Archive for November, 2007

Business Card Marketing 101

What’s the first piece of collateral material that most businesses get? Their business card of course. But how much thought goes into it?

Your business card is sometimes the very first impression that a client gets of you. You may mail them one, or leave one with a secretary as you try and get an appointment with them. Or, if you’ve made personal contact at a gathering, its the last impression you leave them with as you reach into your jacket pocket, purse or wallet and deposit a card in their hand.

What does your card say about you? Does it reflect your business? Does it stand out or does it deserve to be filed in their circular filing cabinet, also known as the trash can?

When designing a business card there are certain key elements to keep in mind.

  1. Follow the brand of your business. It does no good to establish a brand and not incorporate that into every element of  your collateral material. And if you haven’t established a brand, your business card design is the perfect time to start.
  2. Make sure that the card is legible. Too often people try and put too much information on their business card rendering it practically impossible for the average person to read. Don’t make phone numbers, email addresses, website URL and such too small just to fit them on. They are your lifeline with the client. They need to be able to read them.
  3. That brings us to the old adage, “Less is more”. You’re not trying to give them your whole marketing plan at once. You’re trying to either make them call you or call you back.  Think of your business card as your ‘elevator speech’ in print form. (What’s an elevator speech? If you had 30 seconds with someone in an elevator what would you tell them about your business?)
  4. Does your business card say what your business is? You’d be amazed at how many times that element is left off. A lot of times a business name doesn’t say indicate what the business is. If that’s the case, does your tag line? And if you don’t use a tag line make sure you use some line that says what you do, such as “We fix your credit” or “Plumbing services”.
  5. Avoid humor with your card unless it will really appeal to your target audience. Think about the situations you’ll hand out your card to people. If you’d be embarrassed to hand it to your grandmother then maybe you don’t want to put it on your card. Or, if you really feel the need, get two cards made and only hand the humorous card to those you know will appreciate it. That can be dangerous, however, as you never know who THEY will give it to!
  6. Does the design style of your card reflect your business and who you are? A fun, whimsical card is great and can be really appropriate but not necessarily in a corporate setting. A very corporate card can be wrong if you’re trying to appeal to teen shoppers. Its all about who you are and who you are marketing too.
  7. Are you using both sides of your card? The back side of your card can be an excellent place to do more in-depth marketing, such as showing a list of services available or products you are marketing. It costs justa little more to add content to that side but it can be well worth it.
  8. Print quality. What’s yours like? With so many desktop publishing programs available to the general public, as well as products for printing business cards on, a lot of people feel its ok to just run one off of their home printer. And in a pinch, that can be a great idea. Nothing worse than running out of cards when you really need one. But just like anything else, quality printing speaks volumes about your business. A nice thick, high quality card stock along with professional printing won’t really cost that much in the long run. We know of one company that offers an exceptional deal – 1,000 full colour, UV coated, two-sided business cards – printing and design for only $125.00 (Business Card Special)
  9. Another question to ask yourself is how you are going to use your business card. If you’re going to want to write on one side then you should not get the reverse side UV coated. That will enable you to safely write with pen without it smudging but by UV coating the front you’ll protect the card as well as present a well-polished image.
  10. Be sure to include all of your contact numbers as well as your email address and website URL on your card. You don’t want to have to hand print those things in later as it will be both time consuming and detract from the professional appearance that you’re working so hard to project.

Its well worth it to hire a design professional to create your business card.  A good design professional will be able to offer pointers and ideas to you through the entire design process. And as we’ve stated before, your business card can be your first impression. Let them help you get off on the right foot and on your way to success!

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Wouldn’t you like to be their hero?

(Hum “Didn’t you know you were my hero” as you read along)

I read my 18-year-old son’s My Space page the other day. It was as disturbing as I thought it might be but not as bad as it could have been. He’s an 18-year-old ‘sowing his oats’, “you can’t tell me what to do” 18-year-old. And since he no longer lives at home – he’s right. (That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally still try to slip in some advice or, “you can’t do that!” in my conversations with him.)

