Monday, December 19, 2011

B2B is dead.


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That's right. I said it. Business-to-business is dead.

With the proliferation of online networking and the movement towards authentic online personalities, selling to businesses has shifted back to where it started.  We no longer operate in a world where firms do business with firms, companies with companies. We're getting back to the basics of relationships: individual to individual.

Gyro sums it up nicely on their site:
Death was inevitable when people began to carry their telecommunications and computing power with them. From that point “The Firm” lost its place as the organizing principle of business.
Whether you're a mom-and-pop print shop or a multi-national marketing agency, you're really just a bunch of individuals doing business with other individuals.

So start acting like it.
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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Is Google+ ready for your business?


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For all the hype that Google+ has been getting over the last few months, I see a long way to go before it's a go-to network for businesses.

Take for example Mastercard. Their Facebook 'likes' vs. Google 'plusses' is pretty telling: 128,000 to 11.

There's a lot of people between those two numbers. A lot.


Before we go all crazy bashing on Google+, we should consider that it's only been around since the end of June (though the 'plus 1' buttons were being tested even before then) while  Facebook has been tracking 'likes' (and previously 'fans') for several years.

But still, this is quite the gap considering Google+ boasts some 40 million users.

And yet we should ponder one other possibility:

perhaps the +1 is a closer approximation of true online engagement. I find it hard to believe that a company with the marketing resources like Mastercard can only muster 11 Google 'plusses'...unless their 128k on Facebook isn't really what it seems.

Perhaps the issue is less with the Google+ numbers and more with Facebook's.

Facebook has made it far too easy to game their 'liking' system. I know for a fact that you will gain 'likes' just by running ads. I've seen it. I've done it. And don't forget the countless iPad/iPhone/random electronic device giveaways that clutter the socialsphere—all designed to merely gain 'likes'.

Google has yet to release a feature for advertisers to gain 'plusses' directly from ads and I haven't seen brands pushing giveaways-for-plusses yet. Perhaps, for now, the 'plusses' a brand gains from Google are much more likely to be genuine recommendations than Facebook's 'likes'.

And this all makes me wonder how much 11 'plusses' is really worth. Maybe a lot more than we are giving credit for.

So maybe Google+ isn't quite there yet but maybe Google really does know what it's doing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordpress Launches Best Named Ad Network Ever


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I kid! I kid!

The WordAds network was announced last week, as Wordpress makes an attempt to beat Google at it's own game—online advertising.

While I don't doubt that Wordpress has a much better handle on what WP bloggers want from from the ads they run (namely more money), I think they've missed the boat on why ads aren't converting currently:

The content.

Wordpress bloggers have been frustrated for some time with Google's AdSense program, which seems to consistently serve up ads that have nothing to do with the content on their blogs. It wouldn't surprise me if Google could do a better job however the responsibility lies in with the blogger, first and foremost.

Time and again I see bloggers with little or no vision and focus to their blogs, trying to wrestle a little extra spending money out of their readers—and failing miserably. Just throwing ads up won't produce growing revenue. Just like a retail brand must create a focused identity for their products, bloggers must have vision and focus to their content. Without it not only will you never gain truly dedicated readers but your ads will rarely match the context of your content.

So if Wordpress thinks they have the answer to serving better ads on WP blogs, more power to 'em. I'm not holding my breath.

But I will sau they should consider rebranding this product. C'mon, WordAds? Seriously? You can do better than that.

Friday, September 30, 2011

When in need of inspiration, steal from the dead.


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Stealing ideas from contemporaries is rude and tasteless. Stealing from the long dead is considered literary and admirable. The same is true of grave-robbing. Loot your local cemetery and find yourself mired in social awkwardness. But unearth the tomb of an ancient king and you can feel free to pop off his toe rings. You'll probably end up on a book tour, or bagging an honorary degree or two.

― N.D. Wilson

Monday, August 29, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

When Customer Service Fails


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Last night, the restaurant where my wife and I had dinner failed.

Nothing catastrophic or life-threatening—they merely forgot to take our order. Whoops!

In short, we sat down, ordered drinks and meandered our way through the menu, attempting to make the ever-present restaurant decision: what to eat.

After some 30 minutes or so we began to realize our server may have forgotten about us. We both looked around anxiously trying to spot her (and then catch her eye). Eventually she did make it over to our table, apologizing profusely. She them quickly took our order and even managed to get some fries out to our table within a couple minutes.

