How to build a quality email list

Effective strategies for developing your own email marketing list

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Email marketing is an ideal way to reinforce your brand, grow and maintain a customer base, and keep in touch with prospects over time. Although it may be enticing to rent or purchase a large email list to help jump start your marketing efforts, a more effective approach would be to develop your own email list.

Here are a few reasons why you may not want to buy an email list:

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    The prospects don’t know you. The main reason to not buy (or rent) an email marketing list is because you haven’t established name recognition with your prospects. Assuming the company from whom you have purchased the list has acquired the names through reputable opt-in means, the problem is that the contacts have opted-in to receive emails from the list company and not your particular company. That means that the recipients may mark you as spam because they don’t recognize you or remember opting-in to receive communications from you.

    The leads aren’t fresh. Repeatedly marketing to the same email lists may diminish their value as prospects become increasingly unreceptive to any marketing message.

    The lead origin is questionable. When you purchase a list, you may have no way of confirming where the email addresses originated, how often the emails have been used, or whether the emails have been scrubbed for word bounces to prevent identifying you as a spammer. It may simply not be worth the risk of list quality or your reputation to send to a purchased list.

    Here are a few ways to grow an email list effectively and strategically:

    Generate interest and brand awareness. A sound email list building strategy is to acquire the leads more organically. Make contact through trade shows and organizations. Offer to add prospects to your email list, put an opt-in button or pop-up on your website, and provide something of interest and value. Create multiple means by which interested parties can sign up to receive information from your company. Don’t force your marketing content on leads you don’t know. If someone hasn’t asked to hear from you, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be interested later.

    Offer premium content. If the offer is valuable enough to your prospects, they will likely enter or supply their email. Good content examples include webinars, eBooks, templates, white papers, blog posts, specials, services and events (depending on the type of company making the offer). The broader the content appeal, the wider the prospective audience.

    Promote your content and get creative. Make sure your content gets out through social media. Blog post analytics can be leveraged to generate leads. For example, if you write 10 blog posts per month and generate 2 leads per blog post, you will acquire a total of 20 leads per month. The compounding results of an effective marketing strategy would continue to drive leads throughout the year. A clever email marketing campaign can actually grow your database through forwarded emails and a call-to-action can encourage sharing. In addition, a re-engagement campaign can help scrub an existing email list, help avoid spam allegations, and remind old contacts about your valuable product or service.

    Combine with other marketing efforts. For most companies, email marketing should be only one aspect of an overall marketing effort that encompasses several touchpoints to increase effectiveness. Grow a database of qualified leads by combining with direct mail, company trade show appearances and social media. Multi-channel marketing will help foster brand awareness and drive sales.

    How you acquire leads could affect your marketing objectives and ultimately your reputation. The main objective of an email marketing campaign should be brand awareness. Reap long-term advantages by taking the time to grow your own high-quality list. Utilize various marketing channels and encourage email signup by offering quality content your prospects will appreciate and remember. Then, when your prospect is ready to make a decision, you will be top of mind.

Project Management / Web

Managing a web development project

How to sail through every complex project successfully

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Solid organization and project management skills are essential to the success of any complex project, and web development is a perfect example. A digital agency will be required to manage a development team, digital assets, multiple deadlines, as well as client expectations and deliverables. It is essential to keep everyone motivated, on schedule, and on task while keeping clients informed throughout the entire process.

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    Start with a gameplan. Itemize all deliverables and breakdown by task. Some deliverables will be the same for every web development project and others will be unique to the existing client and project. Reusing task sets from a prior job or similar project can help streamline the planning process. Group task sets and organize by deadline to increase efficiency and keep staff focused on their particular assignments while keeping the larger picture in view.

    Track milestones. A project gameplan should include due dates for each deliverable. Deliverables can then be invoiced as project milestones to keep the cash flow up while your staff works through the project.

    Meetings and communication. Treat clients as team members by keeping them informed of progress through regular communication. The idea is not to commit everyone to lengthy meetings, but to keep clients updated, to remind of upcoming deadlines and to keep the project moving. Frequent communication can also serve as a stop-gap to address any questions, problems or issues, including scope creep and missed deadlines, allowing opportunity for early course correction. Project dashboards or client admin panels are ideal as they can track progress and allow check-in anytime. Online project management software like Asana and Basecamp can do double-duty, allowing team members to access their to-dos, clients to access progress, and everyone to access and upload digital assets and resources.

