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Pop Up Best Practices Inspired by Beyonce

Employing pop ups on your company’s website is a great way to grow your email list, engage website visitors, and drive people to connect with your brand. While these list-growing gems have the potential to add value to your website and to your business, when done wrong, pop ups have the potential to annoy your website visitors and drive them away from your site.  In order to create pop ups that add value to your website visitors, you’ll have to be strategic and think of the opt-ins as a relationship building tool. Beyonce Knowles, affectionately known by her fans as Queen B, is a singer, dancer, actress and businesswoman whose success is largely driven by her ability to make a connection with her fans through her art.  Beyonce’s lyrics illuminate different aspects of relationship building that can be applied to companies looking to create a connection with their customers through opt-ins.

Here’s a look at pop up best practices inspired by Queen B herself.

  1. “I Don’t Know Much About Fighting, But I Will Fight For You”  - 1 + 1 Application: You’re Fighting For Your Users Time and Attention. Fight Wisely.

In a society inundated with social media and a constant flow of information, companies must compete for consumers attention. Getting someone to your website is a victory. But, you have to fight to keep them on your website. It’s important to create engaging, irresistible pop up offers that demonstrate why the consumer should take action. Fight wisely for your consumers attention by utilizing exit intent popups to grab their attention as they move to leave your website. It’s also a great idea to use visuals and keep your opt-in messaging short and sweet to immediately communicate the value to your customer.

  1. “I’ll be There For You If Somebody Hurts You” - ’03 Bonnie & Clyde Application: Communicate Why Consumers Should “Trust” You

Since pop ups are relationship building tools to connect with your customer, it’s important to communicate the value your company brings to “the relationship.” Just like Beyonce’s iconic Bonnie & Clyde lyrics, you can use your pop up’s message to communicate your company’s willingness to “pick up the pieces” of any negative past experiences your potential customer may have had. You can do this by communicating that people can opt-out of any unwanted email communication from your company and, by highlighting what makes you stand out from your competitors.

  1. Don’t Bore Me, Just Show Me - “Check On It” Application: No Boring Pop ups Allowed

The visual appearance of your pop up matters. You can create a wonderful offer, but if your pop up looks plain, boring or otherwise unexciting, people are less likely to pay attention to what you’re offering. Instead, leverage color, images, fonts, and other aspects of visual design to create a pop up that’s visually appealing.

  1. Some Call It Arrogant, I Call It Confident - “Ego” Application: You Have Something Great to Offer. So, Offer It!

Have you ever questioned whether to use pop ups on your site for fear of being spammy or annoying? The truth is, pop ups that offer no value to customers and that appeal consistently throughout someone’s website experience can be annoying. But, that doesn’t have to be the case. Pop ups that offer visitors something valuable, from a discount, to regular updates on your company’s newest products, can enhance website visitor’s experience and get them excited about continuing to connect with your brand. So go for it! Be confident in what you have to offer, and let people know how they can get involved. Pop ups with valuable offers will help you grow your email list and can be the starting point for a “long term relationship” with your customers.

Saundra Wilson 
Digital Marketing Director, Markitors
Saundra is a digital marketing director at Markitors, a Scottsdale-based digital marketing agency that specializes in small and medium businesses. She recently spent several days at MailChimp HQ in Atlanta as part of an exclusive Partner Program. She’s passionate about living her best life, self-care, writing, and empowering others. When she’s not busy helping clients connect with customers, you can find her watching Say Yes to the Dress and practicing her best hip hop moves. 

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Five Tips to Obtain Content from Technical Staff

How many times have you heard, “Don’t we already have that information in a different proposal?” or how about “Can’t we just dust off a response from another pursuit?” If you oversee gathering, creating and finalizing details of a proposal then you are much too familiar with these skin-crawling questions. But, have you ever thought of it from your technical staff’s perspective? For example, a Project Manager is likely right in the middle of managing several projects and juggling deadlines – now all of a sudden they need to stop what they are doing to provide you content they think they’ve given you a hundred times. Of course, he or she is going to respond with the suggestion of re-utilizing what they have given you before. On the other hand, a marketer’s job is to tailor the proposal for the client, come up with new and creative ways to deliver the right content and pull the most interesting information from the technical team as possible. So, how can you find some common ground? Here are five tips to leverage your technical staff for content creation.

1. Give them something to start with.
Let’s say you need content for how your team is going to approach the project. Pull a few pieces of standard information that you’ve used in the past to get them started. Then, take what you know from the RFP/RFQ and ask your team specific questions that will tie in to the approach. Here are a few example questions:

  • This project is going to be in an occupied building, how will our team handle noise, safety and delivery schedules? (Remind them to help come up with response that are unique to your company’s process)
  • How will we phase this project and why is that the best method?
  • How will we uniquely meet this project schedule?
  • Do we have anything that we offer for this specific pursuit that other companies won’t?
  • What’s the advantage to hiring our company given how we will approach the project?

