1. Never make assumptions, question everything.
2. Look for overlap between your niche and your audience needs
3. Go beyond your brand, be in your community, show up as real live warm human bodies to things
4. Invest in your organization, you have to spend money to make money
5. Look past data, Google Analytics isn’t everything, find and have conversations with actual end users
6. Have multiple streams of revenue, the more legs to a table the sturdier it is
7. Look for partnerships and collaboration
8. Pay attention to change, be it new technology or trends, don’t become outdated
The wonderful Ilise Benun, who tirelessly extols the virtues of freelance creatives, had a recent blog post Value Based Pricing in Action. In it, she shared a quote from Mike McDerment I’d not heard. It was one of those moments you read something and think “that’s a brilliant way of putting it, wish I thought of it.”
It applies whether you’re a freelancer, a consultant, a small organization, or larger – how to look at the talent and skills you bring to the table as an asset to the client. The service you’re providing to companies, organizations, or people has real value; read and internalize this.
“When you tie your price to value, it’s an investment. When clients look at your prices through that lens, they merely want to know that the investment is a wise one. That the return is going to justify the outlay. And if there’s a wide margin between the price and the expected return, the investment is easy to justify.”
If you think about all the things money is spent on, bigger ticket items be it cars or a house, a company’s office space, chairs, computers, their own employees, right down to individual purchases as seemingly trivial as say a nice dinner at a new fantastic restaurant which could be the experience or just not starving, they’re all an investment on some level. Clients should, if they’re worthy and uphold value as important, understand even if they overspent – which is relative – their purchase of your time and expertise has real value to them, their company, their organization.
The adage always holds true: Time is money, your time, your service, is valuable. Don’t undersell or underestimate it.
While some in the industry have seen figures below or ones like them this past year, I don’t normally post numbers on web advertising. The reason isn’t because it’s letting trade secrets out, but rather I’ve been at this goat rodeo called the internet before the web had pictures, or very few and they were 8 bit.
There’d be those, especially on the agency side of the business, giddy and eager to believe projected numbers, that online advertising is (still) the next huge thing, that there’ll be zillions to be made through online CTR (to the uninitiated Wikipedia has CTR summed up well), that the future of advertising is here, get on board, toot toot. The online advertising train, however, is a slow one and has been.
In 1995, 1997, 99, 2000, 2001, etc. various sources predicted web spending increasing at enormous pace that never materialized . While I’m not saying online advertising isn’t growing, as of course it is, there’s a part of the equation lost in this, conversion, the making a sale, transaction, business, what have you. Conversion figures have not historically kept pace with spending.
It is arguable that the same case could be made for television, radio, and the slowly spiraling the drain newspaper industry, that spending is always far over conversion. One shouldn’t correlate spending with conversion, this is pretty basic concept for many but you’d be surprised the percentage who gloss over this and while, yes, you have to spend money to make money, ad spending does not equate profit.
The insightful Mike Volpe, who I’d highly recommend anyone on either side of the industry follow on Twitter, had a post “10 Horrifying Stats About Display Advertising” on Hubspot. In the article Mike gives jarring sense of how well display advertising does in the real world.
Here are just some of his “Shocking But True Display Advertising Stats:”
- You are more likely to complete NAVY SEAL training than click a banner ad. (Source:Solve Media)
- Only 8% of internet users account for 85% of clicks on display ads (and some of them aren’t even humans!). (Source: comScore)
- You are more likely to get a full house while playing poker than click on a banner ad.(Source: Solve Media)
- The average person is served over 1,700 banner ads per month. Do you remember any? (Source: comScore)
- You are more likely to summit Mount Everest than click a banner ad. (Source: Solve Media)
Go to Mike’s article to see more such as surviving a plane crash, getting into MIT, etc. Now look above numbers both the U.S. Digital Spending by Format, 2011-2017 and U.S. Mobile Ad Spending by Format, 2011-2017 projected spending showing explosive growth.
Sense something is off here? You should. Neither Mike or I are saying display advertising should be abolished and has no place on the web, what we’re saying is, don’t put all your eggs in the display advertising basket. The reality is that spending has to match outcomes based on clients raking it in by plunking down that money in the first place. If clients aren’t making money, the smart ones anyways, stop spending it on different avenues. It’s for that reason actual spending on web advertising has never boomed the way it’s always predicted, clients aren’t that dumb, some in my industry however…
There are many other ways to make conversions to whomever your target market is, of seeing your brand growing online, getting whatever cause and effect you’re looking for. Display advertising is one of the laziest ways, however, of going about it.
