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Content is King, But be Aware of the Jury…

I have written about the concept of content marketing several times over the years, and have made my point along with so many others, that this concept of sharing your ...


Springtime On The Deck…

One 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 ...


It Takes A Concentrated Effort…

You 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 ...



Marketing and Politics – It will be an Interesting Show…

  With the first big debate finished up this past week, it ...

Direct Mail Resurrected…

This is a thought I have had stewing in my mind for ...
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Spring is More Than a Season…

For almost all of us around the country, this has been a ...

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Busy Times Call For Teamwork…

d6faf481-6bc3-407b-b1bc-bee17ab8d6a6[1]  Even after 34 years in business now, it still is an inspiration for me to see all of our team here at C L Graphics gather together and do all that it takes to get through one of our busiest times of the year! From working overtime to pitching in on assignments that are not common to one’s daily responsibilities, I have seen us work through some very complex jobs in a productive and efficient manner. And, with a great attitude! This is not to say that everything turns out perfect – sometimes we find ourselves having to “re-load” and start over, but even then it brings us together even more to get it right!

This is not always the case for some businesses, but rather one that needs to be encouraged. Perhaps at the very top of the list is the need to lead by example. It is not enough to just let everyone know your expectations, you need to actually be willing to assist and do some of the work yourself. This can be difficult to be able to work in all aspects of a particular job, however if you can pick and choose what you can be productive at, then jump in and be willing to work extra yourself.

Just as important is to clearly outline all that needs to be done. In some organizations this is done through a computer generated job schedule, or by using a job board that shows due dates and responsibilities. No matter what system you have in place though, it is also critical to do daily updates – being able to cross off completed work and identify any possible “bottlenecks” within the production process. There is a great book on this subject called The Goal, by Eli Goldratt, and it can help you identify the priorities within a very fluid workday. And of course it is not enough just for one or two department managers to know what the immediate needs are, but even more important to share these with everyone within their team to help them stay accountable to each other and to assist when needed.

I will also suggest that in the “heat of the battle,” it is also pretty important to be able to have fun at what you do! This means patting each other on the back or being able to socialize a little in the middle of doing something. While this may not seem productive, we all need to laugh once in a while over a good joke or commiserate with each other on the latest results of a local sports team. This concept of having fun working together is where I believe the real concept of teamwork comes together, and helps us all get the job done!

How does your team work together? Do you feel inspired?

What Does Blogging Mean to You…

Blogging hands

The concept of blogging actually has a fairly long history. Many people recognize the very earliest forms within the moderated newsgroups back in 1983, and others were considered to be online diaries and journals. In most cases they were ways of sharing ideas and news among select groups. The title of a “blog” was first coined as a “weblog” in 1997 by a Jom Barger, but then shorted to just blog in 1999 by Peter Merholz. Since this beginning, the concept of blogging has grown dramatically and is considered to be a staple within both the worlds of social media as well as content marketing.

Each and every blog post you read will have a different focus, or intent. Some individuals will use their posts to be a little longer, in-depth way to express their latest thoughts as compared to tweeting, while other individuals and organizations will utilize this platform for sharing resource information and guidance for their clients and prospects alike. And others have found a way to monetize their blog site through attracting a large group of followers that will also attract paid ads to the site. Almost everyone that is active within the marketing of their organization will also suggest that blogging is critical to growing their client base, and make a point of adding a blog to their website. Unfortunately though, in many cases when you visit the blog they are promoting, you will find a very meager listing of posts and most of the time, rather outdated as well!

So what does blogging mean to me you ask? For myself it has very much become a way for me to share my thoughts on business, marketing and life in general. It is an opportunity for me to let others know what is important to me and how my company – C L Graphics, can truly become a resource of ideas and strategies for our clients. And it is personal – while some of the ideas and concepts are not specific to myself, the interpretation of them very much is!

