June 4, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Raiders of the lost proposal

Updated 5/2019.

It's happened to us all: You knock yourself out with a killer proposal or presentation, or set up well-thought-out pricing, only to be told by the potential client that they've chosen another company. It's frustrating, especially if you feel you were the best company for the job. However, there is hope in recovering—and coming away to win bigger and better proposals in the future.

Often the issue lies in a weak proposal, and Mary McDonald of the McDonald Consulting Group uses this as an opportunity to ask for feedback from peers. "I've found it helpful to ask others to review my proposal (both before and after the proposal has been sent) and ask them their opinion—what they liked, what they didn't like, and keep that info. in a file. When preparing the next proposal, I simply cut and paste the 'known good' parts in, allowing me to focus more time and energy on the 'didn't like so much' parts to craft and improve them."

Others use it as an opportunity to look deeper into the potential client relationship and glean more for future proposals. “'No' is implemented to bring us to a different place, not so much to teach us a lesson, as much as to help guide us to see things from a different perspective," says marketing expert Catherine Filarski. "You may want to ask yourself some basic questions: Is there a relationship established with the prospect? People buy from people they like. Did you look at the proposal from the client’s perspective? Did you meet their needs? Did you ask for feedback from the prospect as to why the proposal was not accepted? Asking yourself some basic questions helps you realize where you might have gone wrong in the proposal process, so the next time around you can develop a better perspective of the client/prospect relationship, in the process, write better proposals." Filarski also suggests John C. Maxwell's book, Falling Forward, Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones, a few chapters of which are available online.

Of course, sometimes the client's feedback isn't helpful or pertinent, since there are a plethora of reasons a proposal can end up in the "no" pile. If you cannot cull enough information with any of the above thoughts, it's usually better to move on to more viable prospects. It helps to consider how their proposal review was handled—often it can clue you in to their working processes, which are sometimes a huge warning sign for what would have laid ahead for you if chosen. In that case, a collective "phew!" is in order!

No matter what, following up with a "thank you" and some questions to find out where it all "went wrong" is always a good step and fosters good will. Learning more about what you can improve on is always a great step in creating winning proposals. If you are truly interested in moving ahead with a company, it doesn't hurt to send something thoughtful, says marketing expert Cheryl Gidley of Gidley Consulting. "Later, [I send] something of interest to that person specifically (an article I wrote, usually.) Then, in 3-6 months, I call to see how it went and if they were satisfied with the vendor they selected. I also ask to be considered for work in the future."

In some instances, the client makes a poor decision and the ball is back in your court. Terrapin Media founder Nathan Nguyen, whose clients include House of Blues, Citibank and Pfizer, finds that "lost" clients often come back, even if price is the issue. "I had a proposal for the largest dollar store item wholesaler [in the country]. After doing an in-depth analysis on his competitors and from his own site, we had [suggestions]. After the CEO haggled and haggled... I simply refused to go any lower. After 6 months, he had to call me again and apologize. Apparently their new design was ugly, their backend didn't work and the SEO campaign was a total disaster."

And, sometimes it works out in your favor, Nguyen adds. "Fortunately I redid the RFP at a higher cost, merely knowing that this guy was going to haggle and haggle. I am holding firm on the price since I know that my price is very fair and the work we do is outstanding."

So, it pays to hold firm with what you know is a great product or service, and eventually, you'll find clients who can understand and appreciate it and all you've learned from lost proposals.

June 1, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Consider these steps before working with a designer

Updated 6/2019.

I'm taking a break from writing this month, but want to share a short article from AIGA, a professional design organization. Consider these steps before working with any creative.

We offer the following framework as a way to help designers communicate with clients in order to make design an integral part of their business, and to allow designers to make success an integral part of design.

Design is a profession based on conception: on helping to define an opportunity, then develop a solution that will fulfill it. Subsequently, design includes the identification and management of the team that will bring it to life, whether it is a product, communication, event or place. We offer you the following process as a way to make design an integral part of your business, and to allow designers to make your success an integral part of design. It will make you an even more sagacious client. It is a method for partnering, a guide to the most effective use of teams, and the most potent, efficient, reliable way to get from A to B when you are not quite sure what B is.

12 STEPS TO SUCCESS, AT A GLANCE:

  1. DEFINE THE PROBLEM
  2. SET CLEAR OBJECTIVES AND DEFINE SUCCESS
  3. DEFINE THE APPROACH
  4. ELICIT BUY-IN AND SUPPORT
  5. INFORMATION GATHERING
  6. DEVELOP AND PROTOTYPE IDEAS
  7. ANALYZE THE OPTIONS
  8. MAKE THE IMPORTANT DECISIONS
  9. MOBILIZE THE TEAM
  10. PRESENT TO INTERNAL AUDIENCES
  11. TAKE IT PUBLIC
  12. EVALUATE SUCCESS.

May 29, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Is it time to give your email list a rehab?

Two people buy fixer-upper homes. Both homes are in rough condition. In one of the bedrooms, each home has several enormous holes in the drywall around the closet.

