Archive for design

Projecting an Image

This week, as well as last, all of the ads seem to have been tied into President’s day. Presidential savings. Presidential trivia. Presidential this. Presidential that. That got me to thinking about image. Normally, of course, the president has a very specific image. He’s supposed to be above the fray of normal bickering, projecting a strong, confident persona that the country can rely upon and look up to in times of crisis or trouble. That doesn’t mean that you won’t see pictures of him walking his dog or playing catch. Of course you will. There’s not a president in recent memory that has missed these photo ops. It makes them one of us. An ordinary man.

Your business projects an image too. What kind might depend upon your business. Plumbers are more down-to-earth, sleeves rolled up kind of guys whereas a car salesman? Yep, that’s a suit and tie much more slick kind of presentation. Everything of course ties into your company’s brand. That’s what conveys the overall image of what your company is all about.

Personally, I like that my business demonstrates a personal touch while maintaining a professional demeanor. You’re always going to be able to reach me, I’m always going to get back to you but I can play with the big corporate boys having worked on everything from mom and pop business materials to global corporation’s collateral materials.

What does your business presentation say about you? If you haven’t looked at it in the while here’s a fun and productive way to see what your current image is. Take your collateral material and toss it on a table. Does it all project the same brand? Is is a cliché for your industry? I love thinking more creatively and not having to have a picture of money if you’re a banker – what about the people you provide services for? Use pictures of them so that they relate to your services. Does it need a bit of freshening up? Are your designs innovative and exciting or are they boring and overused?

Take a minute and see what your customers and clients see. Then call me. I can help you project the image that you should be. Let’s talk…

Debby is a working writer, designer, artist, photographer and guest lecturer in Southern California. If you are interested in hiring her she is available for ghost blogging, strategic marketing planning, graphic and web design, photo shoots and more. You can email her at djohnson@debrongraphics.com

Balancing Act

As a business owner running a successful enterprise I can’t afford to have an employee mentality. There’s no such thing as punching the time clock and working 8:00 to 5:00. It seems like my work day is never done,always emails to answer, billing to catch up on, bills to pay, office supplies to purchase and an assortment of little things that just need to be done.

Add to that the last minute emergency projects that always seem to crop up, pushing aside what I had planned and my life could easily revolve around work, work and more work. I think like most business owners I want to project an image of the woman who can do it all, balancing work, family and leisure activities. Sometimes though, its the family and leisure activities that suffer. I really try not to let that happen.

There are times that my phone rings as early as 7:00 a.m. and as late as 11:00 p.m. Why? I’m not really sure. Maybe its because people know I work a lot – seemingly all the time. Maybe they just assume that I want to be be woke up early to answer a question that could easily wait until regular business hours. I don’t know. I did really question the new client who called at 1:00 a.m. to order business cards. Did they really expect any business to answer at that hour of the night? So I’ll be honest, there are times that I don’t answer my phone. I don’t answer when I’m in a meeting, when I’m on a crunch project that I need to finish and I don’t answer when I’m watching my son’s school performance. Then I’m an engaged in the moment.

I even schedule days off. Fun, adventure days to go and explore the world, recharge my creative batteries, take photos, people watch (great for a writer!) or just hang out at the movies with my son. I think those moments are important too. They help to make up for working until 1:00 a.m. and setting my alarm for 3:00 a.m. to finish a project that my client ‘forgot’ they needed until the day before a big presentation.

There are times it feels like walking a tightrope trying to keep it all in balance. I just end up weighing what’s important in my life and what has to be done right now. Like today. I have a list of projects to get done and my son really wants me to take a break and watch his dress rehearsal. I’m lucky. Lunch is now scheduled for 2:00 so that I can be there. Yeah, the lunch that I don’t normally take because I’m working. Like I said, it’s all about balance.

Do What You Love, Love What You Do

It seems pretty simple to say, “do what you love” and your business will grow but its not always possible to work at your dream job. So, if you can’t do what you love then try loving what you do. Look for what you love in your job and explore those avenues. It’s amazing what will happen to your creativity and your productivity.

