PrintBlogger- rambling thoughts

Business Lessons from PrintBlogger

PrintBlogger • we love to print


Signage is an indispensable part of the retail business model, signage is an indispensable part of the retail business model.

  • Window signs are used to pique interest and to pull consumers into the store.
  • Posters and banners are used to create a theme and to build in-store excitement and enthusiasm.
  • Banners and signs placed above display cases or product bins are used to grab the customer's attention and encourage cross-store shopping.
  • Two-sided signs are placed on top of shelves and gondolas to help customers find products.
  • Floor graphics are used to lead customers to featured merchandise.
  • Signage at the checkout counter is used to encourage last minute shopping and announce upcoming events and sales.
  • Signage can be used to influence buying decisions by placing them everywhere the shopper must stop
  • History shows that retail signage has a short lifespan. Retailers know that the only way to keep their customers coming back is by offering them something new, and that means regularly changing their signage

We are here to help you will all type of signage!




Drive Fresh Traffic for Your Business
A new era in business is bringing fresh flavor to Kohl’s.

As traditional retailers struggle to keep their doors open, Kohl’s executives are trying something radically different: a grocery partnership with Aldi. In March of 2018, the department store announced it would team up with Aldi to offer grocery sales in 10 of its locations.

“The key priority we have as a company is to drive traffic,” Kevin Mansell, the chief executive of Kohl’s said in a Thursday earnings call. “We’re focused on traffic-driving retailers: Groceries, supermarket chains, they drive a lot of traffic. We’re finally on a path where we’re getting more [shoppers].”

In an age of online shopping, brick-and-mortar businesses have to hustle to make their company more relevant to consumers. Kohl’s has experimented with lighter inventory, smaller stores, and more streamlined partnerships with companies like Under Armour and Amazon. Other retail giants have focused on adding communal spaces, demonstration areas, and workshops to encourage shoppers to linger.

Feed Your Funnel with New Customers

Ultimately, every successful business has to draw new business and keep customers coming back.

In your niche, there are probably several complementary businesses that don’t compete directly with your product or service. Many of these companies have a base that could easily feed your sales funnel.

What are the mutually beneficial relationships you could build with other businesses?

While Aldi and Kohl’s may seem like an unlikely match, their differences balance each other in a unique way, allowing Kohl’s to gain additional foot traffic and offering Aldi to expand their market reach. For Aldi, renting space within Kohl’s stores is cheaper than building stand-alone stores, and the partnership creates exposure for the lesser known German grocery chain.

As you consider new partnerships, it’s also healthy to keep an eye on the competition, because an ideal way to grow your client base is to capture users who are already in need of services like yours! Examine the market tactics of businesses you compete with. What product are they offering? What are they doing that their customers like or dislike? How could you do it in a better, more personalized way?

Actively monitor what your competitors are doing in web design, service packages, or marketing techniques to feed your creativity or to counter punch with your own sales strategies. Looking to woo some of your competitor’s customers? Tools like Mention or Reddit can help you monitor customer sentiment. Online reviews of your competitors are also a great place to see how your rivals are succeeding or where you can do better.

Position Yourself as the Answer

Whether you’re wooing new customers or generating leads, it’s important to give potential clients a good reason to try your services.

Think about what makes your ideal customer happy, sad, scared, or excited, and position yourself to bring the answers they need. “Identify those places where they are likely to be found (media, online, offline, mail, etc.) and then create messages for them,” says Jeff Motter, CEO and chief marketing officer of Easy Bay Marketing Group. This may mean creating content via webinars or printed newsletters or physically networking through community events or industry conferences.

And don’t forget to close the loop.

After your efforts to bring in business, remember to intentionally follow up with calls, e-mails, or samples. Many prospects and great conversations fall by the wayside because you fail to execute after a lead shows interest. As real estate sales guru Michelle Moore says, “Not following up with your prospects is the same as filling your bathtub without first putting the stopper in the drain.”




Did I leave Apple, or Apple leave me?

In 1986 I bought my first Mac the plus at over $2000 it was costly but we needed to add it as printing world was changing. For 30 years I have been a Apple evangelist owning almost every high Mac introduced in my home and business. At my best friend’s the wedding he and I  we wore Apple stickers on your shoe soles so in the church you could see them as we knelt down.  I repaired them and did consulting on using to them in printing companies across the country.  

Mac Plus


Mac ii

Mac iici

Quada 800, 840av,900 950 8 + of them

Power Mac 7100,7200 8500 950 8+ of them

G3 G4 G4 G4 quad 8+ of them

Intel Power Macs- 4 of them

Ipod 4 of them

Apple TV – 2 of them

Ipad 3 of them  

iPhone 3, 4, 4s, 5, 5s, 5c, 6, 6s, -7  over 12 phones lost count of them at this point.

In total over $250,000 in apple products not including monitors, keyboard and other add-ons  and iTunes.

I made money on much of them and highly recommend them as best in class and built.  This all changed in the past few years. Products now fail at higher rate, no longer can I use a IPhone to I want a new one. Our mean frailer is now about 14 months. With the new payment plans at over $600 a phone and only a one year  warranty, it is losing proposition.

In last the 15 months 3 iPhone 6s’s have hardware failed, we bought 3 iPhone 7’s one is acting up, one never had good sound or reception (was told it is normal) and one is only 4 months.  At 51 days over warranty, my Iphone did this weekend and will no longer connect to make calls. I spent all day yesterday on the with apple and had to the after the after off to go see a “genus” to wait 30 min past my appointment to be told sorry you need a new phone. Only to offer an iPhone 7 at over $325, no reduction and no offer to get an 8 at reduced costs. 

When I explained that is the 2 brand new iPhone I have had to fail in less than 14 months and this was not what I expected from an Apple product, his response was if we offered everyone special deals the line would be out the door. Not an issue for me I responded as I was walking next door to get Pixil 2 for $350 with a 2 year warranty, better screen, faster and with a better camera than both the 7 and 8!

So what if I had got insurance at best it is to extend the 2nd year $129 +  you still pay $99 to replace it + tax so $230+ I could have got a old iPhone that is only a $100 savings… not a great deal when you have 5 phones and all the other high-end phone MFG’s  give you 2 years included… why is Apple one year? They must have data showing their hardware failure rate is high in the 2nd year.

In the last ¼ we upgrade tech here. Last year we upgraded two macs and had more network and printing issues than all our PC’ combined. This year we upgraded 3 computers,  all PC’s with less issues so far.

I used to justify Apple products as they were better made and took far less of my time in IT. I can no longer say that. 

Will I every buy Apply again, yes but never as preferred a choice and only as Design workstation.  As for Phones they are just commodity item and will bought on what meets our needs for the best value,  features with a good warranty.  Today that is not Apple. 

This Christmas for the first time its an Apple free one, with firesticks and kindles not a single Apple product 

So I ask did,  I leave or did Apple leave me? 18 month with a Pixel II and happy.



Don't be John - a costly 30-year-old mistake.

Good news - I had record income last year. Bad news I never got the money. My tail of woe so you do not get screwed.

NEVER BUY WHOLE LIFE INSURANCE! Life lesson, not only is it a fake investment it can you cost years later.
After buying a policy in my 20s (yes over 30 years ago). I stopped paying when I could not afford it a few years later. I was going to let the cash value pay for it to it ran out.

I asked to cash it and was talked out of it every few years. Northwestern Mutual via a series of salespeople only kept trying to sell me or new whole life. Never convert to me term or cash out. Every meeting was over 3 hrs of wear you down sales speak in the cloak of investment advice.

I finally stopped taking meetings about 15 years ago and ignored them. Well, the policy closed out finally yippee- right? NO NWM sent the IRS a 1099 for $31,000 that I now have to pay over $14,000 in taxes on!!! The money they claim I had built up that I could not use or get to, or pay fines on. So what did I do with the $31000 nothing! it does not exist. It's an accounting gimmick that is legal so NWM gets to write off millions in against their taxes every year. Passing the tax burden on to people like me.

