Oh No! What happened to my phone?

When your cell phone “dead-phonefreezes” your heart sinks!

If it is an Android, your fail-safe reboot is removing the battery. When you put it back, you should be good to go. You shouldn’t lose any of your info. But now is the time to look into using cloud-based apps to store your contacts and calendar (like Gmail).

If you are using an iPhone, the batteries are sealed. So it’s a bit trickier. First plug in the charger, wait 2-5 minutes and see if it comes alive. If that doesn’t work, hold down the Home (circle) and the power button at the same time for a FULL 30 seconds. If it comes alive, turn it off to let it reboot. Go get a glass of water (or something stronger) and come back after about 5 minutes and turn it on. Whew! That was close!

What? That Can’t Be Right!

that_cant_be_rightHave you ever tried to research something on the internet (commonly known as “Googling”) and said “What? That can’t be right!” ? Well, I know that’s happened to me, and I’m usually right–it wasn’t right.

In my former career as a Personal Fitness Trainer, I was often called upon for information on the latest gadget, supplement or product. I would typically look it up on the internet or in my trade journals. What I found was that the latest, hottest thing was claiming bigger than life results with absolutely no regard to even the most elementary scientific studies.

Think back to your grade school days. In about fourth grade you probably did your first science experiment. Once you had your topic, generally a question you were going to answer, and hypothesis, generally what you expect the answer is to your question, then you do experiments to see if you are correct.

In your experiments you need to try different things: variables (Is this coming back to you at all yet?); have a control: what happens if you just leave it alone; and collect and analyze the data. Then you repeat the process at least two more times to make sure you are getting consistent results.

In my research of the newest fitness topic, I soon realized that companies were not following even fourth grade protocol. Many products were touted as the greatest simply based on one small study. The scientific community is supposed to share ideas, so “more research” can be done to prove it works (or not). So when a company won’t share their data or study information, that should raise a huge red flag.

My point with all of this is to help you get valid information off the web. Here are some tips:

Find a website that is reliable.

A .org website is meaningless. You do not need to submit documentation to get a .org web domain, so don’t use that to determine if the information on the site is valid. A .gov or .edu website is not issued unless there is substantiating documentation. Those are more reliable websites. Just because you saw it somewhere on the internet does not make it true.

Find a second and third source for the information.

This can be tricky. Sites will mention the same studies, which is not a bad thing, just be aware that you may be seeing the exact same information on more than one site. That does not satisfy the condition that the experiment/study needs to be repeated with the same results.

If you see the statement “more research needs to be done,” believe it. That usually means the study was small or the controls weren’t tight enough. It will usually say why.

If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

That is such a great mantra. If you’ve struggled with weight loss and you hear about a revolutionary new product with all kinds of claims that don’t include the known factors of diet and exercise…you get the idea.

This past week, 7 days to be exact, I’ve been housebound with a for-real stomach virus. The 10-14 day kind. So I’ve spent a TON of time on the internet (I also read two nice big books), which is probably why I chose this topic for this week’s blog post. I even took a Facebook quiz. I found out that I am a Creative Genius. So tell all your friends to hire me to do their creative work. After all, I’m sure it’s right – I saw it on the internet!

Happy smart surfing!

Tips for a Great Website

 Tips for a Great Website

Marketing youweb designr small business can be a tough job.  Most small business owners don’t have the resources to hire someone to do it all for them, so they do the best they can on their own. If you find yourself in this position, I hope you have found this blog series helpful. This blog post (the last in the series) will focus on your website.

If you’ve followed this blog series, you have your logo, business card, and brochure. You might also have started creating a newsletter. Those are all great for getting organized to build a website. Here are some things to consider

Content

This is where a lot of people get stumped. If you have a brochure, use that as a building block. Websites are an expansion of your brochure. Here’s where you toot your horn: give credentials, list awards, share the history of your company as well as your philosophy, mission, and vision. A lot of people are shy about sharing all their accomplishments during casual or business meetings. If you are one of those people, just hand over your business card (with your website listed, of course) and suggest they check you out. If you have a professional designation, tell people what that means…what do the letters stand for and how does that set you apart from your competition.

