Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Benefits of Routine

If you have kids then you already know: Back-to-school season is upon us. As my family has been busy shopping, organizing, and preparing to get back on a regular everyday schedule, it’s got me thinking about routine and its many benefits.

Many of us have a morning routine that we follow. Whether that includes journaling, packing lunches, exercising, or all the above, it has been scientifically proven that that daily repetition is good for us. Research shows that a daily routine helps develop healthier sleep patterns (which improve cognitive function) and according to the New York Times, “a morning routine reduces decision fatigue and can help you be more productive throughout the day.”

I’ve concluded that mornings really matter. The things that I do first set the tone for the rest of my day. I like to begin my day early, with coffee and a workout—and then I change my voicemail message. I am a big believer in the power of habit; and for as long as I can remember, I have recorded a new message every morning, which stems from the opportunity to make a strong first impression.
Here’s a few morning routines of successful people that I found interesting:

  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wakes up at 4 AM, drinks coffee, and then starts his workout with cardio
  • Warren Buffet begins every day by reading—he recommends reading 500 pages a day
  • Tony Robbins sets aside 10 minutes to reflect on everything that he’s grateful for. He suggests taking time every morning to focus on things you’re thankful for in/about yourself, your family and friends, your career, etc.
  • Oprah Winfrey wakes up before the sunrise and begins her day with meditation

And this, from Steve Jobs, is a favorite: In a 2005 commencement address he gave at Stanford, Jobs shared the motivational tactic he used to start every day: “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ Whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

What does your morning routine include? Are you doing things every day that you enjoy? If not, there’s no time like the present to make a change. Message us on Facebook about your routines—you just
might inspire us to try something new!

All the best,
Tim Connor

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Getting It Right: Integrated Marketing 2017

In July 2015, we ran this blog about integrated marketing—and now, two years later, the argument for integrating multiple channels as part of a strategic marketing effort still rings strikingly true. As digital media channels continue to become more pervasive, we need to incorporate those touches along with off-line connections, to make solid, memorable brand connections. 
   
The debate has been raging since the rise of digital media: Which is more effective? Print or electronic? If you want people to understand and retain information, studies consistently show that it’s print. Yet on the other side of the aisle, some e-marketers argue that print is dead. The truth is, in this digital age, there’s room for both in your marketing tool chest.

It’s no different than 20 years ago when we began to use new print applications. Today, we have more channels available, both online and offline. The genius is being able to blend the best of both via an integrated marketing effort.

Print and electronic marketing are not mutually exclusive—each channel has its strengths and limitations. And using them together actually strengthens your brand. Having a consistent, impactful message woven together using different channels (social media, direct mail, promotional products, pay-per-click, etc.) you can ensure that your brand is represented consistently while leveraging the impact of the cross-channel reach.

Using a mix of online and offline channels also allows you to re-connect with your audience throughout a campaign to reinforce your brand message, drive relevancy and prompt action. You might tweet about a new promotion, send an email blast and follow up with a postcard. And because each of these channels can be used to connect with a specific audience segment your message can be tailored just for them. That’s the power of integrated marketing.

An article in Entrepreneur magazine touts the benefits of integrating print and digital touches in your marketing strategy. It notes that print communications can actually leverage your ecommerce site and even strengthen your social media presence. Print engages multiple generations of consumers; can be used to drive social media traffic (via printed calls-to-action on postcards or print ads, for example); and extends your brand reach by sharing your reviews and information offline.

There’s no time like the present to evaluate your marketing effort. Whether you’re operating as a brick-and-mortar business or an online service provider, balance is essential. Print has a tangible, enduring appeal that complements modern digital channels. Using both will get results.

As an instant update to this archived blog, check out the link below: This recent article from Small Business Trends offers 10 great examples of integrated marketing campaigns that work by combining content with PR, print with digital, etc. It’s worth your time to click through. 

https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/05/integrated-marketing-campaign-examples.html

Do you have any campaign examples you’d add to that list? I’d like to hear from you.

All the best,
Tim Connor
tconnor@shamrockcompanies.net

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Top Product Packaging Trends for 2017

Do you grab a bottle of wine off the shelf because you like the label? Or does a sleek graphic prompt you to try a new brand of shampoo? If so, you’re not alone. One-third of consumer product choices are based on packaging, according to research by The Paper Worker

There is tremendous power in packaging design: As marketers, it allows us to make an immediate—and ongoing—brand connection with our target audience. So, whether you’re planning a new product launch or sending a specialty promotion to B2B prospects, there’s no time like the present to rethink packaging design. 