Which brings me to another interesting concept… the idea of “therapeutic blogging.” I first heard of this concept in one of the hilarious episodes of the Netflix series – Grace and Frankie. (If you have not yet seen this show, check it out – it is a blast!) Lily Tomlin was sharing some of her practical insight with Jane Fonda and suggested that she begin her own therapeutic blog to help her cope with their rapidly changing lives. I have thought about this a few times since seeing this episode, and I would suggest that for many of us longtime “bloggers” (nearly six years for myself now), I suspect there truly is an element of personal therapy within our writing – a way for us to share our thoughts with others! In fact, if I look back on several of my more recent posts, I realize that I have written about subjects that were currently a challenge to my own business. So while they were definitely relevant to business in general, they also helped me to identify some of the needs that I was facing as well.

How about for yourself – do you take the time to blog? What is the purpose behind your blog? And do you find it to be therapeutic as well? Let me know…


Cutting Through the Clutter…

Messy Desk in an Open Plan Office

The challenge for sales staffs in just about any business is to engage their prospects and peek their interest in talking. But let’s face it, in this world of multi-media marketing and non-stop messaging, it becomes very difficult to make sure your message cuts through all of the clutter that besieges all of us!

In some cases it can be a matter of timing – a new contract has been signed or a prospect is in the midst of so many pending projects that they genuinely do not have the time to even look at something new. Other times the relationship between your prospect and their existing vendors is just so strong that they are not even interested in hearing about you. That is why sales has always been a “numbers” game – you will need to start with 10 prospects just to get a response from 3 of them and ultimately an opportunity to meet with just 1. This does not make you bad at what you do, but it does make you strive to do better!

I wish I had the answer for this conundrum, and if I did, I would be making a living as a sales consultant… or not. The point is though, you must put yourself in the shoes of your prospect. They routinely get blasted with phone calls, e-mails, direct mail, social media and more! If you were them, would you respond to everything? Of course not!

It is your job, and that of your marketing department, to then become creative to find a way to make a first impression – one that is relevant and targeted for your prospects and at the same time unique. You need to “think outside of the box” (see a previous blog post), and be willing to try something new.

As for what this might be, here are just a few ideas to consider…

  • Create a short video introduction, and even personalize it for each prospect. Tell some of what makes you different as a vendor and share your passion.
  • Define your value proposition – put it in writing and include why you are truly unique as a supplier.
  • Develop a creative and tactile leave behind brochure – keep it simple, but memorable. Find a way to personalize this piece for each prospect you leave it with.
  • Create content that is relevant to a prospect’s business and offer them a download through a landing page, or distribute it along with your intro letter.
  • Do handwritten introduction letters that include a small denomination gift card inviting them for coffee – old school perhaps, but as they say… “all that is old is new again!”

What ever the strategy is that you develop, know that you must also practice the “talk” that goes with it and refine the approach as you begin to use it. What works for one group of prospects may not work for everyone, so you may find yourself starting all over again!

How is that you “break the ice?”

The Challenge For New Ideas…

In my last blog post I mentioned the inspiration I receive when having a genuinely engaged talk with clients. It truly is a challenge to then come up with new ideas – to listen to their needs and craft a new solution or alternative to what has been tried in the past. The same comes up when you are looking for new topics to write about for your ongoing blog and social media sites – or when you look for new markets to service and how you could approach them. Not that you have to come up with the “next big thing” that will solve all of humanity’s problems, but you do want to offer a different perspective or hopefully something unique within their market.

So how is that we can find these new ideas? I would suggest a few opportunities that are available to all of us…

  • Reading! It can be hard to find the time for this in our busy lives, and yet there is no better way to find out what others are doing and to get examples of success stories. When reading industry publications, business magazines, white papers, blogs or even biographies from inspirational leaders, we can often pick up ideas that can be adapted to our own needs, or those of our clients. Through the use of news feeds we can streamline the time it takes to search out specific topics and get straight to what we need. And through services like LinkedIn Pulse or other similar options, you can easily follow the thought leaders.
  • Membership – in trade associations, your local chamber of commerce, networking groups, community organizations, etc. All of these can be an invaluable resource for you to get ideas from other members – to network and learn from them or to get information through the organization’s publications. I often read of what others are doing within the print industry to help their clients, which gives me something to try myself. Interestingly membership groups are finding it a struggle to hold onto their members, and in attracting new ones – especially of the millennial generation, and yet this can be a powerful tool to gain insight and one we should all embrace.
  • Peer Groups – a much smaller and often times more closely related resource to your own organization’s focus, they can provide feedback on ideas you have and help refine something before you act on it.
  • Focus Groups – looking for feedback on ideas you might have for a client? Try reaching out to their clients along with them to judge interest or find potential roadblocks. Or here is an idea that you could actually propose to your clients… seek out focus groups of their potential prospects and invite them to give feedback – if they find it worthwhile, you might have just secured new business on behalf of your client!
  • Brainstorming Sessions – don’t feel like you have to come up with all the ideas yourself! Engage 3 or 4 of your team members to join in and talk about what it is you are looking to accomplish – no right or wrong thoughts, just ideas. Write them down, or perhaps even record them. Start with the question from Mike Rayburn’s book… What If?
  • Vendors – as I had also mentioned in my last blog post, don’t forget those whose jobs it is to help us! They might well have samples that can give you inspiration and options that you had not considered.

