Green Screen Photos

Green Screen Photos let you travel the world, so your friends will think. Here’s my wife and I placed on a street corner in New Orleans!

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ScribeFire Allows You to Post to Multiple WordPress Blogs

I am using ScribeFire to post to two of my WordPress blogs. ScribeFire allows me to store login credentials for multiple blogs and to post to them from one simple interface. The options on Scribefire are numberous. There’s a full featured wysiwyg interface. If you have multiple page templates, you can select the one you want. You can select categories and tags. You can even set a publication date and time for each entry.

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Send Out Cards Provides Valuable Promotional Services to Businesses

Cas Nowak, an independent distributor for Send Out Cards, has a seven step program to get customers and distributors started quickly using the SendOut Cards system. Check out this video!

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Display BuddyPress Profile Fields Anywhere

If you want to echo BuddyPress’s extended profile fields outside the loop, you need to add the $bp->loggedin_user->id parameter.

Here’s the code using a Genesis hook (substitute a hook for your theme):

function show_extra_profile_fields() {
global $bp;
$myfield = xprofile_get_field_data( 'Field Name', $bp->loggedin_user->id );
echo $myfield;
}
add_action( 'genesis_before_loop', 'show_extra_profile_fields' );

Add html tags to the echo statement and you’re in business.

Blessings.

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Panning and Zooming Slideshows without Flash

CrossSlide is a great jQuery plugin that adds a Ken Burns Effect to slideshows without Flash. Implementation in WordPress is a bit tricky because of a potential confict with WordPress’s dynamic image handling. Yet with a bit of CSS magic, we can pull it off. Check it out at Ken Burns Effect.

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Step Four: Align Your Promotional Media

Have you ever seen a person with a Martha Stewart tatoo? Probably not. Yet you may very well have seen someone with a Harley Davidson tatoo. The Harley culture transmits well through the medium of tatoos; the Martha Stewart culture does not. Businesses sometimes try to promote their brands through inappropriate media. The attempt comes across as awkward. It’s an example of what we call brand misalignment.

Brand alignment is about getting all your promotional media to point in the same direction. Your goal is to reach your target market with multiple impressions, reinforce a consistent image of your business through each impression, and lead people to take the same action, which will involve purchasing your product or service. To do this you will generally employ a consistent color scheme, look, and feel throughout all of your materials. Once again, the services of a professional designer can be valuable here. Yet often stock designs can work well if you’re on a budget.

Promotional media to consider are:

  • business cards
  • brochures
  • direct mail, postcards
  • newsletters (electronic and print)
  • letterhead stationery and cards
  • a website
  • a blog
  • a Facebook page
  • a twitter account
  • a YouTube account
  • name badges
  • imprinted clothing: t-shirts, hats, etc.
  • imprinted promotional items: pens, etc.
  • newspaper and magazine advertisements
  • radio and television ads
  • telephone solicitation
  • live speech making and networking
  • coupons

Some media are far more effective than others and not all media are appropriate for all companies. If you’re on a tight budget, I can provide design choices that will quickly allow your business to project a consistent, professional-looking image. If you looking for something unique or based on your own design conceptions, I work with multiple providers to provide you with the best custom options available. Whether you need electronic or print media solutions, call today. We’re committed to finding the most cost effective promotional solutions for you.

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Step Three: Design Your Brand

In the broadest sense, your brand is the image that is conjured up in the minds of people as a result of every impression of you they receive. Everything about you, your walk, your talk, your style, as well as your company, product or service contributes to your brand. Even your competitors can influence your brand. Do you remember the famous “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” advertisements? The brilliance of those ads was demonstrated in Apple’s success at branding their competition as well as their own products. Building a strong brand is about taking control of every element that shapes people’s perceptions of you.

In marketing terms, your brand is the image you project with promotional materials, or brand representations, you craft to define your products or services in the marketplace. The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers” (Wikipedia: Brand). Effective brand representations are clear and memorable. They foster an emotional connection between your clients and you. They call to mind your company and focus your customers’ attention on the most salable characteristics of your offerings. They remind people of why they want to do business with you.

