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We’re Affiliated Woo Workers! (and why you should care…)

ninjaWe’ve been added to a fairly exclusive fraternity: Affiliated Woo Workers. What does that mean? Why should you care?

Well, see – WooThemes are great WordPress themes and a site frameworks that make really powerful, really flexible and (with our design chops) really beautiful websites.

Being named an Affiliated Woo Worker means we have a high level of understanding of these themes – and all their ins and outs. We know how to design around the framework and to take full advantage of the WooThemes features and products. Want an ecommerce site? Well – WooCommerce is a really great system – and we have a lot of experience building highly functional stores using WooThemes, WooCommerce and WordPress. Want a simple business site? WooThemes has that covered, too.

So – you should care because that means that we can build a beautiful, functional and downright kick-ass website for you – using WooThemes. But, really – even beyond that, we have a great deal of experience with WordPress, and we know how to get your project done right – regardless of the theme.

Want to learn more? Ready to get started? Well…

*Note: Not all our websites are designed and built using WooThemes and WordPress, but most of them are. We do plain HTML sites, Magento sites and everything in between. Let’s discuss…

Marketing? Why Not? (and squirrels.)

Funny-Squirrel-Picture-2-300x192The economy, by almost all measures, is in the crapper. Money is tight for consumers; as a result, money is tight for businesses. When money is tight, folks have a tendency to make more “informed” decisions when it comes spendin’ time. How do you get the consumer to spend that money on your service/business/cause/idea? You have to stand out from the crowd. You have to add more value. You have to position yourself as the expert. You have to make them salivate a little. How do you do that?

Marketing.

It’s a scary word to some. It’s a curse word to others. But – it’s 100% necessary, and it becomes even more necessary when folks have less to spend. The catch here is that when people (consumers) have less to spend, businesses have less to spend – and a lot of businesses panic, spending less on marketing and advertising. What they should be doing is precisely the opposite. The wise business ramps up their marketing investment when the economy is going down, because (effective*) marketing is going to get you in front of people and out ahead of the competition.

Marketing is almost always a wise investment – but only if it’s done right.*

See, if you spend a boatload of money (the money that, according the economy, you don’t have) on a direct mail piece and you hit the wrong audience, you fail. If you hit the right audience with the wrong message, you fail. Shoot out a sub-par design, you fail.

But, really – mostly – if you don’t invest in marketing, YOU FAIL.

Notice I didn’t say invest money. Marketing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to be effective. It does require an investment. Some time, maybe. Some comfort, probably. Some thought, absolutely. I’ll get more into specifics in some follow-up posts I have planned, but what I’m saying here is that you have to market, and you have to plan for some investment.

And the investment you make needs to be planned – and planned well – or it’s going to just be an expense with no hope of real  return.

If you invest a lot of time in Facebook marketing but you don’t have a plan, you can waste a lot of time. If you don’t plan your next advertisement, you can wind up with really expensive birdcage liner – again, with no real return. If you go out somewhere and make an ass of yourself in a guerilla marketing campaign, you wind up with egg on your face and no new customers to help you wash it off – unless you plan it right.

So – what do you do? Build a strong, cohesive and coherent marketing PLAN. You don’t go hunting and just fire, indiscriminately, into the trees in hopes of bagging a squirrel. You walk around, see the environment, track the beast and plan your attack. Otherwise, you wind up popping off a lot of shells, making a giant ruckus and most likely go home hungry.

Don’t go ’round hungry. Get wise. Make a plan. Do some hunting. Ready. Aim. Fire.

*this is where we mention that we do marketing in asheville. we enjoy it, and we’re pretty damned good at it, if we do say so ourselves…
Live Magazine Ad Design

Open for Business

Tshirt Design - Chick-o-Pig

Well, I threatened to bring back some of the Tshirt designs that were sold locally and through Etsy. Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t have a problem with Etsy, but I am a control freak.

So, I opened up The Store of The Crassest of Commercialism.*

It’s only got a few of the “classics,” meaning the ones that I sold lots of and have had folks beg and plead for me to bring back – but I’ll be adding a lot more, including some one-of-a-kind models with swirled inks and weird crap.

Yes. I like to make money. All this coffee isn’t free, you know.

*For what it’s worth – it’s a WordPress ecommerce site. I do that kind o’ crap, too.

Portfolio Updates Are Go!

Well, after letting our Portfolio Section languish for quite a while, we finally took some time and put the coffee down long enough to add some new stuff, get rid of some stuff and rearrange some other stuff. It was a lot of stuff.

The Artsy Fartsy section has been updated extensively. A lot of new stuff, better shots of the old stuff. That one has been neglected for a long time – but it’s starting to round into shape. Soon, there will be a “In the Sketchbook” section that will give you a little bit of an insight into the absurdity of a 40-something Mad Magazine fiend with a Moleskine and an ink pen. It’s, uh – fascinating

Logos, Ads, Magazines and Brochures, Packaging and Posters all got some serious additions – especially the logos. We also pulled “Apparel” out of one of the categories and gave it a home of it’s own – the brand new “Tshirts” section. At some point this week, we’re also going to be offering some of our more popular designs for sale through our online store. Stay tuned for that. Details and what-not to follow.

