Category Archives: Email Marketing

The Marketing Budget – Where To Start

What Goes into Your Budget?

Before any budgets can be created, there has to be a marketing plan in place. The cost in time and energy to create the marketing plan will pay for itself. Hiring a marketing professional to help develop a plan is something you may want to consider. Too many times small businesses work without a plan and needlessly spend money on “marketing” efforts that have absolutely no return on investment. You need to have a clear vision of what your marketing strategy is and a set of marketing activities that will raise visibility and generate demand.

Sales Tools

Another area of your marketing efforts that would need to be budgeted for includes your sales tools. Examples of sales tools are your Web site, business cards, letterhead, brochures, flyers and other collateral materials needed to fulfill your sales goals. The most cost-effective thing to do is work with a design professional to create a branding package. Service packages will help you manage your budget by knowing upfront exactly what everything will cost.

If your company has the need for many sales tools, then a way to control costs is to create components as you go, but it is advisable that you not cut corners on the design or quality of the tools. Cutting corners on sales tools creates an image of being small and unprofessional to your prospects.

After your logo has been created, then start with business cards, then your Web site and a brochure.

Most businesses can benefit from a highly professional, quality Web site. Be sure you understand the importance of your Web site to your business and the impact it can have on your revenue before you determine the budget. If your primary marketing effort is Internet marketing, you really should consider putting a few more dollars into your Web site and have it developed professionally.

This rule also holds true for your other marketing materials. I heard a quote once from marketing professional that may be harsh but is 100 percent true. “The only way to keep your brochure out of the trash is to have it professionally designed.” Just take a moment to think about that. How many times have you gotten some kind of marketing piece and threw it out because it was not visually appealing, not well written or looked like it came off of an inkjet printer? You formed an opinion about that company in two seconds and decided it was unworthy of your business. You don’t want to be that company.

Working with a design professional can actually save you money. Industry professionals have many contacts for printing, hosting, PR and other services and often can negotiate better pricing because they represent many clients to one vendor. Also, if having a brochure, Web site, ad, postcard, etc., actually entices people to call and do business with you then the investment is well worth it.

Branding

If you are a new business or even an established business wanting to make 2011 your most successful year, you will likely need to put effort towards creating your company brand. Developing your brand image is more than just getting a logo to call your own. However a well-designed logo will be the centerpiece for your branding efforts. Your brand images will be the key components of your marketing efforts, so be sure you work with a design professional to create something that you can use for many years to come. This is not something that changes monthly or as often as the whim strikes.

Marketing Programs

After deciding on corporate branding issues, determining the appropriate sales or marketing support tools, the next step is to determine what programs you are going to execute. All promotional activities fall within the eight categories:

  • Direct Marketing
  • Internet Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Advertising
  • Public Relations
  • Word of Mouth
  • Strategic Partnerships

To identify what programs are the best for your business, you might want to begin by seeing what others—in your industry, as well as outside your industry—are doing. However, don’t get caught up in “copycat marketing.” What others do may not be right for you, and part of why you put a marketing plan together is to differentiate yourself from others, but it is a good start to look at their activities for guidance on where you should invest your dollars.

Once you have established your plan keep in mind that you don’t need to do all the activities at once. Plan them out over the year so you can budget for them and measure their effectiveness. If you have too many things going on at once, you won’t be able to keep track and measure.

Understanding the return on investment on a marketing activity enables you to determine whether to keep it running or stop it and try something else.

Summary

Establishing an annual marketing budget helps you identify the money your business has to invest in its marketing activities. Managed properly, your marketing budget is the best investment you can make in your company. If you wisely invest your marketing dollars, you can get a profitable return on your investment.

 

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5 Things to Talk About in Your Email Marketing

WebI resell an amazing email marketing system that I customize for each client. They can get a branded template without the advertising at the bottom like those other email marketing services. You know who I’m talking about 😉

Clients get very excited about the system, I make the template, get them all set up and then they don’t use it. I started seeing this trend so I asked a few of them what was going on. They all said, “I know I need to reach out to my clients on a regular basis but I don’t know what to say.”

I know it can be tough to talk about our companies and ourselves but we all have something to talk about. I actually create an editorial calendar for my email newsletters and blog. I have to admit I don’t always stick to the schedule but I do stick to the topics.

One thing I find my clients like are tips on marketing and design. They find them very helpful and usually share the newsletter with someone else. I do keep them relevant to what I do but I try to put myself in their shoes to see what they would be interested in and actually take a few minutes to read.

Presenting interesting and relevant information is imperative to subscriber retention, and beyond that, the transformation of prospects into customers. Here are some ideas on how to get the writing flowing:

  1. Answer a question: I’m sure you get questions from clients that you end up answering over and over. Use your newsletter to answer the questions that pop up and get to all your clients at once.
  2. Give a tip: If you have a business that lends itself to tips/tricks then pick one of your favorites and write about it.
  3. Industry update: You may be in an industry that has updates that you can share with your clients. For instance, a PC Tech can write about the latest software, hardware or even new viruses we should watch out for.
  4. Discounts and Specials: If you sell a product, email newsletters can be a great way to get the word out about specials and discounts. Studies show that people do respond to sales incentives received via email.
  5. Ask for feedback: Include a survey or a link to a place where customers and prospects can leave comments about your company, your website, the industry, your email marketing campaigns, or whatever topic you wish to learn about.

