Tag Archives: graphic design

Keep Your Business Connected

girls on rollercoaster

It’s been a load of fun!

As we are nearing the year end, Connection Group is excited to announce we will be bringing back our monthly e-newsletter “Connectivity”. As business has increased and our services have expanded over the last few years we have dedicated our time to meeting our customers needs by fulfilling their project requests and increasing our knowledge and skills in the areas of social media and internet marketing. Whew! It has been a fast paced rollercoaster ride with a mix of laughter, joy, fear and tears! We have grown to a full service design firm with a focus on integrative marketing.

So what does this all mean to you? It means we still make you look good, we make your ideas work, we make headlines and most importantly, make your job easier. Our design offering still include graphic design services of your choice, logos, brochures, illustrations, book covers, magazines, visual displays ( trade show graphics and signage) etc. Web design solutions include graphical interface, illustrations, photo optimizing, landing pages, web-galleries, websites that you can update yourself, e-commerce websites, members only websites and more. Web development includes; content management systems, payment portals, shopping carts, password protected areas, statistic tracking and analytics, etc.

The integrative marketing services Connection Group now offers small business marketing, consulting, internet marketing, print marketing, and social media marketing. Digital marketing includes marketing plan, publication calendars, website design and development, internet/digital advertising, research, e-press releases, internet copy writing, etc. Print marketing continues with direct mail pieces, corporate brochures, postcards, business cards, flyers, mailers and more. Lastly and most in demand currently is our social media marketing services. Connection Group manages all social media platforms for you. If you’re on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and others we manage your posts, respond and update all areas, track and review analytics, write, publish and track regular blog entries. Am I leaving out anything? Probably, give us a call if there is something related that you need, we can help or we can refer you to another resource.

Don’t worry we are still offering options for these services. We provide monthly marketing solutions for customers that incorporate all of the above or we can tailor a package that fits a small business marketing budget. All services can be chosen individually or as a package to suit your needs each time.

We look forward to staying connected with you. We are committed to providing valuable small business marketing and design tips to help you grow your business, get more traffic and customers to your business. Subscribe to our e-newsletter, connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and ArchtypeMe we will be sharing current trends in business marketing and design, offering discounts and specials for printing and digital services and uploading fun, artistic cards to share with your family and friends for free!

Stay connected,
Connie

Raising a puppy and building a brand ain’t what it use to be.

Photo of Bar-leigh (Barley) in the garden sticking out her tongue.Our family recently welcomed a new puppy into our home. It has been over 15 years since we have harkened down this path. I am quickly reminded of the dedication and attention puppies require, as well as the many items needed for entertainment and home protection.

Yesterday’s visit to the big box pet store displayed rows and rows of dog treats and toys to; stimulate minds, increase physical activity, encourage agility…, so many tools to ensure successful puppy raising. A quick Google search on ‘how to train puppies not to bite,’ resulted in a plethora of free videos and resource links for every activity imaginable for a dog or owner to explore.

All of this is underway while in the midst of developing an integrative marketing plan for a client’s expansion into a new geographic area. As with the puppy merchandise and training, tools and resources for brand marketing and graphic design continue to evolve. There is a large variety of options available that promise to achieve the same successful result.

Do I stick to the tried and true methods; discipline, attention, consistency? I know they worked, I have had well behaved dogs and successful customers throughout the years. Or do I bury the old school methods and invest time, faith, and money into the new approaches; gadgets, permission, rewards?

An appetite for the new with respect for the old could be an adage for all I do, from home decor, marketing, graphic design and puppy raising. I believe combining old with new is the true key to success in most every endeavor. As we travel the road together, our family and puppy, and Connection Group and our customers, the best solution is to recognize the individuality in each relationship. Each situation, each personality, each philosophy, is unique and requires personalized solutions that are adaptive to current times, trends, and budgets. We will continue to invest in the appropriate tools and disciplines each project requires to reap the most reward – happy, contented, successful clients and puppies.

Stay connected!

Every Door Direct Mail® Lansing Area

RFC Home Improvement Every Door Direct Mail® postcardAre you a business in the mid-Michigan area looking for a cost affective way to reach area residents or businesses? Do you have a specific product, service, event or promotion you want to get out to potential customers?

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has a new campaign with incredible postage rates for flat mail pieces. These mail items can be targeted into specific neighborhoods. There is no need to spend hundreds of dollars purchasing a list. Do you want a direct mail campaign in Lansing, DeWitt, Waverly, or Grand Ledge, or a direct mail campaign just in Whitehills? With this program we can target an entire city, rural area, or hit a specific neighborhood. You can choose to run 500 pieces or 350,000 pieces or more, there is no cap.

The postage fee for the Every Door Direct Mail® pieces are a mere 17¢ each! That is a savings of 28¢ per piece compared to a standard first class mail piece. The postage savings as well as the elimination of the mailing list expense offers an opportunity for small businesses to have a more level playing field against companies with larger marketing and advertising budgets. Lansing restaurants can mail menus, local retailers, local service companies, local builders and beauty salons can mail promotions, coupons and even local political campaigns can enjoy the savings.

