Sasha Egolf

Should You Use Crowdsourced Design?

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Crowdsourcing graphic design can be a fantastic option for small businesses, but it’s not the right solution for every situation. Crowdsourcing is the method of approaching graphic design by getting design options from many designers online, thereby increasing your options for design itself while minimizing the cost to. This sounds like a great deal! And it is, but only if used for the right projects and managed properly.

So how does it work? On any one of the websites that offer this service (99designs, Crowdspring, DesignCrowd, Logo Arena, etc.), you’ll start by selecting the type of project you want and the contest level. Each site differs slightly, but starting at just a few hundred dollars, they typically offer a few contest tiers, with the higher tiers attracting more experienced and talented designers. From there, you’ll fill in a number of prompts asking you to describe the project, what you’re looking to get at the end, how the design will be used when it’s completed, colors you like and dislike, fonts you like and dislike, and sometimes even selecting logos you like from a vast selection to help them get a sense of your style. Then over the course of approximately a week, you’ll receive anywhere from dozens to hundreds of submissions to your contest. At the end of the design period, you select your favorite, work with the designer to make any desired modifications, and then you receive your design files. Many sites even have guarantees where if, at the end of your contest, you’re not fully happy with the results they can either extend the time period to get more submissions, or give you a refund.

But when shouldn’t you use crowdsourced design? When you know exactly what you want. If you have a clear vision of what you want, but you need a graphic designer with the ability to make that vision come to life in design programs, you’re better off finding a good designer online or at your local college’s design program. That way your time and design budget can be spent focusing in on making your vision a reality. You also should consider other options if you’re looking to start the first of many design projects. It’s possible that your design contest winner could go on to be your graphic design partner beyond the initial contest and outside of the crowdsource site, but you can’t count on that.

And when should you use crowdsourced design? In circumstances where you don’t have an exact vision for what you want, but you know what colors, fonts, styles, and elements you like and dislike and you can describe them clearly. It’s situations like those where working one-on-one with a designer can get expensive as they spend hours exploring options and trying to hone in on a concept that works through trial and error on multiple rounds of revisions. Crowdsourcing instead gets you many ideas from many creative minds at a low, fixed cost.

Are there any other tips for successfully using crowdsourced design? Yes!

  • As mentioned above, be very detailed, clear, and thorough in your design brief and all your feedback. Sometimes you look at a design and you don’t like it, but you can’t put your finger on what it is that you want to change. That doesn’t give the designer any information about what to revise, and their next pass (and likely many subsequent passes) will be a shot in the dark. Other times you see a design and you don’t like part of it, but you can’t clearly explain what it is or how you want it changed. Challenge yourself to be as specific as possible and don’t be afraid to pull out a thesaurus to help you describe what you want changed (I’ve done it!). Telling a designer that you want it to “pop more” doesn’t really let them know what you don’t like about it and what exactly to change.
  • Nurture the contest, don’t set it and forget it. Many sites will let you rate and give feedback on submissions as they come in. If you review submissions in real time, you give that designer a chance to try again multiple times within the contest period and sometimes other designers can see existing feedback as well. Both of those will contribute to better submissions that more closely fit what you’re looking for.
  • Think through all the file types you need. Do you need RGB (for digital) or CMYK (for print) or both? Any monochrome versions, all black or all white? Different background colors like white, black, or transparent? Different file types like JPEG, PNG, EPS, or original design program file like PSD, AI, or INDD? The safest bet is to ask for all of the above and anything else you can think of in all the available permutations. Since you technically have a one-time arrangement with this designer, it’s best to get everything you may ever need up front, in case it’s not possible to track them down or they don’t want to help you out after the contest is over and they’ve gotten paid.

Under the right circumstances crowdsourcing your design project can be a great value, getting you dozens of design options down to the exact one you want for only a few hundred dollars.

Is Your Company Too Small for a CRM?

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A CRM, or customer relationship management system, can seem complicated and intimidating, but it’s really just a central place to track all the information you have about your customers and prospects, plus log all your communications and efforts to sell them. When you take the time to think about it, the alternative to having a CRM is what’s really complicated.

Even a small business needs to keep a list of its customers somewhere, plus a list of prospects, and maybe those are in your accounting system, a word document, or even a written list. Then you have the history of your email back-and-forths in your email account. Any phone calls would be in your mobile history if you called from your cell phone, but does your land line show more than 10 calls worth of history if you called from that line? If you had to take any notes on those calls, they might be in a notebook, a blank email draft, or more likely a scrap of paper you grabbed during the call. This gets exponentially more complicated when there is more than one person responsible for selling, since they’ll each have all their own locations for tracking this information. A CRM starts to sound like a good idea when compared to that chaos.

