Friday, January 20, 2017

The Amazing Power of Peer Pressure in Groups

When Stanley's daughter was about five and a half, it was time for her to pick out her first bike. No surprise, she wanted something with bold colors and controls. The typical child bicycle for girls was frequently some kind of flowery motif, a princess bike, or a fairy theme. However, when Stanley brought his daughter to the store, he made a point to tell her she could pick any bike in the store for her size. And she chose a bold, fire-engine red Transformers bike for her favorite TV robot heroes. Stanley wasn't sure about the pick and asked her again if his daughter was sure. She looked around and within ten seconds was done; it would be the Transformers bike without question. So, that's the bike she got.

A month later Stanley's daughter went with her sister to the local park. They were back within minutes, and the younger one was crying. Stanley asked them what happened and, between sobs and hiccuping, his younger daughter blurted out she had been picked on for riding a boy's bike. The culprit was other neighborhood kids, particularly girls. Stanley's daughter rolled her Transformer's bike into the garage, laid it down, and ran inside sobbing. That was the last time she ever rode that bike again. Stanley tried to see if she would ride it again a month later, but no luck. The bike ended up going to charity.

Every day at work people face decisions that they must then put in front of others, their peers. Like Stanley's daughter, they will meet people who will criticize and oppose actions or directions chosen. Sometimes it's for technical reasons and sometimes they do it just to be a pain. However, those peer pressure decisions can be immense depending where one is in their career. If starting out, and the opinion comes from more experienced peers, the pressure can have a huge effect on how people try to fit in, even causing anxiety in some folks. Everybody at some point wants to be accepted, and at work, it can be a fundamental requirement to gel with the "team."

How one deals with peer pressure and compensates for it will dictate how capable of a decision-maker he or she can be. While it would be easy to assume things are top-down, dictatorial, in reality, our decision-making is often an interactive, communal function, so influence matters tremendously. Realizing this and learning how to control the pressure separates good decision-makers from those who can only operate in a vacuum. Controlling it versus being controlled means one rides their "bike" instead of losing it under pressure.

People are fundamentally social creatures, so those who want to be decision-makers need to understand how to use social influence to their advantage, not disadvantage. The last place a decision-maker wants to be is being second guessed or shamed in public when pushing a proposal. Part of effective leadership is knowing how to influence ahead of time and build decision support before the decision actually has to be made. Some call it being "political," but realistically, effective leadership involves performance with a team, not against it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Visual Marketing Content Trends to Prepare For in 2017

The new year often brings with it a time of unabashed change. Regarding visual marketing content, this seems to happen like clockwork every January as a legion of marketing professionals re-ignite their search for the "next big thing" to attract the attention of their target audience. If you want to make sure your 2017 begins as strong as it possibly can, there are some key visual marketing content trends that you need to be aware of.

Integration Continues

According to SmartInsights, one of the biggest upcoming visual content trends to prepare for is nothing new - a further integration of digital and traditional marketing. Only 5% of marketing professionals who responded to a survey say that their campaigns are fully optimized and integrated at this point, but 33% are actively trying to get to that point. Another 33% are currently experimenting with limited integration, and another 12% consider themselves integrated, but not necessarily optimized in the way that they'd like to be. That certainly doesn't mean they aren't trying, however.

Never forget: anyone who tells you that you should rely on EITHER print OR digital marketing is probably just trying to sell you something. To reach the widest possible audience, you need to look at them as two important halves of the same whole.

Visual Content Is No Longer a "Single" Technique

In the recent past, marketers tended to look at visual content the same way they looked at social media or video production - all separate techniques that made up a larger marketing campaign. This has been particularly true in terms of people who were doing both print and digital marketing. Visual content was more towards the print side of things, whereas digital skewed towards text-based materials. The wind is changing, though, and it's clear that visual content no longer serves this purpose. Instead, it must become the very foundation of your larger campaign, the through-line that connects all of your various channels together in a visual way.