    Project evaluation and inventory. Always take a step back to communicate with your staff and ascertain how the process could be improved. What deadlines were missed and why? What was completed ahead of schedule? What issues or problems were encountered in the process? What improvements could have been made? Evaluate how any imperfections could have been avoided or handled better. Identify weakness in the process and a develop strategy for improvement.

    Web projects can be complex and wrought with opportunity for problems. Developing a solid strategy for project management can keep expectations realistic, communication clear, team members focused and deadlines met. Keep clients informed so they feel a part of the process. You will soon be looking back on another successful project!


Take the scare out of marketing

How to create an effective marketing strategy

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The task of developing a comprehensive marketing strategy can seem less daunting when broken down into two key points: 1. identify what you do best and 2. communicate your strengths to your target audience in a way that will be understood and received. These two areas embody the foundation of any successful marketing strategy. What makes it scary is that it involves some exposure which puts most people into an uncomfortable place.

However, when you truly commit to a marketing strategy, making it real for you, your customers, and your target market, you increase your changes for success. The more real your marketing approach, and somewhat vulnerable it makes you, the better prepared you are for success.

Here are a few points to help you develop a worthwhile marketing strategy:

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    Who. Are you able to identify your ideal customer? Taking a look into your past client or customer history may help reveal the answer. Who has been the easiest customer for your organization to service? For whom do you enjoy working? If you have been in business awhile, describe one (or several) of your long-time clients. Your ideal customer should be easy for you and your organization to spot. You may be able to develop a couple ideal profiles that possess a common thread. Having an answer to this question is important because it will affect the other two points.

    What. Your message should be crafted around your core value proposition as well as your target audience. Imagery and brand will help support this message and make it memorable. What would a successful customer relationship with your organization mean to your target audience, and how can you communicate this message?

    Why. Why you? Why you over the competition? What unique qualities do you and your organization possess that would cause prospects to seek you out? What do you do better than your competitors in your product or service category? Perhaps you offer the same product or service, but you have a better brand, or you have packaged your solutions or services in a way that improves the overall customer experience. Why is the critical question because it probes into what separates you and makes you unique.

    How. What is your approach? How does it differ from what your competition offers? What makes you different? Perhaps you or your company possess a few characteristics that make for a unique and desirable mix to potential customers. Whatever that mix is, make sure you can communicate it simply, effectively and often to your target.

    Any marketing strategy that doesn’t scare, move you from your comfort zone or require anything remarkable of you, won’t be worth achieving. Set your marketing goals high, make them authentic, allow them to make you feel vulnerable. Every marketing task should get you one step closer to achieving your goals and help you to ask the critical questions (i.e. Is my direct mail copy right? Do my Twitter posts support my message?) Using scary as an gauge, although somewhat unconventional, may be a good indication that you are headed in the right direction.

Graphic Design / Marketing

Banners that work

Tips for successful banner advertising

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When banner advertising made it’s debut into the digital marketplace, the tendency was to bombard users. Since then, banner advertising has matured to target and drive measurable traffic. Thoughtful banner advertising can be highly effective when backed by strategy and should be a part of any successful marketing campaign. Here are a few suggestions:

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    Define your destination. What goals are you looking to achieve with your banner campaign? A realistic goal may include: increase traffic to a specific landing page to measure results.

    Plan your course. Create a simple call to action. Craft a strong message to elicit response. Focus on user advantages. Keep messaging concise and well supported by imagery. If you need to promote more than one message or product, consider creating several banner ads, each with a specific, measurable goal.

    Maintain consistency. Make sure your messaging supports existing brand, on and off-line. Leverage brand recognition to maximize overall impact. Use limited space well with smart design to support your message and gain attention. Minimize negative space and get noticed with bright colors and clickable shapes. Design banner ads to compliment sites on which they appear. Multiple banner ads appearing on the same site should compliment and support each other visually and contextually.

    Position appropriately. Consider how you might attract attention and encourage users to engage with your banner ad. Successful banner ads appear in the right place, to the right audience, and at the right time. A well-designed banner ad must be properly positioned to be effective.

    Measure progress. Review metrics to determine whether goals are being reached. Google Analytics can provide real-time feedback on your campaign. Adjust your campaign and test different variations (i.e. color, imagery, messaging) to increase effectiveness.

    Banner advertising has become an essential marketing tool for reaching a targeted audience quickly and relatively cost-effectively. Execute a successful strategy by developing measurable goals, crafting a simple branded message, engaging your audience, and analyzing metrics. Then repeat.


Gain traction with Twitter

How to harness Twitter in everyday marketing

gain traction with twitter

Reinforce your brand. Add a follow button to your website and recent feeds. Complete your Twitter profile and add a professional shot to make the best impression. Promote your @username address wherever your logo and other advertising appears.

