Are You Looking For The Answer…

For anyone that was genuinely interested in learning more about their chosen field of interest – whether it was business related or about how to succeed in life in general, ...

Marcus Sheridan

What Is It That Printers Don’t Get…

I read a blog recently from Marcus Sheridan (The Sales Lion) that suggested one of the most powerful forms of marketing your business is to answer questions that interested prospects ...


Targeted Audiences and Timing…

You might think that I have switched up on my recent focus – the who, what, where, why, when and how of marketing – but actually not! The concept of targeting ...


Men on a line graph

The Year End Push…

Kind of scary to think that the end of 2012 is rapidly ...

Public Libraries – A Great Business Resource

by Ginny Boss As a sales and marketing rep for CL Graphics ...
Video Shoot

Small Printers Offering Video Services – Xerox Blog

Video – whether you use You Tube or Vimeo, you should be ...

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Springtime On The Deck…

2013-07-20_13-28-16_759One of the neat things about writing your own blog is that you can pretty much write about whatever you want – you don’t really answer to anyone! And while the majority of my posts are business related, every once and a while I will put in an ad hoc one, such as this! Today is Easter, and it was a great holiday – went to church this morning, got a little computer work done, went out for a run and enjoyed a nice dinner. Then I worked in the yard and got my streambed going again for the first time this year!

Actually a lot of work all in all, and I don’t mind saying I am pretty beat tired – but… I am going to enjoy the first evening of the springtime out on my deck listening to the falling water – smoking a cigar, having an adult beverage and spending time with Julie. Life is good!

(okay, admittedly this picture is from last summer, the flowers are not quite this good yet!)

It Takes A Concentrated Effort…

12 of 24You often hear that one of the true benefits of being in business for yourself is that you get to be “your own boss.”Well those of us that actually do own a business – at least a small business, know all too well, that the truth of this is that it is in fact the client that is your boss – and rightfully so! They are the ones that pay your bills – the rent, the payroll for your employees, yourself and all the other expenses that it takes to run a business!

So indeed it is our job as the “employee” of our clients to find what is of benefit for them. What is that will help them grow their business or increase their sales? How is it that we can grow their donor base or attract new donors? Sure we can say that the reason we got into business is that we had this terrific idea of a new product, but if in fact this new product is of no valueto a potential client, then it is nothing more than a neat idea! Or, we might be the best designer this side of the Mississippi, however if we cannot apply the concepts to an audience in a manner they can understandthrough years of experience, then hanging a business shingle out front might not be enough to make a living.

Another more relevant saying for independent business owners goes like this…  “not only do you get to work half days, but you even get to pick which 12 of the 24 hours you work!” And how true is this! Of course there are some who genuinely have a dedicated staff and ability to delegate that work less than this, but I suspect the vast majority of small business owners do in fact put in their share of time. Just this last week alone, I found myself at the office 3 nights out of 5 preparing a proposal for a potential new client – if in fact we get this business it could be significant! Well worth the 12 to 15 hours I have put into it – then again, there are no guarantees.This is not much different from the time that both Ginny and I had put into a recent seminar presentation for our nonprofit clients. This was on a survey that we do each year, and if I were to total up all the time I put into preparing the survey alone, some might question if it is it all worth it?

Well I would maintain that yes it is. It is the effort such as this that helps establish us as a resource for our clients, and hopefully as someone who does more than the competition, and earns the respect of our “boss.”

Are you up for the effort it takes to be your own boss?


Direct Mail Resurrected…

MailboxThis is a thought I have had stewing in my mind for a while now, and so here goes. Back in 2009, after the economy really took a dive – and right about the same time that all the new social media options sprang up, Direct Mail as an advertising medium really took a hit. Of course increasing postage rates did not help either, but all things considered, there were many other more exciting ways to reach out to clients and prospects alike than the rusty old mailbox!

