5 steps to reduce your content

As a business owner, you LOVE what you do. You breathe it. Every aspect is important to you – every little nook and cranny, every small detail.

BUT…. is all of it important to your customers too?

I often see businesses and organizations so excited about everything they’re doing, they want to tell everyone about all of it. They want to make sure to include every last detail and nuance so the customer fully understands just how awesome it all is.

The thing is, if everything is important and exciting, then nothing is important and exciting. And if you include all of it? Well, then it’s just plain overwhelming and your audience won’t read it.

So… how do you learn to trim it down?

How do you go from this…

…to this?

1. Start by laying it all out

Put it ALL in there, like I did in the first image above. When I was working with this client, we knew the final version was not going to include all of that text; but by laying it into the document, we could see our starting point. We could see just how much we needed to trim out in order for the pages to look like we envisioned.

2. Ask questions

Keep asking questions to determine what actually needs to be included. Questions like:

  • WHY is this important to include?
  • Does the AUDIENCE care about this? (Not, “Do I want to TELL the audience about this?”)
  • Is all of this information necessary for this particular marketing piece? (Should some be shared at a different time, perhaps further in the onboarding process?)
  • Are these details necessary for understanding the message, or can some be trimmed out?
  • Will someone from my team be present when this marketing piece is being used? (Rather than including all of the information in written form, consider using bullet points and fill in details through a spoken explanation.)
  • How can I say this with fewer words? (Can you shorten/simplify sentences? Use bullet points instead of paragraphs?)
  • Can I tell this part of the story with a photo, image, or graphic?
  • Would it make sense to direct them to a website for more information?

Intentionally asking these kinds of questions will help you think through your content, and you will bring focus to what’s really important.

3. Zoom out and look at it

Without reading the content, determine if the page/spread of pages looks interesting. Do this by asking yourself more questions:

  • Is there enough white space, or is the content all jammed together?
  • Are there headings to break up the content into sections?
  • Does the layout make sense? Does it encourage the reader to move their eyes from section to section in the order that you want them to?
  • Is the font easy to read? (Read more about choosing fonts in this previous post about consistency in design.)
  • Are the images interesting? Do they invite the reader in to read more about what the image is portraying?

4. Get an opinion or two

Have someone outside of your organization take a look at it. You want it to be someone who doesn’t know your product or service well; preferably someone in your target market, but that may not be necessary. Explain the context in which the piece will be used (mailed out, used in initial consultations with clients, etc.), then get their feedback.

  • Does it look good?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Do you know where to go if you want more information?
  • Do you know what you’re supposed to do next?
  • Is there anything missing?
  • Is there anything you don’t like?

5. Final product

That’s it! Being mindful during the content development and design process will result in a piece that engages your audience and helps them fully understand your story. Sharing in manageable pieces (rather than excitedly telling them everything in one breath) will make them WANT to come on your journey with you.

It’s how you get from here:

to here:

cover photo by pixabay.com user: janeb13

in these uncertain times

“In these uncertain times…”

We’ve all heard that phrase a million times in the last few weeks. It seems all the big businesses are using it in their commercials. These ARE uncertain times and we as business owners need to be cognizant and respectful of the precarious situation we’re all in. We all fear giving off the perception that we’re “trying to make a buck” off of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But times are uncertain for small businesses too, and “trying to make a buck” is actually just “trying to stay alive”. Suddenly having to shutter your active business, tell your employees their job is done, pivot and figure out if and how you can serve your customer differently… in these uncertain times. Then of course there’s the fear. Will you ever be able to open your doors again?

When Minnesota’s stay-at-home order went into place, I posted only things that would help small businesses for a full week on my Facebook page; things like resources, tips, articles, etc. I’m pulling the best from there (and diving a little deeper in some) and compiling it here for you.

1 – keep the lights on

Your local chamber of commerce, Small Business Development Center, SCORE chapter, and other agencies can help you navigate this new turf you find yourself in. They can connect you with other businesses, help you with applying for the SBA loans if you need it, and so much more.

