How to Write Copy that Sells

“The customer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything.” – David Ogilvy The art of writing good copy is one that few do well. It’s a challenge to write content that is not only engaging, but that boosts sales as well. The good news is that with a little hard work and focus, you can create stellar content for your business that will boost sales. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Focus on one simple goal

To write really effective copy, you’ve got to focus your efforts. What action is it that you want your reader to take? Do you want them to sign up for your email list?   Do you want them to download a free trial? Do you want them to make a purchase?   Focusing your copywriting efforts on achieving that one goal will help add clarity to your efforts. The structure, language and action items can all be tailored to your purpose when you focus on one goal, which means that the chances of success will also increase.

Don’t bury the lead

Customers aren’t going to wait around for you to tell them why they should buy – you need to lead with the good stuff. Hook them from the beginning with the best things about your product and then once you’ve got them hooked, you can get into all the details. Don’t talk down to your customers No one likes the feeling of being patronized, and taking a “we know best” tone is insulting to customers and will turn them off in a heartbeat. Assume that your customer has the intelligence to understand what you’re selling. And if you are selling a product that actually is complex and a bit difficult to grasp, there are ways to educate people through your content without treating them like they are children.

Know who your target customer is

It’s so important when you are writing sales content, that you know who you are writing for. The tone, language and structure you use could vary widely based on who you’re writing for. For example, if you have a product aimed at the teen girl market, the language, graphics and content you present will be dramatically different than if you’re trying to sell something to an upper-class middle aged man. Knowing who your customer will make your content better and your sales will show it.

Understand the needs of your customer

Once you know who your target customer is, understanding what it is that your customer actually wants or needs the next step in crafting solid content. When you can identify what the need is, it becomes much easier to create content that speaks to your customers. Similar to setting your primary goal, you’re going to want to focus your efforts here. While it may be tempting to show that your product can address a wide variety of needs, you’re going to be more successful if you can show how your product takes care of the primary need of your customer.

Explain the benefits

This may seem like common-sense advice, but focusing on the benefits of a product rather than the features can be a challenge. It goes back to understanding the needs of your customer. You can run ads, create brochures and design entire websites to explain the benefits of your product, but if you don’t tell the customer how it’s going to improve their life, you’re never going to get the sale. When creating your sales content, keep the customer front and center in your mind and ask yourself, “what will my product do for you?”

Make it a conversation, not a presentation

We all remember those teachers and professors who would stand at the front of the classroom and read straight from the textbook. That type of presentation is incredibly boring and more likely to turn customers off than it is to make a sale. When creating content for sales, try to make it a conversation rather than a presentation. If it helps, bring someone else in the room to talk through the content and take some notes. How you phrase things verbally will likely sound much more relaxed than if you were to try and write it out.

Edit aggressively

Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” and when it comes to writing good sales content, you should make da Vinci’s phrase you personal motto. The first draft of any piece of content that you write is exactly that – a first draft. Take the time to really comb through your content and remove anything that doesn’t support your main goal or isn’t targeted at your customer. Don’t be shy about editing – the simpler your message, the easier it will be for customers to understand.

Ask for the sale

Growing up in the retail business, one of the first things I learned was that if you do your job, asking for the sale should be the easiest thing in the world. The same thing goes for your content – if you’ve done your job, asking for an email signup or a free trial download or a sale at the end of it should be feel incredibly natural. Use action words to spell out clearly what you want your customer to do and then make it incredibly easy for them to complete the process. Finally, remember that content is important. In this day and age, crafting good content should be at the foundation of any business. Invest time and energy into getting your sales content right and it’ll have a direct impact on your bottom line.

10 Business Lessons from Swimming in the Shark Tank

If you’ve seen the ABC hit TV show, Shark Tank, then you are already familiar with the premise. For those who have not experienced the phenomenon, the short version is that entrepreneurs pitch their business to a group of highly successful potential investors in the hopes of exchanging some equity for capitol. For anyone involved in business, it’s fascinating to watch the negotiation process take place and the business insights offered by the Sharks are pure gold. Many of the insights offered by the Sharks pertain directly to pitching your business for investors, but there is quite a lot that you learn about business in general as well. One of the recurring themes that you see is that while every business starts out small, there are a number of key factors that separate the success stories from the flops. Here are ten killer business lessons from swimming in the Shark Tank: 1.Differentiation = Domination One of the questions most often asked by the sharks is, “What is so special about your product that I couldn’t just do it myself?” And that question gets right to the heart of what makes one business a dominant force while another company falls flat. If you want your business to truly succeed, you’ve got to offer consumers something unique. If you’re just another face in the crowd selling the same products at the same price, then it’s just more noise in the marketplace and your business is never going to be a raving success. The best position to be in is one where you’ve invented a completely new product or process where you hold a patent, but even if that isn’t the case, you can still take steps to differentiate yourself. Really look at your business and at your competition and think about what makes you stand out. Is it that you provide a level of service that none of your competitors can offer? Do you offer a higher quality product than anyone else? Or do you have better prices? Whatever your differentiating factor is, once you find it, that should be your complete focus.