Every whole life group does this so NWM is not the only scum doing this. I am glad I helped to finance someone's boat, vacation home or vacation. Only they benefitted not me or you. Time to hit the home equity to pay for this mistake from 30 years ago.

If anyone offers you whole life throw them out. Buy term to protect your needs and invest in an IRA. If you have whole life, never let them use the cash value as a loan on premium (as they advise) get out of it any way you can asap to avoid and even bigger hit. BTW the loan is 1099 to your estate when you die also.



Here is my latest ramble on bad cold call selling.

If you think cold calling is a waste of time you're likely doing the below. 

Not a day goes by that I don’t get multi calls asking for the owner or person who buys xyz.

Not one of them have gone to my website or on social media to even know what we do here, or my or Kathy’s name.  Even better is the daily cad who gets Kathy and says can I speak to your boss…

I get off the phone quick and most often try to remain polite.  Does your sales team call like that? Do you?

I have called and asked who the marketing manager at a company is but I have the name of the firm after a long search and am only asking for a contact from a gatekeeper. I don’t launch into a sales pitch off the bat. One part of me is glad most do sales this way, makes my life simpler when I do my calls. 

The only thing that ranks as bad to me as poorly trained sales people are ones acting like we are old pals and know me.

Any other Pet Peeves on sales calls?

One printowner friend Borzou said;

I might write a blog post about this - you should John!  So as you can see I just did. 


Some other business owner responses. 

Sure, it's the brokers from "Wall Street" who say that I asked them to get back to me when they had the next "hot deal". In 40 years I have never asked any of these guys to "get back to me".



One call wonders.  80% of “Sales” people call once and give up.  A real salesman, as John mentions, does some research to make sure they are actually calling on a true prospect.  And then they don’t just call once and quite.  They call to make an appointment to come visit and learn more about you.  They show up.  They follow up.  They help you determine how their product or service will actually help you. Then the sale just kind of magically happens. 

This is not a secret. 

But it is a lot of work which most people won’t do. 



These cold calls from people who have no idea who you are or what you do drives me nuts! They would have much better success if they did a tiny bit of research and weren't so pushy.

Pet Peeves:

I "need" to talk to the person that handles...    How about a little common courtesy and ask to speak to them??

Would you like your free subscription in digital or print?   Umm, we're printers so I want it in print so some printer somewhere keeps busy.

Are you still considering moving to a new location?    I always ask where they got their information because we've never considered moving.

Long pause and then a distant "hello?"   I'll pause a little longer then they did and then just say hello?? This will usually go back and forth a couple of times until they hang up.

When they don't listen to the personal name of the one answering the phone.   "Thanks for calling MPI this is Dave, can I help you?",  "Hi, I need to speak to Dave"  ugh....

I understand they're doing their job and try to be as polite as possible but I can at least have a little fun along the way!


“Hi, I’d like to talk with the person who handles the West Penn Power bills.”

First calls started about, maybe, three years ago. Approximately, say, four calls a week. 3 years x 52 weeks x 4 calls each week = 624 calls. All with the same request to talk to the person handling the West Penn Power bills. And they can’t understand, after 624 calls, why I don’t want to take the time to listen to their offer.



The power resellers are the most brutal, dishonest, and rude that I've ever dealt with. When I get them on the phone now I just say, "$.058 per kWH. What are you offering?" They say, "Is that with all taxes and fees?" To which I respond, "yep." and they go away for a while.



I love the sales calls who say they are from my digital copy company (which happens to be Ricoh) and says they have a deal on toner (Again we pay click charges which cover toner) they proceed to ask

The model of my Ricoh to update their records.   I kindly put them on hold and never return…J, I had one call me back and ask if I forgot about them, I said I am sorry and I will get the information right away for them, again place on hold to never return.



Years ago I had a company call me and told me they had a skid of bulbs for my lights in the building that were ordered and wanted to know where to send them..I nicely told the 1200 William Street (The USPS) never received an invoice so must have caught on.

Oh the joys of owning a business



Print Marketing: Never Underestimate the Value of Letting Someone Unplug

Technology is all around us. As recently as ten or fifteen years ago, computers weren't quite the ever-present part of our lives that they are today. They were usually reserved for when you got home from a hard day at work or school and not something you used all day every day. Flash forward to today, where 77% of adults in the United States own a smartphone according to Pew Research - a device that's literally more powerful than the combined computing that NASA used to send men to the moon in the 1960s.

All of this may underline how important our digital lives are becoming with each passing day, but it also helps to illustrate perhaps the most critical benefit that only print marketing collateral can bring to the table: that it isn't digital at all.

The Digital Divide

Technology addiction, and specifically smartphone addiction, is a very real concern across the United States. According to one study, 89% of Americans check their smartphones "at least one or two times a day." That may not seem too bad, but when you consider that 36% admit to "constantly checking and using" their phones, things get a little more concerning.

Of those surveyed, 21% of people said that they checked their smartphone at least once every hour. When you add in people between the ages of 18 and 24, that number rises to 36%. According to another study by IDC Research, 80% of smartphone users, in particular, check their mobile devices within fifteen minutes of waking up in the morning. Taking a shower? Brushing your teeth? Getting breakfast ready? All of these things take a back seat to finding out what your friends are up to on Facebook or checking your work email account for new messages. 

While this may sound alarming, it again perfectly illustrates one of the reasons why print marketing is, and will always be, so valuable. Whether you realize it or not, you're giving someone a chance to unplug. You're giving them permission to take a breather from the internet and to check in with something tangible, something that they can hold in their hands, and something that they can pass along to their friends. You're letting them tap into an experience - a physical one, at that - that people don't get nearly enough of these days.

What This Means For Direct Mail

This digital divide is likely a large part of the reason why in the last ten years, direct mail response rates have shot up 14%. What else happened during the last ten years, you ask? That's right - the Apple iPhone was released in 2007 and the smartphone explosion occurred, changing large portions of our lives for all time.


According to yet another survey, an incredible 92% of younger shoppers say they actually prefer direct mail when it comes time to make purchasing decisions - the same demographic who check their phones constantly. These ideas may seem like they're in conflict with one another, but they really aren't.


With print marketing, you're giving people an opportunity to do something they want more of but just can't seem to find time for: stop thinking about their digital lives for a minute or two so that they can focus on the real world around them. If anything, this is something that is only going to get MORE precious as time goes on, which is why print marketing is and will always be one of the most effective ways to reach out to someone to make a strong, emotional connection that benefits you both.

Crafting Your Brand to Communicate Your Unique Sales Proposition


Simply being the best is no longer the key to improving your bottom line. Not only is it a somewhat nebulous concept that isn't easily quantifiable, it's become more the status quo than anything else. Everyone selling something claims to be the best. Have you ever seen someone claim to be "second-best" in their marketing?

Identifying your unique sales proposition is by far the most effective thing you can do to make your company a success. Creating a memorable image that will grab people's attention and make them feel like they want you to be their best friend goes a lot farther these days than claims at superiority.

But maybe you already know this and maybe you've already identified how your company is different from the rest of the companies that sell computers/shoes/lamps, etc. Fabulous! One question: Do your customers know what makes you unique? (Cue head scratching and cricket chorus.)

If your brand doesn't scream, "I'm a unique snowflake" to everyone that sees it, you can do better. You must do better! You owe it to your company to be as unique as you are. So, how do you go about communicating how your company is one of a kind? It's all in the brand!

One of the best ways to figure out how to craft your brand to communicate your unique sales proposition is to carefully analyze how other companies are doing it. Let's take a look at two companies that have really done the work to make sure their brand conveys their unique sales proposition...