Our local Small Business Development Center has provided a comprehensive webpage that addresses small business’ response to COVID-19. They host webinars and other online events (most are free) so be sure to check it out. Much of the information there is accessible and applicable no matter where you are located; so if you don’t have a SBDC where you are, I encourage you to check out the resources at that link.

2 – pivot & reach out

Think differently

Is there a way you can support your customers and provide your service in an alternate way? Obviously, adhere to government restrictions, keep yourself and your employees safe, and balance the cost of getting the new service up and going with the benefit of a new source of revenue… but think hard. Google your business type or explore on Facebook/Instagram and learn what other businesses like yours are doing across the country. If you’re not the creative type (or even if you are!), employ the help of others. Get their ideas. Their outside perspective gives them the opportunity to things you may not see.

For example: I saw a post in a Facebook group I’m in from a landscaping company looking for creative ways to market their business. Some suggestions I offered:

  • Provide virtual consultations: customers could use their phone to walk the landscape designer around their property. A simple consultation could be on-the-spot plant suggestions, ideas, etc. from the designer (low-cost option) and a more full consultation could include a full landscape plan from the designer after the conversation (higher-cost option).
  • Social media engagement:
    • Regular video posts about different plants that thrive in their area, maybe with themes such as specific colors, easy-to-grow, or native plants.
    • Provide tips for people trying to DIY some landscaping projects during their time at home.
    • Ask customers what they want to learn about.

I’ve seen a cute antiques shop in our town doing live sales on their Facebook page, many businesses transitioned their stock to a website and do curbside pickup or shipping, others are providing phone or video consultations as support for DIY-ers, and fitness facilities and gyms are providing at-home online workouts.

Some of these could be continued after “life” resumes as a new way to engage their audience and/or secure different revenue streams. What could YOU do differently to serve your customers?

Connect with other businesses

How can you collaborate and cross-advertise to reach a wider audience? Our local chamber of commerce created a Facebook group for local businesses to post and advertise in, and within just a few days it had a couple thousand members (as of this post, it has 4,500). Could your community do something similar?

“Attend” online events that would have been in person. Our local chapters of 1Million Cups and Social Media Breakfast are still holding presentations via Zoom (like this one about the importance of customer reviews). Those are great ways to learn about other businesses, make connections, and learn about business-related topics. Make the time for these; you’ll be surprised you how benefit. Also, it’s a good way to show these organizations support as they’re working so hard to support small businesses. (And you can keep your camera covered so you can still attend in your pajamas.)

3 – communicate, communicate, communicate

If your customers don’t know how you have changed your businesses practices to continue to serve them, you’ll fall off their radar. If they don’t know you’re open, they won’t know they can buy. If they don’t know you care, they won’t care.

Utilize your email list

Don’t have one? Start one. If you have one, now’s the time to grow it. Use your social media accounts to ask people to sign up. Offer a discount in exchange for their email address. Promise (then provide) tips and resources for them related to your business.

Continue to post on social media

Even if you’re only operating minimal hours and providing minimal services. Even if you’re hard closed – not operating at all. Even if you’re not sure you’ll reopen when all is said and done. Don’t fall off your customers’ radar.

Even if it feels like you’re posting the same general message – use different pictures, post at different times of day, reword the text. Chances are the audience that saw your post at 10am on Tuesday on Facebook won’t see it at 9pm on Thursday on Instagram. Plus, even if they did see it, it may not have stuck with them, or they may not have had time to act on it right then… so seeing it again is a reminder. In fact, people NEED to see the same message multiple times before they act.

Gary Vaynerchuk says we should jab, jab, jab THEN throw the right hook. Meaning: give, give, give THEN ask them to buy. (Never heard of him? You can Google “Gary Vaynerchuk jab jab jab right hook” and you’ll get a wealth of information. Here’s an article to get you started.)

The point is, CONNECT. Give your audience, your customers something to care about. Teach them something, help solve their problem for free (from home), show them that you’re there because you care about them. Help them feel good about supporting your business. Help them get to know YOU. Then ask them to buy or subscribe or do something.