2. Be prepared

Being prepared isn’t just good advice for the Shark Tank, it’s good advice for life. Time and time again, entrepreneurs step into the Shark Tank and fail to get the deal because they weren’t fully prepared. Either the presentation is weak, or the entrepreneur is completely thrown by a question or comment from one of the sharks, or sadly, the entrepreneur just gives off the appearance that his or her heart is not in it 100%. Whatever the situation, the common thread is that a failure to prepare is tantamount to preparing to fail. The most successful Shark Tank stories all begin with an entrepreneur with a solid product and an even more solid plan. They’ve got a roadmap for where they want to take the business and have planned for success. For your business to realize the kind of success that you dream about, you’ve got to know how you’re going to get there. Take the time to craft a well-designed plan from the start, and you’ll be miles ahead of your competition.

3. Know your numbers

One of the most painful things to watch on Shark Tank is when an entrepreneur is asked some basic questions about the numbers of their business and they just flounder. You can see the stress creep over them – they start sweating, they get a little twitchy and the words coming out of their mouths make no sense. If you want to succeed in business, you have got to know your numbers. No matter what type of business, whether or not you went to business school or how large the business is, at the end of the day, understanding key things like profit margin, customer retention, website visits and conversion will play a major role in how successful your business ultimately is. Data and analytics may seem overwhelming if you don’t have a business background, but understanding your key metrics tells you where you are today and it helps define your goals for the future. If numbers aren’t a strong suit for you – find someone who can mentor you on that side of the business or invest in a class or some good business books. You’ll be a better business owner for it.

4. Learn how to sell

In the Shark Tank, every entrepreneur is trying to sell two things: their business or idea and themselves. When you watch the show, you can see a clear distinction between the guys who know how to sell and the ones who don’t. There are some key fundamentals that all the great sales guys have in common:
  • They know who their target customer is and have a plan in place to capture that market
  • They have stellar product packaging and branding
  • They sell the benefits of the product, not just the features
Focusing on those three things can be enough to set you apart and get that sale and at the end of the day, the sales are what keeps a business going.

5. Tell your story

One of the really cool things about Shark Tank is that you get to see not only how an entrepreneur pitches their business, but you also get to hear the back stories. You get to see what inspired a new invention, or how a family worked for years out of their garage to get a business off the ground and it’s incredibly powerful. Your own story is powerful too and making that story a part of your brand narrative makes your business more interesting and more relatable. Sharing the origins of your business gives it a personal touch that will draw customers in and make them intensely loyal.

6. Who you know matters as much as what you know

When a company lands a deal on Shark Tank, they get two incredibly valuable things: 1) Capital to grow their business and 2) An investor with a massive business network. For many of the small businesses that appear on the show, landing a deal means gaining access to retailers or marketing channels that wouldn’t have even thought about taking a meeting with them previously. The point is, who you know in business is just as important as what you know. Take the time to get to know other small business owners, get involved in your local community and don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with people at events. Networking is an important part of creating a successful business and you never know where your next sale or lead is going to come from.

7. Don’t let good advice go to waste

Even though the sharks on Shark Tank have incredibly diverse backgrounds, the one thing that they all have in common is that they have been incredibly successful in the business world. Each shark has had the unique experience of taking a business from just an idea to a massive, multi-million dollar success. Needless to say, advice from such successful sources should be taken seriously. Now a lot of people hand out business advice like it’s going out of style, but if you have the good fortune to get some input from someone who is successful, well-respected and well-intentioned, do yourself a favor and just listen. Chances are, the advice you get could save you a lot of time and money.

8. Keep your ego in check

A common theme on Shark Tank is the entrepreneur who doesn’t know how to listen. They waltz into the Shark Tank with the greatest invention known to man and get extremely defensive whenever any shark questions anything about their product. On the show, these entrepreneurs are usually eviscerated verbally before they are quickly shown the door. In real life, failure to keep your ego in check could mean you losing it all. It’s a difficult line to walk because while you have to believe in your product 100%, you can’t be so stubborn that you can’t change or adapt when the situation calls for it. So believe in your business, but keep in mind that you may not know everything.

9. Get your hustle on

As much as we’d like it to be true, a business doesn’t just magically grow on it’s own – it takes everything you’ve got to build a strong, successful business. On Shark Tank, you can see a clear distinction between the entrepreneurs who are putting everything into their business and the ones who are just doing it as a “hobby business”. The entrepreneurs who are really in it to win it exude passion for their company. You can see that they live it and breathe it every moment of every day and they are hustling for every lead, every sale and every opportunity. If you want your business to succeed, you’ve got to work at it every day.

10. Stay hungry

One of the really cool things about Shark Tank is that while all of the sharks are incredibly successful, you can see that they each still have a hunger for success. They all want to make more money and help build the next great American company. Every business is going to have ups and downs, but maintaining a hunger for success will keep you moving forward through every stage. It’s that passion for success that will sustain even if things don’t always work out according to plan.  Are you hungry?  If not, find something that will give you the motivation that you need to succeed.