In a CRM, each contact or company can have all their contact information in one place along with a history of all communications and purchase history, depending on the platform you choose to use and how you set it up. Additional perks can include generating reports from the information housed in the CRM and a mobile app for tracking and logging on the go.

There are a number of free to low-cost CRM solutions out there, including the following:

Hubspot CRM + Sales

Cost: Free (additional features available for a fee)

Custom Fields: Yes

Mobile App: Yes

Reports: Limited

Email (directly from the system): Yes

ZoHo

Cost: Free (up to 10 users)

Custom Fields: No

Mobile App: Yes

Reports: Limited

Email (directly from the system): Yes (individual emails only, no blasts)

Insightly

Cost: $12 per user/month

Custom Fields: up to 10 fields

Mobile App: Yes

Reports: Yes

Email (directly from the system): Yes (up to 500 mass emails/day)

Once you decide to start using a CRM for your business, it’s important that all involved in selling adopt its use fully. The value of the system, and the insights you can pull from the information housed in it, is only as good as the data that’s put into it. As we like to tell our clients when they start using a CRM, “garbage in, garbage out.” This platform won’t transform spotty data into fully accurate and complete data, but it can make it easier to obtain and keep accurate data on your customers and prospects. Read more about how to get your traditional sales team onboard with CRM technology to ensure CRM success for your business, no matter how small you are.

Website Retargeting: What It Is, How It Works, and Why You Need It

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If you’ve used the internet, you’ve been retargeted. You may have been browsing Amazon looking at a 48-pack of socks, and then the next day, you’re checking the weather and there’s an ad for a 48-pack of socks! How did they know? It’s called retargeting, or remarketing.

It’s a method of digital advertising that lets you serve ads to people who have visited your website. By placing a pixel, or a snippet of code, on all pages of your site, you can track website visitors and their behavior on your site and then “follow” them around with ads for up to 90 days. Like many other digital advertising channels, you set daily or weekly budgets for each campaign based on your overall marketing mix and budget.

This is often a good use of advertising budget, since you are paying for exposure to people who have demonstrated a level of interest in your business specifically, as opposed to other methods of digital advertising where to pay to get in front of someone who has listed certain interests on their social media profile or has searched for certain terms that are relevant to your business. Dollars spent on retargeting aren’t trying to educate prospective customers on your business, it’s trying to get them to come back to a site they recognize and close the deal.

While you can set up general retargeting campaigns so that anyone who visits your site is shown a general ad for your business, you can also get more sophisticated. For example, if a visitor viewed a page for Product A, you can then retarget them with an ad specifically for Product A. If you’re site has ecommerce you can use the action of a purchase as a suppression action so that if they visit a page for Product B and then go through the checkout process, they won’t be shown an ad. Best practice is to use a combination of general campaigns (general ad to someone who just visited your homepage) and specific campaigns (unique to products, services, etc.) to ensure you are making the most out of the visitors to your site, regardless of how they found you in the first place (organically, paid search, other digital ad, etc.)

Below are few of the most common retargeting platforms out there:

Google AdWords – In addition to Search and Display advertising, Google calls this Remarketing Display. This is a good option if most of your traffic comes from Google (check Google Analytics if you’re not sure!)

AdRoll – Simple and easy to use platform, with cost structure limited to CPM (cost per 1000 impressions) rather than CPC (cost per click). Well suited to smaller sites with lower traffic.

Retargeter – Known for their customer service with each account having access to their own account manager, their service is built for high-traffic sites and large retargeting budgets.

Criteo – Well suited for ecommerce sites due to their Dynamic Retargeting feature which makes accurate recommendations on which product from an entire product catalog to show in ads. They are also better suited for sites with high traffic.

How High Performance Can Be Part of Your Culture

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Company culture is very nuanced and complex. It’s intential and can be cultivated, but it’s also a natural byproduct of the people who make up your company. For that reason, no company can truly recreate the great cultures we hear about at Zappos or Twitter. We can, however, look to others to understand the success behind great company culture and the creation of genuinely motivated teams.

