20 04, 2016

GUEST POST | LAZY GUIDE TO BETTER PRODUCT DESCRIPTIONS

By |April 20th, 2016|0 Comments|

Excellent product descriptions and sales copy can really enhance or hurt a product line.  Guest blogger, Megan Brame, an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of the Stop Sucking at Business podcast is here to offer tips for improving your copy!


I think when I say “copywriting” most people’s eyes gloss over with the assumption I’m about to be the most boring person in the world or they think I’m trying to trademark something.

  1. I know nada about legal stuff (you’re thinking of copyrights, not copywriting)
  2. I’m downright delightful, okay? Not boring

Let me start with: I am not a copywriter. My background was Social Sciences before I became an entrepreneur, my grammar is B+ at best, and I will defend to the death my right to use the Oxford comma. I’m not a persuasive copy superstar, I’m simply a woman that ran a business with a $0 budget for advertising. I bootstrapped my business with nothing more than cash from craft shows, wholesale, and the occasional infusion from my American Express. There was barely a budget for packaging, nevermind advertising.

So to get the word out, I had to be clever with what I had: a passion for my brand and a desire to get my products into the hands of as many people as possible. So I tried everything I could to figure out how to write crazy-good product descriptions to help me get ahead. I figured if I made it easy for my intended audience (sometimes customers, sometimes beauty editors, and once in awhile an award jury) to “get” my message, they would GET my products.

I learned how to do this so well, in fact, that I beat ginormous companies at trade shows; companies that were so much better than I was in profitability and schmoozing. I beat all of those B’s repeatedly because I knew how to talk the talk that made people pay attention.

But here’s the secret: I am lazy. Like, REALLY lazy. I get bouts of drive and motivation when it comes to product creation and big ideas, but when it came to nitty gritty details like product descriptions, I’d procrastinate and put it off as long as I could. It just felt like a whole thing, you know? So instead of researching proper copy techniques or hiring a pro, I did things my own way… and found out, weirdly enough, it worked.

Okay, so what is “my way?” I can certainly drone on, can’t I? Sorry, let’s get down to it:

The basic concept behind good product descriptions is knowing the language of your audience, and having a conversation with them. You do this by telling them what’s in it for them if they buy your product. You may have heard the phrase “features and benefits” if you’ve done any sort of business class before. “Features tell, benefits sell.” Sounds simple, but it can be hard to distinguish it in the beginning of trying to buff up your copy muscle. So here’s how it works:

My industry was skincare and home fragrance. So for my soaps, a feature would’ve been that they’re organic. And organic is great, but so what? Okay, well, they were also vegan. Okay…so what? Um, well, they…uh…clean…you?

2 of those were features, 1 was a crappy sounding benefit. Do you see the difference? Features tell bullets (organic, vegan), benefits sell what’s in it for the customer (the soaps will clean you).

When writing product descriptions that will sell, you need to craft a story in your copy that turns “okay, so what?” into “I needed this, like, yesterday.” Well crafted copy illuminates senses in your customer and invokes their imagination. It creates a story that involves your customer in the journey and conveys the passion that you have for your brand. It doesn’t yell things at them “Organic! Vegan! BUY!” instead it artfully turns the description into an irresistible urge in their brain that makes them need to buy right now.

So back to the lazy way I did things: I would do what I called “passion brain dumps” which essentially was throwing up everything I could think of about my products onto a google doc and then hacking it down into something that didn’t sound insane. It was mostly features, though. Crap. That’s not going to help anyone! So I began to figure out how to twist the features, just a little, and turn them into benefits.

So back to organic and vegan (and if you’re a soapmaker reading this, enjoy the free copy). What’s in it for the customer? Well…maybe something like:

The artisan soaps are made with oils that are sourced from small, certified organic farms around the world and are carefully crafted to ensure that all ingredients are not only organic, but vegan as well, so that you’re able to feel good about the choices you’ve made in your skincare, from farm to shower!

“Organic” and “vegan” went from bullet points to components of an experience. It may feel a little hokey in the beginning, but this is what gets the attention of customers (and juries). Instead of just listing the features of my soap, I created a little imagination game that involved: being in the shower, knowing that you’re using a soap with ingredients that are high quality and sustainable, and that made you feel good…and clean!

Let’s try it with a knitted sweater, but let me preface this with: this is not my wheelhouse, so if I get the nitty gritty wrong, I am so sorry.

The sweater is made from 100% wool and hand dyed by the sheep herder (Shepherd, I guess. Right? Again, sorry…).

Okay, nice to know. But where’s the story? What’s in it for the customer?

Howzabout instead something like:

This 100% wool sweater is perfect for snuggling up on the sofa after a day out in the harsh winter wind. Snuggling up in its warm, soft threads is an experience in itself, but look closer. Upon further inspection you’ll begin to admire the small color variations in the wool. These variations are a signature of the process that stems from the dye used by the shepherd we’ve sourced from, the nature of which give the spectrum of color palette in the wool a sense of depth and complexity that can’t be found in synthetic fibers. It’s in these small details that make this sweater impossible to replicate, as each one is one of a kind.

In that paragraph I’ve let the customer know it’s 100% wool, it’s hand dyed, and we’ve sourced it from 1 shepherd, but I’ve also invoked the idea of cuddling up with it to get away from crappy weather, and taught them that there’s a way to appreciate the special aspect of having something hand dyed and not synthetically made. I’ve created a story that put them in that awesome sweater and made it feel like a special experience.