Ultimately, there is no reason why you can’t send out a consistent email marketing campaign, even if you initially feel you have nothing to say.

Rather than fall into the motto of “if you have nothing to say, don’t write,” come up with something to write…but be sure that it’s interesting and relevant to both your business and your subscribers.

Does Everything Need to be branded?

The first use of a brand was just that – a mark of ownership on cattle. Later, trademarks were used to define individual products. Wally Olins, a leading authority on branding, defines it as an organization’s ‘personality’.

So if your brand is your company’s personality don’t you want that personality to shine through in every touch point with your customer or a prospect?

It’s important to realize that your image always has either a negative or positive influence on the purchaser. A negative impression can detour a potential customer, just as a positive reaction can influence a customer to buy.

How can you package your brand so that it is an integral part of your business and represents a strong identity?

Packaging can be judged and represented by the following common business tools to name a few:

What image are you putting across with these business tools that you use everyday? What are they saying about your company? Take a few moments and lets look at each one of these. If the message isn’t consistent and the look and feel isn’t cohesive then your sending mixed signals to your market.

What are your business cards and stationery saying? Are they saying we are strong, we are confident, and we can succeed in helping you? Or does it reflect an image that says we are flimsy, our dynamics are minimal, we’re cheap and we will try but we cannot guarantee you’ll be happy?

What does your web site say about your company? Does it reflect professionalism, clarity, and show them that you respect and care about them? Or does your web site confuse viewers, project an untrustworthy image of your company and ultimately drive potential customers away?

What does your answering system and call return policy say about your company? Does it say we are here to help, or that you’re too busy to cater to a new client? You may even want to get an answering service such as gotvmail or onebox to ensure that you are making the right impression the first time a customer calls.

What does your email address say about your company? Does it project a meaningless or generic emptiness?

As you can see all these things speak volumes about your company and they either strengthen or weaken your brand. Your image is all in the packaging. If you thought these things were not worth the investment or didn’t matter, you were wrong. Clients and customers will make assessments of your company based on these things and while not always conscious, that customer appraisal says much about your business.

make-over-flyerCreative Intuition works with companies to develop consistent and cohesive brands so that you can make the right impression the first time and every time. We consider ourselves the branding gurus and have helped dozens of companies develop branding packages that either got them off on the right foot or helped them get to the next level.

Ever hear “Why Can’t …” from your graphic design clients?

A few months ago I started this blog but had no idea what to write about on a regular basis. Everyone told me I needed a blog so here I am. The one thing I wanted to make sure was that the information had some relevancy to what I do, which is graphic design, web design and email marketing.

I spent some time during my Ketchup Week to think about what I wanted to write about. I searched the Internet for ideas and read a bunch of other blogs. I then watched a video called Three Obvious Sources of Great Blog Posts You Haven’t Thought Of. So I took Michael’s advise and low and behold came up with some ideas.

What I discovered is that I get a lot of questions from clients about various design topics. Sometimes as designers these questions frustrate us but I think it is part of our job to educate our clients. I can say first hand that a little client education goes a long way. I have decided that my blog will primarily answer questions that I’m asked by clients or business owners about design stuff and sometimes marketing stuff too.

If you’re a designer and just want to send your clients a link to this blog instead of explaining things yourself, or if you’re a business owner or marketing professional that work with designers, I hope you find these posts helpful. Please feel free to ask me questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

So here we go.

This is a frequent question I get.

Why can’t I use or alter the work you have done for us on my office PC?

Graphic Design SoftwareJust like every other industry, print and design has its standards. The vast majority of page-layout and design is done in software called Adobe InDesign or Quark XPress on Apple Macintosh computers. This is what all printers are tooled-up to accept. The reasons for this are historic (and a little controversial), but it means that unless you have this software you will not be able to take the files that a professional designer has created for you and make changes or print them on your office PC.

Also, Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Excel and Publisher are not recommended for any type of print production. microsoft officeThese programs were not designed for a commercial print production workflow. The output from these types of files is unpredictable. Using files from these programs may result in additional charges by the printer due to fixing, or resetting. Most word processors are device dependant programs—meaning they are specific to one computer and printer—so that as soon as you put the file on a different computer everything changes.

There are other industry standard software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. I have heard business owners say; “Hey we have Photoshop, let’s just have our designer create everything in Photoshop so we can edit the files ourselves later.” Don’t get too excited, Photoshop is a very powerful tool for design, however it has a very specific purpose, and page layout is not one of them. You could create a brochure in Photoshop but you wouldn’t want to. It’s like mowing your yard with a weed eater. Yes the grass will be shorter but it will take you longer and guaranteed the result will not be what you wanted. Ask any mechanic and they will say, to do a job right you need the right tools. I think you get my point; Photoshop is a great tool but not the right tool for every project.