We’ve still got some work to do – as there are some sections that still need an update, and a lot of images that need to be updated and standardized – but, heck – showing off how awesome our work is can be a whole lot of work. Funny how that is.

Anyhoo – check out the portfolio. Contact us when you’re ready to have your job included in the Best Portfolio in the Whole Wide World, as voted for the last 15 years.*

*we collected votes amongst the 4 children. 2 of them voted for Independent Studios. The other 2 voted for My Little Pony. I held the deciding vote, and I bribed myself with coffee. It was still close.

Marketing in Asheville? Market TO Asheville…

shutterstock_105858005Marketing in Asheville is a strange thing, because Asheville is a strange place. It’s incredibly conservative in some ways, flamingly liberal in others. It’s touristy, but we have industry and sectors that are completely local-focused. You have hippies and beatniks and back-woods folk and punks and artists and migrant farmers and button-down suit & tie guys. Usually within 3 feet of each other.

Since Asheville is so diverse in so many ways, marketing – and especially marketing direction – here can be difficult to really pinpoint. “General broadcasting” is not nearly accurate enough for the Asheville market. Because you have so many disparate ages, beliefs, backgrounds and lifestyles, sending out a poorly planned and executed “blanket” email or postcard or newspaper ad can seriously water down your message, and cost a lot of money for not a lot of results.

So – what do you do? Do you focus on one group? Do you try to hit everyone with a “universal” message? Do you play on the differences? Well, sort of all of the above.

When you get ready to market to Asheville (you ARE planning on marketing, right?*) you need to do a couple of things:

  • Define yourself from Asheville’s point of view – not the other way around.
  • Define your audience and what they really want – not what you think they want or want them to want.
  • Define your marketing project and your goals for that project – brand recognition, sales, contacts, leads – whatever.
  • Define how much of Asheville you need to reach to be successful – not so much in your business, but more in your marketing

Once you have these things laid out, you can then start building a compelling, accurate and functional marketing plan. When it comes to marketing, design (as much as I hate to admit this) is secondary to planning and coming up with a compelling concept that works with your audience and actually addresses your goals. Just as important as the concept, though, is the overall marketing scheme – the research and knowing and understanding your market. Without that understanding, you’re really missing the point – and you’re going to pay a helluva lot more to market improperly.

Now comes the sales part: We’re Asheville. We’ve been Asheville our whole lives. We’ve seen things come and go here – and we understand what makes Asheville, Asheville. We can help you with the definitions (above) and we can help you find, reach and affect your market. We can make you look fabulous in Asheville (and other places.) Since we are so soaked through and through with Ashevilleness, we know what we’re doing here. We know the questions. We know the market. We know the marketing.

Yep.

*if you’re not planning on marketing – what the hell is wrong with you?

The Return on Investment in Social Media…

moneyA good friend sent a link with an infographic and some text concerning the ROI of Social Media. Derivative link here. Originally posted/created here. It got me really thinking about this whole thing again – and it’s kind of a different ballgame in my eyes. I can sum up my thoughts on the ROI in social media in three words:

DON’T EXPECT ANY.

That’s my statement, and I’m sticking to it. Sort of…

See, if you go into social media (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, yadda yadda yadda) with the mindset of getting a real fiduciary return on your investment, I think you’re playing it wrong, or your expectations are a little skewed. Many of the big brands don’t make anything (financially) with having fabulous Facebook pages. Monetizing Twitter is difficult. YouTube – well, you can make a tiny bit of residual income with their ads, but – not enough to really make a dent. Reddit? The “others?” Don’t count on it. So – why do they do it? Why do they hire people to specifically work their social media outlets? Why should YOU do it? We’ll get to that. Patience. I’m not done prevaricating about the bush…

The real value in social media isn’t sales, it isn’t in collecting “likes” or followers (although this can be useful.) It’s about brand recognition. It’s about continuity. It’s about looking like you care and that you’re “in the game.”

First – brand recognition. This is a big one – and it’s a very hard metric to actually measure. But, really – the more you’re out there, the more eyeballs you can potentially reach. Reach large numbers and reach them often enough, and you’ll essentially implant your logo/colors/scheme/words into their subconscious. Then, when it comes time to look for services you offer, you’ve got a leg up in terms of recognition. Edward Bernays made a lot of sense. Good old Uncle Eddie. Brand implanting. It’s important. It can take a long time to establish, but don’t you think there’s a reason that Coca Cola is recognized around the world? It’s not for humanitarianism or being that much better than Laura Lynn cola. It’s for brand recognition. They spend millions every year on it – for a reason.