How to Create a Consistent Brand in 3 Easy Steps

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times – the key to great branding is consistency. You’ll see this in virtually every textbook, blog post and eBook about branding and it’s not wrong. Offering up a consistent image for your brand directly correlates to the level of success you’ll be able to achieve. You might think, “Ok, how hard can it be to use the same logo and fonts and colors in my marketing?” And while your logo, font and color choices are all vitally important in maintaining a consistent brand image, your brand is so much more than what it looks like in an advertisement. To offer up a truly consistent brand image and build your business, here are three things you should focus on:

Really understanding your brand position

Your brand position helps explain who you are as a company and who you want to sell to. A good brand position helps establish where you fall in the marketplace and how you are different from your competitors and understanding your brand position will help set the tone for all your marketing and branding. Still not clear on what your brand position is? Take a look at these questions to help clarify:
  • Who are my customers or who do I want my customers to be?
  • What do you want your brand to be known for?
  • What do you do better or different from your competition?
  • How would I describe my brand’s personality?
When you understand what you brand position is, it becomes much easier to focus your marketing efforts.

Establish your brand image

Once you’ve established your brand position, work on cementing an image for your brand. Crafting a brand image is hard work and will definitely include the following:
  • Creating a killer logo
  • Choosing a font or set of fonts to use in all marketing, social media and branding
  • Choosing a color palette to work
You’ll also want to think about the type of imagery you’ll use in your marketing and branding pieces. Are you going to include lifestyle shots with people using your product? Or is a clean, modern look without people a better fit? If your logo features a character or animal, you may even want to think about making that a focal point of your branding. Even if your logo doesn’t feature a character or animal, a type of company mascot that embodies the personality of your company can be an easy way to create a consistent brand image.

Articulate your brand standards and stick to them

Once you establish your brand position and your brand image, don’t be content to let your ideas just float around in your brain. Commit those branding ideas to paper so that you have something tangible to draw from. Better yet, put together a simple brand standard guide, which outlines the following:
  • What your logo looks like
  • Any variations of your logo (alternate colors and layouts)
  • How your logo should be used
  • Any colors that are important for your brand
  • Any fonts that are important for your brand
  • Any brand images, artwork, or mascot
  • Specifics for how your company name should be printed (lowercase vs. uppercase)
If you have a specific perspective on what type of imagery should be used, a description or even examples would be helpful to include. Don’t forget that Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a brand. Building a strong, recognizable brand takes creativity, time and a lot of sweat equity. If you put together a brand plan and stick to it, you’ll be making headway before you know it.

10 Branding Horror Stories That Will Keep You Up At Night

Rebranding a company well is a really tricky thing. A company’s logo and brand are the public face of the company – it’s what customers relate to and tinkering with that image can have mixed results.

There are many great stories about how a fresh logo or brand message helped revitalize a struggling company. On the flip side, there are also the branding horror stories. The cautionary tales of when marketing teams are allowed to run amok with gigantic budgets only to produce results that are laughably bad.

While these 10 branding horror stories may send a shiver down your spine, don’t let them keep you up at night. Learn from the very large and very expensive mistakes that these companies have made to make your branding efforts more successful.

Pepsi Overpays For A New Logo

It may or may not be surprising to learn that Pepsi has modified their logo at least once a decade over the last century. That’s in stark contrast to Coca-Cola, who’s logo has hardly changed at all. The most recent logo change for Pepsi was unveiled in March 2013 and the response has been, well underwhelming.

The white stripe across the logo is evidently supposed to look like a smile, but the width of the stripe varies wildly from product to product giving the logo an inconsistent feel. Even worse, it’s estimated that Pepsi spent nearly $1 million on this logo makeover. Money well spent? We think not.

Accenture: The Ultimate in Generic Branding

If you’re looking for a lesson in how not to rebrand your company, look no further than Accenture, which up until 2001, was known as Andersen Consulting. According to the marketing people at Accenture, one of the reasons they chose the new name was that it was inspired by the phrase “accent on the future”.

Well when you base your entire corporate identity on a generic business term, you’re going to end up with a pretty generic company name and brand. Accenture means nothing and is really the quintessential corporate business name. On top of that, the name change was reported to have cost Accenture roughly $100 million. I’d say they overpaid a bit.

RadioShack Tries Way Too Hard

In 2009, the ultimate dad store tried desperately to give itself a facelift and began marketing itself as “The Shack”. While RadioShack is great for a lot of things – batteries and dad gadgets most notably – it has never been one of the “cool” kids. And to be honest, that’s just fine – not every brand can be cool and to some extent, had RadioShack tried to embrace it’s nerdiness it would have been perfectly placed for a major comeback in today’s geek chic culture.

Unfortunately The Shack never caught on and the sad attempt to rebrand one of the best-known retail brands in the world missed the mark in a major way.

