• FREE (well almost) Advertising Ideas for Small Businesses

    On: May 29, 2013
    In: Uncategorized
    Views: 266
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    If your business is usually slow during the summer time, there is no reason to stop marketing even if you don’t have much of a budget.  Here are some easy ways to promote your business that won’t cost you anything but time:

    1. Send out a monthly email to existing customers with either a special offer or introduce a new product that just came in giving them the first opportunity to purchase.
    2. Register your business on free website directories including Google places, Yahoo places, Foursquare, City Search.  Use Google Maps Listing and Yahoo Local city listing.
    3. Create a business page on Facebook.  Register, build a profile, add friends and prospective customers
    4. Join industry forums and contribute to the online community. It is best to search industry keywords through online group websites like MSN, Google and Yahoo.
    5. Use Wikipedia, Wiki travel or other wiki sites where you can upload information about your product or service. Start blogging with free services like Tumblr, Word Press and Blogger. Include the blog/site name in your email signature or IM status.  Talk about your products and services.  Use e-How and other websites to write how-to articles related to your products.
    6. Put a company logo on the license plate or place a window sticker on the rear of your vehicle. Make sure it contains contact information that is clearly visible.
    7. Use Craigslist as a free online classified board to post your products. Craigslist is one of the top 25 websites that are visited in the world, take advantage of it!
    8. Attend as many meetings, and industry specific events as you can to know competitor as well as meet various prospective customers.   Hand out those business cards.
    9. Cross promote with neighboring businesses in your area.   

    Katrina Noble, Media Director

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  • Infographics – A Whole Other World of Design

    On: May 23, 2013
    In: Design
    Views: 247
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    By definition, inforgraphics are “graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly.” English please! Basically, infographics are ways to explain complex topics in a visual way. These graphics allow the intended target to understand the information quickly and easily.

    At one time or another, we have ALL (including the non designer audience) created some sort of inforgraphic… maybe it was the pie chart in math class or the venn diagram we drew in elementary school to compare and contrast things. If it’s so easy that an elementary student can do it, then why is it such a large part of the design world? Where’s the art in it? The truth is, anyone can create an infographic, but figuring out how to create them in a way that’s informative AND creative is the real art.

    After scouring the web, I found all kinds of infographics… some simple and some more complex. I also found a wide range of topics – both serious and goofy. From the examples below, you can see that there are no set rules to infographics, as long as you are getting the information across to the viewer quickly and clearly.

    InfoGraphic01

    One that most of us have seen before… a subway system map.

    InfoGraphic02    InfoGraphic03

    Some infographics help consumers.

    InfoGraphic04

    Others get impactful messages across.

    news illustrated 121201 GStyle outline

    InfoGraphic06

    And some are just for fun!

    Kristen Oaxaca, Graphic Designer

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  • Why Your Facebook Page Isn’t Getting More “likes”

    On: May 21, 2013
    In: Uncategorized
    Views: 263
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    You finally got around to creating a Facebook page for your business, but your posts aren’t getting any likes.   Securing more engagement can be simple to correct by avoiding these faux pas:

    1)      Don’t ask questions that are too broad– having an open ended question will come across as rhetorical.  Instead ask a specific or multiple choice questions that will reflect your audience’s connection to your business.

    2)      The tone is boring – yes, it’s your business page but it doesn’t mean you can’t put some personality into.  Show your human side and have fun.  

    3)      Just posting text – add pictures that relate to your post or company to be more visually appealing to the audience.

    4)      Too much selling – it is fine to pitch your services and products every so often but don’t over sell.  Fans expect news, tips and photos that go beyond your business. 

    5)      Not responding – Make sure to interact with your fans so they know that their feedback and comments are appreciated. 

    6)      Lack of offers –  your fans are looking for perks.  Be sure to reward them with exclusive contests, deals and insider offers to make them feel special. 

    Katrina Noble, Media Director

     

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  • Print-Ready Files for Happy Designers (Part 2)

    On: May 16, 2013
    In: Design
    Views: 308
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    shutterstock_111279338

    Last week I enlightened you with 5 helpful tips for successful print-ready files. As promised, I’ve returned with Part 2 of this topic, so without further ado, here are 5 more tips for preparing your print-ready files.

