Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Be Remarkably Different

I hate to admit it, but I'm addicted to the X Factor - my Saturday nights just aren't the same if I'm not glued to the box for my weekly fix of Simon Cowell!

This year I really think the show reflects upon our thirst for something that's unique or just a bit different (ok, maybe not Wagner!). People are fed-up of the run of the mill ballard singer or crooner - they want something that they can't already get from the top ten shelf in HMV. I believe the same applies in all aspects of our lives, particularly in todays innovating climate where products such as the iphone stand-out from the crowd and therefore have become highly desirable.

Markets are saturated by choice, the same products or services just with a different name and price tag! How many different brands of ketchup are there? But which one do you remember? The one hidden away with the dull label and no stage prescence, or the one with the well thought through campaign that makes you sit up and think?

It's surely got to be about standing out from the crowd with either a distinctive idea, an innovative product or just the promotion.

Celebrities such as Gordon Ramsey have helped us to think outside the box when we try and reach our target audience - taking free samples to the high street in a quirky way or just reinventing a menu to position the restaurant as leaders in their market for a particular dish. And Mary Portas from 'Mary Queen of Shops' with her innovative ways of raising the awareness of retail outlets that have become like dusty books on the top shelf. She has an amazing ability to blow off the dust, rebrand it, repackage it and place it amongst the bestsellers. Quite often it's an outsider with an honest, specialist viewpoint, not a friend or relative,who can help to boost sales and get the recognition that a business seeks.

I recently read a book by Seth Godin in which he talks about products and services being 'remarkable'. It has become increasingly difficult to be remarkable and unique, but companies behind campaigns such as Compare The Market (or meerkat!) have successfully done just that. They came up with a completely remarkable campaign, they got noticed, they stood-out from the crowd, they grew and increased their sales. Even stuffed soft meerkat toys have grow in popularity and it's even been reported that meerkats in our zoos have a new prime position near the entrance!!

I would urge anyone reading this blog, who has a product or service, to start thinking about how to be achievably unique, to start thinking about how to step-up against the competition and become the most desired product or service in your marketplace. I'd love to hear how you get on!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

How to improve your website before you start to build it! Part 1

Small business websites, before you build
We have found that many businesses do very little research into how websites work before they build their own. Our opinion is the more you know, the easier it is to get what you want first time.
This guide is aimed at small businesses who are thinking about purchasing or updating a website. Its purpose is to help you understand some of the important elements that make a website work, and will enable you to converse with your designer or programmer.
Hiring someone to build you a website
Many designers are not technical, many programmers are not designers, and neither are usually qualified for search engine optimisation. You should check how your site will be optimised for search engines and if this will be an additional cost to the design of the site.
Domain names
You will need to purchase a domain name (web address) and hosting facilities. These can usually be bought from one company. The web address will need to be registered to you (business owner) and the hosting is usually bought in 12 month plus blocks.
The cost of hosting can vary depending on the type of features you want to be included on your website and how large your site will be. Most small businesses with a 5-10 page website can get away with a basic package, if you are unsure talk to someone at the hosting company, they are usually quite helpful. Your designer or programmer may be able to help you too.

How to improve your website before you start to build it! Part 2

Getting it right, the first time - Part 2

Page titles
Page titles are used by search engine robots to identify what your site is about and in which search results it should appear.

These can be found at the top left hand side of the page. Your title should reflect the content (text) of the page as well as being an outline of what the company does. Each page should have its own title that reflects the page content. If these two do not correspond you will find that your rankings in search engine results will drop lower.
Keywords are words hidden in your page code, usally at the top of the page and are used by some search engines to understand where your pages should be listed in the search results. Goggle no longer uses them, but most of the other search engines do so it is important to include them in your site. You can view them on an existing site (yours or a competitors) by right clicking anywhere on a webpage and then clicking on ‘view source’ from the menu.
This is a great way to see which phrases etc your competitors are using. I usually recommend that you use about 8 words per page. Each page can have different words and phrases dependant on the page content.
Content is the main body of text on your page. It should be descriptive of your products and services. I have the contact details on every page of my site and I made sure that my details are part of the page content rather than an image as most of my customers are based in the surrounding areas.
If you put your contact details on your website in an image file the search engines will not recognise them. They cannot read image or flash files.
Site maps
A search engine that finds one of your web pages will not automatically find all of the other pages of your website. The way to ensure that this does happen is to have a sitemap.xml file. This is an invisible file to everyone except the search engine robots. All they do is list all of the pages in your website and directs the robots to them. A web developer or designer should be able make you one.

