Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Design Trends to Look Forward to in 2020

2019 was a year where taking risks in design was considered normal.


What design trends can you look forward to this year? As we round the corner into a new decade, we may see a softening of some of 2019’s more abrasive trends and a shift toward simplified contrasts when designers want to be bold.


Here’s a sneak peek at five design trends to watch for in 2020:


1. Beautiful Flowing Shapes & Lines


The last few years have brought an abundance of geometric, rigid, proper shapes.


In the new year, these designs will be replaced by more flowing shapes, patterns, and lines. Flowing shapes can convey a natural, abstract, peaceful feel on a page. Whether you use a soft speech bubble to surround text or place images overflowing water or lava currents in your backgrounds, this shift toward flowing lines brings a down-to-earth, creative, and authentic tone.


2. Neutral, Natural-Looking Stock Photos


Several years ago, bright, colorful stock images were all the rage.


Graphic artists were boosting saturating and enriching color contrasts, to the point that some photos didn’t even look real. But as color trends have relaxed, audiences are embracing more muted palates, colors similar to what you might find in a soft sunset, a misty morning, or the corner of a woodworker's craft shop.


As stock photos follow, this year, you can expect to see more muted, genuine, and neutral stock photos. This includes a focus on candid faces, shadowed silhouettes, and seemingly unfiltered photos. A step back from air-brushed perfection, look to use stock photos that seem more reserved, harmonious, and real.


3. Textured Bevels and Chisels


While designers seek to bring a more authentic vibe in 2020, one way they can do this is through texture.


By creating 3-D forms like buttons, icons, or coins, bevels and chisels create a 3-D effect on a 2-D (flat) surface. Typically, this is done with tight layering, shadowing, and some degree of opacity. Look for beveled knock-offs of real-life objects. The result will be a flat image that looks tantalizingly real enough to touch.


4. Creative Typography


Creativity is just not limited to vibrant designs and unusual color combinations.


Font choices also play a prominent role in the tone and personality of every design. 


Whether it is a paper coffee cup, a wild banner, or a funky poster, sometimes creative typography is all it takes to drive home your message. And while typography can stand alone as its own design (like this), it can also be woven into the image itself to give unique expression to the artwork (like this). With great font selection, sometimes the words are the graphic, and just a small amount of creativity can truly spice up the project.


5. Bold, Clean Colors


Finally, with a move toward expediency, simple, bold colors are taking the stage once again.


We’re not talking about 80’s neon vaporwave, but dreamy, vibrant, full colors like enchanting blues, tomato reds, and radiating purples. Colors are a key driver of attractive designs, and 2020 will see an emphasis on gradient blends replaced with things like filled color canvases with no white space between hues.


As you play with bold shades in your graphics, avoid using too many bright colors that make designs hard to read. Instead, use bright, energetic colors with simple, clean design to create contrast.


Stay Ahead of the Curve


Ready to kickstart the year with a new style?


To do so, it’s helpful to reflect on the past and decide what you’ll do differently in the future. Stay ahead of the curve with these design trends and let us know if we can help you infuse your designs with a fresh look in the months to come!  Give us a call at Print It! at 864-882-3609.

Monday, January 20, 2020

4 Small Adjustments that Bring 5-Star Customer Service

Did you know it only takes seven seconds to make a lasting impression on new people that you meet?


If this is true in personal relationships, how significant are the impressions your business makes with customers? Great entrepreneurs know that if you want long-lasting, loyal clients (who spend AND who voluntarily advertise your excellent service by word of mouth), then you must prioritize customer relationships and consistently offer superior service.


Going From Good to Great


What does five-star service look like from a patron’s perspective?


Here is a snapshot of where a business moves from average to above-average:


   3 -- Service is average, fair, "the usual" satisfactory, expected, etc.


   4 -- Customer is very satisfied. Service is average, above average, exceeded expectations, etc.


   5 -- The client is delighted and amazed. Service is extraordinary because employees "walk on water" for customers.


