We hear it a lot from clients: they want to launch their site or company now, because it’s important to get their product or service out there. IT IS FOR SURE! But as much as it might be tempting to start right now and fix later – a fine tuned message with design is crucial to success. In the long run, it will save time and money.

In an age of startups, what differentiates you from the rest? How is your local, artisan food company different from the next local, artisan food company? What will make your target customers stop in their tracks and consider YOU, above the rest? We believe targeted messaging and design entices customers to truly engage with you.

Let’s consider projects on Kickstarter. The most quickly funded projects have strong visuals and to-the-point descriptions of what the project is. Today’s smart and research driven consumers must be provided with the most important and necessary information, delivered in the the most appealing package.

 

Our advice: articulate your purpose, visualize your product or company in the marketplace, and reinforce why your idea is the right one.

 

First, articulate your purpose.

How is your product or company different from others in its category?

Why should people care? Why do YOU care?

Elevator speech. This should be easy for you. Go.

 

Next, visualize.

What feeling should people have when they engage with your company?

Who is your ideal customer?

Where will your product or company be in five years?

What visuals do you think of when you imagine your company? (A cozy room, an Italian café, a hardscrabble mountaintop — anything that communicates your message in visual form.)

 

Lastly, ask yourself if this is the right idea.

Do you have arresting visuals with smart messaging?

Is your product or company successfully differentiated from others in its category?

Your message is the voice of your project and the design is the face that speaks it. With your visualization and careful consideration of who you want your product or service to be, we can design the personality that people will want to form a lasting relationship with.



  • card1
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Here at Classic Ink, we LOVE the Holidays. 

We get to enjoy great print and web design year round, but this time of year, we get to turn our epic eyes for design onto everything from crafty home decor, to holiday greetings, to gifts, to food.  Below are our 12 favorite creative and well-designed pieces of eye candy from the web for the holidays that you can mostly do yourself (although we’re always happy to help with the concept and layout of YOUR OWN brilliant ideas!) :

 

appOn the first day of Christmas, my designer gave to me TWELVE iPhone App Magnets!

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the second day of Christmas, my designer gave to me ELEVEN Gorgeous Cookies!  

Designs and even photographs transferred to edible paper!  Many grocery stores do this, including our local Albertson’s.  Awesome!  OH – and this great company has pre-printed edible paper designs.

Royal Icing – we CANNOT say enough about the decorating capabilities of royal icing.  Here is a recipe for it.

No DIY here….GO CRAZY!  But here is some inspiration:

cookie

On the third day of Christmas, my designer gave to me cardTEN Brilliant Tags and Cards!

Chipboard cards!   Scrap paper cards!

Paint chip cards!   Printed tags!

Snowman Typography Card!   3D cards!

Hand stitched tags!   Cutout tags!

Cookie tags!   Topiary tags!

 

On the fourth day of Christmas, my designer gave to me NINE wrapCreative Wrappings!

Who needs red and green?!  We LOVE kraft paper!

Kraft snowman wrap!   Romantic wrappings!   Stamps!

Pink and red are Christmasy too!   Make a scene of it!

Ultra creative toppers!  Newsprint!   Wax Seals!

 

 

On the fifth day of Christmas, my designer gave to me EIGHT Christmas Decorations!

Cranberries and Juniper Centerpiece!cran

Our kind of tree!

Save the trees, Make your own!

Pistachio Topiary!

Creative Ornaments!

Ideas for Mini Designers!

 Lit up Christmas Art!

Gingerbread House – HOMEMADE!

 

On the sixth day of Christmas, my designer gave to me SEVEN Tasteful Wreaths!

wreathwreath2wreath4wreath3

wreath5wreath6wreath7

 

On the seventh day of Christmas, my designer gave to me SIX Saweet Candle Holders!

candle h1candlecandle2

candle3candle4

 

 

 

candle5

 

On the eighth day of Christmas, my designer gave to me FIVE Fabulous Appetizers!

 The Pinecone Cheeseball!      The Tree Cheeseboard!    Chocolate Cherries!

pccheesecheesecherry

Caprese Wreath!                                Olive Platter Wreath!

cwreathowreath

On the ninth day of Christmas, my designer gave to me FOUR Christmas Cocktails!martini

Homemade Cherry Cordial – yes please!