And after that I read my 22-year-old daughter’s page. I held my breath as I started. You NEVER know what you’ll find. But it was pretty predictable. She loves her boyfriend, he’s good to her and loves her for who she is (YEAH!!!) and listens to country music. Ok, two out of three aren’t bad.

And she says that I’m one of her heroes. That came as quite a shock.  And, I admit, as soon as I read it I felt this immense sense of responsibility. Suppose I ever disappoint her? Suppose she discovers that I’m only human and I screw up.

After the shock wore off I stopped and thought for a minute. Maybe there was a bigger compliment in there than I’d realized. She and I had some rough patches, just like most mothers and daughters. There were tense times and times she didn’t really want to talk to me. There were times she screwed up and I yelled at her or punished her and there were times she didn’t mean to screw up and I just gave her a hug. And there were times I made mistakes too. Those are the times I said I was sorry and asked for her forgiveness. I guess she already knows I’m human and doesn’t expect me to be some “Wonder Woman” in tights (thank goodness!!).

And I’m still her hero? Maybe that means that she knows me for who I am and accepts me for that. And maybe it means that she needed the discipline that I gave her in order to grow up to be a good person and appreciate me for doing that. Its so much easier to be their friends than their parents but that’s not the job you sign on for when you hold that tiny baby for the first time and promise to love and protect them and help them grow up. They will have lots of friends over the course of a lifetime. Friends will come and go but parents are there for the long haul. Parents have to do the dirty work from changing diapers to teaching right from wrong. But parents get the big rewards in the end to. Real parents. They get to be their kids hero. And they get to watch them raise their kids just the same way, if they are lucky.

Wouldn’t you like to be their hero?

Christmas in November?

Something is terribly wrong. Baking and preparing for Thanksgiving is now accompanied by a million commercials for Christmas. Not just ‘shop the day after commercials’ but ads for products.  And these ads didn’t just start today, they have been running for weeks.

Since when did Christmas get moved?  Now, I don’t believe that Christmas should be as commercialized as it is, not commercialized at all actually, but at least before we got past the Thanksgiving holiday before Christmas sprang on to the scene.

I tried to buy Thanksgiving themed paper plates and napkins a week ago and couldn’t find any.  Why? It was all Christmas.  And Christmas decorations went up along side Halloween. Ummm……what’s wrong with that?

And before anything thinks I’m a grinch, let’s be perfectly clear – I start thinking, plotting and planning Christmas presents (I try and make a lot of mine – gifts from the heart) Christmas afternoon after the last present has been opened and the gift wrap is in the trash. For me its about giving a gift that means something. Something that hopefully will be cherished for a lifetime. Something that will touch the heart.

But I don’t understand my neighbors having ALL of their Christmas decorations up. I drove home last night to see 2 Christmas trees lit up in house windows. Is it a competition now? What has happened to Christmas?

And saddest of all to me is that “Christmas” as seen all around us now lacks the most important ingredient – Christ. Try keeping that spirit of love and belief in your heart all year round, then maybe the rest won’t seem as important. The twinkle of lights replaced by good deeds and stacks of presents replaced by a true belief and living your life dedicated to God. Then I won’t complain about Christmas coming too early…then you should celebrate the true spirit of Christmas all year round.

The Story of the Green Blanket

Yesterday my son had a friend over to play. With the great weather it seemed the perfect plan to suggest a picnic. They loved the idea! So, out came the green blanket for them to lounge on while they ate and shared secrets and made up stories for each other.

It wasn’t until later when I casually tossed the green blanket into the perpetual pile of wash that I really thought about the green blanket. This had been a gift to me for my birthday a million years and a lifetime ago, but sometimes it seems just like yesterday. My 18th birthday, I think it was. A gift from my best friend in high school. She had worked diligently on it, hand-crocheting it between classes and dates to give to me. 

