Too Much Work: A Good Problem to Have?

Friend: “How is business?”

Me: “I am soooooo busy! There’s a lot to get done. I’m trying to keep up.”

Friend: “That’s a good problem to have!”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that phrase, “a good problem to have,” I would have some serious coin.

A “good” problem. How is that possible? The implication is that it is better to have too much work than to constantly be running low on sales and trying to drum up business.

Well, my all-to familiar response is something on the order of, “Yeah, but it’s still a problem.” My clients who have been so kind to me in dealing with my capacity issues know this to be true. But my “good” problem is simply their problem. It’s their delay. It’s their broken promise or blown timeline.

Let’s all agree that even the good problems must be solved.

I’m tired — and I’m certain a few of my clients are tired — of this chronic good problem of operating at or beyond capacity. I know I have to say “no” more or arrange for more capacity through multiplied effort (subcontractors or employees). I’m doing both (saying “no” and lining up help), but apparently not quickly enough for some.

That’s something I deeply regret.

Keeping promises is one of the greatest strengths and most vital of my business and personal values. It is inordinately painful to see yourself as the go-to provider of business-friendly graphic design and yet live in a near constant state of trying to catch up.

This post, my first in quite a few months, is even something I’m questioning the value of doing, given the state of a few critical and overdue projects. However, I’ve decided that it’s a cathartic, therapeutic process for me to help decompress and process what I’ve allowed to happen in my business. It’s confessional and hopeful in nature.

The next few weeks and months will be very telling for me and for the treasured relationships I have with my clients. Will I be able to keep the promises I’ve made? Will I be successful in identifying like-minded and talented individuals to help carry the load? Will I be able to shut down the thought processes and decision matrices that lead me to say, “Sure, we can do that,” or, “Yeah, let’s meet and talk about that project.” Time will tell. And time won’t lie. I’ll keep promises I’ve made, as God gives me strength to do so.

But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.
Matthew 5:37 HCSB

Improve Communications with Five Less-Is-More Tips

Communication is the Lifeblood of Nearly Everything We Do

Whether your goal is to drive sales, educate or inspire, effective communication is at the heart of practically everything you do. If you must work with or through others to get something accomplished, you need effective communication. Speaking well is certainly important, but I want to share with you a few tips that can help you improve your effectiveness in written or visual communication. If you sometimes struggle to write letters, memos or other documents — even ad copy or web content — I think you will find these tips to be helpful.

1. Consider Your Audience … and Limit Your Message Accordingly

The words you may use to connect with 5th graders would be very different from those you might use to address peers in business. We would also communicate differently with entry level employees and the board of directors. A good first step toward improving your communications is to identify your audience. Once you understand clearly the audience you are trying to reach, you can omit communication that is not appropriate.

2. Use Fewer Words

Google provides the definition of brevity as follows:


brevity definition


We may have developed a bad habit of inflating our word count to meet a quota in high school. But brevity is critical for clear communication in business. Use fewer words that convey the same meaning whenever possible.

3. Use Clear Space to Bring Attention to Your Message

Before an orchestra begins, the conductor calls the musicians (and the audience) to silence. Think of words as sound and white space as visual silence. With sufficient silence, you create room for sound — your message. Margins are a simple way to add silence to your content. Another place we find clear space is within images: copy space. Many of the best magazine ads and billboards use images with copy space. Use the silence of clear space to provide a place for the message you intend to convey.

4. Use Clip Art Sparingly If at All

Clip art is rarely necessary. Not all clip art is bad, but some of it is downright awful. If you intend for your message to be light, informal and comedic, clip art may be justified. The problem is that a lot of people seem to use clip art habitually rather than intentionally. Think of the brevity principle. If your message stands alone without clip art, leave it out.

5. Know When to Call a Communications Professional

You  may not be an art director or a marketing manager, but small businesses occasionally need the services of a copy writer or a layout artist. Think about the cost associated with a mistake. How many people would be affected? If business is on the line for a print ad, a billboard, or a press release, consider enlisting the services of a trusted professional.


 

We hope these tips make your communications more effective. If you have specific questions or if your current needs are beyond what you can handle, contact us today online or by phone at (864) 554-5061.

When Is the Last Time You Were Inspired by Marketing in the Financial Sector?

Have you seen the #TDThanksYou video? Take a look:

Okay, okay…we know that #TDThanksYou is not a charity campaign; it’s a marketing campaign from a for-profit entity. And I’m sure there more than a few people who are a bit creeped out that a bank (or perhaps a bank’s employees in collusion with family members) essentially surveilled a few customers to get the details required to be so personalized with their gifts. And we know that everyone can’t expect to receive the same type of lavish experience at TD Bank.

All of that cerebral, skeptical stuff aside, is this not one of the best marketing tactics ever?! It’s like the best parts of Undercover Boss and Extreme Makeover Home Edition applied to the context of a bank’s relationship to a few of its customers. And here we are, discussing it of our own accord at no cost to TD Bank. It’s so genius, it’s almost evil. Almost. But most people including this humble blog author can’t help but have some degree of positive feelings about TD Bank after watching this video.