While it could have been easy for us to get hurt and take it out on our server, the reality was that it was not entirely her fault. We came to find out that she was working both sides of the restaurant, on a busy Friday night, and our particular table was not in her normal section. When I found this out I started feeling sorry for her. What a crazy work night!

At the end of the day, someone higher up the management chain messed up. Either not enough servers were scheduled, or too many bailed, or our server took on someone else's shift, as well as her own, or even some other management mixup. But no matter how you slice it, our server was over-booked, which leads to mixups, mess-ups, and failure.

While restaurants certainly see the value of well-managed customer service employees, every business is in the business of customer service. From selling food to families to consulting CEOs on marketing to making trades on the stock market, there are clients involved. And whenever there are clients, there is customer service.

And how do you avoid customer service failures? Obviously training is crucial—you can serve a client well if you don't know what you're doing—but scheduling and managing the account load is just as important.

If you have a business where the client is king and you want to build long-term relationships, make sure your staff are not overloaded.

That's great customer service.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What's Your Battle Cry?


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photo by Dave Pearson
I saw this question brazenly scrawled across the back window of a high schooler's car the other day. What a great question!

When my partners and I at re:sound creative talk with our clients about branding, we like to talk about fans and advocates rather than just customers. Die-hard loyalty can only come from an experience that resonates intimately with your followers. And that can only happen when you truly know and understand what makes your company or product remarkable.

This question seems like a great one to begin to answer in that discovery process.

So what gets your customers excited to jump into the fray with you for the long haul?

What's your (brand's) battle cry?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Social media giveaways: a better way?

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We've all seen it: 'Tweet this and win a free iPad!' or 'Sign-up for 50%-off!' or 'Follow us on Facebook and get a free meal!'

Social media is rife with promotions and giveaways as business after business tries to build a list of followers and beef up their social network presence.

At one level, this makes perfect sense. In order to make a sale you need potential customers who are following your tweets, posts, and calls-to-action. And what better way to get that attention than to give some stuff away...well, at least for the price of a 'like' or a 'follow' or an email address.

And it works. At least it works in getting you lots of new followers.

Whether they really turn into customers is a whole other story.

This pattern of giving things away or steep discounts and coupons to indiscriminately gain followers only teaches these potential customers one thing: you're all about free and discounts. You are building a brand reputation and a bad one at that.

But I've been thinking: is this really what social media is all about? Gaining followers, pushing news, putting out the occasional PR fire, only to have your brand image lessened?

The power of social networks, for businesses, is the die-hard customers you already have. When Susie talks passionately on Facebook about the new shoes she bought from her favorite brand, she's influencing her friends and followers to a much greater degree than any ad campaign or giveaway promotion ever could. She is your evangelist. And people take much more stock in a friend or respected colleague's advice than the marketing manager's or sales rep's.

And what's even better is that with the data you have access to, you can find out who these people are. It's certainly not perfect yet: Twitter is a smorgasbord of real people, marketers, and bots; Facebook has the lock-down on a lot of data; and LinkedIn...well, we're all still trying to figure out how to use LinkedIn. But there's still people talking about their favorite experiences and brands.

So what if there was a better way to do giveaways?

I'm still figuring this one out but what if you did something very different. Rather than give away things to attract new followers, what if you rewarded your best customers for their social conversations about your products.

And don't announce it. Just do it.

Find Joe and Gabby talking about this great experience they had with your product. Give them both a freebie for next time.

No fanfare, no press release, no blog post. Let them talk about it. Do this enough times with enough passion and good faith, with your truly passionate customers, and they will dish out the praise.

I'm already seeing a glimmer of this with the new service at Klout.com. They are attempting to gather data on people's public social profiles to find out what they're influential about and then allow brands to give out cool stuff and unique experiences for those people to try and hopefully talk about.

But I don't see why you have to wait for Klout. The data is there. You just have to have the guts to do things different than the rest of the pack.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Two Sides of Cool (or a Lesson from Miles Davis)


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'What's the ROI on Cool?' is the question Joe Rinaldi (from Happy Cog) asked recently. He questions the desire of creative agencies and their clients to output work that wins awards and has a high 'cool factor' at the cost of usability and business effectiveness.

