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We CHECK the competition! When designing your marketing materials, not only do we listen to your needs, but we also do extensive research on your competitors, to make sure you stay one move ahead.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Toptal Freelance Visual Designers

You've probably read my rants over what I believe are negative changes in the design industry that have occurred since the explosion of design crowd-sourcing portals. I have at length bemoaned the lost days of finding a client, establishing a rapport and enjoying a long term relationship that sees both parties grow. Now don't think I am anti-internet or a technophobe, I love the potential the internet offers to designers. Without it, I wouldn't have so many wonderful clients in Texas, New York, Australia and Singapore, yet it has the tendency to turn what could be a collaborative design relationship into a commodity purchase... sterile and forgettable.

Well I'm pleased to say, I think I've finally found the perfect compromise. Toptal Freelance Visual  Designers employs a business model that seems to blend the best of internet crowd sourcing with the much-missed pros of working long term with a client. Toptal has a fairly stringent screening process (how else can they promote offering the top 3% of talent?) which then opens a designer up to a potential plethora of top-notch clients. From that point, well the sky is the limit. So now, it seems, a company in Des Moines can find just the right designer in Bombay (or preferably somewhere near Vancouver) to work with... someone who grows to understand the company culture, their brand, their vision and can pour himself (or herself) into creating just the right design, at just the right time for just the right audience.

Goodbye assembly line design, hello good ol' days!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Crowd Sourcing May Not Always Be A Good Idea

Like many other industries, the internet has changed the landscape of graphic design. During the beginning of my tenure with a small advertising agency back in 1999, I handled branding projects that averaged $1500 on the low side and web site projects that started at around $3000.  Today those projects can be had for a fraction of those amounts, if one is willing to compromise... but more about that in a moment. This "game change" has come about as the result of a confluence of a number of factors.

1) An Increase in the Number of Designers Being Churned Out by an Increased Number of Design Programs
Of course as supply increases, price decreases. It is not hard to find an ad on Craig's List offering $50 for a logo design, which I suspect are answered by design students who are happy just to add a new design to their portfolio and perhaps one day actually get a job.

2) Proliferation of "Plug and Play" Design Applications 
There are a number of programs and online services that offer template-based design solutions that can be good for a quick newsletter, business card etc. This of course takes those important service offerings out of the hands of design professionals, thereby eradicating customization, proper branding considerations and an overall quality.

3) Crowd Sourcing
Crowd Sourcing is not a new idea. It is essentially and most often an open call to designers to produce a given design on spec. The winning design gets a pre-set fee. Crowd Sourcing has been used to great success in some cases. Toyota used this model to obtain a logo and it seems to have worked out pretty well for them but crowdsourcing does not sit well with many designers. It is somewhat analogous to hiring several restaurants to cook a gourmet meal for you. After eating 23 full course meals, you choose your favourite and pay them the agreed amount. The others go away worse for the wear. What may sound like a win for the company sponsoring the project, is lacking so many of the essential elements of a good design campaign.

Gourmet... Not Buffet

Great design is a process that includes research, consultation, some trial and error and an ongoing discussion that, if done correctly, results in a design that meets clearly established goals and offers the confidence that comes with knowing all other options have been explored, therefore the resulting design is the right design for the right purpose. Crowdsourcing too often operates more like a commodity trade. There is little consultation, often murky goals/parameters and budgets that do not allow the crucial research and development time to "get it right". "Gimme a brochure by Friday and use lots of blue" is actually a common directive. 

Finally, I have seen crowdsourcing projects whereby the winning design was simply the WRONG design. Without the consultative relationship that a good design house offers, a design is often chosen by one or two people who have no design or marketing background and may choose based on simple personal taste without giving the designer an opportunity to explain the all-important "raison d'etre".

In Closing

While faster cheaper methods of obtaining designs can be a good short-term or budget-constrained solution, businesses that think long-term, will greatly benefit from securing a long-term relationship with a design studio that fits with their corporate culture. This design studio will appreciate the opportunity to really dive into a project in order to produce something really fantastic and really productive... and then continue to work with you to see your marketing goals come to reality.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Get $250 of Free Design

We are taking our design studio to the next level. 

To celebrate, we are offering Free design. Simply book a project worth at least $250 and receive $250 in free design. This could be mean a free Power Point template, a free email template, a flyer... or if you prefer you can put the $250 credit towards the paid project.

Call or email us to get started today.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Value of Virtual Photos

As designers, we really appreciate the communicative power of art in a marketing piece. An image relates the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHY, as well as mood, personality and intent in a fraction of a second. Because of their power, choosing the right image is vital to a successful project. Using poor quality, off-message or cliche images can derail the effectiveness of a brochure, powerpoint presentation etc before your prospect reads the first sentence.

We've created a few mock presentation templates as examples.