People may be interested in your services but not ready to commit, produce a newsletter and offer copies of potential clients, this way you can obtain their contact details and gently keep reminding them of your services.
You should be ready to start gathering information for your build now.

Monday, 8 November 2010

What does a logo say?

Your logo is often the first thing that a potential client will see of your company. First impressions count!
Logos can say many things, traditional, modern, classic, stylish, kitsch, cheap, feminine and masculine and so on.
Traditional may be seen as old fashioned, classic is a longer lasting style that will not date over time. No style will appeal to everyone. You need to think about your target audience, their age range, gender and location will all give you an insight into what style you need to portray.
Companies often develop their ideas over many years. For example Nike didn’t start off as a swoosh. The word Nike was included in the logo for many years. It was only once the brand was very well established that they dropped the wording.

If you look at Sony, they have changes the thickness and spacing of their logo over time too. You don’t always need to redesign you can update.

If you have a complete redesign you may alienate your existing customers, an update will often work better. Branding development indicates that you are a forward thinking company, not sticking with the old just because you have it. Move with the times and appeal to the maximum audience that is possible. 

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The importance of social media and small businesses

The importance of social media

Many business owners are unsure of social media, the big boys have enough money to throw at it and the small fry have enough time to make sure they get in right – what about everyone else?

Social media is a fantastic way to interact with your customers and listen to what is being said about your company, services and products.

Ultimately this ensures that you can react, amend or update what you are offering to keep your customers totally satisfied.

Still not convinced? Look at the stats in the following video. Maybe they will help you to decide that your business needs to be involved at some level in social media.

There are many different platforms/programmes you could choose, not all will be relevant to your business. The main business ones are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Unsure of what to do? YouTube has millions of tutorials, many covering all aspects of social media. Take a look – see how you can boost your publicity, sales and profit.

Good luck!

Christmas is coming...

Ok, so it's now November and the year seems to have whizzed by, how many times have you heard 'Where has the year gone?'

One of the great things that we do at this time of year is search for a charity to support in the coming 12 months and this year we have chosen The Joshua Tree. http://www.thejoshuatree.org.uk/

One of the first fundraising things that we do is prepare for our corporate Christmas cards. 10% of each order goes directly to the charity and all of our cards are bespoke, tailored for your company. We look at branding, colours, icons and build a design based on these elements.

Have a look at a few of the designs we have produced for ourselves this year:

If you are interested in seeing some sample designs as well as supporting a great cause then call the office on 01925 752500.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The hidden meaning of colour

Visual experiences
Visual experiences are all about colour and pleasing the eye. Colour can make something boring or chaotic if not used correctly.

It is important to know the emotions and meanings that colours represent, particulary when choosing colours for a brand or advertising. This will represent you and your company and you do not want to alienate your target audience. Beware of fashions and trends as these have a limited lifespan.

Harmony is something that is pleasing to the eye. It engages the viewer and it creates an inner sense of order, a balance in the visual experience. When something is not harmonious, it’s either boring or chaotic. At one extreme is a visual experience that is so bland that the viewer is not engaged. The human brain will reject understimulating information.

At the other extreme is a visual experience that is so overdone, so chaotic that the viewer can’t stand to look at it. The human brain rejects what it can not organize, what it can not understand. The visual task requires that we present a logical structure. Colour harmony delivers visual interest and a sense of order.

Complementary colours
Complementary colours are any two colours which are directly opposite each other, such as red and green. These opposing colors create maximum contrast and maximum stability.

Harmonious colours
Harmonious colours are any three colors which are side by side on a colour wheel, such as yellow-green, and yellow-orange. Usually one of the three colors predominates.

Colour associations
Colours have meanings that go beyond ink (usually postives and negatives) and it is helpful to keep this in mind. Also remember that different cultures associate different things with differnt colours.

Red Passion, love, exciting, strength, power, sexuality and action but also represents stop, hot, impulsiveness, anger, impatience and violence.

Orange Courage, friendliness, energy, cheerfulness and warmth along with deceit, distrust and ignorance.

Blue Trust, tranquility, patience, loyalty, acceptance, understanding, cooperation and comfort along side fear, coldness and depression.

Purple Historically this colour is related to royalty and religion but also with foreboding and gloom.

Green Cool, environment, go, balance, harmony, hope, growth, freshness and soothing but also represents envy, illness and greed.

White  Associated with pure, safety, power, elegance, cleanliness and fresh along with cold, distant, guilt and greed.

Yellow Happiness, intelligence, caution, brightness, joy, and sunshine but also laziness and cowardice.

Black Cold, serious, strength and elegance but also with fear, evil, death and grief.

At the end of the day colour is a personal preference but this information is very useful when considering your target audience and brand.