Friday, September 21, 2018

The Enduring Impact of Print

The 1960s gave us many iconic classic cars, but perhaps none is more legendary than the Aston Martin driven by James Bond (Sean Connery) in the 1964 film, Goldfinger.


A long list of tricks made it one of the most beloved movie cars of all time: machine guns, an ejector seat, smoke screens, and a futuristic onboard navigational system. Bond's reputation as a suave man of action and a smart connoisseur of fine things rocketed Aston Martin to popularity as one of the most desirable automobile brands in the world. The car was so beloved it was later stolen from a Florida airport hanger and is reportedly worth nearly 10 million today.


Vintage. Classic. Irreplaceable.


Those are some of the words we associate with things that are original, things that set the "status quo," and that just can't be shattered or ignored. Today's generation is manifesting a hunger for the authentic, and a desire for craftsmanship is at the forefront. In an age of identity theft, cheap counterfeits, and digital dominance, Carhartt clothing coined the call for craftsmanship as the "road home from a throwaway world."  


The Original Design Format


Local printers believe in the beauty and craftsmanship of their trade, and in the hard-hitting, precise, flawless quality that hard copy printing can bring. As the original format for marketing impact, we believe print design is as essential as the ABCs – in ways as basic as these:


A = Attracting New Customers


Print is essential for attracting new customers in ways digital advertising never can.


Print products allow you to uniquely target the right customers by placing your work directly in before their eyes and in their hands. While digital ads are quickly forgotten, print offers a sense of credibility and real-time professionalism that engage consumers with an immediate, tangible impact. Printed pieces also have a greater opportunity to arouse passive audiences (like those viewing a banner, poster, or printed advertisement), to keep reader attention longer, to improve reading comprehension, and to improve the top-of-mind awareness your business desires.


B = Building Traffic Online


Online content requires a combination of above- and below-the-line marketing support to drive traffic online and increase profits across the board.


Hard copy print products can increase online engagement through a variety of marketing initiatives. Consider on-page ads with online coupon options. Feature your online calendar or offer VIP discounts for those who refer a friend or add social bookmarks to your business. Use printed inserts or brochures placed at the point of sale for invitations to educational blogs, webinars, or freebie giveaways you feature only online.


As you connect your online and conventional marketing strategies, aggressively seek customer feedback and look to solidify your niche in the collective conversation. Inspire professionalism, reliability, and consistency in everything you publish, both digitally and in print. Better integrated communication will bring more consistent, profitable results!


C = Cementing Brands Offline


Often, we overlook the power of print products to cement our brand in consumers' minds.


A 2015 neuromarketing study revealed that direct mail simulated a 70% higher brand recall3, a dramatically more persuasive element than digital media.


And don't underestimate the poignant response physical print brings.


Consider the emotions you experience when you see your favorite coffee logo adorning a steaming mug, or how you feel when a co-worker walks into the room wearing a T-shirt of your favorite podcast or band. Print products bring a palpable, concrete response that digital advertising just can't match!


Whether it's yard signs, car window adhesives, banner advertising, or just good old-fashioned swag, claim some real-estate for your image and you'll find your brand developing staying power with a lasting return. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Plug In to the Power of Personal Reflection

Sometimes life is like a treadmill.


Occasionally you're on a calm jog and the belt speed never outpaces your strides. Sometimes, you push yourself to the limit but find the challenge ideal. But in certain seasons, the treadmill is moving too fast to handle. You long to step back from the grind, but this seems like an impossible luxury.


It's ok to press pause. It's actually GREAT to press pause. Often in our battle for success, we never stop to address broken systems in our home, health, or careers. Simple adjustments might bring substantially better output, but we rarely prioritize personal maintenance. The decision is yours: will you make time to reflect and adjust or continue relentlessly until life dumps you in a heap?


Take Time to Press Pause.


Once you've slowed down (yes, really slowed down!) what should you do?


Perhaps you should begin with a simple pleasure (a walk, coffee treat, or nap?) to allow your mind to unwind. Then consider an intentional approach to reflection.