Case in point: research has shown that people following directions with both text AND illustrations do an incredible 323% better than those who are only relying on text. When taken together, this means that visual marketing content has a place in every aspect of your larger campaign, from that email you're about to send out, to new leads, to the breathtaking new flyer you're about to hand off to USPS. From that perspective, the biggest trend in visual content marketing to prepare for is the very idea that you'll now be relying heavily on these elements in more places than ever before.

Looking Forward

These are just a few of the key visual marketing content trends that you need to be aware of to prepare better for what awaits you in 2017. One thing is for sure: visual marketing collateral is here to stay, and in many ways, it is more effective than ever. The shape that collateral takes is changing, though, as it should be, and it's up to you to stay ahead of the curve, so you don't accidentally find yourself getting left behind.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Cover Versus Text: What Paper Thickness Means For You

If you've ever stepped foot into a print shop or ordered a print job online, you've most likely been faced with what can be a daunting question: What kind of paper do you want? Then, that feeling of panic sets in, much like when you're faced with the paper or plastic question in the checkout line. Your mind races to quickly analyze "the most eco-friendly option" while the customers behind you silently judge you.

Fear not! This crash course in paper weights will make you a paper expert in no time at all.

What Does Paper Weight Refer To?

Without getting into too much talk about the technicalities of certain paper types and offset weights, the answer is really pretty simple. Paper is generally measured in pounds per 500 sheets (a.k.a. one ream) of the standard sheet size assigned to the papers in that category.

Example: Bond paper has a standard sheet size of 17" x 22" (also called "basis size"). If 500 sheets of bond paper weigh 20 pounds, that paper is classified as 20 lb. bond. You might also see this represented as 20# bond.

There are paper stocks that are heavier or lighter than the above example, so you will sometimes see 16# or 24# stock as well.

What Do The Different Paper Stocks Mean?

In commercial printing, you'll generally see four categories of paper stock:

1. Bond
2. Book
3. Text
4. Cover

1. Bond Paper

Bond stock is most commonly used for letterhead, copier paper, and laser printer paper. Similar to bond stock is writing stock. Writing stock is typically pricier than bond. It has shorter fibers, making it softer. It can be used for company stationery and sometimes contains a distinctive watermark. Writing stock can also be made with a variety of finishes.

Standard weights for bond/writing stock are 16#, 20#, 24# and 32#, with 20# being the most commonly used for in-house applications. Use 32# stock for resumes or competitive business documents to really impress!

2. Book Paper

Book stock can come in coated and uncoated varieties. Their weights vary from 30# Bible stock to 115# book stock. Bible stock is very thin paper, so named because it is usually used to print Bibles. Other book stock uses include magazines, catalogs, posters, and booklets.

The basis size for book stock is 25" x 38", so 500 sheets of 30# Bible stock will weigh...you guessed it - 30#!

3. Text Paper

Text stock is a higher grade of paper used in projects requiring a better quality paper. It's a bit thicker than your standard bond copy paper. Text paper is often used for brochures and flyers, some magazines, and thin posters. Text paper weights range from 60# to 100#.

The basis size for text stock is 25" x 38", so 500 sheets of 60# text stock will weigh...you got it - 60#! (You're picking this up amazingly fast!)

4. Cover Paper

Cover paper (also called "card stock") is heavy paper used for projects like business cards, postcards, and rack cards. Like text paper, weights range from 60# to 100#.

Because cover paper is a thicker stock, it has a smaller basis size (24" x 36") than text and bond papers. The equation is the same, though - 500 sheets of 80# cover stock is going to weigh 80#.

Paper Choice and Quality

As you may have guessed it, the heavier the paper, the pricier it will be. Some people may have the tendency to skimp on paper weights because they don't think it's that important. Psychologically, when people feel a lighter weight paper used on something they instinctively feel should be heavier, they make a value judgment about your company, product or service. Clearly, this is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Next time the paper choice question comes up, you can relax with the comfort of knowing that you are now a paper pro!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Direct Marketing in the Culture of “Me”

One of the buzzwords in direct marketing these days is “customer-centricity,” or how a company aligns itself around the needs and preferences of its customers. Whether that’s in print marketing, email marketing, a customer’s online experience, or mobile-friendliness, it’s all about marketing in the culture of “me.” 