Sometimes copy can be so good that you don’t even need amazing imagery. Case in point: Ever heard of J. Peterman (Seinfeld fans: holla if you hear me)? They’re a chichi clothing company that for years never used photographs of the clothes. Instead they used sketches (If you hit up their website, you’ll see they still use sketches as the featured image for each product) and they blew everyone away. They were known for their copy as much as they were for their clothes, and they drove their customers buh. nan. nas. (in a good way.) You have the ability to do the same.

You don’t need crazy budgets for ad spend, you don’t need to schmooze, and you don’t need to be huge to stand out. Learning the simple method of turning features into benefits can set you ahead and is the exact method I used to get the attention of over 100 editors and 5 award juries.

That’s just a quick run over of how to hack your way to better copy. If you’re not telling a story and just using bullet points, you’re missing a huge opportunity for creating desire from your visitors.

Last thing! To thank you for making it down this far, I made a workbook just for you guys that helps knock out this process (and it’s totally free). You can download the Lazy Guide to Better Product Descriptions here.


Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 9.02.39 PMMegan Brame is an award-winning entrepreneur who now spends her time teaching others how to hack their way to business success via her blog and podcast, Stop Sucking at Business. You can reach her on Twitter @meganpluscoffee

 

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18 02, 2016

Guest Post | Digital vs Offset Printing

By |February 18th, 2016|0 Comments|

DeFrance Printing

Offset Printing

CMYK Color

The majority of you are working in full color. CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and blacK) is a 4-color combination process that allows you to run full color products. This method is used for anything that is not in solid color, such as designs that feature a painted style, any photo-style images, or typically any detailed “scenes” in general. Its greatest advantage is its ability to print any combination of full color designs on the same press sheet, utilizing the same wide color gamut.

Offset printing in CMYK color requires all files to be prepared and provided in CMYK color (no PMS colors).

 

Pantone (PMS) Spot Color

PMS spot colors are single colors printed as a solid layer (rather than combining CMYK together on a page). For this reason, they are typically richer in color. With proper planning, you can save money by simultaneously running multiple designs that share the same 1-3 spot colors. Printing in spot color is also generally less expensive than in CMYK, as you are most often only using 1 or 2 PMS colors, instead of combining 4.

Offset printing PMS spot colors requires similar color separation (and file preparation) as letterpress, in the way that each solid color runs (and is charged) separately. All files must be provided in PMS colors (no CMYK).

 

Offset Pros

  • Consistent and repeatable color
  • Lower per piece price for large runs:
  • 1,000+ per design recommended when ordering 4 or more designs in CMYK
  • 500+ per design recommended when ordering 4 or more designs in Pantone Colors
  • Prints on wide selection of smooth, textured, and coated papers, including paper weights up to 165# Cover (24 point)
  • Precise image registration
  • Easy “match-proof” available by mail or in-person for approving color

 

Offset Cons

  • Requires precise file preparation for color accuracy (very important)
  • Higher per piece price for short runs
  • Longer production time than digital printing
  • Must be present (in-person) at the time of printing to view an on-press proof

 

Digital Printing

Digital printing exclusively prints in CMYK or black-only. Colors are vibrant, and digital print methods add an increased level of durability to an image when printing on uncoated paper. Digital printing is fast and flexible, and is therefore a great way to grow your business and test new designs before committing to a large or expensive print run.

Unlike the precise nature of offset, digital printing is more forgiving in terms of file preparation—while it is always better to provide CMYK color files for accuracy, files will still print in most cases if requirements were not met.

Pros

  • Precise file preparation is not as critical as in offset printing (great for beginners)
  • Lower per piece price for short – midsized runs:
  •             – 200+ per design recommended when ordering 3 or more designs
  • Shorter production time than offset printing
  • Easy hard copy press proof available by mail or in-person for approving color

 

Cons

  • Color may vary between print runs (especially pale/pastels or those using screens)
  • Higher per piece price for large runs
  • Paper options limited to approved digital sheets with smoother finishes and limited paper weights of up to 110# Cover on uncoated papers and 130# Cover on select gloss sheets.
  • Due to increased ink rigidity, heavy coverage can crack when scored, die cut, or embossed
  • Image registration can move within a print run

 

So what’s best for you?

As you build a relationship with your printer, they will better understand your priorities and can make recommendations accordingly, but the final choice is always yours. Consider your product requirements, your sales, your budget, and your inventory/storage capacity—if your first choice is currently beyond your means, there are often alternate options that can help your business grow to where you want it to be. Speak with your sales rep about press capabilities and combining print methods for additional cost benefit.

 

Thanks for this piece, Ronnie!

Ronnie from DeFrance Printing
Ronnie Williams is the General Manager of DeFrance Printing, Your printing and fulfillment partner since 1893.  We expertly blend print methods like letterpress, offset, digital, foil stamping and embossing with professional assembly and fulfillment.  
See what they’re up to here:

 

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18 01, 2016

GUEST POST | WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT 1099S

By |January 18th, 2016|0 Comments|

Hayley Tumanjan of Tumanjan & Co. is our go-to girl for all information about accounting.  As January draws to a close, Hayley has some very important information about 1099s.  In her article she’ll cover what you need to do to comply with the IRS, what types of individuals require a 1099, and more.  Take note: these are due February 1st, so don’t delay in getting any applicable ones completed!