- Saddleback Leather - This company makes leather bags and accessories, do hundreds of other companies. However, Saddleback has distinguished itself by selling "excessively high-quality leather designs" that are overbuilt and backed by a 100-year warranty. Their logo: a thick, letter tag embossed with their name, with obvious stitching and three big rivets at the top. Their tagline: "They'll fight over it when you're dead." Their ideal customer is someone who works hard and wants their bags and accessories to work harder and last longer.

- Timbuk2 - Yes, another company that makes bags...but guess what? This one is...wait for it...different! By its' name alone, we know that they are about travel and adventure. If you don't want to wander out into the wild, brave the unknown, or at least have all your stuff clean and dry when you get to wherever you're going, you may not be their target customer. Their current tagline is "Drive the bus" which, let's be honest, doesn't necessarily convey a specific unique sales proposition, but the story behind it is compelling and reinforces their mission: "To inspire urban mobility, enable individuality, & promote responsibility." They do this through their adherence to their values, which include statements like "Be Fearless. Deliver. Be Nimble. Engage. Lighten Up." Timbuk2 is a fantastic example of infusing your company with personality.

These two companies, while selling many overlapping products, have gone out of their way to distinguish themselves from their competitors. They truly love their products and want their clients to love them too. What's interesting about both of these companies is that they were started by people who couldn't find what they were looking for in the bags of the world, so they set out to make them. In doing this, they were able to:

- Put themselves in their customers' shoes
- Understand what motivates their customers' behavior and buying decisions
- Uncover the real reasons customers will buy their product instead of a competitor's

These are three critical factors in identifying your unique sales position. Basically, they were the customers, so it wasn't a big leap to get into their heads and create the experience that would drive consumers to love and buy their products.

It's easy to get a little lazy and fall into the trap of "it's good enough for now" and throw something out there, never to be improved upon again. If you love your company, you'll take the time now to make sure your brand conveys exactly what you want it to convey to your ideal client.


Mutual Respect: The Secret Ingredient When It Comes to Managing Employees


Many business leaders are still operating under the mistaken impression that the key ingredient to managing employees involves learning how to delegate responsibility. So long as you tell the right people to complete the right tasks, your business should pretty much run itself, right?


You can't just demand that your employees dedicate a huge part of their waking days to helping you accomplish your own professional goals. They have to want it. You can't buy it, either - high salaries and competitive benefits help, but they'll only ultimately carry you so far.

So how do you make not only managing employees easier than ever, but also turn them into true, loyal team members instead of passive subordinates at the same time?

The answer is simple: mutual respect.

What is Mutual Respect?

The most important idea to understand about mutual respect is that you're dealing with a two-way street. You can't force someone to respect you just because you happen to be their boss or because your name is on the door. You have to earn it. You have to show them that you're worthy of it.

However, generating mutual respect isn't as easy as flipping a light switch. It involves a lot of small things that eventually add up to a pretty significant whole. It's about being genuine in your interactions with employees. It's about going out of your way to do the right thing and recognize a job well done. It's about making sure that all employees, regardless of position, have an equal voice in all decisions that affect them. It's about taking the time to show an employee that those eight hours they spend in the office on a Sunday didn't go unnoticed. That they were appreciated. That you wouldn't be where you are without them.

What Mutual Respect Means in the Long Run

If you're able to foster an environment where mutual respect occurs organically, you'll begin to feel a wide range of different benefits almost immediately. Mutual respect means that an employee is willing to put in a little extra effort and work harder because they know that you appreciate what they do and that you would be willing to do the same if the situation was reversed. Mutual respect means that if you do make a mistake, an employee is going to give you the benefit of the doubt because it's the same courtesy you've afforded them in the past.

Mutual respect also means that all employees understand and even believe that they have an equal voice. They don't feel like they work FOR you, they feel like they work WITH you - because you feel the exact same way. Even when a conflict does arise, it never gets heated or even contentious because people who respect each other don't argue and fight over issues, they discuss them like civilized adults.

These are some of the many reasons why mutual respect is the secret ingredient when it comes to managing employees. Creating a workplace where mutual respect is encouraged creates a "trickle down" effect almost immediately - conflict management is easier, collaboration is more efficient, and even the types of personality or cultural differences that stood to divide employees in the past only work to bring them together.

Mutual respect allows everyone to come to the simple yet important realization that at the end of the day, you're all part of the same team.


Free stuff to make you more productive. 

I live for techie stuff and things that make my work life simpler and more productive. So here are two programs that I put on all PC's or Macs to make them more productive. All FREE, yep free, I will add to this list so keep checking back. 



Think You Know Mitchell's Speedway Press? It’s Time to Take Another Look

"You don’t stay in business for 85 years like Mitchell’s Speedway Press unless you’re doing something right. And your business doesn’t continue to grow unless you know what you’re doing. For three generations, the family owned Oswego, New York, business has thrived by focusing on customer needs and broadening its operations to satisfy them."

From Inprint [Impress] Magazine 10/15

In the past 15 years, the company has expanded from traditional offset printing to complete in-house direct mail services, including variable-data printing, and even developed a presence in the auto racing industry, successfully transitioning to digital printing in the process. “With each advancement, fulfilling customer needs was first and foremost, but it had to be done in a way that offered our customers faster turnaround and fair pricing, while meeting current quality expectations, all while still making sense from a growth standpoint,” says president and CEO John Henry. 

Such was the case with Mitchell’s latest venture: large-format signage. “We had started to see a call for large format that wasn’t being met in a timely manner,” notes Henry. “A lot of the area sign shops were using hand-cutting methods and older vinyl-cutting machines that didn’t produce the best quality, either. We’d always stayed away from the signage business completely. We print at a high quality level with high color standards, no matter what the process. Our customers expect a very good-looking job with accurate color matches and no gradient banding. If we were to hand them a sign that didn’t measure up to what we print with the other processes, they wouldn’t accept it from us, and that could negatively impact our image and relationship with them.”

From its beginning as an offset and letterpress printer of business forms, events programs, and marketing materials, however, Mitchell’s has sought to differentiate itself through a total-quality commitment that encompasses service as well as output. Fulfilling this mission has led the company successfully into a variety of new growth opportunities.

In 2001, it introduced comprehensive direct mail services, from design to printing and database management, which has attracted clients ranging from major medical facilities to political campaigns. In 2009, the company merged with Speedway Press, the nation’s oldest racing program printer, opening further new applications creating, printing, and selling weekday and race-day programs, schedules, drivers’ cards, and more. Business extends from racetracks throughout the region into Canada, as well as for IndyCar, NASCAR, and other racing teams.In keeping with this service-oriented growth model and openness to new products and technologies,


Henry decided to take another look at wide-format printing options toward the end of 2013. He was intrigued by what he saw, particularly the Mimaki line. “Not only were there printers that I thought could meet my color requirements, but the whole process had become more automated, without all the handwork, which we weren’t willing to get into,” he says. Henry’s findings encouraged him to get a more precise read on the market.

When an in-house study indicated that 90 to 95 percent of Mitchell’s customers were currently buying signage (“but not from us”), he began researching the equipment in depth. “I looked at every manufacturer and then started whittling down the field to what would best suit my needs,” he explains. Having been digital for about 10 years, Mitchell’s had developed a very efficient prepress workflow for its offset and digital cut-sheet printing. “So when we went looking for large-format capabilities, we wanted something that fit with our workflow and worked with our Hot Folders,” says Henry. 

He sought input from members of the National Print Owners Association doing this type of work, and identified the major players in the market at his level. After researching the manufacturers and their distributors and their track records, he began talking to dealers and users. “Part of what went into the decision was price,” says Henry. “Part of it was capabilities. A lot of it was the quality that the machine put out. I was looking for ease of use for my people who would be using it; and that related to both the printer and the training that was available.” When we found all that, we invested and expanded the results; our customers love the new products we can do for them. 

Mimaki’s long history as an innovator in large-format digital printing was a significant factor in the purchasing decision, as was the availability of proven cut-and-print technology. “Because we were just starting out in this area, we opted to buy a printer/ cutter rather than two separate pieces of equipment,” Henry notes. “We didn’t have a large budget and wanted to get the most capabilities we possibly could for our investment. We looked for ways to automate as much as we can, but still achieve the quality and craftsmanship we want.”