For the most part, I agree. Making something just to be flashy, hip, and trendy but that negates basic usability—and ultimately doesn't solve the users problem—is not what building great products is all about.

But there is a flip side to this coin of cool.

For those who tout usability over all else there is a slippery slope waiting dump them into the pit of bland. Doing things the same way they've always been done just because they work does not delight anyone (see yesterday's post for more on the importance of delighting your customers).

Delight is essential to good business. If your customers find your product or site accessible and easy to use to solve the problem you want to help them with—that's wonderful! You've got a good product.

But its not a cool product just because it works. A cool product is one that delights. It has to resonate with the user and hopefully causes them to fall in love with all that you do.

So how do you get to cool?

Let's take a lesson from the father of cool: Miles Davis. Why do we think Miles is cool? Because he forged his own trail; he innovated at the cost of popularity.

Miles was at the forefront of jazz, in the thick of the Bebop movement of the 40's. Bebop was new and hip. It was trendy. And it was certainly all about flash—fast, up-tempo and all about how well you could out-solo your contemporaries.

Miles quit all of that (which is part of what made him cool). He (with piano man, Bill Evans) took jazz in a completely different direction into what they called modal jazz. They slowed it down, got emotional, and made it sensual, all while placing a high importance on improvisation. They completely bucked the trends of the time in the jazz scene. And it struck a chord with many. He is by far most known for his modal jazz sound.

However Miles would do this again and again in his career, creating new genres of music, with little regard for how the mass public—or even how his jazz contemporaries—would respond.

The Miles Davis Cool is an attitude. It's a way of life. It's not caring what the crowd of sheep is doing and forging your own trail.

For your product to be cool, the essence of your brand, the core of your company has to have this attitude: willing to put it all on the line in order to do things infinitely better and infinitely more delightful. Push boundaries; question everything; poke this; pull that; surprise and delight.

If you just want to make money, quit the talk about being cool. But if you want to rock the world, create culture, make people fall in love with you, change people's lives: forge your own trail.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Incredible Tessellated Paper Sculptures


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I am seriously digging these paper sculptures by Matthew Shlian (and available from the Ghostly Store).

Anyone have $200 they want to gift me?

Is yours a delightful business

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You can't just have the 'best' product, you must delight your customers.

Surprise us. 
Give us something new, unique, original, different, special; something we haven't even dreamt of yet. It can be the same basic thing as what I already have—a universal remote, for example—but do it in a way that is vastly different than any other. Nobody buys the paintings by the guy who paints exactly like Picasso.

Pay attention to the details.
Let every interaction be a joy. From your product's design, to your packaging, to your website, to your advertising, to the way you answer the phone, let us be amazed by your relentless delight at every level.

Keep it simple.
Don't bog me down in endless feature lists and a swiss-army-knife-of-uses that won't ever fit in my pocket. And don't assume that the loudest of us, your customers, really knows what's best for the next iteration. We may say we want more choices: steaks, salads, and fried mac-and-cheese but will that kill the simplistic joy of eating just burgers?

Make it intuitive.
Can a child figure it out? Or is there a user manual the size of my King James Bible? I'll read a 1000+ pages if it deals with the eternal destiny of my soul. If it's on how to use my sound system, you've failed.

Be kind.
You can be funny, sarcastic, serious, up-tight, wound-up, crazy-go-nuts, or downright stupid—whatever fits your brand. You can paper-maché it over with great design and flashy PR, but if you're not kind, watch us all eventually walk away.

Do the stuff that sucks.
Take out the trash. Clean the restroom. Train your staff. Answer phone calls. Be nice to the nasty guy returning your product because he broke it. We all know business is not all fun-and-games. Show us that you can do the un-fun stuff. And please do it without us seeing you cringe.

There's a million ways to delight your customers. Find them. Do them. Consistently. We will love you for it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Word to Email Marketers


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Dear Email Marketing Managers,

Please write subject lines that reflect the true content of your email.

If you want to say 'Great News!' then take a moment to think before you press 'launch': What other kinds of emails might I get that would say 'Great News!' in the subject line? Perhaps a baby announcement from a dear friend, or an engagement announcement from a relative, or even an offer letter from a potential employer. These would all certainly be classified as great news.

Your monthly announcement of your newsletter being available online, however, is not great news.

