Small Business Tip – Make sure your creative elements work hard for you.

It’s hard not to fall in love with a design that reflects you or your style, after all you have given the designer, lots of input and visibility, maybe even going so far as to give them the design, so they know exactly what “floats your boat”. Their goal is to sell you something, and move on to the next customer. You and your business have to live with it. So before, you fall in love with a design whether it’s a logo or a package design, a website or an ad, its important to remember its about the target customer not you. That doesn’t mean you can’t really like it, what it means is – the design has a job to do for your business and product and you need to be sure it does it’s job. You want unique but not too way out there solution. What ever you select needs to work and work hard for you.

So what can you do to be sure? There is never a “right” answer, but there are informed and reasonably sure ways to feel more comfortable with the solution. I have done all of these for various companies and products. Sometimes there is a really big surprise – especially when you realize you don’t have a unique position or look like everybody else. The key is to find out early before you send the really big bucks producing the packaging or launching the product.

Here are some simple and inexpensive ways to quickly check to see if you might have a problem. Anyone can do these and should:

Create a logo board.
Take a group of other companies logo’s (competitors, channel, market leaders) and randomly place them on a blank page (as much as I hate it, the is a good design use for Powerpoint) and look at it. Add your logo. Does yours standout? Is it unique, does look like part of the community, or is it cookie cutter? Do you look big or small or like a player? Now print it out, tape it on a wall and look at it frequently. Do you still like it?

Create Positioning or Brand Statement Matrix.
Do a little research, most companies have a description of what they do on their website. Remove the company names or anything specifically identifying and place them side by side (I would do this with your key competitors) can you tell who is who? Now add yours to the mix and see if your staff or trusted advisors can figure out who they are. This is a very interesting exercise.

Package Design Reality Test.
A package concept or prototype can look very compelling when it is standing alone with no distractions, but that generally isn’t the selling environment. Take your prototype design into the real environment, put it on a shelf with its competition and see if it can stand on its own. I have done this in many retail locations, often if you just let someone know what you are doing, don’t do it during busy times or be disruptive it’s very easy to do. Stand back like you are shopping and scan the shelf does it stand out, how does it compare to the competitive options, does the color work, what about shape or materials, does the logo work, does it communicate at a glance what it is.

A Competitive audit.
Like you did with the logo’s create a competitive website board. Capture the home page of your key competitors or print them out. What are the key messages, key colors and design style? This doesn’t mean that you have to look exactly like them. You also don’t want to frighten the customer but being too in your face or cute if that isn’t your market. Look at the navigation and structure, you don’t have to copy them, but you also don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Talk to the retailers.
This is always fun. What packages do they like, could be a simple as it scan well or is easy to shelf. Which ones are problematic – spoilage, aging, confusing. Did you know that there can be limits on the number of characters in a name for inventory databases? We didn’t until after the fact. If only we had floated the name past a couple of our to our major distributors. Also, colors can be tricky – yellow packaging tends to fade in direct sunlight…another lesson learned.

Remember it’s really nice if you love your logo or design, but more important does it work.

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Is your Logo on the mark or does it miss?

A logo often commemorates the birth of a company – at least the visual aspect of it. In truth, a logo should come after a series of strategic decisions made. Like who you are, what your business is, what you represent.  So where are some tips and suggestions to help get you started.
Keep it Simple
A logo should be simple, communicate quickly and be memorable.  It’s the most simplified view your business. Simplicity isn’t always an easy thing to achieve, as you don’t want your logo to appear too boring or conservative, this is where a graphic designer can help.
Think Strategically
The life of your logo should be considered when looking at design options.  You are going to use it generally for years.
Make it Memorable
A great logo design generally has simple lines, easy to identify or recall.
It Should be Relevant
A good logo should work hard for your business and relate to your business in some shape or form.
Choose your Colors Carefully
Colors can play a very important role in logo design and for your business and your target market. Colors can convey energy, stability or trends. Keep the colors down to two or three.
Keep it Unique
Be sure you look also look at marks from competitors and within the industry to avoid any confusion or trademark infringement.
Check Usage
Your logo will be used across a wide variety of marketing materials.  While a version might look good on a computer screen, check and see how it looks in black and white or reduced to a 1/4 of an inch. Remember you will use it on t-shirts, coffee mugs, signs, products and anything associated with your business.

