your business, your logo

What's in a symbol?

Past conversations with clients or prospects as well as a few recent articles about the process of logo creation have me thinking today. You start a business, and you need an identity. Or, you feel the identity of your business does not correctly define your business or is not creating the impact you had hoped for. The first step in creating a business identity is the logo - the symbol that will bring associations of your business to the thoughts of clients and prospects. Often, small businesses cannot afford to pay much, or do not see the value in paying much, for a logo. Why does it cost so much for a designer to put together a logo - can't they just put something together quick and charge less? They are supposed to be creative, after all.

If your thought process leads you to cheaper is better, it is not impossible to come up with a logo for your business. However, take a step back and consider this: if you are providing a quality service or product, do your quality thresholds require a certain amount of time to achieve? And do you want to be paid for, and profit from, your work? Do you want material that speaks to the quality you produce? If the answers are, "yes", you can better understand the time and processes a designer takes to deliver this small, but important and effective symbol of your business to you.

Once you have your logo, everything else can grow and flow from there. Your identity material (cards, letterhead, envelopes), marketing material (brochures, folders, postcards, sell sheets, rack cards), and social media logo treatment (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+) will all be based on the functionality and appearance of your logo. So you can see where that logo is the most important step in the development of your brand. Yet so often, it is given short thrift, little thought, minimal effort, and few resources.

Your logo, the symbol of your business, is the seed of all your business growth. It will likely be the first thing that prospects see about your company, before they meet you, before they even get a look at what that symbol represents. Logos are an important visual representation of your business. While everyone brings their interpretation to the logo, logos can enhance a first impression. Logos can build loyalty and establish a brand identity. Many hours of strategic thought may go into the creation of a logo. Or a logo can spring from a more personal preference, as the apple is said to have been for Steve Jobs. (Even so, think of everything the apple connotes - it packs a powerful wallop for such a simple symbol.)

Logos should be functional. They should work well anywhere. They should be easy to reproduce. They should be a distinct representation of your company and reproduce well in black and white. Logos that are less "trendy" have the ability to remain "current" with minimal changes over the course of decades.

There are three basic types of logos. The first two may be easier to pull off less expensively than the last. The first is a font-based logo - IBM, for example, or Sullivan & Sons plumbing. There are choices within this choice that may enlarge the scope of the logo project - what font to use? Something more classic? More modern? Conservative? Playful? Serif? Non-serif? Does my color choice enhance or detract from my message?

The second type of logo is an illustration - set apart, or integrated more closely with your business name. There are generic designed symbols available, e.g. a house for a realtor, a pen for a writer, a hammer for a carpenter. Here, there are questions about the art work. Is it available for commercial license? How many other realtors, or writers, or carpenters have that exact same logo? How does that logo differentiate you from all other competition in your profession? Custom designed illustrations can set you apart from the competition, but will cost more as they are being uniquely created for you.

The third basic type is an abstract, custom created symbol. The Nike symbol requires communication of underlying associations with the symbol. Apple is rather an abstract symbol for a computer, iPod, or iPhone. The ReMax balloon is an abstract, but eye-catching logo for a real estate business. Again, symbol, font, color choices all play into the design of a custom logo.

The bottom line is, whatever your budget, whatever your preference for logo type, you should work with a designer to produce the best symbol possible for your business. Your business is unique, and your logo should reflect that. You should look toward your designer for creative ideas and suggestions, but you should also be part of the process and provide insightful information about your company, after all, you know it best.

For a look at the design process in action, check out this online article via Imprint on Paul Rand + Steve Jobs, a peek at the process that designer Paul Rand followed when he created a logo for NeXT, Steve's second act. Also an interesting article on design is this question about the NASA design - do you prefer the "worm" or a "meatball"? I have to say, while I am not a vegetarian, in this case at least, I am not a fan of the meatball.

a multi-channel campaign

Multi Channel

Think you can do without print? Or do without marketing through electronic channels?

Think again.