Understanding customer-centricity is critical to maintaining customer relationships. Even if you’ve been great at this in the past, keep pressing forward. According to data released by McKinsey, as much as 70% of a customer’s buying experience is based on how the customer feels he or she is being treated right now

How do you maintain that
positive engagement? 
According to a 2014 survey by the CMO Council, here are the top three ways customers see a brand as being customer-centric: 
66% cite quick response times to
customer requests or complaints. 
47%say products that reflect a customer’s own needs and wants (which likely includes personalized offers). 
36%see “always on” access to products, account details, profile information, and customer support.1


How do you achieve those goals? 
It takes internal cooperation, multichannel integration, and data. Each involves different marketing channels — print, email, online, and mobile — an integrated, branded approach to multichannel communications, and a strategy that incorporates all departments of your organization, including customer service, marketing, and IT. 
It also requires a commitment to gathering and collecting customer data. While 30% of marketers surveyed say their customers do not expect a 1:1 experience every time, 63% say their customers’ expectations for personalization are higher than ever. 
This gives you an excellent opportunity to stand out. Only 5% of marketers surveyed feel they are excelling in the delivery of a data-driven, personalized experience. That’s a big, soft pitch down the middle. You deliver the personalized experience your customers want and you’ll slam a home run right over the fence. 


Five Key Points to Achieve Customer-Centricity . . . 
Develop a customer-responsive culture.

Draw other departments into the conversation, including customer service, product development, and IT.

Ensure that the customer’s experience is consistent across all touch points (print,
email, online, mobile).

Personalize customer communications, whether newsletters, product marketing,
or customer service. 

Pre-fill forms
(print or online)
to save time for the customer.

Creating a customer-centric organization doesn’t have to be complicated.
It just has to be strategic. 


10 Reasons Why Your Design Skills May Seem Lame

designer slumped desk monitor latop black whiteBy 
The design field is pretty crowded. If this is your “calling,” then you have to accept that you are in competition with a lot of creatives that may know more than you. You have to accept that you will have to take all of that creativity you have and translate it into products that others love. And you have to accept that you will need to constantly practice your craft, learn from others, and adopt a path of continual self-education.
In this respect, your career is like all others. There is always more to learn; there are always new skills to develop. Consider any other major profession. There are continuing education requirements in order to keep medical, legal, teaching, and accounting licenses. You don’t have a license to keep, but you do have to keep on improving and evolving. If your designs seem “lame” to you right now, think about these reasons why they may be failing, and how you can fix them.
Not Having Your Own “Voice”
If you have gone through design school or if you are self-taught, there is a grave pitfall for many designers. You tend to be inspired by designers that have “made it.” This is normal. But at some stage, you have to have your own point of view – a style that is uniquely yours and with which you are comfortable.

This may involve some risk-taking on your part. You may have to get out of that comfort zone of emulating others and into experimentation with a design until you’ll find your own “voice.” Start experimenting and feed that creative passion within you. As long as you keep emulating others, your designs will never live up to your expectations. Click here to continue reading.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Qualities That Brands With Longevity Share

In the world of business, there is perhaps no commodity more precious than longevity. Getting a brand up and off the ground is one thing - keeping it around for the long-term is something else entirely. Creating longevity will rely in large part on your marketing, although this is only one small part of a much greater whole. The best marketing campaign in the world can't create a long-standing, successful brand if a few qualities aren't underneath it all just waiting to be communicated to the widest possible audience.

They Trigger an Emotional Response

One of the biggest traits that all brands with serious longevity share is the fact that they're able to trigger an emotional response with their target audience, creating a loyal army of followers. This is true both with the way they market AND the way that response integrates into the service they provide.