Your Name. Your most basic brand representation is your business name. Many entrepreneurs dub their businesses with their personal names followed by words or phrases that identify their products or services (Rupp Electric, Randy’s Pizza). This strategy works well if your marketplace persona is strongly reflective of your individual character or personality. It also has advantages if you depend heavily on networking and referrals to build your clientele.

If your target market is local or regional, you might consider putting your location in your name (Triangle Commercial Properties, Cary Insurance Group, Sixth Avenue Bistro). A location-based name gives you an SEO advantage with customers who do location-specific searches on the internet.

Sometimes a company will use a name that promotes a distinguishing value in its product or service (Zerorez Carpet Cleaning, Rapid Refill Ink). Names like this can be powerful if the quality imbedded in the name is memorable.

Another strategy is to incorporate a term or symbol that is popular with your target market (Heritage Financial Services, Tarheel Mortgage). This approach seeks to leverage the emotional impact of a trusted emblem to foster attachment to your brand.

A name derived from an obscure source or association (Starbucks, IKEA) is a risky choice for a small business. Establishing your brand with such a name may require an extensive marketing campaign. (Of course there are always exceptions.)

The options available for naming your business are as unlimited as your imagination. Yet choosing the right name will require intelligent thinking with reference to a comprehensive marketing strategy.

Your Logo. Your logo is a unique representation of your business identity. It might be nothing more than your name in a distinct typeface and color. It might include complementary design elements. It might contain a simple icon like the Nike swoosh or more complex artwork like the Starbucks siren. A great logo makes an instantaneous and powerful impression. It’s impact will always be memorable.

Your logo should reflect the personality of your company. Do you represent exclusive quality or value-oriented goods? Are you formal or casual? Traditional or innovative? Aggressive or analytical? Different fonts, colors, and even shapes evoke different images. Your logo should convey a credible profile of your company at it’s best. If potential clients get a different impression from your people than they got from your logo, they’ll be conflicted about doing business with you. Be true to yourself; employ a logo that your people can live up to.

Most entrepreneurs should contract the services of a commercial artist to design their logos. This does not mean that you should passively leave the whole process up to the pro. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the elements of good design. Learn what shapes and color schemes best reflect your personality. Sketch out some ideas. Then choose an artist whose portfolio matches your preferences. A strong partnership between you and your design professional will produce the most satisfying result.

A Tagline. A tagline or slogan can be a great tool for communicating your brand. A powerful one captures your company’s spirit in a concise, memorable phrase, such as GE’s “imagination at work.” As you develop your tagline, keep in mind your company’s core values and deliverables. Consider what you want your customers to do when they read the tagline. A great tagline does more than get people’s attention. It motivates them to act by emphasizing the foremost benefit they will receive from your product or service.

Location. The location of your store or office can be critical in positioning your brand, especially if you customers come to your location to do business. What is the size and layout of your space? Is it functional and clean? Does it lend itself to the image you want to project. Is access from an interior hallway or from the street? What other types of businesses are located near you? What socioeconomic and lifestyle groups frequent those businesses? It’s a good idea to hang out near the space you’re considering and to ask yourself the question, “Would my target market want to do business here?”

Pictures. Pictures are crucial to good branding. Eye-catching photographs and illustrations draw people’s attention and enhance the verbal content of your promotional materials. Sometimes sellers make the mistake of posting many pictures of their products out of context. This is usually not the best way to project the value of your offerings. Employ pictures of your products being used in attractive settings by people with satisfied looks on their faces. If your a provider of in-home services, take pictures of your people serving in homes with smiles. Make sure they look like people that potential clients would want to invite into their homes. If you provide financial or medical services in an office, take pictures of clients inside your office. Most people are nervous about going into an unfamiliar space to have their health or financial needs met. Make them more comfortable by picturing for them an inviting setting. Remember, sell the experience; sell the lifestyle.

Descriptions. Writing out descriptions of your deliverables for promotional purposes is one of the most tedious tasks of branding. Yet this task is vital because you will deploy these descriptions throughout your promotional media, on your website, in brochures, through social media, and in emails. The more time you put into crafting your descriptions, the more interest you will generate in your products or services.

Always write descriptions of your products and services from the perspective of your clients. Let your customers know that you understand their reality. Paint pictures of their desired outcomes. Include useful information that makes them want to bookmark the page or save the brochure. Don’t try to impress them with irrelevant bravado.
Make sure you explain the benefits that your customers can expect to receive from your products? Let them know why your products should be preferred over your competitors’ products.

