Offering Value


newsletter of social squids

Offering Value

November 2018

 

offering value to clients

In addition to what they pay for, what value do you offer your clients? Do you go above and beyond what they expect from you?

There are lots of things you can do that give extra value to your clients and prospects.

Monthly newsletters

Do you send a newsletter with useful information? Newsletters are a simple way to keep your name in front of your clients while offering them something they can use at the same time.

Time sensitive information, sharing about an upcoming holiday, season or event, is excellent for newsletters. Evergreen information, something ongoing that is handy all of the time, is also good to use. The information can be a how-to, a demonstration or a narrative.

You Tube channel

The same information you send in written form can be done in video form for a You Tube  or Vimeo channel. If it’s a demonstration, you can go through the steps as you explain it.

Guest blogs

By either sharing someone else’s blog or having a guest blogger, you can give value to your clients and page visitors without working very hard. It’s good for you and the guest blogger because now you are both getting information in front of your clients and potential clients.

Ebook

If you have something to say, but it’s too long to be a newsletter, consider the format of an ebook or PDF file to send clients. Give them useful information or a sourcebook on a topic of interest. They don’t have to be 100 pages, but could be if you wanted. Usually they are around 8-20 pages. You will often see them on websites where it will say, “Join our mailing list and receive our free ebook on _______.” Some websites refer to them as white papers.

You write the booklet once, but by giving it to new clients or new people on your mailing list, you get continuous use of it. The information can become outdated, so you might have to update it regularly.

Get togethers

Have in-person get togethers where you meet and greet clients and have a speaker. When you offer clients and prospects information that is handy within your field it is meaningful to them. They are more likely to recommend you when they have good experiences associated with you and your business.

These get togethers can be networking events, lunch and learns, speaker series, client parties, etc. You are not limited in what you can do to get people together. At the beginning when you introduce the speaker you have a chance to thank everyone for coming and throw in a little info about yourself and your business.

Thank you notes

When you have a reason to send one, handwritten thank you notes are appreciated by everyone. These notes let your clients know you have been thinking about them and taking time from your busy schedule to thank them personally.

Giving people value when they don’t expect it is a way to keep your name in front of your clients and prospects while doing something good for them. They tend to remember those experiences and that can lead to referrals.

answering email can be a chore

Dealing with emails

newsletter of social squids
As a business owner, I’m sure you get a ton of emails every day just like I do. Keeping up with emails can take a good chunk of time every day.

Dealing with the junk

The first thing I do is clear out the junk. I set up rules (which you can do on a Mac) to send mail from spammers to my junk or trash folder and they’re gone forever.

I don’t unsubscribe from emails from people I know, but I get added to mailing lists all of the time and they are not emails I want or need. So I unsubscribe.

If you set up an account with a company where you buy things online, don’t subscribe to their emails unless you really want them. Many of them send daily emails, or at least weekly emails that can fill your inbox quickly.

You might get notices from social media sites, you can limit them by changing your setting in the social media site to not receive email notifications from them. Of course, don’t delete the ones you need. I like to know when someone messages my business pages so I can respond to them quickly.

Responding to emails

A good rule of thumb is to wait to open emails until you have time to answer them. Don’t open an email and think, “I’ll get back to him later.” Do it now and be done with it. People lose business every day because they don’t get back to people.

Make sure people know you are answering the emails and not a bot. Create a signature with your name, website, phone number and any other pertinent information they might need. That shows the sender you are responding and not an underling.

Put the sender’s name in the greeting (and always write a greeting) when you respond and be personal. If the email is coming from your website contact page, it’s just as important as a direct email.

Be sure to plan time in your schedule for responding to emails so you don’t get behind. They add up quickly and will end up costing you a good bit of time to get caught up again.

Dangerous spam

newsletter of social squids

 

 

 

 

Lately there has been a lot of talk about hacking. Criminals are getting into corporate databases and getting people’s email addresses or even credit card information. For those hackers who get your email, they may send you something that can wreak havoc on your life.

We’ve all received suspicious emails without knowing whether to open them or not. If you’re in doubt, do not click on any links or attachments!

There is annoying spam, which is harmless. However, in the past couple years there have been more and more cases of dangerous spam. Cases of ransomware – holding your personal data for ransom – are the most frightening. Some breaches require software to be added to your computer in order to fight back.