I started my design career in a roundabout way. I’ve worked doing medical billing, collections, worked for social services, planning departments, and other interesting jobs along the way. My love of art and design was always there, I just had to find ways to use it. It was as my last ‘job’ as a word processor that I was able to transform that position from typing to design. Every time I produced a document I gave it that little extra something. It didn’t take long before that was noticed by my managers and then they were referring presentations to me for ‘dressing up’. Those presentations turned into brochures, flyers and much more. I studied hard and absorbed everything I could along the way.

Sometimes that’s what it takes. Working hard and showing what you can do. After a while I was the go-to person for web design, creative presentations and I was even speaking at seminars about marketing, design, and giving inspirational talks. I’d read the book “Fish” (if you haven’t read it I HIGHLY recommend that you do!) and had shared it with others where I was working. The sole message of that book is to find what you love in what you do – if they can sling fish at a fish market and love it then I could certainly love what I was doing. I took that message and gave some talks about how to do that, what the benefits are to you personally and to your company when you approach your job this way. I was even able to write for the company newsletter. I’ve been a writer for as long as I remember. None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t found something I loved in what I was doing.

And the rest is, as they say, history! I left the company to grow my own business which is going strong today. Now I get to help my clients show what they love about their business while expanding, reaching new clients, and keeping existing customers.

It’s pretty simple. Do what you love, love what you do.

Debby is a working writer, designer, artist, photographer and guest lecturer in Southern California. If you are interested in hiring her she is available for ghost blogging, strategic marketing planning, graphic and web design, photo shoots and more. You can email her at djohnson@debrongraphics.com

It’s All About Heart – You Get What You Put Into It

As the last day of January rolls around most of us are already looking towards February, and of course, Valentine’s day. Perhaps most of you think about those you love and celebrating but it made me think about heart. Having heart. Giving from the heart. Does giving from the heart make you think about charitable giving? That’s not a bad thing. If each of us gave to those in need what a wonderful world this would be.

But what I really meant was giving from the heart to your clients. Give them over and above what they are expecting. Try giving them exceptional customer service. I like to give my clients the marketing edge not just provide a graphic design service. It always amazes me when designers don’t realize that they are the marketing expert on a project. Why do you design a piece a specific way? To catch the consumer’s eye. To drive traffic to a website. To get clients. Why do you select the colors that you do when you design a piece? Every artist knows that certain colors elicit specific feelings and emotions. As a designer you’re capturing that and creating a mood or a feeling for the reader.

I study each piece that I design by following up with the client to see what kind of response they’ve had, how they utilized it and what other needs they might have. I believe in giving the whole marketing design package. I give from the heart. I want my clients to love my service, to love my designs and to love working with my company.

It’s all about heart…and loving what I do and knowing how my designs can impact the lives and business fortunes of others.

Debby is a working writer, designer, artist, photographer and guest lecturer in Southern California. If you are interested in hiring her she is available for ghost blogging, strategic marketing planning, graphic and web design, photo shoots and more. You can email her at djohnson@debrongraphics.com

Out With the Old, In With the New

It’s an expression that I’m sure you’ve heard before. You have probably even used it yourself a few times, “out with the old, in with the new”. Would you use that when referencing your clients? Of course not! But now, ask yourself this, do your clients feel that way? Or do they feel like the attention and time that you initially gave them has dwindled, and that you’re spending most of your time with new clients?

It’s a tricky thing to cultivate new clients while maintaining solid relationships with long-term clients.Sometimes the thrill of the chase is so alluring that you forget to properly handle the relationships that you’ve had for years. You cannot sacrifice the relationship of a long-term client that you’ve worked so hard to build for a new client who might bring something new to the table.

It goes back to that old adage, “treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself.” While you may not need to spend as much time taking care of what your established clients need, you still need to let them know that you are there for them. You need to be sure that they are ‘feeling the love’ too. The more clients you get the harder that is to do, but just as when you were starting out, each client is highly important to your business. Without each and every one of them you wouldn’t have a business.