On a recent episode of John Jantsch’s podcast, Duct Tape Marketing, he spoke to Lindsay McGregor about the research she and her co-author, Neel Doshi, completed to write Primed to Perform. Their research indicates that a person’s professional performance is driven only 20% by their personality, and 80% by the environment around them. Well, that puts a lot of pressure on business leaders to create cultures that foster high performing employees.

So let’s look at what motivates people to better understand the levers we have to pull when crafting your company’s culture. McGregor and Doshi identified 6 motivators that, when combined, indicate a person’s total motivation. This is important because they believe that why a person works determines how well a person works.

The first 3 motives are positive, or direct, motives.

1. Play – you enjoy the work itself, it’s an activity you may even do if you weren’t being paid to do it.
2. Purpose – you believe in the impact you make while doing your job.
3. Potential – you do something for an indirect outcome of the work, what might come one day from doing this work.

The next 3 motives are negative, or indirect.

4. Emotional Pressure – you do the work to avoid guilt or shame.
5. Economic Pressure – you do the work only to either gain a reward or avoid punishment.
6. Intertia – you do the work because it’s what you did yesterday so you’ll continue doing it today and tomorrow and the day after that.

Combining these motives to understand whether or not the positives outweigh the negatives results in a total motivation that is either net positive or net negative. (McGregor and Doshi have an online test for you and your team to take to quantify total motivation.)

Looking at these 6 motivators, we can see that while intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are necessary to attracting and retaining employees, the real value comes in the subtlties of the environment you create at your company. Are employees encouraged to play, be curious, explore, and experiment? Can employees see the direct impact of their work, both on a company or team level, but also the impact of their own individual contribution? And can employees see the future possibilities for themselves that can be accomplished by doing good work?

Concentrating on making sure you can answer yes to these questions, (and if you already can, how do you make that an resounding “YES!”?) you can work to make your employees’ total motivation scores more positive, and therefore increase your employees’ performance.

Tips for an All Star LinkedIn Profile

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LinkedIn is the largest professional social media platform with over 350 million users. Not only is it important for you to be part of this community, but you need to have a strong profile to stand out amongst so many users. Luckily, LinkedIn tells you how strong your profile is, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert, or All Star, so you know if you have to give it some more attention.

Generally speaking, in order to reach All Star level, you should fill out your profile thoroughly and completely. The more information you provide, the better it represents you to the LinkedIn community. Below are some specific tips to increase your profile’s strength.

Photo

A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? It’s cliché, but choosing the right photo is important because it tells a lot about you at first glance of your profile. And your profile is 11 times more likely to be viewed if you include a photo.

  • Use a recent photo. Professionally done photos are ideal.
  • Use a photo of yourself (not family members, objects, etc.)
  • Smile! Your profile should be approachable.
  • Wear your most complementary color. Bright colors can attract attention, but avoid bold patterns. Professional attire is most appropriate.
  • Make sure the background in the photo isn’t distracting.

Title and Company

The most important thing to keep in mind for your title and company is what your colleagues are doing – you want to stay consistent with the company norm in terms of acronyms and abbreviations. If you see a lot of VP Sales and Director of R&D titles, then you should follow suit. If there is no consensus, it’s generally preferable to spell everything out.

*Note, C-level titles are the exception here. For common C-suite positions, it’s ok to use the abbreviation since we all know what CEO, CFO, etc stands for. If your company uses more playful titles like Chief Pizza Officer, help us out by spelling it and adding some sort of detail like “Food and Beverage Department” to give context.

Personal Summary

This is your chance to talk about yourself! And that’s not always as easy as it sounds. If you have a bio on your company’s website, that’s a good place to start. Then tweak it for the purposes of LinkedIn.

  • Personal summaries should speak directly to your connections so use the first person as you write it.
  • Focus on your skills and professional intersts without speaking directly to your current employer. This summary is about you, and while your current position plays a big part in who you are professionally, it’s not the whole story.
  • You’re limited to 2,000 characters so be concise in 2 to 3 short paragraphs.
  • Update this information frequently, particularly if your role or responsibilities have changed.

Experience

It’s important to strike a balance here of being thorough and only including what’s most relevant. If you’ve held a variety of roles in a number of areas, then you should include that to show your range of experience. However, don’t feel the need to include every job, particularly from early in your career, as showing many entry level experiences will dilute your LinkedIn resume and distract from your more relevant positions.