Basically, get your technical staff thinking. Now that they’ve seen you do some legwork and are reading your prepped questions, they are thinking about the response on a deeper level. 

2. Interview your technical staff.
More than likely, your technical staff does not enjoy writing and it might take them a lot of effort to get their thoughts organized cohesively on paper. Offer to set up an hour meeting where you can record, type and listen to everything they say about the pursuit. Then, take that information and organize it how you see fit.

3. Offer to help.
Do they not have time to walk the site? Offer to go take photos of the site and report back. Are they slammed and keep missing deadlines? Offer to order lunch so they can have a productive, working lunch. Do early mornings work better for them? Come in early one day so you can meet before the day is lost. I’m not saying completely adjust your work-day for your technical staff but I am suggesting you help make the process easier. This will go a long way and only build a better relationship with your team.

4. Be in the know.
Take the opportunity to learn more about the technical pieces within your industry. Attend conferences and read articles to stay up-to-date with current trends. Ask your technical staff for book suggestions that might help you better understand their world a bit. Take your technical staff out to lunch and pick their brain a bit about what they do daily and how certain situations are handled. If your schedule allows for it, ask if you can shadow for a few hours one day and dive deep into their world. You’ll gain invaluable insight from your colleagues through these methods and earn a ton of respect along the way.

5. Befriend your technical staff!
The stronger relationship you have with your technical colleagues, the better. Also, the more you implement the above tips, the smoother the pursuit process will become and the easier it will get to engage your team. Don’t only go to lunch with them to learn, go to lunch to build rapport and team comradery. Set up a happy hour! Have fun together and get to know each other to gain respect for one another. It is always a good idea to engage with people in times when you are not just needing something from them.

These tips should help you gather the best information possible from your technical team, build relationships within your workplace and thus increase your hit ratio. Pursuing work is a team effort and everyone should pull together and do everything they can to submit a winning proposal. Are there any additional strategies you have found successful to gather great content from your team?  


Ashley Black
Marketing Coordinator, Ryan Companies US, Inc.
Ashley joined the AEC industry in January 2015 and became a member of SMPS shortly after. She is the current Blog Chair and a member on the hospitality committee. Ashley loves traveling, basketball, cooking and spending time with her niece, Halle.

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Quality Photography Importance & Insider Tips

We live in a photography era.  Every single day nearly two billion digital images are uploaded to the internet and that number is increasing by the minute. Number of monthly Instagram users as of June 2018?  Over one BILLION. Chances are today you've already viewed dozens of images. For many of you, that happened before you even left your house for work. Everyone is viewing and taking and posting photos. Are the marketing photos you are posting as good as they should be?

What great (or not so great) photos can say about your company's image:
Regardless of type of photos (architectural photos, corporate headshots or product photos), the quality of photography a business utilizes may reveal a lot about their values. Compare a company that uses poor quality photographs vs. another that uses high quality professional photographs. Could it be assumed that one is more likely to cut corners to save money, while another understands the value of quality and professionalism? Which firm would you choose to collaborate with?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Phoenix Zoo. Photo by David Schacher Photography LLC

The use of high quality professional photography in marketing has never been more important.  It could mean the difference between landing that big project and/or client, or not, and this should be taken into serious consideration when planning your photography budget. Do you really want to skimp on this?

Why hire a professional photographer?
The experience and knowledge that a professional can bring to a project is absolutely crucial. Most of this knowledge can only be learned from experience and lots of trial and error which a seasoned pro should have. Some important qualities a professional should possess are:

  • Correct/creative lighting techniques including knowledge of ambient and/or natural light. For example, on any exterior shoot before I arrive I've already mapped the location on my computer and know exactly where the sun will be at the optimal time of shooting.

  • Equipment Knowledge (especially important when equipment failure occurs). I could write an entire article on equipment failure, the importance of backup equipment and how experiences that I have had have saved entire location shoots.

  • Post Production (Processing) Experience is an absolute must have requirement when hiring a photographer. Take a look at their portfolio. How extensive is their body of work? Have they digitally removed clutter such as light switches, electric sockets and exit signs? Unfortunately, many photographers don't understand how to process a photo once it has been taken and the difference in the end product is night and day.



3900 Camelback Center. Photo by David Schacher Photography LLC

How to distinguish an amature from a professional and questions you can ask: 
What exactly is a "professional" photographer?  Generally speaking a "professional" photographer is someone who makes a living taking photos full time. Although there isn't a standard qualification which defines "professional" photographer, there are several key questions you can ask which will almost immediately separate the pros from the non pros:

  • Do you have a (current) business license? If the answer is no, beware. I'll bet your company has a business license.

  • Do you carry insurance? Can you provide a COI? Again, if the answer is no its time to find someone else. Photographers should carry both liability and equipment insurance coverage to protect not only themselves but their clients as well. Why risk it?