Psychologist Robert Taibbi (author of "Boot Camp Therapy: Action Oriented Brief Approaches to Anxiety, Anger and Depression") suggests you begin by defining a problem area as concretely as possible. Avoid being vague or grouping several problems under one umbrella (i.e. "this house is a disaster!"). Instead, identify specific areas of struggle ("this coat closet is overcrowded") and decide on a personal plan of action.


Don't be overwhelmed by what you CAN'T do, instead focus on manageable steps that will move you forward ("lower coat hooks would be better"). Begin with a positive spirit and an intentional ownership of the solution. Make a plan, ask for help, or take action as soon as possible. As you make even tiny strides, you will be empowered to continue.


Find Tools for Growth.


Sometimes a perspective shift requires greater insight than we have on our own.


Consider some coaching, mentorship, or tools like workbooks or discussion groups. Clinical psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson has been fascinated by the therapeutic effects of writing for decades. Experiments dating back for decades show that writing can reduce depression, increase productivity, and even cut down on doctor visits.


Peterson and his team have recently rolled out several tools for self-reflection, including virtues and faults analysis, past and future writing exercises, or a full "self-authoring" suite that allows people to locate and resolve problem areas so they can better dream and achieve in the future. "The act of writing is more powerful than people think," Peterson says. The decisive results of Peterson's research prompted NPR to dub his reflection tool the "writing assignment that changes lives."  


Make a Plan.


They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.


What part of your week do you devote to reflecting on your goals or challenges? Do you take mini-retreats to refocus? What if you set this as a top priority and allowed your reflection time to dictate your schedule priorities in a given week, month, or year?


Look for natural cues in your seasonal schedule (i.e. Daylight Savings changes, pre-scheduled auto maintenance, your half birthday) and seek to align some intentional reflection with these cues. Add smaller goals (like a monthly "plan of action") to put wheels on your long-term vision. Find a friend or mentor to keep you accountable or schedule regular check-ins (alone or with others) to get yourself back on track after a derailment.


Just as professional performance reviews are a priority, how much more essential is self-review? Make regular deposits into your own well-being and soon your bank account will grow!

Friday, September 14, 2018

How to Mobilize People Through Powerful Writing

“Darkest Hour,” a 2017 war drama film, devotes its narrative to the early days of British prime minister Winston Churchill, who rallied a nation against the merciless Nazi onslaught of World War II.


The film chronicles Churchill’s authentic, soul-stirring speeches and the Shakespearean gusto with which he delivered words like these: "Let us, therefore, brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"


Though the world still heralds Churchill’s heroic statements, few people knew that Churchill overcame a lisp in his childhood by practicing his enunciation. Churchill understood the power of words early in life, and historians estimated that he spent one hour working on each individual minute of a speech he gave! Churchill sought to portray England’s struggle in a larger historical context: good outlasting evil, hope to overshadow the impossible, and perseverance overcoming persecution. 


The result?


The entire fate of world history shifted through the hearts and hands of the people he inspired. President John F. Kennedy summed up Churchill’s influence like this: "In the dark days and darker nights when England stood alone — and most men... despaired of England's life — he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”


Writing: The Building Block of Success


What can we learn from Winston Churchill?


While not all of us have oratory giftings, be encouraged that Churchill was also a student of language, and he overcame his limitations with study, practice, and passion!


Would you like to be more successful in your personal and professional impact?


Writing is the foundation of modern education and fundamental to all business success. Whether you’re penning a quarterly report, crafting an in-house memo, giving a congratulatory speech, or even dashing a quick e-mail, here are some tips for writing in a professional, persuasive manner:


1. Grab them early.
Great writing doesn’t allow readers to look away! Use punchy headlines, riveting stories, or gripping questions to draw them in immediately.


2. Get to the point.
After you use that “luring” intro, don’t let them linger! Get to the point quickly and efficiently, without “burying the lead” too deep in the text. Eliminate unnecessary words and use language that is clear and efficient. An energetic, fast-paced tone will assure them that reading to the end is worth their time.


