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Category: Business

Why You Need Content Marketing to Build Customer Loyalty

Content Marketing engages consumersWe’re living in strange times.  The economic crisis surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more important for small businesses to gain the trust of consumers.  Trust generates loyalty, especially in times when nothing is predictable or constant.

Building trust and loyalty among consumers is easy for big corporations with millions of marketing dollars at their disposal.  How can small businesses compete, especially when business may be shut down or have limited hours during a pandemic?

But how do you connect to consumers when you can’t connect?

Content marketing is key. 

Marketing professionals define content marketing as, “a strategic approach to delivering valuable, relevant content to your customers on a regular basis,” content marketing has become the panacea for every challenge facing small businesses.

Need to relate to customers?  Content marketing.  Need to build your brand?  Content marketing.  Need to show your relevance in an ever-changing world?  Content marketing.

But how do you “do” content marketing without a fully staffed marketing team and an unlimited budget?  How can a small business incorporate content marketing into their business strategy?

Start by talking to your customers on your existing channels.

Places like Facebook, Instagram and Linked In are where your customers congregate digitally and it’s where your message has a chance to connect. Stay active on your social media platforms. If you don’t have a blog, consider starting one.  If you do blog, keep it up.

It’s as easy as telling a story. 

Tell your brand’s history or relate the story of a customer who found success by using your products and services. Talk about what you do and how you do it.  Don’t try to sell – just talk.

Illustrate your story with images.
AlphaGraphics Franklin employees

Not all pics need to be serious. Have fun!

When possible (and appropriate) show consumers the faces of your company – the people who make it what it is.  Content marketing gives you the perfect opportunity to humanize your brand by showing off the people behind your operations.  Chances are, your employees live and play in your community, so they’re relatable to the consumers you’re trying to reach.

Show your relevance. 

What challenges are your consumers facing and how can you address those challenges?  Have you switched gears during the COVID-19 crisis to service a different segment of consumers or provide products you didn’t used to offer?  How is what you’re doing right now (whatever the economic or cultural environment) pertinent to the people you’re trying to connect to?  These are great topics for any post, from a quick tweet on Twitter to a full blog post on your website.

Stay honest and approachable. 

Allow consumers to comment on your posts.  The best content allows people to engage and interact.  Try to incorporate interactive elements to open up conversations.  Ask relevant questions and solicit input.  And, most importantly, monitor that input.  Address comments, questions, and especially complaints quickly and professionally.

Content marketing isn’t rocket science and it doesn’t require a big budget to implement.  Start small and scale up.  Post consistently and watch what gets a response then tailor your content accordingly.

Finally, have fun with it.

Content marketing might seem like a chore at first.  But eventually it becomes just another way to stay connected with customers.

Want to learn more about content marketing? Visit The CMA.

Here are some of our local favorites who excel at content marketing.

National Museum of African American Music (awesome blog)

Mercy Community Healthcare (rocking Instagram!)

Michael Hyatt Productions (mastering Facebook)

Who do you follow?

Window Frosting Creates Big Impact

Frostings_collageOur team recently created and installed an intricate frosted window graphic at a hospital in another state.  The entire process took our skilled team only a few hours to install but will leave a lasting impression.

What is window frosting?  Frosted windows and doors (both interior and exterior) are typically created from a vinyl material that is translucent but not transparent.  The material comes on rolls and can have a variety of finishes, from flat matte to a glittery shiny, with multiple variations in between.

The pattern or text in the frosting can be created with positive or negative space.  Positive space designs use the window frosting to create the desired image or text.  The material is cut on a precision cutter.  When applied to glass, the unneeded portion of the vinyl is removed.

Negative space designs are created the same way, but the patterns or words are created using the blank spaces left when the excess is removed from the glass.  Either method can create a detailed pattern that diffuses light with a dramatic effect.