{If you still want it to look good but the budget is a little tight, here are some low or no cost tools you can use to create your own designs for social media or print.}


Tell your customers how they can help

Everyone is overwhelmed by the state of our country, our world. Everyone wants to help in some way, but often don’t know how. TELL your customers how they can help your business. Your customers are your customers for a reason. They like your service, your product, your business, you. They will want to support you. Tell them exactly how they can do that.

I created a series of images that I posted on my social media during that first week, then wrote text to accompany each post. I wrote them as a broad “how to help small businesses”, so they can be used that way as a general support to your community. Some of them can also be tailored to be specific to your business.

I’m providing these images, the original post content, AND suggestions for how you can customize the post at no cost to you. Just click the DOWNLOAD NOW button below and you’ll get the five images and a PDF with the content. You are welcome to use them in any order, edit the text to fit your business, use completely different text, etc. (If you use any of them, I would appreciate a tag @bluesunmn on Facebook or Instagram.)


As always, please let me know how I can be helpful as you navigate… these uncertain times.

All images in this post (aside from the social media assets included in the download) are from pixabay.com.

the design & editing process

Many of my clients tell me that the biggest benefit they see when they work with Blue Sun is that the content doesn’t have to be “final” before we get to work. I take the rough, the incomplete, the “too much”, and the “not quite there yet” and I help clean it up as I design. I work with you to figure out what’s important and should be included, as well as what can be left out.

Today, I’ll walk you through what it looks like to hand off a piece of your business to me, so you can focus on what YOU love to do… while giving tips in case you’re in DIY mode.

the starting point

The Goalie Club’s camps are impressive, and their coaching is helping build amazing athletes who compete at elite levels. Their previous brochure was jam-packed with excellent information about their programs:

The Goalie Club has a robust and comprehensive website. The printed materials don’t need to tell every detail; they need to give the basics then drive interested families to the website to register.

Here’s how we redesigned the brochures tell their story in a different, more engaging way… with powerful content and strong design.

the design process

We started with a conversation so I could understand the programs, the camps, and what was most important for the customers to know.

Then, I got to work to pare down the content.

  • Long blocks of text tend to be overwhelming, so consider reformatting paragraphs into bulleted lists.
  • Look for low-hanging fruit that is easily cut down. For example, I reduced the number of testimonials and selected new, shorter ones.
  • Consider cutting out pieces of content that an interested customer could easily find on your website.
brochure content - first draft

From there, I began to add design elements:

  • color – it’s important to stick with brand colors and use them intentionally to break up the text into sections.
  • photos – choose just a few photos but make sure they’re strong and carry the story well.
  • layout – spacing and size of text are important for engaging your audience and keeping them engaged. (Tip: If you work hard to reduce content, you’ll be able to use a larger font size and add white space.)
  • call to action – the purpose of this brochure is to turn casual browsers into customers. A large call to action tells them exactly what they need to do next.

All along the way, I reworked bits of content and considered how everything was worded; every single word was put under the microscope.

While I was working, I stayed in communication with TGC staff to ensure I was on track and sent updated versions to get feedback and changes. Together, we landed at the final product:

build from there

hockey camp poster

TGC was so thrilled with the brochure, they asked me to design a 24″ by 36″ poster as well. I changed the layout, reduced the content even further from the brochure, and kept the web information super prominent.

Once everything was final, we high-fived and I sent the brochures and posters to print for them. TGC staff got to stay focused on what they love to do – building strong and skilled goaltenders!

Have questions? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below or contact kate@bluesundesigns.com.

Learn what TGC and others have to say about working with me.

designed with love

It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it!

We know that there are non-verbal aspects to our communication when we’re speaking: things like facial expression, body posture, and tone affect how our message is interpreted. This is true with written communication too! In design, font choice, colors, and images communicate the tone of the message.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I came up with this quick example:

Let’s break it down.

#1: The Default

The Default

This is done in the default font in Microsoft Word. I put in zero design effort and made no attempt to convey emotion. It’s the Valentine’s Day equivalent of Dwight Schrute’s birthday sign: it is a statement of fact.

I see this in business communications all the time. Using the default font is just fine when you just need to type up a quick agenda or simple internal communication. When you’re communicating to your customers, try a little harder. Pick a font for all of your communications and use it consistently.

