New Season: New PR & Advertising Possibilities!

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Fall is here!

That means another season to plan your next moves (if you haven’t already) when it comes down to your advertising and PR opportunities. It means another handful of set dates that you can try and coordinate with your business and target audience.

What do I mean?

Well. We know from now until January 1st, the following holidays- and some- are guaranteed:

  • Thanksgiving (US & Canadian)
  • Halloween
  • Remembrance Day
  • Hanukkah
  • Christmas/The Holiday Season
  • The New Year (full of fresh starts for all)

I am not saying that you should leech onto all of the holidays for the sole purpose of promoting your goods/services… we all know that pushy-selling is ‘out’ anyway…   I am saying that you need to be conscious of them and IF POSSIBLE use them to your advantage.

For example: Remembrance Day. Not exactly a day that you want to use as a sales tool (unless you sell poppy’s or are a registered charity) but it is a day that you should recognize. A simple shout-out on social media, a digital poster with your sincere regards that just happens to have your logo in the corner, could make for a nice viral sharing piece.

For PR. Think about what the next couple months are going to bring- what the fall/winter seasons/holidays are guaranteed to have in store. Then see if you can work a press release around it.

What is your company’s forte? How can you utilize content marketing?

For example: You sell tires. Winter is coming and people should have proper tires. Write a press release and send it off to your local stations, papers and news outlets. Tell them why they need tires, tips and tricks to staying safe on the road and how you can help. You won’t always be picked up- it may take up to five attempts before anyone recognizes you BUT start now, what does it hurt?

Brainstorm with your team in advance so that you can create a posting schedule and organize your blasts. Get that whiteboard out and go to town!

 

 

How to Create an Effective Print Advertisement

Ad Tips

 

A successful print advertisement will grab and hold someone’s attention long enough for them to understand what your ad is about. You want to create instant appeal so that your audience will want to read on.  Design is important- but an ad is much more than graphics. There are strategies, tips and tricks that can help boost your ads effectiveness.

Aside from ensuring your ad contains important elements like your logo, call-to-action, and contact information- your ad should also:

  1. Be easy to read. Don’t use too many fonts or extra small text. Don’t fill up your page with too much information! Drive people to your website or social media platforms to learn more.
  1. Know what you want your ad to say. What are your objectives? Why are you running the ad?
  1. Use negative space wisely and ensure that the most important information is highlighted with a larger text, different font or different colour. Make sure your core message stands out.
  1. Be correct. Ensure your ad is free of spelling errors, grammar mistakes and that your contact information is correct.
  1. Have a unique selling position- why should someone purchase your product or use your service over your competitor?
  1. If you are offering a promotion make sure you set an expiry date. Create a sense of urgency!
  1. Stay on brand. Be recognizable.

Have you heard of the “Advertising Rule of Seven”? According to marketing expert Dr. Jeffrey Lant– “To penetrate the buyer’s consciousness and make significant penetration in a given market, you have to contact the prospect a minimum of seven times within an 18-month period.”

Above all- be sure that you understand your target market. Make sure that your ad is speaking their language, that the esthetics speaks to them and that the avenue you choose to deliver your ad in makes sense. Put your ad where they will see it- doing your research before placing your ad is important.

Whatever you do, don’t forget a call-to-action because you want to be able to measure your ad efforts. ROI! ROI! Always do your best to measure your efforts ESPECIALLY as a start up. You need to make sure your investments make sense. Use your insights and analytics to track visitors during your campaign.

Have fun and we will say it again…. stay on brand!

Social Media: Build Your Community- Then Promote

Social Media Community We have said it before… We will say it again. You should be using social media for business. It is an information hub and a method of open communication with your audience. It is a conversation platform and very important for not only your online presence, but your credibility, branding, SEO and marketing efforts.

So what now? Do you open the accounts and start blasting off all of the great in-store specials? All the special promotions and fantastic things you are offering? Do you start pushing events and upcoming sales?

NO. No you do not. That will most likely turn followers away.