Offer specials to your established clients. Do something nice and unique for them, letting them know that you appreciate their business. You’ll be so glad that you did. And so will they.

So What? It’s Just a Business Card

How is your business card working for you? Have you asked yourself that lately? What difference does it make, you’re probably asking yourself. It’s just a business card. It has my name, phone number and email address on it, what more does it need? After all, I’m using them so that business associates have that information at their fingertips. That’s what my business card is for.

Really? Wow. That’s what usually goes through my mind when I hear an established or prospective client tell me that. Right in their pocket they have one of the best marketing tools that they can readily carry with them and use, but so many people don’t. There are two basic mistakes that people make with their card design. They go so ultra-minimalistic that they don’t let anyone know what they really do or they travel to the other end of the spectrum and cram in so much information that you don’t even want to read the card. It makes your eyes hurt and your head spin. You just can’t concentrate on all of the information there.

Finding the middle ground is the key here. Let’s think about all of the billboards that you see when you drive along the freeway or highway. You’re moving along at a fairly fast speed and one of these mammoth-sized boards come up on the horizon. You only have a few seconds to see what it says before you’re moved on to the next board rising in the distance. I like to think of business cards the same way. I only have a few seconds to capture your interest, to let you know what my service or product is, and give you a way to contact me before the next business card is thrust in your face.

I design my cards with that in mind. I have to give you enough to be able to reach me. I have to interest you enough to want to reach me. And I have to be creative enough so that you will hold onto my card when the next business card comes your way. In addition, the cards have to adhere to the company brand. Do a drive-by test with your business card right now. Move it from left to right. Can you find the contact info easily? How does the logo stand out? Do you know what the person or business does? Was it pleasing to the eye? Are the fonts too hard to read or are they too small?

Hopefully your card passes the first test. Now, let’s take an even closer look at your card. Does it feel solid and professional? Can you run your fingers along the edge and feel those perforations? Yes, you know what I mean. The perforated business cards are okay in a pinch but they should only be used as a last resort to get you out of a major bind. Does the paper have a nice weight? Is the printing clear and vibrant? If you’re not pleased with any of these items you might want to consider getting your card printed by a professional printer or changing the printer that you use. The great news is that most design professionals have an affiliation with a printer that offers them a discount on high-end printing which helps to save you money and deliver an exceptional product all at the same time.

But wait, we’re not done with your card yet. Flip it over. What do you see? A large portion of you will see nothing. It’s blank. Why? I know that no matter which way my card is handed to the client, if it gets flipped over on their desk, stuck in their pocket backwards, no matter what, my client will be able to readily identify my card. In my case I have a gorgeous California sunset illustration that I drew from a photo along with my URL. This lets me showcase my illustration skills, marketing a service that the client might be interested in plus they have more incentive to hold on to the card. I love when I see my clients with my card stuck on their bulletin boards. If they love the picture they are much more likely to keep my card which means they will always remember me.

So, now we’ve talked about the appearance of your card. What about how you use it? Can I ask you a question? If you are one of the many people who only give their card to someone that you know wants to contact you – why? Why are you limiting your business and not reaching out to all of the people who need to reach you, who might be interested in what you have to tell them? Don’t hold on to your cards like you’ll never have any ever again, some rare precious commodity like gold. Let them go. Use them! Personally, I use my in all kinds of instances. Do you want to give another parent at school your phone number? Give them your card. Odds are they work or their spouse works or knows someone who works and might need your services. And I bet if you have retail items to sell – they buy stuff. Its a nice subtle way to let them know what you do and that you’re interested in their business. And don’t stop there. Give them to anyone you want to give your number too. Give them to someone who you can see will benefit from what you have to offer. There’s no value in being stingy with them.