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    Consider content. Have an opinion. Developing a strong Twitter presence helps build momentum. Write for your particular market. Address common industry concerns or questions. Educate, inform, and entertain. Give them a reason to follow you.

    Connect with other users. Follow people you find interesting, people you know, and people in your field or business community. Acknowledge those who follow or mention you. Mind Twitter etiquette by avoiding abbreviated texting language and remember to thank users for Retweets and recommendations.

    Join the conversation. Join industry related conversation and connect with hashtags like #shopsmall. Engage your audience with promotions or ask questions to invite feedback. Discover points of interest by Tweeting alongside followers in real time. Talking to people directly can help develop relationships.

    Theme your tweets. Create a Twitter theme for each day of the week to help eliminate guesswork and aid consistency. Calendar upcoming seasonal or industry events and plan how you can incorporate them into a Twitter campaign. Events help to develop interest and engage. Post information your followers would find useful. Build momentum with a new sales or product launch. Twitter exclusives attract followers and Retweets.

    Twitter is a powerful tool with the potential to reach millions of people in real time. Get noticed, build relationships, and connect with new people, all for 140 characters or less! Twitter is really just another facet of marketing your business, and a cost-effective one at that!

Graphic Design

Thirty seconds or less…

The value of a good package design

30 seconds or less

A good package design must do three things: get attention, communicate multi-tiered information quickly and easily, and powerfully influence the buying decision. There are several ways to effectively maximize approximately thirty seconds of consumer attention.

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    Product positioning. Measure your product brand and messaging against the competition. Alongside products in the same category, does your package stand out? How do you wish to differentiate your product? Is your brand and product story clearly defined? Make sure the impression is clear and intentional.

    Package function. Examine design options against essential criteria. Use the highest-quality materials available within your budget to withstand the rigors of handling, and as package quality is likely to affect perceived product value. Make sure the package is appropriate for the product. Although this may seem elementary, an appropriate package can encourage the consumer to interact with the product (and therefore the brand). If the package design makes this interaction cumbersome, the consumer may give up on your product and move on.

    Product messaging. Making the brand name or identity prominent along with featured uses and benefits is important. Resist the urge to put your entire story on the package. Too much clutter obscures your message. The goal is to help the consumer grasp key product details quickly and move them closer to the buying decision.

    Brand reinforcement. Clear messaging is key but so is consistent messaging. Does your advertising (i.e. website, literature, collateral) support the brand of your product? Don’t underestimate their role. The more your target market is able to identify with your message, the more successful the brand and all elements that adhere to the brand.

    Visual appeal. The lifespan of a product package is typically five years or less. Packaging should always appear current, fresh and professional. Highlight product attributes that resonate with current customer demands.

    Details and legalese. Legal and industry packaging requirements will affect the design and should be considered early. Legal statements must appear on certain types of product packaging, including technical and legal jargon, drug facts, food and allergy labeling, warning labels, and language translations. For example, English copy translated into French or Spanish typically takes up one-third more real estate. Plan and allocate appropriate space to prevent a package from looking cluttered and unattractive.

    It is estimated that a package will only receive thirty seconds or less of consumer attention. Maximize product visibility by clearly defining your brand and message. How you brand and position your product to resonate with your audience can be measured in how quickly key messages are communicated, and ultimately how well your product sells.

Marketing / Project Management

What clients love

Keeping client relationships healthy

what clients love

Any good client relationship takes time to develop, and meeting project deadlines and deliverables is paramount, but it is also important to get to know your client, their industry and expectations. Here are some time-tested suggestions to help foster enduring client relationships.

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      Always deliver. Deadlines and commitment to schedules are foremost in building any good relationship. A client should always be able to depend upon you to meet a deadline without question and that you will always deliver your best.

      Understand your client. Keeping abreast of industry trends will help you position your services to really add value. What ongoing issues does your client face and how can you help them? You don’t have to be an expert, but the better you understand your client (company, service offerings and industry focus) the better prepared you are to cater offerings accordingly.

      Expand your services. Our studio is frequently presented with an opportunity to expand service offerings in order to meet a particular client need. Additional offerings can help solidify existing client relationships and provide alternate revenue streams. However, adding services should be evaluated with care so as not to sidetrack your company focus and affect services and attention offered to other clients.

      Respond promptly. Even if you don’t have an immediate answer, letting your client know that you received their request is good business practice. Readily acknowledging a client inquiry is a reminder that you value the relationship and are always ready to be of service.

