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  • Tips for a Successful Trade Show Booth in 2014

    Exhibiting at a trade show is a great way for your company to meet people and establish new business relationships. When done properly, trade shows provide your company the rare opportunity to not only showcase and demonstrate your latest products and services, but also help your company to gain a better perspective on market trends. So, whether you are trying to test a new idea, promote a product, or sell an existing service, the importance of setting up an attractive trade show booth cannot be overemphasized. For those of you who are interested in making the most of your trade show booth, here are a few things you should consider when arranging your trade show booth this year.

    Be attractive: use colors and images that invite a second look

    Although it is important to prepare your representatives for the trade show by going over various marketing strategies, the thing you need to remember is that good representatives cannot sell anything when there are no customers. Yes, a trade show is filled with lots of potential customers, but it is also filled with lots of booths and competing companies. This is why you need to have a eye-catching display to get people's attention. Use lots of colors and pictures to make yourself stand out. Have signs and banners with interesting messages to pique people's interests. Remember the saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words"? Instead of having your representatives calling desperately for people to come to your booth, let your trade booth do the shouting by filling it with colorful signs and appealing pictures.

    Be interactive: use technology

    We live in a digital age where many are more accustomed to reading things on a screen than on a piece of paper. Therefore, integrating technology in your display will not only add a new touch to your booth, but also allow you to communicate the same message with creativity and flexibility. Technology is creeping into trade shows at lightning speed. Whether it is using social media to keep virtual conversations alive during the live event or having interactive touch screens and video monitors to engage your audience, making digital displays available in your booth to demonstrate or explain your product will greatly boost your results.

    Do you have a video to share? Does your company offer an application that people can immediately download to their phones? Make them available and let technology do the selling for you.

    Be informative: have brochures and business cards

    Once you have people in your booth, you need to have materials that can educate them about your company, your products, and anything you want to share. Typically, you should have well-designed brochures that communicate very specific messages. Do not overload your brochure with information. Instead, use multiple brochures and organize them in a brochure holder. Place the business cards close to the holder so interested customers can immediately grab one and add your company into their collection.

    Be generous: have giveaways and free samples

    Giveaways are a great way to solidify people's impression about your company. When considering giveaways or promotional products, make sure what you are giving away accurately represents your company. While the free items should be within your company's budget, they should also have a useful purpose or "wow" factor that will make people want to find your booth when they see the items in someone else's hands. Be generous. Give some free samples and let your company follow your customers home.

  • Don't Dump Direct Mail: Here's Why

    Have you ever heard the phrase, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket"? This definitely applies to marketing. All too often, small businesses put all of their marketing dollars into social media or Google AdWords or promotional products. Although postal mail might not have the excitement of the latest social media network, marketing professionals often choose a mix of marketing strategies that include direct mail. Here's why:

    Direct Mail Pieces Can Be Saved:
    It's tough to save digital advertisements or Facebook ads on your (physical) desktop. But a well-designed and memorable mailer with a smart call to action may very well be saved by the recipient for days, week, or even months. Mailers with special offers or coupons give your audience a reason to save your message.

    Direct Mail Pieces Can Have a Physical Impact:
    Mailings can be opened, make noises, have an impact. Pieces with an odd or oversized shape get attention.

    Direct Mail is More Memorable:
    As people and businesses continue to switch to email for greetings cards and bill paying, physical mailboxes are seeing fewer pieces of mail. This means that direct mail is more effective due to fewer messages competing for your prospects' attention.

    Direct Mail is Measurable:
    Unlike a lot of digital marketing, direct mail's results and performance can be easily tracked to measure the financial return on your marketing investment. You can track the cost per lead, overall results, and the profitability of your campaign to determine its success.

    Direct Mail Can Contain Exclusive Offers:
    With a direct mail campaign you can offer exclusive discounts and special offers that customers and prospects can only find in their mailbox.

    Direct Mail Can Be Personal:
    Mailings can be personalized to the recipient with a customized message. Many businesses don't go that far with their direct mail pieces, but they can. This personalized touch can be extremely helpful in building a relationship with the reader and can result in a higher likelihood of driving action.

