Author Archives: Joey McGuire

You don’t need to like your logo

Conventional wisdom will no doubt disagree with the headline you’ve just read before clicking through to this article. “Of course you need to like your logo!” you’re thinking. “Joe doesn’t know what he’s talking about! Also, his beard could use a trim!”

 

While this reaction is totally understandable (on both counts), it’s important to remember that the value of your logo is less about your tastes and more about your goals. A logo needs to be a lot of things: it should be visually pleasing, memorable, and it needs to quickly and simply communicate who you are. It should convey a key message about your company.

 

You really don’t have to like it – but your customers do.

 

This is true for any branding, promotional material or communications piece. You may find illustrations of dogs in shark costumes amusing, but that doesn’t make a good logo for your accounting firm.

 

Ideally, you’ll end up with a logo or promotional material that you like as much as your customers — but you need to set aside your own personal taste for the good of your company. You need to always be designing and communicating for your target audience, which means making research driven decisions.

 

Start by creating an ideal customer profile. That — coupled with your business plan, mission statement, industry, geographic and competitive landscape research — forms a good base for starting to design a brand.

 

Any marketing or branding you put out in the world absolutely needs to communicate and resonate with your target audience. What are these people looking for in your business? What distinguishes you in your customer’s mind from your competition?

Having an ideal customer profile allows you make decisions quicker with creative materials. It allows you to plot a course. You can likely very easily say what the design shouldn’t be, and what message it should have or feeling it should evoke.

 

It also gives a reason for the choices being made. A lesson that I learned early in my career is to never make a design choice solely because you like the way something looks. You need a reason for why you made that choice. Having an ideal customer profile in your arsenal of research is a powerful tool to help guide the development of creative projects like logo design.

 

Personal biases are hard to separate when dealing with creative projects. Always remember: a logo is not a piece of art you’re commissioning to hang in your house. It has a purpose. If a designer or marketing expert is disagreeing with your choice to change the font or add a dog in a shark costume, they’re likely advocating on behalf of your target audience. By trying to make a logo you love the look of rather than one that’s effective, you’re harming your future business.

 

Trust your research and your audience when making choices about your brand.

How to plan your website

How to plan your website

20 or so years ago, when the Internet first exploded onto an unsuspecting public, most businesses put some sort of website online for people to look at. It was a was a time when just having a website was enough to make your business cool. They had dancing babies and splash screens, and maybe even some music played that you could never quite figure out how to turn off.

 

It may surprise you to learn that some businesses still approach their website that way. Not with dancing babies and irritating music loops (thank goodness), but they have a website just to have one.

 

These sites are lacking goals.

 

Your web presence needs to be planned out long before concepts and mock-ups are discussed. It’s also important to understand that your website is much more than just your website now. In the modern age of digital lives, your online presence is tied to your customers in seemingly infinite ways. What’s the point of your site? Are customers using other channels like social media to communicate with you more often than on your site? What’s the best method to deliver your information and achieve your goals? These are the questions you need to be asking long before you start picking colours and fonts.

 

Consider that some customers might not even visit your website today, and will instead find what they’re looking for on Facebook, Google Local or just tweet your business directly. So how do you determine what makes the cut for your website and how to most effectively disseminate information?

 

Start with an inventory. Figure out what’s currently out there. Go beyond your own website.  Once you’ve done this, ask yourself if it makes sense. Is there any possible confusion being created? Are customers getting lost along the way? Don’t be afraid to get rid of old content. If it’s sending the wrong message, it’s not helpful.

 

Once you’ve done this, it’s time to create a plan. Set some clear goals for what you want to achieve online. Book reservations, get people to contact you, advertise and inform, etc. These goals will help you layout your plan in the most effective way possible.

 

With goals in place, it’s finally time to start thinking about your website. How are you getting people there? Once they’re there, what do you want them to do? You need to funnel people towards the goals you set. Also, think about how you are keeping them there to increase the chances of achieving your goals.

 

Beyond your website, how are you communicating with your customers when they aren’t on your website? What are you communicating to them, and how often? Why are you choosing to communicate on one platform vs another? Are these communications of value to your audience? And how does this communication relate back to your overall goals? Answering these questions will help plan your social media, blog posts and newsletters.

 

Lastly what comes up when someone searches for you on Google? Are people finding the right pages and information? Does your ranking need to be higher? Does the description need to change? Is the Google Local information up to date? This is often people’s first impression of your web presence. Make sure it’s accurate and communicates the right message.

 

There’s no sense in building web pages that no one will use, and there’s nothing more frustrating to customers then not being able to find the information they need. Decide on a scale for your site and communication plan that is useful to your audience, fits your business needs, and you can realistically maintain.

 

Creating goals — and a plan to achieve those goals — for all of your online activity allows you to make decisions quicker. It also allows you to track the success of what you do online and adjust accordingly. You should always be able to answer why you’re creating certain content, and it should always fit within a plan to funnel your audience towards your goals online.