To elevate your customer experience, you have to be proactive, not reactive. Five-star customer service gives extra attention to the smallest of details and does this with an authentic care for each individual you serve.


Here are four areas of focus to grow a culture of excellent service in your team:


1. Be Visible


Whether you respond to clients through e-mail, phone, or live service, be accessible and prompt in every response.


Let clients know they can always reach out to you and where you can be reached if they need anything. Never break communication – whether clients are pleased, waiting, or upset, don’t leave any attempt to communicate unanswered. Acknowledge the feelings behind the communication, and – in difficult situations – offer creative customer reparations (refunds, replacements, bonus items, etc.) if possible. 


2. Anticipate Unexpressed Needs


Five-star service providers seek to surprise and delight their clients.


Here employees deliver not only “at” the level expected, but above and beyond what is promised. When you check in with a client, what do you expect they MIGHT need (i.e., help navigating your new software)? Can you have the solution ready before they ask (i.e., a tutorial video attached to your check-in e-mail)? Seek to bring solutions, even if the client is at fault, and your business will be more memorable and responsive.


Anticipating needs is a way you tangibly care for people, and when you do this, it touches emotions. One general manager with five-star hotel experience put it perfectly:


“It is the small, simple, special moments that we create through personal engagement with each guest that they will recall when they return home. To accomplish this type of sustainability, we carefully and methodically select our employees, and then continuously train. It’s not about the tactical as much as it is about speaking the language of the guest.”


3. Train Your Team to Employ Creative Problem-Solving Skills


Five-star service includes the ability to think outside the box and create unique solutions to problems.


Customer service is primarily about problem-solving, so train your team to embrace problems rather than dreading them, and you will shift the culture in your business. A great team member isn’t afraid to come up with creative solutions. Give them the authority to do this and see what happens!


Publicly commend employees who do, and you’ll reinforce this attitude for everyone.


4. Use the Feedback You Receive


Five-star teams are never satisfied with the status quo.


Teams that excel in service are ruthless about gathering feedback and doing something with it. Do you collect customer comments? If so, how do you review it and identify areas for improvement? Companies that make specific changes in response to feedback are strategic, dynamic, and are genuinely customer-focused.


Build “Every Day” Excellence


Excellent service is something that happens consistently, so challenge your team to create memorable experiences that are repeatable every day.


Be visible, creative, and proactive, and challenge everyone on your team to take ownership as they follow through on guest requests every time.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Build a Lasting Legacy Through Thought Leadership in Your Industry

Looking to increase your strategic visibility, gain exposure for your ideas, and change the world in meaningful ways?


Everyone is following someone. Maybe it’s time to engage others, so they follow you!


Facebook GROWs with Print


What does thought leadership look like from an industry perspective? Here’s one example:


In 2018, Facebook launched a thought leadership campaign (GROW) to help leaders grow businesses and networks while challenging the status quo. To communicate complex ideas, the social media empire developed a quarterly print magazine and marketing program aimed at business owners in the United Kingdom and Northern Europe. GROW is sent directly to marketing clients and distributed at select airports and train business lounges to reach top professionals:


“We know that business leaders have limited time for long reads at work, so we’ve also created a physical version with journeys in mind,” said Leila Woodington, Facebook’s head of business marketing in northern Europe.


Facebook’s goal is to position itself as a dominant thought leader among corporate executives or government leaders to grow marketing influence. Facebook understands that combining hard-hitting print with a steady drip of digital content is an especially effective strategy.


People Influencing People


The term “thought leader” is more than a buzzword; it’s a dynamic reality.


People influence people, and thought leaders are those that others respect and follow. Do you want to shape trends, spark movements, or voice unique ideas? Informed individuals can add tremendous value to their field of expertise!


Your ability to shape perspectives will grow as you show yourself to be relatable, engaging, and consistent in three specific ways:


1. Building Connections


Build your engagement quality by cultivating regular contact with close friends and family, with current and former colleagues, or with analysts, writers, or industry leaders.


