AG Line Blog

Delivering Marketing Solutions

  • Tips for Creating a Book Cover that Gets Noticed

    blankIn the era of self-publishing, a new author's book may live or die by its cover. Cover images and titles must be clearly discernible as thumbnail images on ecommerce websites. They must also be eye-catching and genre-appropriate on the store shelf or book promotional table at an event.

    So, how do you create a book cover that generates sales? Here are some tips to designing a book cover.

    1. Find a designer who has created other book covers. This is not to say that a graphic designer who has never created a book cover can't create one now, but experienced designers will know all of the particulars needed to create a book cover front, spine and back that plays nice with printers as well images for sites like Amazon. They will usually also have meaningful, productive questions to ask you before they begin your project.

    How do you find a designer? Try sites such as Freelancer, Elance or 99Designs or ask published authors, family, friends and business associates if they recommend anyone.

    2. Know your book's audience. If you are writing your book for 14-year-old girls, then talk to some 14-year-old girls about what would catch their eye. Have some samples created and get their feedback. The same would apply to any target audience; find a sample group of at least 3 people and listen to what they have to say (they will probably be great ambassadors once your book is published as well!).

    3. Make sure your book's message is conveyed through its cover. Can you summarize your book's message in one sentence? You should be able to - and keep this message in mind when considering book cover design drafts.

    4. Target an emotion. What do you want your audience to feel as they read your book? Try to capture that emotion on the cover.

    5. Be open to something completely different than what is in your head. Many authors have a pre-conceived idea of how their cover should look. This is often a mistake. Let the designer get creative and then share their design drafts with other people (preferably your target audience) to get their reactions and feedback.

    6. Consider getting input on social media. If you have a presence on social media, don't be afraid to share the design drafts with a bigger audience. Some of the comments and suggestions may surprise you. You don't have to accept any of them, but it's likely that someone will offer something you hadn't considered before.

    7. Find a printer that specializes in book publishing, like us! Not all printers are equipped to produce a hard or soft cover book that has a professional, clear and durable cover.

    If you're an author or designer and would like to share your tips and thoughts about the book cover process, we'd love to hear from you.

  • Tips to Perk Up a Tired Trade Show Exhibit

    Is your trade show exhibit starting to look a little rough around the edges? Just like luggage, trade show exhibits often travel long distances and may be handled roughly, both in transit and during the show.

    Here are some trade show tips to give your exhibit a bit of a makeover without necessarily buying a brand new one.

    Try a new configuration.
    If your exhibit's shell is OK, you can give it a new look by redoing the configuration. Add or remove walls or rearrange the seating and other elements such as your kiosk or podium. Much like re-staging a house, you can re-stage your exhibit for a fresh new look. You can always rent accessories to give new life to your current set-up, especially if you have an important trade show coming up and you want to make a great impression.

    Invest in a few upgrades.
    Sometimes you can dramatically update the look of your exhibit by replacing your old halogen lights with cooler energy efficient LEDs. You can also upgrade your chairs, table and/or seating area and podium. Of course, updating your signage with new materials and graphics can do wonders as well.  Sometimes it just takes a couple of new items to bring your exhibit up to date.

    Give your exhibit a thorough once-over before you hit the road.
    Oftentimes, we pack the exhibit away and never give it a second look until we unpack it at the next event. Before you go this time (preferably a couple of weeks before), grab a colleague or two, unpack everything and do some touch-ups and cleaning. You can do paint touch-ups, remove scuff marks and repair small rips in signage. You'll also want to inspect the shipping containers for any potential problems.

    If you need some additional advice on perking up your current trade show exhibit and how to have a successful trade show, contact us.  We have worked with many companies to develop an exhibit that gets noticed!