He chose to go with an ink configuration that included silver and white, as well as CMYK with light magenta and light cyan. “We basically opted for heightened and expanded color fidelity over the speed that could be gained with a two-CMYK setup,” Henry explains. “We felt it would enhance what we could offer to higher-end graphic customers and that could potentially be of greater benefit to us while we were building this part of our business.” Mitchell’s uses only ecosolvent ink. “We didn’t want solvent smells in the building, and I didn’t want to have to worry about venting,” says Henry. “I was also concerned about possible clogging with solvents if they weren’t put away properly. With the ES3 inks, we’ve had no problems on either front; in fact, unlike with older inks, we can also print and laminate the same day.” 

The printer was installed in a single day by the distributor along with a Mimaki representative, leaving Henry and two designers with two-and-a-half days for training. “The learning curve was very short because of our graphics background,” says Henry. “We were already handling high-quality files and images and using Adobe Creative Suite, so it was an easy transition to working with digital files for large format. It mostly involved learning about sizes and resolutions, as well as the prep settings and how to use them for centering, putting in cut lines, setting up multiples by nesting, etc. A lot of the time we spent on the digital end was in learning the RIP.

The training went quickly. Within half a day, we were ready to take on our first job; and within a few short weeks, we didn’t have any questions at all on RIP settings. We were glad, however, for the support we had in learning about things like best practices for cutting, printing, and mounting, with which we had no experience. And, it’s great to know help is available if we need it.” 

Since the addition of the 64 inch printer in February 2014, Mitchell’s wide-format business has continued to grow. Besides indoor and outdoor banners and signage, Mitchell’s prints posters, decals, and “splash” graphics (small-area car wraps/minor detailing) for on-ground installation on race car doors, trunks, windows, etc. It also sometimes finds printing smaller runs of contour-cut labels on the Mimaki printer to be more cost-effective than on a cut-sheet press.

Overall, the typical run size is five to 10 pieces, although the company has printed 100 posters (28 by 48 inches) on the unit. Mitchell’s predominantly uses the unit to print vinyl, but it also has been used to print on scrim and optically clear laminates as well as backlit material, Coroplast, PVC, and even sheets of aluminum. Materials are generally 54 to 64 inches wide, and the only limit on the length is how quickly the print is needed, says Henry. “We’ve done a 48-inch, two-sided banner that was 33 feet long to stretch across a road. They told us it would be hard to do and get lined up front to back, but on our Mimaki, we did it on the first try.” he notes. 

The Mimaki machine’s capabilities plus some creativity and planning have helped Mitchell’s carry forward its emphasis on personalized, professional service in a variety of ways. It uses unattended operation and smart scheduling to meet tight deadlines for on-demand printing and the on-time delivery that is central to the company’s mission. 

The printer has also enabled options that were previously impossible to do in-house. For example, Mitchell’s printed full-color signage on for a major area aluminum plant. It also used the CJV30 model to print 48 by 46-inch emergency evacuation banners for the local US Coast Guard office on scrim with a dry-erase cold laminate on top to make updating routes quick and easy using markers.

“We’ve seen an increase in sales because of large format, and so far it’s all come from our existing client base,” says Henry. “We haven’t even marketed to new customers; and when we do, we’ll be able to offer an even wider range of products.” And while the new venture has added sales, it hasn’t required adding staff; it has simply improved the sales-per-employee ratios.

“The word is spreading, and we’re starting to pick up large-format work from digital cut-sheet and offset customers in industries like racing who have been using other vendors for their large-format work,” Henry says. “We’re not getting all of that business yet, but we’re working on it!”Call or email us 315-343-3531


Signs Sell

Professors Terence Shimp (U. South Carolina) and J. Craig Andrews (Marquette) describe on-premise signs as “the most cost-effective and efficient form of communication available to retail businesses,” adding:

“No amount of money spent on other communication media will equal the investment returns of the well-designed and optimally visible on-premise sign. Surveys of new customers/clients disclose over and over that the on-premise business sign either: (1) provided new customers with their first knowledge of the company, or (2) provided new customers with their first impression of the company. This is true even if the customer
originally learned of the business through some other communication medium. [Based on scholarly research on the subject], it is no longer an overstatement to assert that
legible, conspicuous place-based signage, easily detectable and readable within the cone of vision of the motoring public, is essential to small business survival.”

Ask us how we can help with this in your business.




Zaph passes & joins Goudy and Baskerville in a rowdy discussion on why digital did or did not ruin typography. 

A giant passed in the world of typography, Hermann Zapf. You all know his fonts even if you did not know his name. In the rankings, of type designers, one colleague said "all the rest of us moved up one spot."

Hermann Zapf, whose calling in life — “to create beautiful letters,” as one of his students put it — found expression in lush, steady-handed calligraphy and in subtly inventive typefaces that have brought words to readers on paper, on signposts, on monuments and on computer screens for more than half a century, died  at his home in Darmstadt, Germany. 

I heard him speak at RIT in the 80's doing calligraphy on a chalkboard; he was considered superb at this, by calligraphers but it was not the focus of his.

Some of the fonts he created.

Aldus nova (with Akira Kobayashi)
AMS Euler
Hunt Roman
Medici Script
Noris Script
Zapf Humanist
Optima nova (with Akira Kobayashi, 2002)
Palatino nova (with Akira Kobayashi)
Palatino sans (with Akira Kobayashi, 2006)
Palatino sans informal (with Akira Kobayashi, 2006)
Palatino Arabic (with Nadine Chahine)
URW Palladio L
Zapf Calligraphic
ITC Zapf Book[5]
ITC Zapf Chancery
ITC Zapf Dingbats[1][6]
ITC Zapf International
URW Antiqua
URW Grotesk[7]
Zapf Essentials
Zapf Renaissance Antiqua
Zapfino Extra


log Update #484 - Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Understanding How Consumers' Brains Think

Interestingly, the part of the brain most responsible for making buying decisions isn't the part that thinks logically. We make the majority of our decisions using what is commonly referred to as the "reptilian brain." This part of the brain is programmed for survival. It's perpetually evaluating choices based on the least possible harm to itself. Even when it's deciding whether or not to buy a product from you, it's performing a cost/benefits analysis.

When you understand this truth about your customers (and the human brain), you can use it to guide your advertisements and how you frame your business to your audience.

How perceived 'costs' impact customer buying patterns

Let's say you've just built a landing page where people can sign up to download a free ebook. Even though you're not asking for money in exchange for your ebook, you want to keep the 'cost' as low as possible. If you ask for too much unnecessary information, your customers will regard this as a cost. Even if you mark most of the fields optional, a shocking number of people will just click off the page and ignore the offer.

To minimize this perceived cost, minimize the amount of information you ask in return for your offer. Remember that you can always learn more about potential leads in later interactions, so only ask for the bare minimum of information at this initial stage.

This same sort of thinking should also impact how you frame sales and deals. Use each interaction to demonstrate that doing business with you will provide maximum reward for minimum cost.

Framing the benefits

In addition to its desire to minimize costs, the reptilian brain also wants to maximize benefits. It responds best to images, emotion, and concrete examples of benefits.

When you set out to describe the benefits of working with your company, make sure your claims are completely clear. Articulate exactly how working with your company can benefit your customers and why your company is superior to the competition. This means providing evidence and proof you offer immediate satisfaction for your customers.

The brain is a fascinating structure. Although many people think of it as a single entity, there are actually different parts that respond best to different ideas. Despite the desire of most people to be logical shoppers, they actually make their choices largely based on cost/benefit analysis. Use this tendency in your marketing and witness firsthand the power of this part of the brain.

Local Marketing: The Biggest Weapon in A Mobile and Social World.