    6. SIZE MATTERS! (Print Size, That Is)
    Be sure to always create your files at the actual size you want them printed. Also, make sure you have the appropriate resolution, for most print jobs (e.g. brochures, business cards and flyers) 300dpi is acceptable. If you fail to build your files at actual size, you will most definitely run into issues during printing. Just think about it, it wouldn’t make sense to create a poster at business card size and expect it to print out perfectly crisp when the printer enlarges it to poster size, right? *Please note that large scale printing (e.g. bus benches and billboards) follow different rules for file size… but that’s a topic for another day!

    7. STICK WITH CMYK
    This is a design basic! RGB is used for on-screen, such as websites and eblasts. CMYK is used for print, such as posters and flyers, just to name a few. That being said, always convert your files to CMYK before printing – even if you can’t see any change on screen, it can make a world of difference when printed.

    8. GET A PROOF
    For multi-page documents, such as programs or books, it’s helpful to provide your printer with a proof. That way they can ensure that all pages are in the correct position and things are aligned the way you want them. In addition to giving your printer a proof, also request a color proof from your printer. This will allow you to fix any color issues before they run the whole job and you’re stuck with something that isn’t right.

    9. BLEED
    No, I’m not talking about actual blood, I’m talking about the bleeds on your document. Be sure to ALWAYS include bleeds on your document… I have found that a 1/8” (or .125”) bleed works fine.

    10. GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER
    I have found that the key to successful printing projects is to get to know your printer. Most printers are more than willing to work with you to get your projects printed to your satifaction. Don’t be afraid to ask question, tour the print facility or voice your opinion when your project just isn’t printing right. If your printer doesn’t seem to be offering you any help, don’t be afraid to try a new printer!

    Hopefully some or all of these tips will help you create successful print-ready files. Good luck and happy printing!
    Kristen Oaxaca, Graphic Designer

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  • 6 Vital Components to Small Business Growth

    On: May 14, 2013
    In: Uncategorized
    Views: 264
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    Who doesn’t want their business to grow but do you actually have a strategy in place? Where do you begin? It is not as cumbersome as you may think.  Start by asking yourself these key questions: 

    1)      Who is your ideal customer?  – Please don’t say everyone.   Start by looking at your most profitable clients and determine what they look like, where they live, and what they do for a living.   More often than not, you’ll start to see a pattern.

    2)      What separates you from your competitors?  –  It may not be what you think.  Spend some one- on-one time with your customers to get feedback and listen carefully!  The key is to find out what truly differentiates your business. 

    3)      Are You Reviewing Your Customer Engagement? – There are 7 stages of engagement ~ know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer.   Review these stages and see if you have any gaps in your current process.

    4)      What Are Your Revenue Streams?  – Determine if there are services or products that you can add to your existing business to increase the number of sales.   What pricing or promotion could you reconfigure to increase the average transaction?  What new market could you enter to increase the number of customers?   Remember it is always easier to sell more to an existing customer than to acquire new ones.

    5)      Are You Developing Relationships? – Look for ways to cross promote your business with other companies especially vendors or suppliers that you currently worth with.  The business next door to yours could be a good place to start.

    6)      Are You Tracking Your Results? – Keep tabs on percentage of leads converted, business referrals and cost to acquire new customers to keep your plan on track.

    Determining the answers to the above will help start your path to success!

    Katrina Noble, Media Director

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  • Print-Ready Files for Happy Designers (Part 1)

    On: May 9, 2013
    In: Design
    Views: 367
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    shutterstock_111279356

    You know that feeling you get when you finally finish a project and send it off to the printer? It’s a pretty great feeling, right? How about that feeling you get when the printer calls you saying there’s something wrong with your file or when your project has been delivered and the client calls you ranting that there’s a typo in your design?!
    I know, I know… that totally killed your happy feeling!

    Well, here are a few tips to get you on the right track to print-ready files and successful outcomes!

    1. TIMING IS EVERYTHING
    Contact your printer ahead of time and figure out how long they will need to print your project. Count back from your due date and create deadlines for yourself… remember
    to add a bit of cushion just in case something goes wrong.