If Ben decides to patch the holes, while Leslie decides to pull the drywall off the 8' of wall and replace it, who's likely to be done faster with the more seamless job?

Reading that over, it sounds like those old math word problems, doesn't it ;-). In my experience, it's Leslie. Most people can't patch a hole in drywall worth beans, so when they patch several large holes, the wall nearly always looks lumpy; it's almost always easier to start from scratch. Sure, it seems like it'd be easier to work on the holes one at a time, but that's very seldom the case.

What on earth does a home improvement project have to do with your newsletter?

Think of the subscribers you add weekly as a sort of patch--they come in to plug up the holes left by unsubscribers and by people who haven't unsubscribed, but who have quit reading. You can see where they come in compared to your other readers – there's that adjustment period.

Usually it works. The old subscribers leave, the new subscribers come in, and things wind up pretty well level.

But, over time, your list becomes like an over-patched wall. Lumpy. Uneven. And showing definite signs of wear and tear.

And that's a sign it's time to undergo a major rehab project.

How do you know it's time? Look for these five signs:

  1. You're working too hard on your list maintenance.
  2. You're not getting enough response, respective to your list size (expect to hear from about 2-10% of your readers on any one issue).
  3. You've been getting more emailed unsubscribe requests than usual (as opposed to people just using a link, if you offer it, to unsubscribe themselves).
  4. You've noticed a lot of email addresses on your list that don't have other information you've asked for (or that contain obviously bogus information).
  5. You just aren't feeling motivated and inspired when you write to your list--and you know it's time for a "spring cleaning."

If you've noticed any of these signs with your list, consider a full scale rehab of your newsletter list.

How do you clean up your email list?

Step One : Reconfirm your current subscribers. Simply send an email to your current readers saying that you need them to follow some instructions in order to confirm they would like to continue receiving your newsletter. Be clear that if they do not follow those instructions they will be removed. Give them a timeline, and lots of clear guidance on what they need to do. Don't offer them anything else in this email and don't send it as a regular issue--otherwise you'll risk readers missing out. It's likely that at least 50% of your subscribers won't join you on the new list, but the reduction will be worth it.

Step Two : Send out one reminder invite. Yep, just one. You don't want to be annoying, but even more important, you don't want to "coerce" people onto your list. This new list will be full of people who are there 100% voluntarily. People who *want* to read what you have to say. Don't clutter that up with people who weren't sure, but "didn't want to hurt your feelings."

Step Three : Tell your list how much it's shrunk and how they can help you grow it back. Perhaps offer them a great freebie for referring the newsletter to several friends. By being up front with your readers about your desire to have more subscribers, you'll find they become powerful allies.

Step Four : Plan a massive campaign. Dedicate one full month to taking one action a day to growing your list. You don't have to spend a ton of time on this (or any time at all, actually). Submitting articles, setting up Joint Ventures, and offering teleclasses are all ways that take relatively little time, but have big payoffs in terms of the number of new subscribers you may attract.

Step Five : Bask in your clean list. This is a group of people who are all excited about what you have to say, looking forward to their next issue. They're going to be extra responsive, supportive, and fun to work with. So, don't spend a lot of time thinking about all those people who aren't with you any longer. Rather, focus on all the people who elected to stay.

It sounds daunting, scary, and even, perhaps self-destructive. After all, don't all the other marketing gurus talk about how crucial the size of your list is?!

This advice contradicts what you've probably heard so ofte . And I don't know about you, but I know myself, that I'd much rather write a letter to someone I know will read it than write 1000 letters that will wind up in the trash. And with the *larger* list sizes, that's exactly what happens. Sure, it may be more profitable, but it's also (usually) a lot more work. And, for most businesses, a list of 5000 dedicated readers can provide far more *profits* than 100,000 sometimes-readers.

So, if you've been eyeing that newsletter list of yours and it seems like things are getting pretty lumpy, perhaps it's time to rip everything out and start from scratch. So, pull out those gloves, and let's get to work!

Copyright 2006, Jessica Albon. 
Is your newsletter missing this key scientific ingredient 
Don't publish another issue before you know for sure—get your free report at http://www.designdoodles.com

May 22, 2019Comments are off for this post.

They’re just not that into you: Email marketing

Updated 5/2019
Newsletter unsubscribes

I'll contend that business should be separate from personal feelings or disputes. And then I'll send out an email newsletter and a few unsubscribes will come in, and I'll get a distinct feeling: Did I do something? Say something? What happened?

Now I'm talking about people who actually remember who you are, who may have expressed interest in a product or service. Of course, the e-newsletters aren't spammy, but just fabulous, wrought with the sweats of my labor and sharing hints to the meaning of life. What's not to love?

I've told several groups that if someone unsubscribes, it's a good sign: You're getting a clear-cut answer as to if this person is "into" you, or not. You can focus on the prospects who are actively engaged, and keep the communication lines open.

And then sometimes, it's not that clear-cut. I recently sent a newsletter, only to go to a luncheon the next day where a woman told me she was so glad we had connected. She had just unsubscribed. She continued to tell other mutual acquaintances she was glad we'd met and we'd be doing business.