Engaging with customers has always been the name of the game in marketing. Thanks to the Internet, target audiences are increasingly spread out. That isn't to say the Internet hasn't been a benefit to marketers. It unquestionably has. However, the Internet isn't marketing's final frontier. Far from it, actually. When you think about some of the biggest digital channels businesses are using today, mobile devices like smartphones and social networks like Facebook unquestionably come to mind.

When you break down those two categories into their core elements, however, what you're left with is the same type of local marketing businesses have been using for decades. This is why traditional print marketing and -- more specifically -- local marketing remain hugely valuable tools to businesses in the 21st century.

What Is Local Marketing?

Studies have long shown that most people do most of their shopping within a ten mile radius of their home. This is still true, even at a time when people can have something delivered to their home with the press of a few buttons and the click of a mouse. People are still willing to venture out of the home to pick up that hot new item or to participate in a service they truly believe in. They just need to know where to look.

According to a recent report released by the CMO Council, 49% of all respondents to a survey agreed that localized marketing was crucial to the overall growth and longevity of their business. More than that, one in four marketers were spending at least 50% of their total marketing budgets on localized programs, certain location-centric promotions, and more.

At its core, local marketing allows you to use these types of stats to your advantage by not just targeting as many customers as you can with your campaigns, but by targeting the right customers -- namely the ones who live in the area where your business is actually located.

The Benefits of Local Print Marketing

To illustrate just how effective local marketing can be, think of one of the oldest such strategies in the book: the business card. As you meet new people or network with fellow industry professionals, you're likely to hand out a business card to whomever you meet. Even if that particular person doesn't have any use for the product or service you provide, they may know someone who does. Thanks to your business card, they now have something tangible they can give that person to point them in the right direction.

The whole idea is brilliant in its simplicity. You're establishing your organization as a local leader in a way that creates increased traffic right to your doorstep. On the one hand, it really is no different than sending out mobile "push" notifications to a smartphone or making people in your area "friends" on your Facebook page. The advantage it does have over those digital channels, however, is that it's something tangible. By tailoring your printed materials to a local market, you're instantly increasing their relevancy in the lives of those people. The result is improved marketing effectiveness, which will ultimately build brand awareness and position your business as the type of authority you know you are.

Targeted local marketing remains one of the best ways to bring your organization to the attention of a new set of customers who may not even realize you exist. In an age where you're competing with digital businesses that may offer the same services, it's no longer about trying to attract the biggest possible audience. It's about attracting the right audience. That's the power local marketing gives you if you know how to use it.


How to Handle Customer Complaints Effectively

Few aspects of running a business can be more frustrating -- or more expected -- than customer complaints. It's impossible for even the most successful companies to please every customer every time. Knowing how to handle customer complaints effectively and professionally can improve brand reputation and turn a disgruntled customer around.

Listen and acknowledge the customer

It sounds basic, but a surprising number of businesses care more about defending their actions than listening to the customer. Remember that the vast majority of people who have a problem with your company won't bother complaining to you. They'll just complain to everyone else. Every customer who takes the time to complain directly to you should be thanked for the opportunity to make the situation right. This means listening carefully to everything the customer has to say about the experience and offering an apology for their discontent.

If you encounter a complaint online, reach out and publicly acknowledge the complaint online as well. Let the person know how disappointed you are that they were unhappy and ask for the opportunity to discuss the incident with them privately.

Discover the source of their frustration

If a customer complains that they can't find something in your store, you might assume they're asking you to reorganize your shelves. However, they might really be upset that no staff members noticed their frustration and stepped in to help before they started complaining.

Find out what the company can do to help

Sometimes all the customer really wants is an apology or information about how you'll work to improve so you don't make the same mistake again. In these situations, it's easy to exceed customer expectations by offering coupons or a similar incentive in addition to meeting their request.

If the customer's not sure how they'd like to be compensated or if they have demands you can't reasonably meet, you should have a policy in place to help alleviate the customer's concerns. Make a point of explaining what your company's doing to improve in the area of the complaint, and thank them for their feedback.

Handle the publicity of social media

If a complaint originates on social media, take the solution back to social media once the situation's resolved. Everything in social media is public, so once a customer posts a complaint, it can be seen by countless potential customers. Bringing the solution back to social media will help those who saw the original complaint see how well you did addressing it.

If someone complains to you through a blog post, ask them to either update the post so new readers know the situation was resolved or remove it altogether. If the complaint was made on Facebook or a similar platform, return to the original post and make an update yourself, such as, "I'm so glad we were able to work together to resolve this problem. We look forward to doing more business with you in the future."

Customer complaints are an aspect of business no one enjoys but everyone has to know how to manage. Keeping the above guidelines in mind should help you successfully navigate this terrain, strengthen your company's brand, and improve your reputation.


Finding Your Niche in a Crowded Industry

The Internet has been an enormous asset when it comes to doing business. We now have the power to reach potential customers around the world. But while the Internet has given us incredible benefits, it has also produced one major drawback: competition.

Thanks to the Internet, you're likely competing with far more businesses than ever before. Today's consumers often research companies online before giving them a try, so avoiding the Internet altogether is not an option. Even local businesses must often compete with one another online, too.

To survive in this intensely competitive atmosphere, you need to carve yourself a niche. With the right niche, you'll have something unique to offer your customers and will know exactly what type of clients you're looking to reach. Thanks to modern technology, you can now find each other.

So, how do you discover your niche?

Start by focusing on what makes your company unique. For some, that might mean discovering a product or service that appeals to a very specific group of people. For example, there might be a few different companies that make pet clothing, but you can set yourself apart by focusing on a particular type of clothing, such as winter gear or beach gear for pooches.

If yours is more of a service industry, focus on finding what makes your service different from your competition. There are countless companies and professionals who provide marketing services, for example, so branding yourself as a general marketer might not be that helpful. Instead, specialize in a particular type of business, gain particular certifications, or focus on a particular type of marketing.

Look for groups that have been under-served within a particular industry. You want to find potential customers who have been just waiting for someone like you to come in and help fulfill their need. When you reach these customers, you'll have the best chance of growing your business.

What do you do once you have your niche?

Once you've figured out what sets you apart from the crowd, make sure your potential customers see your value as well. Take the examples above. If you want to specialize in producing beach gear for dogs, you don't want to focus your advertising efforts on attracting the attention of people who just want dog clothes. You'll be up against countless competitors! Instead, focus your marketing efforts on those who are seeking your specific products. Target those going to beaches regularly, those researching information about taking pets on vacation, or those who live in seaside towns.

In the second example, incorporate your unique qualifications into your advertising materials and use them as keywords in your online marketing.

Once you've identified your niche and discovered how to market specifically to them, you need to focus your efforts on becoming the niche authority. Since this is your specialty, you'll have incredible insight to offer your customers. Take the time to develop valuable information and content that can help you stand out even further. This will help potential customers trust you.

In today's competitive marketplace, you don't have the luxury of being a general provider. You need to find something that sets you apart. Whether you provide services or products, finding a way to appeal to your customers on a unique level will provide you with the key to growing your business.


How Engaging Are Your Sign-up Forms?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Take a moment to think about the forms you ask your visitors to fill out and submit when they visit your website or come to your store. These forms help convert those individuals from anonymous visitors to active leads you can contact regularly. To make that happen, you want people to feel encouraged to leave you with their name and information so you can remember them.

Make the offer look enticing

Leads are the lifeblood of any organization. If you want people to provide you with their contact information, you need to give them a reason to do so. Make your sign-up forms appealing. First, make the offer something desirable. Then, make the actual screen look inviting.

Desirable offers

Developing a desirable offer means understanding the people with whom you're speaking. Carefully analyze your buyer personas and consider the type of information and material that would appeal to them. Once you develop the information you want to put behind a sign-up wall, advertise it on the parts of your site where you know those specific buyers are likely to venture. For example, mention it at the bottom of relevant blog posts or alongside product information geared toward specific customer groups. As with all content, your primary goal should be to provide high-value information.

