Archive for June 2019

Perseverance: How to Know If It’s Time to Quit

June 28, 2019

Over the last two years, there has been a great buzz about 37-year-old tennis phenom Serena Williams.

Williams has 23 Grand Slam titles and a dominant career, ranked number one for 319 weeks over 15 years. In 2017, Williams gave birth to her first daughter. Many wondered how motherhood would affect her career. Would she return with the same fight? Would she return at all

Williams roared back to the semi-final of the 2018 U.S. Open and quickly regained top 10 rankings. Fans worldwide were inspired by her courage and moved by her transparency about her struggles.

Faced with a Crossroads

In life, you will face discouragement, wondering, “Is it time to quit? Should I alter my path or press on through resistance?”

On one hand, redirecting can be wise, helping you avoid harm or consider better alternatives. Conversely, quitting might weaken your character or prevent you from realizing an achievement that’s closer than you think.

Walter Mallory, an associate of inventor Thomas Edison, was expressing regret that the first nine thousand experiments with a battery yielded few results. Edison had a different perspective:

“Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I have found several thousand things that won’t work!”

To Fish or Cut Bait?

Politician Newt Gingrich said, “perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”

Pressing on in a project can build character, enhance your skill set, and build confidence that can only come through trial. The best leaders are those who’ve been tested.

When tempted to quit, ask yourself whether other alternatives seem tangible or rewarding. Does a change seem realistic? Could you tweak certain variables to make a situation more bearable? Perhaps your moments of greatest discouragement are those when you’re actually closest to breakthrough!

But whoever said “quitters never win” may have been wrong. Quitting is scary, but sometimes continuing is worse. Stubbornness can destroy important relationships, blind you to better alternatives, or make you oblivious to your destruction. It might be time to quit when:

  • Continuing will destroy friendships, family, health, or your character
  • Despite loads of effort, you don’t see results
  • You find yourself growing numb to red flags
  • Proceeding may eliminate other options
  • You’ve lost all joy or energy

In 2010, Mexican golfer Lorena Ochoa shocked fans when she retired at 28. At that time, she was ranked number one in the world, a winner of two major championships and millions in prize money

An impulsive decision? Ochoa says no. From early in her career, Ochoa wanted to marry and raise a family without golf, projecting about 10 years on the tour.

“ . . . For me, getting married and having a family, that was more important,” Ochoa said. “Now that I’m a mother, I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world and I feel blessed. I’m really, really happy that I made the decision at the right time and now I can enjoy 100% this second stage of my life.”

Looking back, Ochoa said knowing there was a definite “end” actually helped her game:

"When I was in a difficult position and I was either upset or tired or angry or disappointed, I keep saying, ‘OK, y’know I have three or four years left. I’m going to do it and continue and I’m going to put everything into it’ . . . When I look back and I see what I did, I just feel even luckier because I made the right decision at the perfect time."

Ochoa’s courage may inspire you to think of it this way: perhaps it’s time to quit when saying no to the good means you can say YES to the best.

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How to Grow When Sales are Slow

June 25, 2019

Nothing was going right at the plate for Dave Concepcion, the shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds.

About a month into the 1976 season, he was suffering a hitting slump, a plague of physical and mental anguish that had frittered away his batting average to around .150. The Reds were in Chicago, where the Cubs had a large industrial gas-operated clothes dryer in the stadium. Feeling goofy, Concepcion hopped in the dryer and called to his teammates. “Hey! Maybe this will help me get hot.”

Going along with the gag, Pat Zachry, the pitcher, hit the side of the switch, pretending to turn on the machine. With a puff of smoke, sparks flew, the machine whirred and began to rotate with Concepcion inside.

”I’ll never forget it,” said Zachry. ”Davey started spinning, and I froze with my eyes bugging out. Oh, it was terrible. Then I banged the side of the switch again. And the machine stopped.

”Davey went out that day and got four for five,” said Zachry. “And for weeks it was almost impossible to get him out. I tell him now that I made him the player he is today.”

Fast-Track Productivity in Unconventional Ways

No one in baseball or business is certain how slumps happen, but it’s helpful to know how to react when they do. Especially if you see trends that repeat each year.

Here are four creative options to fast track productivity if your momentum is slow this summer:

1. Engage in pro bono opportunities that enhance your products, services, and relationships.

In slowdown seasons, invest company time in something that will pay off.

Who are your target customers or VIP account holders? Approach these contributors and offer to host a free training event or professional engagement that will put your products and people in the limelight. Another alternative is to select core clients and offer to enhance your services for them for no cost.

2. Do non-profit work for your best customer’s charity of choice.

Slow periods are an ideal time to invest people equity in causes that matter.

During your down times, partner with agencies that your clients value and offer volunteer hours, free professional services, or mentoring that can make these organizations stronger.

