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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A NICE Alternative to Replacing Marketing Staff

With the recent economic downturn, many companies like yours may have been forced to lay off some of your personnel. If some of these employees were part of your in-house marketing staff, that’s where NICE Creative can help. NICE is primarily comprised of a two-person creative team with the ability to develop traditional and new media marketing strategy, design everything from logos to websites, write collateral copy, press releases, blogs and tweets and also to produce videos, publish books and create events. Between the two of us, we have more years of experience than we care to admit and we have never stopped learning and creating new ways to help our clients.

Now you might be thinking that you can’t afford such an experienced team, but we have worked with a variety of large and small clients over the years and we can usually find a financial solution that works for both of us. In fact, what many of our clients have found is that they get a higher level of thinking, greater consistency and better work product than they could from paying just one employee.

To prove this last point, we did some research on and found that the median annual salary for a graphic designer in this market is $56,000. However, when you add in the benefits—vacations, disability, Social Security, etc., the actual cost of the employee is more than $80,000. In addition, this does not account for the set-up and maintenance of a graphics workstation—that can add another $5,000 to $7,500 for the specialized software and equipment a designer needs to do her work. What’s more, graphic designers usually have one purpose: to make things look better. They won’t create a marketing plan or analyze the market. They won’t write press releases or ad copy. Now it sounds like I’m picking on graphic designers, but I’m not at all. The point is whether you hire an in-house marketing director, graphic designer, public relations specialist or copywriter, one person typically does not do it all and if s/he does, the cost of that employee is going to be significantly higher.

But at NICE Creative, we have the experience, talent and follow-through to deliver a thoughtful, cohesive and creative marketing program that can help you grow your business for as little as $3,000/month. Maybe in this economy you CAN hire someone for $36,000/year, but you won’t get an experienced team who can offer so much for so little. In a down economy, the last thing you should be doing is cutting back on your marketing, but if you’ve had to lay off staff, this could be a NICE alternative.

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posted by Head Noodler @ 2:46 PM

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reality Check: Understanding What to Expect from Marketing

Even though it’s happened to me many times over the years, I am always surprised what clients expect from marketing. Although they have been told of marketing’s key importance, they usually have invested most of their money in developing their product or service. Now they think they can get us to throw together a few ads, create a couple press releases and presto! they’ll be raking in the money in no time.

If only it were that easy!

The reality is, however, that marketing is a continuous, evolving process that begins by knowing who you are. How are you different from the competition? Who are your target audiences? What experience will they have when they interact with you? Marketing can help you identify your strengths and opportunities; marketing cannot make you into something you are not.

When your identity, key messages, graphics and actions align, you have the basis for your brand. Once you understand your brand, you have the footing to develop a marketing plan. Too often clients are already focusing on typefaces or colors, developing a website or getting a TV interview before they have done the basic foundational work of developing a solid market plan. A marketing plan will give you focus; it will not guarantee that everything you do will be successful.

Marketing is as much an art as it is a science. There will be trial and error. Something that works one month may not work the next. With consistent ongoing efforts, marketing can produce slow growth; marketing will not guarantee you overnight success. Anyone who guarantees you certain results in a fixed timeframe is not being honest. The only thing that is guaranteed is that if you don’t market at all, your business will stagnate and eventually die. Use your marketing plan as a benchmark that can be tweaked and changed as you evaluate what works and what doesn’t. But don’t be too quick to throw the baby out with the bath water. What you THINK may have been futile may have laid the groundwork for your next success.

It used to be said that three exposures to your message were needed before your target would act. But with all the noise that exists among traditional media, social media and other alternative methods of communication these days, the number of exposures is now said to be 9. Marketing is about frequency; marketing is not about doing something once and forgetting about it. It is possible to have a spike in sales from one ad or article placement, but if you don’t continue to build on that success, you’ll be right back where you started.

Marketing can convey how your product or service can solve a problem for the consumer; marketing cannot make people buy things they don’t want or can’t afford. If you haven’t crafted the right message, targeted the right audience or priced your service or product competitively, even the most brilliant idea can fail. Focus on what your service or product can do for the consumer. Consumers buy benefits (“It will make my life easier!”) not features (“It has 27 programmable buttons!”) Think about it: do you want something that makes your life easier or do you want all the work of having to program a bunch of buttons!

Marketing should be an investment; marketing cannot be expendable line item. When times get tough, marketing is often the first thing to be cut. This is a mistake. Whether you do it yourself or you pay someone to do it, marketing needs to be a daily activity. This is even more true in an economic downturn. People who keep talking with their target audience will still be top of mind when the economy turns around. Those who disappear will be doing a lot of catch up at a much higher price.

If you are realistic about what marketing can and can’t do, your efforts will no doubt be rewarded. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Why do you think so many people hire us to do it?

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posted by Head Noodler @ 6:01 PM

Monday, April 6, 2009

It's never too late to learn new tricks

Please allow me to introduce myself: I'm Terry Rohrs, NICE Creative's Main Squiggler, or in plain-speak, graphic design/production artist. I wanted to take a moment to say what an exciting time it is to be a graphic designer, and explain a little about what I mean, lest you think I've completely gone over to the dark side.

There was a time in my career when I thought I was at the top of my game. That was just before design for the web had taken off. A few of my customers were hinting that I'd better 'jump on this web thing,' but I was still reeling from having had to learn to perform my creative tasks with a computer. I enjoyed the sense of control I suddenly had: with my little Mac I now could edit my own photos, set my own type, finish my own layouts, and even output my own film for the printing press. WOW! Why start over again with webdesign? I had just become a digital print design expert!!

Well then, being an expert lasted about as long as a ladybug's picnic. The pervasive growth of the web has created a wave of change that feels as though it will never crest. Since joining Robin at NICE Creative, we have learned about all types of new ways to do our jobs: from ordering custom printed balloons online, to deploying personalized microsites and variably printed digital postcards. We are Blogging, Facebooking, Linking-In and Tweeting. Outdoor billboards now change every few seconds, school buses carry advertising, and the study of human psychology is teaching us new things about how customers make decisions every day.

One thing doesn't seem to have changed: the need for quality execution. As computers gave everyone who owned one the ability to create his or her own marketing message on paper, on the web, over the airwaves or on video, the world of design was turned upside down. Everyone was a designer or a writer or a photographer. There was quite a mess o' ideas out there. With all that noise, the need for a clear, concise, and well executed message has become ever more important. There are so many channels for media and messaging that, without a well thought out and consistent campaign, your message will be but a whimper in a huge crowd of loud-mouthed blowhards!

It all comes down to creating a solid foundation. No matter what tools you use to create your message, no matter what the vehicle you use to deliver it, it had better be worth hearing--whether you've got a small audience or a large one, the need to pull together expertise on many fronts never goes away. I may have had to learn lots of new tricks over the years, but the fallout has been that there is still a need for experienced, qualified professionals in all the areas of marketing. Computers and digital media can help us create--no doubt about it. And that's exciting! But they still don't have the intelligence needed to get my attention on an emotional level without input from a human--a human who can still learn a few tricks. To me, that's even more exciting!

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posted by Terry R @ 1:04 PM