According to a 2008 study by InfoTrends, more than 200 marketers who were surveyed reported an improvement of 35% for multi-channel campaigns (print, e-mail, web landing page) over single channel print-only campaigns. Personalization further improved campaign performance: marketers reported an average improvement of close to 50% for personalized multi-channel campaigns over print-only campaigns.

It is interesting to note that using single-channel electronic media is not as effective as the multi-channel approach either. More channels elicit greater response than single channel marketing.

How can you create a multi-channel campaign? One example is to send a postcard that invites recipients to a URL, then send a follow-up thank you e-mail for visiting. Or invite people to your website where they can select various product or service options, and send a follow-up brochure or e-mail based on their interests. You can utilize the power of social media too — provide a discount or other incentive on Facebook with a link to a URL, ask the visitor to act (buy now, more information, etc.) then follow-up with an e-mail or mailing. The more consistency in your marketing message and the appearance of your print, web, and e-mail design, the better. Be sure to create as cohesive a look as you can.

For more than 60% of those surveyed, multi-channel campaigns improved response rate and customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction. An increase in sales conversion was also noted. The bottom line improved with increases in overall revenue, profitability and sales. Another plus? Nearly half of those surveyed reported a reduction in the cost per lead.

lorem ipsum whatum?

When creating design mock-ups of websites, newsletters, brochures, ads and just about any other material that includes text, designers often use a filler text—Lorem Ipsum. Lorem is a dummy text used by printers and typesetters since the 16th century; the current standard form was most likely developed in the 1960’s. The text makes a great content placeholder because it has good letter distribution, looks like readable text, and pulls a client’s focus to the overall design and away from the meaning of the text.

The currently used standard Lorem Ipsum text reads:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

There are many variations of “lorem ipsum” text, some humorous. There are also lorem text generators online where you can obtain generated text that should be free of meaning and embarrassing word choices/combinations. Many text generators can produce text in multiple paragraphs, bulleted lists, etc.

Lorem Ipsum text is said to have stemmed from a passage by Cicero, written in 45 BC, which makes its origins more than 2,000 years old. Richard McClintock, a Latin professor at Hampden-Sidney College in Virginia traced the words back to a text from 1.10.32-33 of Cicero’s de Finibus Bolorum et Malorum (roughly translates to On the Ends of Good and Evil), a treatise on the theory of ethics popular during the Renaissance. Lorem Ipsum text is not meant to have meaning and is not pure Latin text; words and letters from the Cicero passages have been omitted in the Lorem Ipsum text. To see the entire passage and the words and letters of Lorem Ipsum text that were pulled from it, you can visit ( also features a text generator.)

To read a 1914 translation of Cicero’s passages by H. Rackham, you can visit Wikipedia. It shows the major source of Lorem Ipsum highlighted in that translation to be read as follows:

“Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?”


direct mail: reports of my death are greatly exaggerated

With the many marketing channels available, you may be overlooking, or underutilizing, one of your best advertising channels – direct mail.

There has been much talk about the death of direct mail. Yes, it is crucial to utilize less costly methods of advertising, such as a website, online social media, email marketing, etc., and to market to clients according to their preferences. However, most businesses can also benefit by using all the tools in their tool belts – including direct mail.

How can you use direct mail as part of your marketing mix and why should you?

Use direct mail to build awareness about your business. Direct mail can help drive people to your storefront and your website, where you can use other marketing channels to help “make the sale” and build lasting and profitable customer relationships.

Use direct mail for a marketing blitz. If you want to build awareness, and you have the budget, consider sending direct mail weekly or even twice a week for a month or more. If you emailed with that frequency, customers might be more apt to “unsubscribe” — but they will be less likely to make an effort to stop mailings. In the meantime, your target customer base will have become more aware of your business or brand.

Zig while others zag. While fewer companies are using direct mail, or using it less frequently, this makes it more likely that your marketing pitch will get through to your audience. Fewer pieces in the mailbox make your pitch more noticeable. Worried about your printed materials hitting the trash? Remember that emails are easily deleted too. And you can print on recycled paper to show some “green.”