London Olympics Logo Leaves People Confused

While the Olympic rings are an iconic logo that have withstood the test of time, the logos designed for specific years have mostly fallen flat, and non more-so than the 2012 London games logo. Created by the designers at acclaimed London design firm, Wolff Olins, this mess of a logo cost roughly $800,000.

While the logo is definitely bold, the London Olympics logo has also been called ugly, ridiculous, childish and awful (not to mention some of the other descriptions which aren’t safe for print). It’s an eyesore that will go down in history as one of the worst and most expensive logos ever made.

Capital One’s Logo Goes Retro With A Swoosh

The phrase “going retro” can be a fun way of saying that a company is embracing it’s roots and getting a little funky. Or it might just mean that the company has done something to date itself by 30 years. When Capital One unveiled it’s new logo in 2008, it featured a bright red swoosh and the response was basically…crickets.

Including a swoosh in your logo design isn’t the worst offense in the world, but it’s been done a million times and hasn’t been considered “cool” since the early 90’s.

Gap Enrages Customers With It’s New Logo

Rebranding your business with a new logo is always a bit of a gamble. Some logo makeovers are done well and give the brand a much-needed face lift (see Apple or UPS). Other logo makeovers…well let’s just say that they miss the mark. This was the case with Gap’s attempt to update their logo in 2010.

The problem with this logo makeover was that it was so drastic that the change alienated and angered what was a very loyal customer base. Taking the iconic blue box and replacing it with a logo so modern and void of personality had both customers and the design community up in arms. It didn’t take long for Gap to see the error of their ways and they quickly reverted back to the classic, beloved blue square.

Burger King Scares Away Customers With The Creepy King

Oof – this one still gives me the heebie jeebies. Back in the late 20-ought’s, Burger King unleashed what I’m sure they thought would be an edgy version of their king mascot. The ads depicted the king showing up in random places, including some poor guy’s bed and the marketing efforts were targeted at young males.

Unfortunately why Burger King was creeping everyone out, their competitors – namely McDonald’s and Wendy’s were putting their marketing muscle behind product and price. The result was that Burger King lost market share and are now focused more on promoting their actual product as opposed to a creepy mascot. *In hind-sight, this one turned out pretty good. *2018

Qwikster: An Exercise In Pointless Branding

As of 2014, Netflix is both the darling of critics, consumers and the stock market with it’s high-quality programming and ultra-accessible streaming services. The term “Netflix binge” has become part of the American lexicon and very much appears to be exactly what consumers want.

However, there was a time when Netflix was just a small DVD-by-mail service. Once streaming started overtaking the DVD portion of the business, the higher ups at Netflix got it into their heads that they needed to create a completely separate brand for the DVD portion called Qwikster. Besides being an incredibly stupid name, establishing a new brand was completely unnecessary. After the immediate backlash, the folks at Netflix quickly came to their senses and Qwikster died a quiet death.

Tropicana Ditches The Orange And Gets Ditched By Customers

For decades, the iconic image of an orange with a straw shoved in has been proudly featured on the Tropicana orange juice containers. It’s a clever image that was not only embraced by consumers, but helped make Tropicana the biggest and most well-known orange juice brand in the United States.

Then the folks at Tropicana got it into their heads that they needed a fresh, modern look and updated their logo and packaging. The redesign can really only be described as “grocery store generic” and was panned across the board. The result was that Tropicana’s sales dropped 20% and just a few short months later the classic look was resurrected.

New Coke Causes Mass Hysteria And Rioting

One of the most well-known branding blunders came from one of the most iconic brands in the world. In 1985, Coca-Cola was losing market share to a sweeter-tasting, more hip Pepsi and decided that it was time for a new look and a new recipe. They scrapped the old classic Coca-Cola recipe and with high hopes, launched New Coke. And then all hell broke loose.

The Coke-drinking public revolted. People started buying the classic version en masse and hoarding it and protest groups were formed. Fortunately it didn’t take long for Coca-Cola to course-correct and a mere 79 days after the much-vaunted launch of New Coke, Coca-Cola classic was reborn with a surge in sales.