Why use window frosting?  Vinyl frosting can be used to add a little privacy to a desired area, to communicate information, or simply as an additional design element.  Because it’s a vinyl film, it’s quick to install (especially when done by professionals).  It can be removed without much difficulty.  And it’s surprisingly hardy and can last for years even when exposed to direct sunlight.

Window frosting can be a very economical way to change the look and feel of any glass window, door, mirror or glass display case.  It can cover an entire window or be trimmed down to a small decal.

Can you think of a place in your business where frosted vinyl might make an impact?

©2019 AlphaGraphics Franklin

The Customer Isn’t Always Right

If your business involves working with customers, you’ve probably heard the old maxim, “The customer is always right.”  Sometimes, however, nothing could be further from the truth.  The customer is always the customer, but they’re not necessarily right.

In the print world, we work with clients who have ideas they need to have communicated in some visual way.  Whether it’s a business card or a large sign project, our customers need a final project that is visually appealing and easily understood.

Sometimes our customers come to us with files or ideas that won’t accomplish their purpose.  At those times, it’s our job to redirect the customer – gently and diplomatically.

Our business is staffed by a team of professionals who have training and experience working in marketing and graphic design.  We work with cutting-edge technology, using the state-of-the art equipment and all the materials required to deliver a stellar finished project.  If we don’t bring our expertise to the table with every customer interaction, we’re failing in our job.

Sometimes it’s necessary to tell a customer that they’re wrong, that their idea will fall short.  Diplomacy is the key to those tough conversations.  We start by acknowledging anything in the customer’s idea that works or can be tweaked to work.  Only then do we begin to gently explain what needs to be replaced or tossed out entirely.

Most times, customers listen to what we have to say – especially when we’ve built a relationship with them and they understand that we have their best interests in mind.  Sometimes customers want it their way and, in those circumstances, we graciously comply.  While we may not agree with their decision, they are still, afterall, the customer.

Do you ever need to tell a customer that they’re wrong?  How do you handle those circumstances?

©2019 AlphaGraphics Franklin

5 Way to Retain Existing Customers

Thank You CardsIn a recent article posted on the “WhatTheyTh!nk” website, industry analyst, Heidi Tolliver-Walker, discussed customer retention.  While primarily aimed at those in the printing industry, her 5 tips for customer retention are useful for anyone who sells any product or service.

Her 5 tips are not limited by industry and can be applied equally to those engaged in B2B or B2C selling.

We wondered how our customer service practices aligned with those Tolliver-Walker identified as key to customer retention.  In reviewing our own internal processes, we developed a few questions to help determine if we were on track.  These questions can help any business review their marketing and customer retention practices.

Tip# 1: “Know why they love you.” 

Ask yourself:  What are we doing right that keeps our customers coming back?  How are we delighting our customers with every interaction?

Tip# 2:  “Know what matters to them.”

Ask yourself:  What do our customers really want from us?  Have we asked them?  Note: Customer service surveys are great ways to tune into your customers’ actual needs. 

Tip# 3:  “Make it personal.”  

Ask yourself:  Are we personalizing our communications?  Are we targeting customers with relevant marketing that shows we understand their needs?  Are we thanking or rewarding customers for their repeat business?

Tip# 4:  “Be authentic.”

Ask yourself:  Are our marketing efforts genuine and telling real stories?  How do we communicate what we do in ways that don’t feel stilted or insincere?  Do we market differently to existing customers than we do to prospects?

Tip# 5:  “Don’t just sell.”

Ask yourself:  Do we care about what our customers do?  How engaged with them are we after the sale?  Do we support their business in the community?

At AlphaGraphics, we know that 60% of our sales comes from repeat business.  Keeping that segment of our customer base happy is paramount to our future success. Continually asking ourselves these key questions helps keep us on track with our customer retention plan.  Our end goal is to keep repeat customers happy and coming back for more.

What are you doing to keep your existing customers coming back?