Obviously, your website should include your services or products. Whether you share your pricing structure is up to you and your industry. Take a look at what others are doing in your field.

You will also want to make sure you have a way that people can contact  you (Contact Us page). If you are a home-based business, you do not need to list your home address. Simply state that you are a home-based business and prefer the initial contact be via email or phone or whatever you are comfortable with.

Use the tried and true 5 Ws: Who, What, Where, When and Why

Who – who are you: a short bio of employees is appropriate. Pictures are nice, too, especially if they reflect the personality of your business (professional or more relaxed/candid).

What – what do you do/sell

Where – where are you, how do people reach you

When – what are your hours, are they set or by appointment only

Why – why should people do business with you, what makes you unique; include testimonials of existing customers.

Design Tips

All content should be written in the third person. With certain content, like a bio or mission/vision statement page, first person is OK, but set it off with quotes.

Fonts

Not all fonts are web friendly. Keep that in mind as you dress up your website. Before you make it “public,” go to the library and look at it on their computers. Ask friends to see it on their devices. There are just a few fonts that are mobile-friendly. Just know that a fancy font may not look so fancy, if that particular font is not loaded on your customer’s or potential customer’s computer.

Colors

Use a color scheme that is in, or compatible with, your logo. Search the internet for color themes, if you are not sure. ALL of your pages should use the same “template” of colors and layout. If you change every page, visitors to your site will wonder if they are on the same site as they go from one page to the other.

Media: photos, videos and flash

Also, be VERY skimpy with fancy Javascript or “Flash” elements. They tend to slow down the loading of pages and people just don’t have the patience for that. If you need/want videos, don’t put them on the home page, with the exception of a SHORT intro video. Always put in a disclaimer if the video or flash is going to take some time to load, i.e., more than 5 seconds (no, I’m not kidding). Resize your photos to fit the space and no more than 72 pixels per inch.

Good luck on marketing yourself and your company. I would LOVE to hear what you found most helpful in this series. Also, please share other tips you have.

In This Electronic Age, Do You Really Need a Brochure for Your Business?

sample_brochureDo you really need a brochure?

Yes, if you ever attend a business networking event with more than 10 people attending and you are not the only one in your business category. You don’t necessarily need to carry them with you, though. As you exchange business cards, ask if the person would like to know more about your business. You can then mail them a brochure when you return to your office, which has the added benefit of bringing you to mind in a couple more days. Use this opportunity to put a post-it note on the brochure with a quick note, saying you enjoyed meeting them and look forward to working with them soon.

You also need a brochure if your company name is like mine, Strohm Consulting. I need a brochure to list all the things we do. The branch manager at a local bank, probably has less need for a brochure.

Brochure Basics

Here are some things to consider when creating your brochure, whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or you are having someone else help you.

What type of brochure fits your needs the best?

If you are going to mail them, they will need to fit the envelope. If they are going to be in a display tray, they need to be sized for that as well. If they are going to be mailed without an envelope, you’ll need to design a place to put the address on one side. If your intention is to include a premium or sample, then you can use the entire space available.

When possible, keep the brochure to one sheet of paper. Anything more than that is likely to not be read. Work at being concise with your words. Here’s where a professional can be of the most value. Also make sure you are writing to your audience, which means you’ll want to use little, if any, jargon and abbreviations that are not generally recognized. by the general public, your audience.

What should you include in your brochure?

First of all, don’t be afraid of white space. You don’t need to fill up every nook and cranny with text. Find a couple of pictures, use your logo, a picture of yourself or your facility are great things to include.

Write brief paragraphs about your business: Who you are, what you do, where you are located, when you are open for business, why should someone use you and how do people contact you. Also include any licenses you hold that are essential to your business and industry awards or certifications that you have earned, if there is room.

Now that you have all of that, organize it so it fits the brochure in an eye-appealing manner. Try not to have too much information overlapping columns. Your potential customer will appreciate the organization of your information.

Glossy paper or Matte?