3. Be convincing but not too clever. Persuade your readers with clarity but also with logic and facts. Providing evidence (or examples) for your premise will build momentum and increase authority. As you write, keep a personal tone that is warm but convincing. Ask yourself, “would this make sense if I was sharing it with a friend over coffee?” Phrases with an awkward, artificial ring should probably get the ax!


4. Keep it moving. As you lead readers toward a closing statement or action step, take a broad glance at the entire piece. Does it flow smoothly with a directional movement that builds toward a thoughtful climax? Does it read well on the page with adequate breaks and subheadings? Consider adding skim layers or reducing the size of a document if you sense people will be bogged down in your thoughts.


5. Add depth and dimension. As you seek to add that extravagant bow to your smartly wrapped package, review your piece and look for ways you can really make it “sing.” Consider colorful vocabulary, punchy alliteration, or rich rhythms as you vary the length of your paragraphs. As French writer Charles Baudelaire once said, “always be a poet, even in prose.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Why Aesop Would Have Been More Successful Than Bill Gates Today

An ancient Greek storyteller and fabulist, Aesop is thought to have been a slave who eventually acquired his freedom by reciting clever moral fables involving animals with human characteristics.


Insightful and astonishingly original even today, Aesop's fables continue to delight and educate us with their startling observations of human failings and strengths.


We all know who Bill Gates is--only one of the wealthiest people in the world and founder of Microsoft.


Although Gates is the epitome of the successful businessman, Aesop would have given him a run for his money, so to speak. Aesop's keen intuitiveness into the human psyche would have made him the ultimate inspirational and motivational manager or employee. In fact, Gates may have chosen to work for Aesop instead of running his own business!


Check out these three fables from Aesop and how you can apply their moral teachings to your own business:


The Donkey and the Mule


The owner of both a mule and a donkey loaded them with supplies before making a long and arduous journey. When they reached the hilly country, the donkey begged for help by asking the mule to take some of his load. The mule said no. "I'm carrying too much now as it is. You'll just have to deal with it."


Within days, the donkey stumbled from weariness and died. The owner had no choice but to put the donkey's load on the mule's back. Now the mule had to carry double the load he was once carrying.


What was Aesop trying to say with this fable? 


When you help others, you are helping yourself.


In a real-world setting, this fable is about teamwork. Although we all have encountered problems when trying to accomplish projects as a team, trying to do something by yourself means you are stuck with only your skill sets, your ideas, and your extremely subjective perception of how satisfactory the project really is. Ultimately, refusing to help others limits your ability to help yourself.


The Cat and the Mice


An extended family of mice needed to develop a good plan to protect themselves from a devious cat. One of the younger mice spoke up and said: "I think we should tie a bell around the cat's neck. That way, we'll know when our enemy, the cat, is coming for us."


An older, wiser mouse asked: "That is a great idea, but who is going to undertake the dangerous task of belling the cat?"


The mice fell silent, realizing this plan would not work.


Moral of this Aesop fable:


Successful ideas are ideas that can be fully implemented.


While it's great to throw around ideas, only realistic, sound, and sustainable ideas are the ones that provide satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and financial benefits. The next time you are involved in a strategy meeting, remember the importance of challenging everybody, but keep in mind Aesop's catalyst for true achievements: can anybody bell the cat?


The Lion and the Oxen


A lion took to prowling a field where several oxen were grazing. The lion tried to attack the oxen many times but they always positioned themselves in a way that protected their vulnerable bodies. They met the lion with their horns instead of their tails. Eventually, the oxen started fighting with each other and went to separate areas of the field. Without the protection of their fellow oxen, each ox died a horrible death as the lion attacked them one by one.


Try this one on your own. How could you apply the moral of this story to your own business?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

5 Ways to Skillfully Handle Criticism With a Smile Instead of a Frown

"This work is sloppy and does not meet the needs of the company. You'll have to completely rework it."


"Is this all you've gotten done for today? You're going to have to step up your pace."


"Why didn't you follow the instructions I gave you? This is terrible work."


"I liked your old hairstyle better."