Connection Group recently completed an Every Door Direct Mail® campaign for a local home maintenance company, RFC Home Improvement. We chose to primarily target the area where they are located, where they have an existing clientele and have built brand recognition. We also chose a targeted Lansing neighborhood with similar priced homes that were of an age that may require the specific services RFC was promoting in this mailing.

We worked with our client to determine what services are best to promote for the Spring and Summer season. After establishing the focus, our graphic designers created a custom designed postcard displaying before and after photos of the clients work. The promotion was clearly outlined with a call to action included. Mail quantities were determined and the postcards were printed with the correct indicias and mailing information the USPS requires for the Every Door Direct® mail campaign.

Neighborhoods and routes were then counted and the every door direct mail campaign pieces were bundled in packs of 50 with facing slips attached.  For each post office drop off point an Every Door Direct Mail sheet was included with Connection Group unique customer i.d. and the specifics of each route were outlined.

With the large variety of advertising and marketing options available for business – especially with the explosion of social media marketing, internet marketing, SEO and SEM – it can be difficult to know where to commit your marketing budget. Direct mail campaigns can compliment other marketing efforts and continue to expand brand awareness and recognition. Not every marketing component is appropriate for every business, including direct mail. Custom solutions targeted by industry and by market are the best approach.

Connection Group specializes in implementing integrated marketing solutions. This means, we can help you determine if the Every Door direct mail campaign is a good fit for your business.

Although the USPS has attempted to make this an easy experience for small businesses to create these campaigns themselves and theoretically save more money by doing everything in house, experience shows this may not be the best choice. As professionals, with over 20 years experience in direct mail, our crash course with our first Every Door Direct Mail campaign found us going in circles on the USPS website. Once the direct mail pieces were ready to mail we spent time sharing what we learned with some of the postal service employees who were not familiar with the program and were able to keep the project moving forward. Using a professional can keep your costs in line and take away a lot of headaches. Of course a professionally designed layout can present your message in an appealing and professional light that recipients will take seriously.

So if you are ready to increase brand exposure in your area, introduce your new business, attract attendees to an event, get votes, share your new product list, service menu, restaurant menu and more, give us a call. We can get your get your foor in every door.

Call us or email us today – 517-645-4387 or info@connectiongraphics.com

Do’s and Don’ts of Facebook TImeline Fan Page Photos

Facebook Business Pages will be automatically upgraded to Timeline on March 30, 2012, are you ready?
I know, another major change for Facebook. Those of us who are marketing firms managing multiple Facebook business pages need to get up to speed quick! The most obvious change is the striking Facebook Timeline cover photos. As striking as it is, there are some important rules to follow and there are other Facebook TImeline Features to work into your marketing strategy.

New Facebook Timeline Features:

  1. My favorite – you can now pin a feature story each week. Just hover over your your story and click on the pencil icon to make it a feature at the top of your Page.
  2. Profile pictures are now square at 180 x 180 pixels. This image will still be what is seen when you post and what is need in your news feed.
  3. You can rearrange the apps on the page. These are listed at the top of your Page no . Change the placement by clicking on the graphic, then tell it to switch with the app you choose to list your most important ones first, such as photos of your products, etc.
  4. Your main page or ‘wall’ will be the default landing page – default landing tabs are gone
  5. New Admin panel is much more user friendly and insights are right there.
  6. Fans can now connect with you privately..

Let’s jump into the rules for the Facebook Timeline cover photo for business fan pages before you waste time creating one that Facebook deems illegal… (like I have included below!)  The image below breaks all the rules – it attempts to take advantage of all the prime real estate the large cover photo offers. No way, says Facebook! You can not include your company marketing and contact information or calls to action.

Integrative Marketing Solutions for Small Business    Get back to the business of running your business!

BAD! No, no! Above is a rejected Facebook Fan Page cover photo.

Facebook Timeline Cover Photo’s for Fan Pages – Do’s & Don’ts

Do

  1. Choose a striking and relevant image for your business
  2. Use an 851 pixel wide x 315 pixel tall image to make the most of the space.
  3. Use your logo as your profile picture in square format.
  4. Be consistent with your profile picture – don’t change it on a whim and ignore your brand
  5. Pay attention to the ratio of text to imagery – 70% image to 30% text is a good guideline

Don’t

  1. Include website, phone number, any contact info that can be found under ‘About’ section
  2. Include prices or purchase info. (50% off or ‘download our ebook’…)
  3. Include calls to action like: ‘Call today, Get it now…’
  4. Include “Like”, “Share”, or an arrow in the photo pointing to any Facebook action, etc.
  5. Infringe on others intellectual property.
Connection Group delivers Integrative Marketing Solutions

New Facebook TImeline Fan Page Cover Photo - this one follows the rules

Does anybody else find it frustrating that a business can’t promote their contact information in the most prominent place on the page? It goes against everything I learned in graphic design school. Oh well, as I begin to explain to our customers who hold the same frustration, we dont make the rules, Facebook does.