  • Do you charge/pay sales tax? If the answer is no, you are not dealing with a professional. Any photographer (or client) that is under the belief that sales tax isn't necessary, regardless of type of photography expertise/delivered media, is not only mistaken but can be in for a very expensive surprise.

  • Ask about their copyright policy. While this can vary, if a photographer doesn't provide a clearly written copyright contract, chances are you are probably dealing with an amateur.

  • What type of equipment do you use? This is a question I am seldom asked, but when I am it is usually because the client has specific requirements such as camera speed/resolution. You should be asking about the resolution your photographer will be able to deliver. With the rapid changes in technology today I am constantly updating my equipment. With that being said, simply having good equipment does not automatically equate to being a professional photographer.


Phoenix Children's Hospital. Photo by David Schacher Photography LLC

In the ever-increasing photography era that we live in, quality images have never been more important for driving potential customers to your brand. It is of paramount importance that your company stands out from the others. Quality photography will speak volumes about your identity whereas substandard photography can negatively affect a company's image.

David Schacher
Photographer - David Schacher Photography, LLC

David Schacher is a Phoenix, Arizona based commercial photographer and specializes in architectural/drone photography, corporate headshots, and product and event photography. Additionally David photographs the testing of military vehicles and weapons testing. His photos have been featured in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal and CNN.com and can be seen at www.davidschacher.com and on instagram

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6 Ways To Improve SEO Rankings In 6 Hours

SEO is hard, but there are some simple things that you can do to help improve your online presence. This article is about the simple things. Here are six ways that you can improve your SEO rankings in six hours.

1. Change Page Title Tags

Imagine you are turning in a paper to a professor. The title of your paper is what your professor will immediately evaluate to determine the contents of your paper.The same is true for websites. Each page on a site has a title, and Google is the professor who is grading your site. There’s not more of a lower hanging fruit in SEO than making sure that every page title tag is unique, accurately describes the content of your page, and targets a keyword that your potential customers are searching for.

Quick action item: go to your home page. Take a look the title that appears in your browser. Does it say “Home”? If so, change “Home” to “Your Product or Service” and you’ll immediately have more of a SEO optimized website.

2. Submit a Sitemap

Okay, another analogy. You’re on a roadtrip to Dunsmir, California. How will you get there? Instructions – Google Maps, GPS, or for some, Mapquest. Sitemaps are the directions you give to Google so that pages on your site can be discovered. Can Google discover content on your site without a sitemap? Sure, just like we can probably find our way to Dunsmir. It’s just more efficient for both Google and our backseat driver to have directions.

Quick action item: Go to Google Search Console. Create an account if you don’t already have one. Then, submit a sitemap to Search Console so Google can discover all the content on your site, including the new content you’ll be adding in the future.

3. Backlinks

Backlinks are the single most important SEO ranking factor. Backlinks are an incoming hyperlink from one website to your website. Google evaluates backlinks to help determine what your website is about, and how authoritative your website is on a given topic. The higher the quality of a backlink, and the higher relevance of backlink, the better. For example, our company typically ranks on the first page of Google for the term “digital marketing company.” If you type markitors.com into opensiteexplorer.com, you’ll see some of the backlinks we have from sites like mashable.com, adweek.com, and more. These are high quality backlinks that help us rank for our target search terms.

Quick action item: what website do you own, or what partners do you work with that could potentially link back to your website?

4. Page Speed

Google incorporates page speed into their ranking algorithm. Why? Because their job is to serve up the best resources, and if a page doesn’t load quickly, then people lose interest and leave the page. Most websites are built poorly, with large images not optimized for the web that significantly slow down their website speeds – and search engine rankings.

Quick action item: Go to Google Page Speed Insights. Type in your website. See what score is assigned to your website. Is your score in red? If so, cruise down to the recommendations and you’ll have actionable steps to take to improve your page speed. Most of the time, the easiest, quickest, and most impactful recommendations are in relation to reducing the file sizes of images.

5. Fix 404 Errors

People trust Google to serve up the best information in relation to their search query. What happens when Google serves up a result that leads to a page that no longer exists? Just like Meet The Fockers, that circle of trust is broken. Having broken pages on your website, technically known as 404 errors, is a great way to break the circle of trust with Google and lose your search engine rankings. This is especially common when launching a new website. The website developer creates something that looks great on the frontend, but ignores all of the backend urls that were previously driving search traffic to your site.

Quick action item: Cruise back over to Google Search Console. Take a look at the Crawl Errors reported on the dashboard. Are there any urls “not found?” If so, you’ll need to redirect incoming traffic from that link to a live page. These are technically known as 301 redirects. You can easily do this on WordPress by downloading a 301 redirect plugin and start inputting your 404 error links into the plugin, and redirecting to the right place. Warning: this activity is not fun, but totally necessary to keep the good graces with Google.