We all find ourselves constantly challenged to create! How is it that you find ideas?

Take Time To Talk…

Couple meeting with businessman

I have often mentioned within my blog posts the concept that “the more you give, the more you get.”  In fact I had once referenced a great book called “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann, and I would recommend it to everyone in business today. This concept once again came to mind over the past few weeks, as I have had the opportunity to have a meeting with several clients with regard to their year-end projects. It was truly inspirational to me when 4 of these talks lasted two or more hours!

Obviously there was some good discussion throughout these meetings, and it was very much two-sided. Both the clients and myself shared thoughts on not only the specific project they had scheduled, but just as importantly, on current trends, new ideas, and strategies that could be utilized within the campaign. In some cases, this initial discussion also prompted me to put together even more ideas to share and options that we will be meeting to discuss again!

What I always find neat about this type of conversation, is that while I am giving my expertise and ideas to the client, in return I definitely also get back some valuable insight and feedback from them. In fact, over the years, I personally have developed a very strong understanding of the nonprofit market all based on learning from the various clients I work with. This knowledge has then allowed me to gain more clients and referrals – which has helped grow our business over time.

Another thought that has come out of these meetings, is that truly our best relationships are those in which we are able to not only share our knowledge and expertise, but also when the client looks to engage us in the planning stages. They are actively looking for new strategies or ways to improve what they have done in the past. Some are wanting to see what other similar organizations are doing… and why. Others need to find ways to reduce their overall budget. Whatever the reason, often times your vendors can be a tremendous resource for you, but we don’t always take the time to talk with them. At this point, the product or service you are buying becomes nothing more than a commodity – and the discussion then narrows down to who has the lowest price. Of course saving money is a good thing… but sometimes taking the time to talk can prompt an even more meaningful outcome to your project or campaign.

When was the last time you had a good talk with a vendor? Was it valuable?


It never fails…

Close up of a chalkboard with back to school written on it

Labor Day weekend is typically referred to as the end of summer. And while technically it is not the official end, back when I was just a kid, it also coincided with the start of school for many of us. Now days that seems to have blurred somewhat with many schools starting by mid-August even. But no matter when your local school district begins, it also beckons the start of getting back to work!

The mindset of everyone it seems, begins to change. No longer is the thought of a summer break or vacation the most important thing – now it is time to start thinking of planning out the final quarter, to initiate the year-end projects that will help close out a good year. It is the time to push hard for making your sales goals come true, and to complete the spending that was approved in the budget, or to start planning out the year-end appeal. No holding back, but rather full speed ahead!

Even  though I have been in business for nearly 35 years now, it never fails to amaze me that the lights get turned on almost immediately when the school year begins and summer winds down. Of course this is a good thing and something that we all rely on to help close out the year. It also means that businesses need to get all hands on deck,  and make sure that they are working well as a team to handle the inevitable rush jobs that will come in, or the crucial deadlines that must be met. Instead of helping to cover for someone who may be on vacation, now you are covering for each other to help solve the production bottlenecks that inevitably appear. It is also an important time to meet with clients to plan out the projects they have – to discuss realistic timeframes and potential roadblocks before they develop.

In many ways, this time of year is actually quite energizing! It gets us all back into a “can do” mindset and even gets us prepared for a seemingly even more hectic time – the holidays.

Have the lights turned on for you yet?


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