Category Archives: Uncategorized

Capitalize on the Quiet



During the summer months, vacations can slow many businesses. Sometimes you’re the lucky vacationer, and sometimes it can seem like you’re the only one working. Whichever side you’re on, take the down time to VISUALIZE what you want your business to look like when the break is over. Are your marketing materials going to get you to that goal? Make the most of time away from “business as usual” by assessing the tools that speak for you, whether you need to augment, tweak, or rebuild. If you need help implementing that vision—or even fleshing it out—connect with C. Liston Communications.

Everyone Deserves to be Proofed.


Proofing

Most people have a visceral history with proofing. Some people dread the red pen, some people bristle at “It’s good, but…”, and some are just slow to heal from hearing “No, this is just not right.” It can be painful when you take critical feedback personally. Flip the script and get joyful about proofing.

When you seek excellence in your work, being proofed is your most valuable tool. Good proofing refines your work, taking it to higher levels. You always proof yourself (I hope) as a first line of defense, but the efficacy of self-proofing is limited. There’s a tension that begins to mount as you try to take your work from 90% to 100%; whether repetitive viewing is blinding you to errors or “overworking” the product is creating new errors, you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns. It’s time for a fresh set of eyes.

In proofing, not all eyes are not created equal. Basic traditional proofing is for spelling and grammar, and is absolutely necessary. But when you’re putting out marketing materials to build your brand and reputation, there’s more to consider. Design proofing looks at crucial design elements like white space, alignment, and consistency of color and logo for brand recognition and a professional impression. Marketing proofing looks at target audience, messaging, calls to action, and how this piece fits into a larger suite of materials. For larger pieces or campaigns, you might even want the review of an informal focus group of decision makers, influencers, and friendly honest members of your target audience.  

As marketing materials become more do-it-yourself, getting a solid proofing plan in place is crucial. It’s easier than you think to be that guy who didn’t put his restaurant’s address on his website. For small businesses, finding the time to focus on marketing tasks is hard, and spotting the mistakes weeks or months after publication is sickening.

We’ve assembled a team to proof content, design, and marketing… Treat yourself and your company to the quality you deserve: GET PROOFED!

What’s True About Time



Our Project Management software peppers me with wonderful sayings about time. They are old or new, pithy or acerbic, and sometimes quoting recently-fallen celebrities. It seems anyone who was ever successful has had something to say about using time wisely. They make us laugh, think, refocus, and appreciate how so many diverse personalities struggle with the same issue. But the quote that makes me stop and take notice is this one attributed to Lao Tzu: “Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.” … Whoa. That is not just true, but a revelation for time-challenged people.

When we allocate our time, we must note the difference between what we want to do and what we just say we want to do. A lot of things we SHOULD do are hiding in the latter category, safe from ever getting done because of a seemingly logical physical excuse. “Oh, if only there were more hours in a day!”

Business owners frequently say that they don’t have time to create or update marketing materials. Unless you are completely booked with the exact kind of clients you want, skipping this work is a poor allocation of your time. With more and better clients, you work less, make more money, and have more… TIME. Mind blowing, right?

We get it. Self-promotion is scary, time consuming, expensive, and/or doesn’t pay off immediately. But if you find the courage—and a little bit of time—we can help with the rest. Connect, convince, and find yourself in that place where you ARE completely booked with the exact kind of clients you want.

Where Are Your Pants?!



Saying “Hey, your marketing materials could use some help” is like saying “That outfit looks terrible on you.” Honest critique can be really useful, but it’s hard to be the giver or the receiver of such feedback—especially when discussing something as personal as the image that someone has created for their company.

Giving and accepting constructive criticism is an important part of having a reliable business network. It’s easier to say “I see you need a business card” or “You should really have a website” (like saying, “I notice you forgot to put on pants”) than to offer criticism on an existing piece. But we all need people who know and care about us and our businesses to serve as an ongoing focus group, helping us refine our messages and their vehicles. The question is: how do you do give that feedback without being pushy or feeling like a jerk?

