Use Content Marketing to Bring Fresh Life to Your Marketing Mix

Armstrong Garden Supply was eager to grow name recognition and pump up spring specials. 

Hoping to grow their reputation as a year-round “solutions specialist” for lawn and landscape, they generated a list of common customer questions and set out to proactively answer them. Typically, clients were uncertain about things like when to water, types of fertilizer, pot sizing, and best planting practices. 

Armed with this information, Armstrong’s generated an oversized postcard featuring spring specials on one side and a plant care infographic on the other. This brought relevant advice to attract a very engaged target market: customers who were curious!

It’s All About THEM

Content marketing can bring fresh life to your business! 

This “you-centered” form of communication shifts your marketing from a message focus to a people focus, building trust and driving profitable consumer action. While social media and videos are popular forms of content marketing, often businesses overlook the opportunity to bring valuable content through print. Want to get started? Consider clever infographics, how-to postcards, or a printed snippet of your blog to lead them online as regular subscribers. 

Or to expand your options, here are five other possibilities:

1. Printed Checklists or Magnets

Checklists are a simple way to tailor content for specific customer groups.

For example, one HVAC specialist provided area homeowners with an efficient tool for making smart decisions about airflow service issues. This seasonal checklist, divided into quarterly task charts, served as a worksheet for customers to stay current on changing filters, cleaning coils, and scheduling maintenance.

Checklists like these can serve as a handy magnet, a tearaway calendar, or a sales folder supplement.

2. Point-of-Purchase Bookmarks or Inserts

Grab-and-go options like bookmarks are easy to include in any envelope, package, or display.

When content is tailored to customer needs, it immediately sparks curiosity, so highlight benefits like savings (of time, money, or hassle) or increases (in health, comfort, or convenience). Customized solutions give people the confidence to try out your business!

3. Magazines

People are naturally image-oriented, and sleek full-color magazines are hard to resist.

If your content is specific enough, you can build a passionate subscription base. Even if you have a core of 200 people, if they are enthusiastic and loyal, they are definitely worth the investment.

4. Booklets

Not ready for an entire magazine?

A booklet is a flexible alternative. People are attracted to content that educates or equips them with a skill, and booklets are a simple way to extend value and practical help. Whether it’s financial counseling, vacation planning, home improvement tutorials, or product-focused cookbooks, a booklet might be just the ticket for engaging your audience. 

5. Newsletters

When you want to grow your prospect list or stay connected to your clients, nothing will “glue” customers to your company like a dynamic, consistently mailed newsletter.

Newsletters are fun to read and naturally customer-focused. From a “Did You Know?” educational element to a coupon that offers a legitimate incentive, newsletters build credibility and rapport that will never get lost in their inbox.

Pro-Tip: No matter what kind of print content you use, include a visible invitation that calls them to act as they finish reading. Try phrases like “Activate ____ Today,” “Claim Your Discount,” or “Call for a Free Estimate!”

Print Builds Long-Lasting Partnerships

Ready to spring ahead with your marketing mix? 

Show customers that their relationship with your business is not merely transactional, but exists as a partnership that extends beyond the sale. Serve them with great content, and they will return the favor with their wallet and their loyalty!

Sell Yourself with a Winning Elevator Pitch

Can you introduce yourself or your business in a brief, compelling way?

An elevator pitch does precisely that. While the origins of this term are debated, the name reflects the idea of a quick speech that could be given in the span of an elevator ride (thirty seconds to two minutes).

An elevator pitch is a short description of an idea, product, or company that explains the concept in a way that any listener could understand. This engaging summary could be used to entice an investor, to explain an idea, or to sell your services. Done right, your pitch can help you land a job or connect with prospective customers.

It can take time to solidify your pitch, but here are four tips that can help:

1. Build a Connection

The start of a conversation is a perfect time to establish a relationship.

Begin by introducing yourself and, if possible, build off a previous connection or shared experience. As you share, try to reference your credentials, training, or something that differentiates you from competitors.

Here are a few engaging openers:

–How does your organization recruit new employees?

–Can I tell you about the best mobile tools for training your staff remotely?

–Let me tell you about the time I took our products all the way to South America for ___.

