Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Business Cards... Do We Still Need Them?

For so many years a business card was a no-brainer. Everyone and everyone wanted one, and used them all the time. Handing them here and there, pinning them to those neighborhood bulletin boards. That little piece of card stock with your name and phone number was exchanged during introductions, enclosed in envelopes to associates, inserted in your presentation folder and left on the desks of colleagues.

But like many things that used to be... trends are changing. Google the phrase: "are business cards still relevant" and lots of articles come up with differing opinions. The subject has become controversial.

With digital file exchanges, email signatures and smart phones that can connect with each other, does a 3.5' x 2" piece of stiff paper mean anything anymore? 

I'd like to think that it does, and I think lots of other people do too.

There are many reasons that I like to exchange business cards with my colleagues.  One of the big things for me: seeing a name in print and associating that name to the face in front of me helps me remember that person more easily.

Also - as a designer I like to examine the look and feel of a card and allow it to become part of my first impression.  A quick look at a card can give me some initial insight... Corporate or creative? Startup or Established? Employee or executive?  Funky or Traditional?

And if the card is super cool, beautifully designed, humorous or made with atypical materials, it can tell me even more, and can be a great conversation starter. Even if it's: "day glo orange is an interesting choice - how did you settle on that?" or "wow... where did you have these steel cards manufactured?"

But far and away the strongest argument I have for keeping business cards "a thing" is personal contact.

In this digital world we live in, that simple exchange, person to person while looking into another set of eyes, is so much more valuable than diddling around with a smart phone to add new digits into my contacts.

I say, print more rectangles!  Keep asking for business cards and keep sharing your own.

No matter how far along we get with the digital exchange of information - I'd like to think that we will not soon lose the ability to maintain those simplest of human connections in business.






Friday, March 3, 2017

How are birds like designers?

I walk one of our local conservation properties in the morning. It is old farmland with fields, wetlands and woods preserved for eternity. The landscape is a rich habitat for plants, birds and animals.

It affords nature freaks like me, a (usually) quiet place to walk, birdwatch and otherwise bask in the tranquility and peace that is found within a natural environment.

COLOR

Every season there is something different to see. In early Spring the red-winged blackbirds are vibrant with their stunning carmine red epaulets. They flit about strutting their stuff, establishing territories in their little part of the wetlands. Like designers, red winged blackbirds know how to use color.

That flash of red is unmatched in its brightness, you can see these guys showing off from a great distance. Like a stop sign, those shoulders flashing red acts as a warning to other males to keep their distance.

Birds dance around and flash their feathers to attract mates, ward off enemies and communicate lots of complex messages that we have only really begun to understand. In combination with song these messages are impossible to miss, and enjoyable to witness. As designers we use colors to communicate messages all the time too. The right color choice can enhance a successful campaign, but a wrong color choice can send really mixed messages.

RESOURCES

Sometimes as a designer I am asked to deliver despite some challenges... I have to make the most of what I have. Sometimes that is a limited budget, or a not so great logo that someone else designed, it can be difficult sometimes. But designers are problem solvers and we can usually find a solution no matter the obstacles put in our way.

Birds are also very resourceful. Particularly when it comes to nest building. Their instincts tell them to use the materials that are near the nesting site, twigs, or mud or fur or even spiders webs. Sometimes those things are tough to find, and when faced with that, they scavenge to find what will work instead to build their specific style of nests. Robins are especially good at that.

DEADLINES

Just like designers, birds also face very stiff deadlines.

Up here in the north, there are only a few short months to find a mate, nest and bring up a proper brood or two of chicks. Which is of course, their main job in life.

The clock ticks on these guys and that internal deadline motivates them every waking hour.

Carrying on the bloodline is important work, and they stop at nothing to ensure that they are successful. If they fail they start again, knowing that the end game is the most important thing they have to think about.

And just like us, if they miss that deadline... it could mean dire consequences.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The color green. It means so many things.

Color. We are surrounded by it every day. And it affects us in ways that we don’t even realize.  Color evokes emotion, triggers memories, sets a mood, and makes a statement. We respond to color without even knowing it.

Artists, designers and marketing professionals know this. We use colors to tug at your emotions. We can soothe, excite, and we even make you hungry. Manipulative? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely.

As a designer and an artist, I find color irresistible and fascinating. 

Pantone named “Greenery 15-03043” the color of the year. It's an energetic yellow based green that feels fresh and new. I love the color that they chose, it's one I gravitate towards in my work fairly often.

I love green in most of its various forms, but I wonder if lately it has been suffering a bit from overuse. And this worries me.

Green has become a color with far more meaning than the hue it vibrates.


Green carries with it a lot of responsibility. To “be green” now means to be a good steward of the earth, or at least to try to be. The supermarket and big box stores are full of green these days and when we see green on a package or advertisement, our brain’s tell us that generally, we are looking at something eco-friendly, fresh, natural or healthy.

But is green being used so much that it is beginning to become invisible? Are we over saturating the marketplace with green? 


Historically green has lots of other meanings that we seem to overlooked today. Green has been used to represent envy, money and greed. And ironically, green has been used to represent polar opposites: fertility, renewal, immaturity, illness and health – at the same time.

There are a lot of contradictions here I know, but think about the shades of green out there. They can be bright and vital, or sickly gaunt and leering. They can be deep and rich, or subtle and soft, dull and mute, or jarringly bright.

