Presence

A Monday Series

The beach or the mountain was beautiful. It didn’t last long enough and you need a vacation from your vacation. It’s Monday and you’re trying to be raring to go.

There’s still a shine around the office from the day you got to Clear Out the Cobwebs; you looked hotter than the weather when you went to Get Your Picture Taken; you’re making plans to Have a New Logo Designed. These steps are making a visible difference, but you’re longing for a more personal connection to Maximum Customer Experience.

If you’re burnt-out, antsy, and need to revitalize your attitude as much as your business, this is the series for you. Experience Design for beach-dreaming business owners comes to your summer Mondays.

Summer Is a Great Time to Hire a Little (or Big) Assistant

Though I’d planned to write this post for a while, in Philadelphia’s Chinatown recently I began thinking seriously about the subject. Some cultures, and some professions, have a tradition of involving their children in the family business—so much so that reading an article like this might seem silly. If you were a farmer I wouldn’t need to mention the subject, but, dear reader, you are not.

Get your kids involved with your business—the earlier the better. Whether they’re toddlers, teens, or twentysomethings, there are benefits to taking them to work with you this summer. Give them firsthand knowledge of how your business works and you may plant the seeds of their own entrepreneurial Vision—or begin to form your exit strategy.

Will work for résumé

Adult children can get on-the-job training the same way any employee would. If you hope to groom them to take over your business one day be sure to have a frank discussion about this with them—no one wants to be told what their future holds without discussion. If the plan is near-term, you may need to discuss this with key staff, too.

What’s great about having your older child learn the ropes of your business, getting their hands dirty in every corner of the company? You can ask them for feedback and know you’ll get it in your kid’s own, very honest way. Want to know how to improve your processes? Let that bright college freshman work with your shipping department. You’ll get an earful.

Will work for cold, hard cash and car keys

If your teen needs a little extra cash to buy the cutest bikini she saw the other day, start small. Make it an opportunity to spend time together, and also give her some space to discover the ins and outs of what you do on her own. Nobody questions the status quo like a teenager. Trust what you hear.

Let your teen learn along with you—being open about the challenges you face as well as your successes provides important lessons in Mom or Dad’s fallible humanity, as well as offering an opportunity to put that creative mind to work with some real-life problem solving.

Will work for hugs

What about your younger children? Sure, you can take them along for the day to help with filing, mailings, packing orders. The littlest assistants will learn by doing, and they’ll love that very grownup time with you.

To see them shine, let them sell. These are the best darned marketers on the planet. Didn’t you just take the little darling for ice cream last week even though you were exhausted and it was past bedtime for at least one of you? And how about that stuffed toy that just had to come home with you, to join the other thirty in the bed?

Younger children are both curious about and proud of what their parents do. They probably have a limited understanding of your work, so hiring them for a portion of the summer will expose them to the ins and outs of your business. They’ve got no fear of failing in this situation, and they’re very persuasive. Let them go with the customer, whether it’s selling a muffin or a refrigerator. Tell your precocious dear (a little bit about) what you’re hoping for in the encounter, and you may find a laughing client, ready to sign on the dotted line!

& you get to embarrass them for free!

Don’t be afraid to introduce your newest staff member to customers with a gleam in your eye. No matter their age, your children will always be proud to be singled out by you—and your customers will have one more reason to be a fan of your company.

When your children learn more about how you follow your dreams every day, you become more than the person who helps put food on the table. You become an inspiration and a guide to pursuing their own Vision. Show your kids how to enjoy the hard work behind the Big Dreams this summer.

Don’t just nod and think about this one—make it happen, whether you work from home, shop, or office. Summer’s slipping past. Create this experience, for both of you to carry into the fall. What special talents can your summer hire bring to the job?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

P.S. My little person, who gets involved in Mama’s business and her grandparents’ business whenever possible, is the real inspiration for this post. And she knows it. :)

A Monday Series

You’re looking out the window every five minutes. The summer sun is tugging at you. You bit the very hot bullet to Clear Out the Cobwebs on a grey day; you took that fine summer tan of yours to Get Your Picture Taken. Your place of business looks like a million bucks and that executive photo says “Leader.” Still you stare out the window, wanting to do more to expand your company’s Presence.