At first the blanket stayed on my bed and was great for snuggling under when I was reading or studying.  And later, when I moved from a twin bed to a queen-sized bed, it was relegated to the linen closet to be pulled out on cold winter nights for snuggling under on the couch while reading, watching tv or holding a baby.

That blanket has been through a lot of things. Not always treated with care but always there when I need it. Its been wrapped around the bottom of my Christmas tree when I couldn’t afford a tree skirt. Its kept sick children warm and been tossed over the back of an old couch that had seen better days, covering its imperfections. The blanket has cushioned breakables in the trunk of the car and hidden Christmas presents from peering eyes.

Friends have come and gone. Children have grown up and even had children themselves. I’ve moved house numerous times and even trekked across country to raise my family. I’ve seen birthdays come and go, changed jobs, switched careers and found the love of my life…and always the blanket has been there.

I lost touch with my friend, Cindy, who made the blanket after I moved across country and we both started having families. But a year or so ago, I looked her up online. She was still living in the same house, with the same husband. And she was still there for me – just like the blanket she made for me so many years ago.

All Is Right With the World

We all have problems. Life is full of them. Sometimes it seems like they are all closing in around you but when you take a step back and appreciate the things around you its easy to realize how good life really is and how lucky we all are.

Now is the time of year that people are so focused on Thanksgiving. So why do they forget to give thanks every other day of the year? Turkey and stuffing is nice but that’s not what life is all about. “But my family is all gathered ’round at this time of year,” is offered as one explanation.

Having those you love near is always nice but in this century with cell phones, internet, video conferencing they don’t have to seem as far away. I’ll grant you there’s nothing like a hug when you need (or want) one, and a kiss can sooth away so many problems. But shouldn’t you be grateful every day to have your family with you? What guarantee do you have that tomorrow will bring another day? Live today. Love today. Appreciate today.

I was up most of the night last night stressing over things I couldn’t change at 3:00 a.m. Things that will all resolve themselves. And what did I really do? I lost sleep. And today?  The sun is shining and I hear the laughter of children as my son plays outside with a friend. All is right with the world and for that I give thanks to God. Today. Tomorrow. And every day.

If You Build It They Will Come

Its true of course, isn’t it? All you have to do is build your website and put it on the world wide web and like magic visitors will flock to your business and you’ll be rich beyond your wildest dreams. While its true that getting your website on the internet is an important first step in success on the world wide web, its a bit more complicated than that.

So, what things do you need to know to achieve a high search engine placement on the internet?

  • Search engines use “spiders” and “robots” to go out and scour the internet for websites. These spiders and robots report back what they find to the search engines will all of that information dumped into a giant database. Different search engines have different criteria for search engine placement.

  • Building your website with good solid HTML code will assist those tiny search engine spiders and robots in their job. If they can easily read your site’s code thats another hurdle that you’ve cleared. A good web designer will know the things that throw up a read flag to these information scavengers and will build your website to avoid these pitfalls

  • By now you’re probably asking yourself what part actual content plays in this process. And that’s where we come to relevance. So, what’s relevance got to do with it? Well, those same little spiders and robots will read the actual words on your site devouring all of that information to pass back along to the database tracking their websites.
  • if you want to be found under a search for fashion photographers in the Southern California area, its important to have those words in your text. The spiders are matching the meta tags, which are tags built in to the code telling them what your site is about, with the actual text on your page. If they don’t find those same words, well, that affects your placement on that particular search as those sites with the most relevant page content will come up at the top of the the search.

Ok, so I’ve taken all of those things into consideration but my site still doesn’t come up at the top of the search. AND I’m getting emails now telling me that certain companies guarantee a top 10 placement, so why can’t you do that for me too?

