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How to Integrate Your Brand into Your Office Design
2015-02-17 00:31 UTC by

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Branding and Office Design

Whether you work from home or commute to an office, odds are you spend a sizable chunk of your valuable time in your workspace. I should know, I spend an inordinate amount of time in mine. Mine also happens to be my bedroom, so there is that.

That being said, decorating your office can have more of an impact than you think, both on you personally as well as your staff, clients and potential customers who enter your space. A space that feels good and conveys who you are as a professional or what your brand represents is well worth the effort.

Note: this likely means you should not work out of your bedroom like I do. Although to be fair, I do have a home office. I just prefer my nice comfy bed. ;)

Regardless, before you dive into redecorating said office, you’ll have a few key things to consider.

Everything from colors and decor to layout and design can make an impact. You also want to be aware of how incorporating your branding into the decor will flow seamlessly into the overall look of your office.

Where to Start

Good question. First, it’s important to plan ahead. Make time to sketch out what you are planning in every area of the office. Do the rooms and hallways flow together? Did you leave ample room for traffic and social interaction? Did you take into account possible future expansion or growth? By asking yourself a few simple questions, you can save time, energy and money in the long run.

Next consider how to best take advantage of your particular space. If you have multiple rooms in your office, make sure you are putting them to their best possible use. Reception areas should be open and inviting with comfortable seating.

Hallways can be designed with your brand in mind instead of just a solid color, and if done well, can make a great first impression on your clients as you lead them to a meeting room.

Finally, remember to think outside the box. When planning out furniture and accessories, allow room for creativity.

Floating or wall-mounted desks offered at stores like Overstock are an affordable way to add creativity while saving space. Custom roller blinds from The Shade Store add a unique look while still being functional.

And don’t be afraid to take advantage of color. Whether you are looking to match your brand and logo, or give employees a mood boost, color choices can have a significant impact.

Staff Considerations

Most offices have a variety of departments and areas: finance, customer service, research, design, implementation and meeting spaces. Unless of course you freelance from home. Then you might have your kitchen, your bathroom, your… but I digress. hehe

The employees in each of these departments might have a drastically different idea of how they want the rooms to look, and it always pays to keep your staff happy. (Or your hubby. Whatevs.)

Companies like Drum celebrate the diversity of their employees with fun wall designs in the creative department space and a mural in the meeting...

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A Sing-Along Year: The Catchiest Jingles of 2014
2015-01-26 03:32 UTC by

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Marketing Jingles

I don’t know about you, but I firmly believe music holds power. A lot of power. I’m a faith kind of girl, so in particular I believe worship music holds extreme power, but all types of music can be powerful when it comes to bringing to mind memories of days gone by, or uniting a group of people in a way that only music can.

Music can also be powerful in business and branding. How many jingles do you hear on television and radio commercials that wind up stuck in your head for days to follow? That’s effective marketing at it’s best.

Read the following lyrics: “Want a Fanta? / Don’t you want a, / want a Fanta?” If the voice in your mind suddenly began singing an octave or two higher, congratulations, you just experienced the power of one of the catchiest jingles of all time.

These tunes are so memorable that a 2012 study by Vienna University of Economics and Business concluded that they’re more effective than slogans alone.

Companies interested in increasing their recognition with an addicting tune should take a page from some of the catchiest jingles of 2014.

“Bus Opera” by J.G. Wentworth

First on the list is J.G. Wentworth, a financial services firm that specializes in purchasing structured settlements and annuities from individuals.

Their newest commercial is a full-scale musical, complete with creative lyrics, fun costumes and a catchy chorus. We bet you’ll be singing “Call J.G. Wentworth / 877-CASH NOW” all through your lunch hour after watching their ad on YouTube.

“The World is Ours” by Coca-Cola

Who could forget Coca-Cola’s rhythmic jingle for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil? The slogan “The World is Ours” became as iconic as Big Red’s fizzy drink, thanks to this carnival-inspired song.

The entire commercial features upbeat music, feel-good imagery and visual repetition of words, making this a hard jingle to forget. Furthermore, Coca-Cola actually went through the trouble of creating 32 different versions of The World is Ours tailored to a variety of viewers, reports Businessweek.

Now that’s dedication.

