Tag Archives: website design

Master the Art of Marketing for Small Business in 2015

Mastering the Art of Marketing for Small Businesses ebook coverBegin 2015 with a clear direction of marketing for small business. Mastering the Art of Marketing is a compilation of marketing and design strategies your small business can implement right away. Explore the workbook on your own or with your team.

Mastering the Art of Marketing is a resource for start-ups and small businesses ready to go to the next level. Each month learn new steps to connect with your target audience.

January: Set Your Course

5 step master plan for your 2015 Small Business marketing –Production, brand manufacturing, service firms, wholesale e-commerce businesses, brick and mortar retail, local bars and restaurants, increase growth opportunity when you have a plan.

February: Practice Kindness

People Helping People: Social Media Connections Transform Your Business – Coaches, authors, professional speakers, real estate agents and service firms begin building on your fan base.

Master the Art of Marketing e-workbook is a 12 step monthly marketing for small business strategy. Start the new year with all the information you need to get the 2015 small business marketing results you want.

Sample Workbook Topics:download button - marekting for small business

• internet marketing for small business
• marketing plans and editorial calendars
• brand marketing and development
• internet advertising

worksheet-page-marekting-for-small-business-mastering-teh-art-fof-marketing

Sample monthly marketing worksheet

The exercises in this e-book have been laid out in the form of a calendar year. We chose this formatting so small businesses or solo-preneurs with limited staff and time may be able to take on business branding and marketing in bite size chunks. We don’t want you to feel overwhelmed and abandon the effort part way through by attempting to complete it all in one day!

We also recognize entrepreneurs are a different breed of animal – which is why we love working with growing small businesses – our jobs are NEVER boring! Because of the unique personality traits and individual style of each business owner we also recognize some of you are not going to follow a designated path. We encourage you to skip around the book and choose the practices that are most important to your small business right now. All of the worksheets relate to marketing for small business, branding and advertising for business growth. There is no set order in which you must follow. Some of you may choose to begin at the end with the worksheet on branding. If you have not already defined your brand promise I would encourage you to do so.

Our hope is that this ebook will help you to begin the new year with goals and plans in place to build your business by delivering the very best product and service in the way your ideal customers want to receive it.

Whether you choose to take it all on at once and begin the new year with plans in place or whether you choose to tackle a worksheet each month throughout the year it is up to you. We have designed the content so you may use this ebook outlining marketing for small business for years to come. Social media platforms and resource links may change but the essence of mastering your marketing for small business will remain the same.

If you find some of the tasks to be burdensome or difficult to complete, please contact us. Connection Group provides all of the services contained in this packet. If you are part way through and just need a nudge of support or if you have decided your efforts are best directed to run your company. Outsourcing the tasks of marketing for small business and all the items involvedis a smarter use of your energy, connect with us today. Connection Group can help you with your corporate branding, graphic design, marketing, web design, and web maintenance.

Download today and attract what you desire for your business in 2015. Be inspired to create relevant marketing for small business that will captivate your ideal customers. All of the best to you as you move forward with the process of your small business marketing.

May 2015 bring peace and prosperity personally and professionally.

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Membership Website Ideas – WordPress Makes it Easy to Update

Jug&Mug Club Membership website home pageWe recently were selected to provide new membership website ideas and design for a local Lansing Michigan All Seasons Club JugAndMug.org. We worked with the president and a few other board members to re-create the site. I wish I had a screen capture of the old membership website – a before and after would have been dramatic and impressive.

We were happy to hear the group contacted us because we were referred to them as a company who would provide quality service and a website design that met all the goals of the organization at a reasonable rate. Upon our initial meeting with the website committee we learned more details about their ideas for the new membership website.

Local Club Membership Website Ideas:

  • Bring website design into the current decade
  • Offer a content management system that was easy for non-programmers to update
  • Responsive website format: detects screen size and format for smart phones, tablets or desktop monitors
  • Slide show of photos that can be updated easily
  • Blog page to be part of the membership website and not a separate url
  • Online inquiry forms, contact forms or registration forms
  • Emails with domain name (name@jugandmug.org) that forward to each board persons personal email if desired.
  • Ease in updating content and adding photos in all areas
  • E-commerce capability for accepting payments, ticket sales, membership dues, etc.
  • Members only section – password protected with different access levels

local-club-memberhsip-website-ideas

We have provided similar membership website ideas and solutions in the past with password protected areas, e-commerce, events pages, and specific administrative access. Membership websites can range between local clubs like jugandmug or large national or state associations, non-profit and political groups as well as business groups membership sites.