Eggnog Martini – NOT an eggnog fan, here…but my love of Martinis takes over and I want to try it!

Mint and Chip – yes, I’d love some candy with my liquor!

Cinnamon Apple Manhattan – wow, they just made a Manhattan even BETTER!

On the tenth day of Christmas, my designer gave to me THREE Industrial Gift Ideas.

We LOVE these!  They are so clean, and industrial, and…just..COOL!

A Bike Brake Rotor Clock!                                Cement Coasters!

 

shelfWe’re going to go ahead and ‘shelf’ these ideas for later…

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my designer gave to me TWO Knitted Scarves!

Arm knitting – WOW!

armknit

knot

 

Knitting, straight up, it’s easier than you think!

 

 

art

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my designer gave to me ONE Hanging Wall Art!

Whether you grab some blank canvas and paints from Michaels, or Modge-Podge your photos to wood, channel your inner Picasso here!

 

 

 

Wishing you Joy, Family, and Creativity this Holiday Season!  From all of us at Classic Ink.

In the past decade, we have seen the internet change and grow dramatically. While it was originally a businesses tool and a toy for geeks and dorks around the globe; it has now turned into, arguably, the single most important resource for every single person in every developed country worldwide.

As the internet has grown, so have it’s websites, designers & developers. A business website is no longer one page with a colored background & a paragraph of text about their values. Websites have shifted dramatically; they have become the virtual front-door to a business – and the style, design & vibe must portray the same ideas and mission as business itself does. They are deep, multi-page interfaces that help guide people through a visual story about a brand.

Gone are the days where a company can pay for a website design, get it developed and then be done with it. Users not only want to see fresh & updated content – they are expecting it! This used to involve a close relationship between a website owner & a developer, as any time the website needed fresh content – a developer was needed to make these changes. To offset these requirements & because of the needs for a more efficient process, we have seen a drastic shift in the website development process and a huge rise in Content Management Systems.

A Content Management System (or CMS) is a platform that designers & developers can now use to create websites that have user-friendly backend editing capabilities. While developers are still a huge part of the website equation, they have essentially stopped becoming the “middle man” for future website changes and instead can hand off a username & password and the client can login to their CMS and edit their own content whenever they see fit. Business owners are swooning over CMS platforms (obviously) and, in the same way that users are expecting updated content from businesses, business owners are now expecting to be able to edit their website at the end of a web design/development process.

We see it with every new website we create and every website project we are bidding on: Clients want the end product to be something that they can take over once the process is complete. We completely understand the desire for this & the freedoms and cost savings that can come along with this approach. We’ve taken leaps forward for our clients in order to make sure that this can happen – typically sticking to our favorite open-source CMS platform, WordPress.

With every backend-editable website we create, we always offer a training session at the end of the project. This entails us sitting down (physically or over the phone) with a client to go through every detail of what they need to know to edit their site within their capabilities. Often times we supply manuals and, if necessary, custom visual step-by-step guides. However, as with any scenario where you have people trying to learn how to do something that they have no professional training or background in, there are a few problems that can arise.

We’d like to offer a few suggestions & tips for site editing (as a nonprofessional web developer) to make sure that your website continues to look great and your money isn’t being wasted:

#1. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

As we have always learned…practice makes perfect. If you do not spend time familiarizing yourself with the backend of your website, you will most likely forget everything you learned in the training session. This can be frustrating & can end up costing a lot more money in the long run once the bills start coming in for troubleshooting, additional training sessions & support etc.:

#2. STICK TO THE SMALL STUFF

Typically, the web designer has taken a lot of things into consideration when designing the pages in a website. They have made a conscious, professional decision to make things look a certain way (maybe it’s specific text treatments or a 2-column text layout with photos below the content). As a general rule of thumb, it is usually in the client’s best interest to try and keep these design considerations alive by only making text edits or image replacements (rather then adding a lot more content or additional images).

This is not to say that you can’t decide you want to add a few more paragraphs of type or an image. Sometimes, a page is pretty simple (maybe a Left-justified photo with text to the right). Upload photos & update content as you see fit. Play around with some of the backend features like using some of the headline text styles to make headlines stand out more. But if you’re looking to create new pages or you want your information to be designed in a specific way (like: in columns rather then full-width, or with different stylized text treatments), it’s best to call the developer / designer that programmed the site.