Most of us are familiar with the Nigerian prince scam, but there are many others out there including lottery winners, tax scams, expired warranty claims, religious, fake contest winners and all kinds of other ways to bilk hard working people out of their money.

There are some easy ways to spot dangerous emails. If you receive an email from a credit card company, bank, investment firm or any other company where you do not have an account that talks about your account – that is suspicious. The content of the email may mention how your account is overdrawn or some other problem. You know you don’t have an account with them, so you can’t be overdrawn. Simply delete the email.

If you look at the first image, you will see an email I received recently. It claims to be from Wells Fargo. I no longer have an account with Wells Fargo, so that was a red flag for me.

dangerous spam is in your mailbox

Secondly, it says “Dear Member.” Banks always have a custom greeting that includes your name. That was red flag #2. The next red flag was the first sentence. It is not written in plain language. Banks are clear and concise with their messages. If there are misspellings (there are none in this one), that’s another red flag.

Absolutely, under no circumstances, click on an attachment if you are unsure of the sender!

In the second image, you will see that if you click on the sender’s name, you will see their email address. Obviously, that email is not coming from Wells Fargo. A real email from them would be from wellsfargo.com and not some foreign country. Sometimes they get tricky and have an email that might have Wells Fargo within the email address like wellsfargoaccounts@gmail.com, but if it’s not from wellsfargo.com, it’s not from them.

dangerous spam email

If you get what you think is a suspicious email and it’s from a company where you do have an account, don’t reply to it. Never click the link in the email if you are unsure. It can end up putting a virus on your computer. You can call them or go to their website and ask them if they sent the email. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

I used to try to report suspicious emails to companies when I received them, but found it was incredibly time consuming. Many times banks, cable companies, phone companies, etc. have places where you can report suspicious emails to help them put a stop to the activity. Unfortunately, most of the time, it is difficult to find that information on their sites. I have often reported suspicious emails to PayPal as their information was easy to find. You simply forward the suspicious email to spoof@paypal.com. The address for suspicious Comcast emails is abuse@comcast.net.

When you forward an email, it contains all of the header information (who sent it and from where it was sent) so the company can try to stop these people from hurting anyone.

There is virus protection software that will weed out at least some of the bad emails. Avast is a free anti virus program that works for Mac and PC computers. It used to be that Macs were such a small part of the home computer market that no one attacked them with a virus or malware. Today everyone needs to have some form of protection.

If you have older family members using email, it is important to let them know how to spot suspicious emails and to be leery of them. That demographic is the most vulnerable. Be safe with your emails and use common sense before responding to emails from large companies or opening any attachments.

graphics primer typography

Typography – Part 2 of A Graphics Primer

A graphics primer for the novice

Part 2: Typography

This time we’ll discuss typography. In Part 1, we delved into the graphics of graphic design. This time let’s take a look at the text. The words are so much more than simply typing out what you want to say. Here are some important elements of typography.

Leading

Also called line spacing, can change the look and feel of a piece. In grad school we were told to never use auto leading, which is the default setting on all graphic software. I can remember doing an entire project with 8 point Eras type on 16 point leading. It has a dramatic effect, but make sure your text is readable as well as good looking.

8 point type typography

Letter spacing

Sometimes, especially in advertising and logos, you may want to use letter spacing, spreading out or squeezing in letters to fit a certain space.

Kerning

The distance between the letters in a word. It’s very similar to letter spacing, but certain fonts, especially free ones that can be downloaded, sometimes have weird little quirks with their kerning.

Line length

Very small text should not be in long lines as it is easy to get lost while reading the text. Very large text should not be in short lines. This is merely a guide, but usually makes sense. If the type is big, you may end up with only a word or two on each line.

Double space after a period

This has gone the way of the dodo bird and is another pet peeve for me. It is done in typing, not in typesetting and a sure sign an amateur has created your project. I understand it’s a hard habit to break, but it must be done.

Widows

A widow is when you are creating a newspaper article, newsletter article, book or journal article and you have a paragraph that starts on one page and the last line of the paragraph is alone on the next page. Then there is a space before the next paragraph. It doesn’t look professional and widows should be avoided.