Fast forward 5 years now, with a more established social media arena and even higher postal rates, an argument could be made that Direct Mail is starting to come back! Maybe not full mainstream, but more targeted and more creative campaigns are reaching us on a more regular basis. If you want to have some impact, try crafting an old-fashioned hand written note or even a traditional sales letter – you just might find a better response than what you would get from an e-mail blast. And if you are an online retailer, the competition to get a catalog driving people to your website is filling the mailbox like never before!

What is interesting and perhaps the greatest strength behind direct mail is the ability to target an audience.Obviously if you have your own in-house mail list for existing clients or donors, this becomes the starting point for all interaction. From this list though, you can then develop a profile of your most common and or profitable customers – then from this profile define the demographics of who you wish to target for any upcoming campaign. The glory of direct mail is the access to a wide variety of sources that can pinpoint the ideal consumers or businesses that fit these demographics. Another strength of direct mail is that often times the accuracy of the contact information is better than what you might find with e-mail sources too.

Of course while targeting a given audience is critical to the potential success of your marketing campaign, perhaps just as critical is the offer you provide and the number of times you look to interact with them. While you might hate to give something away for free, the truth is that over 70% of buyers respond to some type of coupon message! And as I have suggested many times in the past, an integrated campaign that includes multiple touches including other media formats as well as follow-up mailings will also help increase your response rates. The idea of adding creativityin the form of special effects or perhaps even a “lumpy mail” piece with an incentive included will also attract increased attention.

Perhaps the point I actually am trying to make today is that even with all the new media options available to us, and in fact especially with all of them, I think we are finding that many organizations are still in the process of determining which format really works best for them. As the saying goes, all that is old is NEW again!


Spring is More Than a Season…

Facebook FlowersFor almost all of us around the country, this has been a most difficult winter season! Not only has it been extremely cold for an extended amount of time, but we have also been pummeled with a variety of winter storms – ice, snow, and wind. To be sure, the impact of this not only affected us physically, but also in many cases our mental state as well.

Even in a typical winter season, almost all of us will feel some element of being “trapped.” The cold and gray skies become an overpowering part of our psyche, and the darkness that seemingly comes so early every evening just makes for an even longer work day. Although I am not a psychiatrist, nor do I play one on TV, I do suspect that depression is more dominant in the winter season.

But alas… every year about this time, Spring blooms! We shift into Daylight Savings time, the temperatures gradually increase, and even the snow begins to disappear. Now mind you we are still due to see a dusting tomorrow in what will be the 4th week of March, but none the less, time is on our side. And with this change in the season, also comes a definite shift in our mindset – our outlook becomes more positive, we tend to become a little more optimistic when making projections. Now that the first couple of months are finished, we can actually start spending the money that we had budgeted as well – the final debates are over, no more “wait and see,” now it is “okay it is 2nd Quarter - let’s go!”

As people are able to get outside and get to walking around the neighborhood, they meet up with friends and neighbors they have not seen in a while. You start digging in the dirt and feeling good about it as the first bulbs start to break through and bloom. Exercise is not just that thing you do at the local fitness club, but it is an outdoor run or 5K Walk – a bike ride even. And yes, all of these make you feel a lot better about yourself – which in turn makes for a more positive mindset. This shift affects us all, and it is contagious! The company morale is better, we become more efficient and even putting in the extra work around the house to get the yard fixed up is not a big deal (that comes later in the fall).

Spring truly is a wonderful season, and for much more reason that just the warmer weather and green grass. It is a time when all of us shift out of feeling down and out, and into the “top of our game” spirit. Here is to Spring… it could not have come soon enough!

Content Marketing is More Than the Written Word…

Nonprofit Appeals Planning WorkshopThere is a tremendous amount of buzz in the world of marketing now centered on the concept of “content. “Ultimately the idea is to share your knowledge on a given topic in a way that others can perceive you as being a resource, or an authority - someone who can be trusted in a way that they can rely on for answers and even do business with. When you think of this, it really is a very powerful concept and one that make a great deal of sense. You are not trying to just “sell” yourself on someone, rather you are building trust.

