Category Archives: Uncategorized

Setting the Stage

Make sure your marketing efforts have direction.

Who’s directing your play? Small businesses don’t always begin with a clear vision, marketing budget, or plan. Most of us add experts and services along the way, eventually assembling a cast of characters that can become muddled or unmanageable.

Diverse experts can be good, since specialists bring expertise, but be sure you have someone directing the cast with a cohesive script. If there is no one behind the scenes directing the dialogue and tactics, the message and purpose is lost. Set the stage for your success by creating intervals to assess and direct the efforts of all your players. For help plotting your organization’s plan, connect with C. Liston Communications.

BRANDED: 10 Points of Logo Design

BLOGHACK: If you already have a logo you love, skip to 9 & 10.

  1. Know yourself: Your logo is a visual handshake you’ll use for years. What messaging does it need to carry to accurately represent you?
  2. Know your audience: What are your target demographic’s preferences? Fancy or simple? Masculine, feminine, or neutral? Traditional or modern?
  3. Keep it simple: Do you need a company name, graphic, and tagline in your logo? How can you simplify your mark to reduce visual clutter?
  4. Be consistent: You’ll need to employ slightly different versions of your logo in different places, but make sure that they all have a cohesive look; make multiple impressions, not different ones.
  5. Get vectored: You’ll need a vector logo (eps/ai) file for most offline marketing applications, so make sure your logo is designed that way—or have it redrawn as a vector.
  6. Color: You’ll spend a lot of time choosing colors that communicate what you want, especially the psychological aspects. Make sure you know how your colors will look across platforms, and identify the exact Pantone, CMYK, RGB, and Hexadecimal to deploy across print and web. But don’t rely on color: create a logo that has clear and pleasing shape when it is used in only one color or reversed.
  7. Shape & proportion: Will you go long, square, round, or with the more traditional 3:2 or 4:3 rectangles? Consider how your logo’s shape adds to or detracts from your message, and how it will fit in all the places you need it to go.
  8. Uniqueness: The hardest part of logo design is doing something excellent that hasn’t been done before. Do some research in your region and your industry, as well as considering confusion that might be created with global brands.
  9. Have formats ready: Don’t miss a marketing opportunity or deploy the wrong logo format because you can’t find the right logo file. Have a collection at your fingertips in a zip file: the all color format files (see #6), plus grayscale and one-color (and reversed, if applicable), vector and web-optimized, as well as any options with different layouts or taglines you might need.
  10. Know that it’s never too late: Even companies with big brand recognition are not afraid to refine their logos to reflect changing times and tastes—or changes in themselves! If you’ve significantly tweaked your business, consider tweaking your logo to help customers see that you are evolving to serve them better.

Need help thinking through how a logo can best represent your organization’s brand? Ready to create a new logo or refine an existing one? Connect with us now.

Back to School, for EVERYONE

Do you still get that shiver of excitement when Summer turns to Fall? We do. The American school system has conditioned us to expect new challenges at this time of year, so it’s a great time to think about what you don’t know, but SHOULD.

Long after graduation there are new things to learn, as the world changes at an immeasurable rate. Marketing is arguably the fastest changing part of business, because it taps into communication systems that never stop evolving. Understanding new opportunities is time consuming, but understanding what marketing tactics are the best investment for your business is crucial.

You probably don’t need every service, but don’t assume that if you ignore new media and marketing opportunities, they’ll go away or become irrelevant. (Someone said that about social media once, you know.) If you need help exploring new opportunities and/or deciding how best to mete out your marketing budget, connect with C. Liston Communications.

New Media Ain’t Always Pretty

Does new media lure people into a “form over function” trap? Having a marketing tool that sends the wrong message is just like having a beautiful chair that’s painfully uncomfortable. Not every video has to have high production value and not every social media post needs to be professionally crafted, but it’s crucial to evaluate what you are putting out there.

Is the messaging of your new media in line with your corporate messaging? You might branch out into more personal information and images to create a bond with your target audience, but be sure that you are true to the persona you’ve created as part of your corporate image. Did you hear the one about the guy who did a video training on marketing with his messy bed in the background? True story, and I learned about it when it was the topic of conversation amongst his potential clients. They were amused, but not sold.

Consider the priorities of the new media in your overall marketing as well. Are you sinking hours laboring over getting a video perfect while your basic website is suffering? Before you get distracted, list all the ways you should be connecting to your target audience and triage your marketing needs. It may be that new media is a central part of your marketing plan, but most companies need to make sure they have the basics competently covered first. If you need help planning and prioritizing which media avenues are right for your business, connect with CLC today. 

Selling Tickets to Last Year’s Show?

Happy New Year to all my fellow business owners and non-profit devotees! 2016 is going to be an amazing year for all of us.

It’s mid-January, and you’re undoubtedly planning for success by setting your goals and assessing your opportunities. Don’t forget to take a good hard look at your suite of marketing materials; this “sales force” is talking about you 24/7 to potential clients, customers, and donors. Do you know what they are saying about you?

Anyone marketing their business or cause knows that with time, you evolve your message. As you connect with various members of your target audience, you have “A-ha!” moments that help you see how to connect better and faster, and how to convince people to buy from you. Does that knowledge make it into your next conversation? Your print materials? Your website? Your social media?