Orphans

An orphan is when there is one word at the end of a paragraph on a line by itself. If you have a very long line and have a couple words on the last line of the paragraph, that can also be considered an orphan. Like widows, orphans do not look professional. If you are creating a brochure, try to avoid orphans. If the text is larger and the line length is short, you might be able to get away with it unless it is a really short word.

Fonts

Use fonts that go well together, but are dissimilar enough to look like different fonts. Use san serif type like Arial or Helvetica (letters are smooth with no little feet) or serif (have little feet) like Garamond or Times. Script fonts can be used for headlines, but are often inappropriate or hard to read. Scripts tend to be either very formal or informal with few in between. Fonts go in and out of style. I mentioned Eras earlier. It was all the rage when I was in school, but has fallen out of favor since then. If you are designing a logo, the classics are always best.

 

typography san serif and serif

Free fonts

Make sure that your free font is okay to use for commercial purposes before you use it. You can get into legal trouble if not.

Display fonts

Display fonts are just that, for display. Avoid using them for body copy. They are generally too difficult to read in a paragraph.

Bastardizing fonts

A pet peeve for me… Stretching fonts to fit where you can tell they have been stretched. If you stretch or shrink the width of your text, make sure it doesn’t look like you did it by accident.

typography stretched image and text

Dingbats

Some fonts are pictures instead of letters. They are called dingbats.

dingbat typography

Font size

Make sizes of headlines, subheads, sub-subheads and body copy that are distinct. You can also make them bold or complimentary fonts to make them stand out as separate headings. Making the body copy 11 point with a 12 point sub-subheads, 14 point subheads and 16 point headings are not different enough. Make the differences more striking, but also not fighting with each other.

Reverse type

Light type on a dark color or black background. It can also be on an image. Be careful using reverse type because it can be difficult to read, especially if it is small.

Copy or content

Both are words used to mean the written text for your project.

Alignment

Flush left means everything is aligned to the left side, flush right means everything is aligned to the right. Centered is where the text is centered in a column. Justified is when text is flush left and flush right, making the text align on both sides. The most common place to see justified text is in newspapers.

Rivers and valleys

Rivers and valleys usually happen when you justify type and the text is too big for the line length. This is not something you want to do.

rivers and valleys typography

Hyphenation

Never hyphenate the last word in a line more than two lines in a row. In advertising and some other projects, you may not want to hyphenate at all. If you are designing a newsletter, you may have to use some hyphenation in order to avoid rivers and valleys.

Oxford comma

The Oxford comma is when there is a comma before the word “and” or “or” in a series like: one, two, and three. It is up to your personal preference whether you use it or not, just be consistent.

Emphasis

Depending upon where the text is, using caps, italics, bold or larger font size can be used for emphasis. In advertising it is up to the designer. Italics is generally used for emphasis in blogs, newsletters, articles and books.

Proof, proof, proof!

Proofreading is the most important thing to make your piece look professional. Years ago I worked as a proofreader for a printing company and a brochure had a mistake in a headline. Catching that mistake saved the printer a ton of a money as 100,000 copies of the brochure were about to be printed. Headlines are often skipped by clients. For some reason they think because it is big, it is correct. Check everything!

Contact Social Squids if you need help with a graphic design project like a corporate identity package (logo, letterhead, business card), trifold brochure, flyer, ad, newsletter or any other printed piece.

a graphics primer from social squids

A graphics primer

Part 1: Design elements

Graphic design

As entrepreneurs or business owners, we all need to have graphics done from time to time. Having a professional graphic artist instead of using your own support staff or trying to do it on your own, can be the difference between an amateurish brochure that will end up in the recycle bin or something that really grabs the reader’s interest and is worth keeping.

Before you get started, you need to know what you want and how to ask for it. Here are some explanations of terms and techniques that are important to a graphic artist.

Don’t worry, there is no test at the end. It’s helpful for everyone to know the terms so you can tell your graphic designer what you want.

Photos

Let’s start with my pet peeve! Printed images and web images are completely different. Your logo artwork or photo can look amazing on your website, but will print like garbage if it is not the right format. Images for print must be a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch). Websites look fine at 72 dpi, but will print looking pixelated and awful. Websites require RGB (red, green, blue) color and printing needs CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). Color printing is called 4-color process and prints all colors made up of percentages of cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks.