    Direct Mail is Proven:
    Well-designed mail campaigns have stood the test of time for many, many businesses and industries. Direct mail is a proven marketing channel that has stood the test of time. In 2012 direct mail has continued to yield successful results that confirm its place at the top of the marketing ladder.

    Direct Mail Can Be Part of An Integrated Marketing Campaign:
    Smart business marketers use a variety of ways to reach people. Direct mail can be part of an integrated marketing campaign that involves email, social media, TV, radio, and promotional products. Studies have shown that the results of a direct mail campaign can be even greater when paired with other marketing channels.

    If you're interested in how direct mail can be combined with other marketing techniques, contact us!

  • Tips for Getting a Business Card That Works for You

    A business card is a very tiny piece of marketing collateral if you think about it.  Two inches by 3.5 inches.  That's it. You have to get a lot of information across in a small area.

    Obviously, you can't expect your business card to tell the whole story about your company, although it is tempting. We've all seen cards that are crammed with information.  What a business card should do it give a great first impression. Here are some tips to help you put your best business foot forward:

    1. Use a professional printer because the extra expense will be well worth it. Cards printed at your office or even in those big-box office supply stores usually look cheap and probably won't convey the message you want. Your local printer will often keep your card design on file so that you can easily have more printed as well.
    2. Use your logo as the focus and make it the largest element on your card. Not happy with your logo? Talk to a graphic designer or even your printer - they often have great designers on staff.
    3. Match your card's overall style with your industry. Take a look at the cards of your competitors when you go to a networking event. Of course, you don't want yours to look exactly the same, but it should give the type of impression that people expect from your industry.
    4. Avoid cramming too much information on to the card; keep to the essentials like your name, title, company name, address, phone, email and website. If you have room, a tagline and a social media link is good as well.
    5. The font should be easy to read, and stick with a maximum of two different fonts.
    6. Keep your font color to a maximum of two colors. One color is fine, especially if you have a colorful logo.
    7. Textured paper or colored paper can enhance a card's interest. In general, stay with lighter shades for the best readability.
    8. While glossy paper looks great, you may want to consider using a non-glossy paper that allows your prospects to write notes on the back. Glossy paper is usually hard to write on with a pen.
    9. Like textured or colored paper, embossing and foil stamping are two printing processes that can give your card more visual appeal.  Ask your printer for examples.
    10. If you have room, and if you have a professional headshot, consider having it added to your business card.

    If you're looking for more direction about designing a great business card, please contact us. We are happy to help!

  • Building a Better Business Brand

    Now more than ever, your small business needs to have a unified brand that helps cement your presence and even increase your visibility online and in print. No matter where customers and prospects find you - on your website, business cards, Facebook, Google+, trade show booths - your brand should be consistent throughout.

    Your brand is the grand total of the experiences customers have with your business. includes what you do, how you do it, how you treat customers and clients as well as your logo, print materials and the type of information you share on social media. Obviously, it's tougher to convey the non-physical elements of your brand, but the physical elements should evoke the intangible.

    From a practical standpoint, invest in a logo and then commit to it on all of your online and offline marketing activities. Yes, this most likely means paying a graphic designer to create your logo. The advantage of working with a designer or design team is that they usually ask you a lot of questions about your business and then produce several drafts for you to ponder. You may have several back-and-forth sessions, but the end result will be 1000% more professional than something you produce in Word or Microsoft Paint. Also, the designer will give you the final logo in several formats that will work both in print and online. In addition, ask the designer to create a logo that can look good in different dimensions, such as a square as well as a rectangle. This is especially important if you create social media accounts for your business.

    Make a good first impression. First impressions are critical, so make the most of them. Cutting costs on the basics, like business cards, your website and printed materials, is not a good plan for your brand. People know quality, and they will associate low quality materials with indifference or even desperation on your part. Spending a few extra dollars on business cards and other printed materials from a quality printing company is a good investment. You may be able to get away with a free website for a while, but eventually you're going to need to spend more money to design and host your own site.

    You need to be able to answer "So what?" with your brand. Stand for something. It should convey to customers and prospects how you can help them save time, save money, improve their lives or minimize risk. It should help people understand what to expect if they deal with you. Like I said before, a brand is not just about a logo. It's also partly a message that defines your brand that can accompany your logo in the right situations.

