Adjust your communications to match attention spans

funny notePeople’s attention spans are shorter than ever before. We are constantly bombarded with messages from every corner, have no time to read long emails, and we have a rough time holding onto a business related conversation that doesn’t seem to have a point.

As a millennial, I have friends that use acronyms for everything. Raised on outlandishly detailed books by Charles Dickens, I have a rough time understanding these little quips. The first time I saw “ROFL,” I was thinking about barking waffles, but “rolling on floor laughing” is better. I guess. At any rate, I learned these little things to communicate with my friends and not be boring. This carries over into business, in a sense. We must adjust our content to people’s attention spans.

You don’t have to go so far with this as to be unprofessional in your communications, but you do have to shorten your message and get to the point. Cut the clutter, cut out anyone who doesn’t need to hear what you are saying, and give the person on the other end a more direct and conversational approach that they can easily digest.

Here’s a few tips to get you started in your business communications:

1. Be personable

This automatically makes you approachable and well-received. It doesn’t have to be outlandish. Use little remarks like “I hope you had a great weekend,” or “thank you for getting in touch.”

2. Use an easy to follow structure with headlines and bullet points

Don’t make your reader sift through your information. Breaking up information into palatable chunks helps people absorb content without getting distracted by the many other things demanding attention.

3. CCs

Don’t copy people on emails unless they must know the information contained in the email. I know that sounds obvious, but sometimes things can get out of hand. A conversation between two colleagues can go on for 20 emails, and their boss doesn’t need to be in on each one of those emails—only the first and last one.

4. Be precise

Save time by reading over your email or letter and making sure nothing has a double meaning, is too long-winded, or doesn’t get to the point. Is there a point? State your point first and your supporting information afterward in bite size portions.

Hopefully those tips will help you going forward. Being long-winded myself, I have to cut out my “babies”—my precious little details that nobody else cares about. Did it work? You’ll have to let me know next time you stop by the shop.

Storytelling for Business

Isn’t it time you wrote your story? I’m not talking about writing a book, although there may be a market for that within your business, I’m talking about engaging your potential clients to a point that they see you as an authority in your field.

There is no better way to engage a client than to tell a story. Humans are hard-wired to want to hear, read, and understand stories. You can do so much with them! You can educate, entertain, share experience, etc. In order to really make a difference in your audience’s mind though, you need to make an emotional connection.

In order to make an emotional connection, you need to know who your target audience is and what they will make a connection with while reading. Once you know what your story is, you can tell it across multiple media and in many different ways. Direct mail, Radio, Billboard, Displays, Banners, etc. All of these things can be a piece of the puzzle or they can tell a story with just an image and a few words. It’s up to you, or up to us if you want, to find the best way to tell that story.

So how does one tell a story without writing a book?

Well, most stories carry a similar structure, and the audience expects that a good story will use this structure to surprise and delight. Ready for the secret formula? We grabbed this off of MarketingProfs, who nabbed it from Pixar:
Continue reading Storytelling for Business

Big Day of Giving is Coming May 3rd

There's nothing small about giving backIt’s that time of year again! The Big Day of Giving is an event to raise money for non-profits and to raise awareness of their causes. It’s a time to learn about your local organizations and how much good they are doing in your community. With 587 causes listed on the Big Day of Giving website, you are sure to find something that you feel strongly about.

So, don’t forget to check out that list by May 3rd https://www.bigdayofgiving.org/

We have several local organizations in the mix, and here are just a few:

  • Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center
  • Child Advocates of Placer County
  • American River Conservancy
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Placer Land Trust
  • Seniors First
  • Soroptimist
  • Stand up Placer

Do you SEO, PPC, or go both ways?

As you may know customers can get to your website many different ways. This blog is about SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay-per-click). Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines are how your customers find stuff on the web. They pull out relevant information gathered from what you put in your search. Google alone accounts for 3,500,000,000 (3.5 Billion per day) that’s a lot of people looking for answers, products and services every hour of every day.
So how do you find which is the best way for you and your company to the first page on search engines? Both SEO and PPC work, but do you need both? To understand the difference between SEO and PPC, let’s take a look at them and see their strengths and weaknesses.

PPC (Pay Per Click)
Instead of organically and gradually ranking your way toward the top of search results, you pay the search engine to place your website on the top of page instantly. Every time a user clicks on your ad or website, the search engine charges a small fee. One thing to take note, it’s more than money that gets you to the top. It’s also “quality score”, location, relevance, and site functionality. But PPC search words are sold on the open marketing, meaning anyone can come along a take your spot if they want to pay more. Here are some of the top keyword costs per click:
Continue reading Do you SEO, PPC, or go both ways?