What You Need to Know About 1099s

By Hayley Tumanjan

The IRS has gotten particularly detailed and drawn a hard line for collecting information on cash flows.  They want to see what is going out of your business, and who you are paying.  In general, it helps them track down what may otherwise be unreported income.

You likely make payments in your business daily.  Many of these payments create a reporting requirement for you, on form 1099-MISC, which you may already be familiar with.

The easy fix:

  1. Add all payments made in the normal course of your business to any party that is not incorporated, sort them by payee.  This may be your rent payments, product photographers, videographers, virtual assistants, graphic designers, accountants, lawyers, and more.  It tends to be the contractors and service personnel in your business that are not your employees.
  2. For all parties that you paid a total of $600 or more during 2015, you must issue a 1099-MISC.
    • Very important: If any of the aforementioned amounts were paid through PayPal or a similar service, those amounts may be excluded from the 1099-MISC because the service (PayPal) is responsible for reporting any payments made in your business of $600 or more to one party.  Be sure to check the FAQ of your payment services website or call to make sure they are responsible for reporting your payments, and to be sure you’ve covered any and all payments between the payment service and any payments  you made in another way.  This type of reporting on their part would require them to know you are business, so have your accountant review all to be sure you’re covered.
  1. Remember that this form needs to both be e-filed with the IRS, and a paper/pdf copy must be provided to the payee (or the contractor/freelancer you hired)

To read up on the IRS requirements, dig deeper here: https://www.irs.gov/instructions/i1099msc/ar02.html

As always, tax and professional advice is always better when tailored to your situation, please make sure you’ve consulted with your CPA.  We would love to be that resource for you, and love getting calls from TSBC Alums. Feel free to reach out to us.

Hayley Tumanjan

 

Thanks for sharing this super helpful information, Hayley!

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7 12, 2015

GUEST POST | HOSTING A POP-UP SHOP WITH MADEWELL

By |December 7th, 2015|0 Comments|

At TSBC we love hearing success stories from our alumni and getting behind the scenes looks at fun collaborations and unique experiences.  Today Jessica Bates, founder of Jack + Ella Paper is here with us to share her amazing story about hosting a Madewell pop-up shop.  Jack + Ella is an eco-concious stationery brand based in Wisconsin, and Jessica is sharing her experience collaborating with a local branch of Madewell.  Jessica shares how the event came to be, as well as all the details required by both the local and corporate Madewell offices in order to participate.  Read on to learn Jessica’s main takeaways from the event, and to see photos of her beautiful display.

Hosting a Pop-Up Shop with Madewell

I recently co-hosted an event at a local Madewell store, otherwise known as a ‘pop-up shop’ and wanted to share the experience. It seems as though local pop-ups are a regular thing in my Instagram feed lately. West Elm and Madewell in particular. In my opinion it gives these national chain retailers a ‘local supportive vibe’ and they seem to be well received.

In my case, I was approached by the store to participate. {Long story} When I was at a local Apple store, a woman came up to me and asked me if I knew that a Madewell was opening over the summer (sounds odd, but I was dressed head-to-toe in Madewell…it’s one of my favorite brands). Turns out that she was in town hiring/interviewing for the new store. After she asked if I was interested in working there, I politely declined. She then asked if I’d be interested in just helping to open the store. Given a 2 week employee discount, I said absolutely.

When exchanging emails with the hiring details, she visited my shop website (from the link on my email signature) and at that point mentioned the possibility of doing a pop up event after the store opened.

Fast forward to the opening, the store managers I worked with were a fabulous bunch of women and the atmosphere was upbeat and fun. They persuaded me to stay on staff for a monthly shift for rolling out new product.

jack and ella madewell pop up shop

I worked with the store’s Event Coordinator to narrow down the details for the pop up. It is necessary for her to send corporate all the details of the event for approval.

These details included:

  • My website/blog info/bio
  • Pictures of product that I would have at the event
  • My social media handles, as well as the number of followers I have…at the time, my IG were under 1,000. I’m certain they would prefer an impressive amount of followers in order to help promote the event, but it was nice to know that my low numbers didn’t seem to matter.  
  • An anticipated number of guests and event revenue volume, along with budget for the evening. This particular store does a nice job of utilizing local bakeries and such for the eats (mini pie bites!).
  • Date & time (late November)
  • Promo info for guests (typically 20% off $125+)
  • Invite count (top 150 + new clients plus social media posts)
  • Theme for the event. In my case, the event emphasized a new holiday collection for the store and my holiday cards were to inspire shoppers to get a jump start on family holiday photos with flannels & sweaters from the new collection.

Madewell gave me the option to have a ‘closed or open’ event. A closed event would be an invite-only evening (these can be held when the store is opened or closed) and guests are offered a discount on their Madewell purchase. The other option is to open it to the public. Personally, I wanted as many people to come as possible and we went the public route.

The Event Coordinator takes care of all the organizing, corporate approvals, menu and invitations. The store encourages you to spread the information for the event heavily on your social media accounts and they do the same. The mall that the store is located at also did a nice job of promoting it.  Here’s a copy of the event invite that was distributed:

jack and ella madewell pop up invitiation

I was responsible for bringing in my product, having a portable payment system (I used a free app that works with Stripe, my website credit card processor, with no issues), and setting up the display. This particular store had perfect displays for my products that they let me use. This helped tremendously as it was less to haul in and out for set up. I also made giveaway items to hand out that evening. The store didn’t request it, but I’ve seen some pretty impressive giveaway items done before and think it adds a nice touch. Being the holiday season, I made sets of gift tags.

jack and ella madewell pop up gift tags

The event was successful. The store met their anticipated event volume (they mentioned it made more than any event yet for the store! to date!). It was a Thursday evening and I was hoping the turnout wouldn’t be a disappointment. The traffic ended up being steady throughout the night and never overwhelming. If I were to do it again, I may prefer a weekend with a little more foot traffic. While I did see a lot of familiar faces come in, I did have several transactions from new customers and sold more than I anticipated. I also had the mall events coordinator inquire about doing a show early next year.