Read the article at: Tolliver-Walker, H., (July 24, 2019), Are You Walking the Customer Retention Walk with Your Customers?  From http://whattheythink.com/

©2019 AlphaGraphics Franklin

 

Print is not Dead

IT’S 2019 AND WE’RE STILL PUTTING INK ON PAPER

Newspaper in treesIt’s no secret that the world has become increasingly reliant on technology.  The virtual world finds new ways to impinge on the “real” world every day.  In the print industry, we’ve been hearing the cry, “Print is dead” for years.  We were warned the world would soon be paperless.   Nothing could be further from the truth.

Print is changing, that’s certain.  Gone are the days of long run offset print jobs.   Commercial print companies have found themselves shifting gears to keep up with an increasing demand for quick turn, short run print jobs.  Digital equipment, both toner printers and ink presses, has evolved to do all sorts of tricks.  Commercial printing has adapted and evolved.  And for those companies who could adjust, business is booming.

In spite of the dire predictions, print has continued to be an important and effective marketing tool.  Print has always been a tactile medium.  In these days of “virtual” everything, the physical experience of printed material is a welcome change.  The feel of a slick catalog or textured business card is something that can’t be replaced by a fancy product shot or virtual mockup.  Not yet anyway.

Print is “real” in an age when so many things aren’t.

Printed material seems to stick around giving people the opportunity to return to it again and again.  Print can be customized with variable data and graphics (even maps) that speak specifically to the desired audience.  With the use of things like  QR codes and augmented reality links, print can connect to the virtual world in new and unexpected ways.  Print has held its own in the digital age.

The entire printing industry has become more sustainable.  Tree farms provide much of the paper used in the U.S. and provide not only jobs, but erosion-deterrents and habitat for all sorts of wildlife.  While data centers and “server farms” are tearing up the landscape with asphalt and concrete, paper suppliers are planting more trees and recycling more post consumer material than ever.

The print industry has evolved.  Print is not dead.  It’s been reconfigured and rejuvenated.  Small and mid-sized commercial print companies are thriving.  It’s 2019 and there’s still a market for ink on paper.

© 2019 AlphaGraphics Franklin

Learn more about how digital print can help your business.

Can you print augmented reality?

Augmented Reality in Print

As a print and marketing company, we’ve had our share of interesting questions from clients.  Recently, we had a client ask, “Can your press print augmented the reality?”

Well, yes, sort of.

The question gave us a chuckle because augmented reality isn’t something you print, but rather a way of enhancing printed material.  Augmented reality is a technology that superimposes computer-generated content on top of the “real” world.  It’s a way to take printed material to another level by embedding links, videos and other content onto anything – from business cards to catalogs to large banners.  If it prints, augmented reality can be applied.

Imagine handing a client a business card which, when scanned by a smart device, automatically opens your Linked In page.  Or having a client open a catalog, scan a page, then see a video about a product and be presented with an active “Purchase Now” button.

Any printed material can hold multiple invisible yet powerful links with distinct opportunities to engage an audience.

Are you using augmented reality to promote your business?

Want to see how it works?  Download our AR marketing piece and scan with the Layar app (available for Android and Apple devices).

Time to Hire?

Times are good.  Business is up.  As an owner or manager of a business, you’re no longer worried about keeping the doors open.  Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day to manage all the business you have.  In fact, you’re wondering if it’s time to hire more help.  But how do you really know when it’s time to staff up?

Every business has guidelines specific to their industry.  Peak seasons in construction and retail determine when it’s time to add staff and whether that staff should be full time, part time or temporary.

In other industries, business owners often opt to pay existing employees overtime to manage the extra workload.  However, with new overtime laws going into effect in December of 2016, overtime may prove to be much more expensive than increasing headcount.  Beyond the financial impact of overtime, employee job satisfaction and performance can suffer if overtime becomes a job requirement. High turnover can also result from working your team too hard.

There are certain signs that it’s time to consider hiring new employees.  An astute business owner or manager will be able to spot these and determine when it’s time to staff up.