Understanding Your Color Space

In grade school, we learned how to mix primary colors (yellow, blue, and red), that yellow + blue = green, blue + red = purple, red + yellow = orange. Guess what? That was your first lesson in color theory. It’s not that simple when you are trying to color match your prints, though. It gets complicated in offset and digital printing vs. what you see on your monitor and smart phone.


Establishing your BRAND color is a great place to start, but it won’t cut it to simply say “We use dark green”. In fact, just knowing your company’s Pantone color values isn’t enough, since those values are generally used for specific printing processes. What about spot colors vs. CMYK vs. RGB?

One of the keys to having a successful brand is consistency. Every company Continue reading Understanding Your Color Space

Get More Productive: Celebrate International Day of Forests

green, leafy office plantThere are so many benefits to having forests and trees not only in our rural areas, but in our cities as well.

  1. Forests and trees store carbon, which helps lower the impact of climate change.
  2. Trees help improve the local climate by removing harmful pollutants and providing shade.
  3. Trees reduce noise pollution.
  4. Forests help filter and regulate water.
  5. Studies show that just being around plants can improve your mood and concentration.

Want to know more about International Day of Forests?
Visit www.fao.org/international-day-of-forests.

So why do we care about this day and why should you care as a company?

If just being around plants can improve your mood and concentration, why wouldn’t we want out employees to enjoy these benefits? Engaged employees increase productivity. This year for International Day of Forests, we will be giving each employee their very own office plant and we will have our lunch outdoors!

Check out this article for how and why to incorporate plants into your office and home: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/indoor-plants-can-instantly-boost-your-health-happiness-ncna781806

What are your plans? You could win that Money Plant in the photo.

Post pictures of your favorite forest areas to social media, use the hashtag #IDOF_APIM, 
and tag us! Drawing will be done 03/22/18, submission must be made on or before 03/21/18.

The 5 Stages of Awareness that can make or break your campaign

People don’t buy products, they buy a better version of themselves.

A better parent, a better friend, a better marketer, a better business owner…Think about it; you might buy a seat for a webinar, on how to increase your profits using social media, because you want to be a business owner or marketer with a more profitable business.

It’s so obvious that it can sometimes be hard to figure out the next step in your marketing plan to reach the people that want or need what you are selling in order for them to feel fulfilled. Sometimes you just have to talk to somebody who has been there before. That’s what we sent our designer/marketer-in-the-making out to do. She found a great resource in Talia Wolf’s messages about reaching people where they are in the stages of awareness. The whole time she was reading or listening to the webinars, she realized that she was also in a sales funnel—Talia’s sales funnel. And she was OK with that because what she was getting out of the experience made her want to go all the way to the end. She recommends that you, the reader, check this person out here: https://getuplift.co/ and you will not be disappointed.

Before we go further, let’s examine the difference between marketing and sales.

They go hand in hand and cannot survive without each other. What makes them different is the order in which they are used, and how they are used. The marketing department’s job is to do the research, plan product launches and campaigns, and provide collateral for the sales people. The sales department needs to get educated by the marketing department on what they are selling, get familiar with it, and then go out and well…solve problems! Both departments have a role in the typical sales process.

There are 5 stages of client awareness during the sales process and it is up to marketers and their sales people to nudge potential clients through the stages. The end goal is to solve the person or company’s pain. Don’t sell to them, solve their pain.

cool fox shows the 5 stages of awareness5 stages of awareness:

  1. Unaware. These people don’t know they have a pain that needs solving quite yet, but they ARE going through the pain. They need to be shown that there is pain and that they have it.
  2. Pain Aware. These people know they have a pain. Let them see that you know and understand their pain. This is where you can show them some DIY solutions and push them to Solution Aware. Don’t show your products yet; you are still letting them get to know you.
  3. Solution Aware. They know there are solutions, services, platforms that can solve their pain but don’t know what is right for their particular circumstances. Talk about different solutions and how your solution solves their pain. Do NOT talk about features of your product yet. Focus on solving pain first. Pushes them into the product aware phase.
  4. Product Aware. They know you, your competitors, etc., and are just not convinced you are the right one. Now you can talk feature, services, prices, etc. You’ve already shown them that they have a pain, you understand their pain, there are solutions and yours is one, now show them how yours is better than the other solutions. It’s important that you wait until this stage to do this. Skipping the other steps is a good way to lose people. You have go to hold their hand a little so they know that you care about solving their pain.
  5. Most aware. People decide to convert but they need a buy button, a call to action. If you did a good job on the other 4 steps, you get the opportunity to make a difference in their professional or personal lives. If you have failed to make your case in the other 4 steps, you will lose them here.