 

You can’t rely on dancing babies on your homepage to keep people coming back anymore.

 

Download A Web Strategy Planning Document

Spending some time answering these questions and filling out this document will help guide your online plans. You’ll have a clearer idea of what kind of content to put online, how to organize it and how to communicate with your audience online.

Please provide an email address where we should send the download link.

 

I think I need a brochure?

Or what you should ask yourself before planning a new marketing piece.

 

I’ve had countless discussions with clients about brochures they thought they needed. Many business owners think they need a standard three-fold brochure because that’s a common piece everyone has. Vistaprint, UPS and Staples constantly have sales on them. So you must need one, right?

In some cases this is completely true, and your customers would be lost without a brochure. There are at least two or three take-out menus around my fridge at this point, and they all utilize that three-fold style. In other cases, these brochures sit in a box in a storage room and go to waste. No one’s further ahead when this happens.

The discussion I have with clients doesn’t always revolve around a brochure; this is a common problem that crops up with all marketing pieces. You may think you need an app because all cool companies have one now. Your sister-in-law’s company just bought some billboard advertising and she’s told you that’s the path to go. Someone handed you a really cool die-cut business card and you really want that “wow” factor too.

Whatever communication vehicle you’re considering to deliver your message, there are seven questions you should ask yourself before investing in any new marketing piece.

  1. Who is using it?
  2. How is it being used?
  3. Where is it being displayed or distributed?
  4. What’s the primary message?
  5. Is there value to this piece?
  6. What’s the goal of this piece?
  7. What’s my budget?

 

Once you’ve answered all these (and hopefully easily, so you know you’re on the right track) ask this one final question: “Is this the most effective way to communicate my message to this audience and achieve the response I want?”

To answer this, look over your seven previous responses. Does anything stand out? Does every answer make sense? Did you not fully answer any of the questions? If not, why? How can you address this?

If you don’t know how someone is getting your brochure in their hand, or what the goal of the piece is, you may want to rethink your strategy. How can you easily distribute to your target audience? You need a proper distribution method for the piece to be effective. There’s no point of having thousands of brochures sitting in your storage room unused, or being tossed out because they’ve become dated.

You don’t always need to rethink your plans for a marketing piece, but asking these questions is essential before beginning the process – and a big part of a discussion you should be having with your design and marketing team. As a graphic designer, I’m a visual problem solver. My role with clients is to create a solution for their company and make their lives easier. Having brochures (or any project) go to waste doesn’t make me feel like I’ve helped a company in any way. Nobody needs another frivolous expense.

There are no standard marketing pieces you need in your arsenal. You only need the piece that communicates your message in the best possible way to your audience. If you don’t have that, rethink that next piece until you do.

Don’t make your audience think

When I say don’t make your audience think, I’m not saying you shouldn’t challenge them. They’re very likely a smart and savvy audience. What I’m saying is you should make their experience as simple, seamless and user friendly as possible.

You don’t want your message to get lost amongst other clutter or have missing pieces to the puzzle. There should be a clear path to navigate through any marketing piece, document, or web app that answers all the basic questions someone needs to be able to take the next step.

 

If the goal of your flyer is to drive foot traffic to your store and you don’t include an address for your business (or you might but it doesn’t stand out), you’re asking your audience to figure something out for themselves. You might have not included a shot of your storefront, or not made it clear what the value to visiting your store was. Also, what happens when they Google your location and your competition bought the top ad spot in Google to promote their sale? These are examples of roadblocks that you’re challenging your audience to overcome before they are able to do business with you.

 

There are two main reasons this happens. Either you don’t have enough information for someone to be able to easily take the next step, or you have too much information and it’s being lost amongst the clutter.

 

You can avoid this by planning your piece and testing your piece. What do customers need to know to achieve the goal of the project? Is there information that isn’t related to the goal that will impede someone from recalling or noticing vital information? A simple test is to hand your marketing piece to someone who isn’t intimately familiar with your business and ask for feedback. Is it clear that your sale is on Sunday, or that your special event is in the town square? You need to make sure that critical information isn’t missed or lost.

 

The primary message should never be hard to recall, and your piece should easily answer all the major questions: the who, what, where, when and why’s. Your piece should have a flow, and there should be a hierarchical structure to the information based on importance. They should never have to search for the next step or be left wondering what this is. This pulls your customer out of the experience, and you’re no longer using the funnel you’ve designed to boost sales or drive traffic. They’ve left your marketing piece to look for more information, or they’ve given up out of confusion.

 

I apply this principle to design and layout, but it really applies to all aspects of your business. User experience is paramount to customer satisfaction and retention. Everything needs to be easily utilized and clearly understood by your customers.  If you’re making it challenging for people to conduct business with you by adding extra steps, you’re creating roadblocks to increasing your revenue.