Engage and follow others through face-to-face networking, regional training opportunities, social media, or online discussion groups. Gain traction as you contribute, follow, share, or add your own commentary to material relevant to your industry. And – as often as you can – share your picture with printed pieces or online content. Matching a face with your voice makes you more memorable, credible, and real.


2. Growing Your Name and Niche


Thought leaders are people who fully immerse themselves in the needs and concerns of their audience. ­­


To stand out from the crowd, concentrate on a niche market or seek to communicate with a specialized group of people. Write, speak, share, and comment on the things most relevant to this area. Think of yourself as a translator (explaining the concerns at hand and interpreting their meaning) or a tour guide (predicting trends, forecasting effects, or helping people interpret what they see). Here you’ll maximize impact, giving people “Aha” moments, or making them think, “Wow, I never thought of it like that!”


Grow your influence by writing articles for publications, requesting to share on panels or policy boards, publishing via social media and printed newsletters, or inquiring about opportunities to speak at events.


Once you establish credibility, you’ll naturally become part of bigger and better opportunities.


3. Educating and Empowering Others


Leaders who inspire loyalty are those who empower others.


Thought leaders don’t just impress people by how “smart” they are – they teach others to produce fruitful results as well. Your focus may be building educational tools, helping people with decision making, or establishing yourself as a one-stop resource with scalable models that bring answers people need.


As you grow your influence, you will advance your career, access new industry opportunities, and create top-of-mind awareness for your business.

Friday, January 3, 2020

How Re-Purposed Malls Can Teach Entrepreneurs a Lesson

Have you been to a dying mall lately?


It can be pretty depressing. Empty storefronts litter the hallways like missing teeth in a hockey player’s mouth. Dim lighting seems to permeate each corner, and mall walkers bring more energy than any hint of retail activity. What was booming 30 years ago now feels like a bust.


With consumers shifting more of their shopping from physical to online spaces, young generations have a different perspective on what a buying experience should bring. This explains why some malls are dying, while others are thriving. What’s the difference?


In Maryland, one mall is renting space to a theater company while, in Michigan, one mall is now home to a cultural association that sponsors Chinese festivals. Some malls have transformed parts of their space to offer thriving art schools for walk-in shoppers. Others have created customer-centric experiences, like combining fashion consultants with on-site purchasing options.


Like most other sales venues, there is still a future for brick-and-mortar businesses. But this requires companies to sell strategically to young generations through methods that resonate.


What lessons can we learn from our friends in the mall?


Engaging, Experiential Shopping


There are numerous definitions of experiential purchasing.


Generally, this idea refers to stores where “extra” things happen in addition to selling, and where shoppers do more than just buying. As an entrepreneur, how can you offer people a chance to buy an experience or a memory rather than just an object or service? This may include massage chairs at the gym, in-store skills classes, or lifestyle opportunities (like art galleries in malls) that can be combined with a shopping experience.


Added Online Convenience


If you want people to visit your business, can you ease their journey by adding online convenience?


Like store pickups for pre-ordered groceries, merchants that simplify the purchasing experience will have more success. One business took orders for online samples then had three options ready and waiting when the customer came to preview them in the store.


Digital Campaigns with On-Site Flash Sales


One benefit of physical stores is strengthening emotional connections between consumers and brands.


While it is nice to order things online, sometimes swooping in to nab a deal brings a huge adrenaline rush (think Black Friday!). Can your business combine timely print or digital ads to promote 24-hour flash sales on the hottest items in your store? This creates the opportunity to lock in a client while potentially up-selling other products when people visit in person.


Lively, Professional Environments


People don’t just crave convenience; they crave connections.


When asked why people choose physical stores over online retailers, the number one response was a “need to see, touch, feel, and try out items.” How can you offer people better opportunities to interact directly with your products? When you do this, the physical shopping experience provides a tactile experience that simply can’t be matched online.


Your displays are a huge part of this. From oversized banners and full-panel window displays to music, lighting, and even scents, the environment you create must be better than ever. And with today’s print and digital technology, everything can be customized to immerse your clients in the most authentic brand experience possible!


