Creative Instinct Blog – Branding & Marketing Tips for Busy Professionals

Informative articles and tips on marketing for small businesses.


Lead Clients To Your Door

Self-promotion is something that many business owners find distasteful, but you’re probably already doing some basic marketing — sponsoring a Little League team, speaking at seminars, or attending a monthly Chamber of Commerce event. So why not go a step further and look for other ways to make your business stand out and help clients to find and remember you?

Where To Start
Consultants advise to begin with a professionally-designed logo for your business. Your logo is essential to your brand. It helps elevate the visibility of your business making you memorable to clients. Next, depending on your budget, you might consider a promotional campaign that includes newspaper ads, direct mail and email campaigns. But even little touches can go a long way toward attracting clients.

Even that old standby, Yellow Pages advertising, has options that you can use to your advantage. But be that the design of your ad casts a tasteful light on your business. Too often, the in-house designer of a publication is too rushed by deadlines and unfamiliar with your services to produce an effective ad. You’ve invested in the advertising space… make sure the design is the best it can be. Hire a graphic designer to create your ad.

The Benefits of Going Where You’re Needed
Sometimes a business-expanding opportunity sneaks up on you. Recognizing it and capitalizing on it is more of an art than a science. As a case point, the following experience comes from a physician who ran a neuromuscular electrical stimulation program for people with sore backs. Two thirds of the patients seeing him for back therapy were obese. So he launched a medically supervised fasting program as an adjunct therapy. He promoted the program through advertising and direct mail, driving traffic to his website where patients could get more information and enroll
in the program. Because potential patients for such a program were already familiar with the practice, he was able to develop the biggest medically supervised fasting program in his state’s region.

A business owner in Maryland, on the other hand, builds his business the old-fashioned way. “I make cold calls on local businesses,” he says. “In some instances, they tell their friends and colleagues. It often leads to referrals and new clients.”  In this instance, a good leave-behind item would be your busines brochure. A professional brochure not only relays information, but appeals to the emotions of your clients and focuses on the strengths and services of your business. It’s a versatile communication tool that may be used in a variety of ways: to generate referrals, office display, direct mail, and distribution at tradeshows and industry events.

Marketing To Established Clients
Your existing clients can be your biggest cheerleaders. Marketing to them not only keeps them in the fold; it increases the likelihood that they’ll send their friends, customers, and associates to you. Focus on keeping your clients happy. Offer coffee, tea or juice in your office or reception area. Provide each new client with a New Client Info Packet including: a personalized welcome letter, brochure, business cards, and any cross promotions that you may wish to include. Another client-pleaser is making — and referencing — notes you’ve made about the client’s personal interests.

Giving Clients Something To Remember You By
For years, a chiropractor in Atlanta had talked to community groups. “I figure that when Chevy or Ford is coming out with a new car,” she said, “they make commercials for the people who are going to buy the car, not the dealers. So that’s what I do. I go to patients.” And she hands them his business card. She adds, “I had my logo, business card and office stationery professionally designed. It always makes a great impression.”

You might prefer to give prospects a brochure or sales sheet for a specific product or service you offer. To reinforce your brand, be sure all of your literature has a consistent style and features your logo, name and phone number on the front.

Give your business a competitive edge by ensuring that your brand differentiates you from your competition. Need help with your branding, marketing or website design? Call Creative Instinct… design is our passion, small business branding is our specialty. Email gwen@creativeinstinct.biz, or call 501-244-0573. Visit us online at www.creativeinstinct.biz.

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Tune Up Your Website

laptop-websiteThink of the impression you’d make if the magazines in your office waiting room were three years old. “This business isn’t paying attention,” clients might mutter. “Are they this lax when they work with clients?”

Well, an out-of-date business website makes a bad impression, too. The previous Sales Manager left last year, but his bio page is still posted. The list of service providers the business uses is just as inaccurate. There’s no mention of a new satellite office, the fax number listed is defunct, and hyperlinks to client education materials on other sites don’t work anymore. To top it all off, the owner’s brother in-law used a Yahoo web template to create the site five years ago. The design doesn’t exactly project a professional image to prospective clients.