2. Introduce Your Company or Career Goals

To move the conversation forward, draft a one-sentence story that answers the question, “what do you/your business do?”

Since listeners are inherently self-focused, make sure your account highlights what you can do for your prospect, including the value you can deliver or the problems your business can solve.

If you’re selling yourself, remember to outline your big picture vision. Say something like, “I’m looking to land a role in marketing,” or “I’m hoping to relocate to ___ for _____.” When a person understands your role or goals, they are in a better position to help to connect you to someone who can.

3. Highlight Your Unique Value or Achievements

After establishing who you are, now it’s time to shine.

Point to any unique selling points or personal achievements that make you (or your business) stand out. Back this up with evidence or testimonials from satisfied customers. Anticipate potential skepticism ad head this off with facts, examples, or trustworthy referrals.

4. Ask a Question

As you close your introduction, be sure to ask an open-ended question.

This can help engage the person in a longer conversation or open the door for you to trade business cards or follow up with a company brochure or a personal resume. 

Here are a few compelling closers:

“Here is my contact information, can I get your email and follow up with you later?”

“Could you connect me with your business manager so I can share more about what I could offer your team?”

“If you have time, I would love to meet again to chat more.”

Practice Makes Perfect

It takes time to grow confidence, so hone and refine your speech over time.

Most people will go through multiple drafts before settling on the words that are just right. And depending on your audience, your pitch may be slightly different each time. Remember, the most potent conversations are those whose subject matter is highly relevant to the listener.

­­Be upbeat and flexible and you’ll make connections like a pro!

Embrace Conflict and Diversity to Grow the Strongest Possible Teams

2020 has been a time of unrest, listening, and re-evaluating priorities.

Businesses have been particularly challenged to examine their own biases and to proactively seek the well-being of all people. While topics of diversity and inclusion can be difficult to navigate, strong leaders recognize that a variety of opinions and backgrounds bring a better result.

At P&G, this mindset drives leaders to embrace conflicting opinions. To create an inclusive environment, supervisors try not to shy away from disagreements or heated discussions:

“Accessing diverse points of view is vital in creating optimum strategies and plans,” said Geraldine Huse, CEO & chairman of the board. “An inclusive leader creates an environment where disagreement is viewed positively. I have learned from experience that the more diverse the team, the more debate and disagreement we have and the better the outcome . . . Listening to people, understanding and solving problems collectively, taking advantage of all the diverse experience – this is what makes an inclusive leader successful.”

Leadership is Influence

No factor plays a bigger role in creating a company’s culture than its leadership. 

Many people think of leadership as a top-down, closed circle of directors. But real leadership is influence, so scientists describe leadership differently. Specifically, leaders are people who can navigate a psychological process that enables individuals to improve collective actions. The best teams are comprised of people who set aside individual, selfish agendas to work as a cohesive unit. Here, groups achieve something powerful they could never accomplish alone.

If you want to develop effective, influential leaders, collaboration is key. While there is no simple method for building an inclusive corporate culture, here are three traits you can encourage in yourself and others.

Humility

Being in charge doesn’t mean you are right.

Read that sentence again, because we all need to hear it! One of the primary reasons you’ll fail to grow as a leader is your temptation toward pride. Just because you feel confident about something doesn’t mean you couldn’t be wrong. Humble leaders are willing to listen to others, to admit weakness, and to change their minds.

Courage

People who influence others are those who drive change.

But this can be very uncomfortable! While it is rarely convenient to challenge the status quo, innovation and diversity can’t flourish in static environments. In particular, courageous leaders are clear on their values and principles, but they are brave enough to do things differently. As Dr. Carol Dweck once said, the word FAIL means “First Attempt In Learning.”

Courageous leaders can walk away from unproductive situations, and they view diversity as an opportunity rather than a challenge.

Curiosity

Leaders are learners, and no trait is as foundational for growth as curiosity.

Curious leaders are interested in other people and don’t shy away from those different than them. They are eager to understand why people think the way they do, and they aren’t afraid to engage with those who disagree.