#2: Cutesy Curlz

Cutesy Curlz

I’ll start out with the old adage, “Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.” Using cute fonts just because you like them, adding cartoony clipart, and unnecessarily filling in white space makes the design look homegrown and unprofessional.

Again, choose a font to use for all of your communications that aligns with your brand and conveys the tone you’re shooting for. Skip the clipart and use more professional-looking illustrations, images, or icons. Also, be careful about putting images behind text; it can make the text hard to read. Finally, remember that you don’t need to fill in white space just because it’s there.

Click here for a list of low/no-cost design tools.

#3: The Stalker

The Stalker

Design elements can portray different moods. Just like music in the background of a movie or body language as a friend tells a story, design communicates the tone or mood of the message.

The details you add such as borders, backgrounds, and images shape the mood of your organization’s communications. Be sure to select photos that match your company’s personality and target market. Use colors that appeal to your customer and align with your branding.

#4: The Love Story

The Love Story

The design is clean and simple, there are no distracting extras, the fonts pair well, and the underlying tone of romance is strong. There is emotion here (unlike #1), but the cheese factor from #2 is gone. There isn’t a hint of creepy, despite using the same words and a heart as I did in #3.

Wrap it up.

Each example above sent a different message despite all containing the same words. Thinking about your “non-verbals” as you create your materials can make a world of difference as to how your message is received.

Reach out if you need help as you’re working or if you need an outside perspective to review your design once it’s done. I’m happy to help!

Cover image by user “kaboompics” on pixabay.com

creating change

I’m sitting in my office, looking out at the leaves, admiring them as they transition from green to gold. Fall is officially here, and there is so much to love! Minnesotans love the cool, crisp air, the apples, the explosion of color, but most of all, the absence of mosquitoes.

This fall is especially exciting for me, because it marks big change for Blue Sun Designs. Since January of 2018, Blue Sun has been my side-gig. My creative outlet. A way for me to learn and grow outside of a classroom.

Blue Sun Designs is changing today.

Starting today, Blue Sun has dropped the “side-” designation and has become my gig! This is a DREAM for me. To be able to use my gifts and talents to help you and have that be my sole professional purpose is beyond amazing. It is possible because of YOUR support, your encouragement, and your investment in my company. Thank you.

With this new full-time status, you will see some things changing over the coming months:

  • Most importantly, I will be able to serve you better. No more squeezing in meetings when I can; meetings will be when they’re convenient for you. I’ll be able to respond to you faster, and turnaround time on projects will be quicker. You will feel this shift immediately.
  • Focusing my energy will give me the space to be more creative and better able to solve your communication needs.
  • You’ll see an increase in visibility. I am so looking forward to attending community events, volunteering, and being more visible on social media. I will have more of myself to give to our community and you.
  • The Get Out brand of adventure tees and products will be refocused and reworked. I am BEYOND excited about what’s to come with that. Details to come.
  • There will also be so much happening behind the scenes that you won’t see, but will definitely affect how I can help you.

With all this change, there are some things that will remain constant:

  • Commitment to quality. I have built this business on my commitment to providing you with clean designs that communicate your story clearly. I remain focused on creating well-written and grammatically correct content for your projects. I will always use high quality printers, papers, and other materials in production.
  • Personal connection. You need a designer who understands your organization and your vision. I will always communicate frequently throughout the design process to ensure we’re on the same page and work to build our relationship so as we move forward, projects require less input and work from you.
  • Environmental responsibility. This one is big. Now, more than ever, our Earth needs us to commit to doing our best. I choose printers that use plant-based inks, ship with minimal packaging and eco-friendly products, and donate a portion of all revenue to reputable environmental organizations.

Just like I needed your help to get here, I need your help in launching this new chapter in Blue Sun Designs’ story.

  • Please like and share @bluesunmn on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Reach out when your company or organization has a need for a graphic designer who is passionate about helping write and edit the content so your story is told well.
  • And please be sure to tell someone about your experience working with me; your words are gold.

Big things lie ahead. Thanks for being a part of the story!