6. Improve Local Directory Info

If you’re a local business, the thing that matters to you most is getting visibility on search result pages for local searches. In other words, you want to appear on Google maps. The best way to do this is to ensure your business information – address, phone number, website – is consistent on all the local directories that exist on the internet. Google and Facebook are most important to have consistent, as well as your website. But after that, there’s a long list of other directories you can get listed on that will help improve your overall visibility.

Quick action item: Go to Moz.com/local. Type in your business name and zip code. See what score your business is assigned. If your score is pretty low, pay the $99 annually to make sure your score improves.

Hopefully after reading this you feel like this!


Brett Farmiloe
Founder & CEO, Markitors 

Brett Farmiloe is the CEO of a digital marketing company and advisor to an organizational leadership degree program. He’s in Old Town Scottsdale and frequently holds whiteboard sessions with anyone who will listen.

 

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The Best Recruiter You Aren’t Using Yet

What role does your website play in the business? Certainly it’s likely to be part of the sales team, PR team, marketing or even customer service team. But, what about having it help with finding great people to fill your open positions (a.k.a recruiting and hiring)?

And from the looks of it, hiring is a real challenge for the industry. A recent construction organization survey found found that 82 percent of its members believe the cost and availability of labor are their biggest issues. This has been a growing concern, in 2011 only 13 percent named labor costs as their biggest concern. Last month, they posted an article discussing construction job openings being near a post-recession high. Even the Wall Street Journal has mentioned that “construction is ground zero in the worker shortage.”

Where do you think one of the first searches job candidates do to find a new position? Yep, Google. Are your open positions showing up there? If not, your website needs some help. Here are three steps to filling positions faster using your website:

1) Evaluate the website from a potential employees’ view point

Chances are, up until now, the website has been focused on prospective clients. Now that you want to use your website as an effective recruiting tool, you’ll need to make a great first impression with candidates. Here’s a few items that typically need to be updated:

Home page - Include photos of people that actually work at the company on the home page. Potential candidates begin to evaluate the possible fit of the company even before they get to the “Careers” section.

About page - Besides the standard bio info and company awards, be sure to have information here that talks about your company culture and values. Not only is this great for potential employees, it can also help with attracting the right clients.

Careers page - This is a page you might need to add to the website. If it does already exist, ensure it has updated information on benefits and other perks of being an employee. Having real employee testimonials on this page can also aid in attracting the best-fit candidates.

An internal review is good, but don’t underestimate the value of direct feedback from candidates. If you’ve recently hired someone new, reach out and ask a few questions about how they found your website and their impression of it.

2) Give the website a technical checkup

Making a great first impression with your content is fantastic, as long as you get the chance to make the right first impression. Your next best employee might be trying to check out an open position with your company from their phone while they are waiting their turn at the dentist. Make sure he/she can get to the information they need by checking the technical performance of your website.

Does your site load on mobile in under three seconds? 
If your web page doesn’t load quickly, mobile users will find somewhere else to go – plus, mobile users are likely to be on slower connections, so every byte counts. To know exactly how quickly your page is loading on a 3G connection, use Google’s Test My Site tool. Another option to check site speed and insights on how to improve site speed is GTMetrix.

Is your site optimized for use on mobile devices?
Let’s say your page is loading quickly but the potential candidates can’t see or access the information. They probably aren’t sticking around to learn more. One way to understand the mobile experience of the website is to use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

3) Optimize your job postings for Google

Wouldn’t it be great if people searching for the kind of jobs you’ve got open could find them easily? It’s now possible for you to structure the information about open positions on your website for ideal placement on Google search results. If you are using a third-party recruiting website like Indeed or LinkedIn, they are already using this approach. But, what if candidates could find the job posting directly on your website just as easily?

To have your jobs appear in Google like the screenshot above, add job posting structured data to your webpage. If you are already working with a search engine marketing professional, they are typically already familiar with this type of structured data (also called schema), and may be able to help you out. If you have a WordPress website, you can use a plugin like Jobs for WordPress to easily add open positions to your website and ensure they contain the structured data for appearing in Google’s Job Search Results.

Websites aren't just for marketing and sales. I think often as marketers, we tend to get caught up in how to best serve prospective clients online (a.k.a. lead generation). As it turns out, considering other audiences of the website presents an opportunity to increase the overall contribution of the website to the business and its potential return on investment.

Websites are unique in that they can improve many aspects of the business, not just those that are customer-related. Once you’ve added recruiting to the ways that the website is serving the business, you can identify other possible roles for your website by looking at your analytics and talking to other departments about the use of the website in common company workflows.

 

Brandy Lawson
CEO,Chief Online Officer & Speaker - FieryFX

Brandy Lawson founded FieryFX six years ago and is a Digital Marketer Certified Partner with more than two decades of experience in business and technology. She helps clients with simple, innovative automations, create an irresistible online presence and secure their digital assets to get them the RIGHT clients, more money and more freedom. In her free time she captains her boat on Lake Pleasant and co-hosts the Northwest Valley WordPress Meetup. She also loves ridiculous shoes and Jeopardy.