When someone is telling you about their business, listen for key differentiators and other tidbits that might influence a potential customer. Identify important points to the way you thought about them (or the company or service) and suggest that they weave it into their leave-behind messaging. Or you can point out that what they are saying is incongruous to their marketing materials, which might confuse potential customers.

Practice your constructive criticism in the mirror: look at your own marketing materials first. As time goes on, clothes wear out and go out of style. Our marketing messages wear out much faster, as we refine our services, products, and target audiences. What once fit well might be a poor fit now—and then we sit around and wonder why we are attracting the wrong customers. Business cards, flyers, brochures, websites, etc. should be extensions of and reminders of your message, so make sure they are updated as your messaging changes.

Go forth and be critical! You can count on the fact that others are judging you before they choose to spend. So let’s first take a spin in the mirror, and ask our besties: “How do I look?” And if you need help updating your corporate identity “wardrobe”, let us know.

Print is Dead. Long Live Print.



As the world of online information began to explode, decades ago, it was clear that the need for and use of print would change. It has. But far from being unnecessary, printed materials have come to make their content more special simply by virtue of being in print.

Print is the phoenix of marketing communication. Why?

FOCUS. Print gives specialness to chosen content and helps readers focus on specific information, instead of swimming in a sea of never-ending and unpredictable content.

TACTILITY. The touchable nature of print—which we once took for granted—engages an additional sense and connects on a deeper level.

RESPITE. Print gives its audience an opportunity chance to unplug, to escape the assault of lighted, flashing screens.

Online sources are invaluable in many cases, like up-to-the-minute information and specific searches. Consider, though, that what makes them great for some messages also makes them less significant if you have an audience you can reach physically.

If what you have to say is special, consider print.

2018 Is Here. Are You Market-Ready?


2018 Happy New Goals on Purple Background

Will your current marketing collateral help you reach your goals in 2018? Becoming more profitable means selling the right services to the right clients. Determine what you need to sell (and to whom) and then communicate in a clear, concise and professional manner: “THIS is how my magic happens.”

Every piece of collateral that speaks for you should CONNECT with the right target and CONVINCE them to give you a try: your logo, cards, brochures, mailings and website should be an instant and convincing expression of your ability to fulfill your customer’s desires. Your messaging should be rich with images that communicate immediately and emotionally, paired with words that explain how you are different, better, and the one they’ve been looking for.

Now is the time to ask yourself: will your current marketing materials support your 2018 goals or hold you back? Appeal to a specific audience with a targeted postcard or brochure. Update your website to reflect the company you want to be. You can even update your logo/tagline if what you have doesn’t resonate with the right people.

Most importantly, don’t forget to represent yourself with quality. Know that do-it-yourself marketing tactics mean an immense loss of time and a suite of materials that are unprofessional and disjointed at best. At worst, they have bad spelling and grammar, lack clear messaging, or miss the target audience entirely. Start 2018 smart; hone your cohesive, professional corporate identity with C. Liston Communications.

Give Thanks. It Pays.


Horn Cornucopia with Gold Coins

Giving thanks is always the right thing to do, but there are a couple of weeks in November when it’s suddenly and briefly in style. But for business owners, there’s a reason to keep the Thanksgiving spirit throughout the year. Let’s look at how giving thanks is profitable:

Marketing is really hard for a lot of small businesses. It takes time away from crucial operations tasks, has wildly varying options and pricing, and can feel like a lost cause if your competition has billion-dollar marketing machines. So you have to be smart about it, and the first step is knowing that the least expensive sale to make is to an existing customer.

Why? Because this target audience doesn’t need a dozen repeated impressions before they recognize your brand. They know you. At least, they think they know you. Reach out to them to let them know about your new offerings, new information to make the most of their already purchased products/services, or to find out how you can can serve them better. That last idea is routinely overlooked, but consider how asking about their ideas for new or improved offerings can both cement a lifelong relationship AND possibly better your products or services for all of your clients/customers.