Continue reading The 5 Stages of Awareness that can make or break your campaign

3 Million chances to convert with direct mail

In 2017, almost 3 million pieces of direct mail passed through our building. That’s a lot of mail! Among them were catalogs, oversized postcards, standard mail, letter sets, etc. That’s three million chances for businesses to get their potential clients to take action. How well will it work? Let’s take a look.

As a business owner, you may have heard that direct mail made a comeback after the recession slump. Well, it never really left as a viable option; the recession just reduced the competition!

direct mail has much higher response rates than other marketing channelsDirect mail is doing well today with or without recovery. Check out these stats from the Data and Marketing Association Response Report that we gleaned from Compu-Mail:

  1. Direct mail household response rate is 5.1% (compared to .6% email, .6% paid search, .2 online display, .4% social media). This is the highest response rate the DMA has ever reported, since coming out with the Response Rate Report in 2003.
  2. At 6.6%, oversized envelopes have the greatest household response rates over other mediums (followed by postcards at 5.7% and letter-sized envelopes at 4.3%).
  3. At 37%, oversized envelopes have the greatest household return on investment over other mediums (followed by postcards and letter-sized envelopes at 29%).
  4. The response rate for direct mail among people aged 18-21 years old is 12.4%.
    The top response rate tracking methods are online tracking such as PURLs (61%), call center or telephone (53%), and code or coupon (42%).

So, what if you aren’t getting the responses for your direct mail that you see in these stats?

It all comes down to two things: 1. Foot-in-mouth problems 2. Attention to your target market and where they are in the 5 stages of awareness. This dictates copy (words), design, and timing of your mail piece.
Continue reading 3 Million chances to convert with direct mail

The Death of Flash and Why it’s Important for Your Business

Flash dissapearing
We got this image from an e-learning website article about the changeover to HTML5. Click on the image to see the article.

We have been getting a few clients asking us about enabling Flash on their browser. Why do you need to do this just to see what you want to see? Flash is going away. It is dying a slow death, and as with many tech deaths, it is taking people by surprise.

What is Flash?

I had to get a simple breakdown from our tech guy and well, here is my attempt to put it into un-techy language: Flash is a kind of “computery” language that enables computers and browsers to play back videos, animations, interactive media, advertisements, etc.

Why is it going away?

  1. It’s not very secure
    More than a few Zero Days have occurred last year in which hackers could target your computer. According to Norton Antivirus, “The term ‘zero-day’ refers to a software vulnerability that the developer is newly aware of, and thus an official patch or update to fix the issue has not been released. Essentially, ‘zero-day’ refers to the fact that the developers have “zero days” to fix the problem that has just been exposed—and perhaps already exploited by hackers.”
    This has led many users and many browsers to disable Flash automatically.
  2. It’s obsolete
    Developers have moved on already to HTML5, JavaScript, etc.
  3. It’s being dumped
    All major browsers block Flash by default. Firefox began blocking Flash in 2015 followed soon by Safari, Chrome, and Microsoft Edge. Internet Explorer is the only Flash enabled browser right now. That will soon be gone too, as IE is planning to disable Flash by 2019.
  4. …But there will be stragglers
    Just like obsolete font types are still being used, nobody can stop developers from using Flash. But it won’t be supported by browsers anymore, just like old fonts are not supported by new operating systems. It’s ability to work will be patchy without support.

What this means for your business

  •  Your websites will need to be updated to avoid using Flash by the drop dead year of 2020, though support in browsers will end before then.
  • Your animations using Flash can only be used on a computer with a compatible operating system that has Flash installed.
  • If you have interactive learning sites or proofing tools, you will need to make sure they have an HTML version.

What we are doing about it

  • We have already updated our website to not include Flash.
  • We are still going to use ProofHQ as our client proofing tool because they are developing an HTML version of the website that goes live in the next couple weeks. Currently, they have a beta version available. If you want to test out this platform right now, click this text in the bottom left hand side of your proof. It looks different but proofs still show accurately, and that is the important part to us and our clients. Of course, because it is in beta right now, you must have Flash enabled to access the button (go figure, right?).
    You can preview HTML on our proofing tool
    While you are in ProofHQ looking at your next proof from us, try out this feature.