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Part 2 - Creating Context: Combining messaging and visuals to drive marketing success

As we discussed in Part 1: Hierarchy and Contrast: Understanding the foundation of graphic design achieve visual goals, effective imagery is not just pretty: It ties into messaging and drives business goals and results.

As a marketer in a world where visual communication is becoming increasingly important, you must be able to identify which images are pretty but pointless and which images are engaging, useful and will drive business goals.

We established in Part 1 that the quickest way to do this is to understand the foundation upon which design is built: hierarchy and contrast. In Part 2, we will go a step further and demonstrate how effective imagery and messaging unite to create context.

Why is context necessary?

We’ve all heard that content is king. It’s not. Content is just information. It’s conveying the who, what, when and where. Context is the real king. It answers the question, “Why do I care?” and invites people to experience the product or service in their own lives.

As an example, content is the information a company includes in a press release. Context is the article that comes out in the newspaper after a journalist has spent hours putting the information into perspective. As such, content is the image and the wording of the post. Context is what makes someone click the link.

Here’s an example:

We’ve all had that post with a “great graphic” that got a TON of likes and comments. We felt really good about it and that maybe, just maybe, we’ve found the secret sauce to cracking social media engagement.We were excited to see what would happen… except nothing did. We didn’t get any clicks or any calls. Just a bunch of thumbs up which made us feel like a big thumbs down.

Why did this happen? Content instead of context. You had an awesome image, but people didn’t bother to discover who created it or take the next step to learn about the product or service.  Here’s a fantastic post that illustrates what I’m talking about:

It’s funny and gets the point across very clearly.

However, of the 14 people that liked it, only 2 were not in the same industry as the poster (proofreaders, educators, etc.) and the three comments were all lamenting how frustrating affect/effect is to master. The post got people engaged and talking, which is great, but I bet it didn’t drive any revenue to the poster because it didn’t have any context. That is, it lacked two things:

  1. Branding
  2. Direction for what the viewer is supposed to do with the information presented.

Therefore, it got engagement from the wrong audience (i.e., nonrevenue generating) and probably didn’t drive any business goals. So, how do you overcome this? How do you create messaging and imagery that play nicely together and drive business goals? You got it: Context!

How do you create context?

There are four main principles you must keep in mind when creating context between messaging and imagery:

1. Proximity – How close or far away something is from something else tells you whether that something stands alone or is part of a group. This post does a good job with proximity by using the downward pointing emoji. Look at the difference between these two:

      

It’s a small thing, yet the difference in shape and color brings your eye up to the word  “Helpful,” which you may not have read in the first picture.

2. Similarity in our Part 1 discussion about shape, we said combining hard edges with round creates contrast between the shapes, while repetition of the same type of shape creates cohesion, or similarity. Just like contrast is the principle that determines what stands out, similarity is the principle that helps determine and establish patterns, groups, and brands.

        

3. Rule of Thirds The rule of thirds divides a photo into 9 equal rectangles with focal points at each of the four intersections. When we see a photo that is visually interesting, it almost always employs some variation of the rule of thirds. Our eyes are drawn to one of the four focal points because that is where the most visual interest lies. For more information click here.


Image by Prem Anandh

This principle is used in all layouts, not just photography, and is called composition.

  

A special emphasis is placed on the bottom right focal point – known as the power corner. Because we read left to right and end at the bottom of a page, it is the very last place we look. This is why many of the most effective CTA buttons are on the right of (or span) a page rather than in the center, and also why logos or web addresses are often placed at the bottom right of a page.

    
If you’d like to learn more about the Rule of Thirds, check out this fantastic article from PhotpgraphyMad.com

4. Continuation and Leading Lines – In the same way our eyes are naturally drawn to focal points, the power of leading lines cannot be overstated. Leading lines are exactly what they sound like: lines that lead the eye toward or away from a particular thing. They can be actual lines placed on the thirds of a photo or diagonal lines cutting across the page and they can change the focal point of a composition significantly. For instance, review the two images below:

    

Do you notice how you’re your natural inclination is to “look back at,” i.e., into the eyes of the model on the right, while you notice the AIRFRANCE branding more on the left? This is because the effective use of leading lines employs the principle of continuation to take the viewer’s eye through the photo or composition to land on (or point to) the predetermined spot the composer has chosen. In the above example, the use of the pink diagonal line and the little plane icon serve to make sure your eye continues on and up to AIRFRANCE, while the strong horizontal and vertical lines and the use of the upper left focal point makes you stop at the model’s eyes in the photo on the right.

Let’s revisit our original post example and compare it to one who effectively uses the above principles:

     

As you can see, combining all the information into a single image (proximity), adding repetitive color (similarity), and creating hierarchy through the rule of thirds and leading lines makes for a very clearly branded and engaging post that provides the necessary context for the viewer to understand what to do with the information presented and drives business goals.