When to Hire

1.  Your business has sustained growth over more than one quarter in the last 12 months.  When sales are consistently increasing or when forecasts indicate continued growth, it may be time to hire.

2.  New business opportunities are on the horizon but you don’t have adequate human resources to seize them.  Any time you put off an expansion of services or products simply because you don’t have the people on staff to do the work, it’s time to hire.

3.  Your employees are experiencing burn out.  Stress, excessive complaints, mistakes, absenteeism, team dysfunction, and decline in customer satisfaction are all signs that you are asking too much of your current staff and it’s time to hire.

4.  Employees feel stuck in their current positions.  Every business needs a workforce that is capable, well-trained (preferably cross-trained) and primed to move up the ladder.  If you can’t offer opportunities for career growth because you don’t have new people ready to fill vacant slots, it’s time to hire.

5.  If owners and/or managers are handling day-to-day tasks because there’s no one else to do them, you’re understaffed.

Employees need their bosses to be leaders, not co-workers.  Your job is to lead and manage.  If you don’t have time to do that, then it’s definitely time to hire.

No responsible business owner or manager wants to add staff in peak times only to have layoffs if business falls short.  However, no business owner or manager can afford to lose business because of customer complaints or lack of manpower to service the needs of the client.  Often it makes good business sense to hire new employees so they can be trained and ready to handle new business.

Is it time for your business to hire?

 

-LG, AlphaGraphics Franklin | July 2016

Circling

We’ll be honest.  Our business was stagnant when our boss bought the joint.  Things were comfortably routine.  We weren’t growing but the same could be said for a lot of small businesses in 2012.

Our boss came into this business as a novice.  Printing and marketing were industries about which he knew nothing.  He’d run businesses before, but this was completely alien to him.

Because it was all so new, he had an advantage.  He didn’t know what had always worked in the past or what had been tried unsuccessfully before.    He was learning an industry as he went, applying concepts from other business models.  Some worked, some didn’t.  But the mistakes were lessons learned and became building blocks for the next success.

In 4 years, he increased revenue by over 100%.  In what some commercial print companies would call a waning market, our boss tripled his staff, expanded his services, and turned a quiet little print shop into a thriving communications company.

By the end of June 2016, this guy will be the proud owner of a Gold Circle franchise.  In the AlphaGraphics world* becoming a Gold Circle center is a flippin’ big deal.  And to do it with only one brick and mortar location in a town the size of Franklin Tennessee in just over 4 years is almost unheard of.

He must be doing something right — something that could be applied to other entrepreneurial enterprises.  If we could pin him down, he might have some pearls of management wisdom to share.

But, here’s the thing, we can NEVER pin him down.  We call him the shark because he’s always moving, always circling through the shop to monitor the pulse of the business.  He’s always meeting with clients or potential clients.  He’s always making deliveries so he can touch base with customers.  He’s always visiting vendors building a rapport that pays off when we’re in a crunch a need a favor.  He never stops.

And that seems to be the secret of his success.  Don’t stop.  Something doesn’t work, try something else.  Some project is falling behind schedule, jump in and move it along.

He makes time for his employees but often that time comes during a road trip to see a customer or while hemming banners for an after-hours delivery.

There’s no time to rest on laurels if you’re always moving.

There’s no time to get complacent.  If you spend 100% of every work day moving forward, there’s no time to worry about what you might be doing wrong.

That kind of frenetic leadership may not work for everybody.  But for our boss, it got his team motivated to do more than we ever had.  It’s created a reputation for our business as one that can make things happen even under the tightest deadline.

Having the right experience, the right education, the right business in the right location can give anyone an edge.  But those are no guarantee you’ll be successful.  Our boss is proof that persistence and a refusal to stop moving forward can be the deciding factors in whether a business fails or thrives.

Our shark is still circling gold and we’re right behind him.

*AlphaGraphics is a multi-national franchise with almost 300 independently owned and operated marketing service providers with full-service print shops. Approximately 10% of the franchisees make it to the company’s Gold Circle level of sales.  AlphaGraphics Franklin is located in Cool Springs and has 15 full time employees.