This also builds on the concept of “pull” marketing, as opposed to “push.” No longer do you look to push your message out to the masses and tell them all about the best things that a product or service can do for them, rather you look to educate and share knowledge, and draw interested, targeted individuals in to find out more information. So much of this is done today through special reports or “white papers” – free downloads oftentimes. In addition to these though, content marketing can be achieved in many other ways as well – some of it might even seem “old school.”

What I mean by this, is that just recently we held a seminar at our office. It was attended by seven individuals and it lasted for about 90 minutes. During this time we presented information about a survey we had undertaken relative to Nonprofit Appeal results. This survey is something we have done now for the past 5 years, although the seminars themselves we have done for well over 10 years – long before the concept of “content marketing” was even mainstream. In addition to the survey results, we also talked more about what trends the survey told us about and what we saw as opportunities for the nonprofit sector to work on in the future. Now that the seminar is complete, not only  do we post the presentation on our website for others to have access to, but Ginny Boss and I will be distributing it to many other clients and prospects over the next several weeks.

Another example of this same type of old school content marketing would be the Conference presentations that many of us remember, but might not have attended as of recently. Trade associations have found their membership ranks to be declining, and part of this is due to the younger generations not being as committed to joining an organization. And yet, the information available through the various breakout sessions and keynote presentations can be truly informative. Take these a step further, and you will now find that often times the associations will then post the presentations online as recorded videos for future viewing. As another great example of this, take a look at the tremendous amount of content made available through the TED presentations.

All of these are examples of how to share our knowledge with others in an informative, non-selling atmosphere. And they are also an example of cross-media ways of achieving the same result. You might also consider developing a presentation that could be done either through video or live through a seminar or webinar type event. I think you would be surprised at the potential you would find!

It Seems Like We Just Did This…

Microsoft Word - Doc2.docxIf you are responsible for the marketing of your organization, I can pretty much guarantee that this is a statement you will find yourself thinking somewhere along the line… “It seems like we just did this!”  And if you are doing things according to plan, you would be right.

For instance, we are in the process now of updating our website, not a major overhaul – that was done a year ago at this time, but none the less enough of a change that someone will notice a new look. Likewise we will be adding updated videos (Google likes this you know) and content as well over the next couple of weeks. We are also in the process of planning a new seminar for clients, which we do several times a year, as well as other marketing strategies such as newsletters, a blog compilation, an exhibit booth at a conference and several others. All of these we do on a regular basis, several times per year.

The point in this discussion is that in order to succeed in marketing your business there are many things that can have a major impact – three of which I will outline here, but none more important than the last one.

  1. Important to do things right - in other words make sure that the message you are sharing is crafted correctly, your methods of distribution are well-coordinated, the follow-up is routine, and that you are following “best practices.”
  2. Good to be Lucky - or maybe this should be better stated as being in the right place at the right time. This is obviously not any “textbook” strategy that you will read about or learn in a marketing class, but I would maintain is very much part of many success stories!
  3. Consistency makes a difference - without a consistent follow-through of your plan, none of the first two even have a chance of working! Think in terms of Nike’s classic slogan – Just Do It! This is where the idea that you will  get tired of what your messaging is well before most of your client’s and prospects even recognize it.

So while it is always important to look for new ways to communicate and share your message, it is even more important to continue to follow a plan and do the things that you said you were going to do, even when they become repetitive. It is in fact the redundancy factor that helps brand your product or service, to be in the right place at the right time.

What is it that you are repeating right now?

Finding A Reason To Push Yourself…

ReasonSelf motivation is not an easy thing! At times we can get inspired and move ahead without much effort at all… and then you seemingly hit a brick wall and slug along without much momentum. Of course at the start of a New Year we all get motivated to make changes in our lives, but then in a couple of months this seems to be a great example of what happens – the best laid plans evaporate!