Example 1

Fortunately, we don't see much use of clip art in business materials anymore. It is tolerable in community newsletters but in business-level materials, it tends to send the message, "I put this together over my lunch hour". If your business offers customized solutions, then using clip art waters down the credibility of this aspect of your business as well.

Example 2

Stock photos are much better. They carry more warmth and maturity. They too, however can come across as dry and half hearted. We have spent hours searching databases of stock photo suppliers looking for the right one. If we had a nickel for every time we saw a photo of two business people shaking hands, we could wipe out the national debt.

The way to communicate just what you want has always been custom photography. Hiring a professional photographer, professional actors, proper sets, lighting and props of course can be prohibitively expensive and very time consuming. The solution in certain circumstances, is virtual photos. 

Virtual photos can be tailored to your corporate colours and personality. In the first photo of the above example. The "dots" on the map can be coloured and placed to accurately relay your company network. The second image includes a 3D version of the company logo. This gives the sense of complete ownership of your message. Your company presents as large, professional and well branded. Sure it costs more than stock photos but far less than custom photography yet carries the same weight.

The next time you produce a marketing piece, consider the value of virtual photos and take your designs to the next level.

Friday, 6 April 2012

We Relaunched Our Facebook Page

Okay... This isn't exactly stellar news but we redesigned our fledgling facebook page to suit the new "Timeline" arrangement. 

Please take a look, and if you like it, why not "like" it?

Sunday, 1 April 2012

We Won... And We're Tickled Pink... or in this case, Khaki

Where exactly is the line between announcing recent good news and blatant self promotion?

So we do not fall into the latter category, let us say this quickly... We won a recent open design contest for a new marketing consulting firm and we are tickled pink about it. Our logo submission garnered the greatest number of votes and was deemed first choice by the majority of judges. In the end, our clean design won out.

Okay enough about us... now about our new client.

Your Guerilla Marketer is piloted by Rick Verbanas. Rick has come from a successful career in advertising and amassed a wide range of skills to assist his clients with their marketing efforts. He offers expertise in the areas of:

  • Marketing Strategies
  • Copy Writing / Editing
  • Advertising Project Management
  • e-Commerce Management
  • Event Planning / Promotions
  • Training

If you are currently looking to improve your marketing success, visit Your Guerrilla Marketer and see if there might be a good fit. 

Monday, 26 March 2012

China Manufacturing Slows... Will Manufacturers Stay?

For quite some time, prognosticators have had concerns over the sustainability of China's juggernaut-like economy. It seems the bubble may be about to burst. 

Combined with recent governmental incentives to bring manufacturing back to the US/Canada will this recent news be the "final straw" that spurs a wholesale exodus or will it cause Western manufacturers to delay plans to move back home, expecting that an economic reversal in China will translate into more attractive pricing and terms?

Can and should we extricate ourselves?

You can read the full story here

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Willing Ourselves Out of Recession?

A recent story I read was pretty much a mixed bag of stats, figures and forecasts for manufacturing and the economies of the U.S. and Canada (the link to the full story is at the bottom of this blog).

Buried in the story was a piece of information that got me thinking... again... it happens about every other week:) that our economic ebbs and flows have much more to do with our own attitudes than outside forces. It seems that investors are selling off more "sure thing" investments (government bonds etc) for riskier offerings because of a greater optimism in the near future. If this trend catches on, could our climb out of recession jump into high gear? And if so... is it not because as some level, we determined it to be that way? Perhaps I'm over simplifying this... and I hope this blog isn't going to be read by any economists or I am going to get a few tongue lashings but what do you suppose would have happened if no one had paid any attention to the news of the fall of Fanny Mae & Freddy Mac (which by the way are the weirdest names for financial giants... they sound more like fast food joints). What if we had ignored all of the gloom and doom trumpeted on the news and just kept investing, buying cars, taking vacations etc? Could it be that the recession would have been little more than a blip?

For those of you who remember or still read bible stories, you might recall the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These patriarchs held to a different view than the rest of the world. Even in times of regional famine, they prospered because they chose to believe in the promises of God rather than the evening news. Imagine... all of your competitors still downsizing while you are expanding.

Faith plays a big part of our daily lives whether we want to admit it or not. We have faith that our cars will start in the morning when we turn the key. We have faith that our next paycheck will be honoured by the bank (unless you worked for Freddy Mac). We have faith that the stuff coming out of the kitchen tap is water, not hydrochloric acid... so we drink it without second thought. Why not have faith in the Word of God. It might just be the boost you and your business need to jump into high gear.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

10 Tips for Designing Effective Brochures/Flyers

The following ten tips will help to ensure that your marketing piece is effective, memorable and even enjoyable

1) Create the Right Kind of Piece

Have a clear sense of the objective the project. It will affect every aspect of the design and message. Is the piece… 

• Product? 
• Catalogue? 
• Corporate Image?  
• Spec sheet? 
• Part of a flexible package? 