#3. DON’T INTRODUCE A BUNCH OF NEW FONTS, COLORS OR TYPESTYLES.

Your designer and you have agreed upon typefaces and colors that make sense with your brand and fit the over-all scheme and vibe of the website. Adding new colors and fonts can not only cause confusion for the user, but can also quickly turn tacky and un-refined.

#4. MAKE SURE WHOEVER IS EDITING THE WEBSITE IS SOMEWHAT COMPUTER & WEB-SAVVY.

We see this too often. The owner of a company delegates the task of editing the website on an employee without really taking into consideration the requirements for the job. If someone is not very computer literate ore tech savvy (and we’re not just talking about being able to write some emails, folks), you will spend more money in the long run on your developer/designers trying to train them than you would by just hiring your developer/designer to do the occasional edits. Many companies even charge a quarterly fee that gives you a set number of hours for web edits or support.

 


 

In summation, we think that clients taking the initiative to edit their own websites is AWESOME – IF done conservatively and with the considerations above taken in. We think it is fantastic that businesses are now able to take control of a huge marketing tool that was once, not too long ago, tied to an invoice from a professional for managing small requests. As artists and creators, we ultimately want to be proud of the successful products that we put out – and there is always that fear that a client will unknowingly ‘break’ something, or edit their website in such a non-intentionally careless way that the general aesthetic of the site will be tainted. But, alas, these are the potential consequences to this ever-evolving scenario.

We’ll leave you with one last thought: Think of your website as you would your car. You drive your car around daily, you get the oil changed and the tune ups when you’re supposed to and you even vacuum it out every now and again. But, low and behold, no matter how strictly you follow the rules or how gently you drive your car, there will ALWAYS be some kind of maintenance that is required, and odds are you’ll have to hire professionals to help. With how quickly the internet and web standards continue to develop and evolve, you should expect your website, too, to require some occasional tune-ups & maintenance….and we developers and designers are here and happy to help!

 

Earlier this year the Classic Ink team ventured to Great Falls for the 2013 ADDY Awards. These awards represent the best of advertising, marketing and design in the state of Montana. We’re very proud to have brought home two gold awards this year for our work with the Rocky Mountain Toy Company and Live From The Divide. Pictured here with our great friends and preferred partners, Vauthier|Ferguson.

(L – R: Joshua Hill, Adam Vauthier, Casey Ferguson, Mandy Messman, Mary Meccage, Kietra Nelson)

All too often while trying to explain the value of creating a messaging and content strategy for the internet I get to hear, “My clients aren’t on there (the web/social media/mobile phones).” When I hear this, my ears perk up like a dog. Because instantly, I want to tell them about all the data points to prove otherwise.

You see, the problem with the above statement is that the web serves all, equally. There is access to all the information one could ever need, from rich to old to children to Asians.

Young people who make less than $15k a year make it a point to buy a smartphone, while older affluents love a perfect fusion of digital content with their print content, using the internet an average of 37.4 hours weekly, up 14% from 2011.

In fact, as a whole, the entire newspaper industry is drying up across all demogrpahics.

Readers from all walks of life are decreasing their newspaper reading. While this is happening, internet usage in the United States has exploded over the past decade.

(Source: Google)

This massive spike in internet usage across the US has built a desire to connect. This is where Facebook, Twitter and the other various social platforms across the web come into play. Through deomocratization of information, communications and media, peopel are able to connect in ways that they could have never imagined 20 years ago.

This has created a huge shift in the way we handle our day to day tasks and habits. No longer are we talking, we text. Photo processing and showing people the photos at select gatherings is out the door, we now post to Instagram, Path and Facebook to showcase every moment so that the grandparents in Maine can see the grandchildren grow in California, in realtime. I specifically remember one or two family members having a giant vhs home video camera at our family reunions, now we just whip out our phones and with the flick of a thumb we have videos published to the entire world via YouTube.

(Source: Nielsen)

The people using these platforms aren’t just a group of savvy techies, this is the majority, and with the rise of social media and accessibility people are looking for new ways to stay connected in real time and have technology help them move forward in their habits.

The Rise of Mobile

Mobile devices are flying off the racks while manufacturers are having to do half-yearly updates to devices to deliver what consumers desire.