    A company like ours can help you define the visual elements of your brand as well as advise you on the non-physical. Please contact us if you would like to get started.

  • Tips to make your trade show booth graphics get noticed

    When you have the standard 10-by-10 exhibit space at a trade show or expo, you only have a few seconds to grab the attention of those passing by. Unless you are prepared to accost everyone who comes within 5 feet of your booth, you have to let your booth's graphics do some of the heavy lifting.

    Here are some tips on how to make sure the graphics in your next trade show booth shine.

    Minimize your message - in 10 words or less.
    We see a lot of trade show graphics that use way too many words. People often treat their trade show graphics like a PowerPoint slide by adding a bunch of wordy bullet points (which, by the way, is not the best PowerPoint slide either). Attendees should be able to read your message in less than 3 seconds.  3 seconds!

    Think about how your prospects can benefit from your products or services
    Besides being short and to the point, your message should also communicate the benefit to your prospects. This is all about them, not you. They need to be able to see how you will solve a problem or save them money or make their lives easier.

    Use easy-to-read fonts in BIG type
    Often, in an effort to look "artsy" or to stand out, companies will design a graphic with a great-looking font that's harder to read. Remember, 3 seconds or less.  Find a font that stands out but doesn't take time to decipher. And please use a font size that's big enough to read from 12-20 feet away. That means at least 4 inches tall.

    Place text eye-level or above
    Your booth's text should be above the heads of the people working the booth, if possible. It should be unobstructed and easy to see from down the aisle. Anything below that gets harder to read.

    Use color contrasts
    Light text on a dark background or dark text on a light background works best when you have 3 seconds to make an impression. Keep the background simple and the text easy to read against the background.

    Use one image that's not too busy and is high-resolution
    Even if you use just one image on your graphic, the image itself could be busy and distract from the message. You want an image that is simple and doesn't have a lot of distracting elements. Also, be sure that the image is super high quality and can be enlarged. Don't use clip art or a photo that someone at your company took to save money if the resolution isn't high enough. Spend the extra money to purchase a high quality image if necessary.

    Keep it clean and neat
    You risk losing prospects if your graphics become old and raggedy. After repeated use, the materials can break down and start to look rough around the edges. Pack and store your materials properly and always pack with two people, if possible, to avoid rips and nicks. Wipe down your graphics before you store them - ask your printer or manufacturer for the best way to clean the graphics to avoid further damage.

  • Why It's Time to Start a Blog for Your Business

    Blogging is one of the most important tools that small businesses can use to increase their visibility and interact with customers and prospects to bring in more business.  If you don't have a blog on your website, now is a great time to get started. Here are a few reasons why blogging can benefit your small business and help you stand out from your competitors.

    1. A blog that is placed on your website increases your website's SEO (search engine optimization). The search engines favor sites that add content on a regular basis and will reward your site with better rankings.

    2. A blog can be the hub of all of your social media efforts.  The articles (and even short videos) that you post can be shared out via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. This will get people back to your website. And if the information is interesting enough, other people may share your articles for you!

    3. Your company's voice can be transmitted via a blog. It gives you and your staff a forum to talk about new services and/or products as well as showcase your expertise. You can also let people in on the personality of your business.

    4. Blogging forces you to think (and maybe even ask!) about what your customers and prospects want to know about your industry. This can be enormously useful if it helps you focus more on what you customers want rather than what you think they want.

    5. New people will find your website because of the articles and videos you place on your blog. Your articles' titles and content will show up in the search engines when people search for those specific phrases and terms.

    6. Blogs are cost-effective. After you spend the money adding a blog to your website (which can be done very reasonably), your only other expenses are time and perhaps writing fees if you have someone else write your articles for you. Every article you publish is a gift that keeps on giving because, until your remove it from your website, it's there for people to find and read.

    7. If you track your blog's analytics, you will get insight into the most popular topics by the number of visits and the length of time people stay on your articles. You can use your stats to continue writing engaging content that will bring more people to your site.

    8. A blog can be inspiring. It may make you and your staff who contribute content to the  blog look at events in your company and industry in a new way - as fodder for content - content which may help increase two-way communication with your customers and prospects.