The main takeaway from my experience is that these stores are actually seeking out local makers and bloggers to participate in these events. Rather than turning people away, this particular store is trying to host two of these type of events each month and is searching out creatives through Instagram and other channels to find them. If this is something that you thought may have been out of reach, think again and it’s great publicity for a small business!

jack and ella pop up display

jack and ella close up pop up at madewell

 

Thanks so much for sharing, Jessica!

Are you a TSBC alumn with a fun collaboration experience?  Email katie@tradeshowcamp.com to share you story.

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23 10, 2015

GUEST POST | FORMATTING YOUR FILES FOR PRINTING

By |October 23rd, 2015|0 Comments|

DeFrance Printing

DeFrance Printing, a longtime Paper Camp partner, is a favorite go-to printing resource for stationery, catalogs, and more.  We asked Ronnie Williams to join us today to share the best ways to make sure your files are ready for printing.  When you outsource your printing, it’s important to follow these guidelines to achieve the best results.

File Preparation Tips

Following these file preparation steps can improve the quality of your work, streamline the file submission process, and save you time and money on your print orders.

pdf icon

Recommended File Formats

-Flattened PDF: Profile PDF/X-1a

Properly prepared PDFs maintain your color profile, and are classified as “press-ready.” Most printers will also accept InDesign, Illustrator, Word, and even Publisher files, but additional costs and mistakes can occur whenever someone is preparing your files.  

file sizes

File Size

-Submit artwork to final trim

(See Bleed for specifications)

-Do not include crop marks

Sending your PDF in the actual file size ensures the final product is trimmed and finished correctly to your specifications. When printing with a bleed (see bleed specifications below), you should export your file utilizing the document set up bleed setting, rather than manually adding it to the final file size.

bleed vs no bleed

Bleed

-1/8″ (.125)

Whenever your artwork flows off the end of the page you need to add a 1/8” (.125”) bleed. This covers any natural paper movement on press or in the trimming process, and prevents cut-offs that can leave you with unintended white borders.

example of resolution

Resolution

 -300 dpi or higher

Images lower than 300dpi can create a less than desired print quality, even if it looks good on your computer screen.  Low resolution files will look pixilated or blurry in print. Image size is particularly important when printing large-format products such as banner, posters, or displays.

font example

Fonts

 -Outline all fonts

Outlining fonts is a step that is commonly overlooked. Make sure to outline your text to prevent any text re-flow or font substitution. Alternately, you can provide a “press-ready” PDF with embedded fonts (embedded automatically within the X-1a settings).

color selection

Color

-Always use either CMYK or Pantone “Spot” Colors

-Convert all RGB photos and imagery to CMYK

Color is a very important part of your project, and ensuring all of your artwork is converted correctly saves time, money, and mistakes.

 

Files that are prepared correctly will produce more accurate color, eliminate missing fonts or images, and improve decrease your production time. Over all, proper file preparation allows you to create quality and consistent product at a reasonable price.  

Ronnie Williams headshot

 

You can find Ronnie and DeFrance Printing at these sites:

Instagram.com/defranceprint

Facebook.com/DeFrancePrint

 

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21 10, 2015

GUEST POST | ESTIMATED TAXES: THE WHO, THE WHAT, THE WHEN

By |October 21st, 2015|0 Comments|

At Business Camp this year, we were blown away by the knowledge of speaker Hayley Tumanjan regarding all things tax-related so, of course, we invited her here to share more.  Today Hayley and her partner, Maria Tumanjan, are sharing all the details about estimated taxes – super important for all business owners to know.  Read on to learn who these taxes apply to, what they are, and when you need to file.

Estimated Taxes: The Who, What, and When

By Hayley Tumanjan & Maria Tumanjan

Contrary to popular belief, paying estimated taxes is not optional for business owners, and filing them incorrectly can cost you. Our discussion below will give you a general overview of estimated taxes for small business owners, and a Tax Fix to help you deal with them in a painless way.  

The Who

First, let’s determine if you are required to pay estimated taxes.  You need only meet one of the following conditions to have a requirement:

  • you expect to owe $1,000 or more upon filing your return as a small business owner (sole proprietor, part of a partnership, or party to an s-corp)
  • you expect to owe $500 or more upon filing your return as a C-Corporation

A good indicator is last year’s tax return.  Have a look at what was owed when your taxes were completed, and also think through how your business income has changed in the current year.

You do NOT have to pay estimated taxes if all three of the following conditions are met:  

  1. You did not owe any taxes in the prior year and
  2. you were a US Citizen or a resident alien for that entire “previous year”, and
  3. your 2014 taxes covered a 12 month period.

We found Figure 2-A from IRS’ Publication 505 (2015) Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax to be very helpful in understanding if you will need to pay estimated tax.

Please take a look at https://www.irs.gov/publications/p505 and see below.

.