 

 

Comic Sans is NOT Funny

There have been volumes (literally) written about how typeface can impact everything from web posts to printed books.  The right font can increase legibility and credibility.  The wrong font can make a project look amateurish and render it almost impossible to read.

By now, almost everyone knows that Comic Sans is NOT the font to use for anything (except, on the rarest occasion, a child’s birthday invitation).  And, aside from its questionable use for the title of the film Avatar, the font Papyrus is best left for use in the most mundane church bulletin.

Almost every designer has a “hit” list of the fonts that prove to be consistently easy to read.  Others can rattle off a top 10 list of fonts that they would never, ever consider using.

There are rules, of course, for what fonts to use for titles, for text, for web use and for different kinds of printed pieces.  There are principles for the use of serif and san serif fonts, for when to use italics and when to use bold face.

There are also rules for when to break the rules.

We’ve curated our own list of sites that provide the best (and worst) information about the selection and use of typeface.  Some of these are useful.  Some of these are fun.  All of them provide great information that can help you avoid an unforgiveable font faux pas.

11 Fonts That Designers Love to Hate

Examples of How a Bad Typeface Can Run Your Brand

What Font Should I Use? Five Principles for Choosing and Using Typefaces

Sources for free fonts:

Best and Worst Fonts

Innovate or Die

For decades now, pundits have been declaring that “print is dead!” In this age of recycling and pre-cycling, printed materials are sometimes considered an unnecessary waste and expense.

Despite studies that consistently indicate consumers – including both baby boomers and millennials – prefer print to digital media*, commercial print providers are facing an ever changing business environment.

Gone are the days when business printing meant long offset runs producing tens of thousands of pieces which were warehoused until they could be consumed over the course of months or even years. Cost- and efficiency-conscious business owners now print their analog media on demand.  This move has challenged traditional offset print facilities but is proving to be a boon for quick turn digital print shops.

Commercial printers have learned that they must adapt to changing business trends or be forced out of the marketplace. For commercial print vendors, it’s innovate or die.

Forward thinking commercial print companies have embraced changes in their industry. It’s not uncommon now to find print shops providing other products and services.  Graphic design and marketing services, large format printing, and promotional product sourcing are now in the toolkit of many print companies.  And web-to-print solutions are rapidly becoming something consumers are requiring from their print vendors.

Vistaprint introduced online print purchasing to consumers in 1995. Since then, many other print companies (including AlphaGraphics) have starting offering their own online platforms.

Buying print online is a trend that continues to grow.  In 2001, roughly 3% of print orders were placed online.  By 2014, that number was up to 30% and is expected to rise to 50% by 2017**.  That’s a trend that commercial print companies cannot afford to ignore.

Not all web-to-print platforms are alike. Some can be branded for and tailored to suit the needs of specific customers.  Some can allow consumers to select templates and create their own designs.  Others allow companies to manage their sales and marketing collateral – becoming a library of up-to-date materials which their employees can access 24/7, 365 days a year.

The best platforms can do all those things and more. Some can be expensive to build out and maintain.  Others are offered as free services to business customers.  All can be beneficial for everyone involved – providing businesses with a low or no cost resource and giving print vendors a direct link to their consumers.

Innovation in the print industry has changed the way commercial printers sell print.

Print companies who can’t or won’t innovate are losing market share to those companies who have embraced these changes. Smart print companies have found a way to leverage digital tools to increase their sales of printed materials.

And smart consumers have found a way to leverage their purchasing power to convince commercial printers to provide digital platforms that make the buying process easier, quicker, and often less costly.

In commercial printing as in many other businesses, it’s innovate or die.  And the innovaters are flourishing.

-LG, AlphaGraphics Franklin | April 2016

 

https://www.jwt.com/en/worldwide/thinking/embracinganalog/
** http://www.designnbuy.com/the-web-to-print-trends-defining-2016/