    We know that people find our website through the articles we have on our blog. Have you web developer add a blog to your site (we recommend a WordPress blog), make a content-writing schedule and stick to it. You should start to see an increase in your web traffic in just a few months if you adhere to a schedule, write meaningful content and share it out via email and social media.

  • Tips for Choosing and Designing a Banner Stand for Your Business

    A portable and convenient way to promote your business is the cost-effective banner stand. And they're not just for trade shows - you can now find them in offices, restaurants and stores.  Choosing the right banner stand and creating the best design can be overwhelming, so here are some tips to help:

    Work with a Designer
    You will usually get the best results if you work with a designer who has had experience with creating banner stand art. Local printers and brokers often have designers on staff who can give your banner stand an eye-catching and professional look that also integrates with your other marketing materials.

    Less is Best
    Companies often make the mistake of trying to cram too much information and/or images into one stand. They should be used to attract attention to one concept or brand or offer, much like a billboard. Use them to bring potential customers in to your booth, store or office to get additional information from your staff and your materials.

    Text on Top
    Many banner stands are taller than the average person, so have your designer place your text near the top at eye level.  And remember that "less is best" when using text. If you can't capture your message or offer into a few words, you need to rethink your approach.  You may want to work with someone who has branding/marketing experience to create a targeted and impactful message.

    Consider putting several stands together to make a mural backdrop
    A very cool backdrop for a trade show booth or display area can be several banner stands that are grouped together to make a mural.  Or, work with a designer to create a flexible design where you can take 2 stands to one show and maybe 5 to another, for instance, depending on how much room you have. 

    Determine if your stand will be traveling a lot or remain fairly stationary.
    If you are planning to keep your banner stand in your office or restaurant, you can get away with purchasing a stand that does not have a heavy duty traveling case or more durable hardware. On the other hand, if your stand will be in a high traffic area, you may need to upgrade the banner material and a choose a heavy-duty bottom.  Your printer or broker can advise you on the best materials for each situation you plan to use your stand.

    Determine if your stand will be used indoors or outdoors or next to a window.
    If your banner stand will be outdoors at all, you will want to choose one that has a more weighted bottom to withstand breezes as well as other features designed for outdoor use. Also, the banner material should have UV-resistant ink to avoid fading.

    Banner stands can make a big impact at a relatively reasonable price. The hardware (bottom and frame) can be re-used with new banners instead of replacing the entire unit, so talk to your printer about all of the available options for today's banner stands.

  • The Steps to Successful Self-Publishing

    Your manuscript is done and you're ready to get your book printed and out to the masses. You've looked at countless websites that tell you they'll "take care of" all the publishing details. But, you're unclear about what those details really are. Here is a summary of the steps to self-publishing.

    1. Proofread your book. Or better yet, have someone else proofread it. Even the biggest grammar nut and spelling champion will overlook errors in his own manuscript because he's seen it so many times. Nothing says "unprofessional" more quickly than permanent errors on the printed page.

    2. Get an editor. Editors look for confusing passages, inconsistencies in facts and/or characters, structural problems and readability. Although it may be tough to take their criticism, editors are your friends because they make your look your best.

    3. Select a great title. Some authors have the title before writing word one, but it's not a bad idea to take a second look at your title now that others have (hopefully) read it. Ask for opinions from your editor and trusted advisors. A title can make a huge difference in whether or not someone buys your book.

    4. Once your manuscript has been proofread and edited, use a page layout program to get proper margins, headers, and footers as well as type face. This is very important so that the book looks professionally printed and not like something you typed up in Microsoft Word and printed from your home office. Printing companies like us can help with this process.

    5. Create a great cover that will help sell the book. Consider using a graphic designer who has done other book covers because he/she will probably supply the proper layout that your printer will need much more quickly and professionally than you. Look at other books in your genre and see if there is some commonality in colors, typeface and general layout. Although your cover should attract attention, you don't want it to be misrepresent your topic or genre.

    Also, remember that your book has a back cover. Some authors find the back cover to be a really tough area to design and write because it usually includes a "teaser" that helps entice your reader to purchase without revealing too much. Take a look at the back covers of other books in your genre to see how to handle it. The back cover also often includes an author photo. You'll likely need a good one.