Logo Design Prep Checklist

Designing a logo can be a daunting task even with the best tools in the world.  How do you capture the essence of who your company is in one small brand image?  On the surface, designing a logo can seem like an almost insurmountable task, but let us assure you that it doesn’t have to be.  One of the things that will make the logo design process so much easier is if you can do a little prep work ahead of time. To help you get your head around the process of designing a logo, we’ve put together a straightforward and simple checklist.  Before you start the process of designing a logo, do yourself a favor and think through the following questions.  It will help focus your efforts and will probably give you some good ideas too! a1sx2_Checkbox_thumb2_check_box.pngWhat is the name of your company or product? The vast majority of logos highlight the company name or product and for most small businesses, we would certainly recommend using your company name.  There are cases (like the Boston Red Sox), that a company may choose not to incorporate the name, but for most small businesses, this is a no-brainer. a1sx2_Checkbox_thumb2_check_box.pngIf the logo is for a company, what is your primary product? What you sell can and should influence the design of your logo.  If it makes sense to tie in your industry or primary product in your logo, by all means, do so!  Remember that your logo not only needs to look good to your current customers, but it needs to do the job of attracting new ones as well. a1sx2_Checkbox_thumb2_check_box.pngDo you have a tagline? You wouldn’t necessarily need to include the tagline with the logo, but if you have an established tagline, it can certainly help establish the tone that you want to convey with your logo. a1sx2_Checkbox_thumb2_check_box.pngWhat is your company’s personality? Are you laid back and fun or do you want to be known as extremely professional?  You need to establish the tone that you want to convey with your logo before you design it.  You also need to take into consideration your industry as well.  You may very well run a fun, laid back business, but if you work in a very serious industry, your logo probably needs to be more on the straight-laced side.  Think about where your company would fall on the spectrum of these descriptors:
  • Friendly or Professional
  • High energy or Extremely thorough
  • Modern or Traditional
  • Cutting edge or Established
  • Fun or Serious
  • Accessible or High end
a1sx2_Checkbox_thumb2_check_box.pngWhat makes your company unique? Do you know what makes your company different from everyone else in the marketplace?  Your logo can be an excellent place to showcase what makes you unique.  Do you have new technology that your competitors just can’t compete with?  Think about a sleek, modern, techy logo.  Are you one of the few family-owned and operated business left in your vertical?  Give your logo a warm, down to earth feel. a1sx2_Checkbox_thumb2_check_box.pngWho are your target customers? Knowing who your target customers are is of critical importance not just when designing a logo, but it’s also critical for the success of your business.  Your logo design would vary widely depending on who you are targeting.  For example, if your target demographic is mothers over the age of 30, you’d have a very different logo than if your target demographic was male golfers over 50.  Your color scheme, your fonts and the overall look should all be designed with your ideal customer in mind. a1sx2_Checkbox_thumb2_check_box.pngWho are your primary competitors? Before you design your own logo, take a hard look at what your competitors are already doing.  Make some notes on what you like and dislike about each one and then use that information to help you design a better logo.  Some of the best inspiration comes when you find things that you don’t like, so don’t be afraid to be critical.  This step will also help ensure that you have a truly unique logo and not just another carbon copy of your closest competitor. a1sx2_Checkbox_thumb2_check_box.pngAre there any specific colors that you want to use? Do you have any brand colors that are already being used?  Are there colors that would help link you more closely with your industry?  Which colors do you definitely want to stay away from?  Forming some ideas about your logo colors before you start will help narrow down your options and cut back on the design time. a1sx2_Checkbox_thumb2_check_box.pngAre there any specific images that you want to use? You definitely want to stay away from using any photo-realistic images in your logo, but it’s perfectly acceptable to incorporate shapes or images that make sense for your industry.  Think trees or flowers for a landscaping company or decorated cakes for a bakery.  For some companies, using an image in the logo makes a lot of sense, while for others, it may not.  Just think it through before you start the design process. a1sx2_Checkbox_thumb2_check_box.pngWhere will your logo be used? The common-sense answer to this would be “everywhere”, but if there are some really important places (like a storefront) that your logo will be used, you may want to think about optimizing your logo for that specific space.
If you do it right and put a little time in at the start to really think about your business and your logo, it should make the process of designing a logo for you business a whole lot less daunting!

3 Easy Ways to Up Your Branding Game for the 4th of July

3 Easy Ways to Up Your Branding Game for the 4th of July
For most small businesses, holidays are a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, they present an awesome opportunity to do something fun and different with your marketing strategy, on the other hand, it can be challenging to find the time and resources to make changes to an already jam-packed calendar.  The good news is that there are some really quick, easy and fun ways that you can show off your 4th of July spirit and the best news of all is that you don’t have to bust open your marketing budget to show that your company has holiday spirit.  Here are a few tips for how you can incorporate the 4th of July into your branding:
1. Freshen up your color scheme
There is no better way to show your 4th of July pride than by incorporating red, white and blue into your color scheme!  There are so many areas that you can quickly and easily update the look and feel of your branding that you’d almost be crazy not to do something fun.  For example, think about changing your website background to a patriotic image or update your Facebook photo to the American flag.  You can also tie in a patriotic color scheme with any emails you send, which will help provide some consistency and will look great to boot.  If you have a physical location, think about updating your window displays to show off a little patriotic pride, have some patriotic gifts like stickers, flags or temporary tattoos to hand out to your best customers.
2. Show off your company’s personality
Holidays like the 4th of July are awesome opportunities to showcase the unique voice of your company and there are so many ways to do this.  Because there is a broader context through which you are pushing your messaging, you have the opportunity to play up some of your inherent personality traits and still get your message across.  A few ideas include posting some candid shots from your company bar-b-que on your Facebook page, writing a company blog post about your favorite 4th of July traditions (make sure there is a logical tie-in to your product), or sprucing up your company uniforms with a patriotic touch.  There are many, many other things you can do as well, but the important thing to keep in mind is to let your personality sparkle. (See what I did there? Laughing)
3. Connect with your customers in a totally non-sales way
As a small business owner, your ultimate responsibility is for a healthy bottom line, but that doesn’t mean that your messaging needs to be sales-focused 100% of the time.  Try sending out a personal email to your best customers wishing them a happy 4th of July.  Better yet, if you have a little extra cash to spend, send an actual card or postcard with well-wishes or a thank you.  As mentioned above, you can also think about some small, inexpensive gifts to hand out to your best customers – something that ties in with the 4th of July and your business works best.  Your customers will appreciate the gesture and even if the idea doesn’t generate a ton of revenue, you’ll have fostered some goodwill and helped build a loyal customer base.
Whatever you do, make sure that all your efforts are well thought out and are genuine.  Above all, you want your branding to be authentic and genuine to your company’s unique personality.  Happy 4th of July week!