Organize your descriptions in ways that make it easy for your customers to find the information they are looking for. Use headings and subheadings. Use bullet points to highlight key benefits of your services. Use charts to compare the features of your products favorably with the features of your competitors’ offerings. Use outtakes to generate interest in longer paragraphs.

Associations. Using associations to strategically enhance your brand is smart if done wisely. Many retail websites display the FedEx logo on their sites because they ship their products via FedEx. Others display Google Checkout or PayPal. These brands have instant recognition and add credibility to your presentations. Citing well-known experts in your industry lets clients know that you take time to know your trade. Linking your website to respected sources of information in your industry connects you to a larger community and provides a tangible service to your clients. Sponsoring charitable causes is noble and fosters good public relations. Be prepared for backlash, however, if you allow your brand to become associated with a polarizing individual or organization.

Namedropping can be useful if not overdone but can be dangerous if employed inauthentically. One eager entrepreneur quoted a famous figure as saying that his company was “on the cutting edge” of social marketing. What he didn’t say was that the famous figure had made this statement to a room full of people who had paid to attend his conference. The entrepreneur had made it sound like he had received a personal endorsement when he had not.

Testimonials. Testimonials are powerful brand boosters. You foster them by consistently delivering a quality product at a fair price. You gather them by graciously asking your clients for them. Good testimonials can be live, on video, or in writing. Many people prefer written testimonials because they can scan them quickly. Listening to video testimonials takes a bit more patience. If you use video testimonials, make them short and sweet. When possible, go over the script with your client and ask him to focus on the value he received from your product or service. Hire a videographer who can edit and enhance the video if the testimony is from a well-known, respected person and you intend to use it long term. Don’t be afraid, however, to post a quick and dirty clip you shot on your ipod. Videos like these can project an air of authenticity when distributed through social media.

Your Brand Culture. Branding is art as well as science. In promoting your brand, you are designing an irresistible culture, portraying your product as an essential element within that culture, and inviting your clients to step into a new lifestyle. Further, you are reinforcing your brand through multiple representations so that when your clients feel their needs, your solutions come to mind. The strategy works; it’s why I’m still typing away on my MacBook Pro after four years. I don’t just use a Macintosh computer; I’m a Mac guy now.

Contact me today for a free consultation regarding your brand. I have worksheets that can help you navigate the process of creating a brand from scratch, enhancing your existing brand, and deploying effective brand representations within your budget.

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Step Two: Refine Your Persona

Are you keenly aware of how others perceive you? Do potential clients grasp who you are, what you represent, and how your products or services can benefit them? Many entrepreneurs are surprised to learn that prospective buyers have absolutely no idea what they’re selling. Others are shocked when they receive honest feedback regarding how they come across. Do your customers see you as uncertain about your product? Do they sense that you’re comfortable in your own skin? Do they judge you as confident or pushy? Calculating or indecisive? A mover and shaker or just plain sloppy? Ask some of them. You might be surprised by their answers.

Contrary to the hype peddled by popular motivational speakers, not everyone should strive to project the same persona in business. If you try to squeeze yourself into the mold of some super sales guru, you’re likely to come across as awkward and insincere. Give yourself permission to be yourself. If you’re naturally laid back, don’t try to be a raving extrovert. If you’re not detail oriented, don’t attempt to answer complex questions off the cuff. Learn to lead with your strengths.

One man I knew was brilliant at engaging others in conversation. He was a master at forming questions and could get people talking for hours. When asked complicated questions about his product, however, he would stammer, lose confidence, and often lose the sale. Acknowledging his limitation, he was able to train himself to affirm his clients’ questions, solicit other concerns they might have, and promise to get back to them with itemized proposals answering all their questions. The approach worked for him because his highly relational style earned him such good will with his clients that they were willing to wait for his proposals. Incidentally, this man couldn’t make a convincing thirty-second pitch to save his life. If he had had to make a living speaking in front of groups, he would have starved to death. You must identify your natural strengths and limitations and tailor your approach to put your best foot forward.