  • Today's Authors Must Be Marketers

    Before the availability of self-publishing, you needed a publisher who was willing to get behind your book. Now, you don't need a publisher, but you do have to accept the first part of the term "self-publishing": SELF. A self-publishing author is responsible for everything, including internet book marketing. You may have daydreams of selling a millions copies because one influential person absolutely loved your book and spread the word, thus saving you from having to become a marketer. Unfortunately, this particular daydream will probably never become reality. So, you're back to being an author AND a marketer.

    So, how do you market your publication?

    First, you need to use social media. Seriously. Create an account on Goodreads, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram. Share with your friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances that you have  a book available. Spend time every single day growing your audience. Ask people to be your reviewers as well as ambassadors and share. Offer to promote other authors in the same way.

    Create a good bio about yourself.  And don't limit yourself to one-size-fits-all bio, either. Create one in first-person, one in third-person, one that's 2-3 sentences and one that's longer. Why? Because different websites have different requirements and different "vibes" (formal vs. informal). Also, consider having another writer interview you and write your bio for you. Why? Because for most of us, it's tough to be both objective and complimentary.

    Create Author Pages on websites like Smashwords, Goodreads, Amazon, Payhip, etc. You want to have your name and your book listed in several places for people to be able to find you.

    Join groups on LinkedIn and Facebook that cater to writers, or to people who might be interested in your book's topic or genre. Or both. You'll learn from other authors, and you may find people who are willing to write reviews for you (which is huge!).

    Ask for reviews. This may be scary, but it's necessary. Books that don't have reviews on Amazon, etc., don't get bought.

    Create a website. It doesn't have to be fancy; you can use to create a website presence for yourself. The blog format of WordPress makes it easy for you to give updates about what you're up to, where you're listed, why you wrote the book, etc. Some authors write short blog posts to keep their websites active and give visitors something current to read from them.

    If you'd like some advice about self-published marketing, talk to us! We love helping authors get published.

  • Should You Hire a Ghostwriter for Your Business Book?

    In an earlier post, we talked about how publishing a book can be the "ultimate business card" for a business owner or leader. However, many business owners are super busy, well, running a business. And writing a book requires time, talent, passion, discipline and usually research. If you lack any one of these requirements, your goal to publish your own book may never be accomplished.

    Enter the ghostwriter. Ghostwriters are probably more common than you think. Many big-name people in the business world have used ghostwriters to collaborate with or even write the entire publication. How much a ghostwriter gets involved in your project obviously depends on your budget and ability to provide the writer with items such as notes, resource materials, an outline, sample chapters, etc. Oftentimes, a ghostwriter will want to conduct multiple interviews with you to understand your "voice" as well as gather as much material as possible. He or she will also usually write draft chapters for you to review and discuss, one by one, rather than produce the entire book for you to review.

    Finding a professional ghostwriters who are willing to take on your project probably won't be very difficult. The challenge, however, is to find one who will understand your topic, capture your voice, fit your budget and produce something you will be proud to sell and promote. It's probably best to start with asking people in your network if they have heard of a good ghostwriter. LinkedIn can also be a great resource.  Many websites, such as odesk, offer writers at a variety of skill levels and rates. If you have a tight budget, you may also be able to find a graduate student who would be willing to collaborate and do a significant amount of the work for you for a lower fee than a professional writer.

    As you can imagine, the cost of hiring a ghostwriter depends on many variables. How much research will the writer need to do? How long will the book be? Will the writer include editing and/or marketing? Some writers charge by the word, some by the project, and some by the hour. Be sure to iron out all of the details, and insist on an agreement, before the writer starts your project.

    If you're a business owner, using a ghostwriter to help you move your book project along to completion can be money and time well spent. And if you need help with publishing your book, contact us. We've successfully worked with dozens of authors.

  • Tips for Giving Holiday Gifts to Clients

    Like it or not, the holiday season is on its way, so it’s time to start thinking about the perfect way to thank clients for their valued business.

    Now comes the hard part. What do you give?