To be a curious learner, ask a lot of questions (even dumb questions!). Work to suspend your embedded attitudes, experiences, or assumptions, and lean into a mental or emotional state where things “might” fail. Allow people to explore imaginary outcomes with phrases like, “could it be?” or “what if?” Then listen without judgment to learn.

Fuel Synergy From Diversity

Do you want to build a culture where everyone can thrive?

Leaders who can create a strong synergy out of diverse (or even opposite!) individual elements will embrace conflict and welcome different perspectives. By reducing the homogeneity of groupthink, you will maximize collaboration, encourage personal and corporate well-being, and keep your decision-making biases in check.

Communicate Excellence with Vibrant Printed Posters and Signs

One glance is truly all it takes, and recent eye-tracking studies demonstrate how quickly first impressions happen.

Dr. Hong Sheng, assistant professor of technology at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, employed eye-tracking software to analyze and scan response patterns as students viewed website screenshots. Subjects averaged merely 180 milliseconds on a particular section before moving on. (For a reference, 185 milliseconds is about the time it takes for a helicopter rotor to make one full rotation).

Sheng also found it took people less than two-tenths of a second to form first impressions that significantly affected outcomes:

“The longer the participants stayed on the page, the more favorable their impressions were,” Sheng said. “First impressions are important and . . . [these impressions] can determine whether that user forms a favorable or unfavorable view of that organization.”

Big Statements Win Business

If a website glance can have such an impact, how much more will a large-scale display? 

Research shows that people are 70% more likely to remember a brand advertised in print as opposed to online, and large-scale posters and signs are a logical, cost-effective way to spark interest. No matter what product or service you are promoting, a perfectly placed sign can stop people in their tracks. Thanks to their size and bold colors, there’s no doubt that your vivid images will meet people where they are and naturally stick in viewers’ minds.

Printed posters and signs demonstrate that you are vibrant and capable. Signs that appear in public places radiate confidence, making your business seem more creative and trustworthy. For example, one Health and Information study showed that posters were among the best ways to increase knowledge, change attitudes, and alter behaviors. A well-designed poster shows you do things with excellence, and people are in good hands with you!

And signs aren’t just static. Large scale displays can be customized to include a coupon or a quick-response (QR) code, leading your prospects to your website, landing page, or even a creative video advertisement. From explaining complicated processes to posing a question that someone absolutely MUST find the answer for, interactive graphics are a great way to engage bystanders or snag curious prospects.

Whether you exhibit one poster or sign or display a whole row, big displays get big results!

A Fast Track to Success

Ready to get started?

Check out our online ordering options! Here you can design online, re-order from your existing products library, or submit a custom design. Plug into creative concepts like these:

–Use big color posters as art reproductions, event features, service menus, or promotional collectibles

–Create patterns of simple posters to build a striking, geometric display

–Add frames, cardboard or foam backing, or swivel display mounting for stability  

–Extend your poster’s lifespan by adding a durable laminate coating

Need a jump start? Contact us today about full-service graphic design. We’ll work hard, so you don’t have to!

What to Do When You’re Tempted to Give Up on Your Business

“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.”

– NFL Coach Vince Lombardi

 

Should I give up?

It’s the question that hits every aspiring leader at some point. It’s a seed of doubt rooted deep in our emotions and our identities as humans.

As an entrepreneur, you will continuously face discouragement that threatens to cheat you out of hope and possibility. When you are tempted to quit on your business, what should you do?

Rest is Best

While there are many things you can do to combat discouragement, one of the best things is also the simplest: REST.

Making decisions when you are fatigued or depressed can have long-lasting consequences. A pessimistic outlook can shape the trajectory of a decision, leading to poor outcomes down the road. And weariness has real effects: one study found that U.S. clinicians were 26% more likely to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics to patients during the fourth hour of work on a typical day.

When you feel beat down or uncertain, get a few good nights of sleep, take a vacation, or focus on a different aspect of a challenging project for a bit. Taking time to replenish your emotional and mental resources is one of the best decisions you can make.

Look for Opportunities

When you only focus on problems, the result is restlessness, anxiety, and ulcers.

Instead, push yourself to look for opportunities. In the COVID-19 season, that’s what many businesses are doing.