Pub 505 tax withholding

 

The What

You can think of estimated taxes as the amount of money that would normally be withheld from your paycheck by an employer.  Estimated taxes are the income and self-employment taxes you would normally pay when you file your annual tax return, calculated for a shorter period:  a quarter of the year.  For example, the first quarterly payment is due on April 15th of the current tax year.  The April 15th payment is based on the results of your company’s operations from January 1st until March 31st.   This is a good time to think about changes in the growth of your business, and adjust for that in your payments.).

 

The When

If you fall within the threshold above, you will need to make quarterly tax payments to the IRS on or before the following dates:

April 15th

June 15th

September 15th

January 15th (Next Year)

 

Your Tax Fix

The easy way to keep on top of your estimated taxes, as a small business owner, is to save a portion of all income in a separate account.  We often advise clients to take a look at last year’s tax return, and find a % of total income that would cover their tax liability and some.  Throughout the year, each time you collect from a customer, or reconcile your monthly bank activity you should make a corresponding transfer from your main account to a savings that will pay your estimates.  You might worry about how this cuts into your working capital throughout the year. It’s best to discuss your thoughts with a CPA, and find a strategy that makes the most sense.

These tips are great for any business, and you may find them to work for you.  If you find yourself with a specific question, give us a call.  We are happy to discuss and help you find a process that works best for you and your business.  Remember that advice is always better when it’s tailored to fit your individual situation.

Yours Truly,

Hayley Tumanjan & Maria Tumanjan

Tumanjan & Co.

 

Hayley Tumanjan

Hayley Tumanjan
Maria Tumanjan

Maria Tumanjan

tumanjanandco.com

facebook.com/tumanjanandco

@haytum (insta)

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9 09, 2015

GUEST POST | VICTORIA VENTURI ON PRODUCT DIFFERENTIATION WITH CRAIG HETZER

By |September 9th, 2015|0 Comments|

BusinessCamp_203

//  Update: Business Camp is now available as an on-demand E-course.  Enroll at www.TSBCbizcamp.com //

We asked some of our TSBC alumni who joined us at Business Camp to provide recaps and highlights from some of their favorite conference sessions.  Victoria Venturi, founder of Paper Epiphanies, took away some great ideas from Craig Hetzer’s presentation about product differentiation.

Be DiFfereNt. bE yOU.  A look at Product Differentiation with Craig Hetzer

By Victoria Venturi

A veteran of Knock Knock and Chronicle Books, Craig knows different. Hell, in many cases, he invented it. And over the course of 30 minutes at Tradeshow Bootcamp, he gave his insider tips on how to make your product or business stand out in the market. How to make your brand shine!

To start, Craig says to make sure you can deliver. Before you get your hustle on, make sure your retailers and reps can count on you to not just invent a great product, but to actually make it! Your word is gold and you want to maintain your reputation of delivering when promised.

Next, it is essential to “know your point of difference.”  Craig asks, “What makes your business special? Why is your product unique?” Knowing what you stand for and why only you can offer that unique selling point is key to carving out your own identity in a busy marketplace.

Craig encourages everyone to think about product from multiple different perspectives. Ask questions. Reevaluate. Is this a novelty item or a utility item? If it is novelty, is it smart novelty or a gag gift? What value does the product bring the consumer? Truly seeing your product for what it is and how it will be used can help to streamline development and, ultimately, sales.

When it comes to a good product, “Run with it,” says Craig. Get it to market and capitalize on success fast. Evaluate your product and see if there are ways to expand on that item through line extensions and more. Build a program that plays upon on a successful series and think long term.

Throughout his presentation, Craig continually revisited the idea of inspiration. That it can be found anywhere. Visit stores, travel, read, look, and question. Curiosity can lead to something great.  Look at how products are displayed. Visit stores in any city you’re in and see which competitors, if any, are feature in the store. Do you like the layout? Why? Craig challenges everyone to “become compulsive list makers” and to allow inspiration to come at any moment. Build that list and do not stop. Do not edit yourself. Allow your list to be a stream of consciousness because you never know when you might strike gold.

Take risks. Push yourself and your product in new directions. If you’re bored, chances are your consumers are, too! Try to make things that surprise your customers but don’t confuse them. It is important to remain “on brand” but there are often millions of ideas and products yet to be explored.

The statement of Craig’s that really hit home was to “avoid the naysayer and the yaysayer.” Steer clear of people who are always going to rain on your parade and be a source of negative energy. Ain’t nobody got time for that. On the same note, avoid those who will always tell you things are perfect and never challenge you to grow or see things differently.

Lastly, Craig says, “We need to make time for ideas.” Too often, in the hectic day-to-day schedules and deadlines, ideas are overlooked. It is up to us to schedule time to think of fresh and exciting ways to share our brands with the world. Whether it be off-sites, field trips, group brainstorms, or simple reflection, it is crucial that we all take a step back and tap into our creativity.

Now that you have your roadmap, get out there and make cool shit!

Victoria Venturi headshot

Victoria Venturi, Founder of Paper Epiphanies

About Victoria

Victoria Venturi is the Founder and Creative Director of Paper Epiphanies, a sarcastic stationery company based in Los Angeles. Victoria is passionate about giving a voice to women and created Paper Epiphanies as a way to put all of her sassy thoughts down on paper. Now, stores all across the USA are laughing with her and Paper Epiphanies!