Graphic element

Anything that is in your project including text is a graphic element. This includes words, photos and artwork.

Author’s alterations vs corrections

Author’s alterations are when the client changes the wording rather than correcting an error. Generally those are not included in the quoted price. If you make changes, you will be charged for them. Your copy should be ready to go before you start the graphics. Corrections, however,  are always included in the price.

Camera ready art

Camera ready art is ready to go to the printer without any changes. Your graphic artist should give you camera ready art as the finished product, usually in PDF format for printing. Some printers prefer the original graphics file, but they can be quite cumbersome. You need to discuss with the printer what they require before the graphic artist gets started on the project.

Artwork stretching

I’ve seen people stretch logos or photos to make them fit into the page layout. You never mess with someone’s logo. Make your design fit the logo, not the other way around. The same goes for photos. You can crop and size them in a way to make them fit.

stretchy bee

Colors

Colors should compliment each other and not clash. Bright red on bright blue or green can do crazy things to your eyes and should be avoided. The easiest text to read is black text on light yellow. Generally speaking, soothing colors go with calm subjects and bright colors go with a more vibrant subject matter. If you are unsure about what colors to use for a project, you can always extract colors (there is a tool for that in most software, usually an eye dropper) that match an image or logo. For example, if a logo is purple and yellow, those colors can be used in the text. Please make sure they match perfectly or don’t use them. If they are close, but not exact, it is not pleasing to the eye.

White space

You do not have to fill every bit of space with text or artwork. White space is a design element that some people forget is available to them.

Negative space

Negative space is the area around or between the main focus of an image. The World Wildlife Fund logo is a great example of using negative space. You see the entire animal even though your eye has to fill in part of the outline.

Image courtesy of World Wildlife Fund.
Image courtesy of World Wildlife Fund.

Grid layout

A grid layout is commonly used for things like brochures. Everything is generally at right angles and the end product is pleasing to the eye. If you create something that looks slightly off kilter, it can be irritating to the reader.

Special effects

Too many special effects on one graphic element like feather (edges fade away), drop shadow (shadow behind the object), rotating, outline and inline can be distracting. You can tell by looking if it is too much.

Paper

Coated or uncoated paper (shiny or not) is another graphic element to your project. Depending upon the project, you may want different paper types (bond, laid, onion skin, etc.), thickness (card stock, paper, newsprint) or paper colors. Discuss paper choices at the beginning of the job because adjustments may be needed to get the desired effect. For example: Newsprint can only be printed on a web press and most printers do not have room for them. On a web press, the paper is in a giant roll and gets printed on one side or both sides, cut, collated and sometimes stapled as it goes through the press. Most presses do not use paper rolls, but sheets of paper that are cut to size after printing.

Bleed

A bleed is where text or an image goes off the page like on most magazine covers. You need a larger sheet of paper for printing with a bleed. After it is printed, the excess is trimmed away. While the finished product looks better, it usually costs more to print.

Summary

Some of the best examples of logos are elegant and simple. Think of the Nike swoosh, the NBC stylized peacock or the McDonald’s arches. The same simplicity can work for a brochure or any other graphic piece.

Next time we will discuss typography, the text for your project. Choosing the right font (typestyle) is important to the legibility and success of your printed project.

Contact Social Squids if you have a graphic design project like a corporate identity package (logo, letterhead, business card), trifold brochure, flyer, ad, newsletter or any other printed piece.

Website promotion tips

newsletter of social squidsgain page views on website

Entrepreneurs of all industries have websites, but many business owners have no idea how to draw attention to them. While certain marketing like SEO (search engine optimization) is best left to professionals, you can do some things on your own to help put your website on the map.

Some of these suggestions may seem like no-brainers, however business owners are not always well versed in the ways of self promotion. It doesn’t take a computer wiz to do some simple things that will significantly increase your website page views.

Website self promotion

Doing these basic tasks can help gain momentum for your web page and ultimately boost your sales.

Increased sales is what we all want.

