Archive for December, 2009

Squirrels and Business

December 16, 2009

What can a squirrel teach you about running a business?

I’m thinking about squirrels this morning.

Earlier this summer I set out a bird feeder at our new home. Peeking out the window, I watched with anticipation for all those beautiful song birds common to backyards: chickadees, cardinals, gold finches, red poles and more. Instead, I got squirrels. Big, fat hairy grey squirrels.

My blood pressure would rise every time I saw those little furry creatures on my feeder. Freeloaders! Party wreckers! “ARGH!!,” I’d yell. I’d bang on the window. I’d run outside to shoo them away.

Finally, I took the feeder down. It just wasn’t worth the stress—bird watching is supposed to be a peaceful pastime.

But I missed the birds. And the snow came and made food less plentiful. I decided to try again.

I trekked out to Hugo Feed Mill  & Hardware—a veritable bird feeder’s mecca—and met a fella in flannel and suspenders who knew his birds, and better yet, squirrels. After filling our cart with bird seed and suet, I quizzed him about squirrel-proofing our feeders.

“Well, you can buy these fancy domes to keep them off, but I wouldn’t bother,” the squirrel sage replied. “Just buy a 50 lb bag of feed corn and scatter it around the yard. The squirrels love rooting around in the snow for it.”

Feed the squirrels? Really? Reluctantly, I took his advice.

That afternoon, I filled the feeders and hung them from the oak tree out back, and scattered the corn around the base of the tree. To my delight, the birds came! All kinds of ’em. Pretty soon I was watching a community of hungry little feathered guys and gals eating enthusiastically from the feeders.

And then came the squirrels.

The first squirrel wound his way down the trunk of the tree and stopped to glance at the feeders. I held my breath. “Here we go,” I thought. But then it continued down to the base of the tree, where it spotted the corn. It picked up a kernel, plopped back on its hind legs, poofy tail rising behind him like a feather boa, and proceeded to nibble at it with its tiny hands. It was actually…cute.

It’s been days and I still haven’t seen a squirrel on the feeders. The birds are happy. The squirrels are happy. I’m happy.

So this has got me thinking…what’s the lesson here in business?

Imagine the song birds are your potential clients, and the squirrels are your competitors. Now imagine you reach out to your competitors, offering advice and resources to help them thrive. Your competitors learn new ways to reach out and service their own clients, you benefit from an enriched  network of people you can go to for questions and pass referrals, and you’ve established a feel-good vibe for your company.

So, help your competitors = get clients AND good karma.

Or, feed the squirrels and get the song birds.


Praising Plain English

December 10, 2009

The Brits have taken it upon themselves to police the world’s English communications, issuing praise to citizens who speak clearly and simply, and critique for incomprehensible offenders.

They call themselves the Plain English Campaign, campaigining since 1979 “against gobbledygook, jargon and misleading public information.” With 12,000 members in 80 countries, it appears that they’re addressing a need.

The Campaign’s awards include the coveted “Plain English Awards” and the infamous “Golden Bull” and “Foot in Mouth” awards.

A standout in this year’s Golden Bull award includes this perplexing entry from the Department of Health (try reading it out loud!)

Primary secondary and tertiary prevention.
Primary prevention includes health promotion and requires action on the determinants of health to prevent disease occurring. It has been described as refocusing upstream to stop people falling in the waters of disease.

Plain English Awards recognize all aspects of communication, including writing and graphic design. For this year’s winners, visit

After suffering through hours and hours of pretentious and needlessly isoteric Neuroscience journal articles as a grad student, I’m happy to see there are people out there who value clear communication. Contrary to the notion that “plain” and “simple” means “dumbing it down,” ideas conveyed in simple terms are likely to be repeated—and repeated accurately—from one person to the next, increasing their power to influence.

So to the Brits I say “Cheerio,” good job! We’ll do our best to avoid the “Bull” in our business communications.

December 2009 >the mixer is out!

December 10, 2009

Mix Creative has a monthly e-newsletter titled “> the mixer,” filled with marketing tips, news from Mix Creative, samples of our work, and testimonials from our clients. You have a couple of options to catch up with >the mixer: sign up on our website, or view our e-newsletter archives right here on our WordPress blog.

Not sure if you’re ready to commit? Take a look at this month’s >the mixer, featuring information about our new capabilities, the Minnesota Writers Hall of Fame Website, the Twin Cities Women’s Choir Illuminations CD, and more.

We just keep getting better!

December 9, 2009

Taking our own advice, we’re going to take a moment this month to trumpet some capabilities we’ve added in the last year:

Even cooler website capabilities.
Our amazing clients inspire us to add new functions to our website designs with every project. This year we’ve become quite comfortable setting up database-driven websites that clients can easily update themselves. We’ve integrated custom-designed WordPress blogs onto client’s urls, created secure log-ins and registrations, programmed an online shopping cart, added an e-newsletter sign-up box, linked social media sites to the website, created blog-fed rss updates to web pages, and much more. Talk to us about your custom web project!

Social media marketing strategy.
We love the potential of social media for getting the word out about a new company—it’s cheap, viral, and effective! We’ve helped to train our clients on which social media outlets to use, what type of content to provide, and how often to make updates. We’ve created custom icons to present a branded identity across social media outlets, and have customized the design of blog and Twitter pages. We’ve even ghost-tweeted for our clients so they can focus on running their business.

Creating effective, easy-to-use e-newsletter campaigns.
We’ve become somewhat of a specialist in providing marketing insight, design, and training for creating effective e-newsletter campaigns, even co-hosting several seminars and webinars on the topic! Our newest product is an e-newsletter with a custom design that has a bullet-proof online interface for adding content and images, adding contacts and reviewing campaign effectiveness.

Package design.
We took our design to the third dimension this year, creating the package design for a line of pet products, coasters, photo keepsakes, and a music CD. We look forward to more package design projects in the coming year…we love 3D!

Thank you to all of our clients who pushed us to new levels this year. We love mastering new skills that provide you with even more options to market your business.