Also, staying involved with a customer greatly increases the value of the product sold. It says you take pride in your brand and you stand behind your work. Even if you intended to do your job perfectly in the first place, things aren’t always perfect– staying in touch positions you to know about possible failures and to fix products and relationships. Recognizing the crossover between customer service and marketing is a turning point in developing a devoted customer base.

How do you market to these current customers? Email, mail, social media, and websites are all useful, as long as the messaging is correct. Support, educate, and remind customers that you are there for them and everyone wins.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And if you haven’t already, embrace an attitude of gratitude. It’s good for everyone.

 

Beware the Bad Touch


Oh, the horror!

In both networking and marketing advice, you’ll hear as many references to “multiple touches” as you will see bags of candy corn on sale racks on November 1st. It’s great advice, because in both areas businesspeople are trying to turn first meetings into lasting and beneficial relationships. What gets mentioned far less often is the chilling effect of “Bad Touch,” which is when well-meaning businesspeople send touches that have the opposite of their intended effect.

The most common Bad Touch is inattention to detail or quality. It’s a horror when potential clients and customers receive business cards, brochures or mailers with poor grammar or spelling, and/or distorted or cheap graphics. EEK! No matter your business type, the message you’ve just sent about your disregard for detail shrieks from the printed page. Customers may not precisely pinpoint your errors, but if they value quality, an uneasiness with your brand and company will creep into their subconscious. On the web, such mistakes are much more terrifying. First, because websites touch potential customers many times. And second, because web errors can be corrected instantaneously. When the errors are allowed to linger, the very scary “you don’t know or don’t care” message is magnified.

Other Bad Touch examples include fragmented branding, misdirected messaging, and… well, think of it like this: Picture the poor, misunderstood Frankenstein monster, trying earnestly to communicate with townspeople, but lacking the skills to do so. WIth each greeting, he gets farther away from his goal of connecting with people until the relationships are irreparably damaged. Don’t Frankenstein your communications. Let us hook you up with the right skills and thinking to get people running in the right direction.

Have a Happy Halloween, everyone!

Love vs. Respect


Call Me!

What do you want them to FEEL about you? 

When you’re trying to connect to an audience and convince them to try or buy, what matters more: love or respect? Much like human relationships, the answer probably hinges on what relationship you’re looking to have with your product. If you’re being courted by a smartphone, for example, creating respect is a necessary part of the messaging. Love and sex have certainly found their way into the marketing (thank you, Apple), but there’s no question that the goal here is an intimate, long-term commitment.

Your relationship with a Big Mac, on the other hand, is probably more of a lusty, impulsive, hate yourself in the morning kind of thing. Its not wrong—we’re only human after all—but we’re likely going to make ourselves feel better by calling it love. Heck, let’s put “love” right in the new tagline. Who doesn’t love love? But respect doesn’t really enter into this “come hither” conversation with the buyer.

When you’re shopping services (like print/web marketing firms), how you find a match still depends on what kind of relationship you want to have. Will you get picked up at a bar, seek a match online, or be introduced by a friend? (No offense to those who met their perfect spouses in bars, but you should admit you got lucky.) Decide who is worthy of a first date and what you want to learn on that date. And, of course, figure out how far you want to go if the date goes well. We on the other side of the table need to think this through too…When I’m really connecting with a potential client, I can get pretty deep into ideas and sketches before the commitment. (But I’m a decent judge of character, so I usually respect myself in the morning.) A great first date leaves both parties wanting more, in a good way.

if one night stands with various marketing people have you feeling like you have nothing solid to show for all the time and expensive meals, and you want to have a conversation about love and respect, call me. I’m listed.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all.

 

Setting the Stage



Make sure your marketing efforts have direction.

Who’s directing your play? Small businesses don’t always begin with a clear vision, marketing budget, or plan. Most of us add experts and services along the way, eventually assembling a cast of characters that can become muddled or unmanageable.

Diverse experts can be good, since specialists bring expertise, but be sure you have someone directing the cast with a cohesive script. If there is no one behind the scenes directing the dialogue and tactics, the message and purpose is lost. Set the stage for your success by creating intervals to assess and direct the efforts of all your players. For help plotting your organization’s plan, connect with C. Liston Communications.