Its simple. Nobody can guarantee that. There are options for paying some search engines to be placed on the top of their list. That is a very expensive option. And even if one of the companies promoting that they will get you a number one placement is lucky enough to have that happen, you’ll quickly see yourself slide down on the list

There are a lot of people who want number one, maintaining that status without paying for it is next to impossible. There are other “tricks of the trade” that we can employ, but they are outside the cost of basic website development.

If you really want to see your site grow, there is something simple you can do yourself. Put your URL on every piece of marketing material you produce. Put it in your email signature on your emails, put it in the signature block on your regular correspondence and most certainly be sure that its on your business cards. These things don’t cost you anything but the rewards are great!

If you would like to download a .pdf version of “If You Build It They Will Come” you can get that at:

Dr. Laura – Friend or Foe?

When my older kids were younger they used to listen to Dr. Laura on the radio when their grandpa picked them up from school. The irony of that does not escape me now.  I was working and not able to be there for them.

There were times, when I was married to my first husband, that I was the only one working and bringing in income.  Quitting work didn’t seem like an option. And after I was divorced working was a necessity.

And funny enough, years later when clearing off a bookcase to move, I found one of Dr. Laura’s books there. I vaguely remember buying it. It was probably 1992 – I read a lot of self-help books in 1992. This one was 10 Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives. I would have read that one when my now-ex-husband left me the first time.  I tried hard to fix what was wrong with me. Guess I should have read it more than once.

Problem was, not all of it was me. I married a person (NOT a real man) who beat me and verbally abused me. I figured as long as he didn’t hit the kids and they didn’t know he hit me it was all ok. Guess that kind of went out the window when he beat my head into a wall right in front of three of them. This was right after he locked himself into a bedroom and shot a gun so that we’d all think he’d killed himself. I can still hear the screams. Their screams. How could any parent do such a thing?

Pretty simple, I guess when its all about them. Self-absorbed and childish are two of the kinder words I’d use to describe him. I should have changed the locks when he left the first time but I was afraid I couldn’t raise four young kids on my own. And I was afraid to admit I’d made a mistake. I wasn’t used to failure and this was a BIG failure.

Even when he said to me one day, “I’m trying to decide, should I just kill myself or should I kill you first,” I didn’t act. I remember that little voice inside screaming, “If I get a vote, I pick just you,” but I didn’t leave and I didn’t make him leave. Instead I accepted that he was going to kill me one day. It seemed inevitable.

Wow, how pathetic a mother I must have been letting my kids endure such an environment. I even had a next-door neighbor who I hardly knew come over and give me a lecture about raising my kids in such a house – seems I wasn’t hiding things nearly as well as I thought I was. Everyone knew what he was doing but nobody said a thing until that.

Eventually, I got lucky. He left me telling me that I’d never been there for him. Completely untrue and unfounded but a blessing for me and the kids.  I know I wasn’t perfect in the relationship either but I had stood by and tried to help through all of his mental illness.

It was rough for them dealing with everything. And I was mostly at fault for the state of their life. I hadn’t picked well. I hadn’t picked a good dad. They loved him but he wasn’t good for them and he wasn’t good at being a dad. Kind of explains why they struggled so hard as they grew up.

Funny thing is, I have a fifth child now. The rest are all grown. And he looked at me the other day and said, “We’re so lucky to have dad.” At first I agreed. But then I said, “No, I’m lucky to have dad. You’re not lucky. I picked him for you. Its not luck.”

I listen to Dr. Laura now almost every day. In my office and in the car, if its time for her show you can bet my radio will be tuned in. I learn a lot from listening to her show. Sometimes its words of wisdom directly from her. Odd, how sometimes its such obvious things but when we are wrapped up in the situation we just can’t see it. And sometimes its from her listeners. I am inspired by them in two ways. Often times I am struck by their power to overcome really tough situations. And sometimes, I hear them tell their story and ask their question and think to myself, “I never want to be like that.” Sometimes these are hard lessons to learn and I feel for them. It took me a long time to learn after all.