“Get Up and Vote!” by the Election System of the Virgin Islands

Lesser-known is a jingle created by the Election System of the Virgin Islands. Their campaign raises awareness about the need to vote and encourages residents to “Get up / Get up / Get up / Get up / Get up / Get up and vote!”

This simple but effective jingle is featured on their main voting website and gets viewers excited about exercising their voting rights. Gone are the days of stuffy voting PSAs. It’s all about the infectious tunes now.

“The SafeAuto Jingle” by Angie Gillespie

This year SafeAuto hosted a jingle competition called DoTheJingle. The winner was Angie Gillespie from Kentucky and her quirky song about SafeAuto’s car insurance.

While walking to her car in the...

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Signage in Business: Effective Tips for Quality Designs
2015-01-14 18:22 UTC by

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Business Signage

Open for biz but not quite sure how to get the word out? Many businesses utilize signage such as banners to capture the attention wandering eyes.

Banners can be used for announcements, to promote products, and even just to look cool and raise awareness of your company’s name in the minds and hearts of onlookers. Signage can at times be an important method of promoting a business. This is dependent on the type of business you run of course.

Businesses are able to utilize signs that can literally shout to viewers, in a way other forms of marketing can’t. (If you’ve ever been bowled over by a big sign on the side of a bus, you know what I’m talking about here.) Provided you have the budget for it… otherwise more modest signage is definitely recommended.

If you’ve tried everything short of standing outside your place of business in a costume with an arrow that says “Come On In, We’re Open for Business”, you might want to try designing a banner or three. (Trust me it will save you a lot of time and embarrassment.)

Banner Design Advice

There’s no point in investing in a banner to advertise and brand your business if you’re going to haphazardly throw something together. Theoretically, you could have a fifth grader could draw your company name on some posterboard and call it a banner. I doubt however, that it’d get you very far in the marketing race.

The wrong design can quickly do the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish and make your customers run for the hills. So… follow some of the tips below and try not to scare your customers.

Make It Visible

Your potential customers need to be able to see and read your signs without any trouble. According to eSigns, one of the most important aspects of custom banners is their readability and viewership potential. Customers shouldn’t have to squint or struggle to see and understand what your banner is advertising.

When thinking of designs, it is important to ensure that they are large enough to be seen up close (for customers walking by) and far away (for customers driving by). If they can’t see it in either scenario, you’ve pretty much wasted your money.

Make It Eye-Catching

As I mentioned before, anyone can make a sign and call it a banner, but if it doesn’t grab the attention of others, your sign is simply filling up empty space.

When thinking about your designs, it should be attractive and noticeable to others. Bold colors and vivid graphics that will pop out against it’s surrounding environment, (i.e. the wall), work well on banner designs. What you shouldn’t do however, is choose too many colors or graphics, and make your sign “busy”.

A sign that makes a customer go “Yikes!” is certainly going to grab attention, but probably not the kind you’re striving for. Nor will you be able to keep said attention.

Make it Legible

You’d be surprised how many...

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‘Smarketing’ Harmonizes Sales & Marketing Departments
2015-01-03 00:13 UTC by

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Smarketing

It’s no great business secret that sales and marketing departments are often at odds with one another. The problem usually starts with the idea that marketing and sales are needed at different points of the customer purchasing cycle.

This attitude that “we’re only responsible for our portion of the cycle” creates the feeling of being on two separate teams. Management needs to engage both marketing and sales in the entire cycle. This melding, dubbed “smarketing,” (snicker, snicker… love that word) puts everyone on the same team and gets results.

One of the biggest challenges will be opening up communication between the two departments. This requires two things:

  • A company culture that welcomes transparency, responds well to criticism and invites feedback.
  • A unified communications system that empowers employees with the right tech tools, such as cloud capabilities, audio, video and Web conferencing, collaboration software and email and instant messaging.

Both company culture and your communications tools should enable your employees to better understand the following factors that impact the purchasing cycle:

Problem Recognition

Many times, the sales force feels like marketing does not focus properly on the four Ps— product, pricing, place and promotion. Facilitate sales input on the company’s marketing efforts. This can provide insight that your salespeople obtain during direct interaction with customers, as well as help in determining the target market.