As mentioned earlier- social media is a conversation. When you have a real-life conversation, do you immediately start with why you are so wonderful and why people should like you? Probably not. You want to provide mutually beneficial conversation first- THEN- once you are comfortable with that person, you can start sharing more intimate details of all the great things happening in your life. Take that same model and apply it to your social media conversation.

We always tell our clients to first build your community. Work on sharing on-brand and relevant information. It doesn’t have to be created by you! You can share industry leader links as well as your blog. Work on accumulating fans by using trending hashtags so that your message gets filtered into larger audience pools. Build your fans/followers first and foremost. It may seem like you are treading water for a month or so but it will work in the end. DO NOT buy followers- you want quality not quantity and not for nothing? Social media platforms are hip to these scammers and if they find out you bought your fans? They could limit your pages. Not good.

One you have a decent following THEN you can start to promote! Now you have people who will see your efforts- who know that you are knowledgeable in your field and trust that what you are sharing can be valuable to them. Make sure that your efforts fall into am 80/20 percentile though… 80% helpful links, tips and tricks, quotes, pictures- and 20% promotion. We’ve found that to be a positive balance as long as you are keeping track of your social media insights and are posting the right information at the right times.

You can do social media! But if you need help? We are here to help!

(Did that fall into the 80/20 promotion? We think so!) 

Instagram for Business: Why Should You Use it?

Instagram for Business

What is instagram?

Launched in October 2010- Instagram is a free photo and video sharing social media platform (that is owned by facebook) that allows an accounts followers to ‘like’ or comment on the shared image/video. It also allows its users to categorize their photos using hashtags (similar to twitter and facebook). Instagram gives you an ‘artistic’ edge by giving you the option to use photo filters, blur features, frames and angle options. You can also share your images/videos by connecting to twitter, facebook, tumblr, flickr or email. You cannot share live links on Instagram- you have the option to display one URL on your profile page but that’s it.

So what’s the big deal? Well:

  • Instagram has over 150 million users
  • 55 million photos are shared daily
  • 8500 ‘likes’ per second
  • 65% of the world’s top brands have an instagram account
  • 57% of US adults visit the site at least once a day
  • 23%  of teens consider Instagram their favorite social media outlet

Just to name a few.

Needless to say, Instagram is allowing us to communicate visually. Its hashtag capability is making it easy to filter in on topics, keywords, phrases and other interests- it is also allowing marketers to easily organize their contest submissions. Instagram has exploded- so why not use it to your company’s advantage?

Humans tend to respond more to visual stimulation, it’s a known fact. You have the opportunity to tell your brand story with imagery- you can share photos of your store or employees, display your products, highlight your sales, give exclusive offers  and really give your audience an inside look at how you run your business. Which is fantastic- however- you will also want to make sure that what you are sharing is beneficial to your followers. Give them a REASON to follow you! No one wants to follow an account that is solely “ooooh look how great we are” Unless you are a top model or actor… but then you would have a personal account… not a business account… so that doesn’t count.

You can try sharing tips and tricks, inspirational quotes, info-graphs, facts… you can participate in trending hashtags and have fun with it (as long as you are staying on brand) and you want to make sure your followers feel special. I mentioned exclusive offers- but what about sneak previews? Do you have a product in the works? A new collection brewing? Maybe your followers would like a “how it’s made” type walk through? Maybe you can show them how a product works?

Keep in mind your videos are only allowed to be 15 seconds long but you can stop the recording and start again at the important parts to stay within your time frame. What do I mean? Take some time and gander through instagram for inspiration.

Share your Instagram post on facebook and twitter; let people see what you are all about with their own eyes (and your filter)!

Refrences:

http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/important-instagram-stats/#.UxPVzONdWSo

http://www.factbrowser.com/tags/instagram/

The Importance of Merchandising Your Storefront Window

Merchandising Your Storefront

I often find myself judging storefronts and (sometimes) secretly wanting to run inside and start switching it around. I would do it if I didn’t know I would be crossing lines of sorts… To be honest, I have sent emails to stores in the past- offering some assistance and even free tips to how they can improve street traffic and be more visually appealing. The importance of your window dressing seems to be thrown to the wind for some small business owners. Their philosophy seems to fall under “the more I show the more customers will come”. Little do they know, their window display says “Who cares about unity/theme” or “I haven’t switched my window in a year- so what?”