Here are a few things to ask yourself as you review your marketing:

  • SERVICES: Have your services changed or expanded to meet a need? Have you changed the way you package them or talk about them?
  • MISSION: Has your mission broadened? Narrowed? Morphed to fill a specific niche?
  • TARGETING: Who is your ideal client? Where will you connect with them and what do they need to hear from you?
  • DESIGN/MESSAGING: Do your words and images agree with one another and support the answers to the questions above?
  • CONSISTENCY: Your messages may (and should) differ a bit across tactics, but your main messages (text and visual) about who you are should be strong and consistent.

Your ability to CONNECT & CONVINCE increases exponentially when you have a correct and cohesive suite of marketing materials. Are you set up to win in 2016? Call CLC if you need to make updates… or start from scratch!

No, Nay, Never!

It’s hard to say no to a cute kid selling chocolate to support a good cause.

It’s hard to say no to one more glass of wine when you’re with great friends and you have a designated driver.

It’s hard to say no to one more minute outside on a gorgeous day.

And for us, it’s hard to say no to clients when they desperately desire logos, business cards, print materials, or websites. But sometimes we do say no, and here are some examples of when. We hope the “why” is implied, but we’re happy to explain.

We say no (“no, nay, never!”) when clients:

  • want to create pieces that they have no discernible use for;
  • focus time and money on marketing materials that are not appropriate for their target audiences;
  • are blowing their marketing budgets on a sole big-budget deliverable instead of getting decent coverage across key marketing channels;
  • want to completely overhaul logos that have recognition with their target audiences;
  • consider redesigning their websites exclusively to take advantage of cool new tech; or
  • begin to revamp their marketing content without identifying or re-analyzing their differentiators.

So we’ll say “no” and won’t blithely take precious marketing dollars to create items that aren’t in the best interest of overall success. And sometimes we will say “not right now” to help you find the answers you need to more wisely invest in marketing. It’s rejection with love—love for our craft and for our clients. But don’t be afraid to connect with us—we’ll only say no if that’s what you really need to hear.

The Complex Price Tag of Websites

How much should a website cost? The complaint we hear repeatedly from companies shopping for websites is that there seems to be no clear cost structure or continuity. There is no other essential business tool where the price routinely ranges from free to $25,000. How does a business know what to pay, who to pay, or what they are paying for? Here are a few good questions to ask:

What parts of the website development are you contracting for, and what are you responsible for doing yourself? Consider the elements it takes to create a successful website and which members of the team can do them well: messaging, content creation, usability design, graphic design, hosting setup, email setup, programming, browser testing, launch, user training, and maintenance. (For an eCommerce site, add process development, gateway integration, and inventory management.)

Who will be creating the content? Are your target audiences, marketing messages, leveled content, and calls to action already well-defined? Or will you need your web company to help develop these? Is this something the company can do?

What does the site need to do? Do you have a list of requirements, both immediate needs and future desires? To make the most of your initial investment you need to choose a format and platform that can grow and change as necessary. Even if you don’t change, the web does. And you can certainly start small, but may soon want to take advantage of the ways your website can decrease human effort at your company, like with online education and e-commerce.

Who will own your website and content? Free is not free. If you choose a “free” website platform, be sure to read the Terms of Service carefully. You may find a clause entitling them to use your content. Also check the contract of any web development company to make sure that you will become the owner of the design, tech, and content you commissioned.

What is the track record of your possible vendor? Even if you plan to maintain the site yourself, you should know if you will be able to go back to the site’s creator in case of trouble. The rapidly-changing skills required for web development means that smaller companies drop support in areas of the business all the time. Or they might move on in their technology, and no longer support yours.

Do you know your liability for information gathering and e-commerce on your website? When data theft affects a very large company, you hear about it on the news—and you can bet that insurance policies and margins will pay for the damage. It’s harder for smaller companies to absorb such a hit, so make sure you do a little research up front to protect yourself.

Who will be doing the actual work on your website? Subcontracting is a reality, but it’s your right to ask who the actual workers will be, where they are located, whether you can access them directly, and what kind of insurance covers their work on your behalf.

Need help navigating the ever-changing, complex world of websites? Let CLC guide your organization onto the right path.

Deciphering the Riddle

Do you know the difference between advertising, public relations, and marketing? While they are all ribs that make up the communications umbrella, knowing the difference, the various subset components of each sector, and how they intertwine with one another can put your company ahead. Although the three fields are comprised of mixed elements, excellent design, consistent branding, and cohesive messaging are key to each.

Don’t let the riddle stump you. If you need help deciphering the intricacies or simply getting up to speed with the ever-changing field, connect with C. Liston Communications now.

Sink or Swim?

Albert Einstein said “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.” As the world of do-it-yourself marketing tactics expands, small business owners are encouraged to pick up “easy-to-use” tools and create their own corporate image. The result is often an immense loss of time, and a suite of materials (website included) that are disjointed at best, but at the worst, misspelled, containing bad grammar, verbose, lacking messaging, or missing the target entirely. Keep on swimming business owners, and connect with CLC to navigate the various branches that reach out to your potential customers.

Freedom to Succeed

In the weeks around the Fourth of July, there are many discussions about what it means to be an American and the freedoms that this country offers. The ability to succeed in business, to work hard and reap the benefits, is an American dream. Many small business owners feel, however, that it’s impossible to compete with bigger competitors. Good marketing can be a great equalizer! Are your print and web materials positioning you to compete? Connect now