As the above Pew Research report shows, mobile, like internet and social media, is being used by every type of demographic, every kind of perspon. Affluents, middle class, kids and rural living families, they all access social media via the web on their mobile devices. So, back to the previous statement, “My clients aren’t there!” How will you respond knowing that your clients are there and they are spending mass amounts of time on there (where there is is determined by who you are targeting).

 

MARKETING AT THE LAST MINUTE

With less than two weeks until Christmas are you prepared for your final marketing push? Consider this, according to Reuters, “a new small business survey from American Express polled 1,000 consumers aged 18 and older. Ninety-three percent of respondents believe that it’s important to support local small businesses. And on average, they spend about one third of their monthly discretionary income at these stores.”

Even with Montana converting the 3rd highest ecommerce shopping cart conversions there is time to catapult your awareness and take a chunk of the market for your own business. However, how you tread from here has a lot to do with it. And trust me, today’s Montanans are going online to shop, the proof is in the pudding.

Recently, someone who lives 5 blocks away from downtown Bozeman said this:

“With free shipping, I can get everything big or small (that i actually want to gift to people) without leaving my house.”

It’s nothing personal, it’s just about perception of value. Is the convenience of online shopping better than dealing with holiday crowds. Are local businesses not doing enough to convey a message that resonates with the consumer? There are many reasons that these consumer habits happen in Montana and it’s on the local businesses to use marketing to their best capabilities to win the consumer over.

Start with a holiday strategy, is your goal to get more awareness, thus bringing the consumer in door? Maybe it’s creating better customer service so that they continue to buy more presents? Or maybe it’s that ultimate goal, just to get more purchases per customer.

With several goals, you have several strategies. But the tools that can be used are the same:

Advertising

Currently, Twitter is offering $100 credits to small businesses. Use those!

While you are at it, consider Facebook advertising, search engine marketing and the many various ways to connect with the people who are using the web, their phones and their tablets to research potential gifts.

Content marketing

REI is literally manhandling customer service via Twitter and YouTube, to compete you will be required to step up your ways of working with the consumer.

As a consumer, I feel that REIs smooth execution and delivery tells me that I am unique and special in my own right. The response isn’t a feeling of anxiety due to holiday business fatigue.

Content is going to be crucial, this is how you can get people talking about you. Sharing your content, thus elevating the impressions bestowed upon your company because of consumer valuable content.

Awareness Building

So you have deals and it’s still not pulling people in… consider how you are using these deals. Are you placing them in the local paper where maybe your target is being reached? Consider where you can get the most quanitfiable traffic. Asks your customers where they see you the most and invest there.

This past September, Facebook hit businesses hard with a modification of their feed algorithm, EdgeRank, causing more businesses to lose out on impressions. They want to you pay to play, in the form of advertising, of course.

Pay to strengthen your content’s presence. Build that awareness so that the consumer understands that they have options locally, with top notch, personable customer service.

Quite possibly, Facebook isn’t where you get the highest ratio of impressions. Maybe Instagram delivers far more engagement.

Landing Pages

Using landing pages and search engine marketing to convert sales. Unique landing pages that welcome the user based on geo, psycho or demographics – this shows the consumer you consider each of their personalities rather than a one size fits all agenda.

The term “Best Toys for the Holidays” is vastly different from “Best Gifts for the Holidays.” One could be a landing page that is dedicated strictly to the top 5 toys, while the other can consider games, costumes and other various gifts that one could consider.

In fact, landing pages could be broken down into price points as well, but what a landing page does is roll out the welcome mat in a very unique way for the consumer.

Geo Deals

Using Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter you could easily roll out a special deal for buying on location. Go geo and target the potential, as well as established, consumer base and get them in the doors. Then with them in the doors you can show them the many gift ideas that they had not already considered.

Markteting Agility

Many of these tools will work for your niche audience, some won’t. Some can materialize and others won’t deliver in the way you desire. It’s about testing and reacting to the data presented to you.

With the proper data, next year’s strategy can be more effective.

Do you have a strategy that’s working well? How are you using digital marketing to stall shoppers desires to go online, and keep them local?

…and so it begins. The always crazy holiday shopping season. Black Friday begins, Thursday? Yes, companies are so eager to gain the attention of shoppers that some are beginning the night of Thanksgiving. But Black Friday is more of a day that consumers line up and wrestle goods from each other at your local brick and morter large box stores.