If you’re burnt-out, antsy, and need to revitalize your attitude as much as your business, this is the series for you. Experience Design for beach-dreaming business owners comes to your summer Mondays.

Summer Is a Great Time to Have a New Logo Designed

Rebrand (verb): To change the brand name, logo, or image of a product or company. (Wiktionary)

Ask me about naming tomorrow. For today, let’s concentrate on that logo—the graphic representation of your company—which is an important part of your image in a customer’s mind.

I know. I told you that you do not need a logo. It’s still true, but you’ve got one, haven’t you? If you haven’t, your wordmark (that’s your company’s name, in its unique, standalone type treatment) may be screaming “dull” under the summer sun.

It’s time for something new. Your business cards, brochures, stationery, signage, website, and blog, will all thank you. Heck, even your Mom might thank you.

Why during a slow season?

You have a little free time to put into researching the change.

Summer=Fresh. Folks expect new rollouts right about now, so it’s not as jarring.

Ease customers into the new design now; as business picks up again, it’s a done deal.

What should you expect from your intrepid designer?

A partner in change. Your designer should ask you tough questions to help you Pinpoint your goals, Vision, and audience for this logo (your Ideal Customer).

A written contract. It doesn’t have to be complex, just what to expect and when and what they will deliver, so everyone is on the same page.

A guarantee. Many designers charge in stages, so that the research and design work they do is paid for (only fair), but the last payment waits until you okay the final design. Of course, so does delivery, so if you’re not satisfied and decide not to pay, the designer doesn’t give you the completed files. Only fair.

Research, BrainStorming, and sketching. Lots of each. The behind-the-scenes processes. You won’t usually see this, though it is where most of the time and work goes.

1–3 concepts for your consideration.

At least one revision. Then they can make good on their guarantee to produce the design you both agreed on.

One final design, with electronic files for sending to your printer and for online use.

Most important things to expect:

Your logo should “feel like” your company (all the preliminary work you and your designer did is reflected here).

Your logo should NOT feel like something you’ve seen before! Yes, with an exclamation point! At revision time, if something is wrong, SPEAK UP. Too many design clients pay for work that is way off the mark or that feels common as muck, but never say a word. To the designer. Badmouthing afterwards is not being a good client. Your designer wants you to grow with your new logo. If you’ve got a bad feeling about the work, don’t just assume they know more than you do. You’ll be unhappy, and you’ll be looking for a new designer within months.

What does good logo design cost?

I know you want the bottom line, so even though the answer is “It depends,” I’m going to give it to you straight. Round figures: $300 USD and up for a good custom logo for your small business. Sometimes, way up. If you see significantly lower price (and you will) on the Internet, the designer is not spending quality time on your project nor making sure that your logo is unique. Can’t. Be. Done.

So, what’s “good”? You know it when you see it, right? What makes a logo design work for you?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

P.S. If you’d like to begin a rebrand with a new logo, you can contact VisionPoints. We’d love to hear from you—long summer days give us our best ideas for your business.

A Monday Series

You’re roasting. You’re cranky. Yet last week, you used that bright summer sun to highlight and Clear Out the Cobwebs. You’re feeling fresher already. What else can you do to ramp up your business this summer?

If you’re burnt-out, antsy, and need to revitalize your attitude as much as your business, this is the series for you. Experience Design for beach-dreaming business owners comes to your summer Mondays.

Summer Is a Great Time to Get Your Picture Taken

You’ve got a tan (well, as much as you plan to get). You’re feeling skinny (hard to eat when you’re so darned hot). Now’s the time: Book an appointment with a real photographer.

If you are the guy I saw with the twenty-year-old photo on the web yesterday, hurry up. No kidding, we can all tell that outfit is a relic. And the hair! We can’t hire you while wondering if you lost your comb. In 1987.

How to choose a business photographer

I recommend a look at your local business newspaper (not the daily paper, now, the business news). There are usually some fine head shots of local leaders, which often have credits. If you like what you see, look them up. There are often a few ads in the paper for folks who do executive portraits, as well. Check their websites and find one with a style you like.