How Not To Design Your Logo

There are about a million places on the internet that tell you how you should design your logo, and based on what the company is selling, every article is going to vary slightly. In a nutshell, they are all going to tell you the same thing: you want a logo that is unique, simple and memorable. We even have our own tips for creating a great logo (which you should absolutely read!) But telling you how to design an amazing logo is not what this article is about. This article is all about what you need to do to avoid logo disaster. This is how not to design your logo and reading this article could mean the difference between logo triumph and logo failure. So read on to find out the 8 things you absolutely shouldn’t do when designing your logo:

Use stock art, clip art or photographs

There are a few rules of logo design that everyone generally agrees upon and one of those rules is that your logo, above all else, must be unique. It may be tempting to grab some free stock art or clip art from one of the thousands of websites that provide them, but grabbing a free image off the internet is one surefire way to make sure that your logo fails. The reason that clipart logos fail almost every time is that in general, these images are neither unique, nor are they memorable. If your logo is going to represent your unique business, it needs to do the job of helping to set your business apart from your competition. A free graphic from a random website is not going to help you accomplish that, no matter how cool you think it looks. That’s not to say that free logo and clipart sites don’t have value. What you do want to take from logo websites and clip art websites is inspiration. Take a look at what is out there and let it help inspire you to create something that has the feel of the images you love, but is 100% unique and 100% your own.

Copy Someone Else’s Logo

Oof – this rule is a big one. You may think that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but to a logo designer who has put their blood, sweat and tears into a logo design, imitation is really just theft. Yes, there are some beautiful logos out there and yes, today’s technology makes it incredibly easy to copy or lift someone else’s work, but it is absolutely not worth it in the end. Do yourself a favor and commit to never copying another designer’s work.

Use a complicated visual metaphor

When trying to up the ante with your logo design, it can be tempting to try and do something overly clever or meaningful. When done right, these visual metaphors are a fun and interesting way to help consumers engage with your brand. For instance, Amazon’s A to Z smile, representing that they carry everything “from A to Z” or the arrow hidden in the white space in FedEx’s logo are both great examples of visual metaphors that really work. Unfortunately a simple visual metaphor is rarely easy to execute and most of the time the metaphor will be lost on your customer. A surprising example is Toyota’s logo. You may look at those ovals and think, “hey, that’s kind of a clever way to show the letter T.” However, there is actually a lot more meaning behind that logo design than you would ever guess. Here’s what Toyota says about their logo: “The current Toyota Mark consists of three ovals: the two perpendicular center ovals represent a relationship of mutual trust between the customer and Toyota. These ovals combine to symbolize the letter “T” for Toyota. The space in the background implies a global expansion of Toyota’s technology and unlimited potential for the future.” While the logo itself is solid and conveys the brand well, I would be shocked if many consumers knew the actual meaning behind Toyota’s highly visible logo. The point is, visual metaphors can work for your logo, but it’s best not to make the metaphor the entire logo.

Go With the Tried and True Cliché

It might be that the saddest thing in the world is a cliché that thinks it’s not a cliché. The same goes for logos – the most lackluster logos are the ones that use the same worn out image as every other business in their industry. It’s the tooth on the dentist logo or the scales of justice on the lawyer’s logo or the grains of wheat on your local bakery’s logo. No matter what the industry is, there is sure to be at least one logo image that is so overdone that it’s the first thing you think of. Creating a logo without employing some sort of cliché can actually be a challenge. You want your logo to be clear about the services or product that your company provides, so it’s natural to want to showcase that in a very clear way. It just so happens that usually the clearest visual is usually the biggest cliché. To avoid walking down the “it’s been done to death” path, try thinking of new ways you can present that old cliché. Sometimes a fresh coat of paint is all a logo needs to give it new life.