There has been a great deal of research done on self motivation, and a number of excellent books by authors such as Stephen Covey, Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie and many others – all of them can tell you much better than I how to really push yourself to achieve more. I also know, that no matter what you do today or what book’s advice you follow tomorrow, there will come a time again that you find the need to jump-start your efforts. It is just who we are, and a natural part of life that our energies need to be re-focused periodically to keep moving forward. And maybe it is that realization that makes the need to find a reason to continually push yourself a worthy cause.

For each of us the reason is different. And it will be year to year or even within a given year. Our priorities change as we grow – from getting through school to getting that first job. From being able to save a little money to actually being able to have money to buy a car or a house. From having kids to saving money to put those kids into college! To shift from just working a job, to actually considering yourself in a career. From just achieving personal success to the concept of giving back to a greater cause. All of these are significant shifts in our mindset and are great examples of a reason to push yourself to do more, to set higher goals or be more involved with others.

Whatever the reason though, it takes the realization and acceptance of the challenge to then move yourself to do what it takes. For many of us it is important to put all of this down on paper (or computer/tablet) to make it real and to force ourselves into the daily routines that it will take to make it happen. I would suggest that in many cases it also needs to be shared with others to help hold us even more accountable. Over time these daily routines become habit, and then if we are truly serious about taking ownership, the goals become reality!

Of course then it is time to start all over again :).  What is the reason that is pushing you right now?

It’s Not About You… Or Is It?

David AvrinA little while back – in September, I had posted a blog with the title of “It’s Not About You…” Well I am going to take a spin-off on this a little today – not really contradict what I had to say, but rather also emphasize that yes indeed marketing today is all about you – just not in a way that tries to blatantly sell someone!

No doubt you have heard of the concept of push marketing – the old standard where a brand would tell you all about how good their product or service is. This was very much how you communicated in the past, by a “one-way” dialogue, whether on TV, Radio or in Print. Even in the beginning of the internet, websites were not much more than a glorified brochure – listing products and services.

Over the past 5 or so years though, the trend has very much shifted towards the idea of pull marketing – whereby we try to engage our audience through social media, interactive websites, content marketing, landing pages, etc. We encourage visitors to download special reports or white papers, we host seminars and webinars where we look to establish ourselves as “thought leaders” or experts – professionals in our markets. The intent is to share enough information that establishes our brand as being different and unique compared to our competition, so much so, that prospects want to contact us because they feel comfortable with who we are!

Add to this mix the social media component, where we also look to build a following that is willing to interact and support the brand, and now the pull becomes even stronger! The intent is to build an ongoing buzz that reinforces your brand’s persona.

In his book It’s Not Who You Know It’s Who Knows You, the author David Avrin does a great job of explaining how we need to differentiate ourselves from our competition and build our personal profile. Of course you genuinely need to be different, not just say it, and there is another great book that talks about this – The Purple Cow, by Seth Godin. The point I bring up here is that before you begin to really look to market yourself, you need to make sure you know who you are first!

Once you do establish your identity, then full speed ahead! Share this information in as many different media forms as you can – in a coordinated and consistent manner. The key though is to not sell yourself – rather communicate what makes you different and share how your services can help your clients with their specific needs. This is where you shift the emphasis from who you are, to the why it is you do what you do, and what’s in it for the customer.

Do your clients and prospects really know who you are?

Marketing and Music – An Odd Combination…

Grateful DeadThe fun thing – and also a challenging aspect, about writing an ongoing blog is to come up with content. There are many websites that have blog posts strictly about a given topic or industry. There are others that key in on the individual and their “take on life” – a much more personal approach that can lead to a strong group of followers. While the C L Graphics blog is typically business orientated, every once in a while I will blend in some personal thoughts and observations – and today might be such a posting!