3. Stretch your team’s skills.

When activity wanes, morale often follows.

Invigorate employees by offering on-going education opportunities, professional mentoring within your team, or innovation labs that mobilize groups to tackle some of your most ambitious goals.

Take time to refresh decor, business cards, or your website, and involve your team in designing these pieces. Here you’ll strengthen your products, catalyze creative thinking, or upgrade inefficient systems.

4. Network or collaborate with other professionals.

Finally, as your business weathers change, remember that other entrepreneurs may be in the same boat.

Find like-minded friends and cook up a multi-site promotion to bring people back. Network and learn from people in your community or industry while you have extra time. Or trade services and train one another in ways that are mutually beneficial.

Want to make the most of each day? By reaching out, stretching your team, or collaborating with others, you’ll sharpen your skills and fortify your very best relationships.

A Finish that Won’t Fade

June 21, 2019

Did you use Play-doh as a child?

Ever inadvertently leave your simple shapes to harden in the open air? Though your brittle pieces later crumbled, a simple finishing process would have sustained them for centuries. Ceramic firing transforms malleable clay into a rock-hard, durable substance. The additions of underglaze, luster, and around 930 degrees Fahrenheit can vitrify clay creations from goo to gorgeous, glass-like pieces that are impervious to water and time.

In ceramics and in print, the finishing process is nearly as important as the design itself. Finishing refers to the services applied to your print piece after the ink hits the paper. These can be added before or after the paper comes off the press, and examples of finishing services include aqueous or UV protection coatings, binding or collating, trimming or folding, stamping, laminating, perforating, mounting, or coatings like matte or satin varnishes.

Fabulous Finishing Techniques in Design and Print

In the past, many of the rock-star finishing options were impossible for the budget-conscious customer.

Things like die-cutting, embossing, or foil stamping options were saved for the fanciest invitations or a “lifestyles of the rich and famous” print run. Today, however, technology has transformed ordinary printing, decreasing the time and expense it takes to create textured, fabulous pieces.

Ready to take your work up a notch but not sure what your options include? Here is a basic menu of finishing services accessible to you today:

Trimming or Die-Cutting

Trims can be used to shear or reduce a printed piece along crop lines, page borders, or into a unique or fun shape that expresses your brand (like business cards in the shape of a coffee cup).

Foil Stamps or Blocking

This process is creating by pressing metal dies (or colored foil) onto a surface with a heated die. This process is used mostly to enhance typography and logos.

Embossing or Debossing

This allows you to press an image into a paper or card to create a three-dimensional design.

Embossing results in a raised surface while debossing brings a depressed (indented) surface. This is a great way to give your design impressive dimension and texture.

Perforation or Unique Folds

Perforating creates a series of fine holes to allow a portion of the printed piece to be easily detached (think coupons, ID cards, RSVP slips, or ticketing items).

Non-traditional fold options include everything from accordion and zig-zag styles to overlapping or tapered die-cuts that create wonderful visual texture. Looking for inspiration? A quick conversation with our design team will undoubtedly spark creativity!

Laminating or Binding

Laminating binds clear plastic film onto printed matter to improve durability and protect it against smudges, wrinkles, or tears.

Binding options include anything from a simple staple or comb binding to saddle stitching, screw binding, combs, spirals, and more.

Varnish and Coating Options

Commercial print applications (like brochures, business cards, and packaging options) typically apply a protective coat that seal the ink and enhance visual appeal.

Coatings range from basic machine and aqueous varnishes to UV coatings and high build varnishes that have the appearance of water or wax. Confusing? No problem. Our experts can guide you through the best varnish or coating options for your particular project.

Ready to turn heads with a resounding finish? Go big and bold to make your next printing soar.

Seven Sizzling Summer Promotions

June 18, 2019

Businesses need promotional items to help reach out to potential customers and clients – it’s just a fact.

Promotional products allow people to see your brand and remember you, drawing a whopping 500% more referrals from customers who are satisfied with the gift. Like a business card with a bang, clever promotional products build goodwill, name recognition, and expanded brand exposure.

But, sometimes the biggest barrier to distributing great products is finding the right idea.

Looking for affordable and effective items to catch the attention of your prospects? Here are seven promo products to bring heat to your marketing mix this summer:

1. Zip-Front Drawstring Bags

Want your brand to travel with people as they go?

High-quality, colorful, customized drawstring bags will get your message circulating! Sturdy but lightweight, these comfortable, machine washable bags are great for goodie bags, thank you gifts, and life on the go.

Zipper pouches make the bags more convenient, accessible, and fun. Add coupons or gift incentives to bring more traffic your way.

2. Clip & Go Hand Sanitizers

Try a squeaky-clean message on promotional hand sanitizer!