Company Profile

Part of the entries under Experience is the Description. Best practice is to use the company description from the employer’s LinkedIn page. This provides a good overview of the company and ensures that you and the company are saying the same things about what it is they do and who they serve.

Skills & Expertise

Beyond your experience, listing skills allows you to more directly tell people what you are good at and interested in. Your connections have the opportunity to endorse you for specific skills which adds to your credibility. In fact, profiles with skills listed get up to 13 times as many views.

  • Because these are searchable, add as many relevant skills as possible (up to 25).
  • Look to coworkers with similar roles for examples.
  • Use your coworkers and friends – endorse each other for important skills, as these items will be listed first.
  • Avoid repetition among your listed skills, to maximize the power of your endorsements for each distinct skill.
  • Reorder skills based on importance and endorsements.

Connect

As a professional network, LinkedIn’s value is rooted in your ability to connect with other people. To take advantage of this value, it is important to build and nurture your network of connections as much as possible. Your LinkedIn network should reflect your real life network, so look for and connect with people you know.

Statistics from http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/by-the-numbers-a-few-important-linkedin-stats/.

3 Engaging Features for Your Website

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It’s no surprise that your company’s website is incredibly important – it’s the most public face of your business. So it’s critical that it not only represents who you are and what you do, but that it’s also captivating for visitors. Here are 3 features you can add to your website to engage those people visiting your site to learn more about you.

Homepage Video
We’re all used to seeing large photos and images dominate website homepages. But there’s no reason that the same real estate can’t be used to show or promote video. Now this video can be a product explanation or testimonial, or it can be simple B-roll footage of the same subject of which you’d take a simple photo. Regardless of the video’s content, video draws in the visitor, encouraging them to watch, stay on the page longer, and explore the site further.

See how Town Dock promotes their new video on their homepage.

360° Product Views
If your company makes or serves a product, the downside of having someone visit your website instead of your location is that they can’t see, hold, or experience the product. You can give them the next best thing by showing every angle of your product in a 360° view. This feature is typically used by company’s who produce particularly complex products, but the effect can be just as striking for a very simple product.

See how CompoSecure shows off their card products.

Interactive Pages
Do you ever wish you could tell your website visitor how to use your site so that they see the information exactly as you would like to? An interactive page allows you to do just that. Typically this feature is reserved for the homepage, allowing you to guide the visitor through a story or journey simply by having them scroll. That action triggers a series of animated movements that occur on the visitor’s screen.

See how The Nature Conservancy told their story about water education using an interactive design.

The Power of a Handshake

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There are more ways than ever before to connect with your customers and prospects. You can leverage the Internet (organic and paid search), deploy email campaigns (opt-in mailing lists, e-newsletters, automated drip campaigns), and take advantage of various social media mediums (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Google+) to communicate and deepen ties with your intended audiences. And if all those options aren’t enough to get you excited, there are marketing automation solutions to streamline all of it!

While each of these marketing tools can be powerfully effective and necessary, there’s a crucial element that is missing: the human touch. When you greet a person you shake their hand, look into their eyes and immediately begin building a bond that an automated marketing campaign or online tool cannot match. The opportunity to connect on a more human level greatly increases your chances of building a rapport and level of trust that is needed to win business and strengthen relationships with existing clients. This doesn’t mean that you need to meet with each prospect or customer in person or else face the dire consequence of lost business, but the more your customer can interact with an individual from your company, the more trusting of and more connected to your company he or she will feel.

Some businesses are naturally more suited to facilitate this person-to-person interaction, particularly companies selling directly to the public. Examples include grocers, furniture stores and the spectrum of retail establishments you might find in any retail plaza or strip mall. But businesses in the B2B space that by definition sell their products or services to other businesses face more of a challenge to get in front of their customers.

So what is a company selling in the B2B space to do? For starters, when the choice exists to teleconference vs. hold an in-person meeting, opt for the latter. While it will be more time consuming and expensive, the power of an in person meeting will most likely far outpace the initial expense. Other more creative ideas to get quality face time with your customers could include holding customer appreciation events, forming a customer advisory board, holding invitation-only lunch and learns exclusive to your clients, and inviting your clients to an annual holiday get together so they feel part of your community.

Technology has made our lives as marketers so much easier in so many ways. We can use teleconferencing tools, email, and social media to communicate in ways that did not exist just a decade ago, saving us untold time and effort. It’s important, however, that we use a portion of that saved time to do what technology will never enable us to do – build meaningful relationships with our customers through the power of a handshake and a smile.