Not really sure why I got stuck on the concept of including music into the mix here, I suspect just because I got inspired by a few good classics over the last few days. You see that is who I most identify with – the 60′s and 70′s Rock classics. While I am good with some Jazz (especially Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk) and even some Blues (B.B. King, Buddy Guy), by far and away you will find me listening to the Classic Vinyl or Classic Rewind stations on Sirius radio. What about Country you ask? Well I prefer to not even go there, thank you very much – nothing personal, I just never got into it. Instead, give me Bob Seeger, The Guess Who, John Mellencamp, The Who, Neil Diamond, Eric Clapton, CCR, Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, just to name a few.

So how does the concept of music and marketing mix together? Well I guess I figured I had to tie this together somehow, so here goes… I would suggest that the art of marketing to the various music audiences can be a great example for all of us to follow. Since each musical genre has a very specific audience and many times they do not overlap, the music industry has been a leader in targeted marketing for some time now. And talk about being out in front of the curve, the music industry embraced the concept of video well before it became mainstream for the rest of us – MTV was launched back in 1981, and even today remains a significant part of promoting a talent. Think about that – it took nearly a quarter century before YouTube was developed in 2005, and yet the music industry had offered the idea for anyone to embrace – if only we had the foresight!

Another aspect of marketing that the music industry excels at is social media. Of course you can visit just about any popular band or musical talent’s Facebook page – in fact the number are astounding for some of them, like the Rolling Stones who have nearly 17 million likes! Even bands that have not played together (at least not the original members) like the Guess Who have 210,000+ likes. But if you really want to think about examples of social media in the music industry, you can go back to the 60′s when the buzz about bands like the Beatles were multiplied when they were invited as guests on the Ed Sullivan Show! Or on a more grass-roots level, consider the faithful following of bands like the Grateful Dead - their fans would literally follow them around the country, and still do, to see them time and time again. You could easily argue that their social media impact and engagement was stronger back in the day, then just about any of the big marketing brands that we hear of today.

In many ways, some of what we see as being the most popular trends in marketing can actually be traced backwards to the popularity of music and its impact on all of us. It is a very personal engagement, and perhaps that is how and why we react to every little bit that comes our way. Once a band or musician “strikes a chord” with us, we become attached to them until we lose interest in favor of someone else. Marketing your brand is the same battle, and you need to make it as personal as you can!

So who are your musical favorites?

One More Time…

CoverImageSo here we are on the eve of a yet another New Year! The older I get (not that I am really getting old, mind you), it sure seems like the time goes by that much faster. I am pretty sure my parents used to tell me this, but at the time I never really paid too much attention. Anyways, a tradition at this time for me and many others I am sure, is to use the beginning of the year as a reason to evaluate our progress towards goals of the previous year, and to plan ahead for next year’s goals and strategies.

Back in the day – about 32 plus years for me now, I had made the decision to leave my initial career of teaching, and enter into business. Not long after this I realized that perhaps the one thing that I missed most about education was the concept of “closure.” What I mean by this is that at the end of every semester – and especially at the end of a school year, the class you taught came to an end. Test scores totaled, projects turned in and final grades were figured. No matter how well a given class went – how many students achieved an A, B, C or less, the course content was completed and it was time to move on with a “fresh start.”

In business however, I learned fairly early on that just because a quarter came to an end or even a year finished up, there was no real “closure.” Sure you started the next month out with sales of “zero,”  but month to month or year to year just morphed into the next. In order to make a noticeable difference, one needs to make a point of creating “targets” or goals to achieve, and then evaluate your successes and build on them as you go. Perhaps you create incentives for employees to meet, or standards to reach by the end of a given period – the idea is to create the periods of closure so that you can measure your success (or not).

And of course the end of a year is a natural time to measure the results and plan ahead. It is a time that most of us are in a mindset of wanting to make change and improvements within our lives – from losing some of the extra weight we might have gained to making a point of staying in better touch with friends and family. So, as we all look to commit to improving ourselves in the New Year, be sure to take the time to write out what your goals are, and then I wish you the best in actually achieving success and closure by this time next year!

What are your goals?


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