Then there’s Cyber Monday. A strong push to convert holiday ecommerce sales with deep incentivizations pulling people to websites after a strong in-store Black Friday push.

But what about the locally owned small businesses that have some amazing products to offer such as handcrafted wood toys, locally blown glass sculptures or custom made clocks?

American Express (AMEX) has the perfect option to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s Small Business Saturday.

SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY

AMEX has literally done all of the leg work to support their small business clients, as well the small businesses that are not AMEX cardholders.

One stop by the official Small Business Saturday website or facebook page and you will open your eyes to several tools designed to ensure you a successful Saturday.

To enact a campaign this will take some effort on your part or your representing agency. It does consume some time, but with the right investment, it can all pay off for your small business.

Logistics

First, you need to consider the logistics of the promotion. What will it take to support this initiative.

First you want to have a website prepared with a call to action to make ALL of your visitors aware of the event. To communicate this well you need to consider a 360 degree campaign. If the visitor of your site hits your Twitter, are they being reminded? How about Facebook?

Branded material on the digital and traditional fronts creates added impressions and greater effectiveness.

What is the biggest deal you are feasibly able to deliver? Find the point that separates you from the competition so that you can deliver a terrific strategy.

Strategy

Find your angle. Are you a toy shop that delivers the most unique toys in town? (Editors note: Let it be known that I love toy stores.)

Communicate the same strategy consistently throughout your digital marketing as well as your print marketing.

Support your marketing with content marketing. If you knocked down several toys to door busting prices, deliver video reviews around these toys. Use these products to get the people in the door so that they are exposed to many offerings you have in-store that they may have not realized before they visited your store.

Consistency is key. Without a well focused strategy that delivers effective communications, you are just aimlessly spending money and causing your and your business a huge disservice.

Advertising

To deliver consitancy your business needs promotions. In fact, this is so vital to the awareness that AMEX is offering the first 10000 cardholders to sign up free advertising through Twitter. The past two years they used Facebook and LinkedIn advertising as well as Google’s search engine marketing (SEM).

AMEX is also hooking store owners up with printable signs that they can add their unique business name to. Print those off and get them up around your store to ensure current visiting customers know that you are doing “Small Business Saturday” initiatives.

You can’t depend on the initiative to carry itself. Promote it and gain support!

Realistically, this awareness campaign should have started weeks ago. However, it’s not too late to work in awareness throughout this week to get consumers in the door on Small Business Saturday.

Socialize

Encourage socializing your offers. For instance, check in on Foursquare and get another 10% off. How you do it is not all that important, but effectiveness is. Because users/consumers don’t want to share for the sake of sharing and deliver profit to you, but they will if you incentivize it.

Do you plan to participate in Small Business Saturday? What are your ideas to create a more engaging experience?

Content Marketing With Visuals

Recently we’ve seen two very cool uses of Instagram. But, they aren’t expensive to execute, and that’s the beauty of them.

One part of marketing with social media is generating awareness by means of content creation. However, some of the savviest campaigns put the consumer to work through incentivization. Some would call this crowd-sourcing.

For us, it is an clever use of the mobile only app and is exactly how agencies and businesses need to be thinking.

By using an offline call to action (CTA) in a non-digital format (it was printed material) on a busy street, Aldo Israel encouraged amateur photographers to take pictures of their own shoes and hashtag it #Aldo and to tap in their shoe size, after that ring a bell and get a surprise… well just watch the video and it makes it all clear for you.

The takeaway here is that this execution produced just under 800,000 impressions for Aldo and due to the interaction, most likely resonated with the participants on far greater scale – because being in control of the creation process creates investment, or ownership of the created content.

Comodo, a restaurant (and small business) in NYC has upped the Instagram game. They created, “The Instagram Menu.”

Here we see that using a particular hastag, have created a visual menu. What a superb idea. However, I don’t want to say it was industry revolutionizing, because we have been working with Moonlight Basin to do something similar, but targeted for use at a ski resort.

What they did here was ensure that their hashtag, #ComodoMenu, was on their printed material. You get to the bottom of the menu, and purposefully done in an ambiguous manner where content creator or consumer can gain value.