Secondly – branding continuity. If you have a gorgeous logo and a great website, you’re ahead of the curve in some respects. But – if people go looking for you on Facebook and you’ve got a blank page or a lame design, what does that accomplish in terms of building your brand or keeping it consistent (and thus, memorable)? Not a lot, matey – not a lot. You want to be available to customers, and have your brand consistent and, well, branded to match your overall marketing. Being disjointed in appearance or offering lame or broken bits to your viewer/consumer/customer makes you look like you don’t care about YOUR business – how does that build confidence? How does that help them remember you? How does that tie together with your marketing plan? Do you want customers and potential customers to see your logo and remember a half-ass Facebook presence? Or, do you want them to see your logo (or whatever collateral) and think of you having it all together? Continuity is at the heart of branding and marketing.

Third – direct marketing. Now, having likes and followers can be a good thing. It makes marketing easier in the future – and CHEAPER. If you have 2000 people liking you on Facebook, you can expect a return on marketing of 3-4% as opposed to 1/2 of a percent with other marketing efforts. That’s pretty sweet – and you know how much you pay, per eyeball for a brilliant Facebook promo post? ZERO. If you have 2000 people on Twitter and you can get 2% of them to close on any particular deal you offer, that’s money in the bank. When you have a lot of real, engaged and interested followers, you have a mailing list that is second to none. You can use that (judiciously) to market directly to interested parties – and your click-through and sales rates are WAY higher with such targeting.

Social media is good for other things, too – but for a business looking to “invest” in the social world, being realistic and understanding what kind of return you can expect will go a long way towards making you feel good about spending 80 hours per week on Facebook.* You’re not going to get rich on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. You can use them as road signs back to your moneymaker – but you want to make sure that your signs look good, look consistent and that they point to the right thing.

So – give us a jingle. Let us buy you some coffee and explain how we can help you not only look good with social media, but how you can work it right and set your expectations appropriately low

*it’s actually around 19 minutes per day, on average. Still too much.

So Long, Facebook…

goodbyefacebookWell, I’ve finally “pulled the plug,” as it were, on my personal Facebook account. I’m not deleting it, since I sort of need to have it in order to admin my Facebook business pages and the pages of my clients. But – I’m done with Facebook for the time being*. Why? Well, there are a few reasons – and there might be reason somewhere in there for YOU to pull the plug, too.

First, it’s a colossal waste of my time. What am I accomplishing? Don’t get me wrong – I like seeing what everyone is up to and seeing all the cute memes and stuff, but I spend way too much time “seeing” it. I’ve spent a huge number of hours interacting with people that, really, have very little to do with my life outside of Facebook. Is that productive? Hardly. I’ve had a couple of friends here and there contact me through Facebook in order to inquire about my services or ask questions – but, in the end, there has been NO return on the investment of my time. And, you know – I have real life flesh-and-blood friends and family that are way more entertaining and enriching than the pixelated versions that I see on Facebook. If I’m going to spend the time online and away from them and real world, I’d rather that time have some sort of return outside of Facebook “fame.”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a reasonably narcissistic person. I enjoy people liking what I say, commenting on what I say and telling me how funny/profound/stupid/weird it is. But I have lots of other ways to live out my rock star fantasies, and Facebook is just – well – it’s pointless.

Secondly, I’m a control freak. You know, I post a lot of photos and use a lot of words on Facebook – why should Facebook get to control that? It’s MY stuff (largely,) and I want to have control over who sees it, reuses it and – ultimately – hold against me should the legal system deem that I’m some sort of deviant. Not saying that would ever happen, but with the way our judicial system is going these days, you just never know.

Third, I can use the time, effort and material to better my business. I have a personal blog that I will be using as my rant platform – and I can monetize that blog. Not that a lot of folks are going to be consuming what it is I have to say – but, hell, you never know. I can link back to my site, my work and the things I care about. Backlinks are SEO goodness, and I can use my blog for that reason. Same with my Flickr account. I can still rant and rave and have people see me – but I control where it goes and how it affects what I do.

Now – my personal Facebook page will still have stuff on it. I use a lovely little item called RSSGraffiti to pull posts from my personal blog and this blog onto my Facebook page. My Flickr account actually posts links back to my photos and stuff, so it’s not as if my Facebook friends will miss out on what I’m doing. My extended family will still see photos of the kids. I can still get messages and texts and other stuff, but I won’t get sucked into the time hole of Facebook to do it.

One thing that I will still use Facebook for is market research and staying up on trends. It’s part of my job, and I would be doing myself and my clients a disservice by ignoring the biggest social scene on the planet. I’m just done partaking for any other reason.

Is this course of action right for you? Who knows. But – if you need help in detaching from Facebook and starting to control your digital persona a little more closely, contact me. Want to set up a personal blog with a sweet style? Let’s do it. Who knows – you might just be the next hot thing in the blogosphere. Right after me…

*I try not to use the words “forever” and “never,” as I am fickle and prone to contradicting myself. Just how I roll…
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