Criticism, no matter how delicately someone gives it to you, hurts.


Being criticized makes us feel worthless, painfully vulnerable to our own negative thoughts and unsure of our abilities. Some inexperienced managers think criticizing their employees will incentivize them to work faster and harder but, of course, we know this tactic is the absolutely wrong way to motivate employees.


Scientists speculate there is something instinctual, or innate, about our adverse reaction to even mild criticism. Just like the human body is hard-wired to instantly move into a "fight or flight" state when confronted by danger, our psychological self (psyche) reacts to criticism defensively. In other words, being physically struck closely parallels being verbally "struck." Our heart and breathing rate increases and we may start perspiring as our internal temperature rises. Depending on the type and level of criticism we hear about ourselves, some people tremble, feel extremely anxious, and may even start crying.


How to Give Criticism Positively


Before you criticize a family member, friend or fellow worker, stop and think about how you could rephrase what you are going to say to sound more like constructive criticism. 


Examples of constructive criticism include:


  • (When someone fails to complete a project on time): Next time we have a project to work on, we'll make sure there are enough resources and time for you to finish it as planned. In fact, perhaps we can schedule the project in advance so you are not inundated with work?

  • (When someone has been "slacking" in their work): You've done a great job reaching several goals lately. Nobody can achieve every goal they set for themselves so don't let this affect your sense of accomplishment. Maybe your goals are a little too aggressive?

  • (When someone isn't contributing to a group effort): I've noticed you haven't wanted to take an initiative lately. I would really like to see you take a leadership position because I think you have the talent and skills to be successful.

5 Ways to Handle Criticism Positively


1. Objectify Yourself


As soon as you realize you are being criticized unconstructively, step away from your emotions by imagining yourself as a life-size cardboard cutout.


Wait until the person criticizing you leaves before allowing yourself to think about what they said. Consider who criticized, what they criticized you about, and whether it was actually warranted. Remember that people who are criticized are usually doing something new, different, and possibly daring.


2. Don't Cross Your Arms


Adopting a defensive posture may provoke the criticizer into extending their critique of you.


Simply stand with your arms at your sides, nod, and show that you are listening.


3. Learn from Criticism


Is there a grain of truth in the criticism you received?


Don't let strong emotions cloud your ability to judge truths about yourself. Many of us say or do things that are not in our best interest but fail to realize our error.


4. Get Feedback from a Friend


Tell a trusted friend about the criticism you received.


Getting another opinion can help mitigate the negative feelings you experience from a criticism.


5. You Control Your Emotions and Thoughts


Nobody is in control of what you think or feel.


The way you think and feel about criticism is all up to you, not the person who criticized you.


"Criticism is something you can avoid by saying nothing,
being nothing, and doing nothing." 
~Aristotle

Friday, August 24, 2018

How to Chart Your New Future (Part 2)

Looking to grow personally or professionally, but not sure where to start?


Last week we examined the incredible benefits of lifelong learning. Increased cognitive function increases the health of the entire body, and continued education sparks social engagement (as we learn from and WITH others) that brings confidence and delight. Research suggests that people with strong social connections tend to be happier and live longer.


Whether you feel supported by your employer or not, here are four simple avenues that will enrich your life and help you grow:


1. Stretch Yourself.


The first step in continued growth is to assess your buy-in.


Check out last week’s article for more detail on jump-starting your own motivation.


2. Ask Others to Stretch You.


Baseball legend Yogi Berra commented, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.”


Perhaps one of our greatest obstacles is our lack of perspective. In the daily grind, it can be hard to identify or address our weaknesses and our virtues. Consider a coach or mentor to help you assess where you’re at and chart intentional steps toward positive change.