Apple is a great example of this based on their image as the "hip, trendy" electronics company. People see a sleek, sophisticated Apple product in an equally compelling ad and they can't help but think, "That looks really cool; I want that." The same goes for a company like Amazon.com, albeit from a different angle. The way that Amazon has embraced personal marketing, both regarding the advertising it creates and with regards to the personalized recommendations that each user enjoys, makes them think, "I like Amazon; they get me." That type of emotional connection is something you just can't put a price on.

They Live Up to What They Promise

All of the best brands with serious longevity share the fact that they live up to the promises they make in their marketing materials. This comes from a deeper understanding of not just the people they're trying to attract, but who those people are and what they want. These brands know how to communicate with their target audience and, as a result, don't just live up to their promises, but they know how NOT to make a promise they can't keep.

Take FedEx, for example. Entrepreneur.com recently cited FedEx as a brand with an incredibly strong corporate identity, owed largely to the fact that it's operations are so incredibly efficient. FedEx is a brand built on trust, and the road to trust is paved with promises that have been kept in the past. FedEx is seen as an incredibly reliable service, and people in need of shipping rank FedEx favorably in that regard. This creates something of a self-fulfilling prophecy - a symbiotic relationship that only strengthens over time specifically because FedEx knows what its audience wants and it knows how precisely to give it to them every time.

Once again, Apple is another example of this idea in motion. They promise products that "just work" and have historically delivered on that promise time and again. This has made them not only one of the most successful brands in the world, but also one with serious longevity in an industry where companies come and go like the weather.

These are just a few of the core qualities that all brands with longevity share. Remember that in the grand scheme of things, brands come and go all the time. Creating a brand is easy, but if you want to make sure that your brand stands the test of time, you need to focus on offering something truly unique on an ongoing basis.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Overcoming the Getting Started Obstacle Course

Collette Divitto was born with Down syndrome, but she hasn't let that stand in the way of doing what she wants with her life. As a passionate baker, Collette sought opportunities to work in that field and earn a living. However, every place she applied told her that she was not a good fit. Instead of giving up, she formulated her own cookie recipe and went into business for herself.

Her cinnamon chocolate chip cookies were popular with friends and family. When one friend after another told her, "you should sell these!" she took the leap and began her small business out of her apartment. She bought business cards, made a website, and learned how to create invoices. Before long, she was taking orders online and had her first local client, the Golden Goose Market.

While Collette faced a unique set of challenges getting her business off the ground, everyone who wants to start an enterprise will face hurdles. Overcome these hurdles by asserting the sort of grit and curiosity that got Collette started:

1. Remember that you don't need permission.

Collette first tried to work for other businesses. When they did not see a use for her, she decided to go out on her own. Instead of waiting for an opportunity to present itself, those who wish to forge a business should follow Collette's courageous steps.

2. Be willing to learn new skills.

When bootstrapping a company and getting it going, you may not be able to hire people for every role. Collette learned how to do her own accounting so that she could get started. If she'd waited for someone who could do that job for her, she might still be waiting to start.

3. Reach out to the network you already have.

Collette's local client, the Golden Goose Market, is right in her neighborhood. Since they already knew Collette, they were willing to take a chance on her and display her cookies. Look to your own network; think about the people you know from old jobs, friends of the family, and other contacts. They may have a need for your service or know someone who does.

4. Capitalize on what makes you unique.

Collette Divitto got promotion through human interest stories because of the obstacles that she has overcome. Think about what sets you apart from your competition. It can be a brand story, a unique product like Collette's top secret cinnamon cookie recipe, or an aspect of your customer service that goes above and beyond what your competitors provide. Recognize your unique attributes and learn how to convey them to your prospects. These qualities are the ones that make your business more appealing than the rest.

Being willing to take risks and dedicating the work necessary can help ensure your business's success. This sort of courageous approach can get you through those slim early times and make it more likely that your business will thrive.