Appealing appearance

When visitors reach your landing page, you want to make sure the offer looks appealing on the screen. Add an image or two to help them connect with the offer. It doesn't have to be an image of the real offer. A cartoon drawing with the name of your ebook, for example, will work just fine. Use a balanced layout and enticing language to encourage people to sign up.

Make the form itself manageable

Once you've attracted visitors to your sign-up page, the last thing you want to do is scare them off by making the process too drawn out or complicated. Make sure the form itself doesn't look too intimidating. The amount of information requested should be comparable to the offer you're providing. If it's just a basic ebook, you should only ask for basic information. If you ask for too much, people will get turned off and click away.

If you're interested in learning more about how to entice leads, contact us today. We'd love to help you with your marketing campaign.


Blogging Can Be a Fantastic Promotion Tool Across Platforms

Building a successful blog is an excellent way to integrate your marketing campaigns across several platforms. Here are a few ways to use your blog to promote your business regardless of medium.

With direct mail

When you send direct mail, mention your blog to let people know it's there for them to read and comment on. Highlight some of the recent topics you've covered to entice them even further.

Direct mail is a wonderful way to advertise deals and upcoming sales. Market your blog as another way to stay updated about specials and events. Promote it as a way to learn more about your industry, so customers can get the most from your products and services.

On social media

Social media is an excellent tool for promoting a blog and connecting with page visitors. Use your social media accounts to promote your blog posts among your followers. Invite conversations on social media about subjects you've covered in your blog as a way of keeping your social channels active and engaged.

Promoting your posts on social media makes it much easier for people to share your content. People can read and post your content to their own social media pages without much effort. The more people share your content, the greater your reach, which can help spread your brand name and reputation.

With community events

Becoming active in your local community is a fantastic way to promote your brand. Customers enjoy working with local businesses they see as interested and supportive of the local community. Sponsor various charity events or host a table at community picnics and other neighborhood gatherings. This will allow you to get your organization in front of others in the community, so your company becomes a familiar entity. Use these opportunities to begin conversations about your industry and products with interested parties to further boost your reputation as an industry leader.

Use your blog to promote the events you participate in and to speak about your involvement with the organizations holding them. Encourage people to participate and get involved. After the event, post some pictures and write a post with highlights from the day. These types of posts can help advertise the event and encourage people to participate, while also demonstrating your involvement in the community even for those who are unable to attend.

A successful marketing campaign means reaching out to prospective buyers on a variety of platforms so they get to know your brand and how you can serve them. Your blog can be a fantastic tool for accomplishing this goal. If you're still debating the merits of starting a company blog, consider the benefits it will bring to your integrated campaigns. If you'd like assistance getting a campaign off the ground, let us know. We'd be happy to help you with your marketing.



Instilling School Spirit at Your Company

Many factors go into the decision about where to attend college. While majors, location, and ranking undoubtedly hold a high place, the experience of other students and the school's reputation also play a crucial role.

Schools must strike a careful balance between providing a rigorous academic environment while at the same time offering an enjoyable experience that will make students talk about their school in a positive way to other prospective students.

Satisfied students can be the best brand ambassadors an institution can find. When students love their school, it emanates from everything they do.

The students root for the home team during sports matches.
School tour guides who speak about the university to groups of prospective students are enthusiastic and insightful.
Successful professionals who have 'made it' in their respective fields eagerly voice their support for their alma mater.

Such enthusiasm builds a positive culture around the school and encourages new students to come and try it out. Building a strong brand around any organization entices people to want to belong to that particular select group and culture.

What colleges can teach us about building a winning culture

Most professionals realize that employees are important for keeping the company running smoothly. They know that turnover is bad because it wastes time and resources. They also know that high turnover can damage their reputation among potential hires.

What they don't realize, though, is the importance of employee satisfaction when it comes to the customer experience.

Just like the college student who loves their school so much they broadcast it to anyone who asks their opinion, employees who feel respected and appreciated help to broadcast a positive image of the company and can increase customer satisfaction rates.

Think about it.

Employees are the face of your company. When they feel valued, they take the time to invest their energy into the company and their interactions with customers. They also strive to embrace a culture of success, which can help inspire their peers to improve their interactions with customers, too.

Employees and brand advertising

Employees can be wonderful sources for building up your brand. Just as happy college students take the love for their school to every facet of their life, satisfied employees tend to bring their jobs with them wherever they go.

Think about the last time you heard someone complain about the company where they work. How did those complaints impact your perception of the company? Chances are, that negative feedback made you feel worse about the brand in question -- and less likely to turn to them when you need products or services in their industry.

An entirely different experience, however, comes when an employee is positive and upbeat about their employer. When they tell you enthusiastically that they can help you solve your problem, you become inclined to trust them.

Treating your employees well can help boost their satisfaction and improve how they represent your company to the general public. Remember that your employees are the face of your brand. That means you need to select them -- and treat them -- with that goal in mind. Cultivating a great employee culture is a wonderful way to improve your brand's reputation from the inside out.


Marketing Lessons from Iconic Rock Bands

Few entities can inspire the kind of loyalty rock bands do. Think about performers like the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, and Phish, to name just a few. Groups like these have entertained generations of audiences and encouraged strong followings among their most devoted fans. Sure, their music plays a large part in building and maintaining a fan base, but so, too, does great marketing.

Bringing the content to the people

Most recording artists want to sell as many records as possible. That's only natural, after all. So they focus on promoting albums and use concerts as a way to advertise their music.

The same idea is true in business, where companies often use their professional blogs and social media channels to promote their content and toot their own horn. They might provide occasional helpful information for followers, but their main purpose is selling, and their attitude reflects that.

Some of the more iconic bands, however, have taken the opposite tack. They place their primary focus on entertaining their fans. They want to provide an "experience" that encourages fans to spread their music and enjoy what they have to offer. Album sales grow naturally as the word spreads and more and more people are drawn to them.

That's the same idea behind successful inbound marketing. It all starts with the experience. Great content draws customers to your sites and pages. Once there, you engage them, encourage them to spread your information, and watch your sales increase as your brand reach grows.

Staying dedicated to the goal

Success didn't come overnight for most iconic bands. They had to tour constantly, often for years, spreading their music gradually from town to town and venue to venue. Their sound evolved naturally during that time, as they strove to meet their fans' demands for entertainment. Eventually, they were able to reap the benefits of their dedication.

Once again, the same holds true with social marketing. When you begin using a digital marketing strategy, you have to be willing to give your efforts time before you begin to see a strong return. You have to regularly produce quality content that will bring people back and encourage them to become fans. You need to hone your voice and get to know your audience. Other websites need to find your content and begin linking to it. Search engines have to recognize your value as your popularity begins to rise. In time, you'll begin to see positive returns for your effort, but only if you continuously produce high-quality, valuable content.

Creating your own voice

Of course, all the marketing in the world wouldn't have helped these bands grow if they didn't have something unique and worthwhile to share. They created incredible music that people love to listen to. For your marketing efforts to be successful, you have to be able to show your potential audience that you're worth their attention, too. That means developing your own voice, creating new ideas, and building on your strengths within your niche. You want to stand out against the crowd and give people a reason to return to you again and again.

The next time you sit down to enjoy the music of your favorite artist or band, pause and consider the incredible marketing lessons these musicians have to share. If you're ready to start taking your marketing campaign to the next level, let us know how we can help.


High School or Race Track it's about Loyalty and Brand Community

There's something about high school and racing that inspires loyalty. For an outsider looking in, it can be difficult to understand why people care so much about their past high school experiences or favorite on the race track. Whether it's journeying hundreds of miles for a high school reunion, traveling every weekend to watch a race or feeling offended when someone insults the old  hero,  loyalties run deep for many people. We feel the same with or high school and racing community.