This goes to show that by employing these rules, you can create beautiful imagery that is also purposeful. Understanding composition and creating context can help you move beyond content and take your business to the next level by increasing the quality of communication you have with your designer, increasing the effectiveness of your use of creator apps like Canva and Adobe Spark, and skyrocketing your marketing effectiveness to drive business goals.


Jennie Jerome
CEO, The Strategic Artisan

Jennie Jerome is widely recognized as an emerging business development leader dedicated to crafting memorable brand identity systems throughout the world. She has been the CEO of The Strategic Artisan for the past eight years and has been in her industry for 11 years. She currently serves as Adjunct Faculty for both the Business and Graphic Design departments at Scottsdale Community College and is an Associate Professor at the prestigious ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation. Jennie is a national level equestrian and has been to over 50 countries for work and play. As an Arizona native, she tries her best to be overseas during summer. 

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Hierarchy and Contrast: Understanding the foundation of graphic design to achieve visual goals - Part 1

Join us for a two-part series exploring the principles and best practices of creative imagery in marketing effectiveness. The goal of this series is to teach readers how to identify and create imagery that is not just pretty, but effective.

Effective imagery is not just pretty: It ties into messaging and drives business goals and results.

As the world becomes increasingly visual, marketers are relying more and more heavily on either partnerships with graphic designers or the use of graphic design apps such as Canva and SparkPost to create visually pleasing imagery.

Neither approach is better than the other, and both can help you achieve your goals depending on your budget, scope, and time restraints.

But… How do you know if the imagery you create on these apps is effective and not just pretty? How do you know if you hired a designer – someone who will visually communicate what your brand represents and help facilitate sales and growth – or a decorator – someone who will give you a gorgeous image that will just sit there driving no traffic because it doesn’t resonate with your audience?

Simple: You must educate yourself enough to be able to identify which images are pretty but pointless vs. engaging and useful.The quickest way to do this is to understand the foundation upon which design is built: hierarchy and contrast.

Hierarchy is about determining which aspect or information is most important. Contrast is about making sure that point is emphasized and stands out.

DESIGN EXAMPLES - HIERARCHY & CONTRAST 
Poor contrast and the emphasis on “Nicole” crushes the hierarchy of this hero image and almost guarantees no one is going to click the button that says “2016 Collection,” much less read the information below it.

 

Excellent contrast through color and hierarchy through size makes sure you look at the figure, and read the title and supporting information – nothing is left out or gets skipped. See example below:

In marketing, we establish hierarchy by choosing titles and pull quotes. We create contrast to emphasize that hierarchy by making those titles and pull quotes bigger and/or bolder.This encourages people to read and absorb the information.

TEXT EXAMPLES - HIERARCHY  
Good and bad hierarchy applies to large sets of text as well.The example below portrays bad hierarchy with large blocks of text and no clue as to what the reader will learn:

Below is an example of good hierarchy with lots of context clues and easy “skimmability."

Let’s take a closer look into what’s actually happening here. There are three key elements that factor into creating hierarchy and contrast:

  1. Size – In general, we tend to make the things we want to stand out bigger and the less important information smaller.
  2. Color – In general, warm colors inspire us to take action and cool colors inspire us to relax. Restaurants almost always use some element of red or orange in their décor to inspire your appetite, while spas almost always use elements of cool greens and blues to help soothe. 
  3.  Shape – Shape can have profound effects on the success of your design. Combining hard edges with round creates contrast between the shapes, while repetition of the same type of shape crates cohesion.

For more on color theory in marketing, check out this fantastic article from November 2017 in the Huffington Post, Is ‘Color Theory’ An Effective Marketing Tool?

The beauty of working with a designer or apps like Canva and Adobe Spark is that they have already taken these principles into account, so you are almost guaranteed to create a beautiful image. However, as our Nicole example above shows, it is up to you as the marketer to make sure that the hierarchy and contrast are in the appropriate place and on the appropriate element.

We’ll discuss how to do this in depth in part two of our series exploring principles and best practices of creative imagery in marketing effectiveness, Creating Context: Combining messaging and visuals to drive marketing success. Mark your calendar for April 18, 2018!

Sources:
 Is ‘Color Theory’ An Effective Marketing Tool? 
Dealindesign.com 



Jennie Jerome
CEO, The Strategic Artisan

Jennie Jerome is widely recognized as an emerging business development leader dedicated to crafting memorable brand identity systems throughout the world. She has been the CEO of The Strategic Artisan for the past eight years and has been in her industry for 11 years. She currently serves as Adjunct Faculty for both the Business and Graphic Design departments at Scottsdale Community College and is an Associate Professor at the prestigious ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation. Jennie is a national level equestrian and has been to over 50 countries for work and play. As an Arizona native, she tries her best to be overseas during summer. 

