Project Management: The Have, Need, How Method

Imagine you are moving along in your project and planning your next campaign when five other projects are dumped on your desk. A few minutes later, somebody peeks around the corner and says “Hey, that one there is a rush, can you get it to me ASAP?”

Sure. You set down your stuff and move it aside. You pick up the ASAP project and find out it’s not in a state that should be sent to you quite yet. So you send it back to the service rep. It’ll come back to you within the hour, so you think you should work on some other stuff for a bit so you don’t get interrupted again. An hour later the ASAP project comes back and so do 3 other projects. Now you have 7 projects plus the ASAP and the campaign. But you haven’t counted them yet; you just see lots and lots of paperwork. Emails, phone calls, special requests, break time. You come back from break and all projects you sent out have come back with changes. You work on those, put out some theoretical fires in the office, and before you know it, you have to go home.

Get your mind back on track
Is the image on the left what your mind feels like halfway through the day?

What have you even done today? Are you feeling a little lost and overwhelmed?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received in regards to campaign or project organization is what I call the Have, Need, How method. This was a little something I gleaned from Gwen Amos at CSUS  while she prepared us for the onslaught of projects we encountered. In addition to getting analytical people to think creatively, she was tasked with getting a bunch of creative people to use their analytical side even if for a short time, and she did both quite well. Could you have asked her a question if you hadn’t considered the things on your Have, Need, How list? Yes, but you might just be told to make one such list as her answer.

I file her advice on this list with other gems like: “Get it out of your head and on paper or it doesn’t exist,” “Don’t vomit on paper, you would all be fired if this were a job,” “Even if you don’t have everything I asked for, at least have something new,” “This is good paper, it makes colors pop; everyone look at this paper,” and “I’m going to show you all something, but only once.”  It was tough making the Have, Need, How list at first, but not as tough as complete writer’s block. This method at least asks you a question you can most likely answer about what you have done, helps you list what needs to get done, and start thinking about how you are going to accomplish those needed items. If you need to make your list specific to each project that is OK, but you can go broader if you want, and go over your schedule for the day or week. Keep this list where you can see it.

You need 3 sections: Have, Need, and How.

What do you have? In this section write down all the things/pieces of the project(s) you have available or have done already. You will feel a little better about yourself as you write this because it forces you to acknowledge that you actually did do something.

What do you need? You’re not done with your project yet, and you’ve got to address the missing pieces at some point. So write down all the things you need to accomplish or need to acquire for the project.

How will you accomplish the items on your need list? This is perhaps one of the most important steps for people who need a little help to get moving. Let’s say you need a new Facebook banner but you don’t know the size. In order to get the correct size you can find the specs on Facebook’s website. Then of course it’s design time. So your action item, or your “how”, on “make new Facebook Banner” will be “1. look up size for Facebook Banner on their website. Here is the size___________. 2. Using our current campaign theme, current fonts, colors and images from style guide (on the book shelf), make banner.” This can go on for some time depending on your position in the company, but it’s usually 1-5 tasks.

list example
Here are some items I would like to get done

This method basically gives you a sense of where you are in a project, and no excuse to not start working on something. Plus you get a handy list that you can check off as you go. Now that you know exactly where you are in a project all day long, you can at least know where you left off if you get distracted.

It’s a good idea to start one of these lists at the beginning or end of the day so that you can get a fresh start. But if you are ever feeling overwhelmed and you don’t have one of these lists to go by, I can almost guarantee that if you take a few minutes to make one, you’ll be more productive (and feel more productive!).

Join me next time for Are You Sure You Read That?—3 ways to make sure you comprehend what you just read.

Making a Difference at the River

Over last weekend we partnered with South Yuba River Citizens’ League to clean up the Bear River Campground. This was part of the nation-wide Clean up the World Weekend, and we certainly did find things to clean up! It also helped to have a great view of the nice cool water and beautiful foliage.

According the SYRCL’s Facebook page, “from Donner Summit to Marysville, 886 volunteers removed nearly 14,000 pounds of garbage and recycling. ” That’s impressive!

Walking the road before we go into the campgrounds
Walking the road before we go into the campgrounds
Our smallest helpers look for anything near the water!
Our smallest helpers look for anything near the water!
bags of recycling and garbage
Just a little garbage from the second half of the day!
stuffed monkey by the water
Monkey business indeed

Self-Publishing VS. Traditional Publishing

To Get a publisher or self-publish? It concerns more than just aspiring authors.