Sugarbird Sweets and Tea, a California-based scone specialist, grounded their business in selling sweets and teas wholesale to restaurants and hotels. But once stay-at-home orders were issued, these catering orders dried up and clients disappeared:

“Within three weeks, we were down 95 percent of our revenue,” said Kei Okumura, founder and owner of Los Angeles-based Sugarbird Sweets. “We had to quickly pivot to support and provide our services to consumers, direct.”

Sugarbird made an intentional shift from catering to individual online orders. This meant upgrading their platforms and shipping logistics to better serve current and future customers. Okumera says that, though this has been challenging, she sees the rapid increase in online presence as a push toward growth: 

“I think it’s a good thing—I think it’s a great thing,” Okumura said about going online. “If I could ship this nationwide with hubs across the nation, so I can do two-day shipping to New York or to the Midwest, that would be fantastic.”

While this season is demanding, it can push every entrepreneur to tighten their business plan and drop any distractions.

Reconnect with Your Why

People are most tempted to quit when their business isn’t making money, or it’s just not fun anymore.

A business won’t survive long if enjoyment or profit are the only things driving you. So, when you’re feeling weary, re-examine the greater meaning that motivates you. Get with other trusted friends and talk through questions like these:

  • What do we love to do?
  • What was the difference we set out to make in people’s lives through this business?
  • How does our company or idea bring distinct value, comfort, or joy?
  • Why is our company unique?

The Heart of Every Entrepreneur

While ideas come and go, entrepreneurship is an identity.

To be an entrepreneur is to declare that your mission is to create extraordinary value in the world. Businesses are just vehicles for that value creation, so while the outward form of your business may change, your heart as an entrepreneur will not.

Target the Right Customers with Your Next Direct Mail Piece

You wouldn’t spend $100 million on a new national advertising campaign without carefully set goals and objectives.

But when it comes to direct mail, marketers often spray out postcards or fliers without a great deal of thought. In direct mail marketing, careful planning is vital to your success. While the average direct mail response rate is around five percent, strategic targeting can drive that number to nine percent for house lists and as high as 16 percent for personalized mail.

To simplify your targeting, start with these questions:

  • Who is the audience?
  • Who is the prospective buyer?
  • Who will receive, read, and hopefully respond to this mailing?

The beauty of direct mail is that you can use it to reach only those people who are potential buyers for your product or service.

This is called target marketing, and it means that during the development stage, you can use multiple criteria for selecting recipients.

Demographics may include age, income, gender, geography, home value, marital status, vehicle driven, occupation, hobbies, and more. Selections for B2B mailing lists can also vary, including the company’s industry, type of product, annual sales, number of employees, locations, etc.

Helpful Hints for Compiling a Mailing List

If targeted mail is so crucial, how do you find a list filled with these “perfect” customers? 

If you haven’t compiled your own mailing list (of current customers, qualified leads, or streamlined prospects), there are two basic types of mailing lists: compiled lists and response lists. 

Compiled lists are those assembled from a variety of sources (think association members, graduates of specialty programs, qualified purchasers, etc.). For example, a list might include dentists from Boston or Lutheran youth pastors. Compiled lists are more complete and can work well for driving people to a specific online landing page you’ve designed specifically for your direct mail campaign. You can usually get a compiled mailing list in one business day.

Purchasing a compiled list might work best when you:

  –Have a limited marketing geography
  –Want to reach all households or businesses in an area
  –Want to reach all homes or businesses that fit specific demographic criteria
  –Are on a limited budget
  –Want to mail fewer than 5,000 pieces
  –Want to make telemarketing follow-up calls before or after your mailing

Response lists consist of prospects who have inquired about or responded to other marketers’ offers, like purchasing a swimsuit through a catalog or by participating in a nonprofit fundraiser. Typical response list sources are magazines, membership clubs, catalogs, warranty cards, etc. Response lists are more expensive than compiled lists because they are more targeted, and you have more assurances about the buyers’ behaviors. You can usually get a response mailing list in 3-5 business days.

Response lists might be best if your product has a high price point or your target customer is very narrowly defined. The list cost will be higher, but your ROI will increase as well. Response lists are also not always current, so make sure you ask when the list was last updated before purchasing.