In her blog published at the beginning of the year, designer Martis Lupus outlined predictions for the nine top trends for successful product packaging in 2017—and we embrace her view as spot-on. Below is a summary of those design trends:

1. Be simple, bold and clear 
Minimizing the elements used in a package design can elevate a product…as long as it gets the point across. In our fast-paced world, shoppers don’t always have the time to study each and every product detail. Stick to the essentials and make sure they help the buyer make a more informed decision; a clean-cut design can convey information and make a product shine using simplicity.

2. Embrace custom lettering
Almost every designer loves to get crafty and create some of their artwork by hand. We do this to get the organic effect: fluid imperfections—like irregular lines or natural texture fills—can make a product stand out through warmth and set it apart from digital designs. This warmth can create an emotional tie to the product, making it feel handmade and wholesome, or communicating a feeling of nostalgia. 

3. Go wild with color
It’s no secret that colors evoke emotions and affect purchasing decisions. Because of this, color has always been one of the most important choices in packaging design. Lately we’ve seen designers put colors to work in new and exciting ways. Bright colors and vibrant associations are beginning to make a scene on store shelves.

4. Repeat a pattern
Using well-chosen and beautiful patterns can elevate a package design from ordinary to ethereal. Repeating a visual motif that captures the essence of the brand sends a strong message. Whether your pattern is bold or playful, patterning your package can create a strong identity that customers will remember.

5. Use illustration as narrative
Behind every design there is a story. We seek out and cherish the stories that feel closest to our hearts. Packaging design has begun to incorporate narrative illustrations.

6. Put it in the mail
Remember the joy of getting something in the mail? With faster, more efficient ways to communicate, that experience has become more rare. Packaging design is here to save the day with an emerging postal trend.

7. Imagine ingenious die cuts
Traditional packaging tends to hide its contents, but modern designers are experimenting with die cutting to show products to their advantage. Whether it’s encouraging tactile interaction, mimicking a brand’s logo, or forming identifiable or humorous shapes, creating a window in your packaging can show the product in a meaningful or clever way, making a buyer stop and take notice.

8. Find vintage inspiration
Vintage package design is evolving each year (ironically) through the use of new technologies and materials. There’s something about vintage design that resonates through time. It brings back memories for people who lived through the original era and satisfies the curiosity of younger generations eager to explore the past.

9. Explore eco-friendly packaging
Eco-friendly, biodegradable, natural, sustainable… Call it what you will, going green with packaging is a trend that’s here to stay. Beyond its positive impact on the environment, it can also save companies money and attract customers.

Click on link below for the original blog by Lupus, which includes fabulous photos of each of these must-follow trends. https://99designs.com/blog/trends/packaging-trends-2017/

I find these trends inspirational in terms of how we can help our customers tell their brand stories while making memorable connections. Can you think of standout product packaging that prompted a recent purchase? Share your thoughts with us on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Print Distributor or Manufacturer? Top 5 Value Statements

I’ve been in sales for more than 30 years, and I’ve found two distinct camps when it comes to a preference for working directly with a manufacturer or through a distributor.

While direct manufacturers argue they have better control over quality and project management (than do distributors) because the job is managed in-house, I beg to differ. Here are a few reasons why print distributors almost always win the battle by providing greater value:

1. Cost – Trade-only sources do not call on end-user clients, and therefore, do not have to absorb the costs associated with a sales team. That means no office space, training programs, HR support, AND salesperson salaries. This is why trade-only sources can sell for much less and allow room for the distributor to mark up the product and still be competitive. In both situations, a salesperson (from the manufacturer or the distributor) will be compensated, so going direct to a manufacturer really doesn’t cut out the so-called “middleman.”

2. Flexibility/Options – Distributors usually have strong relationships with dozens of trade-only facilities; while direct manufacturers usually have one location and are limited by the equipment in their own facility. It is almost impossible for a direct manufacturer to be competitive in a large range of products.

When you think about, it is unreasonable to expect a single location to compete with a network of trade-only sources that specialize in various product segments. Distributors have the huge advantage when it comes to making sure your project is produced by a facility that matches the exact specifications of your project—and, also ensures competitive pricing over a broad range of print products.