Technical Tweeks & Know-how
In addition to fresh content your site may need periodic technical tweaks to work properly. The site’s HTML code, for example, needs to be compatible with the newest versions of all major web browsers. If your five year old site doesn’t jive with the latest browser versions, the photos with your bio may not appear, navigation tools may malfunction, or text may be garbled.

How you maintain a website largely depends on how it was created. If you created a site from scratch with online software or Dreamweaver, you can use the same software for updates and submit them to the company that hosts your site on its computer. However, a busy schedule may force basic housekeeping off your to-do list. And you may lack the expertise to handle coding changes for browser compatibility and search-engine success. The answer here is hiring an expert.

Your Best Bet for a Quality Website
And that brings us to the best way that websites get created — farming out the job to a design firm. Such shops can perform maintenance chores as needed at an hourly rate ranging from $50 to $100. You also can negotiate a block of maintenance hours per year at a 5 to 15 percent discount. If you anticipate making changes only once a quarter, you might want to contract for eight hours per year.

If you want to update the website yourself on a weekly or even daily basis, a design firm can provide a user-friendly editing tool that enables you to make the changes yourself. This is called a Content Management System (CMS). Setup of a CMS website typically runs between $1500 and $3000 (depending on the size and complexity of the site). A non-CMS website is usually less expensive, but you’ll have to rely on your web master to make any updates – which will incur an hourly fee.

Do It Right Today, Save Headaches Tomorrow
When outsourcing your website design, be sure to hire a reputable firm that you can count on a year from now. Business owners who hired their college-aged son or moonlighting brother-in-law to create their site know about this problem. If these folks aren’t available, who’s going to add your business’ new phone number to the site? Hiring a bona fide design business is the best strategy for truly professional web design and hassle-free maintenance.

Whatever approach you take, commit yourself to keeping your website as fresh and functional as your office. Budget the necessary time and money, and get the professional help you need. Otherwise, it will be like a dubious New Year’s resolution — enthusiastically made, quickly forgotten.

Need help with your website?
Let Creative Instinct help ensure you’re getting the most out of your website. Call us at 501-244-0573, or send an email to Gwen Canfield at gwen@creativeinstinct.biz. To see websites we’ve designed for other small businesses – visit our website at www.creativeinstinct.biz.


Top 10 Tips – Getting the Right Logo for Your Business

Your logo is your identity. Make it memorable.

For small businesses, creating a logo is one of the most important stages of a company’s infancy. A professional image can take you a long way, distinguishing your company from the competition. Unfortunately, not everyone is a stellar graphic designer. Outsourcing your logo design to a professional is your best bet. However, you’ll still need to provide a minimum level of guidance to the designer. In light of this, here is a concise set of design tips written to ensure your logo perfectly suits your needs.

1. Keep it Simple!
These are probably the best words of advice, and it ties into almost all of our upcoming tips. A complicated design will not only make your logo difficult to reproduce and maintain, but you will also fail to engage your audience. The logo is the ultimate ‘elevator’ pitch to your potential clients and business partners. You don’t have time to recite your entire business plan in an elevator pitch, and the same concept applies to corporate logo design. Sometimes when a design isn’t working out right, there will be an inclination to add elements and complexity. Often times, it’s better to start over with a new concept or remove distracting elements rather than add them. Simplicity isn’t always an easy thing to ahieve, as you don’t want your logo to appear too boring or conservative. This is why at the end of the day it’s best to leave it to logo design professionals.

2. Engage your Audience
The good logo should above everything entertain and engage your audience. Your design should not be so literal that the message is spelt out for them. They should be given the opportunity to discover the meaning and intention of your logo themselves. If people are able to discover the ‘trick’ of your logo within a reasonable amount of time, this will help to create a memorable and entertaining experience between you and your audience. Too much abstraction will on the other hand work against you. If the logo is too obscure, the message that you are attempting to communicate will be lost, and so will your potential client. Remember, today’s consumer culture is accustomed to very intense and stimulating media, and therefore you cannot be too demanding on your audience.