We’re Here to Help

Feel overwhelming? It doesn’t have to be.

For a simpler option, Every Day Direct Mail lists can be compiled using the EDDM Online Tool available through the United States Postal Service. Here you can target customers by demographics like age, household size, income, zip code, etc. Not sure where to start? We can help! Give us a call.

Most experts agree that selecting the right mailing list is the most important factor in your mailing’s success. The more information you can collect and refine, the better your response rate will be!

Simple Strategies for Mobilizing Powerful Testimonials and Reviews

How do you grab a lifeline on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

Ask the audience! While “experts” tend to get a trivia question right two-thirds of the time, the audience gets that answer right 91 percent of the time.

Why? Because individually we are limited, but collectively we are genius.

In today’s global economy, buyers understand the importance of collective intelligence. People rely on others to help them decide what movies to see, which vet to patronize, or the best software to buy. More than half of adults under age 50 consult online reviews before making a purchase decision, and 88% read reviews to determine the quality of a local business.

Meet One of the Millions

AutoTrader.com put testimonials to work in a recent print ad for their company.

To recruit new dealers for their association, AutoTrader.com used a pocket folder with sell sheet inserts featuring recent, happy buyers. These 5×7 flyers introduced customers with the headline, “Meet One of the Millions,” and displayed photos of real clients next to their most recent car purchase.

A family of four who purchased from Shults Ford in Pittsburgh had this to say about their car search: 

“When we couldn’t find the exact vehicle we wanted in our area and saw your commercial, we logged onto your website and found it instantly! Who knew the perfect Volvo V70 was sitting at Shults Ford, just 50 miles away.”

Autotrader.com produced a variety of sell sheet flyers with a common theme: real customers, standing next to real vehicles, listed in real geographical locations, with upbeat reviews about their experience.

While testimonials varied, the tagline stayed the same: “Your next customer is here.”

How to Build Social Proof

People depend on reviews, and companies that publish testimonials dramatically increase the quality and quantity of their marketing leads.

This means your company’s best marketers aren’t your employees – they’re your existing customers. In many industries, there is nothing more powerful than social proof, and this is something that can be mobilized in your favor.

What is the best way to gather testimonials?

By asking! Ask clients directly, especially when your customer has just complimented you, tagged your brand on social media, re-ordered your product, or referred a friend. Ask people face-to-face, by incentivizing employees to collect feedback, or by using the “tip” trick.

The tip trick is effective when you’ve spent a significant amount of time with a client or a project. After your commitment is complete, ask for a review with this prompt: “if you had a good experience and include my name in this review, our company will give me a $__ tip.” In this scenario, happy clients are more likely to offer testimonials because it offers a free way to tip someone they appreciate – a win for everyone!

When asking for testimonials, you can help people find the right words, with questions like:

  • What was it like before you had our product/service?
  • What problems were you trying to solve with our product/service?
  • What made our company stand out from other options you considered?
  • What has exceeded your expectations since working with our company?
  • How much time/money does our product save you each day/week/month?
  • What have you been able to achieve since making this decision?
  • What would you tell someone who is considering this purchase?

Get the Good Gossip Flowing

Telling people your business is the best in the industry won’t prompt people to reach for their wallets.

But hearing this message from others might convince them to do so. Great reviews can make or break your brand and serve as a lead generating engine for your sales team.

What are you waiting for? Start collecting and featuring customer stories today!

 

How to Establish Trust with Potential Clients

Have you ever received a cold call from someone trying to sell you something?

Which of these actions characterized your response?

  1. You found an excuse to hang up
  2. You used short words or sentences in response to leading questions
  3. You used delay tactics or told the salesperson you’d call them down the road
  4. You were excited about the call and took proactive steps to learn more

If you are like most people, you probably lean toward a quick disconnect. That’s because behaviors 1-3 are basically kneejerk reactions that display a lack of trust.

Easing Past Apprehension

Sales can be scary – for everyone involved.

When you begin by recognizing this, you gain an immediate advantage. If you want to influence how a person thinks or responds, first you must guide them out of the calm sea of apathy and into riskier waters of decision.