I love the executive photos of Terence Roberts, here in Wilmington. I insist you check out his portfolio whether you are nearby or not, because if your photographer can get a shot demonstrating your expertise as well as your dental work (as he does), you really should. (No affiliation with Mr. Roberts, if you’re wondering.)

If you don’t have a local business paper, do an Internet search for your town and “executive photography” or “business photography.” Click around.

Take some time before the big date to think about the mood, the surroundings, the trappings of your business that should provide the backdrop for this photo. Think about your clothing. It also sets a mood (casual or relaxed), and if not carefully selected, it can date you faster than you can say “Bob Newhart in flannel.”

Last: ask your photographer’s advice, and take it. He or she knows how to bring the best out in you.

What are you going to do with this photo?

Freshen up your website or your blog (redid mine here at MCE a couple of months ago, in spite of my photo-phobia). Writing this has me thinking of doing it again, actually.

Put it on your brochures.

In some fields, putting your photo on your business card is becoming the norm (Real Estate comes to mind).

If your business hangs on you, the individual, a well-conceived photo may belong in your advertising.

Include it in your press kit.

Hang it in a hallway of your offices along with photos of the rest of your staff.

Give it to your Mom (she likes that kind of stuff).

How long has it been since you had your photo taken by a professional? If the answer is, “not since high school,” stop considering it an indulgence. This is a business expense to brand you, dear reader, as a pro worth contacting…. and paying.

What do you think when you see an obviously dated photo in a brochure or on the web?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

A Monday Series

Let’s face it, folks. For some of you, summer is slow. For most of you, summer is hot. For me, at least, summer can get me a bit crazy, wanting action… or a nap. Either one could work.

If you’re burnt-out, antsy, and need to revitalize your attitude as much as your business, this is the series for you. Experience Design for beach-dreaming business owners comes to your summer Mondays.

Summer Is a Great Time to Clear Out the Cobwebs

How long has it been since you really, truly, got down and dirty in your business?

Throw open the windows the next time the thermometer gives you a five-degree break, and declare it supercleaning day. Get the supplies ready (lemony stuff really does give you a psychological lift), and prep your staff in advance. Tell them the target temperature, and make it a bit of unpredictable fun waiting to see when that day will come.

Get out the toothbrushes. Everybody pitches in. (Yes, yes, you’ll be working around your customers. That’s why you’re choosing a slow time of year!) I want you to do the jobs your cleaning staff misses, so your whole store or office will sparkle. Do the gross stuff, like around the toilets, and the why-don’t-we-ever stuff, like the phone receivers. If you all pitch in (home-based entrepreneurs—this is what you had kids for, as my Mom used to say), you’ll find that the little neglected stuff will make a big difference in your pride, you’ll get a peculiar burst of camaraderie, customers will notice “there’s something different,” and they’ll appreciate it; best of all, it will not take you all day.

Last but not least: Buy a quart of paint. Something a little… different. Do one small touch—the obnoxious pole in the center of the room that you can’t move; the door frames; the front of the receptionist’s desk; the men’s room walls. You don’t have to be an artist to add a special touch with a bit of paint, and it will cap off your cobweb-clearing day with a visual reminder for everyone to walk by: a totem of the pride you all have in your work.

When you’re done, head on home, and take that nap. You deserve it.

What tips would you suggest for clearing out the cobwebs? What other benefits are there in having a supercleaning day?

 

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

Desires We Didn’t Know We Had…

I’ve never been to Paris. Then again, a lot of people I know who’ve been to Paris have never been to the city they expected. No encircling fog, no Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron (or at least Keanu Reeves and Diane Keaton). I’ve heard the experience was hollow for some: Yes, the cafés, the cigarettes dangling from mouths, the trying-too-hard-to-be-unhurried elegance was there, but no deep, soul-tugging romance. Such high expectations, and then the experience is that of a city like many others (with a unique style, mais oui).

Perhaps this is the fault of those expectations.