3. Logo Longevity – Think Ahead!
The durability and longevity of a logo is worth considering. Although it’s impossible to see into the future, it is useful to picture your company 10-15 years down the road, and think about what kind of products and services it will offer, if any at all! Even the strongest companies update their logo every 15 years or so, but often the changes will be subtle in nature. Very seldom will they take on a radical re-design. For small start-up companies, it may not be the end of the earth if you decide to change your logo after even a few years, depending on what transpires with your company. But it’s always nice when a logo design is able to stand the test of time.

4. Vector is Better
Although it’s tempting to use detailed illustrations and complex 3d effects in a logo, chances are that it will not serve you well. Clean, crisp lines with very limited colors are almost always more effective than an illustration or complex 3d rendering. A well-drawn vector-based logo will provide you with the contrast and balance that is so important in logo design. New capabilities in vector based programs can now give you the illusion of a 3d effect without losing contrast, using tricks such as the canter effect.

5. Adaptability – Be Ready for Change
Your logo should be flexible enough to adapt to every business situation. If a logo is too literal or specific, you may have a hard time using it when catering to different markets. Generally speaking, the best thing for small business start-ups is to have an icon and logo-type designed at the same time. This will allow you to use the logo as a stand-alone image, or use it along with the type-font name as well. Often times, companies will use only the icon on its products and packaging materials. This is a common practice among software companies and book publishers.

6. Make it Memorable
A great logo design will imbed itself into ones sub-consciousness. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but for a logo to be memorable it needs to use simple lines and be very easy to recall from memory. A good test to ensure that your logo design is memorable is to show it to a friend and ask him/her to retrace it a week later. A good design should use a recognizable shape or element for it to be easily remembered.

7. Relevance – Keep your Products and Services in Mind
A memorable logo is great, but it should also get your customers to start thinking about the products or services that you offer. You should ensure that the logo relates to your business in some shape or form. Yes, the monkey can sell just about anything from cigarettes to cell phones, but there’s a limit! Isn’t there?

8. Choose your Colors Wisely
Colors can play a very important role in logo design as they can illicit different feelings and emotions from us. Interpretations of color may vary depending on age, gender, and cultural demographics. Your choices of color should therefore be considered carefully depending on your target market. Also, colors tend to follow trends, just like in fashion. A new, vibrant company may want to follow the current trends, whereas a bank may want to stay with a more conservative color set that will serve then well for them over a long period of time. Try to keep your selection of colors down to two or three. Too many colors will increase your cost of production and make it more difficult to reproduce.
One interesting idea that we’ve seen used is to change the color of the logo on things like business cards and stationery depending on the market segmentations of the clientele.

9. Uniqueness is Key
This should be straightforward. You want to be sure that your company is easily identified among your industry and competitors. Be sure to carefully research your industry and target market before embarking on a logo design. You need to know and understand the common styles of your industry, but you also need to make sure that you don’t infringe on anyone else’s trademarked logo.

10. Versatility Pays Dividends
One of the most important attributes of a good logo design is versatility. You want to portray a consistent image across all of your marketing materials, including signs, letterhead, business cards, products lines, and web sites. Often times, a complicated logo design will work fine on a website or billboard, but when you shrink it down to fit on a pen or coffee cup, the illustration or lettering will become illegible. Your logo should also work well in black and white. You may often find that many start-up companies and even well-established law firms will not consistently brand their logo across all their marketing materials. They may have their logo on the front door of their office, but will end up using something different (or nothing at all!) on their website. In order to build brand recognition you need to market your logo and image as consistently as possible. Be sure that when you’re having your logo designed that you receive all the file formats necessary for use in your various marketing channels.

For design of your business logo, hiring a professional is your best bet. If you want to ensure that your logo meets all the criteria mentioned above, give me a shout. It’s what I do: gwen@creativeinstinct.biz.  To see samples of other logos designed by Creative Instinct, visit www.creativeinstinct.biz.