    Choosing a gift for relatives and friends can be hard, but it may be even harder to choose one for clients. You are probably asking, "How much should we spend? What type of gift? Should we give food? What if people are gluten-sensitive or diabetic or hate chocolate? What about giving promotional products? Should they be personalized with our business name and logo, or is that tacky?"

    But remember this - the fact that you took the time to recognize your clients and give something back to them is usually more meaningful than the gift itself.  The purpose of the gift is to remind people that we are thankful for them and their patronage and to wish them continued success in their own endeavors.

    Most small businesses spend between $25 and $50 per holiday gifts for clients, although of course the amount can vary widely according to your budget and the size of the client's contribution to your revenue. It also depends on whether or not you are sending a gift to the CEO or to the office. However, you also don't want your gift to be so extravagant that it appears you are trying to guilt them into remaining a client.

    If you're sending a gift to the office, food is usually the most popular choice, especially if it's something that almost everyone can enjoy (you'll probably never please everyone!). Dried fruit, nuts, chocolate and/or gluten-free individually baked goods are often a safe choice. Gift baskets can be personalized with your logo.

    If you're sending a gift to the CEO or business owner, you may decide to get something more personal like a business book with a personal note inside, a restaurant gift card, theater tickets or a nice bottle of wine. Of course, these types of gifts usually require you to know a bit of personal information about the business owner or CEO. If you're a business owner yourself, think about what YOU would appreciate during the holidays and give accordingly.

    In both cases, a company that sells promotional products usually has access to thousands of gift options and their reps can advise you on some of the most popular choices for your budget. We would be happy to help you take the stress out of holiday gift-giving this year! Contact us to get started on client holiday gift ideas.

  • Tips for Business Owners Who Want to Self-Publish a Book

    share your knowledgeIf you're a business owner, chances are that you have a body of experience and knowledge that could be compiled into a book and read by other business owners, prospective clients and customers. For entrepreneurs in certain industries, a book is a great way to establish your authority and gain greater exposure for your company.

    If you feel that you "have a book in you", here are some tips that will help make the process a bit less surprising or frustrating.

    1. Consider hiring a ghostwriter.
    Chances are, writing is not your forte. And running a business takes time, so often best intentions to write a book are overshadowed by other demands. A ghostwriter will help you organize your thoughts, interview you and get to work.

    If you want a more "hands-on" approach, an alternative would be to hire a book writing coach. A cursory search on LinkedIn will immediately return several people who can coach you through the book-writing process and keep you accountable.

    2. Hiring an editor.
    Even if you use a ghostwriter, it's important to have another set of eyes take time going through your book, sentence by sentence. Readers notice when your book isn’t edited and many will leave negative reviews about spelling and grammar. Even a wonderfully insightful and informative book can be overlooked if it's poorly written, disorganized or contains spelling errors. Bad online reviews affect book sales because reviews are the first thing a book buyer looks at. Editors for self-publishing are easy to come across in this day and age.

    3. Use a printer that has experience in book printing, and make them your best friend.
    You'll be better off during the whole book writing and publishing process if you talk to a printer who has experience with book publishing at the beginning of your journey. The staff will be able to walk you through all of the steps and help you understand what to expect. From formatting your book manuscript to designing a cover to getting an ISBN number, a knowledgeable printer can fill you in on the details.

    4. Don't expect to SELL a lot of books.
    This is harsh, but it's very likely that you will sell under 250 copies. So why write a book at all? Because a hard copy is an awesome business card and an excellent giveaway at networking events and conferences. A digital copy can be given away on your company's website in exchange for a prospect's email address (which can be very valuable, depending on your type of product or service). A book establishes your credibility as a business owner and opens doors to speaking engagements, if that's your thing.

    5. Marketing takes time.
    If you DO want to sell your book to anyone other than your friends and family, your job is not done after you get your book published. Once again, consider hiring someone to help you get organized in spreading the word about your publication. Get a website with a blog as well as a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Google+ account and a Goodreads account. Make a plan to regularly share wisdom from your book and your own experiences with the world. Connect with other authors. Ask for reviews.