When I was a young adult, living in New Jersey, I used to go to New York City to party with friends on a semi-regular basis. Since this was usually more about the friends than about the party itself, there were plenty of grungy low-rent apartments (“arty” of course), dive bars, and long walks (who could afford a cab?). They weren’t “the best days of my life,” but they were great days, the sort of memories you are supposed to store up for nostalgic looks in the rear-view mirror.

I remember one breezy night in October. It was a rare night when we drove everywhere: windows rolled down, music perfect, full of ourselves. We began the evening at a friend’s favorite bar on Staten Island; made our way to Soho and drank some more; went on to an after-hours club in Brooklyn, and after that we drove around, looking out at the silent streets of 3 a.m. for the next thrill. (Hugh McLeod could back me up on this. I think he has similar whisky-soaked memories of foggy New York streets and after-hours parties with delightfully spy-like ways of getting in.)

In spite of the hour, the lights were blazing in a little shop on a corner, under an elevated train track. It was a bakery, and through the open windows it filled the whole car with the scent of fresh bread. We parked, and four of us got out. I think we just wanted to have a look, but who am I kidding? After the night we’d had, we were starved.

There was a small door propped open, and a baker dragging a cart of bread through to a waiting truck. “Go on in,” he said. Their display shelves were only partly stocked, but with the kitchen door open the scent was incredible. Typical of New York, you could hear conversations in several languages going on back there, none of which we could understand. It was like a scene from a movie—a dozen employees, rushed but happy, smiling out at us but far too busy to stop and ask what we were doing there.

The baker, a small man with a thick eastern European accent, came back in with four smallish loaves of bread. “Two dollars,” he said, “and have a beautiful morning.”

We left the car there for a while, walking, warming our hands with the hot loaves, and munching away. When we came back their shelves were nearly filled with all sorts of goodies, and the little man waved at us as we piled in and drove away.

I never drove back to that area with those three friends again. Wouldn’t I love to tell you that I became their most loyal customer, and give you their name! It was absolutely a Maximum Customer Experience, after all. Over the years I’ve tried on my own to locate that corner under the tracks without success. If you reach back I think you’ll find you also have a memory like this one. The Experience was created in part by a lack of expectation; by desires we didn’t know we had, being fulfilled. It was all the wonder and discovery and the romance of Paris—our own “secret” discovery right there in NYC.

Welcome and truly understand all your customers.

Q: When Is the Experience of New York All You’d Expect From Paris?

A: At 3 a.m., in the rear-view mirror.

How can you create an Experience for your customers that lasts like this?

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

A Little Light Outdoor Reading

I saw the most beautiful delivery truck today. Gorgeous, current colors, striking photography all over, eye-catching layout.

Probably for a local business. I can’t tell you.

At fifty feet, I couldn’t read a thing on it, or this might be a whole different post.

What Is Being in Business For? This truck failed utterly. Beautiful, striking, money out the window. I hate that. I want your business to grow and thrive!

Outdoor legibility* rules for trucks, billboards, and other signage:

1. Clear and readable at 100–500 feet: large, bold type (not this kind of bold—bold in the sense of “prominent, standing out”)

2. Short copy (including contact info for trucks!)

3. High contrast colors

4. Simplify, simplify, simplify (must be easily understood and remembered, at a distance, in under 5–10 seconds for motorists)

5. Well-lit (if applicable… not your truck, please!)

Go ahead and be beautiful! Market your business! Just make sure I can read it, okay?

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

*Legibility vs. Readability: There is some debate as to precise definitions, but to rudely gloss over the subject: Legibility concerns letterforms of a typeface (“font”), and how easily recognized they are, which is generally the critical factor in a near-instant read such as outdoor signage; readability concerns the ease of reading a typeface through a longer passage. There are many excellent resources on- and off-line that walk through historic and current preferences, and understanding of legible and readable type. It’s my article and I’m not going to go there with you right now.