3. Quality – Maintaining your brand is critical: This means upholding brand identity, adhering to style guides, and ensuring consistent print quality. Even direct manufacturers have multiple presses and various press operators to manage. What’s most important is providing the brand standard information, samples and following procedures—whether you’re working with a multiple-facility operation through a distributor or with single manufacturer. At the end of the day, the facility most committed to quality is your best bet.

4. Control – Is it really an advantage to be able to walk out onto the shop floor? Perhaps it is, but I question how often this is necessary. An important point to consider is attitude. A sales rep for a direct manufacturer works for and represents the company. Trade-only manufacturers work for distributors, and their livelihood is based on maintaining an impeccable reputation. This often results in a different attitude and perspective that translates to better quality.

5. Time – As a consumer, how much time do you have to devote to building and maintaining a trusted network of partners? How much extra time does it take to manage a stable of vendors, versus working with one trusted partner? A good distributor partner with a solid network will ensure competitive pricing, consistent quality, and customized service. In essence they’ll be an extension of your team.

As a distributor, Shamrock’s formula for success is offering the best products and services, at the best prices, for the best all-around value. It works for us—because it’s been working for our customers for 35 years.

Do agree with my rationale? Always, I welcome your feedback!
Connect with me @ bdegarmo@shamrockcompanies.net

Bob DeGarmo

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

5 Digital Advertising Tips To Maximize Your Next Campaign

Digital advertising has hit its stride—and shows no signs of slowing down. As consumers, it feeds our desire for on-demand information; and as advertisers, digital channels deliver instant gratification through real-time feedback. Unlike the old days of launching campaigns and waiting on outcomes, modern digital advertising provides campaign tracking and results that help us to make stronger and more immediate brand connections.

As with any channel, it’s smart to stay apprised of best-practices. If you’re ready to brush up on your digital advertising skills—rules that also apply to digital marketing—a recent Forbes article offers five tips to help you maximize your next campaign:

1. Use Clear Calls-To-Action. Tell your audience what you want them to do next: Upgrade today. Book now. Get involved. Successful campaigns include a call to action (CTA) that is clear, concise—and brand-driven.

Consider that your message is likely being viewed on a device that’s also displaying pop-up ads and alerts, so make your CTA stand out with clean, crisp graphics: It should funnel the reader to the next step, which is closer to the point of conversion.    

2. Create Compelling Messaging. A study from Microsoft Corp. found that people generally lose concentration after eight seconds. So, keep it simple; and always, make it relevant. Consider that digital advertising doesn’t offer much space to work with: Make every word count by using colorful language, evoking emotion, highlighting value, providing incentive, or making a strong brand connection.

3. Link to Designated Landing Pages. You’ve got your audience knocking at your front door; now, you need to welcome them in: Drive users to a landing page on your site that is relevant to them—this will help with user engagement, strengthen brand identity and boost conversion rates.

4.Imagery Matters: Make It Memorable. Capture the user’s attention by using graphics and images that resonate. Again, your ad is likely competing with other online content, so use images that draw the user in and that tell your brand story.

5.Test, Monitor & Redeploy. Start by paying attention to the finer details: Test your campaign first by deploying and making sure that all links function properly and that messaging is targeted to the correct segment. 

After launching the campaign, track results. If one segment is out-performing another, take a look at the messaging and consider retargeting. The beauty of digital is the real-time tracking and the ability to edit and then quickly redeploy to deliver the right message, to the right audience, at the right time.

The Forbes article offers some great examples of digital ad campaigns done right. To read the entire article, click on the link below:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/gabrielshaoolian/2017/04/24/5-digital-marketing-tips-to-increase-your-brands-growth-online-and-improve-ad-results/

Do you have digital advertising tips or rules that guide your campaigns? Please share your thoughts at tconnor@shamrockcompanies.net.

All the best,
Tim Connor


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Design Hacks: Two DIY Tools For Everyday Marketing

Given the relentless pace of today’s business world, many of us look to ingenious hacks or shortcuts to complete everyday tasks with greater efficiency. This post answers that charge: When you don’t have time to collaborate with your marketing team and need to quickly create a presentation or post a new product promotion on social media, these two apps will help you complete your projects with professional results.