Join the Paper Epiphanies posse here:

Http://www.paperepiphanies.com
Instagram.com/paperepiphanies
Twitter.com/paperepiphanies
Facebook.com/paperepiphanies
Periscope.com/paperepiphanies

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29 08, 2015

GUEST POST | BLOGGING BEST PRACTICES WITH ARIANNE FOULKS

By |August 29th, 2015|1 Comment|

It’s no surprise that at Tradeshow Bootcamp we believe in the value of blogs.  They are a great way to showcase what you do as a business and to reach a wide audience.  Arianne Foulks, the superstar from Aeolidia, is here today sharing her blogging best practices.  We love this post as it’s full of insight and actionable tips.  Thanks so much, Arianne!

do you need a blog

Blogging Is Alive & Well: Here’s How To Take Advantage

By Arianne Foulks

Katie invited me to share some information on best practices for blogging with you, and I was glad to provide an overview. Our blog posts about blogging have received a huge amount of interest, and are a great start for businesses new to blogging, or who want to improve what they’ve been doing.

I spoke this spring to a group of creative businesses about creating a website content strategy. I showed some example websites from our portfolio on Aeolidia that had very well-organized, goal-based navigation, and then during the Q&A time, someone asked me, “I noticed that all the sites you showed us had a blog. Do I need a blog for my business?” We talked about that briefly as a group, and when we chatted in person later, she thanked me for the insight and confessed to me that she didn’t have any idea that blogs drove traffic to a website, but instead thought that blogs were, “just something women liked to do.” This really surprised me, and I made a note to tackle this topic on our blog.

So, if you think that women business owners are blogging because they’re chatty and enjoy sharing their lives, think again. These women (and men, of course!), are strategically driving traffic to their websites, enjoying tons of love from Google, and making their other marketing efforts easier. Let me explain how.

What is a blog?

A blog is part of a website that displays articles. Your articles (or blog posts) are usually updated on an ongoing basis, listed in chronological order on your blog, and show dates of posts and an area for people to comment. Some websites are blogs (you go to the main page and see the posts), and some websites contain many pages, with a blog being one of the pages on the site.

Is blogging dead?

You may have heard one person or another say that blogging is “dead,” and that you shouldn’t be expending energy there. What these people are talking about is blogging as a business model. The kind of blog where you share what’s going on in your life, inspirational content, and interesting links, and try to make money off of advertising.

What you are trying to do is run a successful ecommerce business, and support your marketing efforts with blogging. That kind of blogging is not going anywhere. People have not stopped reading blogs (you’re reading this one! And think about all of those links you click on Twiter and Facebook – most of those are to blog posts), but it’s become harder to make money off of blogging if that’s your entire business.

You aren’t trying to make money from the articles you write, but instead you’re using those articles to direct readers to your shop.

What about social media instead?

I see a lot of people replacing blogging with social media – posts on Instagram and Facebook, for instance. This is good in addition to blogging, but you can’t put all of your eggs in a basket you’re not in control of. Your blog isn’t going anywhere. Facebook made changes that nearly killed it for small businesses.

People who were used to posting content to Facebook and having most of their audience see it and be able to interact with it were surprised when algorithm changes made it so less than 2% of their audience was reacting to what they posted. Instagram is enjoying a heyday, but guess what? It’s owned by Facebook, and I’m sure you’ve seen promoted posts showing up in your feed. Things could change at any time.

Absolutely post on social media. But if Instagram is bringing you 60% of your traffic, what will you do if they stop letting people see your posts? Or make it pay to play?

Use social media to bring people back to your blog and your website, which is where you want them. Get them to subscribe to your email list, where you can be in touch one on one with them. Keep your eggs in your own basket.

Why should I have a blog?

A blog can:

  • bring traffic to your site
  • be good for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • establish you as an authority
  • make your other marketing efforts easier
  • humanize your brand
  • drive sales

For a detailed discussion of all six of these topics, see: Do I Need a Blog For My Business?

What if I don’t want to blog?

There are plenty of other ways to drive traffic to your site without a blog, and if you don’t have the time or the talent (or the money to hire someone) to start a blog now, it is fine to concentrate on other ways to bring people to your website and keep them engaged.

Is this you?

  • I don’t have time to blog
  • I’m not a good writer
  • I don’t know what to blog about
  • I feel like I have to blog, but I don’t want to!

The thing about blogging is that it’s not going to work for you if it’s halfhearted or grudgingly written. If you’re not interested in it, your content won’t be inspired, valuable, entertaining, or unique. People won’t stick around. Having a good-quality blog is going to be a huge boost for your business. Having a sporadically-updated mediocre blog is only going to waste your time. Time which you could be using to market your business in another way.

If you’d prefer not to blog, here are my recommendations for marketing your ecommerce site: What to Do if You Don’t Want to Blog

Coming up with ideas for a blog

If you have decided that you will start a blog or a newsletter, or you’d like some more ideas for an existing blog or social media, I’ve come up with a big list for you.

Ensure that you’re not stuck facing a deadline with no idea what to post about. This post will give you 260 blog post ideas (which you could also use for your newsletter or Instagram), introduce you to 9 ecommerce blogs that are absolutely killing it, and give you an action plan for generating more ideas of your own and getting started. If you read through the comments, where I share blog post ideas for individual businesses, you’ll end up with more than 600 blog post ideas. Some of these are sure to spark an idea in you!

260 Blog Post Ideas for Creative Businesses

My follow-up post, 5 Places to Find Blog Post Ideas on Your Own Site shares the method I used to think of this many ideas so quickly.