For the business owner I want to remind you why you hired a professional designer in the first place. You needed to announce or sell something, amuse or persuade someone, explain a complicated system or demonstrate a process through visual communications. Graphic design is a creative process that combines art and technology to communicate ideas. The designer works with a variety of tools both software, hardware and things that don’t come in a box, like innate creativity, the understanding of marketing and problem solving skills in order to convey a message from a client to a particular audience.

You made the right decision to hire a graphic designer so stick with it. You may think you can save money by making changes to your brochure, ad or other marketing collateral, in-house. Or hand it off to your new intern to give them something to do. You’ll soon realize that not only did you not save money but also the initial investment made to have the work professionally designed is squandered because the effectiveness of the piece is diminished.

For the designer, if you’re asked the question, why can’t I use or alter the work you have done for us on my office PC? I hope I have armed you with some simple answers to present to your client.

I’d love to get your feedback on this post or questions that you have about the design industry.

Thanks for reading.

Don’t slash your marketing budget just yet

We have all heard the economists say the “R” word but we really can’t let that effect our business. We may have to make some changes, but we have to keep marketing. Even the big companies are tweaking their marketing. One thing to keep in mind the reason why big companies get big and succeed is because they understand that marketing is vital to maintaining through the tough times and growing in the good times.
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If you want proof that consistent marketing and advertising works, consider the effect the media has had on the “so called” slow economy. The repeated focus on the subject of the slowing economy has created just that, a slow economy.

Any business owner wanting to be successful, even when the economy is sluggish, must make consistent marketing a priority.

Lack of marketing produces lack of clients

Just as your car needs fuel to run, your business needs consistent fuel to operate. Fuel for your business is leads, prospects and clients. Without actively generating leads, your pipeline will eventually dry up. When you’re pipeline dries up then your business is in trouble.

While this may seem logical, not every business owner gets it. Far too often money is spent on marketing tactics that are not planned out and result in a disappointing return on investment. This type of behavior is why business owners believe that marketing is an expense that is easily cut in difficult times. The truth is just the opposite. Poorly planned marketing or failure to invest in marketing at all, will produce poor results.

Investing in your company’s marketing WILL deliver results!


You need a full range of marketing services including annual direct mail marketing campaigns, search engine compliant web design and email marketing and more…

If you feel lost or unsure about how to market your business or need assistance with a new marketing campaign, give Creative Intuition a call. We are here to help.

4 ideas to improve your web presence and generate more website traffic…

eMail Marketing1 – Email Marketing

Email marketing is a highly effective and inexpensive way to reach your target market directly – they won’t visit your web site every day, but they will check their email. And we can tell who has opened the email or deleted it or clicked on any of the links.

Get in touch to find out how we can get an email marketing program up and running for you.

2 – Search Engine Optimization

How searchable is your website? Are your keywords up to date & do they describe your business well? We can make sure that your website contains all the relevant keywords, that you are registered with the top search engines and that you are using Google webmaster tools like site map & analytics. You can even advertise on Google from as little as 1p per keyword!

Get in touch to find out how we can help improve your websites visibility.

3 – Update your homepage

Sounds obvious doesn’t it?…. but it is very common for websites to have little or no changing content on their homepage. The homepage is your window to the world, many visitors will arrive and leave without visiting any of your other pages so make sure that your most important messages are clearly visible and that the content changes regularly. Also, it may be time to give your site a facelift to make it more visually appealing to visitors.

Get in touch to find out about ideas to improve your homepage.

4 – Start a blogget-blogging

Should you blog?….. absolutely! If you have an opinion on your industry and want to generate debate while at the same time increase your website’s value, and make yourself more visible to search engines… a business blog could be the answer.

Get in touch to find out more about setting up a blog.

Logo Contests

Wow, what a brilliant idea. I really need a new mechanic; I think I’ll run a contest where some local service centers can work on my car for free, then I’ll pick the one who did the best job, pay them what I think it’s worth, and let them use my name as their customer on all their advertising. Meanwhile, the rest of them can add the experience to their resumes, even though they don’t get paid. Everyone wins!!

If your a business owner and you think you are going to bring the best ideas to the top by offering $100 to people participating in a contest to design your company logo, I’m sorry to tell you but the opposite is true. People looking to be the best of the best don’t set foot into design contests because it goes against the basic heart of good logo development.

Forget about the fact that things like this water down design by letting anyone pretend they are a designer. Forget about the fact that its unethical to pay someone such a little fee for something that takes so much skill when done right. Forget about the fact that you’re insulting the REAL designers that could actually help you build your business. BUT think about the fact that what you’re doing is not helping your business, but in fact hurting it. You get what you pay for… Why even bother with a logo if you’re going to skimp on it? Your brand is your first impression to the customer, why chance it that the impression you make will be a bad one.

I’ve linked to some further reading that probably makes these points better than I do. most of these articles link to more articles on the topic.

Graphic design is a profession and professionals get paid for their work.

See AIGA.org to read a good article on how to hire a designer.