The Definition of Success


While online shopping has re-written the rules of purchasing, buyers still crave experiences that can only be delivered in person. Remember, a successful space is one that people want to visit, so give people a reason to be there.


When they’re spending their time somewhere, they’re more likely to spend their money as well.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

4 "No Fail" Strategies for Organizing Your Next Big Event

Do you have any “nightmare” trade show experiences?


Maybe you worry that an impending disaster is ahead. Everyone who manages a big event knows the feeling.


You know . . . the nagging sense that you’ve forgotten something crucial (but have no idea what).


Or . . . one of several million things is about to go wrong (but there is no way to prevent it).


4 "No-Fail" Strategies for Organizing Your Next Big Event


Large events can be stressful, but most large-scale events can be managed with confidence if you have a plan.


Here are four “no-fail” strategies for navigating your next conference, convention, or trade show.


1. Generate an Event Checklist


Early planning and great organization are the keys to a stress-free event.


Make a master list of marketing and print deadlines, reservation dates, and travel coordination details. Months in advance, nail down every date possible and organize your task list in chronological order. Then you can work from a checklist with physical guidelines that keep your team grounded.


2. Create Beautiful Displays


Your exhibits are often the fulcrum of your entire event.


Don’t skimp! Take the time (or get help) to arrange the backdrops, banners, and lighting so a fabulous display of your brand and personality takes center stage. Depending on your budget, you may have anything from a small pop-up booth to a grand multi-sensory exhibit.


Whatever the scale, your graphics need to be eye-catching, clean, and crisp to make your exhibit as open and welcoming as possible.


3. Empower the Right People


The staff at your exhibits are the face of your company and culture.


As your most visible brand ambassadors, their interaction with potential clients can make or break your big day. Have clearly defined roles for each team member and train them to be friendly, outgoing, and equipped to address diverse audiences.


Pro-tip: Be intentional about including a technically gifted team member to answer in-depth product questions or to handle unexpected display glitches.


4. Prepare Excellent Follow-Up Materials


In some cases, the amount of preparation required for a big event can cause you to overlook the most crucial marketing materials needed for good follow up.


Often the success of an event is not fleshed out for months afterward, so it is essential that you come ready with several printed materials. Your “Big Five” may include:



  1. Professionally Printed Business Cards - Include a hand-written note at the close of your conversations to add a personal touch.

  2. Sell Sheets and Rack Cards - Like a walking billboard for your business, these grab-and-go items can keep your prospects considering after the conversation has concluded.

  3. Eye-catching Notepads or Sticky Notes - Everyone loves a good freebie, and swag items increase the longevity of your name and your impression.

  4. Loyalty Coupons or Cards - Offer exclusive coupon codes or punch cards for your products or services.

  5. Best-Quality Brochures - Events typically offer an introduction to a longer conversation. Brochures are a pocket-friendly advertisement that offers vital product details, informative graphics, and a compelling call to action.


One Final Freebie


Think you’re ready?


If you still have that niggling sense of dread, here’s one last tip — pack duct tape. Beyond great team members, displays, and print materials, duct tape can fix about anything that could go wrong on the side.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

How to Make Performance Reviews More Effective and Enjoyable

Performance reviews don’t have to be something to sweat about.


These conversations offer a valuable feedback loop for people to ask questions, identify needs, and drive professional growth.


Building Conversations that Count


Whether you’re conducting or participating in a review, here are a few strategies to make the most of your next review:


Share Facts and Document Goals


Before a review, make sure you are clear about what is expected.


Review job descriptions and jot down ways success has been achieved or where one person is being overloaded. Include measurable data (i.e., project output, sales goals achieved, etc.) that is understood by all participants. Link any examples (like improvement strategies or success stories) to the facts. Then, conclude by recording time-sensitive, measurable goals that are linked to the objectives discussed in the review.


Questions to Consider:


  • What’s working?

  • What’s not working?

  • What has been your greatest accomplishment or challenge this year?

