5 marketing ideas to make winter feel shorter

Whew! We made it through the holidays, and all that remains is the scattering of pine needles in the carpet. Can we all take a collective deep, cleansing breath together? On three: one… two… three!

In Minnesota, the months of January, February, and March are loooong. They’re typically our coldest months, our snowiest months, and our darkest months. There are no cheery holidays to pull us out of hibernation. It’s mostly grey and slushy and miserable, so we hunker down and wait for spring.

But wait! As business owners, couldn’t we find a way to bring sunshine to those dreary months? I decided to think of some ideas to build community, get people out and spending time together, and get them into your store. Of course, the details will depend on what kind of business/store you have, but here we go!

Ladies’ night

A lot of businesses do sales and events for ladies encouraging them to spend money leading up to the holidays. What about after the holidays? Try hosting some kind of make-and-take hosted at your store. Even if you don’t typically have handmade items in your store, or even if you’re not typically open in the evenings, you could hire a local person to do a wine & painting (or craft & draught for us beer people). That gets groups of ladies out of their homes and into your business with smiles on their faces.

Community over competition

Can you partner with other businesses to do a cool event? Back in November, a local car dealership hosted a “Heels and Wheels” event. Women bought inexpensive tickets (I think they were $20?), and came to the dealership first for appetizers and drinks. Then the dealership staff drove them to various boutiques and shops that had partnered with the event. There were drinks, appetizers, and light desserts at each shop, and the groups had an allotted amount of time to shop at each store. Women loved going out for an evening with their friends, and it got them into shops maybe they wouldn’t have visited without the event. Many of the shops stayed open later than normal just for the event. It was a creative way to get businesses to collaborate and think about community rather than competition!

Or try partnering with a local restaurant or brewery for an event? Is there an aspect of your business you could highlight while offering unique foods? This is great if there’s a new restaurant or bakery that is trying to build their reputation too!

Reward kindness

Dogs at the local animal shelter need to be walked, and when the weather is bad, they have a hard time getting volunteers. Homeless shelters and soup kitchens are also busy and full this time of year. How about offering a reward to people who volunteer? You could partner with the organization of your choice, have some kind of coupon* that the staff stamp or initial to verify, and the volunteer gets a reward for donating their time! Or, do a food drive for your local food pantry or backpack food program and offer a discount in exchange for a donation. (Many organizations prefer cash donations because they can stretch the dollar further, so keep in mind that customers who didn’t bring in a food item can still contribute!)

I recently wrote about a local shop that started a “Kindness Campaign”. Read about that here, then think about how you can do something like it to bring sunshine to your community during the grey months!

Celebrate the cold and snow!

Could you do some kind of promotion with the temp/inches of snow to make the weather a little less painful? Try something like, “If it stays below zero for 3 days, take 30% off…” Or give a free gift with purchase the first time it snows over 6 inches (of course, make sure that gift has your branding on it)!

Family time

What can you do to get families out and spending time together? Kids love crafts, and moms love crafts that happen outside of their house, so could you use your business to get kids doing something hands-on? Build something, create something, DO something! Make sure to put an age range in your marketing, and get some extra helpers for the day too. (Teenagers are a good option here!)

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What ideas do you have? I’d love to hear them! Let’s get through these next couple of months together!

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*I’m going to talk about coupons in an upcoming post… stay tuned!

 photo credit: pixabay.com user MabelAmber

going beyond fear to faith

I’ve told you about the push I got to attend Christy Wright’s Business Boutique 3 day event in Nashville, TN in early November. Months before the trip, I wrote about that generous gift as well as many of the reasons I had NOT to go, and how I turned those into my reasons TO go:

If you know me well, you know I’m irrationally terrified of flying. I also have two very active kids to drive all over the place, two dogs to worry about, and a full-time job outside of this side-venture. It is also VERY MUCH outside my nature to accept help or gifts like this from anyone. I have a million reasons (excuses?) to turn down this most generous offer. But I have one big reason why I accepted it:

It is 100% outside of my comfort zone.

And it was. My anxiety about the trip increased exponentially as the days approached, specifically about getting on the plane and logistics of the trip, but also about details at home like which kid had practice/games when, how they were getting there, I’d be missing my son’s first hockey game of the season, etc.it will be fine

Okay. Deep breath. You can do this.

All of the flights went well from a getting-from-point-A-to-point-B standpoint. I thought I was brave… although my husband perceived it a little differently as he saw tears streaming down my face with every takeoff and landing. (I gently reminded him that being brave is not being without fear, it is pushing through your fear.) In any case, we arrived safely with all our luggage and all was well.

At the conference itself, I was inspired, energized, and motivated with practical strategies I have already started putting to use in order to serve you well. I was encouraged to step out from behind my logo and allow you to get to know me personally. I heard speakers who gave me goosebumps and brought me to tears, encouraging me to believe in this business and myself. (Seriously, if you are a woman business-owner, look into Business Boutique.) There were so many takeaways, but the quote from Christy Wright that stood out to me the most was this:

Both faith and fear require believing in something that hasn’t happened yet.