That’s a matter of personal preference. However, if your brochure has a picture of YOU, go for the glossy. It just looks better. Which ever you decide, use a professional printer to get the best quality. You’ll be surprised at the quality of the cheaper “big box” office stores. If you have a color printer, print off one copy, then take the electronic file (on a thumb drive) to the store and see if they do a better job.

Now you have a great marketing piece. Check back here next week for the last piece: Websites!

Writing a Great Newsletter

newsletterFor someone uncomfortable with writing, newsletters can be challenging. Here are some tips to make it a little easier for you.

Plan out what you want to cover and how often. Usually, once a month is maximum. If you want to reach out to your customers more often, consider a blog or Facebook post instead. Once a quarter is minimum. This fits in nicely with the seasons. If you are new to the idea of newsletters, quarterly is a great way to start. It makes more sense to start out quarterly, then if you decide you have more to say, you can change to monthly or bi-monthly. Doing that in reverse order doesn’t work as well.

Write out an outline of what articles you want to include in each issue so you are not staring blankly at your computer when it’s time to compose the piece. Work at least 6 months out. Be flexible with your content, though, so if something noteworthy happens in your industry or company, you can prioritize and decide what makes the final cut. Having too much info for each issue is better than too little.

Keep them to one sheet of paper. If it is more than that, be sure the most important information is on the first page or two. After that, it might not get read. If it is a self-mailer (fold, stamp and send) put a call-out on the address portion to bring attention to a special event or offer. A call-out can be a star burst with “20% off, see page 2” or a box with “Open House July 6, 3-9 PM”. Keep this call-out extremely short and to the point.

Make sure the bulk of your newsletter is newsworthy. Items to include would be recent awards your company or employees have won, brief bios on your employees, new product launch, tips on how to use your product or service, etc. I also like to include a joke or two, especially if it pokes fun at your industry. Only 10-15% should be “buy my great stuff”.

Your number one goal is to make your newsletter something your customers will look forward to receiving each month. Write the kind of newsletter YOU would like to get.

Getting Started with Great Marketing Pieces

marketing_puzzleNow that you have your logo and are establishing your brand, here are some tips for your marketing pieces.

Marketing Pieces are brochures, flyers, email and print ads, etc.

Use just two fonts: one plain and one fancy; or one serif and one non-serif. Any more than that and it starts to look non-professional.

If you are not sure what colors work well with your logo/brand, do an internet search to help you decide. Or hire a graphic designer.

Don’t be afraid of white space. If there are too many words, they won’t get read. Edit your piece, so you are using as few words as possible.

Proofread, then proofread again. If it’s an article, read it backwards: read the last paragraph, then the next to the last and so forth. Reading it backwards keeps you focused and helps you really concentrate on finding errors. Don’t rely 100% on your spell check.

Photos and graphics for print and website are not the same. For a good printed image, you need at least 600 dpi. When viewing it on your favorite electronic device, from desktop monitor to phone, you only need 72 dpi. Be sure you have both sizes, if the image you are using is to be used in your printed and electronic marketing. A 600 dpi image can pretty easily be scaled down, but you can rarely scale up for a good print image from a web image.

Content

There is nothing wrong with duplicating content among your pieces, as long as it makes sense for the particular application.

Make sure you include a Call to Action. This can simply be “Call today for your free estimate.” Don’t just give information and assume people will call you.

When possible make sure the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How Much are included.

Gear the content to your customers. What’s in it for them? Avoid jargon they might not understand.

One last tip: to track how effective your efforts are, select a unique contact method for each marketing piece. For example, use a specific person’s name as a contact: “Contact Bill today” even if there is no Bill in your company, you simply say, “I’m sorry Bill is not in now, but how might I help you?”  That way you know which of your marketing pieces is working.

What is Branding?

brandingIn addition to the services listed on this website, I also do marketing and promotional pieces:  brochures, e-ads, fliers and newsletters.

In the next few weeks, I’ll share some tips that I’ve learned along the way to help you with your next project.

