Archive for the ‘Creative Business Strategies’ Category

Nashville Is The Music City

January 20, 2009

I’m in Nashville this week for the ReCourses “New Business Summit” with leading creative industry consultants David Baker and Blair Enns.

I walked down Broadway last night (sleepily) at 10 PM and there were at least ten bars/restaurants with live music going. On a Sunday night. Music City indeed.

Anyway, we just finished up our first day of seminars and they’ve been outstanding.

Like a lot of good consultants, I already knew a lot of what they talked about – but it gives me a completely different and more effective understanding to hear it clearly, concisely, and sometimes painfully bluntly from an outside expert. Kind of like how we at GrafiQa are able to help our clients see things a new and clearer way.

Oh, and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is a pretty cool building, too…..

Marketing and Sales in a Downturn. When the going gets tough – the tough get….

January 7, 2009

Here are some ideas on sales and marketing in the current economic situation and how we and many of our clients are weathering the situation.

1. Sales Down? Double or Triple your activity – fill your pipeline, go to new markets, develop new offerings. Get out there and make sure your prospects know you exist and make sure your clients know how valuable you are.

2. Look into Social Media Marketing. It’s almost free minus the work. Social media includes developing tools specifically for the web that allow your company/product/service to create a following. Having a following creates qualified leads. Having qualified leads always means you’ll get some sales.

3. Figure out ways to track your current marketing efforts. If your spending X thousand dollars on radio and TV, you have to know if it’s working or not. If you don’t know, it’s time to find out through surveying customers, tracking via online statistics, etc.

4. Give incentives to staff and potential customers to close more deals.

5. Ask staff to give a little more or take a little less less during this time is a much better alternative to having someone good lose their job.

6. Don’t stop marketing and don’t stop selling. Recessions are only an excuse to push harder; when you come out of them, you can be stronger and be on top of the hill.

I personally look at this downturn as one of the biggest opportunities of my generation. So we don’t plan on letting it slip by without taking action.

Advertising and Social Media

December 18, 2008
the Brooklyn Museum's ArtShare application on Facebook allows users to share art and connect with museums.

the Brooklyn Museum's ArtShare application on Facebook allows users to share art and connect with museums.

Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a good article about the current state of advertising on social media sites. The upshot: the average person goes to a social media site to be social, not to consume advertising or befriend laundry detergent.

I think one thing that is frustrating traditional “advertisers” is the fact that social media works much more on the old PR model, and that marketing/advertising/PR are becoming less and less distinct disciplines in this environment.

For real though – who is going to be an active contributor to Tide’s corporate page? Who has the time? The challenge for brands is being creative and delivering – yes, I’m going to use those two magic words again – valuable content. Apparently that doesn’t include a gallery of “America’s Favorite Stains.”(ps it’s a work-safe link.)

On the other hand, it will take a while, but behavior on Facebook will likely include shopping one day. I came very close to shopping at the Met’s store for a Christmas present because of an ad on Fb. I clicked through to the site and browsed. For me, that’s as much of a conversion as they’ll ever get because I am, at the end of the day, very cheap. I’ll go back after the holidays and buy ornaments for gifts for next year. I’m in that, much reviled-by-my-own-profession demographic.

And while Tide’s stain-o-rama page has fewer than 500 fans, the Met’s page? More than 35,000, including me. And I get valuable information about events and exhibits right there in my notifications, without having to search it out.

And if you want to talk about being really valuable to your constituents, look at the Brooklyn Museum’s ArtShare application, which allows people and museums who are passionate about art to share it on Facebook. It’s that kind of thinking that will win you a Groundswell Award, as well as distinction as an innovator in your field and exposure to an audience that might never have heard of you otherwise.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to share some Hopper with friends.

Is Online Writing Real Writing?

December 11, 2008

Seth Godin had a really interesting post today about how the Pulitzer Prize committee is finally getting (sort-of) hip to the fact that online writing is making a huge difference in the world – and is, therefore, worthy of being recognized with their fancy-schmancy award. The screwy part is that only writing associated with big outlets will be considered.

The web is a huge place. A lot of the content on it obviously isn’t associated with those big outlets. And a lot of important work is happening outside those big outlets.

Here in GrafiQa Land, a lot of our clients are having great success positioning their businesses or not-for-profits as the leading experts in their fields through business blogs or e-news tools. Some of them have experienced such success that we think they should get an award. I guess it just won’t be the Pulitzer.