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The Power of a Testimonial

The importance of testimonials for your marketing collateral and digital presence

Testimonials should be a priority in your marketing collateral, proposal, conference, presentations, and digital presence. Why? There are few marketing vehicles that are more convincing than a testimonial. If your clients are speaking highly about you or your firm, then you must have something to offer.

Testimonials in your content is proof

Sujan Patel of Content Marketing Institute states “We look for and act on (even if subconsciously) social proof in all areas our life” – this includes how clients behave when selecting an architect, engineer, or contractor, including how we behave and the purchasing decisions we make online.

“It doesn’t matter if that social proof comes from friends or strangers. What matters is that we’re seeing evidence from our peers – that the decision we’re about to make is the right one” (Patel, 2017).

This same proof applies to the AEC industry. More and more clients are asking for references and evaluation forms on their proposals. Why? Because they want the proof that the company they are choosing is also endorsed by their peers.

As OptinMonster co-founder Syed Balkhi, writes:

“Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people conform to the actions of others under the assumption that those actions are reflective of the correct behavior.”

Another study from Nielsen’s Global AdView Pulse found that the testimonials are the second most trusted form of information about a brand or product, with the most effective being recommendations from people known personally.

Make it easy!

Asking your client for a reference can often feel awkward, uncomfortable and sometimes difficult – especially for technical staff who are often introverts. As a marketer, make it as painless as possible for your project managers and your clients.

Four things you can do to help make the process simple!

  1. Offer to write the letter/quote for the client to review, revise and approve.
  2. Conduct an interview/survey at the end of the project. Your clients are most excited about your work immediately upon completion. Make use of this time by asking for an interview or to take a quick survey.
  3. Use what people are already saying - People may say nice things and provide feedback through email or even social media. Reach out and get permission to use those nice words as testimonials.
  4. You can hire a third party to get testimonial statements from your clients.

Stay in contact with your references!  

Once you have a testimonial secured, be sure to stay in touch with that client! Not only is that great business practice but it is key to ensuring you always have their updated contact information. It’s also a good idea to receive two testimonials from the same company in case one client retires. Bottom line? If someone needs to verify your reference, they should easily be able to pick up the phone and call your contact.

There are many reasons to use testimonials to position your firm successfully and win your next project. While you pay attention to your entire marketing program, remember to include testimonials as a personal touch to strengthen your marketing strategy!

References:
http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2017/06/strategies-customer-testimonials-content/
https://www.freshbooks.com/blog/5-non-icky-ways-to-ask-for-testimonials

Ampy McIntyre
Chief of COntent, TankGirl Marketing

With more than 15 years in the A/E/C industry, Ampy brings high level proposal and content management to TankGirl Marketing. Ampy has been at TankGirl for almost two years and is the Chief of Content. During her free time, she likes to workout and read about latest trends in home and fashion.

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The Eternal Cheerleader - Why Being the Most Positive Person in the Office Pays off

With a calendar packed to the brim with requests for proposals and qualifications to be updated, how does a marketing pro remain positive and sane with deadlines constantly looming over us? The answer to this question looks different for everyone, but I think there’s common ground we all stand on: a positive approach to work leads to a balanced and productive work life. An uplifted attitude has many benefits, some may not show themselves in daily, tangible ways but the lasting effects of a team player attitude are impactful.

The alternative is an attitude that defaults to panic in the face of a heavy workload. This pattern can quickly breed uncertainty and discomfort in a team. We may have ten deadlines and five days to do them but responding as a victim to our circumstances will only complicate the process of tackling the task at hand. When your workload seems insurmountable, take a moment to check yourself and assess where your priorities need to fall in that situation. Below are some helpful tips to dialing into situations at work that have us reaching for a piping hot cup of negativity.

Is this task a huge problem or several, manageable problems? By breaking your mountains into hills, you afford yourself a greater number of success opportunities. The productivity experts at Trello write, “When we experience even small amounts of success, our brains release dopamine, which is connected to feelings of pleasure, learning and motivation.” Therefore, by boiling our problems into smaller, strategic items we increase our levels of dopamine thus improving our mood, attitude, and ultimately our environment.

Everyone deserves a win - Comradery in the workplace is an honorable goal, but when achieved and continued through bonding over common gripes and dislikes, comradery can become a feeding ground for poor attitudes. Be the change! Become the catalyst of change for negative groupthink and establish yourself as the flagpole to which your teammates can stand under and know they’ll feel encouraged and uplifted in times of shaky circumstances. Everyone deserves a win; be the beacon of light, be the spokesperson of positivity, be the cheerleader.

Dude, it’s ALL about Perspective - It takes everyone from the c-suite executive to the big idea designer to the copy writer to land a job. When we step back from the unnerving intricacies of what our roles as marketers are and embrace the truth that we are an integral part of the pie, no matter what size, we gain the pride of being a part of the team. Perspective breeds positivity.