When we’re provided membership website ideas and solutions throughout our  17 years of business that incorporated content management systems (CMS) we typically built them from scratch. Now we can often use the robust WordPress options available.

Jug&Mug.org was built with a WordPress theme that supports e-commerce interactions. There were a plethora of plug ins available if we needed for the password protected area or the photo slide shows. The use of WordPress for this particular project was ideal primarily because of the ease in updates. Since membership websites are often updated by different people and the administrator may change with each board member update it is important to keep website updates simple. Jug and Mug is lucky, they have a President and website committee right now who is knowledgeable of computer programming and interested to learn. Other memberships, associations and clubs may have people responsible for managing the website who have no clue what web code is. Use of WordPress CMS helps alleviate worries and errors and helps newbie website managers to feel at ease.

ski club responsive website - on smart phoneThere are some particular rules to follow when choosing a website company and a WordPress theme,

  • do you want the website for business or just for fun
  • do you want to use your own domain name (hosted on it’s own)
  • a responsive theme
  • a theme that allows e-commerce
  • a theme that allows third party plug-ins
  • customizable
  • … and more depending on your website goals

Discussing WordPress, membership website ideas as well as customizing existing WordPress themes really requires another article. For instance I throw WordPress plug ins out there like they are little miracles… they can also be mean little sprites that choke your website speed and may not play nice together… So much to cover so little blog space.

If you are interested in using WordPress as a new website design solution and would like to talk to us about your considerations whether you have your own membership website ideas, an e-commerce site, or a website offering a service that you need help with. please call us today, 517-645-4387.

Stay connected!

Is Responsive Website Design an Affordable Solution for Small Business?

It’s almost July, should you take a vacation or update your small business website to a responsive website design?

Based on  Compuware, 2012 statistic stating “57 percent of consumers will not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site”you may want to put that sabbatical on hold. If your small business marketing goal this year is to increase internet marketing exposure we recommend you start with your website. For most small businesses building a stand alone small business mobile website and a standard small business website designed for desktop monitors is not very feasible. Maintaining one website design can be challenging enough for a small business – having to maintain two separate websites that essentially contain the same information is absolutely daunting – and quickly proves to be unrealistic. Enter, responsive website design.

Responsive Website Design: Small Businesses Affordable Mobile Website Solution

graphic of a desktop monitor navigation menu

Example of navigation view on a standard desktop monitor.

responsive website deisgn drop down navigation menu

Example of responsive website design navigation drop down option

Responsive website design is the solution for small businesses who want their website visitors to be able to navigate their corporate website easily on any device they choose. From a smart phone, tablet, or desktop monitor, a responsive website design will conform to fit the screen size of the device the visitor is using. Responsive website design programming automatically detects the size of the device screen the visitor is calling up your website from. The responsive website design will either reduce, collapse or expand the content depending on the size of the screen. A clear example is shown in the graphics on the right. A small business website created for a national professional speaker w that is viewed on a desktop monitor has an expanded navigation bar. When you view it on the smart phone the navigation will condense to a drop down menu. The mobile user doesn’t have to scroll all the way to left or right or up or down, all they need do is click on the drop down box arrow (indicated with the red circle) and select the section they want more details on.

Not only does the responsive website design we offer  reduce our customers need to have a separate mobile site built it also saves money because they can be built with the WordPress content management system (CMS). Small businesses can reduce internet marketing expense  by developing a responsive website design built in WordPress. A responsive website design in WordPress will have a simple back end management system that allows users without programming knowledge to easily add new content. Companies can now update their service pages, add new staff members, promote an event, announce new products and add photos and videos of the new products. A whole gamut of information can be added to your small business website without having to pay for website edits from a professional website design firm. All of this without knowing how to write code.