I recommend that all of my clients order a DISC personality profile. You can complete the DISC survey online in just a few minutes. Your responses will produce a report, describing your behavioral preferences and offering suggestions designed to help you refine your style. The term DISC is derived from an acronym representing the four basic styles:

  • Dominance. The “D” or dominant personality is active and forceful in dealing with people and problems. “D”s want to get things done but can be perceived as overbearing.
  • Influencing. The “I” or influencing personality is highly communicative and emotional. “I”s use charm to win others over but can be perceived as egocentric.
  • Steady. The “S” or steady personality is patient, and persistent. “S”s are dependable but can be perceived as sluggish and resistent to change.
  • Conscientious. The “C” or consciencious type is methodical and attentive to detail. “C”s are sticklers but can be perceived as skeptical and indecisive.

Your customized DISC report will gauge to what degree each of the DISC styles is represented in your unique personality. It will help you identify the positive as well as negative tendencies of your style. With this valuable information, you’ll be able to refine your persona so that you come across consistently with clarity and confidence.

Your marketplace persona is what establishes you as a credible provider of your product or service. Knowing and projecting it consistently is vital to your success as an entrepreneur. With a strong, well-crafted persona, you’ll be able to define your deliverable, establish its value, and present yourself as competent to deliver.

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Step One: Define Your Market

A successful promotional strategy begins with an understanding of the people you are trying to serve. What are their dreams? What is their style? What kind of life are they shooting for? New entrepreneurs often place too much focus on what they are selling. They tout the quality and superiority of their products. They highlight their low-low prices. But they fail to illustrate the value of their offerings in the context of their customers’ lives. Customers don’t buy products or services; they buy lifestyles. They buy significance, success, security, comfort, and prestige. They buy fun. You must get in your mind a portrait of your customers’ ideal life and paint your product into it.

Middle-aged Baptists (like myself) generally don’t pay money for tattoos, no matter how high the quality or how low the cost. They might admire the art and respect the talent but they won’t be buying. It’s not consistent with their lifestyle. (Please receive the point, don’t argue the exception; there are always exceptions, like Joey, my biker friend who’s a middle-aged Baptist; he has tattoos–I think he’s actually Primitive Baptist.) Seriously, in the above case you’re either going to have to find a new market or sell a different product, like double-knit, factory outlet suits for $50. (Can I get a gray one?)

People pay for lifestyles. They don’t buy diet supplements; they buy a “skinny me” or a “healthy me” or a “buff me.” They don’t buy tiny, bitter-tasting tablets. They buy a life free from a runny nose. When I was a teenager, I couldn’t count the number of cute girls who walked away from me after I yanked out the white hanky. I would have given my Schwinn bicycle for a nose that didn’t run. Sell the lifestyle.

Though most people have similar emotional needs, they are not all shooting for the same lifestyle. Fun means different things to different people and a customer’s context can play a key role in defining what product fulfills his needs. When I lived in the Northwest, it was not unusual to see transplanted Southern Californians trading in their SUV Explosions for tiny Subarus. What they were buying was acceptance and prestige, the same things their trade-ins gave them in Southern California. Now, in a different context, they were willing to compromise on comfort in order to avoid the disapproving glares of their environmentally conscientious neighbors. Dealers who understood what these customers really wanted were the ones who succeeded. They touted energy-efficient vehicles to previous land yacht owners, declaring that the new vehicles were virtually as safe as the customers’ old ones. You must get inside your customers head and comprehend the lifestyle he is really shooting for.

Never assume that you fully understand what your customers want. Keep observing and learning. Take time to build relationships. Ask your clients what their most pressing needs are. Visualize their work habits and environment. Discover when and where they play. Take note of their major obstacles, challenges, goals and fears. Only by doing the hard work will you discover what products and services will add real value to their lives.

If you would like assistance in analyzing your market, please call me at (919) 802-4217. Initial consultations are free.

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Promotional Solutions for Your Organization

Welcome!

We specialize in low-cost promotional solutions for small businesses, non-profits, churches, and other groups. Our exclusive Four Step Solution will help get you on track with a comprehensive plan to promote your organization.

Step One: Define Your Market
Step Two: Refine Your Persona
Step Three: Design Your Brand
Step Four: Align Your Promotional Media

Call us today. We’re confident that we can train you to promote your business and provide you with the tools you need to do it for less.

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