    If you need more tips on how to publish a book and use it to enhance your business, talk to us!



  • Prepare for Your Next Trade Show with Pre-Show Marketing

    check1When you gear up for a trade show, you have so many details to consider: Is our booth up-to-date and ready to go? Do we have effective promotional products (and do we have enough)? Do we have a good plan in place to follow up on the leads we get?

    Something that many businesses neglect in their pre-show planning is pre-show marketing. They rely on the trade show planners to get the word out about their involvement. However, to maximize your time and investment, it's a good idea to trumpet your participation and get involved in pre-show marketing. Here are some good tips to do just that:

    Get Social:
    Most conference organizers these days have an active social media campaign running in the months prior to the event. Large conferences these days generally have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and even YouTube, Google+ and Instagram profiles. They also usually have a hashtag or two that are created especially for the event. Get involved in the conversations about the event by talking about it on your own social media accounts and using the hashtag in your posts. You can also usually post on a conference's Facebook page, etc., to indicate your excitement and involvement.

    Check Your Database:
    Send out emails and even snail mail to contacts in your database that you think (or know) will be attending the show. You may even reach out to specific contacts and offer them a special gift for stopping by and being mentioned on your social media profiles.

    Write About It:
    Consider writing an article about a topic related to the conference's theme, or at a minimum, about your anticipated appearance at the show. Post the article to your website and PR sites as well as share it on your social media profiles.

    Let us know if you would like more tips about preparing for a successful trade show!

  • Direct Mail Should Be Direct

    hWhen do people usually see direct mail pieces? On the way from the mailbox to the front door, the kitchen or home office space when they come home after a long day of work. So, how do you capture their attention with your direct mail?

    Keep it straightforward. When you send direct mail to potential customers, don't try and fool them. They know that you want to sell them something. What prospects want to know is - what's in it for them? A lower price, better service, a better product, something new that will improve their lives? Spell it out for them.

    Keep it simple. Direct mail pieces that are too wordy or hard to understand are usually trashed. Distill your message into a couple of well-thought-out sentences and some bullet points. Remember that prospects are very selfish (and understandably so!); they want to benefit in some way from what you are selling.

    Make your headlines stand out with a clear font and punchy colors. Keep your message strong and easy to follow. Yes, you can be witty and clever, but make sure that you survey several people (outside of your business) ahead of time to determine that you aren't being too clever and thus go over people's heads.

    Personalize it. You can't get much more direct than including personalized messages. The more personal you can make your direct mail piece, the better your ROI will be.

    Include a call to action. So many direct mail pieces leave this out. Lead your prospects to what you want them to do in order to bring them into the sales funnel.

    Repeat. Like most marketing tactics, direct mail is not a "one and done" endeavor. Part of being direct with prospects is checking back with them multiple times. Good lists should net good results after multiple "touches" (and we can help with building a great list!).

    Do you have any direct mail tips to share? If you have questions about developing a successful direct mail campaign, please contact us. We also have a handy calculator that can help you determine the costs of direct mail.

  • Consider Content Marketing to Gain Brand Awareness and New Leads

    contentIf you own a business, you may have heard that content marketing can be an effective
    way to increase the reach and awareness of your brand and gain new website visitors and leads.

    But what exactly is content marketing? In a nutshell, content marketing is the act of communicating with prospects without selling. Rather than pitch/sell your products or services on various channels, you provide information that is helpful, amusing, entertaining, or enlightening (or a combination of these). The hope is that the engaging content will lure prospects and customers to your website or other online profiles and that they will check out your products and services.

    Does this brand awareness marketing work? According to a study by, 85 percent of the companies they surveyed saw an increase in awareness-building as a result of their content marketing initiatives. Also, 62 percent of these companies reported that content marketing actually increased the quality and quantity of leads in their sales pipeline.