Travel-size hand sanitizers can be stashed in totes, diaper bags, backpacks, and purses for a little germ-fighting squirt before meals, after handling animals, or when spending time in public.

Hand sanitizer promotional products are effective message-bearers for restaurants, doctors’ offices and health clinics, independent contractors, and more.

3. Customized Lip Balms

From flavorful scents to serious sun protection, promotional lip balm is affordable, enjoyable, and always in style.

Perfect for health professionals, dental promotions, and all of your trade show needs, customized balms can give their lips some serious love.

4. Water Bottles & Tumblers

Promotional water bottles are a smart giveaway item that boosts your branding efforts at racing events, school activities, corporate outings, trade shows, or anywhere thirsty patrons travel.

Choose shapes, sizes, or lid styles from any variety of materials, including stainless steel tumblers, water bags with attachable carabiners, vacuum insulated copper travelers, and so much more.

5. Absorbent Snap Cooling Tool

Lightweight and refreshing, cooling towels bring a consistent cooling effect that lasts for hours.

Wet it, wring it, and snap to activate. Great for the gym, in the field, or on the go, this high-performance product will stand the test of time.

6. Pocket Notebooks

Want to keep your name at their fingertips?

Handy mini-pocket notebooks are sure to stick around. Try eco-friendly custom recycled notebooks, custom debossed mini journals, or jotter pads with attached pens. Make your product useful and your name will be a companion and stays close at hand.

7. Stadium Cushions

Want to switch it up and get more than just your logo noticed?

Stadium cushions offer a soft place to land for customers who will love you immensely when enjoying this gift. From traditional cushions to amusing shapes, stadium cushions make your logo pop against a minimalist background. From law firms and insurance agencies to VIP customer or employee picnic giveaways, this giveaway will be their grab-and-go for outdoor concerts and sporting events of every kind.

Want to know more? We’re here to simplify your shopping experience and bring your brand to life! Give us a call today to learn more.

Keep Things Real with Four Animated Design Tricks

June 14, 2019

While you may not be able to launch a 3D billboard and party-train campaign, you can to stop traffic with 3D elements and hot design trends from 2019.

Here are four animated styles with practical examples to try in your next printed piece.

Three-Dimensional Designs

3D works seem to be everywhere right now: entire compositions that have so much depth, you can’t help but reach out and touch them.

Examples include 3D typography (that works with any kind of font rendering), metallic 3D pipes pulsing with neon electricity, or effervescent 3D poster compositions that jump off the page and make it impossible to look elsewhere.

Asymmetrical Layouts

While rigid designs have been standard for several years, layouts that break free from the predictable grid are now soaring in popularity.

Asymmetrical balance results from using unequal visual weight on each side of your page. For example, one side might contain a dominant element, which is balanced by lesser focal points or light elements on the other.

Asymmetrical balance is more dynamic and interesting. It evokes feelings of modernism, movement, vitality, and curiosity as viewers pause to peruse the design. Box elements within a page, stepped or tabbed layering, or the powerful use of negative space are all strategies for creating products that feel more customized and alive.

Open Compositions

Ready to throw off decaying designs of the past?

For years, illustrators have put frames around design elements, encasing them in boxes, frames, and in strict order. Today, viewers crave open, airy designs which seem to offer only part of the whole picture.

Allow your layouts to embrace white space with elements that feel loosely connected or even chaotic. Play with composition to make each part look like it’s continuing off the page to infinity. This allows viewers to engage with your image, using their imagination to wonder what else is out there.

Duotones and Gradients

In the 90s, gradients were a popular way to add color and depth to designs.

They came back in a big way in 2018, enhancing flat designs, adding color overlays to photos, and adding texture to backgrounds of all kinds. Gradients, or “color transitions,” are a gradual blending from one color to two or three others, blending similar colors (like different shades of blue) or completing contrasting colors (like purple and red). Gradients can be bold or subtle, modern or rustic, the focal point or the background. They can be used in logos, packaging, business cards, or photo overlays.

Find your favorite color schemes and go to town, because the energy of these stunning color transitions can elevate the vivacity of any design.

It’s an exciting time for design, especially when technology continues to allow us to push the limits. Have fun experimenting and make 2019 a year to look your best in print!

Avoid These 3 Management Blunders (with Four Teamwork Tweaks)

June 11, 2019

Want to liven up your next dinner party?

Just ask people for their “worst boss” stories. Here are some painful (anonymous) stories from those who’ve lived to share:

"When I was an intern at a PR firm, my manager would make me run her personal errands (pick up dry cleaning, ship things, drive her and her friends to SXSW events, etc.). She would get my attention by calling me ‘Intern.’ Needless to say, when they asked me to stay on full-time, I politely declined."