Making a foolproof plan for your blog

If you’ve decided a blog is an important way to build your business, you will need a solid plan to ensure that you’re posting the right content at the right time, keep ahead of the game, and stay focused. My post, 6 Important Steps to Plan a Blog for Your Business, will lead you through creating an editorial calendar and sticking with it.

What else do you wonder about?

If you’re planning to start a blog, or have recently started a blog, what is giving you the most trouble? I’d love to offer some advice in the comments.

Join thousands of creative biz owners who receive my need-to-know info via email. You’ll have my support and insight to help you gain time, authority, and money.

Arianne Foulks photo

You can find Arianne at these other spots:

facebook.com/aeolidia
instagram.com/aeolidia/

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26 08, 2015

GUEST POST | SARAH ALMOND ON REAL TALK WITH JEN GOTCH

By |August 26th, 2015|0 Comments|

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//  Update: Business Camp is now available as an on-demand E-course.  Enroll at www.TSBCbizcamp.com //

We asked some of our TSBC alumni who joined us at Business Camp to provide recaps and highlights from some of their favorite conference sessions. Building A Brand + Surviving Biz Growth by Jen Gotch of Ban.do was one of our keynote speeches, and we’re so thankful that Sarah Almond of Shed Letterpress is sharing all the tips, fun, and inspiration below.  Read on and let us know how you’re focusing on your top-level work.

Real Talk: Focusing on Top Level Shit with Jen Gotch of Ban.do

By Sarah Almond

Y’all. I have a confession to make. The words “brand” and “branding” have always freaked me out. I have a copy of a book, “Branding Basics” (ordered in one of those hopeful moments from Amazon at 1 AM) on my business bookshelf that sits, day after day, untouched, mocking me. The truth of the matter is, I started a letterpress stationery business because I really liked printing—and also because my career in the book publishing industry had gotten kind of boring and the idea of making things that other people might want really appealed to me, and…well, because I was a former acting major with a creative writing degree and it seemed like making my own career was probably my best bet, all things considered.

But…branding? Business growth? Both seemed like such MBA concepts, corporate concepts, concepts that I just couldn’t wrap my creatively-identified head around. I struggled with it, and my business, Shed Letterpress, struggled because of it, and then—poof!— my magical fairy-godmother appeared at Biz Camp in the form of Ban.do’s refreshingly honest and self-deprecating Jen Gotch.

A self-described “late bloomer,” Jen walked us through the detour-heavy timeline of her life so far, starting in 1993 with a Literature and Philosophy double-major (my kind of girl!) and guiding us through ten years of jobs as a personal shopper, art teacher, cleaning woman, food and prop stylist, copywriter, and owner of a questionably-profitable vintage business called “Vincent’s Ear and Other Lost Treasures.” She illustrated how her photography hobby and subsequent daily blog led her to professional success as a photographer, culminating in a cover shoot for Real Simple magazine in 2008. And then, finally, she showed us how a small headband business started with a buddy in 2008 became the very same Ban.do we all know and love.

Here’s the deal: it wasn’t easy. Even with early and immediate attention from media outlets such as Daily Candy and Nylon Magazine, as well as orders from Anthropologie, Ban.do’s growth as a business was far from rapid, and involved huge sacrifices, like the loss of Jen’s house, which she had leveraged to help fund the growing company, as well as the original partnership that founded the brand. “I thought we were gonna skyrocket, but our growth has been really slow,” she said.

Jen expressed her frustration with the niche market that she had created for her company when it was still focused on headwear, as well as the lack of growth potential in making one-off creations, and was sincere about the happy accidents that led to Ban.do’s brand position as a provider fun, girly accessories and gifts. And here’s where the fairy godmother stuff comes in…Jen shared a list of ten things she learned along the way, showing this skeptical late bloomer that business school terms can be part of a larger story that is deeply personal and open to organic change. Here are Jen’s tips along with some of my notes from each.

  1. Building a strong brand is the smartest thing that you can do—if you can tell a story along with it, your brand can last for years and withstand all kinds of changes.
  2. Compare yourself to the big guys, but be realistic about your resources—you might not have gone to business school, but you’re following a dream.
  3. Make cool stuff—the cool stuff is what keeps you interested!
  4. It’s all in the details—just because you’re small doesn’t mean you can’t still do dope stuff. Make sure that your audience knows that there’s a creative person behind it all, trying to get her ideas out there in an organized way.
  5. Pay attention to social media—it’s very useful and often free! “We run our social media like the Kardashians,” Jen joked, and said that it has been a huge factor in Ban.do’s growth. She also advised Biz Campers to tell their story in a visual and inspiring way.
  6. Listen to your customers—they’re not always right, but it’s still good to hear what they are saying. One person asking for something is one thing, but 150? Maybe it’s time to make a new product!
  7. Communication and context—business shorthand stops working as your business grows. Formalize things like contracts, agreements, customer service, and the like.
  8. Be prepared to relinquish some control as your business gets bigger—not doing so will affect the your ability to grow.
  9. Focus on top level shit—my favorite piece of advice, and if Instagram reposts are any indication, most Biz Campers’ biggest takeaway from Jen’s talk. Compare the little chores against big choices that will move your business forward. Do it EVERY DAY.
  10. Say no—then say yes sometimes, too.