Can you find someone in your company who might have coffee with you on a monthly or quarterly basis? Is there someone in your field or professional network (even LinkedIn) who might fill this strategic role? Is it worth contracting a life or career coach (or even an organizational consultant) to help you maximize potential? Surgeon Atul Gawande makes this compelling argument:


“Élite performers, researchers say, must engage in ‘deliberate practice’—sustained, mindful efforts to develop the full range of abilities that success requires. You have to work at what you're not good at. In theory, people can do this themselves. But most people do not know where to start or how to proceed. Expertise, as the formula goes, requires going from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally to unconscious competence. The coach provides the outside eyes and ears and makes you aware of where you're falling short. This is tricky. Human beings resist exposure and critique; our brains are well defended. So, coaches use a variety of approaches—showing what other, respected colleagues do, for instance, or reviewing videos of the subject's performance. The most common, however, is just conversation.”


3. Read.


Reading is one of life’s simple pleasures and a commonly overlooked asset.


Reading broadens perspective, improves memory, and dramatically reduces stress. Make a point to read professional development articles, books on business topics, or personal development pieces that will sharpen your skills or spark curiosity. An energized mind is a productive mind, so dedicate time each week to read or listen to audio books (maybe as you sit in traffic) and you won’t regret it!


4. Pursue Life-Giving Conversations. Most people are experiential learners, growing confidence and skills as they participate rather than passively consuming.


One way to proactively engage your mind is through conversations, like book clubs, professional networks, or even loose business collaborations. Where are you connected or how could you grow in this area? Surround yourself with like-minded peers through opportunities like 1 Million Cups, TED Talks, MeetUp groups, and more. If nothing else, look for volunteer opportunities and connect with people on a casual level. Make friends, spark ideas, and find financial and professional support in areas you may never have considered.


Ready to shake off that slump or add spring to your step today? Let these adjustments chart a new course for growth in your career and future. Every moment is valuable and so is your potential. Steward it well and keep growing for life!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Print Made Digital: How Business Cards Are Still the Best Way to Connect

Digital communication and marketing tactics may be the hottest topics on everyone's tongues, but there are still some serious limitations to connecting your physical and digital worlds.


There are ways that allow you to quickly trade contact information, but they can require both parties to download the same app and are difficult to coordinate in quick hallway conversations. Business professionals will tell you that you never know when you're going to meet someone who can tie together the pieces of a particular project, so it pays to be prepared to capture contact information regardless of your physical location. That's where business cards come in as one of the best ways to connect with people in person. 


Boost Your Brand Recognition


Keeping your branding on point can be an ongoing challenge, especially as your business grows.


Marketers must be diligent to ensure that all marketing materials are consistent and cohesive with colors, fonts, styles images, and even the tone of language that is used -- or your brand voice.


One particular printed item that often ties together all of your branding is a simple business card! Business cards are relatively inexpensive but can pack a big branding punch when they provide each prospect or contact with the look, feel and logo of your business.


Convenient Communication Tool


Business cards are one of the most convenient communication tools available because you can simply slide your hand into your pocket or purse and immediately be able to share your contact information with others.


If you're in the middle of another conversation, there's no need to break off topic and attempt to program a number into your cell phone; instead, you can simply pop a business card into someone's hand! If you're at a conference or trade show, business cards allow you to jot questions or topics of interest on the back, which can help jog your memory of the contact and how you need to follow up with them in the future. 


Ideal for Direct Marketing


Sending emails and even text messages may be one of the most effective ways to reach a wide range of individuals, but an old-fashioned phone call packs an impact.


Including a handshake with your business card creates a personal connection that people will remember. If the person you're speaking with isn't the perfect contact for your business, the good news is that your business card can continue marketing to the next person who receives it, too! Digital marketing tactics such as QR codes add extra bang to your business card by providing your prospects with additional information that couldn't fit within the space available on a small business card. Have a special offer that you'd like to share? Drop a discount code on your business card and you'll be sure to create a lasting impression!


Print marketing tactics such as business cards are still one of the best ways to reach your target audience in a personal way that builds long-term relationships. Business today is still driven by relationships. Ensuring that you have personal knowledge of the people you are working with -- and that connection -- is best formed by creative printed materials that reinforce the look and feel of your brand.


The next time you're shaking hands with someone, be sure you're sliding a business card to them at the same time, and your message will be reinforced even after you are long gone!