    2. FONT FAILURE
    Unless you design every piece with Times New Roman or Arial, you can’t expect your printer to have every font that you’ve used in your design. To avoid font defaulting once your file gets to the printer, remember to embed your fonts into your file.

    3. CHECK IT… AGAIN!
    Nothing is more important than proofing your documents… I mean you wouldn’t want
    to have your client’s name or website misspelled, right? Even if you’ve proofed your document 100 times, I recommend having someone else proof it (even if they aren’t
    a designer) — sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference!

    4. IMAGE QUALITY
    Be sure to double check your image proportions, dimensions and resolution. Please don’t be one of those designers that stretches an image out of proportion so it looks super squished or super stretched! en if the actual size of your image is correct, the resolution may be too low – creating ugly pixelated images in what could have been
    a beautifully designed piece.

    5. ATTENTION TO DETAIL
    It may just be because I have obsessive compulsive tendencies, but I find this tip
    to be extremely important! Paying attention to the small details and keeping things consistent is key to a great design. Make sure that margins are consistent on
    multi-page documents, punctuation is the same throughout, spelling is consistent
    (for example, in my job I have to fix many inconsistencies between BolchalkFReY, BolchalkFrey and Bolchalk Frey… it may not seem super important, but it is), etc.

    Hopefully these few tips will help you get started on creating great print-ready files,
    but stay tuned next week for more tips for successful files that make happy designers!

    Kristen Oaxaca, Graphic Designer

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  • What are people saying about your business on Social Media?

    On: May 6, 2013
    In: Uncategorized
    Views: 288
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    Chances are that someone is talking about your business online and it is important to keep track of what is being said ~ the good, the bad and the ugly all have to be acknowledged.  Here are some easy ways to keep informed:

    1)      Google Alerts– Set up your business name or owner name at googlealerts.com.   For result type, click on “everything” to receive email notifications whenever your business name gets mentioned on blogs and discussion sites. 

    2)      Search Tools – use the search tools on social media sites to plug in keywords related to your company.  You will be able to pull up what’s being said in the social sphere about your business or industry.

    3)      Monitoring Tools – Topsy, Trackur and Radian6 Social Marketing Cloud will scour all social media sites for your business mentions

    4)      Schedule a regular time once per week  to check on mentions about your company

    If you do find something negative about your business, be sure to address it immediately and attempt to make it right.  Look for opportunities to be appreciative as well and thank the people who provide positive feedback on your company. 

    Katrina Noble, Media Director

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  • Helpful Tips for Successful Business Cards

    On: May 2, 2013
    In: Design
    Views: 264
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    BC_1

    My mom always told me, “A first impression is a lasting impression.” Your business card is often the first impression you give of your work as a designer… so why not make it a great one?!

    Here are a few tips to make sure you put your best card forward when you’re networking or meeting new clients:

    • Design for the Space
    A business card is 3.5” x 2”, so keep your information to a minimum. This is not the place to write a novel! I understand that you may think your life story is important, but more than likely the people you’re handing out your cards to only want your contact info. (which is the most important). On the flip side, make sure to include ALL of your contact info. – don’t forget to include items such as social media links.

    • Font Frenzy
    As is true for all design projects, don’t use too many fonts. If you choose to use more than one font, try mixing a serif and sans-serif font as this will give you variation without getting
    too chaotic.

    • Is That Logo Low-Res?!
    Please, please, please make sure that you are using hi-res images or vector art for your business cards! Seeing anything with a low-res image drives me nuts, but having one as part of your first impression would be a nightmare!

    • Keep it Simple
    Avoid using busy images or crazy color combos that could distract the viewer from the card’s information. The main objective of a business card is to get your contact information out there, so if people can’t read it then you have failed. Don’t get me wrong, you want to make sure that your card is visually impactful, but make sure your visual doesn’t overshadow the card’s purpose.

    • Keep it With You
    Having your business cards on you at all times is key. What would you do if you met the client of your dreams and didn’t have your business card on you? Write your website on a napkin? An old receipt? I think you get the point – keep a hefty stock of your business cards with you as you never know who you might come in contact with.

    If you already have business cards, check and make sure they follow these few rules. If designing your business cards is a project on your to-do list, keep these tips in mind!

    Kristen Oaxaca, Graphic Designer

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