Personalize your direct mail. Think direct mail is not personal enough? Think again. Variable-data printing allows companies to use purchase history databases to personalize everything from postcards and letters to catalogs.

Use direct mail to sustain current customer relationships. Offer discounts or special services in your direct mail as a call to action. Or include a bookmark, refrigerator magnet or some other item that keeps your name in front of customers. You can’t do that with email!

Direct Mail is not dead, but single channel communication IS. You should not rely on one single marketing channel to get through to everyone you target. When you take a look at your entire marketing mix, consider how direct mail can factor in and use it to your advantage.

© Smart Business Matters

procrastination nation

If you have difficulty accomplishing important tasks, and you complete projects at the last possible minute or miss deadline after deadline, small changes can get the job done.

Having trouble getting things done? A study on procrastination by Dr. Piers Steel at the University of Calgary showed that a whopping 95 percent of us procrastinate occasionally and 20% procrastinate consistently. Steel has studied procrastination for a decade or more and believes we procrastinate because we are “hard-wired” to “value pleasures today more than pleasures tomorrow.” Whatever the cause, here’s what you can do about it.

Identify the source of your procrastination. Are you afraid you’ll blow a project, so you put it off until the last minute, congratulate yourself on a job done well, but think you could have done even better with more time? Do you feel that your work is never good enough for you? Are you afraid of success? Do you tend to value the short-term payoff versus the long-term reward? Do you lack a set routine or the energy to meet your goals? Understanding why we put things off allows us to begin to make a change.

Identify how you procrastinate. Some people ignore a task, hoping it will go away, especially if is intimidating. Others over- or under-estimate the amount of time a project might take. Do you substitute a less important task for the task at hand? Take the endless break? Do you get stalled on one task of a project, which leaves less time for other, equally important tasks? Do you just not know where to start? When you are aware of how you procrastinate, you can better control that behavior.

Create a productive environment. Set up a space that’s conducive to work, but do not get caught up in spending time making the workplace “perfect.” Your workplace should be low on distractions. Limit your time on e-mail and surfing the web, two of the largest modern time wasters. Do your most important work when you are at your best. Some people get more done early in the morning. Others might do their best work mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Before you quit for the day, plan a to-do list for the important items that need attention the next day. Then you’ll start with a plan in the morning.

Challenge your excuses. If you only have an hour, you can still complete a few small tasks for a project, or some piece of a larger task. Waiting for research? Ask yourself if you have enough information to make a start on a project, and then research further if necessary. While it’s nice to have a tidy office, cleaning often becomes a means of procrastination rather than preparation for more important projects. If all you need is your brain, a pen and paper, or computer, and those are at hand, get started.

Take small steps. Break projects into activities, activities into smaller tasks. For example, if you need to put together marketing materials, an initial activity might be to hire a designer. That can, in turn, be broken down into tasks such as: call three associates and ask for a reference, spend no more than one hour online searching for designers, call three designers, set up meetings, etc. Then decide what tasks you will put on today’s to-do list. Each task you cross off your to-do list brings you one step closer to the final result.

Set mini-deadlines for yourself. If you are used to the agony and thrill of getting something done at the last minute, set mini-deadlines for yourself. If a project is due in four weeks, set deadlines for project tasks throughout that time period.

Eliminate Distractions. Turn your e-mail notifications off. This way the ping of new e-mails won’t lure you in to checking “one” e-mail, then cleaning out your e-mail box, or surfing the web. When you need to focus, turn your cell phone off and catch up on voice mail at scheduled times. Don’t allow yourself to go off on tangents. Keep some paper to jot down any “things I need to do” that could pop into your head so you can quickly return your focus to the job at hand.

While you may never be completely cured of procrastination, you might be amazed at how much more you get accomplished with a few small changes in the way you work.

© for Smart Business Matters

demanding, but fair

I write for a business newsletter, Smart Business Matters, about all things business. That, in addition to years in the business world, made me even more attune to the leadership “buzz word” that came up time and again when coworkers spoke about Walter Cronkite. I couldn’t help but think, as I listened to commentary on Walter Cronkite, how much I had taken for granted growing up with him on the nightly news, telling us the way things were. I knew he was a great newsman, and I certainly shared his enthusiasm for space travel. Glued to that TV set, I was, when the Eagle landed 40 years ago.