  • Where do you feel there is room to improve?

  • What's something you don't think I see but should know?

Regularly Document Progress


To avoid the “dread” factor, intentionally calendar regular check-ins that are communicated in person or through e-mail.


While many yearly goals end up at the bottom of the drawer, monthly or quarterly updates make space for effective dialogue and regular course corrections. This relieves pressure from the yearly review while keeping everyone on the same page.


Questions to Consider:


  • In what areas are you delivering the best results?

  • What are the biggest challenges you face in your current position?

  • Where has your team been helping or hindering your work?

Build From Personal Strengths


While everyone has particular tasks to accomplish, each person has gifts that can positively impact the company in unique ways.


During reviews, ask this question: “What 20 percent of my contribution generates 80 percent of my impact at work?” Work together to clarify untapped potential and discuss how this could be optimized for greater results. If needed, seek extra support, resources, or an alteration of current responsibilities.


Questions to Consider:


  • Do you have everything needed to perform your job?

  • What are the main drivers for success in your position?

  • What skills do you have that could be used more effectively?

A Structure That Builds Success


Want to create a positive environment for good communication?


Structure your reviews around facts, goals, and strengths to make your company as productive as possible.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Ensure Staying Power for Your Business with Great Local Marketing

Earlier this year, Gerrit Curran and Emily Wessner opened a Jersey Mike’s Subs in Muhlenberg Township, Pennsylvania.


To gain traction in their township of 20,000, these entrepreneurs knew that their new business must be intricately tied to a community connection. Curran and Wessner chose to use print as their primary marketing channel. The Jersey Mike’s staff distributed nearly 7,500 sandwich coupons throughout the community, encouraging patrons to enjoy a free sub and also to donate the cost of that sandwich to the Muhlenberg Township Athletic Association.


In the end, the promotion helped raise over $15,000, and the franchise gained an admirable reputation as a devoted community partner.


Stand Out in Your Community


Print marketing can be especially effective in creating a local marketing presence, especially when combined with integrated campaign efforts.


Smart business owners know that catering to a local market can be a point of power. But how do you leverage this connection? Here are several ways to connect your on- and off-line presence in compelling ways.


Demonstrate Community Connection


Integrate your business into local festivals, sponsorship opportunities, and regional traditions.


Does your community host a lobster festival? Find fun ways to weave this crustacean into your flyers or sales. Share pictures or postcards about your brand participating in local fundraisers, theme weeks, or service drives. Start conversations on things that are happening locally and, whenever possible, relate them to your business.


Personalize Advertisements


When advertising for your business, highlight testimonies or quotes from real, local customers. Try before and after pictures, photos of your customers in well-loved parks, or advertisements featuring your content in front of an area mascot.


Another option is to tailor your ads to regional events. Is your city sponsoring a music festival? Offer helpful content like advice on cheap parking, a schedule of places where kids eat for a discount, or print coupons that correspond to a felt need of these visitors. Creating ads with local content will connect with your audience on a very personal level.


Invent Reasons to Make a Difference


Too often, organizations focus on community involvement with a selfish perspective: more profits, more marketing, etc.


Instead, take a “community in the front, business in the rear” approach. Whether you build a nature center with other businesses or create a contest for local charities, genuinely help people, and the benefits will follow. Plus, employees and volunteers will love submitting their photos to your company newsletter or your social media pages.


Tell Your Story


If you’re from the area you’re targeting, do your best to tell the story of how your business came to life.


Make a video, print inserts for your bags or envelopes, or have a brand story display onsite. Customers love to support local businesses, especially those founded or run by a hard-working local resident.


Find, Engage, Repeat


While your brand may serve customers beyond your region, an enormous 85% of business owners depend on word-of-mouth referrals, so it is vital to actively influence your friends and neighbors!


When satisfied local customers are committed to your success, your business can do more with less while continuing to succeed.


Need help giving your brand an extra boost in the community? We’d be happy to help with your local marketing needs. Contact us at Print It! today to find out more!