Archive for April, 2009

Tips for Surviving the Economy

April 29, 2009

Last Wednesday evening I had the opportunity to attend at MetroIBA Teach-In, titled: Surviving the Economy. This panel discussion, led by Dan Marshall of Peapods Natural Toys & Baby Goods,  featured local and small business owners including:

Melanee Meegan from Peace Coffee
Jennifer Pritchett from Smitten Kitten
Jeff Warner from Warners’ Stellian
Marge Christiansen from SCORE (and former owner of a gifts distribution company)
Keith Covart from Electric Fetus

Panelists suggested tips for adapting their business in the face of changing consumer habits. Here are some highlights:

  • Hold events to reach your target market. For example, Peace Coffee holds coffee brewing workshops, in part to respond to the rising trend of people saving money by brewing their coffee at home. Electric Fetus hosts in-store local music events to educate listeners about local artists and drive traffic to their stores.
  • Create a market for your products. Jennifer from Smitten Kitten suggested focusing on creating a market where one didn’t exist before by educating consumers about their products and more importantly, the problem they solve. How to reach your markets? Networking (events and online social networking), attending trade shows, and speaking to targeted groups helps to get the word out.
  • Hit the road. Marge Christiansen remarked that ongoing face-to-face client communication helps to establish loyalty between suppliers and buyers, a key to weathering a weak economy.
  • Renegotiate. Several of the panelists mentioned renegotiating everything from lease agreements to vendor contracts to reduce costs. Other possible renegotiation items: gas for trucks, vehicle leases, cleaning services, media placement, and more. Smitten Kitten owner, Jennifer Pritchett, encouraged small businesses to not be afraid to negotiate—even with big distributors—commenting, “You don’t get what you don’t ask for!”
  • Stay the course for advertising. While the instinct may be to cut costs in marketing, Peace Coffee representative Melanee Meegan cautions against it: “We want people to know we’re still here!” Halting advertising could cause the misperception that your business isn’t doing well, or allow your competitors to fill the niche you’ve created in the market.
  • Boost company morale. With tough times often comes employee insecurity and poor morale. Panelists suggested setting an example by willing to roll up your sleeves and pitch in wherever help is needed, socializing at work with inexpensive treats, or even stepping out after work to bond over drinks. Solicit suggestions from employees and encourage creativity in ways to save money or make new customers.
  • Share costs. Jeff from Warners’ Stellian spoke of joining a buying group with similar businesses in your industry to increase your purchase power to get reduced credit rates and insurance, or discounts on products. Peace Coffee also belongs to a buying group—they are part of a cooperative buying group that imports their own fair-trade coffee beans. According to their website, “We have also changed the supply chain by co-founding Cooperative Coffees (, a coop of roasters formed to import 100 percent fair trade coffee direct from the farmer coops that grow it.”
  • Know your customer. Keith from the Electric Fetus said the best question you can ask a customer is “is there something you didn’t find?” Knowing your customers’ tastes and buying habits will help you selectively stock your store to keep the items the move and reduce overstock on less popular items.
  • Collaborate with other small businesses. Recently, the Electric Fetus participated with a number of other small, independent record stores to promote National Record Store day, which resulted in great PR for the stores involved. Electric Fetus also reaches out to local bands and labels, and has even featured Peace Coffee at their events. Owner Keith Covart encourages this type of collaboration as a way to strengthen the local economy and build relationships between like-minded businesses.
  • Distinguish  yourself. The last tip from our panel was to distinguish your small business in the marketplace, from your brand (logo/design/name) to your products, your quality focus, your independent status, and even your principles and values.

A sincere thank you to all of the panelists and to MetroIBA for this forum. For more information about upcoming MetroIBA events or to become a member, visit

Business card with tear-off coupon

April 28, 2009

What a cool idea! I just got this in my e-mail today and thought I’d share: tearoffcards

Offered by, they provide a great opportunity to extend special savings to customers or people you meet at networking events. Get creative with the tear-off portion: they could be coupons, poems, samples of your work, quick tips, or even a fill in the blank “We met at _________event.”

Bizarre istock photo: part 2

April 24, 2009

Ah. . .the second installment of Bizaare Istock Photo. I guess you never know what people may be searching for:

E-mail marketing: deciphering response reports

April 22, 2009

If you’ve sent out an e-newsletter, you’ve most likely logged on to your mail service to view the response. If you’re like me, the first time you saw the percentage of people on your email list who actually opened it, you were flabbergasted: only 20% / 30% / 50%?

So what does the open rate mean, anyway? Here are a few facts I’ve compiled:

•  According to 20-30% is a normal open rate; (a news and marketing resource for email marketers) says: “Average open rates for house lists are running in the mid-30s (34.3 percent, according to DoubleClick). The range I’m seeing, based on public sources and my clients’ performances, is the mid-20s to just over 50 percent.”

•   Click rates, according to Average click-throughs for house lists (calculated as a percentage of messages delivered, not the percentage opened) are running in the high single digits (DoubleClick reports 8.2 percent); the range I’m seeing is just over 1 percent to just under 20 percent.

•  Reporting may be low due to people reading the email on their pda or offline

•  Mail is not reaching the recipient, even though it is shown as “delivered” (corporate filters send emails right to the Junk mailbox, users haven’t added your from address to their address book)

•  Timing: Most opens are within 72 hours, so you need to wait long enough to analyze the reporting results

Potential factors affecting open rate (outside of technical issues):

  • Subject heading: your subject heading may not be providing enough hook. Solution: send the next email with several different options and see what works best. So what makes an effective subject line? Describe the subject of your email. Simple, but direct. If it’s a newsletter, tell them in the subject line. Make the first 15 characters the most descriptive for Blackberry users.
  • Content: emails that are attempting to make a sale (and weren’t requested by the recipient) have the worst response rates. It’s good to use an e-newsletter format to build trust/value with your clients and your brand over time.
  • Your list: the biggest factor in determining performance. Issues with the list could include:  not a strong enough connection between your company and the people on the list. You see a stronger open rate with people who willingly signed up to receive information, say if they signed up on the homepage for the e-newsletter
  • Some people just don’t read email. These are people who are more apt to respond to postal mailings or a phone call.

Submit a question for designer Q & A

April 14, 2009

Calling all business owners, marketing professionals, graphic designers, web programmers, design students, and more!

Speak up about what confuses you about graphic design. Maybe it’s trying to understand what you’re designer is talking about (What the heck is PMS, and why does my designer keep asking me for mine?), submitting files to a printer (why did my margins get cut off??), updating your website (Why can’t I use my own fonts? or What’s CMS?), or even just trying to decide where to spend your marketing budget (Does anyone even print stationery any more?).

Here’s my invitation: ask us your burning questions about graphic design, and we’ll publish the question with an answer right here in this blog! Please keep the questions clean and graphic design/marketing related. And while questions are always appreciated, please submit questions for this column by April 28, 2009.


Funny post about logo trends

April 14, 2009

This blogger’s post about speech bubble logos had me cracking up, but they make a good point: do your research when you create a logo, lest you create something that everyone’s already seen!

A blog about business card design

April 13, 2009

Oh. My. God. I’m in love with this new blog about business card design:

Whether you’re a designer or a company looking for fun, smart ways to market your company, this is a great resource.


April 8, 2009

Take a look at another website we recently launched for a full-service video editing and production firm called Pixelle8 Media:


Owner, Brenda Piekarski, has a wealth of experience in creating corporate videos, and wanted a site that would appeal to both her current market of corporate professionals with new markets, including small businesses. The site design merges playful and friendly with competent and experienced. Subtle film elements and pixels reflect the company’s name. Visit the site here.