"I once had a boss who multi-tasked in meetings by being on her phone and present in the meeting. In both 1:1’s and in group settings she would shift her attention constantly from the speaker to her phone—back and forth, back and forth . . . At first, I just thought she was extremely busy, and it was the only way for her to get everything done—until one day, I caught her doing crossword puzzles on her phone while doing a check-in with me."

"I once had a boss who, while I was replying to a question addressed to me by their boss in a meeting, actually put their hand less than an inch in front of my face to silence me so that they could answer instead."

Whether you’re the CEO, an intern, or a new manager, working with others is a key part of success in every job. But managing well while empowering others requires a delicate balance.

Beyond learning the names of your interns, here are four tweaks you can make in your leadership.

Listen

Good listening is essential to management, and it begins long before you start a meeting.

Keys to listening well include generating questions in advance, keeping an open mind, and not jumping to conclusions before or during conversations. Don’t assume you know what someone is thinking; instead, listen with the intent of understanding before “solving.” And give your team conversational breathing room by personally checking in for “no good reason” on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. You may be surprised by what they share!

Pair Criticism with Compliments

The Harvard Business Review says a good rule of thumb is to give more praise than criticism, but surveys show that 40% of respondents claim they never gave positive reinforcement.

People need a balance of both praise and criticism in order to thrive. Top performing teams typically give five positive comments for every critique.

Distinguish Between Personal and Organizational Issues

Employees will have challenges, and it’s your job to address them.

But workplace problems are typically either personal or organizational and treating them differently can be hugely helpful. Personal problems should be handled with compassion and accountability. But organizational issues may involve hiring, restructuring, or strategic planning. Don’t confuse bad attitudes with bad workflow policies!

Finish Meetings with a Question

Want to boost communication in your team?

Conclude every meeting with this question: is there anything else? Whatever is top of mind (concerns, challenges, excitement) will bubble to the surface quickly. This question signals you care and gives people permission to share things that aren’t explicitly on the agenda. Try it and see what happens!

From mediating personality clashes to enabling great leaders, your management skills are the key to growing great teams. Keep the conversations flowing as you encourage others, and your business will flourish.

A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Coupon Campaigns

June 7, 2019

Want to get more people to pull the trigger on a purchase?

Give them a push with perfectly placed coupons! Coupons have a built-in visual appeal and an innate call to action. A coupon with a limited time offer adds a sense of urgency in a customer’s mind for two reasons:

1. If they plan to buy something, they want the best possible price.

2. If they don’t buy now, it might be out of stock (or full price again) later.

Why should you use coupons? Many reasons!

Coupon offers can make the difference between someone who’s browsing and a purchasing customer.

Coupon offers are also a major incentive to drive traffic to your website. Besides stimulating sales of existing stock, coupons also generate cross sales between products and can energize your brand.

Building a successful coupon campaign may take some trial and error. Here are several action steps get you started:

Start Small

The first step in coupon marketing is to track the performance of every campaign you launch.

If you run a small business, start by choosing one product and run 3-4 coupon specials from time to time. Feature the same product but vary the discount types, values, duration, and distribution methods. Experiment to see what works best for your business. From here you can carefully track and implement promotions that are consistent with your budget and are strategically aligned with your marketing strategy.

Set Goals

Set goals with your coupons.

Do you want to entice first-time buyers, increase purchase volumes, or get more traffic in stores? Without a clear strategy, you can’t measure your effectiveness or tailor your promotions.

For example: when appealing to new customers, an open return policy can prompt more people to buy. When upselling current clients, offering companion discounts (like buy one, get one 50% off) can be especially tempting.

Highlight Cross Promotions

Almost every business has a niche, and coupons can help you expand influence in your corner of the market.

For example, camping outfitters that specialize in lightweight tents have customers who need compression sacks to carry them and portable camp chairs to accessorize. Having a coupon combo on all three items may entice shoppers to purchase more than one type of product.

Place Coupons Where Customers Will Find Them

How will you tempt shoppers to purchase: through direct mail, in your newsletter, or with an on-site purchase incentive?

Here are a few strategies for getting coupons in their hands:

  • Offer a $15 onsite coupon if a customer buys at least three products.
    Mail a $5 gift card that can be used if a customer purchases two items this month (spending a minimum of $50).
  • Offer an additional 20% off if a customer buys anything from the same product category within the next two weeks.
  • When a customer purchases an item for the first time, offer a 25% off coupon for those who leave a review or give their personal information. 43% of consumers will exchange their personal data with companies to save money through personalized promotions, discounts, or deals!

Remember, people buy with their eyes, so your promotion needs to catch attention. Need ideas? Our design specialists can help you generate a coupon that screams “use me!”

Spread the Love

Coupons can help almost every business type and size if you are intentional and consistent.

Coupons are highly visible and shareable, creating urgency and brand awareness. Best of all, everyone loves a deal, so a smart offer can go a long way in creating satisfied customers!