I am here to tell you that you are missing the mark if you are taking your storefront space for granted. Consider it a street billboard! Your storefront needs to have what it takes to catch/grab attention then reel ‘em in. Now what you showcase varies obviously on what your store is selling- I can’t pick and choose pieces for you to feature. I can however tell you that less is more, themes are appealing to the eye, colour blocking and colour harmony work wonders and that you shouldn’t be afraid of signage. Not TOO much signage (again less is more) but you can create a visual story in your window and sometimes text can help drive it home. If you are having a great sale? Let people know about it!

Keep the product you are showcasing seasonally appropriate and on trend. Make sure that you play on annual holidays (you know they are coming and you can plan around them- Valentine’s Day, Mothers Day, Christmas), I recommend switching your store front up every three months. When seasons change- so do you. Why? Because humans have something called a memory- and if you always look the same? They will remember that and no longer pay attention to your window.

Don’t be afraid to use props! Use your imagination! It doesn’t have to cost thousands- bring in branches, tissue balls, vases- whatever! As long as what you use isn’t branded or showcased as the “star” of your window (you don’t want people coming in to buy it if you don’t sell it) then go for it! Use pinterest for inspiration if you need to.

Now I want to drive home the whole “Less is more” I touched on earlier.  A lot of people seem to think if they put ‘one of everything’ in the window then customers will see what they have and come in… Looking outside-in will save customers time because they will KNOW you carry it… Right? Wrong. You actually scare them away. There is too much to take in and you lose their interest quickly. They don’t have the attention span to scan every nook and cranny of your display. You come across as unorganized and not a lot of people care to shimmy through clutter. It is your job to merchandise in such a way that you entice people to enter through your door to see what your store is all about. Create curiosity.

By merchandising your storefront window- you show that you care how you are perceived. That you are proud of what you carry and that you are constantly looking to improve and updating your inventory accordingly. You will notice an increase of off-street customers, compliments and I believe a heightened sense of pride.

Anyone else have any merchandising tips they’d like to share? Please do!

Share in the comment section below.

Your DIY Website: Can it be improved?

DIY

Do it yourself websites have come a long way. Now more than ever, you can design a beautiful website yourself for much less than the cost of a graphic designer (sorry graphic designer friends! I know these template websites don’t compare to custom coding but not everyone can afford you off the hop). That being said: You want to make sure that you are getting the most out of your DIY website, that you are appealing to the public and that you are being received as a professional company!

I’ve compiled a list of what I believe to be the top ten DIY website building areas of focus:

1) ANALYTICS

“Google Analytics is a service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about a website’s traffic and traffic sources and measures conversions and sales.” – wiki

YOU WANT TO KNOW WHO IS VISITING YOUR SITE! You want to know how long they are staying, what pages they like/dislike, where they live, their language and more. The information that you can collect FOR FREE will help direct your advertising efforts (so you know where to target) it will help you measure your efforts and outlines your ROI. Get yourself a Google account and sign your site up for Google analytics. www.google.ca/analytics/

The website builder you use will have an analytics section in its settings. Once you are set up and given your analytics number- you simply copy and paste the number into the setting. If you don’t know where that is? Type ‘Analytics ‘into their HELP search area.

2) MUSIC

Don’t have automatic music. A large percentage of people surfing the web are at work taking a break and the last think they need is your chosen song to start blasting in their office and have everyone KNOW that they are taking a break. Best believe they will be closing off your site ASAP and probably aren’t going to return. If you want music on?-that’s fine! Just don’t have it on auto-play, give people the option to play it at their own leisure.

3) IMAGES

If you are going to ‘borrow’ an image from a search engine- make sure you give credit where it is due and make sure your image makes sense- no pink martini glasses just because you think the colour matches your real estate business’s logo.

Make sure that you label your images properly when you upload them so that when a user’s mouse goes over it, it doesn’t read gibberish/ the file name. Describe the pictures as best you can to relate to your business so that you increase your SEO (search engine optimization).