Or, What’s Out Is Out, Part 4

Want a look that says you never left the 60s, or even the 50s? Try these trends with a grilled cheese sandwich on Wonder bread:

  • Trippy, psychedelic anything
  • Crazy squashed “hand” lettering filling a page
  •  

  • Vinyl
  •  

  • Fluorescent colors, esp. hot pink
  •  

  • Plastics
  •  

  • Turquoise
  • Bubble-gum pink
  •  

  • Cheap flatware
  • Napkin dispensers on tables
  • Plastic “glassware”
  •  

  • Farm equipment as décor
  • Fishing equipment as décor
  • Hunting equipment as décor
  •  

  • Neon signage

And, unless you’re a bowling-alley proprietor:

  • All things bowling

That’s the Little List of 50s–60s Don’ts. Can your company make tasteful or tongue-in-cheek use of an element from this list? Maybe, if done with skill. Maybe, if you know your Ideal Customer very, very well.

Whether starting up or considering a redesign, be cautious. These tired color, fashion, and furnishing trends have been done, and mark your business as uninformed. Using interior design, graphic design, and staff uniforms/grooming standards from another era can limit your customer base to people who have positive associations with the decade in question.

Negative associations are starting to fade from 1950s and 1960s design. What’s left on this list are elements that may just never be cool again. As we leave the Baby Boom and the Summer of Love behind in our memories, taking inspiration from these decades can be done, especially with a younger market that didn’t live through it the first time. If intentional, it can even be kitschy or campy, in a good way—but be warned: There’s a fine line between inspired and tacky. There’s a lot of “retro” design out there right now, and retro is in danger of developing its own negative associations—or has it already? If you’re guilty, take charge today and start planning a revamped Customer Experience!

Moderation in all things, and if you’ve got to wear that bowling shirt to work (oh, please don’t!), find a way to renew, revitalize, and take the concept into this millennium. Time warps are only funny to a very limited market!

That’s all, folks. ‘Cause everyone knows the forties are hot right now, for one thing, and because it’s time to do a big list of what’s in. If you want to keep your business up on how to reel in customers with great Experience Design, take a moment to subscribe now, at the top left of this page. It’s easy and it’s free!

Care to agree, disagree, or add to the list of dated 1950s and 60s design trends? Leave a comment below!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

What got me started? If You Lived Through It Once…

Which 70s motifs should burn, baby, burn? Read Part 3!

Or, What’s Out Is Out, Part 3

Want a look that says you never left the 70s? Try these trends with Donna Summer blaring from your 8-track player:

  • Avocado
  • Harvest gold
  • All-black
  • Olive
  •  

  • Mirrored surfaces
  • Multiple-colored silkscreen portraits à la Andy Warhol
  •  

  • Long tresses, ponytails (male staff)
  • Unkempt facial hair (ditto!!!)
  •  

  • Eco-preaching (in now: Do it, don’t blab about it)
  •  

  • Smoking
  •  

  • Helvetica
  •  

  • Benches
  • Step-down seating areas
  • Furniture shaped like human forms
  • Shag carpeting

And, though I believe it’s illegal in 38 states and several Canadian provinces:

  • Disco balls

That’s the Little List of 70s Don’ts. Can your company make tasteful or tongue-in-cheek use of an element from this list? Maybe, if done with skill. Maybe, if you know your Ideal Customer very, very well.

Whether starting up or considering a redesign, be cautious. These tired color, fashion, and furnishing trends have been done, and mark your business as uninformed. Using interior design, graphic design, and staff uniforms/grooming standards from another era can limit your customer base to people who have positive associations with the decade in question.

This list is a bit shorter than the previous two, because negative associations are starting to fade from 1970s design. What’s left on this list are elements that may just never be cool again. As we leave the 70s behind in our memories, taking inspiration from the decade can be done, especially with a younger market that didn’t live through it the first time. Watch out! Overkill is just that, to any customer. If you’re guilty, take charge today and start planning a revamped Customer Experience!

Moderation in all things, and if you’ve got to have that conversation pit in your store or restaurant (oh, please don’t!), find a way to renew, revitalize, and take the concept into this millennium. Time warps are only funny to a very limited market!