There are significant benefits and downsides to both options. You may be thinking : “What does this have to do with my business?” The answer is simple: depending on what you have to offer, publishing of any kind can bring you authority in your field, more income, and more clients.

People often have a hard time deciding between self-publishing and traditional publishing, especially in the age of digital media. With Amazon and Google Books around, it has become even more apparent than it was 10 years ago. You must consider your business and your audience before making the decision.

What is your business and what are your credentials? Seriously, it matters to a publisher because they want to make sure you have a marketable book before they buy into it. It also matters to the reader with a keen interest in your subject. Your skill level and business will be apparent to anyone worth their salt who reads that book or publication, so back it up with good research and decide early if your project is about the money, recognition, or something else.

You may decide you don’t even need to publish your material—that’s up to you—but here are some basic considerations for when publishing is the way to go.

Continue reading Self-Publishing VS. Traditional Publishing

The Well-Targeted Newsletter Audience


Example #1

It’s Friday afternoon and you’ve just sat down in your favorite chair on the porch with your favorite beverage in one hand and a stack of mail in the other. You revel in the fall breeze at it gently pushes away the once stuffy, hot air. It’s nice to be outside again.

You examine your stack of mail:

Cable TV ad. Nope.

Another “pre-qualified loan offer”. Not falling for that again.

Car insurance quote offer, for the hundredth time. Maybe later.    

Bills. Absolutely later.

Here is a newsletter from the community organization that you donated $20 to last year. Well that is interesting. What’s going on in the community? What are they doing with your investment? You can’t believe what you are reading. ALL OF THAT is happening right now? How can you help? You get this strange, powerful drive to do something for your community and look for a person to contact. All the info is right there.

Example #2

Next door to you, the neighbor kid has just gotten home from school, fallen on the couch, and is looking through his Facebook feed. Endless streams of information. But he isn’t really reading it, he is scanning, turning his brain off for a bit and only stopping when certain interesting words or images catch his eye.

Angry cat. Hah, that cat is great.

Political upheaval. Later, when I have more energy.

An ad for a T-shirt with his last name on it. The shirt reads: “It’s a Smith thing, you wouldn’t understand.” Clever, but that’s been way overdone.

Headline: “A man plunges into a rushing river and what he does next will amaze you”. No, it won’t. It will be disappointing. The picture displayed here won’t even be in the article and it will only be amazing to a toddler. Oh wait, no pictures. Not even toddlers are impressed. The kid starts to write a post about how annoying headlines have become and then erases it. Nobody cares about that either.

His attention piques when he sees a post about the alarming rate of child trafficking in Placer County.

The next few minutes are filled with furrowed brow, narrowed eyes, and held  breath. The wheels of alarm are turning. What can he do to help? He cares about his community a great deal and must do his part in something great. Well it says right there how to help, who to contact, and some words of encouragement. Hey look, a button that says “Yes, I will help organize a Safe Walk Home meeting at my school.” Yes please.

Example #3

Miles away in the city, a young woman is finally on her last hour of the work day. She checks her email one last time and notices an e-newsletter from the community organization that she volunteered at last year during a park trail cleanup. She likes getting emails from this organization because they gather up all the most important things going on in the outdoor (about as outdoor as you can get in the city) community and give her a snippet of what each thing is about. She thinks that the articles are always on point and usually relevant to how she can participate further or what has been done as a result of volunteers like her.

She’s had a rough day. She clicks on the link to learn more about using plants to create a stress free environment in the workplace. There is a great place right over in that corner for a succulent plant!

Reading this newsletter gives her inspiration to go outdoors over the weekend, and also to buy a plant for her office.

And look, they are having a tree planting event next week in the park! She will make sure to join. The park is just a couple blocks from her office.

These are what well-targeted readers and tailored content look like. Not every avenue is perfect for the entirety of every audience. In fact, it’s best for an organization or company with a wide range of clients or potential clients to reach out in different ways, according to segments of their audience. Not sure where to start?