Does that hit you like it hit me? I caught my breath when I heard that one. It’s powerful! But because I wanted to justify my fears, I spent a few moments trying to think of loopholes and reasons this statement isn’t true… but I came up empty. There was no rationalizing the power out of it for me.IMG_3098 2

Pushing beyond fear in this case meant getting on a plane and leaving my day-to-day life behind in order to invest in myself, and therefore in you. I was vastly rewarded with amazing speakers and information I could immediately take back and apply to my business.

In addition to all of the practical tools I took with me from that event, I also took away a change in perspective: when fear arises and I start to doubt what I’m capable of achieving, I am going to take a deep breath and choose faith. You can too!

Just do it scared. Don’t wait. Don’t wait until you’re “ready”, or until the thing is perfect, or until you get approval from him or her… just #doitscared.

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Tell me about a time you were rewarded for pushing past fear – a time you DID IT SCARED. Or I’d love to hear what you think about the quote about fear & faith – did it hit you like it did me?

You might like this FREE downloadable wallpaper for your smartphone! I put it on my phone to remind me that I have a choice between faith and fear, no matter the situation. (If you have any trouble downloading it, just comment below with your email address and I’ll send it your way.)
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photo used in the free download is from pixabay.com user “oadtz”

cover photo credit: pixabay.com user “sasint”

why use a graphic designer?

Do you need a graphic designer?

Sure, you can put together that ad or coupon using your basic word processing software. Yes, it’s cheaper, and yes, it gets the job done.

You may not have the need for a graphic designer on payroll, but finding one that you can contract and work with consistently will build a relationship. Your designer will come to understand your business, learn your audience, and work more intuitively over time, thus needing less of your time and input. That groundwork and communication on the front end will help you immensely as you develop a relationship, grow your business together, and excellently serve your customers together.

Then this:

email screen shot

…turns into this:

2018.11.05 Heels&Wheels discount-01-01

…with minimal effort from you.

My passion is to take your message, polish it, and create a beautiful design so you can proudly put it out in the world. If it’s a print project, I’ll take care of getting it printed up for you too. Let me take care of those things so you can focus on the parts that made you want to go into business in the first place.

How can I serve your customers? Let’s find out!

cover photo credit: markusspiske on Pixabay.com

marketing kindness

A while back, I wrote about a generous gift I received from a client. I mentioned then that I had been working on a project for them that truly exemplifies who they are, and now that some time has passed and word is out, I thought I’d tell you more about it.

Frozen Yogurt Creations is a locally-owned frozen treat shop, but it’s so much more than that. Anyone who knows store owners Kelli and Bruce also knows that they see their shop as a place for community and family, for celebration and smiles, and a place to pause and reconnect with those we care about. They are intentional in their decisions – from their marketing to their cheery atmosphere to the gifts they give organizations in the community (which they do quietly and frequently).

I struggle to even call their most recent marketing campaign a “marketing” campaign, because for them, it isn’t about the marketing. They want to change the community to be kinder, and they thought of a fun way to do it that is just… well, I don’t know how to say it other than it’s just so them.

It starts with a business card sized coupon:

discount cards

The idea is that they hand these cards out to family, friends, and employees to give to people they “catch” in an act of kindness, which the recipient could turn in for a free treat.

So then the recipient comes in, card in-hand, and writes down what they did on the back of the card. The card gets added to one of 6 posters that are hanging on the wall, such as this one:

poster/wall art
24″ by 36″ custom poster

Each one of those little rectangles will eventually get covered up with a card, but for now, they each contain a little quote about kindness. The posters hang near the seating areas so customers can read them while they enjoy their treat.

Finally, the do-gooder gets their picture taken holding a sign so Kelli and Bruce can brag about them a little bit on social media, like this:

38933040_2163576540341425_2844245291803082752_n

Finally, they give that person a new, blank card so they can give it to someone else for their act of kindness and keep the campaign going.

So, yes. Technically, this is a marketing campaign. The first Facebook post they did about the campaign got around 150 “likes” and a bunch of shares and comments. Subsequent posts had strong responses as well. People got excited about it, and word is spreading, which I imagine is probably good for their business.

More importantly to Kelli and Bruce, it’s a Kindness Campaign: smiles are being spread during a time in history when maybe the world could use a little extra kindness. That’s their goal; the other stuff is secondary.

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What do you think about their campaign? How can your business create a Kindness Campaign, with the heart being in the kindness and the marketing being secondary? What kind of organizational culture needs to be there so customers know it’s genuine and not just for publicity?
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cover photo credit: user klimkin on Pixabay.com

7 tips to help your designer help you

“Help me… help you! Help. Me. Help you.”