Now that you’re convinced to hand them out, be a little bit sensible and don’t look desperate by dropping huge piles on grocery store shelves, gas station pumps, etc. Is this the person that you want to do business with? I want to come across as a professional so leaving them in the business card rack at the coffee shop, that’s good. Leaving them thrown all over the ground hoping someone picks them up. That’s bad.

Business cards. The biggest little tool in your arsenal. Put them to work for you.

Debby is a working writer, designer, artist, photographer and guest lecturer in Southern California. If you are interested in hiring her she is available for ghost blogging, strategic marketing planning, graphic and web design, photo shoots and more. You can email her at djohnson@debrongraphics.com

Thank Goodness for a System

I may have mentioned as this new year began that I have been working on a new system and organization for 2011. The best intentions seem to always be followed by chaos and client emergencies that derail my plans, turning my business into something different than I’d thought when I wrote out my business plan at the end of the previous year. Well, this year I was determined that would not happen to me. I’ve logged things in my calendar, like blogging, scheduling time and making that time important, not something that can be bumped and rearranged and finally forgotten falling by the wayside.

Thank goodness for this system or I’d be off-track already. The sad truth is I’m already running behind on what I’ve calendared, but the good news is the reason I’m behind is that the work is coming in quicker than I can keep up. Yeah, I’ll have to work double-time to catch up but that’s possible. I know what I have to do thanks to my trusty new work log. It’s easy to keep up and definitely keeping me on track.

And my calendar? Oh, my gosh! Its my new best friend. I can see that I need to make sure I check it before I schedule any meeting or event. It can be overwhelming to look at the week in advance and realize that there just might not be a free second for much of anything else but the good news is I can also see at a glance what needs to be done, what my client’s needs are and I am so much more proactive with marketing ideas for them.

Letting history repeat itself is usually looked at with disdain. Not for me this year! I’m evaluating what works and I’m certainly going to repeat it. That’s actually the advice I give my clients as well and is the thing they overlook and don’t maintain during the year.

Tracking their marketing campaigns, how many people responded and how many they converted to customers. I had someone tell me just the other day that the campaigns we ran last year packed their business but “they didn’t work as we didn’t retain that many of them.” When I suggested that the campaigns fulfilled their function and might be a good idea for us to look at their closing techniques they looked at me blankly. “But the marketing didn’t work,” they repeated. Learning to evaluate what works and what doesn’t can be a challenge. Be honest with yourself if its not the marketing collateral but something else within your business.

The history that you want to repeat is what works. I’m so lucky since I get to see lots of campaigns, for all kinds of different business types. What works for a pest control company will work for a karate dojo, you’ve just got to change the message, the call to action, but the campaign basics are still the same.

Like blogging – it works across all types of businesses and business models. Are you blogging for your business? It works. You just have to be consistent. Interested in having a regular blog and don’t have time. Let me know. I’m happy to be your ghost blogger.

Debby is a working writer, designer, artist, photographer and guest lecturer in Southern California. If you are interested in hiring her she is available for ghost blogging, strategic marketing planning, graphic and web design, photo shoots and more. You can email her at djohnson@debrongraphics.com

Take Stock of Your Photos

Yay, its a new year and now everyone is focused on “out with the old and in with the new”, right? This is a great time to look at your company’s brand, to see how well your maintaining it and review your collateral material. How often have you sat in a meeting and just as you hand out a brochure you glance down at it realizing the second that it leaves your hand the information is old and stale? I know, you’d rather not admit it but it happens to everyone.

So, while you’re reviewing your collateral material why not also take a good, long look at the photos that you’re using on your brochures, flyers and web site? Chances are you’ve grabbed some stock photo off of a cd or purchased it from a web site (PLEASE don’t steal them off line -that’s a WHOLE other story!) and just had them strategically dropped into the design. But do your photos reflect your company? Are they the same photos that you’d find on similar materials in other companies in your city? Are they working for you? Do they make your company stand out? After all, you know the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

Why are you even using stock photos, anyway? Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against stock photos and even use them in some instances. I just don’t use them all the time.