2) Include a Headline and/or Intriguing Position Statement

Brochures/flyers etc that have only a product name and logo are wasting the valuable first impression! Express your key benefit in few words... this is a cover, not an ad. 

3) Place Your "POW" Statement
 within the First Sentence
Most people won't read the whole piece at first glance. But they should get your main message within the first sentence, although it should also appear throughout your overall message. 

4) Distribute Your Main Message Throughout the Piece

Your customers need to be reminded of your main point, as they are reading the supporting details. It is a good idea to reprise your main message in the final statements. The phrase, "First tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them" is touted mainly in public speaking circles, but it works here because it operates in conjunction with the way people consume and remember information... which leads us to tip number five.

5) Use Language and Style for the Main Body of Readers
We've probably all taken workshops on "personality types" or "learning styles". Although they vary in their finer points, they agree that people respond to different stimuli. Some respond better to emotional appeals, some to mental pictures, some to hard facts and figures and so on. Speak your audience's language... and unless you are sure that your readers are of one type, then use them all in your piece. 

6) Use Subheadings
People scan before they read. Make this easier by including kickers, subheadings etc. Readers should get your overall message simply by reading these. Although you can make  mere navigational subheadings like "Our Commitment" or "Our Guarantee", you'll get more people engaged if you create fresh, intriguing and benefit-oriented statements, like, "We Will Lower Your Costs by up to 15%" or "You Will Never Need Another Widget Again". Captions are also among the first things people read. Repeat your main points by strategically paly

7) Write the Piece Well

Don't grab your customers' attention just to bore them. Employ the right tone, pacing, words etc. That should go without saying. If what you have written sound like a mission statement, scrap it and start fresh, using plain, concise language.

8) Inject Your Corporate Flavour
Your company's Unique Selling Position isn't just, "the highest quality roasted coffee in Australia", it contains (or should contain) nuances of personality. Apple, Ford, Google, all have a personality that is evident in all of their marketing, your brochure/flyer should be peppered with your unique flavour.

9) Proclaim Benefits but Back Them up with Features

A benefits approach to your copy is primary, but needs context. Feature statements provide the credibility for your benefit statements. Instead of saying, "Our motors allow your production floor to run 24/7" try "Our D-series motors are the only motors that use titanium bushings so they can run continuously without overheating, which keeps you running as as efficient as possible" 

10) Be Sure to Have a Call-to-Action

Don't just say "Call Us"... tell your readers what they will get next. A special offer, immediate delivery, a free sample are just a few options. Also, lead to your website so that your media becomes synergistic. Your website should respond in kind by asking those viewers to request a print information kit.

Look for our next, "10 tips to good marketing material design" blog. 

Better yet, email us and we will let you know when it is posted.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Are You Sure You Want Chocolate?

I remember as a child, craving for a chocolate ice-cream cone. I could see it in my mind, smell it...even taste it and I was convinced that nothing could satisfy that crave other than the chocolate ice-cream cone I would usually get when my parents took our family out on the weekend. This time however, we didn’t go to the regular ice cream shop... I was upset... really upset because my mind was so focused on that particular ice cream cone from that particular ice cream shop. I was ready to pop a fuse! It wasn’t until I read the first few of the 31 flavours on the big pink menu board did I realize that I didn’t really want what I had thought I did. I was now being presented with crazy new flavours I didn't know existed, such as RootBeer Crunch and Bubblegum. Chocolate was passe. That same tendency can affect us all at any age... and in any endeavour and in any industry.
When I started a small advertising agency several years ago, I was very enthusiastic and as a “hands on” kind of guy, wanted to do everything myself, including my own accounting. I studied the basics and poured over the Quick Books application manual and then went to town. I did okay, certainly better than those fellows as Enron, but after my tax accountant poured over my records several months later, I realized that I should have left things to the professionals. She was able to point out much better and simpler ways of doing what I was doing. C'mon... who chases a $.25 discrepancy for 3 hours!?
I'm sure many of you have had similar situations in business wherein you've been asked for a particular product or service by a customer that is "sure" they know what they want. Often times the request can be very clear and descriptive. A few well placed questions can determine whether he/she has simply come under the same “Baskin and Robbins effect”. The client may simply not know the full gamut of solutions to his/her problem. Maybe what they really want is RootBeer Crunch.
Just as you and I would not be properly served if we were to say to our doctor, “I have  an acute distention of the cerebral cortex” and he immediately prepares us for brain surgery, wouldn’t we feel much more appreciative if our doctor ran a few tests and then informed us we simply have a tension headache?
Let's be good doctors. Let’s evaluate each client request and offer the solution that is best for the client, not necessarily what the client first asks for.

And when they call to thank you for the wonderful service, offer to take them for a chocolate ice cream cone.