  1. Make sure the search engines have your site indexed. The search engine bots (automated software) regularly reach out to websites, but adding them yourself lets you know for sure Google and Bing know about you.
  2. Post new blogs, pages or updates to your personal social media pages. Even if you have someone who posts for you, add some yourself.
  3. Email your friends about your website.
  4. Set up a Yelp page for your business and encourage your best clients to post on it. Your clients can also post reviews on your Facebook business page.
  5. Add link to your site in the signature of your email.
  6. Make sure your site and social media pages are on your business card, brochure and any other printed materials. This may seem obvious, but people who do not live and breathe digital technology often forget to include their website on marketing materials.
  7. On your personal Facebook page, add your website in the settings section.
  8. Write an article about your business for someone else’s website. Guest blogging gives your business a new audience.
  9. Participate in online forums (using your web address in your signature). This also helps lend credibility and shows you are an expert in your field.
  10. Yahoo has a section where people answer questions. You get points when people like your answers. Become a well-known expert in your field by answering questions in the topic that best relates to your business (add your website under your name in your credentials).
  11. Create a magnet for your vehicle with the website in large letters.
  12. Many local businesses have neighborhood bulletin boards, add your card or flyer (with website on it).
  13. Bonus tip: Many blogs and sites recommend creating controversy on your social media pages to bring attention to yourself and your website. I disagree. Yes, people take notice, but you also take the risk of alienating people who are fans now. Upbeat posts are best.

Go through the list and do the things you feel comfortable doing. If you have questions or need help, please contact Social Squids. We can assist with marketing, printed materials, websites and social media.

SEO from Social Squids

SEO insights

newsletter of social squidsSEO (search engine optimization) remains a mystery to many entrepreneurs and website owners. In truth, it’s rather simple. Search engine optimization is a way to help Google, Bing Yahoo and others find and classify your website.

By improving your SEO, your website can rise in the rankings. Without paying attention to it, your site may sink like a rock.

Using social media

You can help your SEO by adding a link to your site in your social media posts, e-zines, emails and newsletters. Make your social media content searchable by using hashtags and keywords in your posts.

Add your location and/or a map on your social media pages to let people know where you are. This is especially important for companies that have a local target audience.

SEO on your website

Make use of an SEO plugin for wordpress sites, or the the SEO feature on your web builder. Follow the guidelines the software suggests and your site will start to make positive moves.

Be sure to use your location in the keywords. Google and other search engines are used more by mobile devices than desktop computers now. Having your location will make you show up in the search when someone is nearby.

Make your blogs at least 300 words. It might sound like a lot, but search engines don’t bother much with pages that have little content. If the blog is really long, cut it in half and make it either two blogs or continue it on another page. If someone is interested in reading more, they will click to see the next page.

Use google analytics or some other tracking software to see where your page visitors originate. Do they come from your emailed newsletter? Social media? Searches? Or did they just type in the name when you gave someone your card? Once you know this information, you can make adjustments.

Blogs

Adding subheadings for your blog and pages is good for SEO.

Keyword density should be 5-7% for your page to be optimal. A construction company’s page might have “construction” or “building” as a keyword. Using a keyword in the first sentence and a few times on the page will make search engines happy.

Links, links and more links!

Get backlinks from relevant sites. For example, for your construction company, get your suppliers or clients to link back to your site. Search engines love backlinks.

Link within your site in your blogs and pages. If you mention a topic covered on a previous blog, link to it. If you want people to get in touch for more information, add a link to your contact page.

Link to other websites. If you are talking about making donations to a charity, provide a link.

SEO insights Social Squids

Images

Use alt tags for your images. If you use wordpress, go to the media library, click on an image and you can see where to add this tag. People looking at your website can’t see the alt tag, but it is in the code. If you have a photo on your site called Img_2005.jpg, search engines have no idea if that image even relates to your site. Adding an alt tag that says, “Baltimore area construction,” is more descriptive and helps SEO.

You can change the name of the image. Using Img_2005.jpg is not as good as new_construction.jpg. Add a description of your photo that is seen by the search engines and a caption that is visible on the site. You can do all of those things, but use different wording in each place.

Looking for a good SEO plugin for your WordPress site? I recommend Yoast SEO.  If this has gone completely over your head or beyond your abilities, you can contact me for additional information or a consultation.