At this point, it should be standard issue. Printed material is a perfectly viable tool to transfer offline to online – create the connection!

The holiday shopping season is rapidly approaching, and NOW is the time to really starting preparing your marketing tactics for the upcoming season. Online technology and social media platforms offer affordable alternatives for small businesses who cannot afford expensive print and TV advertisments, while still letting allowing creativity for campagins. Here are a few tips that can help your small business connect with your customers and provide unique deals and promotions at a cost-effective level.

Tip #1 (And most important)- Be Prepared for Mobile

“Mobile is obviously going to be huge this year.” –

Diane Buzzeo, CEO and founder of Ability Commerce

Mark Grondin, the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Shopatron added –

“We saw huge growth in mobile going to last Christmas, and then, by the middle of the year, it had doubled. I expect this holiday season we will see in the 5% to 10% range of transactions coming from mobile devices.”

Now, more importantly than ever, it the time to make sure you have a mobile-ready site. This includes being prepared for:

  • Different Mobile Platforms (Droid, iOS, Windows, etc.)
  • Different-Sized Devices (10″, 7″, 4.8″, etc.)
  • Social compatible elements on the mobile site (Consumers prefer socially driven sites)

When optimizing the mobile site for differently sized devices, don’t forget about tablets in your mobile presence. Grondin stated that although he believes next year will be the big breakthrough for tablets.

“Make sure that you are not forcing tablets to act like mobile phones,” he said. “There is nothing more annoying than going to a website on a 10-inch tablet screen and getting the mobile screen.” 

It is true that mobile devices drive a lot of traffic, but tablets are big factors behind the actual sale of a product.

You can also integrate mobile marketing with services like Foursquare to tie your campaign to your store or a specific location. That way, you reach customers right when they’re weighing their options.

Tip #2 – Facebook!

Facebook is one of the number one traffic generators outside of search engines, so it is definitely a good marketing tactic to make your products a part of that conversation. Because of the connection between the social media platform and and retailers, creating a Facebook store can be a great way to spread your idea. One main benefit of having a Facebook store is that people are interacting with brands on Facebook, and having store will make your products that much more part of the discussion. In fact, Facebook has partnered with select retailers to feature the “Want” button – if it’s rolled out nationally before the holidays that is something you want to get live.

When you register your brand with Facebook you can also take advantage of Facebook Insights, their version of analytics, to track what is happening around your brand such as interaction and demographics.

Consider, including the Facebook “like” button on your website(s) to help become part of the social discussion. This interaction with your customers and potential customers can even become part of your Facebook advertising strategy.

Be sure to educate yourself on Facebook advertising. This ad platform can be highly targeted, and one feature allows you to find and use comments about your brand, essentially taking what people are naturally saying about you and making it more visible through advertising. A terrific perk of using this platform.

Social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ can help attract customers with minimal investment. This is particularly beneficial to small businesses who have to compete with the Best Buys and Targets of the world for customer attention during the holidays. But remember: Deliver a reason to interact with you.

Tip #3 – QR Codes

Will they work? Will they not work? That’s a question most ask – and rightfully so. Many marketers have erroniously used the QR code, rendering it ineffective. However, many smartphones and tablets have the ability to scan, which is a great holiday marketing tactic that small businesses can take advantage of as well. QR codes are a way to send information to mobile devices using its camera. You send a short blurb of text such as “Thank you for scanning, drop this in your cart and show the text at the counter to receive our secret 20% off” or you could show a video of the product – “Narration, this toy was featured at the International Toy Expo and received the prestigious 1st Place Educational Toy Award because of features A, B and C.”

It’s not difficult to use them correctly, however it takes more time than just pointing the user at a website that isn’t prepared for mobile traffic.

The codes are easy to generate. Several websites and software programs will make the codes for you. You can add them to signs, print ads, business cards and brochures, and customers can quickly grab coupons, download menus on-demand or even see how your prices compare to rivals’. There are many marketing options to use for QR Codes, just be sure each offers customers meaningful rewards and a call-to-action to maximize performance.

QR codes are currently the best way to transmit information from the real world into an app. The codes were originally designed in 1994 for tracking car parts at Toyota, but they have recently exploded in popularity, and are becoming more familiar to the public. Linda Kelly at the Australian Museum recently surveyed 100 visitors, and 15% said they have scanned a QR code.