    6. Obtain an ISBN number, as this will make you the registered publisher of book. There is only one US agent that distributes ISBN numbers (bowker.com). If someone else gets the number for you, then you may not be the registered publisher and you won't have as much control over your own book. Consider getting multiple ISBN numbers for each version, such as an ebook, because you have to have one for all forms.

    7. Talk with your printer about purchasing the most optimal quantity of books to get started. Of course, the more you print up front, the lower your per book cost, but it's up to you and your budget. Most first-time authors order a supply for a book signing or two, giving away copies to family and friends, and maybe even an upcoming speaking event. The good news is that most printers like us can accommodate a reorder in just a few days.

    There are several key steps to self-publishing a book, and we would love to be your guide along the way!

  • Make the Most of Your Holiday Direct Mail

    If you're like many retailers, the holidays make up a large portion of your total annual revenue. It's a hugely important season, so direct mail often becomes a hugely important vehicle for drawing in customers. Since a lot of other retailers are using direct mail during the holiday season, you've got to make an impression. Here are some tips to do just that:

    Imagine yourself as the customer. Once you've developed a draft campaign, step back and consider how you would react to it. Does it have a strong offer? Does it capture your brand? Does it help customers solve a problem or fill a need? Ask other people, like some current customers, for their honest opinions, and be prepared to do some editing. It's important to get into the minds of your customers instead of giving them what you "think" they want or need.

    Give customers a reason to come in (and/or visit your website) by giving them something. Now is the time to express your thanks by offering a special discount, gift or some other incentive. If you have good data, you can reward your most loyal customers even more, which will enhance their relationship with you.

    Let your printer do the mailing. The holiday season is busy enough without having to organize a mailing campaign. Most printers like us can take care of just about every facet of your direct mailing and save you money in the process. Printers can also help you with a targeted mailing list to enhance the list you already have.

    Be creative, and enlist the help of your printer's graphic design team to make your message stand out. So much of the mail that people receive looks like everyone else's. Don't be afraid to kick it up a notch and wow them with bright colors, catchy phrases, special paper and great images. People notice a well-designed and quality piece and will associate it with your business.

    Mail more than once. There is a lot of competition during the holiday season, so you need to plan for more than one mailing. Each mailing can have a slightly different offer with a consistent look and overall message.

    The holidays are a great time to take advantage of the power of direct mail marketing. Let your printer help you design a creative and quality campaign with a great offer to a targeted list.

  • How to Write Online Content That Gets Results

    Business owners and our marketing staff often make the mistake of writing for our websites or digital ads like we write for brochures or print ads.

    With "traditional" marketing, we promote goods and services by sending information to people. We design and write brochures, send direct mail or email, or buy advertising. We start the conversation. We "push" it.

    In digital marketing, there is much more "pull". People go online to be entertained or to find information. If they like what they see, the potential customer starts the conversation. And it's imperative that you converse—you must satisfy the visitor's need for information (or even entertainment) before you can market to them.

    To develop online marketing content, keep these tips in mind:

    1. 10 seconds- that's all you've got to convince someone that your site or content is worthy of more time. You have 10 seconds to draw people in. In fact, the average page visit is less than a minute overall! Although reading is the primary action that people perform on websites, they really do not spend much time reading. If they come upon a page on your site that is entirely text, they will most likely leave quickly unless something about the content is immediately compelling.

    2. Visitors come to websites for very specific purposes, such as getting answers to questions, researching a product or service, or performing a task. Your writing needs to address this by giving users factual information as quickly and easily as possible.

    3. Because people do not tend to spend a lot of time to find what they are looking for, your writing needs to be clear and simple. This is not to say that it should be "dumbed down", but it should be conversational and direct. When you write simply, your site accommodates the impatient, the busy, and even those whose first language is not English.

    4. Your writing style should be conversational. Spend some time thinking about the questions that your potential customers will likely be asking and answer those in your content. This will also help with your site's Search Engine Optimization, as people will often stumble upon your content if you include key phrases that are commonly searched for in your industry.

    Writing for a brochure or whitepaper is different than writing for a web page. We can help you adapt your message to both print and digital media.

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