Design By Committee

Because designing a logo is neither simple or straightforward, it can be tempting to get as many brains in the room to help with the design process. One word of advice here, “Don’t.” Assembling a committee of individuals with strong opinions about what a logo should look like may seem like a great idea, but in general, one of three things will happen:
  1. It’ll turn into a democracy where each feature of the logo is voted on.
    • When democracy rules, the process feels very fair, which is great for your committee members. However, the resulting logo is usually a mess of ideas from each contributing individual and is too weak to stand on it’s own.
  2. The loudest voice in the room will win.
    • It’s safe to say that with any committee, there will be at least one individual who is just a little bit more dominant than the rest. It’s often the case that the loudest individual doesn’t always have the best ideas either. Unfortunately when you decide to design your logo by committee, you run the risk of the loudest member of the team running away with the project.
  3. Compromise will be the name of the game
    • If your committee is composed of nice individuals whose goal is to play nicely together, you may end up with a compromised logo. This type of committee will give a little here and take a little there until the logo is a mess of some elements that everyone liked. The problem is that when there is no cohesive theme, the logo ends up being confusing and messy.
So in a nutshell, don’t leave your logo design up to a committee. It’s fine to get multiple opinions or to let employees and family vote on the final design, but the logo design process really needs a strong hand guiding it from the start to be successful.

Use a free logo designer

If you have a limited budget for designing your logo, it can be tempting to use one of the plethora of free logo design websites available these days. While it’s true that these websites make it incredibly easy to design a logo, it’s also true that they offer the same stock images, fonts and colors to every other person who uses their service. In other words – you get what you pay for and in this case that is a stock logo that is probably being used by a dozen other businesses. There is nothing wrong with taking these free logo websites out for a spin. It’ll be worth it just to give you a little inspiration on what your logo could look like. However, when it comes time to commit to a logo for your business, you’re going to want to make sure that design is 100% unique.

Ignore General Kerning Rules

If you’re not well-versed in the world of fonts, you probably aren’t familiar with the term “kerning”. Kerning is the amount of space between letters and it is vitally important if you want to have a logo that is legible. When done right, you won’t even notice kerning in a logo. All you’ll notice is that there is a beautiful, legible logo right in front of you. On the flip side, you definitely know when a company did not use proper kerning in their logo. If the letters are too close together, the company name will probably be illegible. If the spacing is too small between words, the logo will be confusing and could even cause words to appear in your logo that weren’t there before. If you want your logo to have the right impact, pay attention to the kerning and you’ll already be a step ahead of your competition.

Throw in a random shape or color

So your boss comes to you and says that he absolutely loves the Nike swoosh and wants to incorporate it in your new logo design, which also features a bulldog. While there are obviously plagiarism issues with using the Nike swoosh in any way, it helps illustrate an important point – don’t add swooshes, shapes or colors to your logo at random. Even if you love the way a shape looks, you can’t include everything in your logo and you shouldn’t try to fit shapes in where they don’t belong. For best results, keep your logo simple and try to avoid throwing in the kitchen sink (even if your boss is the one who wants to do it).

How to Halloween Your Website

October is here my friends and that means that the official countdown to Halloween has begun! This next month will be filled with more Pumpkin Spice Lattes, apple cider and costumed children than you count. If you want to make the most out of this festive season, your website needs to show a little Halloween spirit. If you do it right, not only will it look great, but you’ll also have a happier, more loyal customer base. Here are a few ideas for how you can “Halloween your website”:

Halloween-ify your homepage

For most websites, the homepage is the place where most of your traffic lands. Why not create a unique experience for all that traffic and spruce up your homepage with a little Halloween décor. Just like we decorate our homes for the holidays, you can and should do the same with your website. Add a spooky graphic as the main image on your homepage, change out some of the fonts for a spooky style or just add a few spiderwebs or pumpkins – anything to show people that your business really knows how to embrace Halloween.

Add a Halloween Countdown

Depending on what your business is, it could be fun to add a Halloween countdown somewhere on your site. There is even a site that has already coded some spooky banners for you: All you have to do is plug the code into your website and you’ve instantly added a little Halloween fun into your website experience. Pro tip: Make sure you also tie the Halloween Countdown timer to a specific event or concept for your business for the best results. Have the countdown coincide with a contest or company announcement. The Halloween-themed banner will be a fun way to draw attention to your event.

Run a Halloween Contest

Contests are a great way to get customers engaged in your business and the Halloween season provides a perfect backdrop for you to be able to run a really fun and interesting contest. Here are just a few ideas for Halloween contests that work well:
  • Halloween Costume Contest
  • Online Halloween Scavenger Hunt
  • Pumpkin or Apple Pie Contest
  • Halloween Poster Design
  • Spookiest House Decorations
The most effective contest will be one that ties in with your business somehow like a Pet Costume Contest for a pet store or a Spooky Decoration contest for a home décor or landscaping business. Even if there isn’t a direct tie-in with your business, a Halloween contest will be a fun way to get your customers involved.