Seth’s Blog talks POSITIVE

November 12, 2008

Here’s a great post yesterday from marketing guru Seth Godin’s blog about qualities that good marketers possess. While he’s framing this particular discussion in terms of hiring, what he’s really talking about is  (cliche alert) the Power of Positive Thinking.

Seth Godin: The Marketer’s Attitude

Cliches aside, it surprises me almost every day how many times I can consciously choose to change a negative feeling or attitude into a positive one – and that conscious decision usually helps produce a more positive result.

Sound hokey? Yes.

Still good advice for your business and life in general? Absolutely.

Don’t Tweak It – GrafiQ It!

June 3, 2008

Golden Gate Bridge

Let’s say you want to cross your kitchen from fridge to stove. You don’t need a gps to chart the exact coordinates of the fridge and the exact coordinates of the stove and draw a line between them. You can just turn and walk. If you’re a degree or two off, it doesn’t matter because you literally can’t miss it.

But let’s say you want to go from your fridge, in Upstate New York, to the Golden Gate Bridge, in San Francisco. If you’re even one degree off your mark, you’ll end up in Los Angeles or Canada.

When people ask me what we do at GrafiQa, this is the analogy that always comes to mind. Yes, we design print materials and create websites and design logos, but that’s not really What We Do. Those are just the vehicles with which we accomplish our real goal, which is guiding our clients from their refrigerators to the Golden Gate Bridge without getting lost and ending up in the Yukon.

Friday Delights

June 2, 2008

Red Peppers

Attention professors and adjuncts – are you hot? If not, writer John Warner has advice to help you ramp up the chili pepper ratings over at McSweeney’s.

Actually, McSweeney’s recent archives offer a few interesting takes on how the new web impacts life – or might have impacted life. Check out Amazon.com’s Recommendation Algorithm Applies to Life Events by Maribeth Mooney and Proust Discovers LiveJournal by Summer Block Kumar.

And speaking of LiveJournal and other ugc, there has been a lot of attention in the media this week to the BlogHer | Compass study that revealed what many of us already knew: Blogging is mainstream. No one needed to tell me that.

But what is even more fascinating – and less touted – is that a sizable portion of the 16-million-strong league of lady bloggers falls into the “mature” age demographic. A full fourth (if my math is correct) of those who actively use and keep blogs (4 million women) are over 50. You can read more over at BlogHer.

This article in HOW magazine explains how monthly “creative jams” at the Dallas firm Mason-Baronet keep things lively. My first thought after reading this was that I wanted to suggest something like this at work. Then I broadened my thinking to include home as well. I’ll let you know if either suggested is met with delight.

Have a delightful weekend.

So you want to hire a consultant?

April 2, 2008

We hate to see good businesses taken in by bad consultants. I recently wrote this piece on how to avoid predatory consultants for a Binghamton, NY, business publication:

Hiring Consultants: The Good, the Bad and the Really Ugly

We’ve seen ’em all.

The explosion of self-styled consultants in the business world has led to a serious side effect: Consultant fatigue.

No doubt you’ve seen it or experienced it yourself. Consultants come in with guns ablaze, dispensing big insights and making big promises. Six months later, either nothing has changed or things are actually worse.

You move on to the next big idea, the next consultant with a new spin on lean management or six sigma or the latest buzz biz model.

It’s enough to make business leaders wary of all consultants and their promises, which is unfortunate because there are talented and insightful consultants whose fees could be the best investment you’ll ever make.

We have worked with many consultants over the years because of our large client list and the type of work we do. Some of the consultants have been a pleasure to work for, grow with and learn from. Others have been mediocre, but they have served a purpose. And then there is the type of consultant who seems to have a stranglehold on an organization and actually does more harm than good.

You can find the good ones and avoid the ugly ones by following a few guidelines when hiring a consultant:

The Big Talker
It should go without saying. Before placing your trust and your company’s future in the hands of a consultant, ask for references and check them. Has the consultant worked for an organization like yours? What were the goals and outcomes? Who is a reference? A good consultant will be more than happy to share success stories, and will have plenty of references to back them up.

Track Record
How successful are the consultant’s own business practices? Are you going to trust the wheel of your million-dollar company to a consultant whose own business model seems to be lacking?

The Never-Ending Consultant
This is the worst of situations. Some consultants see businesses as endless supplies of revenue. They are adept at finding ways to extend projects far beyond their natural life or creating projects that spawn a litter of new projects. It’s important to examine how successful  Phase 1 was. If the project was wildly successful, then maybe Phase 2 is a good idea. If you’re lining the consultant’s coffers at the expense of your company’s, it might be time to move on.

