interesting projects and the chance to work with new clients who are looking to ramp up their marketing efforts for 2012.
Located in Nashville, TN, paNASH Style is an image consulting company that provides wardrobe styling and interview coaching services. They’ve worked with a variety of clients including Grammy-award winners, video chart toppers, record labels, professional athletes, entrepreneurs, and eager job seekers.
When paNASH reached out, they were looking for outside perspective on their digital marketing efforts. During our initial call, we explored their backstory, their short- and long-term business goals, and the scope and effectiveness of their previous marketing efforts. From there, we agreed upon our plan of attack.
Since they’re in the image business, I knew packaging was going to take center stage. With that in mind, I carefully evaluated their current offerings and benchmarked against their competitors to develop strategies for the following areas:
- Social Media
Once everything was finished, we walked step-by-step through the recommendations. As with each engagement, I wanted to make sure they had the information they needed to implement the changes and that I was able to answer any questions they may have.
paNASH took the ball and ran with it. In just about two weeks, they worked with a designer to develop a new logo and completely overhaul their website (check out the before and after below).
Closer to home, Urban Mommies Pittsburgh creates cultural and educational events geared towards stimulating mom's mind while being in a child-friendly environment. Being an events-driven business, Urban Mommies was looking for ideas on how to increase awareness of their organization and drive attendance at upcoming programs.
To get the ball rolling, we met over coffee so I could gain a better understanding of their business and start to identify opportunities to maximize the impact of their marketing efforts. After our discussion, I went to work developing strategies for the following areas:
As was the case with paNASH, the folks at Urban Mommies started implementing recommendations right way which even included a refresh of their entire site (check out the before and after below).
I will be checking back with paNASH and Urban Mommies to help them assess their progress against goals, evaluate and incorporate customer feedback, and make strategy adjustments as needed. Updates to follow.
Does your marketing strategy need a little tender loving care? Let's talk.
January 25, 2012
Small businesses are always looking for ways to engage their customers by putting promotional postcards in shopping bags, handing out pens and pencils with their logos on them, or asking customers to fill out a brief survey following their visit.
When you get it right, your customers will take action. When you get it wrong, those takeaways will wind up in the nearest garbage can or recycling bin, you’ll be out a buck or two for the cost of producing them, and you’ll miss the opportunity to create a dialogue with your customers.
So how can you use your promotional materials to drive social engagement?
Provide value-added tips or information. When you’re giving out postcards to grow your social media following, you have to give them a reason to actually take the postcard home, fire up their iPad2 or laptop, and go to your Facebook page. For that to happen, they either have to 1) REALLY love your business or 2) find something on the postcard that makes them want to take it with them. Depending on your small business, that could be a tasty recipe, a gardening tip, or some random fun activity that would require them to visit you online.
Make it super easy for your customers to engage. Think of all of those pens and pencils you have in that junk drawer in your kitchen. 96% of them have a company name, phone number, and in some cases their physical address. If you’re trying to drive traffic to your website or your Facebook page, why not include the urls on the pens and pencils along with your logo? You’re already giving them out anyway so you want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to find you.
Include a clear call to action. If you want your customers to visit your website, ask. Entice them by offering a special promotion or discount that’s only available on your site. Once they’re there, you can use your content, navigation, and calls to action to encourage them to engage—whether that’s signing up for your enewsletter, requesting a free consultation, or liking your Facebook fan page.
Have fun with it. The thing I love most about the postcard pictured above is the folks at Burgatory worked Facebook “likes” into their wording over and over again. They could have just said “Like us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter” but they took it a step further. They created a postcard that mirrors the look and feel of their website, their menu, and their restaurant, creating a unified brand image. Unscientifically, I also think using the “like” buttons six times has a way of getting into your subconscious mind—especially when you’re in a food coma after downing a Morty’s Steakhouse Burger and a hard milkshake. Yoy. I’ll also talk about why I love their logo in an upcoming post so stay tuned.
If your postcards and pens are going to drive customer engagement, they need to be 1) taken/picked up/grabbed by your customers 2) kept out of their garbage cans and recycling bins for as long as humanly possible. For that to happen they not only have to look appealing (like something your customers will want to take with them) but they also need to include value-added content (tips and information that will increase the likelihood they’ll hang on to them).
Think about your promotional materials. What tips and tricks have you found worked best? How might you be able to tweak them to drive social engagement?
January 23, 2012
It’s one thing to use straight forward, matter-of-fact status updates to talk about your daily lunch special or a new product. It’s another when every word you choose drips (like the cheddar and horseradish sauce pictured above) with excitement over what you’re selling (or sharing).
The folks at Joe’s Doghouse, a hotdog cart located on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, could have just posted “Cheeseburger with horseradish sauce and fried onions” and called it a day. But they didn’t.
By including a photo of the burger, they immediately bring their sandwich to life. Words are great (and we’ll talk more about their description later), but they can only take you so far. Joe’s image packs a one-two Pavlovian punch—bound to make any foodie’s mouth water in eager anticipation. But hotdog carts and restaurants aren’t the only ones who can benefit from adding photos to their Facebook status updates.