But this weekend I came to realize more fully what a real impact he had on the television news industry and how fine his leadership skills must have been. As Morley Safer put it, Cronkite was “Demanding, but fair.” Since the above mentioned newsletter has a little bit of an international subscription, it wasn’t the best place for the article I wrote this weekend, so I thought I’d post it here instead.

Demanding, but fair. How many times have you heard that phrase uttered, often with a note of respect and pride, by employees about their bosses? Wouldn’t it be great if more employees had that type of leadership? Every manager can take a few leadership cures from “Uncle Walter” who has been referred to often as “the most trusted man in America.”

Leaders are passionate about their work. First and foremost, Cronkite was passionate about his work, and he never lost site of the fact that his work was, as it has been said countless times by many, to report the news, not be the news. Leaders love what they do and are driven to learn how to do it better. Their love for the job often shows in their work ethic and in the standards they set for themselves and others.

Leaders are team players. Cronkite managed and led a team of field reporters who respected him because he supported them. He has been referred to as “a reporter’s best friend” by newswoman Katie Couric. He never forgot what efforts others had to go through to get the news “right, fast, and first.” Leaders guide and support their team, knowledgeable about what hurdles their team has to face to get the job done and helpful in clearing those hurdles.

Leaders communicate. Cronkite set the standards for television news and his field reporters knew what those standards were. He demanded the best, but was quick to heap praise when his correspondents delivered. Newswoman Lesley Stahl said, “We wanted to please Walter. When he was happy, we were happy. When he was unhappy, we heard it.” Leaders communicate their standards to their team, challenging themselves and their team to do better. They let their team know when they’ve got it wrong, and praise, praise, praise, when their team gets it right.

Leaders set the tone. “A leader sets the tone,” said newsman Bob Schieffer. “And Walter always set the right tone. He set the right standards and set the right enthusiasm.” Leaders who are focused on the next task and goal, always striving to improve, approach their work with enthusiasm, communicate their standards, support their staff, and create a cooperative work environment which provides a model for everyone else to emulate.

Leaders listen and question. Cronkite listened to everyone, from Presidents to the people, and was determined to get first-hand information. He always had another question about the information he received in an effort to better understand the news, and often revised his delivery to accommodate last minute updates. Leaders listen to what others tell them, weigh the information they receive carefully and ask questions, and often implement the recommendations of others to improve themselves and the quality of their work.

Leaders take on new challenges. Walter Cronkite became a television reporter at a time when television reporters were considered “showy” and inferior to radio and print reporters. He was able to get in on the ground floor of an industry and shape that industry for the better. Leaders look past the conventions of the day, see opportunities where others see limitations, and move forward to embrace new challenges and technologies.

Leaders never lose their sense of humility and humor. As serious as he was about his work, those that knew him spoke often of his humble nature and sense of humor. Speaking of his first time behind the camera, Cronkite once said, “I just fell into whatever I do naturally. I never took any elocution lessons, no diction lessons. I might have been a pretty decent broadcaster if I had. But what you see, I’m afraid, is what you get.”

What the world saw and what the world got was pretty darned good, wouldn’t you say?

on the road to better time management

You can’t create time, however you may be able to better manage the time you have.
Here’s how:

Choose a Destination
Increasing time spent on one task or project requires your spending less time on another. Take a moment to re-examine your long-term goals. What are your work and personal goals for the year? List five things you would like to accomplish, such as cultivate new prospects, increase revenue in specific areas, create a new marketing campaign, or spend more time with family. Prioritize them, giving as much thought to your “wants” as to your “needs.” Focus first on the goals that are most important or urgent – the ones you value most and to which you are willing to commit.