Having the control of your website content is more critical now than ever before.

Google has led the way with search engines to provide more accurate search results. Google search results are now based on relevant content found on each website. For example if you search for small business responsive website design firms in Lansing, MI Google will look for websites that use keywords such as ‘responsive website design for small business’ in multiple pages of their website. Google will look for common words, design, website, responsive website design, Lansing, MI to make sure the website is legitimate based on the relative content on the website. This also demonstrates how important it is for small businesses to continually add relevant, updated content to their website… but that is another blog entry or email news article.

Besides the need to have a mobile friendly small business website, when was the last time your business website received a fresh new look? We joke here at Connection Group that we can tell the approximate year a website was built based on the design. Kind of like women’s hairstyles, straight long hair is clearly 60’s flower child and teased, moussed, mile high hair and mullet’s are unabashedly big hair from the 80’s. There is often no denying the era a small business website design emerged. Don’t be that small business stuck in the 90’s! Showing a dated design to visitors and  prospects sends the message that your company is not staying current with trends and technology. Much credibility can be lost with one click of the button.

So, what are you waiting for? Give us a call today and let us provide a 15-20 minute responsive website design consultation for your small business. Depending on our schedule, we may be able to take a look at your current website while we are on the phone with you today. We can talk about some of the goals you have in mind for your small business internet marketing locally in the mid-Michigan area or find out if your company needs a more powerful national reach. Updating to a responsive website design is the most affordable website solution to get small businesses current and mobile ready as well as have an updated visually appealing website that will connect with visitors on all devices.

Brand Image for The Salvage Yard Antiques

The salvage yard antiques visual brandingA long time customer, The Salvage Yard Antiques in Grand Ledge, Michigan is expanding and has contracted Connection Group for web and print brand design.

The Salvage Yard official website launched earlier this month:

  • a responsive website design that formats to the size of a smart phone, tablet tablet or other computer screen
  • simple, clean designed for the photos to pop
  • easy for the customer to update on their own

Brand Print Items: Updated business cards and new postcards incorporate the same brand images. Keeping colors and visuals consistent help build a recognizable visual brand – plus saves money on design fees! Connection Group printed a larger quantity of postcards than needed to promote the upcoming open house. Keeping the information generic without dates adds the flexibility to be used throughout the year for multiple purposes: future promotions, new product announcements, thank you notes, and more!

Congratulations to The Salvage Yard Antiques on your expansion! For those in the Lansing and Mid-Michigan area be sure to stop in for the opening. For those out of state this is a destination shop not to be missed when you are in Michigan!
The Salvage Yard Grand Opening on February 22nd
Special hours 7:00am – 7:00pmwww.thesalvageyardantiques.com

New Responsive Website Design for Book – Discovering Michigan County by County

New homes page of Discovering Michigan County by County website.

New version of book website design by Connection Group

Screen cap of Discovering Michigan County by County website.

Original screen cap of the website.

Connection Group is pleased to share a recently completed responsive website design for books. Take a look at the before and after images of the customized website design utilizing a WordPress back CMS. The original book website was initially designed by a company that utilizes templates for their customer websites and author Barbara Vandermolen wanted a more customized, contemporary,  website that would function well and still reflect high quality. Connection Group had so much fun going through all the beautiful photography the author has gathered through her over six years of research. Photography, design, and visuals can make or break a responsive website design or print marketing items and Connection Group staff is in heaven when we can play with a catalog of images at this level.

This fabulous book is full of these gorgeous photos in full color that show off the wonders of Michigan County by County. Author Barbara Vandermolen celebrates her home state of Michigan by paying homage to each county in this recently released book “Discovering Michigan County by County” Your A-Z Guide to each of the 83 counties in the Great Lakes State. This tome is  616 pages of pure beauty. The photos alone will hold your interest and attract visitors to the fine Pure Michigan state. The author cleverly outlined each of the 83 chapters to feature details of  every county in Michigan. Each chapter is an A-Z Guide of the county. “A” highlights agriculture, “B” features Bridges or Boats, etc. This informative book is a great find for travelers and residents alike. Clearly Barbara’s effort was a labor of love and Connection Group was honored to work with her to create a new website design that represents the quality Barbara has strived for and reached with this beautiful book. Read more or purchase the book.