Show Off Your Halloween Spirit

The holidays are a great time to showcase the personality of your business. Giving customers a view into what it’s like to work for your business is not only interesting, but it helps build up a loyal, supportive customer base. Why not go crazy and decorate your office with a Halloween theme. Have employees come to work in costume one day and post the pictures to your company blog or social media accounts. Even if you don’t have any employees and your business is literally a one-man show, you can still show off your Halloween spirit. Post a picture of your pet in costume or post some pictures of your favorite Halloween decorations. The important thing is that you are showing customers that you are engaged in the Halloween season.

Make Your Blog Halloween Central

Assuming you have a blog for your business (and in this day and age, you really should have a blog for your business), take the opportunity to write some Halloween-themed content. A great way to do this is to take an idea for a normal blog post and add a Halloween slant. For instance, if you were going to write a blog posts on the best party snacks, why not turn that post into a “10 Best Snacks to Spookify your Halloween Party”. It’ll feel more relevant since it’s tied to the season and will likely catch a few more eyes. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to add a little Halloween spirit to your website, check out our collection of Halloween Fonts. On sale now, the Halloween Font Collection has a fantastic array of spooky fonts and clipart that are perfect for sprucing up any website.

6 Ways to Personalize Your Way to Success

This past summer, Coca-Cola did the unthinkable and it reversed an 11-year decline in soda sales. How? By getting personal. They launched the “Share a Coke” campaign in June 2014 and customers lined up to find a Coke bottle emblazoned with their name. Revolutionary? No. Impactful? Absolutely. What the marketers at Coca-Cola latched onto was that customers want to feel a personal connection before they buy your product. They want to feel that the product that they are spending their hard-earned money on was made for them and that it will be exactly what they need. What customers bought into with the “Share a Coke” campaign was not just that it’s pretty cool to see your name on a Coke can, but that it felt like a product that was made for them. Personalization isn’t a new concept, but what is new are the tools we have available to make each and every customer’s experience a uniquely personal one. If you run a business and aren’t doing any form of personalization, you are absolutely leaving money on the table. Here are 6 easy ways you can personalize your customer experience for a more successful business:

1. Use names in your email

This may seem overly simplistic, but using a customers name in either your email subject line or within the content can have a dramatic impact on whether or not someone ultimately makes a purchase. While most customers know that their name is inserted automatically by a machine, there is something kind of magical about seeing your name in an email subject that really catches the eye. Bottom line: If customers trust you enough to provide their name, use it to create a more personal experience through your email program.

2. Personalize the email content

One sure-fire way to make sure that your email content gets read is to craft a personal message. You’ll need to have some basic data about your customers to do this, but segmenting your email list based on previous purchases or interests can have a dramatic effect on your sales. When you know what your customers have already bought, it’s much easier to know what makes sense to recommend for their next purchase. This may take some work if you can’t afford the tools that will help you automate the personalized email process, but every business can benefit from some level of email personalization.

3. Create targeted landing pages on your website

Targeted landing pages are a great way to create a personal experience for specific customers and they offer the added benefit of helping boost your search engine results as well. In a nutshell, a targeted landing page is one that has been designed with a specific customer in mind. For example, if you have a landscaping business, you might want to think about creating pages on your website to address a variety of customers. For example:
  • Home Landscaping done right by A+ Landscapers
  • How A+ Landscaping can help your apartment get more tenants
  • Professional Commercial Landscaping with A+ Landscapers
While you are selling the same product or service, when you personalize these landing pages, you are selling your services in very different ways. I’m sure you can imagine how a landing page might look different for home, apartment or commercial landscaping. The content, images and sales pitch can and should be different depending on who you are talking to and changing things up a bit can have a dramatic impact on your sales.

4. Stop automating your social media

It may be tempting to use one of the many services to automate your social media posting. These services certainly make things easy from a time management perspective, but they also take the personal connection out of your social media. Having a real person craft real messages and respond to comments and questions makes your business feel more approachable. Customers who are able to interact with your business on a personal level are much more likely to become brand advocates and will be extremely loyal. Do yourself a favor – let your social media do what it was intended to do and build those personal connections.

5. Create sales paths that feel personal

No one, and I mean no one, likes a pushy salesperson. When you try to push your customers into certain products or force them down a particular path, 9 times out of 10, it’s not going to end real well. You’ll either end up losing the sale or the customer will go home with a serious case of buyer’s remorse. If you want results that end up with happy customers and a happy business, you’ve got to personalize the process. In a retail store, that means having your salespeople take the time to listen to the wants and needs of the customer and having them find options that fulfill those wants and needs. Online, that means creating the right content to help the customer feel like they are being heard. You can do this by showcasing your products benefits, offering testimonials and showing them products that your data indicates they would like. There are a million ways to do it, but the important thing is that the sales process feels real and natural.

6. Be real, be human and listen

Last, but absolutely not least, it is vitally important that you don’t try to be something that you are not. When customers are ready to make a purchase, they want to feel like they are dealing with a business who is authentic, because authenticity means that you know who they are and can trust them. To help create a truly personal experience, you need to listen to your customers.   Whether that is in a physical location, through surveys or on social media, listen to what your customers are telling you and respond to that feedback. The personal attention will pay off in the end!