The No-Duh Consultant
It is very easy for any competent businessperson to look at an organization from a third party perspective and see the strongpoints/flaws, Sometimes a lot easier then the person inside the business – this is the core of a consultants silver lining– The true effective consultant will have the ability to administer effective change through their observations. Many consultants seem like visionaries for basically pointing out the obvious – it’s important to take a step back and not be too impressed with observations – again look at the track records.

The No-Goals, No-Problem Consultant
If your consultant is quick to promise actions but slow to outline the goals and measurable results, take it as a big red flag. A good consultant listens to your goals and delivers a service designed specifically to move those goals forward.  A great consultant will outline very clearly from the beginning how you will be able to measure the value of that service after it has been delivered.

As in any industry, there are good and bad apples in the consulting field. We’ve worked with great consultants who are innovative, insightful and incredibly proficient. And if decision makers could more quickly differentiate between the good and the bad, things would never get ugly.

Christopher Quereau is founder and creative director for GrafiQa Creative Services, a marketing and brand development firm with offices in Binghamton and Oneonta. He can be reached at chris@grafiqa.com or 607.433.8837.

Better living through brand

January 14, 2008

The big news this week for people in the marketing and advertising world is that Virginia Commonwealth University has changed the name of its venerable graduate program from Adcenter to Brandcenter.

The program is one of the most respected in the country for producing creative, innovative professionals in ever corner of the field.

But what exactly is the field? Is it advertising? Marketing? PR? Social media networking?

Yes. Plus much, much more, including the design of everything from your business cards and your office place to the way you communicate with clients and other members of your professional community.

In a word: Brand.

The day of launching an ad campaign is over. This is the era of brand.

According to Advertising Age:

“The scope of the school has grown, and the business is changing, so if we’re going to prepare people for that bigger and more complicated world that is branding today, it’s probably limiting to think about it just in advertising terms,” said Mike Hughes, president and creative director at Interpublic’s Martin Agency, Richmond, who is also a member of the Brandcenter’s board of directors.

What implication does this have for the average business?

Businesses of all sizes need to shed the ad mindset and get into the brand mindset.

Ad mindset: Telling your audience who you are.
Brand mindset: Listening to your audience’s definition of you, and responding to their needs.

Ad mindset: Short-term campaigns.
Brand mindset: Long-term strategies.

Ad mindset: Short-term gains.
Brand mindset: Long-term returns.

Ad mindset: Putting a good face on your business for the outside world.
Brand mindset: Understanding that if you build a good internal culture, your employees will become your biggest evangelists.

Is Web site optimization a competitive advantage in Upstate New York?

November 7, 2007

We recently met with a client to discuss ways to make her site more findable in search engines like Google. Like most businesses, our client wants to appear on that first search results page, right up at the top above her competition. Who wouldn’t?

Despite the fact that our client works in a super-competitive industry; and despite the fact that the Internet has become so saturated with sites (and other media) that even well-optimized pages face major challenges ranking well, I was optimistic that we could make it happen for her. Why is that?

When it comes to search engines, Upstate New York’s Web sites appear to be under-optimized. In normal human-speak, this means that many organizations in Central New York and the Southern Tier aren’t doing the things they need to do to ensure that their page listings appear in Google’s search results when prospective customers type in appropriate keywords or phrases.

For example, many sites in this area lack basic on-page optimization features like:

  • Unique page titles
  • Unique page descriptions
  • Keyword rich copy, headers and editorial links
  • Streamlined information architecture
  • Navigational aids like redundant text navigation, breadcrumbs and site maps

I also see little evidence of local and regional companies, non-profits and public-sector institutions taking advantage of social media marketing opportunities (like blogs, community sites, sharing sites, etc.) in order to increase the number incoming links to their sites. This is an extremely important feature in any search engine marketing strategy.

Why does this matter? I’m sure that many of the organizations that fall into this group spent considerable time and money developing professional-looking sites in an effort to attract business. If those sites aren’t findable and effective, then the return on those investments is likely to be poor.

Nobody likes to waste time and money (unless they’re on vacation).

If you think you fall into this group, then you should consider this present climate a huge opportunity to elevate your organization’s visibility and attract more qualified visitors to your site.

Seize the opportunity to beat out the competition while it still exists!

Go forth and optimize.