So, what happened? Was she mistaken? Click-happy? Stupid? I knew the exact moment she unsubscribed from the list, and we work in the same field, so hopefully she had a clue as to email analytics. But frankly, it didn't matter: Not too long after, she disappeared out of my networking sphere altogether.

The answer was there all along, she was just too passive to say it. And perhaps that's for the best: The uninterested ones go quietly into the night, and I soon find other prospects who are into me.

It sounds glib, I'll admit. But what with all we have to steal our time, attention and focus, looking ahead works far better than focusing on what just didn't work. And who knows, maybe I wouldn't be into them either!

May 15, 2019Comments are off for this post.

GIF, JPEG, AI, EPS, huh? A guide to graphic file formats

Updated 5/2019.

At least once a week I'm sent files that were *gasp* downloaded off the internet, or a tiny, pixelated version of a complicated logo — which, inevitably, falls apart in print or even on the web. This can result in higher printer fees and more time recreating or digging up the right files.

Graphic file formats don't have to be a mystery once you learn the basics, and your printer will thank you for it!

For print:

  • .AI [Adobe Illustrator]
  • .EPS [Encapsulated PostScript]
  • .TIFF [Tagged Image File Format]
  • .PDF [Printer Document Format]
For web:

  • .JPEG or .JPG
  • .GIF [Graphics Interchange Format]
  • .PNG [Portable Network Graphics]

Vector vs. bitmap

Why the distinction? It's vector vs. bitmap graphics.

Vector graphics, like those created in Adobe Illustrator, are made of shapes created by mathematical equations, and can be enlarged to pretty much any size with no loss of quality.

On the other hand, graphics created in Adobe Photoshop [and of course photos!] are bitmap, or pixel-based. This isn't an absolute, but for our purposes it's a good distinction. When you zoom in on a bitmap, like below, you can start to see the pixels, and the loss of quality of the original graphic is pretty obvious. The JPEG may look all right on screen, but consider handing out materials with a blurry logo—definitely not professional.

vector vs bitmap

By The original uploader was Darth Stabro at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Pbroks13 using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15789788

If you do have only a bitmap, it should be at least 150dpi [dots per inch] or, ideally, 300dpi without enlarging it to still look good.

Looking further

Even within these two big distinctions, there are further breakdowns.

TIFFs should only be used at 100% of size or smaller, and a PDF or EPS file is usually ideal for any printing situation. Keep in mind though, if you just re-save a JPEG or other web file as a EPS or other print file, it won't make that artwork go up in quality! If the data isn't there, it's just not there.

Also, GIFs, JPEGs and PNGS exist for a reason. GIFs often create the smallest file sizes, and support transparency, whereas JPEGS do not allow transparency. PNGs are hit or miss, but offer transparency and, to me, a cleaner transparent look since there's usually more data to give a cleaner transition to transparency.

Make sure you have each of these graphic file formats on hand, of your logo and any other critical brand materials—it'll save time and money!

May 7, 2019Comments are off for this post.

How to reevaluate and improve site navigation

Updated May 2019.

Let’s be honest: Your site navigation hasn’t changed since before mobile happened. No one finds your content, and you really aren’t sure what to do about it. A fairly simple and critical review that can make impact is by reviewing and improving site navigation. Read more

April 30, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Copyright and protecting your content in WordPress

Updated April 2019.

Protecting one's images and text online is an important topic, and one I tackled at my Chicago Creative Expo WordPress talk in March.

Read more

April 23, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Free stock images for your website

This comically bad stock photo is from a stunt to promote the movie Unfinished Business back in 2015. Photo via Adweek.

This comically bad stock photo is from a stunt to promote the movie Unfinished Business back in 2015. Photo via Adweek.

Updated April 2019.

Finding images for your blog posts is probably tougher than writing the actual post. And for free? Even worse. Here's a list of go-to resources for free stock photos for use on your site.

Unsplash: Typically free to use under Creative Commons (as most of these are). Even has a plugin to make it easier.

Pexels: Free for commercial and personal use. There's even a plugin to simplify adding images.

Burst: Provided by Shopify, these feel a bit more staid.

Styled Stock: More "feminine" images—meaning lots of white backgrounds, flatlay images, and bright colors.

Negative Space: Interesting range of imagery.

April 18, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Checklist for choosing a WordPress theme

Updated April 2019.

We're already lucky to have 30% of the world's websites powered by WordPress. And WordPress themes are big business, with many developers and companies launching new themes every day. But what do you look for? Here's a checklist for choosing a WordPress theme.

Read more

January 20, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Why WordPress?

WordPress stickers & badges

WordPress stickers & badges (Photo credit: thatcanadiangirl)

Updated January 2019.

It seems ubiquitous that so many websites are on WordPress — 30% of the web, by last count. WordPress powers the UPS site, CNN, the NFL site, the Dow Jones site, and many, many more.

Read more

Where to find me.

My newsletter.

Quarterly updates, never sold or shared.