High schools and race tracks have built an incredibly strong community within their walls. We have countless shared experiences together, from classes and teachers to events and activities. These common moments help to tie the collective memories together.

This same sense of community, which helps bring  such strong loyalty, can also prove helpful in the business world. Building brand loyalty can lead to higher numbers of repeat customers and more referrals, both of which are excellent for the bottom line. Here's how to go about building a community around your brand.

Create shared experiences

Help customers get to know each other and your representatives. Host get-togethers and customer events. Get involved in your local community. Raise money for a national charity, or sponsor regional fundraising events. All of these are fantastic ways to bring your customers together, improve your reputation, and get your brand in front of new potential customers. They're also great conversation starters with followers later on social media or in blog posts.

Encourage connections

Invite existing customers to tell stories about using your products or services on various social media platforms. Have contests where people take pictures of themselves with your product or share stories of how your service helped them. This type of sharing builds credibility for your brand and helps participating customers feel more connected to your company. It helps encourage a concept known as the 'bandwagon effect,' where people are more likely to try a product or service when they see others doing so. Having customers share their experiences with your brand helps all customers and potential customers see themselves as a part of a desirable group, which increases loyalty.

Highlight clients and employees

Show prospects the people behind the reviews and the employees who will be helping them succeed. Highlighting past clients and employees in this manner serves two purposes. First, the person highlighted will enjoy and appreciate the attention cast upon them. And second, other customers will feel a connection to the person and thereby feel a strong connection to your brand.

Building a strong community around your brand can help tremendously when building brand loyalty. Just like a high school looking to encourage its alumni to come out and root for the home team, creating a strong loyalty can serve your company well for years to come. Keep the above three tips in mind and start coming up with ideas to build loyalty for your brand.


The Importance of Reputation Management

Companies used to be able to control a large portion of their message through advertising. Now, thanks to digital media, online reviews, and customers doing their own research, creating and maintaining a positive image requires much more subtlety and work.

The importance of a positive image

Customers naturally want to do business with companies they feel they can trust. They want to know a brand performs well, will meet their needs, and will be there to help with any problems that arise. A strong brand presence can be a fantastic advertising tool. It helps to spread your reach and encourage new prospects to become paying customers. But just as a positive review can boost sales, a negative one can spread like wildfire through social networks and hurt a reputation -- and the bottom line.

Steps to foster a positive reputation

  • Focus on the customer experience. When customers feel valued and trust that service is a genuine priority, they become much more likely to return and recommend your brand to others.
  • Focus marketing efforts on providing value for customers. Customers today research companies before making a purchase, so be that reliable source of information they can turn to for answers to their questions.
  • Build a community around your brand. Encourage customers to interact with you and with each other through social media and real life events. Strong communities build loyalty and positive associations.
  • Anticipate people leaving reviews on the major review sites. Take the time to upload pictures and provide information, so the review sites show a complete picture. Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews.

How to handle a negative review

Most well-established companies do end up getting the occasional negative review. It's impossible to please everyone all the time. You'll probably have at least one customer who thinks you should have done something differently, so it's important not to panic if someone writes something less than friendly on either a review site, social media, or a blog. It's also not the time to get defensive and start a battle of words. Instead, take the opportunity to demonstrate the professionalism and commitment to customer satisfaction your brand advertises.

Respond to the negative review personally, saying how sorry you were the customer didn't have a good experience. Restate your commitment to making the customer happy and offer to rectify the situation. Contact the customer offline whenever possible, and see if the situation can be improved. Discounts on future services, money back, and sometimes even just an apology can help smooth over hurt feelings and improve the relationship between customer and company.

In certain situations, you might not want to apologize. Say, for example, the customer complains about something that's a critical part of your brand. Rather than apologize, try restating your company's goals. Apologies should be genuine. If you have nothing to apologize for, then stick with being professional and courteous to the customer.

If the situation is resolved completely, you can ask the customer to remove the negative review. You can also post another reply to the review, saying you were glad you were able to work with the customer to resolve the issue.

By making your efforts to satisfy the customer public, you're advertising your commitment to customer care. People understand that even the best companies make mistakes. It's the steps taken to correct these mistakes that matter.

Managing your brand's reputation will have an enormous impact on the trust potential customers feel. Understanding the factors that go into reputation management in the digital age can help you better leverage technology to improve how you're seen online.



Back to Basics: The 'Why' in Creating Valuable Content

When it comes to producing valuable content, countless marketing and business professionals will tell you that you 'should,' but not many delve into the 'why.'

"You need content to bring customers to your website!"
"You need content to keep up with the digital age!"
"You need content because that's what your customers seek!"

These responses are the 'reasons' most often given for spending time creating content for websites and marketing materials.

In truth, creating valuable content will help you grow your business and improve your bottom line. Here are two key ways it accomplishes this:

1. It helps you build trust with your customers.

People don't accept advertisements at face value. They choose brands based on how well those brands meet their needs.

When customers go online, they want to find answers to their questions. They want a brand to understand the problems they face, offer solutions, and explain why their products are the best at meeting those needs. When a prospect finds a company that answers their questions again and again while also providing them with a service that comes with good reviews, the decision to buy becomes a no-brainer.

Valuable content builds a reputation of authority and leadership in the minds of customers. They come to see you as someone who really knows your industry and feel confident knowing they can turn to you whenever they have questions. This increases loyalty and the potential for future sales.

2. It's more likely to be shared, increasing your brand's reach.

Customers today live on social media. Just about everyone has a Facebook or Twitter account. People use these profiles to share things that interest them and offer value they think others might appreciate. When you provide your customers with repeated value, you enhance the odds your material might be shared on these social sites. When content is shared, it automatically increases your reach, while also building credibility in the minds of all those who see the share. Customers tend to trust referrals more than standard advertising.

How to develop content that can work this way

The potential for quality content is incredible. Your task is to learn how to capitalize on it. Here are six steps to get you started:

  • Research and identify the 'ideal customers' you want to reach.
    Learn as much as possible about these ideal customers.
  • Determine the common questions and problems that face these customers.
  • Develop content that addresses these questions and problems in an informative and helpful way.
  • Share the content on blogs, social media, emails, newsletters, and other places to draw attention to it.
  • Repeat the process regularly to stay current.

When you take the time to develop valuable content for your customers, you're investing in helping your business grow. Take the time to create content your customers will appreciate, and watch the impact it can have on your brand.


What a Symphony Orchestra Can Teach Us About Harmony and Marketing

January 13, 2015

We all have some type of music we find pleasing to the ear. For some, it's classical. Others prefer rock, hip-hop, pop, or jazz. But no matter what type of music we enjoy, there's something about a symphony orchestra that seems to draw admirers from a wide variety of musical backgrounds and tastes.

An orchestra brings harmony to life. Its beauty comes from the different sections -- woodwinds, percussion, strings, and brass -- working together to create something spectacular. If just one person or one section is out of tune or out of line, the entire piece can fall flat. The same is true in your marketing.

The importance of harmony in marketing

Just like an orchestra, marketing works best when every member of the team works together to perfectly complement the others. In today's busy world, countless platforms vie for your audience's attention. Print media, inbound marketing, social media, PPC ads, retargeting ads, radio advertising, and more all seek at least some portion of the metaphoric pie.

Too often, we try to meet these demands by randomly throwing content at all of these different platforms. We see each platform as a checklist of requirements, rather than a resource to be leveraged. By finding harmony in the platforms we use to carry out our plans, we stand a far greater chance for success from our marketing efforts. The key to creating this harmony is five-fold:

Develop the central message for the new marketing campaign.
Identify the key characteristics of buyers the marketing campaign will target, including where those people will be found.
Use these characteristics to prioritize your advertising platforms and decide which ones will receive a greater share of the budget.
Develop the campaign with all of the platforms pointing toward a common goal, such as leading buyers to a particular promotional webpage.

Use common colors, language, and themes across the different platforms to create a unified brand.