It's news—though the fact you say the same thing every month gives me pause to even accept that—and it's possibly even good news (if I were in love with your newsletter—which I'm not) but it is certainly not great.

Don't lie to me.

It leaves me disappointed, frustrated, and with a nasty taste in my mouth that the latest trendy, breath-freshening gum/mint/spray/mind-trick won't fix.

If you truly do have great news I'm all for having you send an email my way to let me know. But it better be truly great news. Like once-in-a-lifetime great—or at least once-every-couple-years great. Why don't you save your 'Great News!' subject line for one of those emails.

Thanks.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Switching it up with a new job.

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In about 2 weeks I'll be hanging up my printer's smock and putting on a blue beanie.


Yep, I'm officially leaving R and R Images. I've been there for over 5 years and learned a ton about graphic design, printing, marketing, branding, and all sorts of stuff while working on a multitude of different projects for a lot of great clients with a bunch of great coworkers. I am truly thankful to Rod Key and the whole R and R Images crew for such a great experience and the opportunity to grow as a design professional.

But all good things must come to end. And it's time for me to move on to something new.

In a couple weeks I'll be joining the Cardinal Path design team as a user experience designer. It's definitely a big change (from lots of designing for print to lots of designing for the web) but I'm super excited to learn a whole lot more about the digital side of marketing. Plus I'll be learning from and working with a whole bunch of experts in data analytics and web marketing.

I'm excited!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Is your brand human?

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Photo by Emilie Ogez
There is a significant shift happening in business when it comes to how brands market, advertise, and relate with their customers. Brands everywhere are moving (or being forced) into acting like human beings.

With the advent of social networks, customers have the opportunity to interact with businesses like never before—one-to-one, mano a mano. No longer is it a one way, mass "broadcast from on high" relationship between the brand and it's customers.

The customer can now directly ask questions, comment, converse, praise, criticize, and even create with brands as if they are sitting there in the room with them. And vice-versa. The brand can comment and converse right back...in real time! Even direct marketing like mail and email can't allow for this level of intimacy and immediacy.

But what does this all mean?

For the customer it means there's an expectation of being treated like a real human being. And that means they want a relationship...with another human being. In turn, your brand must act like a human with all the complexities of personality and character that come with being just like us. 

You can't just say, "Our brand personality is 'happy' and 'red.'" Human beings aren't just one emotion and a color. They might be an optimist at heart, but their character is much deeper and fuller than that. They might have a favorite color but their style preferences go much, much further.

And when you talk and converse as a brand, are you treating people like humans? You can't just have a megaphone anymore. You have to have an indoor voice; and a problem-solving voice; and a excited-you-just-made-our-day-voice; and a we-really-care-about-you voice. And every one of these voices has to express the core essentials of your brand personality. When you're sad and when you're happy you still consistently express your unique, individual personality, right?

So how deep does your brand personality go? Are you building a human brand?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Project: Love Kristina

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A burned home. A house lost. A family left in need.

This is the story of Kristina, sister of renowned web designer and illustrator, Rogie King. To raise support for this family of seven, Rogie challenged designers on Dribbble to submit their own design. Please read their whole story on Rogie's website and consider giving to and/or praying for this family in need.

Thank you.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A light bulb for a creative dude.

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This was a t-shirt illustration I did for my buddy, Krystofer James, who is one creative cat, with lots of fun ideas.

He wanted to create a shirt that would be a bit of some self-promotion for his many creative projects. When he saw the fridge icon I designed a few weeks ago he knew he wanted me to help him out. I was only glad to!

I recommend checking out his site and especially his VoiceMuze project. It's hilarious and awesome!

www.acreativedude.com

Friday, February 11, 2011

Incredible water sculptures

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These high-speed water scultpures are incredible! The lack of sound just makes it that much more surreal.




Thursday, February 10, 2011

Remarkable paper art from Matt Shlian (video).

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The things that Matt creates with just paper is amazing.

Paper Cuts from Michigan Daily on Vimeo.

Your Facebook posts in 100 years.

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Some interesting thoughts sparked by the latest installment of 'Design Matters' with Debbie Millman and Rob Walker:

In 100 years, you'll probably be gone. But what you say and do online probably won't be.

Right now every post you make has the same gravity, whether you're announcing the birth of your baby or letting the world know you're now the Foursquare mayor of the crappy bar down the street.