So much can be done with green, but lately most uses seem to be that middle bright, springy green, similar to the Pantone color of the year.

I wonder if people are still seeing and responding to it as much as they would if it wasn't being used as often. 


Today, we are drawn toward freshness, earthiness and eco-friendliness with good reason. And the shades of green chosen seem much more positive these days than when it was used to denote greed and envy.

I think its a good turn of events really, unless by using it we dilute its meaning. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Don't forget the SOCIAL part of Social Media

Articles about social media strategy are everywhere. Read any one of them and you can get either really pumped to get a social media campaign going for your business or totally overwhelmed about how to make it happen.

Like anything else in marketing – before embarking on any campaign, there are a lot of things to consider. With social media in particular there are some real risks if you miscalculate your approach or under estimate your need for man hours to make it successful.

The power of social media is the SOCIAL component. This sounds like a no-brainer, but its something that a lot of companies forget.

For many companies, the goal of social media should really be to interact with your audience in a meaningful way that strengthens your brand and builds awareness and trust.

Creating a social media campaign that provides value to your audience is key. And you want to post about things they are interested in!

Don’t build your campaign around posts that talk only about your business and the spiffy things you do… find or create other content that your audience and fans will find valuable.

Some examples:
  • Share articles that relate to your industry
  • Create helpful info-graphics that can be shared easily
  • Share images that speak to your brand and mission
  • Share quotes from others in the industry, from history or from members of your team that work to reinforce your mission
When you do talk about your business, use social media to showcase your company as trusted experts in your industry. Don't just spout about your awards, product launches and promotions.
  • If you sell a product, think about sharing other related products that might appeal to the same customers. 
  • If you make a product, think about sharing in progress images or videos that really show customers what it takes to get that product to market.
  • Position your company and its employees and principles as experts, share their knowledge via blog posts, articles and thought leadership pieces. 
  • And of course share your press releases, share great reviews, and awards that that you have received – but make sure that you have a balance of content types

Your results may vary depending on your industry and your audience but never forget that social media needs to be reciprocal in order to work well.

When someone comments, respond or say thank you. And do it within a reasonable amount of time – let them know you are paying attention, and appreciate their time.

Pose questions, INTERACT make it a meaningful as you can. Have someone on staff who understands the media and has the time to monitor the account(s).

And if you really get successful with it, think about investing in a social media management application (Like Hootsuite, Buffer or SproutSocial , which can help immensely with keeping everything organized.

Whatever you do… have a plan, stick to it and never leave your fans hanging. If they like what you have to offer, they will reward you with likes, comments and shares, making your reach broader with every click.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

It is time to go mobile.

Is Your Website Giving Mobile Users What they Need? 

Today, 68% of American adults own a mobile device1 If your website is not optimized for those mobile users, you may be making it really easy for them to leave your website and move on to another one, more suited to mobile.


Everywhere we go people of all ages are thumbing through their portable, glowing screens – checking into locations, making reservations, comparing prices, doing their banking, reading reviews, and chatting with friends. People expect to do more and more online every day, and increasingly on the go on their devices. 

To some people, their mini computers have become, almost a part of them. They don't put them down and they expect their experience on the run to be fun and frustration free.  

The trouble is, not every website can live up to that kind of expectation. Many have not adapted to the mobile audience. Some websites are tough to browse on a little screen, others load slowly, and worse still are websites that use outdated and incompatible technology such as Flash, which Apple device users cant see at all.

In 2012 it was estimated that nearly half of the homes in America own Apple Products. 2  If your website uses Flash, none of those mobile apple users can see your content.

In 2015, google began to penalize websites that are not including mobile friendly code.3  This means that if your website is not optimized for mobile access, your site rankings on google could be impacted, and that is simply bad news if you are trying to compete online. Its hard enough to get good placement, without being deliberately pushed down the list. 

So how do you know if your site is mobile friendly?


If you dont know whether or not your website is optimized for mobile, pull out your iPhone or Android and pull it up. See what it looks like.

Is it easy to read? Is it easy to find links to click? Do you see mobile navigation? Can you easily see the contact information or the contact us button?  Are you comfortable scrolling through the content without feeling the urge to enlarge the screen or font size?

If so - hooray! Your website might already be working to give that mobile audience a great experience. You still might be able to do more, even though you are off to a great start.  You should make a call to your web developer to see what they may have done "behind the scenes" for mobile as well. 

On the other hand, if you need to squint, pinch, get frustrated trying to navigate or simply cant get things to work, you need to take a closer look, your website might not be doing enough for your mobile audience.

What can you do if your website isnt mobile friendly?

There are options available to you and they don't have to be overwhelming.

They can be as complex as creating a second stand alone mobile website or redesigning your website to accommodate mobile, to less complex options such as reworking your existing website to work within a mobile / responsive format. 

Whichever option you choose, you should move your website toward mobile. It is time. 

Ignoring the growing mobile audience can seriously impact your business, and the success of your marketing campaigns both on and offline. 

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For more help with getting your mobile site ready give us a call, we are happy to take a look at your existing website and discuss your options with you for free!  603-548-3936



1.      www.pewinternet.com 10/29/2015 Technology Device Ownership:2015.
2.      www.usatoday.com 3/28/2012 Half of U.S. homes own Apple Products.
3.      www.wsj,com 4/24/2015 Google Gives a Boost to Mobile-Friendly Sites