This kind of marketing inspires and challenges those of us who make our trade in persuasive communication. Yes, we can tell the story of our clients’ businesses or products and tout their best points. But it takes a special kind of effort and creativity to inspire people in the process of advertising or marketing. The generous nature of the thank-you gifts overwhelms the recipient in the video and many viewers as well. The personalization of the gifts to the situations, challenges, and desires of the recipients is so spot-on, it’s uncanny.

How are YOU (and how am I) being inspirational, generous and personal with YOUR marketing efforts?

Your turn…

What do you think about this video from TD Bank? Do you feel the love, or do you remain unconvinced?

Did Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Makes a Personal Attack on the Marketing Profession?

Jessica Stillman from Inc. wrote a provocative piece containing Jeff Bezos quotes. The title is, “7 Jeff Bezos Quotes That Outline the Secret to Success,” and you don’t have to scroll far to find something that moves counter to generally accepted wisdom.

This statement leaps from the page:

“The balance of power is shifting toward consumers and away from companies … The right way to respond to this if you are a company is to put the vast majority of your energy, attention, and dollars into building a great product or service and put a smaller amount into shouting about it, marketing it. In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.”

Once I realized Jeff Bezos was advising people to spend less on marketing, I cringed a bit. My defenses shot up. At AJ Design and Marketing, LLC, I hang my hat on providing marketing resources and design services. How can this well-respected business giant say something like this that would hack away at the value proposition of little guys like us? And yet, when I pondered his words a little more deeply, I realized that Bezos is saying the same thing I’ve advised clients and prospects before: work on your business before you work on your marketing.

I was recently contacted by the owner of a small and growing boutique with about 1,500 likes on Facebook. The owner knew I had helped develop the site for 105 West Boutique, and she was interested in a website for her similarly positioned business in a different market area. Yes, 105 West Boutique had only about 40,000 likes on Facebook the day their website went live. Yes, they currently have more than 65,000. But I can almost guarantee that the owners of 105 West wouldn’t have invested $4,000 – $6,000 in web development when they had 1,500 likes on Facebook and and $20,000 in annual revenue. Where some designers or site developers may have tried to pitch a website as a way to solidify the business, this owner of the up-and-coming boutique needed different advice: solidify the brand and build a stronger cash position. Then when the business supports the capital investment, build an online sales channel that is appropriate for your current and anticipated volume, with room to grow a bit.

What Jeff Bezos advised, though it seems hip and almost contrarian at first, is what smart businesses have done for eons: Build your business on your core competency, that thing (or those things) you do better/faster/less expensive than anyone else around you. Don’t invent a new way to snooker people into becoming customers; invent a new way to make people’s lives better or easier. Get really good at serving people, and in today’s “new world,” serving people will lead to the growth you desperately want.

It turns out that Jeff Bezos isn’t such a bad guy after all. Yes, I went a little provocateur with my title (ok…a LOT). But I never really believed Bezos has a personal vendetta with those in the marketing profession. However, if marketers position themselves as those who facilitate spammy overselling tactics, then yeah, maybe “spend less on marketing” applies. But not to me. Ever since I started parlaying the hybrid business and design toolkit into my life’s work, I have felt that it is my responsibility to help build stronger clients. And that sometimes means advising a client away from an option or a project that would benefit me and toward a solution that benefits them.


Telling the truth, even when it hurts. That’s business-friendly graphic design.

Christmas Cards - ready to mail

Making Friends in Business

AJ Design and Marketing aims to provide business-friendly graphic design. Initially, that’s a nice goal or slogan that is full of promise. But over time, given enough opportunities to back it up, I’ve found that offering business-friendly graphic design creates a lot of friendships with the businesses and organizations that rely on my services. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you want friends, you need to be friendly. And if you want friends in business, you should be business-friendly.

This year, I sent more than 80 Christmas greeting cards to clients, vendors, and other friends of my business. It was a chore to hand-address the envelopes and add a personal note to the cards, but what a joy!

I thank God for each of my clients and other friends,
and I wish you all a warmly blessed Christmas season!

Do you run Quickbooks and an online store? Meet your new best friend: Webgility


Several of my clients have e-commerce capability planned for their websites. While it is much easier to do business on the web than ever before, it’s still not for the faint of heart. Customers have options. Millions of them. And if your front-end or back-end isn’t ready for prime time, you had better not even go live. What happens when someone picks up an item and brings it to the register at the same time as a customer on your site clicks “Buy” and confirms their order? Problem.

Enter Webgility and their eCommerce Connector. In short, the eCC synchronizes Quickbooks activity with the activity on your website. Once eCC is in place and properly configured, sales that occur at the point of sale will automatically deduct inventory quantities from your website. And online customers will be added to your Quickbooks customer list. No more manual data entry, oversells, or backorders. This will save time, money, sanity, your marriage, your reputation, etc. You get the idea. Making beautiful websites isn’t easy. But making beautiful websites that integrate with Quickbooks? That’s business-friendly graphic design.

I’m excited about deploying Webgility solutions on a couple of websites that are in my development queue right now. Expect to read future blog posts once we go live. And certainly, contact me if you want to discuss a new project. But if you would like to get started with Webgility’s eCommerce Connector on your own, feel free to click here to learn more and save $20.