      Use email sparingly. Consider alternative channels of communication when working with a new client, especially as discussion points become complex, and as email communication can often be misconstrued. Incorporating an online project management tool like Basecamp or Asana can help foster regular client contact and keep communication organized. Relying on a phone call or in-person meeting as a preference can help shed light on who you are, how you work, and build a better relationship.

      Recap. Make regular communication a priority. You may remember all the details of your client meeting, but always err on the side of clarification and follow-up. No matter how trivial a conversation, sending a quick email is always appreciated and, at the very least, will keep you and your company top of mind.

      It is generally acknowledged that clients prefer to remain with a valued source, than spend time looking for an alternative. A vendor should always aim to become a trusted partner, taking an interest in client challenges, and reaching beyond the project to develop solutions.

Project Management

Project Impossible?

Strategies for successful project management

project impossible

Tight deadlines are typical in the graphic design industry. I’ve experienced a few time critical holiday deadlines myself… ho, ho, ho…

In an effort to minimize the stress level, I have developed a few strategies to help any project run a bit more smoothly.

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    Map. Keeping progress visible is key for me, and looming deadlines can be a powerful motivator. I like to use a large project erase board, or spreadsheet, breaking the project down by deliverable (perhaps using spreadsheet tabs). Spreadsheets can do double duty as a client status report.

    Delegate. If you think you need help in a specific area, hesitation will work against you. The longer you wait to get someone else involved in a project, the more difficult (and time-consuming) it will be to get them up to speed. I always try to line up my resources before tackling the project.

    Communicate. I use a custom FileMaker database to track project scope, and Evernote to jot down quick thoughts or details (organized by notebook of course). However, when the details become unwieldy, I reorganize and shift project notes to Basecamp. Project management plus collaboration is helpful, along with the ability to assign and drag-organize todos, involving clients as necessary. Constant communication can help you stay abreast of any changes and keep correspondence relevant.

    Report. If the client isn’t involved in a Basecamp project or some other collaborative mechanism, weekly status reports will be appreciated and help keep everyone on the same page.

    Relax (if possible) and do the work. When you stay focused and free of distraction, the job will get done. I’ve found that even projects with the tightest of deadlines get accomplished.

    Sorting out details and keeping them organized in a manageable system can help you remain free from distraction and focused on project completion. A successfully completed project means I can truly enjoy my holiday, even if it is a few days late :)

Communication / Project Management

Do you read me?

Successful Client-Designer Communication


How well a design problem is solved depends greatly upon how well the designer and client communicate. It’s up to the designer to ask the probing questions, and the client to present as much relevant information as possible. How can this communication process be made smooth for the client and designer? It all begins with a few key questions:

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    Who is the target market? The most important aspect of any project is the audience the client is attempting to reach. Your creative solution should speak effortlessly to this crowd.

    What is the business? Understand the industry, product or service. How does the client wish to position themselves in this market? What are they selling? What are the goals of the business? What are the goals of the project? All good questions that only the client, and some careful research, can answer.

    What are the expectations? Setting guidelines for what the client expects from the designer and what the designer expects from the client as far as communication, deadlines, materials, costs, etc. will lay the groundwork for a successful project and successful working relationship.

    The time invested in developing a thorough brief will save time and money in making sure everyone is on the same page, and everyone reaches the destination sought in record time.

Graphic Design / Project Management

A Graphic Designer’s Roadmap

How to create a design brief

designers roadmap

A design brief is a roadmap for charting a successful course in any project. A key reference for designers and design managers, the brief should contain the main points of focus and goals the project should achieve. The better the information presented in the design brief, the better the value received from the designer. A good design brief would ideally contain the following:

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    The Company. Leave nothing to assumption. Provide a brief business summary and history. Where’s the company headed?

    The Market. A concise evaluation of the company’s product or service with respect to the competition. What has brought about a need for this project?

    The Purpose. State the main objective of the project and need for designer involvement.

    The Message. What are the expected vehicles for communicating the marketing message (i.e. direct mail, advertising, PR, etc.)

    The Task. In what context will the message be communicated? Cover specific items to be included (i.e. text, images, art, colors).

    The Audience. Who is this message targeting? What is the demographic profile?

    The Objective. What are the specific (measurable) goals of the message?

    The Budget. A fair and realistic number should balance the value the client has placed on the project on the one hand, with the investment of the designer’s time and experience on the other. (So, who’s on first?)

    The Deadline. Include milestones for consultation, creative, production (including alts), and delivery.

    The time invested in developing a thorough brief will save time and money in making sure everyone is on the same page, and everyone reaches the destination sought in record time.