Start Your Information and Invitation Funnel by:

  1. Surveying existing interested parties and researching their demographics and motivations so that you can get more readers like them.
  2. Decide on how to tailor content to each segment of your audience.
  3. Plan a timeline and follow it repeatedly, provided it works. Otherwise make adjustments.
  4. Make your content. What do you want your audience to do and how will you make it clear that they are to do that thing?
    Now is the time to send your message. Not sure how to get it done? Or are you concerned about the professional quality or the possibility of hitting the spam folder/trash can? If you get lost anywhere in the process or you just need somebody to take over in the social media, email, design, or printed newsletter department, give us a call! (888) 282-8764. Or email us at

Commitment to Our Community and World

As a company we strive to be conscious of how our business decisions affect our community and environment. But what is a company without it’s team of hardworking employees? Nothing, of course! So we want to take a moment to thank our team for their continued help in supporting our community and sustainability goals.

Our team in the community
Our team doesn’t have to be told to be decent people, they already care about the community they live in. That’s why we are proud to have them with us! They frequently volunteer at places like the Auburn 20-30 Club, Cub Scouts, Biodynamic Association of Northern California, Western States Trail Foundation, Tevis, Back Country Horsemen, Soroptimist, and countless others. For those that don’t have official engagements with non-profits, it seems like every weekend one or more of them is off to some hiking or 4 wheeling adventure—and caring for the trails along the way.

Recycling like our world depends on it:

  • Over 90% of our printed paper waste is recycled weekly.
  • We strive to recycle 100% of our “box board” either through recycled pickup or by reuse of the boxes.
  • 100% of all packing material is reused.
  • 100% of the unused and unneeded paper is donated to local preschools, kindergartens, churches, or clubs.
  • 100% of our metal plates are recycled and money received goes into the company pizza fund.
  • 100% of our unused ink is picked up by a licensed waste hauler and used as a fuel for making bricks.
  • When given the opportunity, we strive to choose the best sizing and placement of art to generate the least amount of paper waste possible.
  • We set our pallets out for collectors, and our employees, to repurpose into other items.

    bins filled with recycled paper
    That’s a lot of paper for recycling! And yes it’s pretty much like jumping into a pile of leaves; AMAZING!

The Case for Newsletters

It’s cheaper to keep existing clients happy and engaged than it is to get new clients, which makes it so much sadder when companies neglect their client base and give exciting offers or much needed assistance only to potential clients.
With so many options today, a client needs to see value in your company in order to stick around. This value may be there already, but they need to see it! In fact, 90%* of people would switch to a new company that they feel has a better Corporate Social Responsibility ethic, or supports a cause that they like. With people that are willing to make a switch, the modern day business must frequently communicate what they are all about—without being annoying.

There are many ways to communicate: emails, newsletters, posters, flyers, brochures, mailers, videos, social media, community efforts, etc. They can range from passive, to in-your-face. The value of each depends on frequency, timing, content, and audience.  You won’t be able to praise the benefits of grass fed beef to vegans, and have them decide to eat it, no matter how good that beef is.

Quarterly and Monthly newsletters are a great way to give your clients and supporters assertive, yet not annoying bits of excellence. They can:

  1. Build loyalty by offering relevant, helpful information from your area of expertise.
  2. Let people know what you’ve been up to in the community and what your company personality is like.
  3. Give your company a voice.
  4. Give you an opportunity to get to know your clients, and segment your audience for different content, based on how they respond to your newsletter.
  5. Nurture existing leads in a cost effective manner and generate new leads and new sales by allowing people to discover what you have to offer. For example, every now and then a person comes to us after seeing an article about banners and tells us “I didn’t know you printed banners!”

We are offering 25% off printed newsletters through August 2017, so if you are curious to see what a newsletter can do for you, get a quote! Email or call 530-885-9674

*According to Cone communications/Ebquity’s 2015 Global CSR Study


Photo credit:

Authenticity in Modern Marketing

A free range, grass fed blog postAuthenticity.  What does it mean to you?
Is it a pristine, original painting? A perfectly restored classic car? Perhaps organic fruits and vegetables? Artisan firewood? Using leeches as a way to heal wounds? Well, you get the picture. Humanity can get a little carried away with authenticity. But it sells. In fact, the Rule of Seven (“rule” stating that you must contact a person 7 times before they will consider your product or service), is becoming a laughable thing of the past. It’s no longer about how many times you contact somebody, it’s about HOW you contact them and if it is RELEVANT and COMPELLING to them.