    What are some of the types of content marketing? You may be surprised at how many forms there actually are, and how many you can use for your company:

    Blogging – This form of content marketing is probably the most familiar to you. You create useful content in the form of a blog/article with the intent of placing it on your website as well as sharing it via social media and even on content aggregate sites such as StumbleUpon and Reddit. Blogs also provide an RSS feed that readers can subscribe to and receive whenever you publish a new blog post.

    Books and eBooks – Companies will often pull together a series of blog posts or articles and turn them into a short hardcover book or ebook for free or paid distribution. B2B companies especially may use eBooks to provide a deeper look at a particular topic in exchange for their contact information. This content marketing also works as marketing for self-published books.

    Social Content - Content created specifically for social networks like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn may be a different format, but can have significant impact on awareness and engagement when planned and implemented using best practices.

    Email Marketing - Did you know that email marketing continues to provide the highest conversion rates of any online marketing tactic? By the way, email marketing can be tied in nicely with direct mail (ask us how).

    Case Studies – Yes, case studies are still used, especially with B2B companies. Case studies can be placed on your website and shared via social media. Remember the old adage: “Facts tell, stories sell”.

    Videos – It's no secret that videos are some of the most shared content on social media Short, entertaining videos can reach many viewers, but even longer and more technical videos can be valuable if they are titled well and placed on YouTube, Vimeo, etc.

    Infographics – You'll probably need a talented graphic designer and writer/editor, but a good infographic is often reshared and retweeted. If your infographic is properly branded and provides good content, the potential for a wide distribution of your brand is significant.

    Microsites – Many companies now use dedicated web sites for specific content, campaigns and promotions that don't necessarily fit on your regular website.

    Press Releases - Press releases are still used, but now most companies place them on press release websites such as Although press releases still sometimes reach journalists, most often they are effective as direct to consumer information.

    Surveys - Asking for feedback from past and current customers and then publishing the results can reach prospects in your pipeline as well as brand new ones.

    Teleclasses and Webinars - Reach a potentially wide audience with current and engaging content that is valuable to your prospects and customers. The recordings can then be re-purposed and shared again.

    We are passionate about helping our clients reach their marketing goals. Have you used content marketing for your business?

  • Give Your Business Signage Another Look

    signageIf you have a business, an important consideration is how you plan to use signage, whether you have a storefront or an office in a building. People make snap judgments about businesses they have never entered or done business with, so an attractive, professional sign can help your business convey the type of image you want to project.

    From the sign in the window or on the door to interior signage, you need to ask if you're giving a good first impression.

    On-site signage is actually one of the oldest and most important forms of marketing communication. Signs do three things in marketing communication: identification, location services, and branding. How well are your signs doing each of those jobs?

    Signage is so important that  shoppers are drawn into stores and make important quality inferences on the basis of signs, according to a University of Cincinnati analysis of a market research survey of more than 100,000 North American households,

    University of Cincinnati Researcher James J. Kellaris conducted a survey of 200 business students about their attitudes toward signage and found that 79 percent agreed they could “infer the quality of a business from its signage.” And a majority (55%) of those surveyed said they would “avoid going in to business establishments that have poor quality signage.”

    Just think - people infer the quality of your business from the quality of your signs.

    The report also suggested that people's first impressions of a business tend to become frozen over time, even when additional information goes against their initial reactions.

    The size and placement of your signage may be hampered by many factors, such as your building's design. However, you should keep your message and graphics as clear and legible as possible in order to reduce any difficulty for your prospects. Make sure your message can be read easily and understood even at a distance. Use materials that are durable and appropriate for the environment and usage. And replace them when they start to look old and/or worn.

    According to the SBA, signage is "the least expensive, yet most effective, form of advertising for independent and national retail businesses."

    If you have questions about how you can bring in more customers with signage, please contact us. We'll be glad to help with signage for trade shows, sandwich boards (a frame signs), interior signs, counter displays, hanging signs, banner stands and more!

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