There are so many talented photographers available that its worth a little extra money to take good quality photographs of your business location, of your actual employees in the workplace to represent your company. Have you ever considered using a working action shot of the CEO or owner of your company? I love that so much more than a standard head shot. Everyone’s got a head shot, I want to see the guy or girl with their sleeves rolled up working away.

Get the picture? No, really, get the picture! You’ll be so glad that you did.

Debby is a working writer, designer, artist, photographer and guest lecturer in Southern California. If you are interested in hiring her she is available for ghost blogging, strategic marketing planning, graphic and web design, photo shoots and more. You can email her at djohnson@debrongraphics.com

New Beginnings – Plan Your Year

2011. A new year and new resolutions that won’t be kept. I have to say, I think at this point in time resolutions are really over-rated. I’m not resolving to do anything at all this year. Shocked? Don’t be.

While I’m not making resolutions what I am making are both personal promises to myself and a concrete business plan that I can really follow throughout the year. One of my first promises to myself was to step up my business and add a few more things to my plate. I know that initially concerned a few people in my life who were probably wondering where that would leave time for them. However the good, no the GREAT news is that with my business plan in place I’ll be taking more control over my time and my life and adding more hours essentially into my day.

I am so excited to be able to do this. The reigning post-it queen I am making a huge effort to work more efficiently by incorporating more digital lists (I do love several note apps I have on my phone and iPad for their new usefulness in my life) as well as making plans for every month in advance. As an example, I have a list of blog topics by week for the entire next year. Yes, that means I’m going to blog at least once a week on a consistent basis and share more marketing and design tips and tricks but the better news is that I won’t waste time while I ponder which idea to write about and wonder, “did I just write about that recently?” at which point I’m forced to go back and re-read all of my blogs for a while, killing whole hours in my day. Plus, and here’s a big plus, I can still blog spontaneous topics on other days of the week. Impulsively blogging is so much fun and I can still do it but now I WILL blog regularly. Wish you could see my smiling face! : )

Maybe even more exciting to me are the business plans that I’ve written for clients. Yay! We have a whole year of ideas that we can utilize to move their businesses forward. But you know what else we have? We have a plan…deadlines to get things off to print well ahead of an upcoming trade show. We have less stress in my life because all I have to do is look at the calendar and remind them about the project or be proactive and design it sending them off a draft that’s ready early. I positively love this because that just put me back into control in my life, gave me hope of more than one weekend off a year and extra hours into my day. Deb is a happy designer!

If you need help creating your marketing design plan for the year, let me know. I now have plenty of ‘extra’ time to help you with your work and reduce the stress in your life. You can email me at djohnson@debrongraphics.com.

So, I’ve been thinking…

I realized something as I got my year-end paperwork finished up, reviewed my invoices, both paid and outstanding, and just generally looked at the year as a whole. I spend a lot of time giving my clients marketing advice, helping them to market smarter and more efficiently but I don’t do the same thing for my business.

That always gets the leftover time that I have. Whatever energy and ideas are left at the end of a day for a week, that’s what flows into my business. Now, that’s not necessarily bad, as it means I don’t have that much time for my own marketing because I’m busy, which is the point of marketing anyway. But as I was evaluating a client’s business practices and building a 2011 marketing strategies plan for them I realized that taking the time to do that for myself would actually save me time in the long run, help me keep on track, working more efficiently and putting more fun time into my life. That seemed like a good idea.

So, no marketing resolutions this year. Only promises that I keep to myself and goals that I set for my business. The first goal? Develop my own strategic marketing plan. I’ll know every month what my marketing strategies are, my email campaigns will be scheduled and go out on time, I’ll keep in closer contact with my customers by being proactive and my evenings and weekends just might be empty enough to devote more time to my other creative pursuits.

I’ve joked about putting more hours in my day, well, this really does. Interested in a strategic marketing plan for your own business let me know. I’ll be glad to help you as well.

You can email me at djohnson@debrongraphics.com

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