So, have fun with it! Show off your Facebook Fan Page Timeline photos below. Share your links, we would love to take a look at the beauty  you created, and find us on Facebook.

Stay connected!

Let Your Image Speak for You

Pung Foundation logo created for mid-Michigan based concrete construction and renovation service company.

Phones have been ringing, emails are flowing in, social media posts are crammed with new business start ups ready to make a difference. New entrepreneurs are emerging with products and services that can change the world – or at least their communities and bank books. Ahhh, the passion of entrepreneurs!

I love when new start ups come to Connection Group for a graphic design or marketing consultation. I know when they start here they are serious about their approach and their image. I get to see their eyes light up, hear their story, and feel their drive. New business start ups come to us with a lot of questions, hope and dreams and often very limited budgets. It is our job to understand their goals, their philosophy, their market, their budget, service or product, and provide guidance to them that will assist their business launch without breaking the bank.

McNaughton and Gunn logo

McNaughton and Gunn is a 50+ year old book printer headquartered in Michigan

One of the first recommendations I make to business owners is to start with a professional logo. So many software programs and websites out there have stock art that people can place on a business card, throw a phone number and website next to and convince themselves they are the next Apple or HP. Online printers spout 250 free business cards, free icons, free templates. What cash crunched start up can resist’, FREE graphic design, FREE business cards?

We have all been to a networking event where we come back to the office and have two or more identical design business cards or two cards with the same logo or clip art. image. The designs and logos are the same the only difference is the names on them – one is a massage therapist, one is a florist, and another is a dog groomer. One was a contractor who specialized in tile installation, the other does windows. Now which one was the it that I wanted to refer to my mother? None of them. Why? Because they are not unique, they do not stand out from the crowd and chances are that is the way they will run their business. These owners did not take their business or craft seriously enough to invest in their image  – they decided their business was only worth a free set of business cards.

Women In Successful Enterprises logo

Logo created for WISE, a Michigan based organization comprised of second stage women owned businesses.

So when I have a start up company call or email and say they understand the importance of presenting themselves professionally but don’t know where to start, my question is not, ‘What is your budget?’, my question is, “When can we set up a time to meet?” I love an entrepreneur, I am one, I know small businesses make a difference in their communities and can change the world. I want to help the good ones to succeed.

Stay connected!

Join us on Facebook.com/connectiongraphics

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.

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!

Sustainable Sales Growth

Sustainable Sales Growth image 2010 copyright Connection Group.

Plant - Feed - Harvest

Plant Your Best Seeds

Life coach, Michael Neil states “When you approach sales from a place of joyful service, you realize making offers is like planting a garden. Instead of focusing on what you might get back if you’re lucky, take some time to think about what you would like to grow.”

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Who would I love to serve?  How would I love to serve them?
  • What would be the most powerful, fun, and useful thing I could do for this client or customer?
  • If I dedicated my life to making this person/company’s life better, what is the biggest difference I could make for them in the smallest amount of time?

Feeling Finding Questions help bring answers your prospect may not even know are under the surface. I have often gone into meetings with prospects and existing customers for a specific project and after further discussion we have determined another solution or product would serve their goals better. The following questions were shared with me by Phil Kline who is an expert in Dale Carnegie Sales Training. These questions are more valuable insight are provided in Phil’s book, Customer Driven Sales.

6 FEELING FINDING QUESTIONS:

1. What do you like most about your current product (website, logo, brand, marketing efforts)

2. Why is that important to you?

3. What do you dislike most about your present product (website,logo brand…)

4. Why is that a problem for you?

5. If I could change something for you in your next product what would you want me to do differently?

6. Why would that be important to you?

When questions are asked from a place of joyful inquiry, the answers are truthful, creative, fun, and take root. Don’t skip the ‘Why’ questions! As your prospect digs deep to answer the ‘why’ the true reason behind the need can be discovered.

Harvest Low-Hanging Fruit

Often the best sale to make is going to existing clients and customers. When working with customers for a long time is is easy to get into ruts. Projects can flow well, which is always a blessing but are we doing the best we can or are we staying safe? Especially with marketing and graphic design it is important to always look at new ways of approaching concepts. You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water and completely reinvent everything. Sometimes just a change in logo placement or color can update a Web site or print marketing piece. Other times digging deep into the entire brand and relating it to the business as it is today is needed. If you take the time to  ask questions to find the differences your customer would love to make and the way they would most like to make them, you can deliver creative solutions that help your customer relationship and their business flourish.

Happy seed planting and remember to appreciate the abundance of the harvest.

If you like the Sustainable Sales Growth image please visit our desktop patterns area. We have a “Money as Tools” saying on the images posted. If you would like to use one as your desktop pattern, download the image size that fits you monitor.