We are obsessed with authenticity
In the digital age we are bombarded with demands for our attention,  In our over-processed lives nearly every outlet is untrustworthy. The things we do trust are original, simple, and down to earth. We are drawn to people and other creatures that persist, and that are unapologetic originals—because we want that too. This phenomena can be seen in nearly every issue on every side of the political aisle and is manifested in different ways.

Businesses can direct that passion and drive for authenticity on a product or service by speaking the new language of the consumer.
Continue reading Authenticity in Modern Marketing

“But I’m not ready for you to see my website!”

Cat with smily face placed over his mouth
Just fix it already

“I don’t like my website, I’m going to redo it soon” [like a year from now].

Does this sound familiar? Or how about “I’m going to invest in social media when I am ready for large orders.” But you aren’t ready for large orders because of several reasons, including not having a proper website for clients to view and/or place orders.

It’s 2017 and 39% of small business owners don’t have a website, and many that do are unhappy with the way it performs or looks. While there are several reasons that a website can do a poor job at generating leads, there are a few reasons that are unashamedly staring us all in the face.

Continue reading “But I’m not ready for you to see my website!”

Friend Before Salesman: Steve The Encyclopedia and Time and Money Saver

Black and white image of steve holding a yellow hat
Click here to go to Steve’s company profile

The past few months have been filled with Steve’s background and life full of amazing adventures (somehow all print related). This is our final installment, we hope you have enjoyed everything so far. To see the previous blog post, click here.

Steve the Encyclopedia
These days there are other, digital things to be had in addition to print and Steve has shown his knack for learning quickly in these areas as well, and adding them to his internal encyclopedia. Just ask him about any of these things:

letterpress, foil, emboss, die cutting, offset press, digital press, silkscreen on Metalisized paper, glass, wood, and metal. These special processes are used for packaging, labels, specialized product labels, magazines and other publications, brochures, business cards. Steve has extensive knowledge in how to work with color and density in any kind of print and has always been a great resource when our design department needs advice on how to adjust colors for better prints.

Steve the Money and Time Saver
Steve has been involved in more than a few of our most intricate printing projects including the packaging for Primeau Water Filters, a product for home use in places with questionable water sources, and Cello Chocolate, our favorite Gluten Free organic chocolate makers! He made sure each piece of the project was clearly defined, good quality images and prints, the packing physically fit, took international sales into consideration and coordinated an exceptionally smooth experience. He has saved these people and others countless time in research and development, production time, and even trips to our office by bring product and proofs to the clients.

Well now that we are done talking about what makes Steve so great, let’s talk about the ways in which he can make your business life easier:

    • Personalized service. He tailors the level of service to your needs. He isn’t always trying to up sell because he really wants what is best for you, the customer. And your needs are what matters most.
    • Advice. Based on his knowledge and experience, he will always have an answer. If he isn’t 100% sure about something he will go and confirm it/find out the answer. There is no problem too big or too small.
    • He will run your proofs and samples back and forth between APi-marketing and you, so that you don’t have to pay for shipping or wait for it to get there in the mail, and so that he can be there to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
    • Easy to deal with. No sleazy sales guy here, his number one concern is getting you the best quality work possible.
    • Peace of mind. Some customers have actually come back from online printers to APi-marketing because they appreciate Steve’s honesty about what is included in pricing, attention to detail, and catching potential problems before things go to print. Often, with poor quality prints online, you won’t be able to get a reprint, and waiting around for them to get their act together is a royal pain.
    • Save time on time-sensitive items because 90% of everything we offer is in-house.
    • Save on shipping. Come pick up your stuff or have us deliver it.
    • Save wait time on getting your mailing together. We print, sort, and send in-house rather than send out to a mail house. This saves you 3-4 days of processing and you won’t have to coordinate between all the different companies handling your mailing.

What can you do with all your new peace of mind, free time and money?  Perhaps you can invest in your business, try out that new software program that could save you thousands if only you had the time, build your portfolio, just focus on other pressing business matters OR, take some time to travel, see your family, pet the animals. You deserve to have peace of mind when it comes to your marketing materials.

Want to work with Steve? Just give us a call and we can set you up: 530.885.9674.