Graphic Designer with Graphic Design Solutions- the ‘Wiz” of Everything

graphic design solutions - graphic designer at computer with pantone chartThis summer I renewed my subscription to Print magazine for the first time in quite a few years. Each year a higher percentage of Connection Graphic’s customer graphic design solutions are digital or web based. Our focus and research is keeping current with electronic solutions and techniques.  A Print Magazine direct mail piece convinced me I deserved to indulge my love of print design.

While luxuriating in the recent issue an article by Rick Poynor resonated with my thoughts on the evolution of graphic design. How has my role as a graphic designer evolved? Even though graphic designers have been creating since the 1930s, I remember a mere decade ago having to explain to people what I did as a graphic designer.

My work designations were visual communication director, publication specialist, marketing director, graphic artist, graphic designer. Under all guises, my tasks in each position were virtually the same – a rose by any other name.

Graphic design solutions  for the masses

Viewers are influenced by strategic and creative graphic design solutions in every media throughout the world. From website design, to packaging, print literature, billboards and video, graphic design is in the heart of all brand development and communications.

In this digital world a graphic designer can’t just excel in logo design. Designers must have a strong grasp of website design and digital graphic design solutions.

A graphic designer has always been a problem solver and visual magician. Artistic expression, interdisciplinary skills and reasoning come together to create graphic design solutions. We are called to be product developers, typesetters, coders, writers and more. The beauty is, we can, we will — we are. Successful graphic designers welcome every challenge. As a result, Graphic designers understand future generations will be even more discerning in their product and service choices. Customers will continue to challenge our ability to balance creative visuals with clear messages. We will continue to deliver graphic design solutions that hit the mark.

A rose by any other name…

Rick Poyner and others may argue that the evolution of the industry may require a new title and graphic design is now an outmoded term. As a seasoned graphic designer I am grateful for the new discerning and savvy clientele. Finally, I appreciate not having to explain what a graphic designer does. I will  answer to whatever name or tasks evolve.  In response, I will continue to deliver creative graphic design solutions that communicate clearly and effectively.

Join the Michigan EcoSystem at Entrepreneur Connect

The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (Leap, Inc.) has combined with Great Lakes Entrepreneurial Quest  (GLEQ) to bring aspiring  entrepreneurs two days of inspring presentations, Angel funding session, points on securing government contracts, tips on marketing, notes on protecting intellectual property and many more critical topics of value to entrepreneurs.

On Thursday, June 9, enjoy a day of presentations and breakout sessions and virtual tours of Michigan’s business incubators and the GLEQ Business Plan Competition Awards Banquet that evening. On Friday, you’ll have the option of participating in numerous networking and educational activities and exploring the displays in the exhibit hall (please stop by Connection Group table and let us know you read this post to receive a special gift!).

The agenda on both days encourages meeting and learning from other entrepreneurs, investors, business professionals and resource experts. Contact LEAP to secure small conference rooms that are available at no additional cost on a first-come, first-served basis for small meetings and private conversations. Visit Entrepreneur Connect to read more about the session available and reserve your place. Participate in the events and activities as best fits your schedule and interests.

I hope to see you there and look forward to this great opportunity to meet and support business in Michigan. Even though Connection Group opened our doors over 14 years ago, business continues to evolve because we keep learning. If all we offered were the graphic design services for print marketing that was our base  in 1997 we could not have sustained the business. Because we paid attention to trends and consulted experts, we have continually expanded our product offerings to meet the market. Internet marketing, website design and consulting quickly became a larger segment of client sales, even in those early days.

The ability to learn and excel is a critical component to business success. Because we have stayed in touch with customer needs and honed our skills, Connection Group has become recognized as a brand marketing resource. When our customers need to engage in social media we develop social media strategies for them, custom designed Facebook fan pages, landing pages, and custom website design and development as part of the marketing services mix. We don’t know what the future will bring, but we will be one of the first to learn about it as we continue to attend great events such as Entrepreneur Connect.