And there are moments, brief moments like snapshots that stand out. Experiences that make me smile – when Courtney, my daughter, is in the car with me, she’ll grumble if Dr. Laura is on. “We used to have to listen to that with Grandpa,” she’ll say. 23 and worldly, she doesn’t need Dr. Laura now she thinks. And other times, I’ve come into my office to find her yelling at the radio. “What’s wrong, now?,” I’ll ask. And worked up, she’ll reply, “These people are so stupid. Even I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do,” she’ll explode. “Dr. Laura told them exactly what I would have,” she’ll conclude.  And I try to hide my smug smile. Maybe even after screwing up some important things she’s gotten the message.

So many people berate Dr. Laura for her views and outlook. How many of them have ever really listened to her? Her message is really so simple. Put children first. If your focus is there then you’ll fight hard to do what is best for them. Children aren’t an accessory like a new purse or bracelet. They are little people who depend upon you for everything. Don’t sweat the little things. Pick wisely, not just from the heart. Morals and character matter. Real men will swim through shark-infested water for their wives. Real wives will take care of their husbands because they love them. Once you put everything into perspective its all so easy.  What’s there not to like? Be secure in yourself and don’t make excuses. Own your own stuff and change what you don’t like about yourself. “Go do the right thing.”

I wonder what would have happened if I had sat in Grandpa’s car and listened to Dr. Laura years ago. 

The Marriage of Marketing + Design = Success

There are a lot of good graphic and web designers working today in the marketplace. You might even know one or two of them. But what makes a good designer great?

That takes a special breed of designer! 

And it requires the marriage of marketing and design. A great design professional will incorporate the best marketing techniques available. They know what works – they see it every day. And they probably collect examples of great marketing collateral that they have seen for reference.

An effective marketing design professional will emerse themselves into your business. They may not know pest control when they land the assignment but they will understand it before begin the actual design process.

Being a marketing design professional takes a lot of hard work and dedication. If you’re shopping for one be sure to ask a few simple questions:

  • Can I see your portfolio. Do they do the same thing all the time? Does it look the same? (You can view my portfolio at www.debrongraphics.com and www.debbyjohnson.com)
  • What collateral material will they do for you? If you go to them saying I need a tri-fold brochure do they ask questions? Do they want to know what you’re going to do with it and how you’re going to use it?
  • Do they suggest alternatives or additional concepts to consider? Now, I don’t mean are they upselling you like a car salesman – no offense to car salesmen – but are they thinking ahead from a business sense.  When I build a website for someone I almost always “qualify” my price by telling them that I stand by my price as given. I may suggest additional elements and/or pages to incorporate but that is not to add to my price. Its because I recognize that they need it to succeed. I’m all about their success!
  • Do they have a good track record? What kinds of projects have they worked on? Are they used to working on large projects or do they focus more on smaller projects? I know that I love working the full spectrum. I’ve done plenty of small “mom and pop” projects, start-up companies, which are really fulfilling to watch succeed and commercial projects with values up to $129 million dollars. (Honestly, that’s almost too many zeros for most of us to comprehend!)
  • Are they excited about your project? Do they ask intelligent questions. Are they engaged? If they aren’t engaged now they probably never will be once the actual rolling up the sleeves, down and dirty work begins.
  • Do they understand marketing? You don’t want someone who spouts concepts but has never used them. Do they know what they are doing?
  • Do they tell you to cross market and give you ideas about how to do that? Anyone who tells you that you only need to market one way doesn’t know marketing. And if you meet a web designer who tells you “If you build it they will come” RUN as fast as you can in the opposite direction. There’s a lot more to a success website than just building it.
  • Do they know how to incorporate, or marry, successful design with marketing expertise? Again, look at their portfolio and really analyze their work. (You can view my portfolio at www.debrongraphics.com and www.debbyjohnson.com) Do they show cross-marketing there? Does the design make sense from a marketing standpoint or is just meant to look good? Does it deliver a message? Is the message received? And what’s your call to action? If you can’t see all of that then its not working.