#1. Online-Convert (O-C). This program allows users to take one file format (audio, image, ebook, video, document, or archive) and convert it into a different format (presumably one that is easier to use). 

For example, I often receive graphic files in .eps format. Since I don’t use a professional design program, I can’t view the image natively. However, I can upload the file into Online-Convert and within seconds, convert the image into a pdf, png, jpg, or gif file. 

Since many images are sent back and forth in email as pdf’s, I can easy convert these files into a .png or .jpg format and then upload and use as needed. Online-Convert is free to use.

www.online-convert.com

#2. Clipping Magic. This app allows users to remove the background around an image, or in design speak, create a “transparent” background. 

Wondering when/why you might need to create an image like this? Here is an example: You want to feature a product image in a presentation. The problem is the only version of the image you have is against a white background and your brand standards require you to use a dark background. Instead of featuring a page with white box backdrops, you can clip the image so the white background is removed.  

Normally, it takes the skill of a trained designer and a professional program like InDesign or Photoshop to do the same thing. Now, I can clip the image and then layer it on top of my presentation or other images to create a professional design. 

Clipping Magic charges a small fee per month based on the number of images you clip. For less than $8 a month, you can clip more than 100 images and save yourself countless hours and dollars in the process. 

https://clippingmagic.com

What do you think: Have you tried either of these tools? What do you use on a regular basis and find especially useful? Please share your feedback in the comments below or reach out to me directly at mtheis@shamrockcompanies.net.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

WHO'S WORKING? Tips for Staying Motivated During the Summer


The July 4th holiday is over and we’ve got a few workdays left before the weekend: So, who’s motivated to finish out the week strong? This throwback post by Bob Troop from August 2012 offers some advice for those of us who need some help staying focused during these carefree summer days…

How can employees stay motivated when it's 80-plus degrees, sunny and the pool or the golf course is calling? It's no secret that, for most of us, the temptation of a day at the beach makes it difficult to focus on work in the office in the summer.

But, through the years I've seen employees who work even harder in the summer. These are the same people who are anxious to move ahead and want to be recognized for their hard work. They use summer as the time to shine in the workplace. You can bet, during slow times, an industrious employee will be noticed!

These summer success stories have several things in common. They're self-starters who stay motivated, despite the weather. They diligently make daily "To Do" lists; they take short 15-minute summer breaks from the workday so they don't feel cheated out of summer fun (something as simple as a midday break for ice cream with an office mate); they'll suggest an outdoor meeting with a quick, written agenda to make sure the job gets done, while enjoying the summer air; or they'll take a short break to walk around outdoors, de-stress, and come back rejuvenated.

But honestly, I believe the obligation of employee summer motivation should be firmly in the employers' court. It surprises me when someone will say, "I can't believe productivity fell as low as it did this summer." My guess is they didn't prepare for the inevitable short-hot-summer-with-lots-to-pack-in before... (kids are back in school, Labor Day, leaves fall, you name it). Business leadership consultant and author Randy Harrington nails some employee incentives perfectly right here in a Fox Business News video where he discusses several ways to keep employees motivated in summer.
Shamrock Summer Outing

I also have several favorite management tips to maintain motivation during summer's heat:
A Simple High-Five - We generally recognize individual achievement during our monthly meetings and make a special effort at our annual luncheon. Food always works. If there's a great team effort, reward them with an outdoor lunch or pizza at a local restaurant. Themed lunch menus for employees, like Mexican Month, have really taken off this summer.

Goaltending - Set individual goals for the team, but make sure it's within reach and everyone can participate. It creates an atmosphere of healthy, competitive fun.

Condition the Air - You’d be surprised how hard employees will work when they feel welcome and appreciated. At Shamrock, we create a positive atmosphere of acceptance, camaraderie and unity, so that employees feel motivated to do a great job.

ONE LAST THING...
Remember when you were a kid? How much fun it was to get up each summer morning and anticipate the day? Think of some simple ways to help your employees hold on to that anticipation of a fresh, new day. Surprise your crew with a 5PM Happy Hour. Offer the staff a healthy lunch every day the temperature goes above 90. Create some fun! After all, it's a short, sweet summer.

What do you do to motivate yourself and/or your employees during the summer? Please share your ideas with us on Facebook…we’ve got plenty of summer days ahead of us!