People are visual. If you are talking about a handbag, show a picture of the handbag. If you’re having a plant sale, show a picture of the plants. You don’t need a photo in every post but you should always be on the lookout for opportunities to add visual interest to your status updates.
Now back to the description. Joe’s includes specifics about their ingredients, helping it stand out from other burgers you might find elsewhere: sirloin steak, cheddar cheese, horseradish sauce, and fried onions. They also do a great job of using wording that paints a mental picture of what they’re selling, using each word to reinforce what you see in the picture: “piled high” “crispy” and “drip-down-your-chin juiciness.”
If you’re going to be seen on Facebook, you have to make every status update count. You must provide content that gets your followers to react—to like, comment on, and/or share your posts with others. For that to happen, your words and images should ooze with excitement for whatever it is you’re selling just like Joe’s Boston Burger oozes with melted cheddar and slathered horseradish sauce.
How are you using your status updates to make your customers’ mouths water? Leave a comment below.
January 19, 2012
This is a guest post (part 1 of 2) by graphic artist and illustrator Melissa Ott.
As a designer, logos are something I have an intimate knowledge of. I love them. I study them. I observe them everywhere I go. Unfortunately, I find a lot of small businesses either don’t have a logo or, if they do, have a DIY version that they threw together in about 5 minutes using Microsoft Word. I’m not sure what the fear is among small business owners; maybe the idea of working with a designer to create an awesome logo seems overwhelming, expensive or inconvenient. While it can be all of those things, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be any of them.
First, let’s clear up some of the lingo. There is a difference between branding and a logo in that one is a tiny bite out of the other. Branding is a company’s identity as a whole, incorporating its visual aesthetic with its unique corporate personality. Branding not only dictates a company’s colors, typefaces and the general look and feel of collateral (collateral being a website, flyers, business cards, advertisements, etc), it also dictates how customers perceive the company. Does the business have a sense of humor? Are they strictly professional? Are they more modern or do they do things traditionally? All of these characteristics make up a brand’s identity.
One player in the development of the identity is a logo. A good logo stands out as the face of a company, the main point of visual reference for the customer and other businesses. Strong logos will leave a lasting impression on anyone who sees it. With that in mind, it’s important for a logo to show off the company’s philosophy as well as what void the company fills within its market. Some logos use a picture or “pictoral” icon to represent this while other use typography. Others incorporate an icon with a typographic treatment and use one, the other, or both depending on what kind of collateral they’re dealing with. Logos come in all shapes, sizes, colors and styles.
Regardless of what kind of message a company wants their logomark to send, it’s important that they have one that stands out among the competition and is well done. Small business owners invest so much time and money into getting their business started and many forget about their image. This is a huge problem. In today’s world, consumers have a lot of options. Constantly bombarded by content in a highly digitized society, we now have access to companies who want our business not only locally, but globally. This sets businesses up for a lot of competition and fewer opportunities to impress potential customers.
Simply having a great product or service just doesn’t cut it anymore. In order to survive and thrive today, it’s a necessity for businesses to be on top of their game in all areas. While that includes being great at what we do, it also means we need to have great customer service, high rates of customer satisfaction, competitive pricing and a great image. With all that competition out there, the fact is that customers judge books (businesses) by their covers (identity). An image helps get them in the door, and then it’s up to business owners and their employees to keep them there.
Melissa Ott is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator living and working in Pittsburgh. Prior to launching her own business, Melissa worked as a Graphic Design & Web Communications Specialist at Green Building Alliance.
Follow Melissa on Twitter at @melissaodesign.
[Image: Melissa Ott]
January 10, 2012
QR codes have always seemed to have so much promise. They’re the hipster cousin of a UPC barcode--they’re really cool looking and they’re a little mysterious. When they started popping up at businesses everyone hoped they’d be the that “one thing” that would allow shoppers to quickly and easily bridge the digital divide. They wanted their customers to use QR codes to connect with their products, websites, mobile apps, and promotions. But they just haven’t caught on. At least not yet.
For small business owners, the allure can be especially tempting.
- There are a lot of sites out there that allow you to create QR codes on the cheap—a really big deal if your marketing budget is limited.
- Having a QR code proudly displayed near your cash register, on your business cards, or near a product in your store gives shoppers the impression that you are on the cutting edge of technology—think back to the hipster UPC code reference. They might not understand them or use them, but they could make you look “hip.”
- If and when your customers do use them, you are definitely increasing the chances they’ll go to your site or participate in a promotion versus hoping they’ll remember to do so when they get home (which almost never happens).
But, for whatever reason, shoppers still haven’t fully embraced the concept.
Case in point. I swung by a local bakery a few days ago and noticed the QR code near the register. I asked the cashier if people are actually using it to sign up for their promotion. “Not really” she replied. The same response I hear from a lot of small business owners who are currently experimenting with them. That’s not to say things might not change, but for now they’re just not a powerful tool for most small business owners.
It's okay to experiment. Try new things. Push the envelope. But when you do it has to work for your small business. Before you dip your toes in the water, make sure you have a clear understaning of what you're trying to accomplish. If QR codes aren't working for you, it might be time to consider focusing your efforts on other strategies and tactics.
Are you using QR codes for your business? What's been your experience?
[Image: Flickr user Clever Cupcakes]Next Page »
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Hall of Fame
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