Pixilation is the worst. Please don’t publish blurry photos! A trick is to size the image to what you want before uploading it rather than resizing it online.

4) SPELLING & GRAMMAR

No one expects you to be a top notch editor- people do however, expect you to be somewhat grammatically correct and for your spelling to be correct. Ask family and friends to look over your written work before you post. I like to write all of my work in word so obvious spelling errors will be highlighted (grammar isn’t that easy).

5) LESS IS MORE

Lay off the million banners, boxes, pictures, information- you may scare off a visitor. You have three seconds to make a good impression- use it wisely. Personally I like when the homepage is short but sweet and doesn’t involve a lot of scrolling down and definitely never scrolling to the sides.

Oh! Your DIY builder offers groovy animations for your site? DON’T DO IT! Clip-art emoticons are not the way to go… no matter what, that dancing smiley face holding a fishing rod doesn’t fit into a professional site. (Sorry)

6) CONTACT INFORMATION IS CORRECT

Your company contact information, make sure your employee information is up to date, your social media handles haven’t changed… actually- just make sure all of your information is correct.

That’s better.

7) CHECK YOUR LINKS

Does your email hyperlink work? Does your social media handle direct properly? External links- are the correct? ALWAYS check your links. Clicking and being directed to a null page is irritating.

8) FONT

Stay away from too many fonts. Make sure your font is not too big, not too small. (If you are targeting senior citizens? Bump up the font size to make it easier to read). Stay away from neon colours, rainbow colours, bright yellow on black (I personally despise solid black website backgrounds, my eyes feel like they are going to burn out.) Ideally (according to my graphic designer friends) you should use two no more than three fonts.

9) WEBSITE ADS

There are plenty of free website builders- if you want to be taken seriously, buy their upgraded package so you diminish the ads that you get if you use the free option (plus you don’t get a personalized domain name with the free package- personalized domains are a must).

The price ranges from $50-$200 and it is worth every penny. “Create your own free website” splattered all over your site doesn’t say commitment to me. Not to mention sometimes you have no control over the ads being posted! You are selling cute fuzzy Christmas crafts and XXX ads could be tarnishing the reputation you are trying to build. (Maybe not XXX ads, but you get my drift.)

10) TAKE YOUR TIME

Time is money- yes- but if you are going to build your own site I hope you are somewhat computer literate and will be able to maneuver through the site options. Take your time and see what your site builder has to offer before really getting started. Also- you don’t have to publish your site off the hop. Save your work and publish it when you are ready. Take your time and label everything correctly. Fill in all the blanks in your page settings so you increase your SEO and are user friendly.

Take note that I am not a graphic designer– I don’t claim to be. I am a DIY site builder, a website user and a corporate communications graduate who knows that this top ten list makes a world of difference.

Crystal Lengua

QR CODES: Friend or Foe?

QR CODE

I have a love/hate relationship with QR Codes- If used properly? They are smart! Unfortunately, they are getting a bad rap because some people took the tactic and transformed it into an oversaturated and now unnoticed gimmick- popping up everywhere, on everything- just because they can. I believe QR codes have a chance to redeem themselves- people just need some direction.

First thing is first- people need to stop adding them to business cards. You don’t need to reiterate a website link on a card that states your URL AND even if it made sense to put a QR Code on a business card? They are usually too small to scan anyway.  They shouldn’t be used on websites, they should ALWAYS work (check your links) and they should serve a purpose- outline a call to action or send you to a page that answers a question on a site that may take a while to navigate (i.e. government sites).