Take the time to learn how different platforms complement each other, such as how social media can drive people toward the inbound content on your website. This will enhance your efforts and your reach. Marketing works best when different platforms are used in unison to create a common message for prospective customers. When marketing is performed well, it can make people sit up and pay attention.

Finding the right rhythm in your marketing requires careful analysis and planning. When you can accomplish this, you'll see far better results from your marketing campaigns. If you're interested in developing a successful new marketing campaign, contact us today. We'd be happy to help you get started.


The Role of Gamification in Marketing

Friday, January 9, 2015

For many of us, increasing visitor engagement is an important goal for the new year. Marketing today revolves around building relationships with prospective customers. When a prospective client sees you as an authority, they're far more likely to convert and buy from you.

Improving visitor engagement on your website, through social media, and in person can help boost brand loyalty and build relationships that lead to sales. Gamification is a growing trend in making that happen. The process works by encouraging prospects to interact with your brand through various games and competitions.

What you should know about gamification

Gamification is quickly gaining steam among some of the largest brands in the world. Of the largest 2,000 companies in the world, more than 70 percent had used at least one form of gamification by the end of 2014. Fifty-one percent of American adults also say that when competition is added to their everyday activities, they become more likely to pay attention to their behavior in those areas.

The vendors of various gamification programs claim that companies can see a 100 percent to 150 percent improvement in engagement on their websites simply by including gasification in their marketing.

Customers have begun to expect companies to work on developing relationships with them. Gamification is an easy way to build these kinds of relationships while also providing some fun and a reason to return. Even more appealing is that many games can also be used to encourage players to tell their friends about their progress on the game. This can be a wonderful form of advertising.

How gamification works

Gamification can take a number of different forms. Think, for example, about the popular McDonald's Monopoly game. Consumers receive game pieces with various meals, increasing their odds of winning some awesome prizes.

Not all gamification efforts include glamorous prizes, but they still encourage customers to participate. For example, producers of the TV show Psych created Club Psych, an online arcade that allowed users to play different games and complete challenges based on the television show. Users could earn points and challenge their friends. The effort led to a 30 percent increase in traffic, a 50 percent increase in sales, a 130 percent increase in page views, and an overall reach of more than 40 million people.

Nike + was also an immense success. People could use the company's app to track their physical fitness and share it with others on social media. The app tracks fitness data to help people see their personal improvements or compete with others from anywhere in the world.

Gamification keeps people involved and uses their desire for challenge, competition, and fun to bring them back over and over again. Best of all, it doesn't have to be extravagant or over the top. Offering prizes to people who collect all four of a particular month's direct mail fliers or having a search for clues on a website to qualify for a coupon can help boost engagement without much cost.

Gamification helps turn marketing and attracting attention into a game. It boosts loyalty and conversions. If you're interested in learning more about how to start a marketing campaign to maximize customer engagement, contact us today. We'd be happy to help you get started.


5 Ways to Increase Visitor Engagement in 2015


As you prepare your marketing plans for the year, one of your chief priorities should be website visitor engagement. As engagement increases, so do brand loyalty and conversions. Engagement helps page visitors begin to build a relationship with your brand. This in turn helps to increase their trust in what you have to say and makes them more likely to end up buying from you. Here are a handful of changes you can make to greatly enhance your visitor engagement and see measurable changes in 2015. Aks Speedway Press how you do this in print, with POP signage and direct mail. 

Make content easily shareable

Encourage page visitors to interact with your brand by sharing your content. You can accomplish this by making your content interesting and easy to broadcast across various social channels. Enable social share buttons on every piece of content you produce, and share the content yourself on a variety of social networks. If your content provides high value and is timely, readers will be more likely to want to share that information with their connections.

Use gamification and promotions

Use fun contests and games to encourage page visitors to remain on your website and tell others about your brand. There are a number of different types of games and promotions you can use. For example, have customers solve puzzles to earn coupons. Encourage them to share your brand with friends to earn points. Run contests on your social media pages that invite people to tell stories about their successes with your brand. Use these opportunities to encourage communication and build a relationship between page visitors and your company.

Encourage feedback

When customers know their opinions are valued, they're more likely to feel loyal to your brand. Customers appreciate companies that go the extra mile to help them and make their experiences memorable. Encourage this level of engagement by letting customers vote on different topics they'd like to have featured on your website, leave reviews of your products and services for others to see, and offer opinions and feedback about your brand and their experience with it. Your page visitors will enjoy having their voices heard, and you'll gain better insight on your customers, which can help you improve your marketing and customer service efforts.

Remember customers

Work with your website developers to create a website that will remember customers and their preferences when they return. Simple things, such as automatically filling out forms or remembering products that the customer looked at the last time they visited, can be excellent for boosting engagement. Such conveniences will make it easier for customers to convert while at the same time helping them feel as though the services they're receiving from you are personalized to their specific needs.

Make recommendations

In addition to remembering customers when they return to your website, add functionality that provides solid recommendations based on past purchases, too. Consider websites such as Amazon that offer recommendations based on the buying habits of others who have bought similar products in the past. These services encourage people to dive deeper into the website, increasing their interaction and improving the odds they will convert. Similarly, make sure your calls-to-action always fit well with the topic and intended audience of the content you're presenting.

Increasing visitor engagement on your website can help your brand take its marketing efforts to new levels for 2015. Keep the above tips in mind, and see how you start building stronger company loyalty in the new year. If you're ready to start developing a new marketing campaign, contact us today to get started.


Business Lessons from Willy Wonka 1/5/2015

The story of Willy Wonka is a classic childhood favorite that people have loved for generations. From the books to the original movie version that was adapted in 1971 to its latest incarnation in 2005, the idea of this fantastic chocolate factory has entertained and delighted children of all ages.

The story follows young Charlie Bucket, who manages to find one of five golden tickets hidden in delicious Wonka Bars. These tickets give the winners a tour of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate. The five winners receive their prize tours, during which the other prize winners are eliminated one by one because of their poor behavior. Only Charlie manages to pass all the tests for honesty. In the end, it's revealed that his true prize will be the chocolate factory itself.

For us in the business world, the story of Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory is much more valuable than mere entertainment. It can teach us many lessons about successfully running a company. Here are just a few that every business owner should note.

The importance of innovation

Willy Wonka ran one of the most prized and valued chocolate companies in the world, with children of all ages eagerly consuming the chocolate in an effort to find the bars containing the sought-after golden tickets. One of the key reasons for the popularity of the brand was the sheer innovation of the factory's products. Whether an 'everlasting gobstopper' or 'three-course-dinner' gum, the treats created at the Wonka factory were unique and delicious. The ability of the factory to remain a trendsetter of the candy world led customers to remain loyal fans.

We, too, must continue to look for ways to innovate and better meet the needs of customers. Being content with the same products and services will not help our brands become industry leaders or help us find loyal customers.

Promotions can be the key to successful advertising

Customers and companies alike enjoy promotions, making them a fantastic marketing tool. While most companies will never enjoy the publicity Willy Wonka's factory enjoyed, with the competition and winners being featured on the news, it's still possible for nearly any promotion or loyalty program to gain traction. Social media can be a major asset in promoting such a program. Reward your customers and encourage them to return time and again. This is a wonderful way to gain name recognition and build loyalty.

The value of honesty

Willy Wonka managed to cultivate a superior business plan because he knew how to select workers, and he chose Charlie because of his honesty. The boy impressed the chocolatier because he turned down offers of money in favor of being completely forthright, impressing Wonka. Wonka knew that this boy had the values that would enable the factory to continue to grow.

We, too, should always look for employees and leaders who value honesty and integrity. A positive reputation will help build a culture of trust. In turn, this will help enhance the cohesiveness among the staff and encourage communication.

The story of Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory has delighted people for generations. Next time you watch one of the movies or read the books, takes the time to learn a bit about business from Mr. Wonka. If you're ready to start building a new marketing campaign, contact us for help getting started.