Category Archives: marketing advice

How to Take a Local Small Brand National

It’s not as scary or as difficult as you think to take your brand national.

Use social media. It’s all about Facebooking, Tweeting and friending people. These are the largest national platforms available to a small business… for free. Take advantage of them.

Capitalize on what makes you unique. Really truly not every business is the same. Even if you’re in an industry like Financial Planning, some people may think you’re all the same but you know you’re not. Believe me there is something about you that is unique, you need to find it and market it.

Be willing to try new things. I fought social media for a long time, especially twitter. It was hard for me to see the value but everyone was doing it so I decided to jump in. My reach nationally is so much broader now, I find it amazing the kinds of businesses that follow me and where they are located.

Step out of your comfort zone and give it a try. You can play with the Big Guys!


Branding and the importance of consistency

What is branding and why is it important?

Professional Services Companies need to be branding themselves. The benefits of branding are often long term, but include customer qualities like loyalty, memorability familiarity and at some point, your marketing expenses will significantly decrease because an audience is already familiar with you. All that stuff sounds good, HOWEVER, the catch is that the company is not in direct control of the brand. In a nutshell, branding is the perceived emotional image of a company as a whole and, in it’s simplest form, has nothing to do with things like logo’s and stationary.

Branding is a fairly complicated subject because typically the company’s management and marketing team are trying to figure out how to brand the company, or how to find a way in which the company will be unique and find a place in the customers mind; but it’s really not about what the management and marketing want, branding relies on the perception of the audience. So the next question is, ‘How do you find out what your audience is thinking?’

The answer is pretty simple: by doing marketing research–in its simplest form, this could be a survey sent to past customers asking them their perception of the company. The main goal here is to understand your audience and what they think about your company. The next step is how to capitalize (or fix) that perception. That’s branding!

Why is branding necessary?

Every good company should creating a brand and not just creating a company or a service. A nicely branded company has placement in your mind–when you think of innovation, perhaps you think of Apple. When you think of running shoes, you may think of Nike. These are just examples of what good branding is and how they create an attachment with their audience.

When you create a professional services business without branding it, your audience will lose sight of it and most times think of it as just another law firm or financial planner or nothing special. Worst of all, you may not have an audience at all!

Brand recognition and consistency

The ultimate goal of a professional services firm is to win the hearts and minds of your clientele. Once you’ve done that, you have achieved what is called ‘brand recognition.’ This means your audience knows the company well enough to know what they may or may not say, and what they may or may not look like.

Consistency is absolutely key if a professional services firm wants an audience to recognize them.

Once your audience has clamped on to that recognition, if it’s positive, you want to do everything you can to continue with it. If it’s negative you want to do everything you can to change it. Recognition for brands can end up pushing sales harder than any marketing or advertising plan.

Using YOUR Knowledge to build YOUR Brand?

Branding goes beyond the visual elements. Obviously, as a designer, my primary interest is in how things look; however, over the years I have noticed that many companies are not promoting the one thing that really makes them stand out… their expertise.

One of the best ways to build brand awareness and integrity is to establish yourself and your business as an expert in your target market. In a lot of cases, yes, this means you need to narrow down your target market… but that is another article in itself.

Many business owners are modest and don’t want to be the center of attention or they don’t trust enough in their own knowledge to use that as their primary brand element. A client once said that “I’m no different from anyone else in my industry.”  Aghast, my response was, “Then why would anyone do business with you over someone else?”

…He had no immediate answer.

But after talking it though together, we did come up with some key expertise points he had that others did not… giving us ammunition to market. He didn’t think that being in the business over twenty years and having a more specialized business than many in his peers made him an expert…but it does!

Your expertise is what makes you different so why wouldn’t you want to promote that? Not only should you be promoting your expertise, it should be your primary marketing tool.

…Yes, you read that right.

I say this because once you’ve set yourself up as the expert it makes the tactical pieces of your marketing easy to design and execute.

So in a sea of businesses, websites and marketing collateral, how are you going to stand out? And more importantly, how are you going to make your prospects think that you are only choice for them? Set yourself up as an expert.

I refer to this as creating your “Expert” Brand Positioning. What does that mean, and how do I do that, you ask?

In technical terms here is what that means:

EXPERT: a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority.

BRAND: A brand is the identity of a specific product, service, or business. Brand encompasses identity – it affects the personality of a product, company or service.

So how do you set yourself up as an expert?

First you need to ask yourself two questions.

  1. What is it that you are an expert in?
  2. How can you promote your expertise to reach more people? In turn make more money.

The following five elements can help you answers those questions and properly execute a strong “Expert” Brand Position.

  1. Brand Clarification – Identifying and/or Reinforcing a Clear & Focused Brand
  2. Marketing – Creating a Strong Marketing Plan that Identifies All Targeted Market Niches
  3. Publicity – Creating the Strategies to Communicate the Message(s)
  4. Social Media – Creating a Social Media Plan that Reinforces Your Brand
  5. Time Management & Productivity – Creating the Schedule to Implement the Marketing Plan and Publicity Strategies

Here’s to becoming an Expert!

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.


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.


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.


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.