I had a twitter discussion last week about QR Codes and after a back and forth conversation on the topic, I reached out to London graphic designer, Andi Best (www.andib.co.uk) and asked him if he wouldn’t mind sharing his take on QR Codes as a guest blogger. Here is his reply;

“Entering a conventional web address into a mobile browser can be a fairly cumbersome process on the go, which is why most users tend not to bother, hoping instead to recall the URL (or at least some search criteria for it) when they are next at a desktop. QR codes offer a convenient solution to this problem. They circumvent the requirement of typing a flawless sequence of keys with a much simpler single scan of a device camera.
Sadly, convenience tends to be the extent of their implementation despite their great innovative potential. More often than not, when you see a QR code on a poster or billboard, it will be an afterthought ushered in by a half-hearted project manager, insisting it sits beside the full URL, the Facebook icon and URL, the Twitter icon and URL, the various app store badges and every other digital bumf they can think of that does not translate gracefully in print. Treating QR codes as merit badges rather than communication channels actually causes them to get ignored as audiences quickly grow blind to things they see too often in places they expect to see them. Marketers and designers are accountable here for paying little consideration towards the aesthetics of the QR code and simply dumping the awkward black and white mosaic anonymously on an otherwise well-thought-out layout.

From a design point of view, I’ve seen plenty of careless presentations of QR codes. I’ve seen codes printed far too small, or at too low a resolution on product packaging at the mercy of online code-generating apps, resulting in key data getting lost amongst the blurry output that inevitably causes the scan to fail.
I’ve seen ads bearing QR codes scaled proportionately to the rest of the content, but then positioned on billboards which are too high or far away for most device cameras to draw a decent focus on, again rendering them useless.
I’ve seen QR codes tainted by graphics embedded in their markings, tainted by graphics overlaid on the markings and tainted by a number of other visual gimmicks (as if scanning a poster with your phone wasn’t gimmick enough) which potentially skew their usability device-by-device.

From an implementation point of view, a number of ads largely overlook the basic logic of the QR code and its greatest available asset; its ability to offer real-time communication between user, content and location. Where the user is physically standing at the moment they encounter a QR code should be at the forefront of its inclusion in an ad and should also be championed by the supporting design. To give a user digital content that’s topical to the things and places he/she is currently interacting with in the real world breaks so many boundaries of communication that it’s staggering to see how infrequently this is properly utilised.
I’ve seen ads that have wasted valuable real-estate with a scan that simply links to a brand’s homepage, which a user could have easily Googled in the time it took to fire up the scanning app.
I’ve seen codes that scan through to web pages that aren’t optimised for mobile display.
I’ve seen QR codes on ads positioned in underground or enclosed locations where signal reception simply doesn’t exist.
Worst of all, I’ve even seen QR codes in the footers of the websites they point at…Tattooo QR Code

So why isn’t serious use of this technology mainstream? A key argument is that not many handsets come armed with QR scanning technology out of the box, so their reliance on an app makes them feel superfluous. As the audience is pretty slim, investment in clever (and typically pricey) marketing just isn’t happening, allowing a glut of uninspired QR Frankenstein’s to rise up and take over instead.
Marketers and designers are the ones who need to address this, as until they begin presenting QR codes in more innovative ways and with more relevant, engaging user experiences that capitalise on the user’s environment, there is no incentive for the public to regard them as anything other than a fad, and there will be no high demand for handsets to come equipped to embrace them.

Here are a couple of examples of QR codes that have really been put to work:”

http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/tattoo-studios-brilliant-help-wanted-ad-makes-applicants-carefully-fill-qr-code-147693

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2198127/Quick-Response-QR-Beyond-grave-A-funeral-director-launches-revolutionary-way-loved-ones-memory-alive-interactive-headstones.html

http://www.boredpanda.org/26-creative-ways-to-use-qr-codes/?image_id=creative-qr-codes-guiness-beer.jpg

You can find Andi Best on facebook and twitter via the links below:

https://twitter.com/AndiBDesign

https://www.facebook.com/AndiBDesign

I personally love the tattoo shops help wanted ad!

How do you feel about QR Codes? What is the best/worst ways you’ve seen them implemented?

Crystal Lengua

Creating a Cohesive Brand Identity

 

 

You’ve started your small business; you have your perfect logo, your website, you chose your social media outlets, produced your marketing material and have a plan… great!

What could be missing? Flow.

Remember that everything should work together. Let’s say you pile every piece of material representing your brand on top of a table- it should all ‘flow’- it should harmonize and it should be unified. You should be consistent in all aspects of your communication both internally and externally to avoid coming across as amateur or unorganized.