And that requires trust.

So how do you get there? Especially if you’re wooing prospects you might never see face-to-face? Here are three helpful options:

1. Become More Transparent

Transparency simply means making something accessible.

There’s been a shift in marketing, especially as content marketing has gained traction, and your clients expect answers at their fingertips, without a middleman or any layers of hidden information.

Want to get things out in the open?

List prices on your website

(rather than hiding them behind a phone call)

Address uncomfortable or controversial questions upfront

(instead of waiting for prospects to ask)

Invite people into your world

(show prospects the faces and voices of your team: a group of actual humans who have lives and families and who are working hard every day to make your business thrive)

2. Stop Trying to Praise Yourself

Claiming you’re the best or tooting your own horn can make you seem unrelatable.

Instead, do everything you can to provide social proof from previous or current customers, such as

  • Sending surveys with every order
  • Using follow-up calls to get feedback on your service
  • Advertising where and how people can place a review
  • Creating case studies or testimonial examples around frequently-ordered products

And remember, reviews mean nothing unless you use them! Add them to your sell sheets and brochures. Paste them at the bottom of emails or sales letters. Create an arsenal of testimonials for your marketing team to pull from, and categorize them around pain points or specific buyer personas so they can be used at just the right moment.

3. Provide Assurances

Want to tip people toward a decision?

There are several little things you can do to bolster trust. Here are just three areas you can tweak:

Email Sign-Ups

What’s the biggest reason prospects avoid offering their email address?

Fear of spam. Assure your leads with phrases like, “We hate spam and promise not to spam you.” Or let people know up front how often you intend to communicate.

Account Registration

Doubt or uneasiness can creep in when people are asked to create an account on your website.

To alleviate this, provide assurances about how people can cancel or the benefits they will receive by moving forward.

Affirmation

Sometimes people need a little validation to boost their confidence.

You can do this by adding encouragements to your sign-up or order forms, like: “Thanks for choosing Acme Associates. You’re in good hands!” or, “Over ___ subscriptions filled each week!”

Customers Buy from People They Trust

The economy doesn’t run on money – it runs on trust, and so does your business.

When you’re selling, first focus on building trust with buyers. Then you’ll find people will not only listen to your advice, but they’ll be more willing to take it and to move forward with you.

Overcome Nervousness in Your Video-Conference Meetings

If you were called to stand up and give an impromptu speech, would you flourish or would you flee?

One of the world’s richest men said he used to be so scared of public speaking that he was “terrified of getting up and saying [his] name.” Warren Buffett spent most of his college years avoiding courses with group speaking elements, and even signed up for a public speaking course but dropped out at the last minute.

Beating Back the Butterflies

Glossophobia, or fear of public speaking, is believed to affect at least 75 percent of the population.

From small butterflies to full-on panic, public speaking causes many to tremble. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once joked that some people report that they fear public speaking more than death, so “if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy!”

With the 2020 pandemic thrusting us into a new world of virtual meetings, this discomfort can be amplified. Professors and teachers around the world report teaching to dark blank squares, as students turn off cameras and “hide” from their cohorts.

In real-life groups, we don’t feel the same pressure to perform socially as we might through online platforms. Experts say that 15 percent of our communication is done verbally, and 85 percent is sent through body language, so the extra effort it takes to engage through socially distant meetups can be especially stressful.

How can you overcome this discomfort? Here are recommendations from the pros:

Adjust Your Camera at Eye Level

Don’t have the webcam pointed up at you, or you’ll offer teammates a revealing glance at your nose hairs or double chin.

Eye to eye is the best, so even if it feels weird, try to look directly at the camera (straight ahead) as you speak. If necessary, stack books under your device until your webcam is eye level.

Look at Others While You Listen

Perhaps you’re distracted by seeing yourself onscreen and feel more self-conscious as a result.

Adjust your lighting and image touch-ups at the start of a meeting, then do your best to look at others, not yourself.

Treat the Meeting Like an Ordinary Group Discussion

Forget the idea that a video meeting can make or break you.

Treat these like ordinary conversations or casual brainstorming sessions. Speak in a relaxed tone, act like yourself, and show engagement by nodding, leaning forward to listen, or tilting your head to “give them your ear.”