Maybe it’s just me, but hearing these words of advice from a real, live awesome lady with great style and a fearless commitment to keeping it real inspired me in a way that “Branding Basics” is just never going to. This was real talk, R-Kelly style: I could see myself in her journey, in her struggles, in her decisions. But, even more than that, I could see her in Ban.do.

And you know what? That’s what finally helped me come to what was probably my biggest revelation of the entire Biz Camp experience—branding isn’t just some concept that I need to wrap my head around. Branding, and the growth of my brand and the myriad other brands I came into contact with at Biz Camp, is personal. And it’s personal because it’s us—an amazing, inspired group of small business owners convinced that what we have to offer the world has value, and is fun, and that others can and will agree with us. And, if all else fails, according to Jen, “Dancing solves most problems.” You’ll find me dancing it out until my next top level idea comes along.

Sarah Almond headshot

 

Sarah Almond, Owner of Shed Letterpress

About Sarah

Sarah Almond is a former actor, sometime writer, and the owner of Shed Letterpress, a small letterpress greeting card company that combines modern sentiments with vintage design. She lives and works in Durham, North Carolina with her awesome dog, Stella.
You can find Sarah here:

INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/shed_letterpress
PINTEREST: pinterest.com/ShedLetterpress/
TWITTER: twitter.com/shedletterpress
FACEBOOK: facebook.com/shedletterpress

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24 08, 2015

GUEST POST | HOW NOT TO BE A COPYCAT BY CAROLINE HULL

By |August 24th, 2015|0 Comments|

 

 

This summer we asked some of our TSBC alumni who joined us at Business Camp to provide recaps and highlights from some of their favorite conference sessions.  Kiffanie Stahle talked about the hot-button issue of being a copycat, and Caroline Hull of Caroline Creates was there to capture all of the details for us.  This issue comes up time and again, and circles back to the very important questions of where we get inspiration and how to avoid being a copycat.  After all, no one wants to be in the hot seat (or have their work stolen) but it’s a blurry line with so many social media influences out there.  Read on to learn more.

 

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How Not to Be a Copycat

By Caroline Hull

When I heard about the “How Not To Be A Copycat, Even When You Didn’t Intend to Be”  workshop at Business Camp, I knew I had to take it. The subject of copying and copyright law seems to be everywhere in our business right now. More recently, I have seen friends and colleagues dealing with situations where their work has been copied or stolen. I have even seen people being accused on social media of copying and the repercussions that follow. Frankly, it terrifies me. My stomach turns to knots just thinking about it. What if it happened to me? Or worse: what if I accidentally copied someone else?  How would I handle it?

Look, I get it. We are creatives. We inundate ourselves with inspiration and and create art every day. I’m known to search online, looking at pictures or images for inspiration when I have an idea. But how do you prevent that from manifesting in your own work? What do you do if someone copies you?

Kiffanie Stahle from the Artist’s J.D. had some great insight and tips on this subject. Kiffanie is a lawyer on a mission to teach creative entrepreneurs that the law doesn’t have to equal scary. You can find out more about her and her work at https://www.theartistsjd.com.

Kiffanie not only went over copyright law and Fair Use, which helps you determine if something can be used without permission, but she also explained how we can guard our own process and prevent ourselves from copying on accident. I felt that as a designer, creator and business owner, this advice was invaluable. (By the way, anyone who can explain Fair Use in a way that makes any kind of sense deserves a high five!) News flash: Fair Use is not a magic wand! Thank you Kiffanie for making me feel like I have a clue.

Now what do you do when someone copies you? First off, don’t send the attack dogs out and don’t start a war on Instagram. Let us all learn to be a little nicer on social media when we feel someone has copied our work. Think about how you would feel in their situation. Chances are, they had no idea their design was yours or that their work was an incredibly similar copy. Instead, handle things the right way with respect and tact. Send a DMCA Takedown Notice or a Cease & Desist Letter. Remember, respect goes both ways. Give some and you are more likely to get some back.

My number one takeaway from Kiffanie’s workshop is to take inspiration from places outside of your phone and your computer and to add your own voice. Get off Pinterest, friends!  Instead, go to an art museum or take a walk in the woods.  Heck, I even gain inspiration from package design at the grocery store!  Inspiration is in the air we live and breathe, and we just have to look up from our phones to see it.  Trust me, you don’t want a case of Cryptomnesisa, the phenomenon where we believe an idea is new and original, but in reality is a forgotten memory.

Moral of the story: Keep your eye on your own page. We all need to be mindful about where we get our inspiration and ideas. Be original. I mean really original. After all, that is what being a true artist is all about, right? It doesn’t matter if you are designing greeting cards or coffee mugs; make sure that design is yours.

Remember, the default answer to “Can I use someone else’s creation for ______?” should always be “No”.

Thank you Kiffanie for reminding us how to not copy and also giving us the tools to handle these situations. I am not terrified anymore and that, my friends, is a good thing.

Caroline Hull headshot

Caroline Hull, Caroline Creates

About Caroline Creates

Caroline Creates was founded out of a love for paper, modern design and helping the environment. Our goal is to create quirky yet modern stationery and products that are not only fun to look at, but good to the earth. I like to call it being green without all the granola.

Designer and Owner, Caroline Hull has a background in music and was a ballet dancer at the University of Oklahoma before finding her niché in design. Originally from Texas, Caroline now resides in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband Chip and daughters Fiona and Maeve.

Visit Caroline at the following locations:
instagram @carolinecreates

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