What will your legacy look like?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Best freestyle rap ending ever. Ever.

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I posted some silly animated GIFs that a friend of mine sent another friend to cheer him up. One of them didn't load right and it is just too good not to repost.

You're welcome.

Storytelling in an always-on world.

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Will people pay attention to stories in our always-on, digital world?

According to this article from Imprint magazine, they will—if the story is compelling.

By looking at book, movie, and TV show trends from the last ten years, it appears that the stories we care about are getting longer and more compelling, despite the claim that the digital world is training us to lose our attention spans. Books like the Harry Potter series (which is really just one long story), and TV shows like Lost and American Idol, prove that people love great stories, no matter how long they are.

So what?

All of this goes to prove that if you want to build a successful business or organization you better learn how to tell a great story...or find someone who can do it for you.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Designers are Gift Givers

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There are a lot of smart and talented designers in the world right now but Frank Chimero is quickly proving to be at the top of the list.

In this lecture he gave at the Build Conference, he outlines his thoughts on why designers are not just to communicate with their work, but to have people be delighted by it. And at the end of the day, we designers are gift givers.

I couldn't agree more.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

'Oh, my' — A free desktop background

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I've been working on some repeating backgrounds recently and this one just was too crazy not to make into a background.

Download and enjoy! (Oh, and a disclaimer: I take no responsibility for you losing your mind after staring too long at this one.)

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Friday, January 21, 2011

How to cheer up a friend who's lost a finger?

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Do as my friend Russ does and send them some ridiculous animated GIFs.

Here's to you, E-man.









Wednesday, January 19, 2011

10 Most Significant Cultural Trends of the Last Decade

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I stumbled on this article from QIdeas.org that outlines 10 significant cultural trends of the last 10 years in American society. I thought is was very insightful and a great resource to share. Here's the list but I highly recommend reading the whole article if you have a chance.

  1. Connection
  2. Place
  3. Cities
  4. The End of the Majority
  5. Polarity
  6. The Self Shot
  7. Pornography
  8. Informality
  9. Liquidity
  10. Complexity

Monday, January 17, 2011

'Fragment' - A Free Desktop Background

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I was watching one of the Signalnoise vidcasts last week where he broke down the photoshop document for one of his posters. His stuff is incredible and I hope one day my work might even be half as good as his. Regardless, his poster got me inspired to mess around with some similar shapes and this is where it led.

Feel free to download away!

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Friday, January 07, 2011

New Cover: Book Cover Designs

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I love seeing people do great design, especially when it's a self-imposed project with no client (and no money).

I stumbled on graphic designer, Matt Roeser's blog 'New Cover' (via Public School) where he posts redesigns of books he's read. His designs are great and he reads some great books!

Check it out. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Importance of Storytelling in Your Business

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photo via Scottish Libraries
CNN's business section posted an article recently that called out 15 mistakes that young entrepreneurs make. One of these was "You don't tell a good story." This got me thinking about the importance of storytelling for businesses.

The reality is that every business is a story teller. Some are great at telling theirs (i.e. Apple), some are horrible (i.e. that ubiquitous neighborhood restaurant that just closed), and most are somewhere in-between. While I think most businesses understand this fact to some degree or another, I'm not convinced that many understand the importance of it (and what to do about it).

We live in a world of personal freedom and identity. Everyone is looking to define themselves and find a place within their communities. And we all want a story to tell others. The brands behind the products and services we buy and consume help us in our quest to do this.

For example the brand of shoe we buy tells a story and we're adopting that story for ourselves. My Puma's are letting people know I care about fashion and style, as well as price (they're still cheaper than Nike), and that I perhaps prefer the underdog (which I do). We buy stories, not just products.

Think about what you buy. Think about the services you use. Think about the charities and organizations you volunteer at and give to. Every one of these brands has a story behind it, and to some degree or another, you're not just buying into the product or service, but ultimately the story the brand is telling you.

So, if you're in the business of selling something you have to ask yourself: "What story is my brand telling and how well are we telling it?"

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Quotable: On the Importance of Branding

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"You have to build your brand before you can expect to have any kind of conversion in any kind of media that you use, no matter what the platform." 
— John Jantsch (author of Duct Tape Marketing) from an interview in Deliver Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 5