Practice an “Others First” Mindset

During public speaking, you feel “all eyes” watching you.

This can be painfully vulnerable, like a caveman exposed in daylight. While you may want to shrink back, calm your anxiety by focusing on your desire to encourage others. Sarah Gershman, President of Green Room Speakers, says this:

“The key to disarming our organic panic button is to turn the focus away from ourselves — away from whether we will mess up or whether the audience will like us — and toward helping the audience.

“Studies have shown that . . . showing kindness and generosity to others has been shown to activate the vagus nerve, which has the power to calm the fight-or-flight response. When we are kind to others, we feel calmer and less stressed. The same principle applies in public speaking. When we approach speaking with a spirit of generosity, we counteract the sensation of being under attack and start to feel less nervous.”

Before you chime in to share, make small bullet points of what you want to contribute, so you are focused on connection and less critical of your own, awkward voice.

Finally, building confidence takes time. Each time you participate, push yourself to do a bit more.  Unlearning self-conscious thoughts and fears won’t kill you. But it will take practice! So what better time to try?

[Edit First, June 30, Business Tips]: 6 Simple Ways to Improve Your Graphic Design Skills

“There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW!

Wow is the one to aim for.”

(Milton Glaser, graphic designer & co-founder of New York magazine)

2020 is a great time to hone your hobbies and sharpen your skills.

What have you been learning in your quaran-TIME this year? One no-fail possibility is to brush up on your eye for design. Whether you are an amateur decorator, an urban planner, or you are planning a client presentation, small tweaks to any project can really enhance your reputation.

Before you embark on your next masterpiece, consider six basic DO’s and DON’Ts of design:

Fonts

DO worship classic typefaces.

Every designer needs an arsenal of tried-and-true typefaces that work for almost any project. Classic fonts are easy to read, balancing timeless elegance with contemporary style. Consider fonts like Garamond, Helvetica, Futura, Clarendon, Bodoni, Avenir, Orpheus, News Gothic, Canela, and Gotham, to name a few.

DON’T use any more typefaces in one layout than is absolutely necessary

Using fewer fonts increases readability, while too many fonts changes can distract and confuse the reader. Long multipage publications (such as booklets) can support a greater variety of typefaces, but for short brochures and ads, limit font families to just one or two.

Image Presentation

DO apply some sharpening to digital images.

Digital camera sensors and lenses always blur an image to some degree, and sharpening tools will improve the apparent image quality even more than upgrading to a high-end camera lens. Image sharpening provides a powerful option for emphasizing texture and drawing viewer focus.

DON’T use Photoshop or Adobe filters to disguise a low-quality image.

Bad images are bad images. When a photo lacks resolution or focal clarity, don’t slap a vintage or distortion filter on it and hope for the best. What can you do when there aren’t other options? When a high-resolution option (or a substitute graphic) absolutely will not work, print out the poor image and photograph it as a physical snapshot. Make the poor quality highly visible and part of the solution.

Layouts

DO create a focal point and natural movement for every layout.

Just like a musician reads notes on a staff, a reader should follow a visual journey through your design. For viewers to engage, they must have a path to follow, so try to tell a “visual story” with a beginning, middle, and end.

To move people through your piece, use bright colors to grab attention, jagged lines to build excitement, curves to slow people down, text sizing to create hierarchy, or bulleted lists and patterns to guide readers.

Whenever possible, tell your story with visuals rather than text!

DON’T use equally weighted objects on a page.

When your focal elements are the same size, it forces competition among them, which confuses and fatigues readers. Instead, allow for plenty of white space around your key element and call to action, giving these lots of room to shine.

Reduce the sizing and color of less important objects or use selective grouping to set important elements apart.

Create a Dynamic Viewing Experience

First impressions are lasting impressions. Whether you realize it or not, the design principles you use form the foundation of your publications, creating dynamic experiences before people read a single word you’ve written.

Need a hand? Through the planning, design, and review process, don’t hesitate to contact us. Whether you’re creating a template or need start-to-finish graphic design, we’re here to consult, create, and bring your best ideas to life.