Information Search

At this step, marketing wants customers to already be aware of their product, brand or business. This can be achieved with many different strategies, including content marketing, nurturing campaigns and competitive analytics. The sales team should be playing a crucial role in gathering information, raising brand awareness, creating referrals and market positioning through customer communication.

Alternative Evaluation

Oftentimes, this is the step where the lead hand-off takes place. Without a well-defined process for what qualifies as a good, sales-ready lead and how it should be handed off, many leads will end up as dead ends.

Purchase Decision

When a customer decides to make a purchase, they need answers to many questions both about the product itself and the purchasing process (such as return policies and warranties to reassure them they are making the right decision). Both marketing and sales need to be focused on value delivery. Bringing sales and marketing together to communicate and share obstacles, objectives and goals can help create a quality experience that overcomes customer concerns.

Post-Purchase Behavior

Once the sale is made, both sales and marketing should be involved in the post-purchase follow-up. Both sides need to work together to encourage referrals, ensure customer satisfaction, achieve customer retention, generate marketing data and turn customers into brand...

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#Entrepreneurs: Which Mobile Phone Is Best for Biz?
2014-10-07 15:55 UTC by

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Mobile Business

In the biz world, Windows crushed Apple to become the preferred operating system for the office. (Seriously, I ADORE my Macbook. This twisted little reality I shall never understand. Just sayin’.)

So just what was Window’s evil little plan to achieve such technological world domination? Deceptively simple really. They did it by granting other manufacturers access to their operating system.

The Windows OS showed up inside many different brands of computers. On the flip side, if you wanted the Apple OS, you could only get it from Apple—at a premium price at that. Apple did wind up taking a brief departure from that stance, but it didn’t last.

The question is, how is that battle stacking up in today’s mobile environment? Is one operating system trumping the rest? And does it really matter which phone you choose for business?

Here’s a candid look at the sitch from lil ole me’s vantage point.

The Current State of Mobile

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), a global market intelligence provider, the smartphone market grew by more than 25 percent from the second business quarter of 2013 to the same period in 2014. Who the heck captured the most market share, you might ask? It might surprise you, but Android realized a whopping 84.7 percent, granting just 11.7 percent to Apple.

Who the heck captured the most market share, you might ask? It might surprise you, but Android realized a whopping 84.7 percent, granting just 11.7 percent to Apple.

Analysts point out that Google’s willingness to allow other manufacturers to install the Android OS in their devices, coupled with Apple’s tight-fisted grip on the iOS, is driving the numbers, just like days of old with Windows.

That could be why Android’s share of the market grew over 5 percent for the year while Apple’s dropped. Windows is the closest competitor, with 2.5 percent of mobile device volume at the end of Q2 2014.

But what does it mean to business in the trenches? Is there a clear winner in functionality or capability? Why glad you asked dear reader. Glad you asked. To determine that, let’s compare the two flagship models to see how they match up.

Galaxy s5 vs. iPhone 6: The Beatdown

Which one is best for entrepreneurs?

There is one place at company headquarters where you are more likely to find Apple computers in use: the creative department. For design functions, Apple got the jump on Windows back in the day. Some would say they are still better for design.

Others of course, would disagree.

Since the best mobile phone for you may just boil down to your particular needs, here’s a brief look at the main contenders and functionalities that may impact you.

The View:

Until the release of iPhone 6, many entrepreneurs shied away from Apple phones because of screen size. Previously, you either lived with a 4-inch (diagonal) view or bought something else. iPhone 6 ups the game, getting closer to...

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#BGB Tutorial: 4 Freelance Blunders to Make You Go Woops! Or DUH. (You pick.)
2014-09-07 02:08 UTC by

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Post image for #BGB Tutorial: 4 Freelance Blunders to Make You Go Woops! Or DUH. (You pick.)

Whoever has ever said freelancing is “easy” should be strung up by their toes and dangled over a balcony somewhere, mouth stuffed with oversized gooey marsh mallows to muffle the screams. (I know, I have weird notions of torture.) 

Those individuals clearly don’t know Jack. (Or even Jill for that matter.)

Seriously though, freelancing isn’t as easy as it may sound. It’s not “Oh lemme just hang out my shingle and soon I’ll be rolling in dough and living like a traveling bohemian.”

Brake check. Not even close.