Entrepreneur Connect will be held at the Henry Center in Lansing, Michigan.   Take a look at these breakout sessions and register to attend!

As Miche Suboski shared, “Summer is usually a sleepy time for business, but not for Entrepreneurs!  At least the one’s that are out making stuff happen….Entrepreneur Connect has many… excellent opportunities (all in one event!) for you to get out there and continue to build your brand or make connections that will help you take the next step with your venture.”

 

Do You Know What Your Real Job Is? Graphic Design Job Duties Sure Have Changed!

Illustration of Connie Sweet electronic design illustration‘When you were a kid, could you, your teachers, or your parents imagine your current job? … ‘

My job has changed profoundly over my  20+ years in graphic design. In addition, new industries and jobs have developed that didn’t exist in the field when I chose graphic design as my career. In art school we had to sketch out concepts and handwrite text. My first real graphic designer job, I had to determine character count by hand then spec it for a typesetter – heaven forbid if there was a change in the copy after this step. Now, as owner of a graphic design and marketing firm specializing in brand marketing and website design, the occupation I enjoy as a graphic designer is a far cry from the description from the Kendall College of Art Design catalog back then.

Is your job title one that was included in a compiled Occupation List from Middle School? Is the title the same with vastly different tasks and techniques? Or has the original job you started fresh out of school been eliminated and you have reinvented yourself along the way?

While considering the industries I have been fortunate to work with through Connection Group, brick and mortar retail, real estate brokerages, marketing firms, I have seen and felt the tremendous changes each has implemented to continually evolve to meet todays business climate. How much has your ‘occupation type’ changed since you started your career path? I would love to hear where you started and where you are now, how vastly your tasks have changed since you entered the job market and set your career path.

Stay connected!

Take Back Control of the Photos on Your Facebook Page.

Customize the photo stream at the top of your Facebook Fan Page or Facebook Personal Page.

Since Facebook updated their page platform the photos that came up in the stream at the top of the Connection Group fan page were not optimal in my opinion. Facebook’s default is to select photos from your wall posts images to display in the top photo ribbon, or ones you have been tagged in by yourself or others. On the Connection Group Facebook fan page some of the photos were infographics that weren’t clear when reduced to the size to fit the stream. As a marketing firm specializing in graphic design and website design the best way to utilize this stream is to highlight some of our custom work.

Even if you or your company doesn’t offer design or art services you can customize your photo stream to feature photos of your products, pictures of you that you like (not the ones others have tagged you in where your head is cut off or your back’s to the camera.)

You can choose photos you have taken and that you have access to on your computer. You can also go to stock photography sites and purchase inexpensive images. Just choose the small web resolution options – this will help keep their cost low. You can even call Connection Group, we can create custom images applicable to your company product or service too! Please be cautious about using any photos you do not own of do not have permission to use – this is a breech in copyright law.

Facebook’s default is to select photos from your wall posts images to display in the top photo ribbon. Once you have images you would like to feature, log into your page and begin posting them from your wall.

Click on a photo and choose Upload a Photo. Don’t choose ‘Create an Album’, this will not work. Find where the photo is located on your computer and select it.

Screen capture of where to click on your wall to upload a photo by your status entry.

When you post them as photos to your page, you can add information about the photo and then click share.

Screen capture of dialog box where you can choose your file name, add a cation and click share to upload to your Facebook wall.

Facebook doesn’t allow you to upload them all at once but that’s okay. By adding them separately you will get more exposure for them by them on your wall! Once you have posted all the photos you want to add hit the reload button in your browser and wa-la! you will see the photos you just posted in your photo stream. If you are reading the post shortly after it was posted you can visit the Connection graphics Facebook fan page and see the order in which I posted updated images. Click on the like us button on the welcome page and it will take you to the wall. Scroll to see the step by step entries and note the photo ribbon at the top.

BTW, If you don’t want a photo or graphic  to appear in the photo stream, roll over the photo and click the “x” in the top-right corner. This won’t delete your photo it just keeps it from being in the feed. (You can open your photo album and delete it from there if you want to completely remove it.)

Good luck! Let us know if you have any questions. Stay connected!