Make Each Mile Count
Choose one or two goals to accomplish over the next few months, moving on to other goals on your list as the year proceeds. The majority of your time should be spent on completing goal-directed tasks. Create a list of objectives, or “steps,” towards each goal. If your goal is to expand into a new sector, schedule time to research potential areas of profitability or identify and meet new prospects. Schedule tasks such as soliciting a number of prospects each month or attending a networking event to help to keep you moving forward. You’ll stay on target if you ask yourself daily, “Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing in order to reach my goals?”

Take What You Need
Consider the equipment or services you need in order to reach your goals. Use of accounting software, such as QuickBooks or Peachtree, could allow you to spend more time soliciting clients and less time going over the books. Minding the store could be delegated to a capable employee. Hiring an expert to update your website could free more time for you to concentrate on goal-oriented items.

Pack Well
Everybody has their own organizational style; some offices are cluttered and others pristine. As a general rule of thumb, organize the tools of your trade in such a way that they are always at hand when you need them. Don’t lose a half-hour searching for the “one thing” you need in order to complete a simple five-minute task. If clutter burns up excess time and finances allow it, bring in a file clerk or professional organizer for a “tune up.”

Always Look Ahead
Keep your calendar handy and with you at all times. If you make an appointment, get some news, or have an idea, jot it down immediately. Set aside some time at the end of each day and week to assess your progress and strategize for the following day and week. Schedule tasks, meetings, and most importantly, blocks of uninterrupted time to work on your short- and long-term goals. If you have work due for a client, allot enough time for completion. Don’t forget to factor in important personal and social obligations!

Fuel Up
You can’t run on fumes forever, and you can’t run on empty at all. Be sure not to drain yourself by overbooking, over-committing, skipping breakfast, or sacrificing exercise or family time on a regular basis. Plan quality time with family and friends. If exercise is important to you, schedule it. Allow yourself substantial time to complete tasks. After work on a big project, take a break. Meet a friend for lunch, take a walk, or shift to work that requires less thought or energy. Put yourself and your needs “on the agenda.”

© for Smart Business Matters, Vol. 2, Issue 3

i resolve to...

Seven things you can do to start the new year on a positive note!

Run a financial check-up. Are you where you had hoped to be financially for the year? Check your Profit and Loss, Income, and Expense Reports. Review your sales reports to determining the more profitable areas of business and areas where sales were sub par. Create a plan to increase business in more profitable areas during the coming year. Either prepare to eliminate less profitable ventures, channels, or market segments, or create plans to increase their profitability.

Prepare a budget. Examine your projected budget and actual expenses for the year. Prepare a budget for the new year, and resolve to stick to it! Factor in expenses for computer and software updates and purchases of new equipment. Be sure to allow changes in your marketing strategy for the upcoming year. Prepare a list of areas to cut if profits and cash flow start running below expectations and a list of contingent opportunities to add or increase if cash flow runs higher.

Plan to succeed. Businesses that fail to plan, plan to fail. Create that fresh business plan you’ve been thinking about. Or, if your financial check-up shows variances, fine-tune your existing business plan for the coming year. Set aside some quality time in January to lay the groundwork for future sales.

Create a marketing plan. Evaluate your marketing mix for the past year, and make changes for the better for the coming year. Freshen up your marketing message and strategy. Are you consistently getting the right message out to the public, or do you find your strategy and materials are sending out mixed messages?

Update the database. Review your database, updating information as needed. Renew contact with lapsed customers, and touch base with existing customers. Ask for more referrals from some of your best customers; connecting their associates’ businesses with ours is a win-win situation. It is a quick and inexpensive way to increase business.

Review staff. Identify staff behaviors and accomplishments that should be acknowledged or even rewarded. Also, identify those whose behaviors or work need to be addressed and improved. Everyone wants feedback on how they are doing. If you have difficulty remembering pertinent examples, schedule a few minutes each day or week to update notes (both positive and negative) for performance reviews for each of your direct reports.

Learn something new. Resolve to update or improve your professional skills. Take a class or plan to read a book or two in an area in which you feel you could use more training.

© for Smart Business Matters, Vol. 3, Issue 4