Logo design is a lot of fun, but having a graphic designer or firm design it for you can often lead to a more successful result.  Remember the logo needs to work.

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No Marketing Plan? What to do in the first 30 days.

Even without taking Marketing 101, most business people know that they should have a marketing plan BEFORE they begin designing their marketing activities, promotions and materials. I actually thing the planning activities are the best part. A world of possibilities is open and their are a lot of questions to be answered. It seems that many companies labor over what their websites should say, or do, what type of brochure they’re going to design, or what events they should attend. Maybe you enjoy the chaos and dollars that are wasted, but it also means you do less and get less done. It’s so very simple – once a marketing plan is developed, the solution to what to do about websites, direct mail, lead generation, advertising, events, etc. will become obvious, and the implementation much easier—not to mention much more effective.
Unfortunately, we don’t always get what we want. If your business does not have a minimum of one month to develop a Marketing Plan before working on some marketing activity, make sure you have these four things in the works before you head down any path of implementation.

    1. Get consensus from management on your positioning and draft a 25, 50, 100 word version of that position. Then use this copy in everything you produce.
    2. Have at least a draft of a brand style guide that documents logo, color, and font usage, and follow it religiously.
    3. Define your target audience, and make sure your tactical plans meet THEIR needs.
    4. And get started on your marketing plan!

      Posted in Marketing Plan, Online Marketing, Strategy | Tagged | Leave a comment

      10 Ways to tell if your Website Sucks

      I found this in a file, I am not sure who the originator is, but I updated it and it seems to apply as much as it did 2009. So check your website against the list.

      10. You have a flash animation on the wonderfulness of you that the visitor has to sit through before they can figure out if you’ve got what they want.

      9. You haven’t updated your website since 2007 and you must be proud of it since you proudly display the copyright or last updated 2007).

      8. Nobody has a clue what your company does [except maybe your brother-in-law who designed the site for $50 and some wine coolers] because all the relevant content is below the fold.

      7. There is no contact form or information on anyone in your company. You must not want anyone to contact you.

      6. Your navigation is poor or inconsistent or worse is at the bottom of the page or way over in the right hand corner.

      5. You have bad elevator music that starts playing automatically. What are you thinking. First of all it scares the begeezous out of people. Then all they want to do is make it stop!

      4. You have with all kinds incredible huge graphics and decorative fonts that are pretty … but it doesn’t do anything to support your business goals and make a connection with your visitors.

      3. Your site has automatic pop-up windows on the home page with some offer, annoying the heck out of your visitors and distract them why they were actually coming to your site … trust me – they are not gonna come back!

      2. You have a blog that is filled with company event news just cut and pasted from a recent press release, no thought leadership, no observations, no value…which leads me to ask why?

      And the number one reason why your web site sucks is …

      1. Right, you still don’t have one.  Thousands of people are searching for your business or a company like yours every day. If you’re don’t have an online presence, they’ll go somewhere else.

      Posted in B2B Website Strategy, Online Marketing, Strategy, Website Design | Leave a comment

      Creating a solid foundation for your marketing strategy

      I can’t say enough about the importance of developing a marketing strategy before executing tactics. Below is the foundation knowledge you must know to develop a powerful strategy:

      Define your product or service: How is your product or service packaged? What is it that your customers are really buying?

      Identify your target market: You don’t have the time or money to market to everyone or anybody. Who is your ideal customer? Do you have enough information to create target customer persona’s?

      Know your competition: Even if there are no direct competitors for your service, there is always competition of some kind. Something besides your product is competing for the potential customers money. What is it and why? What is your competitive advantage or unique selling proposition?

      Identify your Niche: Is there a market segment that is not currently being served or is not being served well? What will it take for you own it?

      Build awareness: Generally prospects will have to be exposed to your message 5 to 15 times before it is top of mind. You must stay in front of your clients consistently, with consistent messaging, if they are going to consider your product when that need arises.

      Establish credibility: Potential customers must trust that you will deliver what you say you will. Often you need to give them the opportunity to “sample”, “touch”, or “taste” the product in some way.

      Be Consistent: In every way and in everything you do. This includes the look of your collateral materials, the message you deliver, the level of customer service, and the quality of the product.

      Maintain Focus: Focus allows for more effective utilization of the scarce resources of time and money. When you promote a single product to the right narrowly defined target market will bring more success.

      Posted in B2B Website Strategy, Online Marketing, Strategy | Leave a comment