Taking it up a notch and combining all of these elements is what GREAT marketing design is all about.

How to Find a Good Graphic and Web Design Professional

Open any phonebook or do a search online and you’ll find more graphic designers than you will need in 10 lifetimes. With the proliferation of desktop publishing software more and more people are billing themselves as graphic designers.

And if you’re talking web designers? Well, have a conversation with about 10 people about web design and invariably several will mention that they can build a site, or their brother, uncle, nephew or niece is a web designer.  I have to admit I’ve gotten a lot of business that way! Once they realize that their relative/neighbor/friend doesn’t have a clue what they are really doing they are happy to hire a professional!

So what do you do when you need graphic and web design work done? Start by looking at the professional’s portfolio. Do they have good solid work? Do they offer only template work with no regard for what their client needs? How long have they been working in the field? Does everything look vaguely familiar, like it might have been ‘borrowed’ from other designs in the marketplace? Does their work reflect different styles or does it all look the same?

Next you’ll want to talk to the designer about your project. Do they ask intelligent questions about your business? Do they know your business? They don’t have to have ever done work for anyone in your line of work before to know how to create effective marketing collatoral for you, but a thirst for knowledge to understand your business is a good sign as it relates to the marriage between marketing and design, which we’ll talk another time.

And as you talk to them you’ll want to ask yourself one really important question – do they care about my success or are they just trying to make money? I find a designer who is enthusiastic and loves their job (its not really a job its a passion when they truly love it – its like getting paid to play!) and is focused on your success can be a silent partner in your business. Your success should be their primary goal. As I tell all of my clients, “If you don’t succeed, I don’t succeed. If it doesn’t work for you – its not working for me.”

Why is that? Because a happy successful client will be a client for life and tell others. An unhappy client, well….they will tell others alright but I’ll wish they hadn’t! There’s something really nice about knowing that you helped someone else build their dream.

Everytime you give, you get back tenfold. And that’s priceless!

Next time we’ll talk about the marriage between marketing and design and how a marketing design professional can take your business or project over the top!

Celebrating the Blank Canvas

It is probably one of the most talked about aspects of art – staring at the blank canvas, or the blank page, afraid to take the first step. To make the first mark. Not knowing what to do first.

But I tell you, don’t fear the blank canvas – celebrate it! Rejoice in the infinitie possibilities!

I just bought 3 new canvases today. Fresh and pure. Their mere ‘whiteness’ inspires me. My only hesitation is what to start with first. Will I mar their perfectness by smudging something less than brilliant on them? Is perfection expected? Or even necessary?

Not at all!!!! By this afternoon I’ll have at least one less than perfect canvas that reflects the non-perfect me. It will be bright and bold and colourful with speckles of vibrant personality sprinkled throughout.  Or maybe dark and moody befitting a previous mood or sunny and full of expectations for the unknown wonders that will come to me today. The only thing I’m sure of is that it will reflect me at that moment I make the first mark. I might look upon it tomorrow and wonder what I was thinking.  Try to decipher the message that was so clear today. And a month from now I might even marvel at my own brilliance for a brief second or two before I push this canvas to the back of the closet, determined to work on a new masterpiece to reflect the new, ‘more mature’ me.

Think of it like diving into a swimming  pool. You stand on the diving board, bouncing up and down as you look down at the crystal clear cold water. Anxious. Filled with dread for that first second when the cold wetness sucks you under, holding you in its icy grasp. And yet, you hunger for the coolness of the water, to slice into it with your body, as a knife in butter. The oppressive heat of the day depletes your energy and just inches away the pool offers a renewal of your body and spirit. Slowly you continue to bounce. Up. Down. Up. Down. When what you should really do is jump in excitedly as though you were five again and afraid of nothing, except maybe a wayward monster hiding in your closet.

Jump in without thinking. Just feel your inner child’s excitement. Its the same with the blank canvas. Or the blank page.

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