It’s more like “Oh, lemme hang out my shingle. Wait, how do I even make a shingle? Do people still use shingles? Oh shite, I need to hire someone to make me a shingle and there goes all my dough! Guess I won’t be traveling like a bohemian this year. Drat.”

Or some sort of inner dialogue to that effect.

Regardless, freelancing (especially freelance writing) can be hard. Damn hard. And you’ll have ups and downs and everything in between, and yes that’s part of what makes it exciting… but it’s also part of what makes it terrifying too, especially when you have a family and people counting on you.

Which is why sometimes it’s OK not to be a trailblazer all the time. Sometimes it just makes good sense to follow the path of other trailblazers instead.

Learn from the mistakes of others, and avoid the kind of dumb pitfalls that all too commonly, noob freelancers often fall face first into.

Assuming Contracts are No Big Deal

Yes, there will be some clients you will never, ever, ever have to worry about, contract or not. (Do your best to keep those around for life, by the way.)

They will be amazingly awesome, easy to work with, pay you on time, sometimes even upfront and in full, and you will never have to use your stern voice with them in order to get paid for work you have completed to their satisfaction.

But even the awesome clients need clear cut terms and deliverables, so that they know when, how, and what to pay you when the work is done. Nifty things like contracts provide that.

And then there are the clients who are not so awesome, but maybe their lack of awesomeness isn’t apparent at first. Seeing red flags in a potential client often will only come with experience, so it’s easy to miss them when first starting out.

But there will be clients that suck, and those are the clients you will be getting on your knees and thanking God you had that contract with.

Thanking God, because at least now when they refuse to keep their end of the bargain, you have some legal wiggle room to hold them accountable to their commitments. (Muahahaha.)

And really, it’s protection for them as well, because in the very same way, you can be held accountable too if you fail to deliver on your promises. (Success 101… don’t fail in delivering on your promises.)

Now… let’s not forget pesky things like contracts the next time around....

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Back to Basics: 5 Ways to Attract Attention to Your Home Biz
2014-08-13 15:14 UTC by

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Home Business Exposure

Time to revisit some basics. I think it’s good to do that on occasion, don’t you?

Frankly I think everyone should make a point to do it, at least every other month or so, myself included. It can be easy to get lost in the day to day of running your business, and find you’re glossing over the basics or missing them altogether, either because you think you already have them nailed, or you’ve just simply forgotten them.

Especially when it comes to the basics of marketing.

And sometimes maybe you just get downright tired of marketing period! I know as a freelancer, it can sometimes feel that marketing is a never ending process. And it is really, but don’t get discouraged. You just need to figure out ways to make the process as efficient and effective as possible.

It’s the same with my hubby’s biz as well. He’s a carpenter, and he has to constantly market himself in order to gain new clients and bring in more business… but luckily his business lends itself quite well to word of mouth growth, and he’s been blessed to gain quite a few new clients from that alone.

Marketing a small business run from a private home is really not much different than marketing one in downtown LA or a suburban strip mall. It’s still a business and needs targeted, intelligent marketing strategies. And of course, affordability is always a factor for small businesses.

Luckily, there are lots of low-cost or no-cost tools you can turn to for help, particularly online. These tools will help you announce and adjust your marketing messages as your customer base becomes more defined.

Establish Your Brand

Duh right? Told you we’re talking bare bones basics today! So first, decide on how you want to brand yourself or your business. And for a small or home-based business, don’t be afraid to incorporate your personality. I had to teach hubby this one too!

Shauna Wekherlien, an Arizona-based CPA, ignited her business by sharing her very real passion for accounting by quite successfully branding herself as The Tax Goddess.

“I stepped up in front of the microphone in front of a group of people,” she related at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Arizona Society of CPAs, “and said, ‘Hi, I’m Shauna, the Tax Goddess!'”

While not all accountants can hope to become immortal, Shauna’s enthusiasm comes through every video, email, and blogpost, duly branded as coming from The Tax Goddess.

Invest in the Cloud

Most home businesses require a lot of time and flexibility from the owner. Because you will not be at home 24/7, you should consider investing in cloud storage sites like LiveDrive.

They work with both home computers and business professionals by providing low-cost file storage and sharing, file syncing between devices and unlimited backup.

LiveDrive also has a 30 day money back guarantee, which is rare, according to Top 10 Cloud Storage....

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