Ask for help - Set an internal threshold meter of how much work you can comfortably manage that allows you ample time for creativity but also challenges your limits. Then, express that to your manager. A manager or boss who truly advocates for you will appreciate your honesty and go to bat for you and your abilities. Waiting until you are in panic mode to raise the white flag opens the door for mistakes heightened by stress, unclear thinking, and resentment. A clear set of expectations opens the door for positive motives to fuel you.

The goal to generate a more positive approach to work is achieved in slow progression, it is built upon tiny tweaks in the way we think, communicate, process, and interact. Take your time, check in with yourself and your superiors throughout the process, and you will slowly reveal to those around you the life-changing true of a positive attitude.

 
Michelle Harrison
Senior Marketing Coordinator, SmithGroupJJR

Michelle has been in the industry for the past four years as a Senior Marketing Coordinator at SmithGroupJJR. Although not currently a SMPS member, this is Michelle’s second guest blog post for our chapter! In her free time she enjoys road tripping and camping with her adventure cat, Mango.

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Getting Back Into Routine

Summer time is coming to an end, which means vacations and weekends by the pool are also coming to an end. What is the hardest part about vacation? Coming back to work and getting re-energized to get everything done!

If you think about it, coming back from a vacation is similar to getting back to your daily tasks after working hard on a proposal. When you have a proposal due you get into “DEAWOP mode:” Drop everything and work on proposal mode. The first day of a vacation gives you a similar feeling as when you submit a proposal – the feeling of RELIEF!  But then, how do you learn to get re-focused, re-energized and NOT have a panic attack the day you come back to work after working for days or weeks on a proposal or coming back from a vacation?

It is not summer time if we are not by the pool at least once. We lounge and float around trying to clear our mind, and we might for a minute, but then we are back to worrying about all of the errands we need to run, picking up the house, and all the work we still have to catch back up on. Even when we are supposed to be unplugged, we stay plugged in. There are times during a proposal where we may start floating around, waiting for content that is due. We can be in a standstill but we don’t want to get out in case we get dragged into or distracted by something else and lose our focus. Starting to see how our vacation and proposal time can actually be similar? Weird, right?

During proposals, we may get a little excited, and gear up and be ready to go, but by submittal time we are mentally and physically drained. From the networking, to producing the proposal, to a possible interview – we are just ready to go home by the end. This is not always possible when we have been pushing everything else off to the side to get a proposal out the door, but we are not always the most motivated to get back into the routine of things either.

It is time to re-energize and refocus – just like you have to do when you get back from vacation. Start by revisiting your to-do list, if you don’t have one, start one to keep you on track! To-do lists are a great way to look back at what you have lost sight of. I use Microsoft One Note and highly recommend it. Actually, I don’t know how you are surviving if you’re not using it! Some items on your list may have moved around since you last looked at it, so make sure everything is prioritized appropriately. We tend to look back at our lists and think some of those items are not so critical since they have not been needed while we have been on the proposal, but this is not true. Get back to focusing on the tasks that have been pushed off.
Here are a few other tools/tips to help you get back on track and stay organized:

  •  Evernote – Get organized and take notes, another great tool similar to One Note.

  • Quotes App – Daily motivational quotes!

  • Use your outlook calendar for more than just external and internal meetings. Do you need at least 15 minutes a day to walk around/stretch? Or maybe you need 30 minutes to just focus on your emails so you can get some responses out and get back to work. Whatever it is – BOOK IT IN YOUR CALENDAR. This will help you immensely.

  • Create ONE to-do list. All of your tasks that need to be completed should be found in ONE central location.

  • Celebrate your wins! Acknowledge the small wins and the big ones. This will help keep you motivated and energized!

  • Take one day at a time – you can do this! 

  • Schedule Meetings! While you worked on a proposal or were out of town, you probably cancelled or declined a few meetings. Take a look back at your calendar and reschedule those meetings. Meetings are another great way to refocus on important tasks, and it can refresh your mind after being out of it for so long. Meetings usually end with a few action items too, so you will have something to jump into.

  • Lastly, attend a networking event.  It is a nice break from our desk and there is always an opportunity to be made! Events are usually enjoyable while still being work related! I have also found that I usually come back inspired from events, or ready to share new information with my team.

 

Whether you are “getting back” from vacation or a proposal, taking these steps can help you gradually get back into routine. Catch your breath, but don’t fall behind, and take action. Revisit your to-do list, schedule a meeting and attend an organization event. Ready, set go!

 
Christina Rice
Marketing Assistant, Gannett Fleming, Inc. 

Christina has been in the A/E/C industry for almost two years and an active SMPS member for almost three. Christina was part of the SMPS Mentorship program during the 2016-2017 SMPS year and enjoyed learning from top professionals in our industry. In her free time, Christina enjoys being with her family. They get together about five nights out of the week to either have dinner, play games or even go camping; whatever they do they have fun! 

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