Monthly Archive: June 2011

Make The Call

Rawle Anders, Client Services Director at HappyCog in San Francisco, has some great advice for managing internal and agency-to-client process.

These two tips especially, are spot on:

Re-Establish Humanitarianism – Even with the best projects, the doldrums set in. Weeks fly off the calendar, design iterations number a half-dozen, feedback is a week late in coming. Sometimes, in the midst of a project, you just need a reminder that an actual person is still in-step with you. A quick one-on-one conversation with the client’s project champion will reshuffle the deck by allowing each side to express their concerns and get the teams working on collaborative solutions. The client will appreciate the transparency and extra attention, and the relationship will be stronger for it.

Control the Communication Tipping Point – It starts with a feeling: you need to head off an issue, you can sense confusion, you know the questions are coming. Before you get an email or a Basecamp post asking what’s wrong, you should control the tipping point by being proactive with communications. You’ll demonstrate a firm grasp on all facets of the project while having the client’s interests explicitly in mind. As athletes in training might say, “run the trail, don’t let the trail run you.”

Taking a proactive stance is the common thread here. Great client service people don’t react, they proact. I’ll be honest, I’m not a great client service person. But I’m heading in that direction. You know why? Because great work that sells is the result of relationships built on mutual respect and trust. All the creative thinking in the world can’t make an impact until the relationship is right.

At any rate, I appreciate the reminder to reach out. Consistent, effective communication — which is at the core of an agency-client relationship — is responsibility number one. Without it, there won’t be any room for a celebratory beverage, much less a trip to Cannes.

photo credit: Rachel Hadiashar

Here I Am, Working On Being A Model Citizen

The last “head shot” I sat for was 10 years ago in Omaha. Thankfully, Portland photographer Rachel Hadiashar helped to remedy that situation last week.

Here’s a look at one of the images from the shoot that took place in her industrial Southeast studio space:

If you have the need for a portrait, head shot or wedding photography, I highly recommend getting in contact with Rachel. She helped to put me at ease right away, even though it’s unnatural for me to be on the receiving end of the lens.

Here, let me show you what I mean:

Rachel also suggested I change outfits throughout the session, and that suggestion was key, as I now have the “dude in a sport coat shot” that I can use for conferences, on my About pages or anywhere else where I need to convey a modicum of professionalism.

Client Showcase #10

I love helping companies perfect their brand identity. And I feel strongly that brand identity is fundamental to the marketing plan, for everything flows from the brand. In other words, it’s critical to get the brand right, so good things can come a client’s way.

To get the brand right is no small task, as you might imagine. First, a client has to recognize the need for an upgrade, and it’s easier said than done. Take our client Danville Development. The company was founded in 1979 and doing just fine with its original identity. Right?

Here’s the company’s new identity:

It is our job, and privilege, to help Danville Development express its true self today. And we needed a new brand identity to properly do that.

As she has done many times before, Omaha-based designer Cathy Solarana came up with a look and feel that communicates a powerful visual message, one that instantly evokes home, safety and wellness (all key brand attributes).

Search Specialists Borrow “Location, Location, Location” From Realtors

Lisa Barone, Chief Branding Officer at Outspoken Media, Inc., writing for Small Business Trends, says local citations — any appearance of your business name alongside its address or phone number — is the most recommended off-site activity for small business owners looking to increase their SEO efforts.

You’ve already taken the steps to perfect your business listing on Google Places and Yahoo Local (right? Please say yes?), but what about the small local search engine and third-party data providers like Localeze of Best of the Web? If you haven’t, I’d recommend that you make it a priority to do so. Not only do they serve as trusted citation sources, but they also feed information to the bigger search engines. As a small business, you want as many sources as possible all giving Google the correct NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) for your business.

Barone also points to David Mihm’s “Most Important Citation Sources”.

Most Importlant Review Engines (U.S. Specific)
1. Yelp
2. Google Places
3. Citysearch
4. Yahoo Local
5. Nice Industry Sites (like Trip Advisor, OpenTable, DealerRater, etc.)
6. Insider Pages
7. JudysBook
8. Superpages
9. YellowPages
10. Kudzu

Other sites: Angie’s List, Facebook, Merchant Circle

As you can see, there’s a lot of work to be done here. Of course, there are search experts on every corner ready to lend a hand. The other option is to bring this work in-house. Either way, it’s important to help people find your business online, and on foot.

Note: I’m currently helping Danville Development with this process, as they have multiple locations throughout northern Utah, and one in Wyoming.

Want To Be Your Best? Try Looking The Part

Susan Payton, President of Egg Marketing & Communications, thinks that branding is a luxury that most small businesses can not afford.

So many of my company’s clients want to brand themselves–to be known in a sea of competitors as the best. And while this is certainly possible, it takes deep pockets and lots of time — something most small businesses don’t have.

And so I say that branding is a luxury.

What I mean by this is that there are many other things that will bring in sales more quickly than branding. I define branding as anything done to make your company stand out in a sea of non-differentiated brands, and that includes everything from your logo to sponsoring events locally and nationally.

I couldn’t disagree more. Every company — regardless of size — has to differentiate first, or they won’t have much luck at selling whatever it is they provide.

Frankly, the utter lack or regard for brand is disheartening. And it’s widespread. Time and again I see businesses focus exclusively on their product or service offering, without giving a thought to their brand. Yet, a company’s brand identity is the outfit it wears in public. Imagine a model who spends hours in the gym and diets religiously, going out on the town in sweat pants, with hair tucked up under a baseball cap. That’s precisely how most small businesses, and many larger ones, roll out of bed each day. What a waste.

I also challenge the concept that it’s painfully expensive to invest in brand. Being sloppy with the company’s look and feel is what’s costly.