Tip #4 – Be Prepared!!

This tactic is short, sweet and should go without saying. You know what days the major holidays fall on.

Tip #5 – Don’t Forget The Old Standbys

  • Shipping – Make sure to decide what your shipping policies will be and if you will be providing any incentives
  • Email Marketing – develop an email list and the value of your emails all year, not just at the end of the year. That way, you know what customers will be receptive or not to your emails.
  • Pay-Per-Click Advertising – No matter your desired budget or audience, purchasing targeted keywords on search engines like Google or Bing will put you in front of prospective buyers.

Previously we wrote about the Importance of Community Management and how small businesses in towns such as Bozeman need to keep in mind that not only should they be creating value for their local customers, but on a global scale as well. Due to the multiplier effect, small businesses have the ability to reach people on a very large scale, and it is very important to strengthen as many of those connections in your online community as possible to stand out and maintain the longevity of your customer lifecycle.

Creating online communities can be your biggest asset when it comes to driving awareness to your product or service as a small business. With that, many people/businesses do not understand how to create a community, as it involves a great amount of work and attention to detail, especially in setting the foundation as to how you want to be seen as a brand. Here is a quick little overview for creating a community, and to really make sense of it and keep your attention, I am going to compare it to a bar.

When one thinks of a bar, you think of a lot of different people all coming together for the same goal: to drink, relax, and engage with others. This can be the same for an online community (except for the drinking part). Although all of these people share different interests and preferences, they are still looking for some sort of value, and it is up to you as a business to not be one sided and treat everyone the same, but to recognize that each customer can be influenced differently by a social platform.

 

To start off, your bar has to have a name. A name that will be recognizable to everyone, but is unique and specific to the idea that you have for your brand idea. Make sure that it is something that you can build an identity around so that it can be easily shared. And once all is in order with your name, you are ready to start planning your community.

Going social is now the trend for not only our personal lives, but for our businesses as well. With that, it is important to make sure to have a set idea about who you want to share your information with, and who will have access to that information as well. Do you want your value offered to be private or public? Going back to the bar idea, do you want your customers to be on a private VIP list? Or is anyone from the public welcome? Private bars will typically offer more amenities and incentives for a conversion. Public bars will have a larger array of people, which may make providing value to all of those people a little more challenging.

Also with public bars, it may be harder to enforce your rules and convey the way that you conduct your business. A good idea for planning your community would be to have clear terms and policies appear right as a visitor registers or signs up to participate on your website or social platform. Like a bar that enforces a dress code or VIP pass, you can control your community better if you have laid out ground rules. But whatever you decide, make sure it is part of your plan and how to want to be seen as a business.

Every business chooses a way to advertise to help fund the services provided. In a bar, you might find these advertisements in bathroom stalls, or you might even see the bar itself out promoting its services at football games or local events. On your community website, these can be banner ads or any promotions you are offering. If your website isn’t heavily ad supported, make sure you are getting your name out there by providing useful content to those visiting and remember to not market to your users, but engage with them. 

If you have visitors coming back to your bar, it means that you are doing something right. This could be due to a lot of factors such as your product, your customer service, how personal you are, etc. If your bar is constantly clean and up to date with news and events that appeal to your audience, then you are likely to have returning customers. The same goes for the planning of your community. If your content is focused around the purpose of your website, and you are keeping everything maintained and your audience involved at all times, then you will build strong connections. 

A community driven website has many different levels of participation, just like a bar. In a bar you will notice that groups of people will separate and sit together. This separation of groups could be by age, interests, or even tastes in fashions. Everyone connects to your bar or website in some way, but each group of people have some level of personal involvement that may be different from another group. This leads to different ways to interact to those different demographics, and when managing your community you must know how to target each of those demographics correctly. It is a good idea to encourage everyone to become more involved in the community. You can host multiple topics that appeal to a wide audience under your brand. Create discussions and listen for feedback. And most importantly, be sure to acknowledge your valued members.

Your moderators are your bouncers. They watch over your community and make sure people aren’t sneaking in through the back door or doing anything that could hurt your reputation as a business. Make sure you have someone to monitor your community site to keep off offensive content and respond to users in a timely manner. 

After reading this we hope you see the importance of managing your community as it really is the core of your business.

 

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