Branding

You’ve heard about branding, but what is it? When you see a series of red rings, arranged like an archery target, you know immediately who that belongs to. A green mermaid-like figure in a circle quickly identifies a coffee brand.

But you don’t have to be one of the giant merchandisers to use branding. It is simply carrying a specific color, font type and logo (if you have one) through to all of your marketing pieces, including business cards, brochures, mailings, website, letterhead, etc. That way, when someone sees your specific set of colors, fonts, and logo, they can quickly identify it as you. If you use something different on all your marketing items, it can create a lot of confusion for your customers. You want to make sure they know, for sure, it is you.

So this week, let’s look at logo design considerations.

When you hire a graphic designer, be prepared to share information about your business like how you got started, how long you’ve been in business, where you’d like to see your business in the next 5 to 10 years, etc. That way a logo can be developed that is uniquely you!

If you are going to have your logo printed on clothing, be aware that circles can very easily become ovals when embroidered. The cloth can pull unevenly. Be sure to mention this to your vendor. Ask to see samples of similar work.

Printing on clothes other than white or very pale pastels often requires a base coat to make sure the imprint color stays true. For example, printing red on a blue shirt may produce a strange purple color.

Printed color is defined by four colors. Electronic versions have only three. You will never have a perfect match when you go from printed paper to website or vice versa.

If your logo is going to be used on small items as well as large ones, pay your graphic designer to give you different sizes. Artwork rarely resizes well – details can be lost when shrunk, and distorted when enlarged.

Next week, we’ll take a look at marketing pieces.

What is Malware?

malwareI run my Malware and Virus protection programs once a week and this was the first week in several where nothing was found – and I’m VERY careful when I’m browsing and opening emails. Have YOU run your protection programs lately? You don’t have to spend a ton of money for good protection. Our favorite Malware program is a free download: MalwareBytes. Google it and download it if you don’t have Malware protection. (Be sure to update it when it says it is out of date.)

What is Malware?

Malware is short for malicious software. It is a general term used to describe all of the viruses, worms, spyware, and pretty much anything that is specifically designed to cause harm to your PC or steal your information.

Virus

A virus is a program that copies itself and infects a PC, spreading from one file to another, and then from one PC to another when files are copied or shared. Most viruses attach themselves to executable (.exe) files, but some are a bit more hidden in MS Office macros, scripts and other files. Whether the virus is intended to delete or corrupt files or render your PC completely inoperable, the basic design is to generally cause havoc and break stuff. They usually arrive in your email, so look for suspicious file extensions: a file that has a double extension is HIGHLY suspicious, like .mp3.exe or .pdf.exe

Spyware

Spyware steals your information. It can capture your logins, passwords and credit card information through keylogging. It can also take over your browser and add toolbars, but not always. Since the idea is to steal your information, spyware doesn’t call attention to itself. Things to look for: that extra toolbar that YOU didn’t install and your PC running slow.

Scareware

Scareware is relatively new. It appears to be an antivirus application that tells you that your PC is infected with hundreds of viruses that can only be cleaned up if you pay for the full licensed program. In most cases, you can’t uninstall them or even use your PC. If you find you’re a victim of this new virus, Google the name of the virus and find specific instructions on how to remove it. Most can be removed by reputable malware programs like MalwareBytes that we recommend.

Trojans

Trojans can allow remote control of your PC. It’s worst offense is sending out buckets of email/spam that can overwhelm servers and blacklist your email account. They usually attach themselves to pirated programs that download…beware of CHEAP imitations!

Worms

Worms send copies of itself to other PCs. It spreads very rapidly. The worst ones were sent as attachments to emails. They bog down networks and in some cases can cause your PC to repeatedly reboot itself.

Legitimate Antivirus Programs

WHAT? When is a legitimate antivirus program ever a problem??? When you have more than one! When you update your Adobe Flash Player, there is a prechecked box to download McAfee Security Scan. If you already have another antivirus or security program installed, they can fight with each other and REALLY slow down your PC. So if you use something else, remember to UNCHECK that box and all others like it as you update or download or sign up for anything. Take the time to read all of the offers on the screen before clicking OK.