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  • 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 ghostwriter who is 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 gift, 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.

  • 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. Hire 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.

    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 content marketing work? According to a study by Curata.com, 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.

    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 prweb.com. 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!

  • Ways to Use an Interactive Video System in Your Next Trade Show Booth

    wave1Do you want to attract more visitors and capture valuable data more easily at your next trade show? Consider incorporating an interactive video system/video kiosk. Video kiosks are quickly becoming a necessity for companies who want to find a new way to bring in visitors and collect valuable information and feedback.

    Here are some ways that you can use an interactive video system in your trade show booth:

    Experiential Marketing
    Video kiosks can help people interact with your brand by giving them an opportunity to explore information and share their experiences at the show via social networks and email. For instance, kiosks can be programmed to allow people to take photos or videos of themselves that are tagged with your brand, which they can then share on Facebook, Twitter, etc. And of course, you also get to keep attendees' information to follow up with them after the show.

    Video kiosks are an ideal way of gathering opinions and feedback from trade show attendees and other vendors. Instead of collecting business cards from attendees, your booth visitors can take a short survey on the touch screen and enter in their contact information in exchange for promotional giveaways, for instance, or an ebook that will be emailed to them immediately.

    Product Demos
    With a few taps on the video screen, visitors can quickly see how others use your product and perhaps envision how it would work for them.

    Interactive Photo Album
    With beautiful photos, you can show how other customers use your product or engage with your services. Depending on what your product is, those photos can show details they might not otherwise see, or demonstrate the inside story of how it’s made.

    Send information instead of handing it out
    Most people hate carrying bags of paperwork around with them during a tradeshow. But you can encourage people to sign up for free PDF’s that can be sent via email. It's also eco-friendly – and it ends up in their email inbox instead of the garbage.

    Would a short interactive game inform people about your products or services? You might to consider having an app designed that lets visitors learn about your business in a fun and engaging way by creating a game around it.

    Exhibitors are always finding new ways to use interactive video systems in their trade show booths. Do you have any others to share?

  • Marketing Tips for Self-Publishing Authors

    "Ideas" note stuck to wall (innovation business light bulb tips)If you've been writing a book that you intend to self-publish, you may have found your mind questioning just how you are going to get this book into the hands of people other than your family and friends. Marketing your book can be just as important as writing it — if you want to sell it, that is. Here are tips to get you started:

    1. Establish an Online Presence
    Authors today really need a web presence. This includes having a website with a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Goodreads profile and a Google+ profile that links to Google Authorship.

    Why a website? These days, many people do a little web searching before they purchase a book. You want your website to be the first thing they find so they can find out more about you and the background of the book. It's even better if they can purchase the book directly from you on your website and connect with you on your other social media profiles. Also, some readers, after they have finished an especially good book, will seek out a way to converse with the author. Having a website makes it much easier for them to do that and even share your book with THEIR friends and family.

    Why a blog on your website? A blog allows you to showcase your writing talents and your interest in your genre. It also helps your website advance in the search engines as you add new content with keywords to the blog. In addition, a blog gives you good content to share out on your social media profiles.

    If you have a blog and a Google+ account, you can link the two via the Google Authorship program. Read here for more about why this is important to authors.

    2. Develop an Email List

    Your website and blog should give people a way to opt-in to your email list. While you're writing your book, or while you're working on getting it published, you can offer a free chapter to people on your email list. People on your email list can also be updated as to when your book will be available for purchase, when you'll be doing a book signing, or when you get a great review.

    There are several websites that offer fairly low-cost solutions to maintaining an email list and sending professional-looking emails. Connecting your list to your website with attractive "opt-in" boxes is also fairly easy, especially if you have a WordPress website.
    Email services include:

    • MailChimp
    • Constant Contact
    • AWeber
    • InfusionSoft

    3. Reach Out

    Mostly likely there are many websites that deal with your book's genre or topic that would be happy to have you write a guest post. There are also cross-marketing groups on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ in which everyone in the group pledges to share each other's posts with their followers and friends. Such groups can be challenging to find, but they are out there. Reach out to other self-published authors and you'll often find that they are willing to share their marketing tips.

    Promoting free copies of your book (in eBook form) for a time can be very helpful in
    growing your audience. Websites such as Free eBooks Daily or FreeBooksy can give you a boost of readers who are not your friends and family.

    4. Market Every Day

    Authors usually exercise their writing "muscle" by writing every day. It's a good idea to exercise your marketing muscle daily as well. Don't let too much time go by between posting to your Facebook page, Twitter, your blog. Set up a calendar for an email campaign and then stick to it. Get involved in discussions on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ about your book's topic or genre or even another author's book. Comment on other authors' blogs.

    Make marketing a part of every day and don't be afraid to try new things. Some ideas will work, and others won't. The main thing is to keep going.

  • Leave a (Good) Mark with Printed Drink Coasters

    custom printed coastersCoasters - they used to just serve as a way to prevent unwanted water marks and stains on your wood furniture. Now, they can do so much more. If you've got a promotional event or celebration coming up where you'll be serving or selling beverages, consider adding custom printed drink coasters to your budget. Coasters are an inexpensive and popular item to brand an event and give it a special touch. Not just for restaurants and bars, coasters are often kept by attendees as keepsakes of special events.

    We've seen custom printed coasters used for:

    • Fundraisers
    • Charity golf outings
    • Networking
    • Sporting events
    • Tradeshows
    • Graduation parties
    • Wedding receptions
    • Retirement parties (the guest of honor's face was printed on one side!)

    Drink coasters are often a co-branded product for large events, where a beverage manufacturer will design (and pay for) one side of the coaster and the event organizer will design the other side.

    Coasters can be designed and printed in full, vivid color on one or two sides. We offer two thicknesses and two different shapes, square or round, in two different sizes. We can use your design or we can design one for you. Most orders can be turned around in 2 business days after you approve your design.

    If you're interested in finding out more about getting printed coasters for your event, give us a call or check our estimating tool.

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