I haven’t seen the movie in years, but I can still remember Cuba Gooding Jr.’s face when Tom Cruise angrily delivers this line in the movie Jerry McGuire. Cuba’s expression goes from beyond frustrated to totally amused as Tom’s character begs Cuba’s to help him do his job. (Oooh I found it! You can watch it here.)

OK, getting to my point:

Every service occupation has ways the customer can help the provider do a better job of serving. Graphic design is no different. Your graphic designer will probably not scream at you like Tom Cruise does in the movie, but…

You can help your designer help you.

Here are some tips for working with your graphic designer so the end result is what you’re hoping for and the process is as smooth as possible:

1 – Answer their initial questions the best you can.

When I work with a new client, I usually pepper them with questions about their organization, their customer, as well as the project. I know that I ask a lot of questions, and I realize that the questions can seem tedious, but I ask them so I learn the mark I should be aiming for. My client’s customers are my customers, so I want to be sure I know who they are. My client’s message is my message, so I want to be sure I know what I’m trying to convey.

Click here for some of the types of the questions I ask.

Put in some time at the beginning. Your designer realizes you’re busy, and you probably just want them to take the project and run, but fully answering those questions can save you time and money later.

2 – Say what you want.

I live in Minnesota: the land of 10,000 lakes and 5.5 million “nice” people… meaning most people don’t really say what they want. This can make designing difficult. Even if you don’t really know what you want, you probably have an idea of what you like, or you know the general direction you want to see the project take. Find inspiration on Pinterest, Instagram, Etsy, Google… look for what people in your field are doing for similar projects and show your designer what you like. I love coming up with ideas, and it really helps that process if the client provides some initial basis to start from. If you DO know exactly what you want: describe it clearly and specifically, find and show examples that represent your ideas, and give feedback along the way.

3 – Give specific feedback.

And while we’re on the subject of feedback, remember to give it and use specifics. Let your designer know early and often if you find things that aren’t quite what you’re looking for. Include exactly what it is that needs to change – is it the layout, colors, images, font choice…? Saying “I want it to ‘pop’ more” or “it’s just missing something” is not as helpful as “I would like a brighter color here” or “I’d like to add another image to this page”. Yes, it’s the designer’s job to design, but the options are endless, so your specific feedback really helps guide the direction. It’s also MUCH easier to make changes early in the process than to rework things at the end, so communicating things you want changed along the way saves you time and money.

Of course, everyone likes to hear what we’ve done well – that’s human nature. So, compliment your designer freely when they’re doing good work too! Say the things you like – again, using specifics – so they know they’re heading in the right direction and can keep building from there.

4 – Have your content ready to go.

If your designer is not helping with the writing and editing of the content, have it  cleaned up and finished before you give it to them. The better organized the content is, the less time he/she has to spend figuring out what goes where and how to best make sense of it all.

To make a minor adjustment such as fixing type-o’s or swapping out a photos is of course no big deal and is expected; but once the text is placed on a page, making major changes to it can really affect a design, and big changes to a design costs you (say it with me…) time and money.  Make sure the content you’re providing helps the designer achieve your goal for the project. For example: if you tell your designer you want lots of white space, visuals, and a clean look with minimal text, then you give them lots of text, it’s tough for them to meet your expectations.

5 – Address their needs as quickly as possible.

As with any kind of project, questions can come up during a design project. Maybe I’m missing a logo or maybe there’s something I want to clarify, and sometimes work can’t continue until that question is answered. The timeline is usually a big part of the projects I get hired for, but I can’t meet the deadline if I’m waiting for a response from the client. When the ball is in your court, remember that the designer may have to put your project aside until you lob it back and they can continue working.

6 – Ask questions.

You hire a designer to provide a service for you, and you should ask questions if you’re unsure of something or want clarification. Ask for drafts, updates on progress, or whatever you need to feel comfortable. You’re spending your money, so your expectations need to be met. And like I said before, it’s easier for a designer to correct any issues earlier in the process than have to re-work the design when it’s close to done, so don’t assume you’re on the same page if you’re not sure.

7 – Be open.

Sometimes having someone outside your organization take a look at how you’re presenting yourself can be the best way to find what you’re missing or could improve! Let your designer make suggestions and consider new possibilities you haven’t explored before. Trust this person you’ve hired. I imagine you’ve vetted them and looked at their portfolio – give them room to work and use their creativity and skills for you! An outside viewpoint could be just what you need to change how you connect with your customer.

Almost all of these tips come down to communication. Keep the communication open and frequent with your designer, and you’re much more likely to see the outcome you’re looking for. The end goal for any designer is for you to be happy with what they’ve created for you, and they can only achieve that if you help them.

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How can I be helpful? Do you have questions about working with a designer? Or do you have other suggestions I missed? I’d love to hear from you!

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bicycle gear photo credit: user JarkkoManty on Pixabay.com