That being said; here are my top five areas of improvement to help you relay a cohesive brand identity:

1) Internal Branding

I believe that a brand starts from within your company’s walls. If you and the people representing you aren’t on the same page then why should a customer be?  For example: Why is John’s email signature written in neon green with no logo but Jane’s in written on a clip-art floral stationary in pink with the company logo. It seems insignificant but as an outsider looking in who may be communicating with multiple persons from your company- it looks unorganized. Get everyone on the same page with everything from email signatures to uniforms (if you have them) to the letterhead used.

Do you have a mission statement? Does everyone know it? It doesn’t hurt to have a go-to company handbook that can sum up who you are as a whole. It should be easy to understand and can include your mission statement, core values, elevator speech, company introduction, company history, the three words you would use to sum up your business and your five & ten year goals.

2) Your Colour Pallet

You picked your corporate colours for a reason, use them!

Every colour has a code (HEX, RGB, CMYK) Know your colour codes and use them throughout your material. You may not have a graphic designer so you may be printing your own material using ‘do it yourself’ sites. Every site will give you the option when designing to change the colours to a custom shade and that’s where your codes come in. Business cards, postcards, brochures, handouts- everything should be tailored to the pallet you chose. Keep the HEX, RGB, and CMYK codes on file because some programs/sites use specific codes.

3) Your Typeface.

Yep. Your font.

Am I getting a bit too finicky? Ok- let me clarify…I am not saying you peep over the shoulder of every employee and ensure they use Calibri size 12 but make sure that your marketing material sticks to a handful of typography choices to avoid a mish-mash of visual insanity. Less is more.

4) Create a Brand Guideline.

This outlines your brand permissions. How others can use your logo, slogan, tagline. What colours they can use. What your links to social media are- what your social do’s and don’ts are. Pretty much allows you to make the rules when it comes to others relaying your company information. An integral part of brand cohesiveness because it’s difficult to filter the way others perceive you/your company if you don’t give them instructions. (Unless you work with mind readers… they are the exception)

Now I am going to pick on those of you who have decided they needed a re-brand. A facelift, an update- a fresh start!

5) RE-BRAND: If you aren’t in it 100%, don’t do it.

So you updated your logo, changed your website but still use old invoices, order forms and uniforms. You decided you wanted a change but you have stock in the old style business cards so you are waiting for them to run out. Ahhhh but you bought 25,000 of them… yikes.

If you aren’t willing to follow through completely- please- just hold off until you are ready. Throw a proper re-launch and really get your new brands energy flowing! What is the point of half-heartedly starting anyway?

I will write more about the “Re-Brand” later on. I just wanted to graze the area- it fits into my top five brand identity issues.

Please feel free to add on to my list in the comments section below! I look forward to hearing what you think and getting your take on brand cohesiveness.

-Crystal Lengua-

BROCCOLI- is good for you.

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We are in our last phase before the final plunge into business. All the education, hard work, planning and dreaming is coming together to form what I, Crystal Lengua, have been envisioning all along. A company that helps businesses. That ACTUALLY helps businesses by not only telling them what they need to do to succeed- but showing them, educating them and ensuring that they understand so that they can walk away with the confidence they need to truly prosper.

I have a soft spot for small businesses. Why small businesses?

I want to help small businesses because I understand how important they are to our community. Over the years I’ve watched “the big guys” move in and take over. I’ve seen them “bully” the little guy if you will and I don’t think it’s fair. I also don’t think that just because they are bigger and they have more money in their budget for marketing, advertising and PR that they are better. That old saying “good things come in small packages” still holds true- I believe that.

My background consists of 10+ years of field experience paired with certifications in Marketing Management, Event Management, Corporate Communications/ Public Relations and Social Media Marketing. This blog will share some of my tips, tricks, advice and articles from industry professionals.

I will cut this ‘introduction’ short to avoid leading you to believe this blog falls under the “shameless promotion” category. I just want you to know that I am perfecting my internal brand so that I can focus with everything I have externally come January 2014. I am thrilled to be embarking on this journey and look forward to everything this venture has in store!

Crystal Lengua