Care to agree, disagree, or add to the list of dated 70s design trends? Leave a comment below!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

‹‹ Part 2  What else is out?  Part 4 ››

Or, What’s Out Is Out, Part 2

Want a look that says you never left the 90s? Get a bowl of half-decaf caramel latte and try these trends:

  • Minimalism
  • Asian influence
  • African influence
  • Other faux ethnicity
  •  

  • Pastels
  • Grungy white
  • Orange
  •  

  • Plaid
  • Shabby anything
  • Medical-inspired
  • Techno, digital
  •  

  • Casual Fridays
  • Long flowery skirts
  • Slouchy comfort
  •  

  • Papyrus (the typeface)
  • Grunge fonts
  • “Pixel” fonts
  • Swooshes
  • Ovals, esp. around a logo
  •  

  • Faux woodcuts
  • Sponge painted walls
  • Faux painting
  • (Faux=90s?)
  •  

  • Mass-produced “home” cooking

And though you weren’t going to come in to work this way (I hope):

  • The unwashed look

That’s the Little List of 90s Don’ts. Can your company make tasteful or tongue-in-cheek use of an element from this list? Maybe, if done with skill. Maybe, if you know your Ideal Customer very, very well.

Whether starting up or considering a redesign, be cautious. These tired color, fashion, and furnishing trends have been done, and mark your business as uninformed. Using interior design, graphic design, and staff uniforms/grooming standards from another era can limit your customer base to people who have positive associations with the decade in question.

I could have linked to all sorts of examples, but I don’t want to be in the business of calling people out. I see unwittingly out-of-touch design all over as I travel, both in the real world and the Internet, and so do you. If the 1990s were all about faux, the new millennium is all about authenticity. Keep the African masks on the wall, if you are serving African food. Not if you think it might attract African Americans. It’s just not enough. If you’re guilty, take charge today and start planning a revamped Customer Experience!

Moderation in all things, and if you’ve got to have that “Tuscan” mural on the wall (oh, please don’t!), find a way to renew, revitalize, and take the concept into this millennium. Time warps are only funny to a very limited market!

Care to agree, disagree, or add to the list of dated 90s design trends? Leave a comment below!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

‹‹ Part 1  What else is out?  Part 3 ››

Or, What’s Out Is Out, Part 1

Want a look that says you never left the 80s? Try these trends whose trains left the station when Madonna met Prince and Harry Met Sally:

  • Purple
  • Black
  • Grey
  • Teal
  • Mint green
  • Dusty blue
  • Mauve
  • All white
  •  

  • Fake kids’ writing, brush lettering, bubble lettering typefaces
  • Prep-school/university-style type and insignias
  •  

  • Grossly overpriced wine lists
  •  

  • Overt sexiness
  • Overt masculinity
  • Skinny black ties
  • Scruffiness
  •  

  • Postmodernism
  • High gloss
  • Memphis (Italian) furniture

And, though these are hopefully nobody’s business design choices:

  • Fishnet stockings
  • Dog collars

That’s the Little List of 80s Don’ts. Can your company make tasteful or tongue-in-cheek use of an element from this list? Maybe, if done with skill. Maybe, if you know your Ideal Customer very, very well.

Whether starting up or considering a redesign, be cautious. These tired color, fashion, and furnishing trends have been done, and mark your business as uninformed. Using interior design, graphic design, and staff uniforms/grooming standards from another era can limit your customer base to people who have positive associations with the decade in question.

I could have linked to all sorts of examples, but I don’t want to be in the business of calling people out. I see unwittingly out-of-touch design all over as I travel, both in the real world and the Internet, and so do you. Because the 80s are not so very far away (to some), you may have been so busy that you didn’t notice your design strategy was in crisis. If you’re guilty, take charge today and start planning a revamped Customer Experience!

Moderation in all things, and if you’ve got to have that purple and black color scheme (oh, please don’t!), find a way to renew, revitalize, and take the concept into this millennium. Time warps are only funny to a very limited market!

Care to agree, disagree, or add to the list of dated 80s design trends? Leave a comment below!

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson

 

What got me started? If You Lived Through It Once…

Say buh-bye, 90s. Click to read Part 2.