While I could tell you “and if you want to have better conversion contact me, Colin Nekritz, content strategist, and I’ll increase [insert whatever here, traffic, revenue, etc,]” which I could do for any client, for the DIYer, without going into the nuts and bolts of exactly how to this, here’s some advice:
- Find your company’s, your brand’s unique voice
- Use social media channels that are appropriate
- Be heavily involved, don’t autopilot your social media, if you can’t do it yourself, hire someone [hint]
- Start and have conversations, get involved in the discussions on the web
- Be transparent in your web personality, authentic
- Be honest and be real with potential and existing customers alike
- Be creative in advertising, always looking at new message mediums, you never know when the next Vine will pop up, so pay attention to trends, create YouTube videos
- There’s many of fantastic, and better yet free, various ways to get your message out on the net
- And finally, while not the be-all end-all, invest in Google adwords
If you’re getting killer conversion on display ads, GREAT, but to those who aren’t or are just entering the web market, you have other options, use them wisely.
Both the Google Doodle and over at The Verve today they’re running a pieces about Raymond Loewy who, like to many outside the design world, if you dropped his name would get a “who?” But to many of those of us in the creative industry, those who awe at the subtle, simple beauty of such contemporaries like Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Milton Glaser, Loewy’s up there with the greats. Loewy’s face would be carved into the Mount Rushmore (seen below under the flying 747) of designers.
It all began, rather uncharacteristically for many designers, with train steam engines, such as the beautiful art deco (huge fan here) PRR S1, aka “The Big Engine.” Built for the Pennsylvania Railroad company, it was to show off the PRR’s strengths at the 1939′s Worlds Fair. You could call this an example of really large, really heavy rolling advertising. Sadly the steam engine was to become a footnote in rail history, but the beauty of steam train engines and deco train depots live on.
This design aesthetic of art deco, melding a rocketship design into something more firmly planted in terra ferma, extended to other vehicles such as the Studebaker Champion. Photo credit credit: Ruud Onos, Flickr Creative Commons.
It wasn’t all rocketships, Loewy was more a future modernist. He went beyond deco, his aesthetic was clean, minimal lines, such as this 1963 Studebaker Avanti Sketch, a car in my youth a lusted after, even if it has a nose only a mother could love.
While many not old enough to know when The Beatles broke up, or who The Beatles even were, the very cool Greyhound Scenicruiser had quite a long run. Over 1,000 of these were built in the 50s, driving around North America for over two decades. The Scenicruiser was service from 1954 until 1971, proving the design Loewy could conjure could stand the test of time, mostly. Note: To this day I’d love to buy and/or refurbish one into an awesome motor home.
Loewy touched planes, trains, and automobiles (and buses), including the iconic look of Air Force One. I tend to go on and on about simple design is always best (aka Occams Razor), here is a fine example. A gently curving blue that tapers to the plane’s length of white with a light blue undertone, offset with the timeless beauty of Caslon typeface. This design has served every US president since Kennedy, and probably will every next president and plane until the earth is overrun by aliens or zombies.
In a glimpse of Loewy’s “show your work,” you can see doing even a simple design take effort, good design is simple but simple and great is harder than complex and bad. He spend time sketching out the Exxon logo until the right design came out of it. Many a new fresh designer could learn from this simple but valuable lesson. Not discriminating between big oil companies, Loewy was also responsible for the revisioning of the iconic Shell logo.
I encourage anyone interesting in design or the creative industry to learn more about Raymond Loewy by visiting his official site – which, at the moment of writing is having bandwidth issues, not surprisingly thanks to the Google Doodle – Wikipedia, and check out the article on The Verve.
1. Don’t start by focusing on print; focus on digital. Digital channels and their low-cost barriers and ease of use are part of what has made content marketing explode. Think of YouTube, WordPress, Facebook, downloadable articles, or Constant Contact. Then consider paper, printing, shipping, warehousing, postage, and etcetera. Plus, remember that digital content is easier for today’s consumer to share with an audience.
2. Know that producing engaging content is a challenge. We all face it, and it’s most often learned through trial and error. Our instinct as marketers is to sell, promote, assert market leadership, and hit home those branding messages.
3. Resist the urge to have all of your marketing speak directly to your products and services. Strive to balance the promotional aspect of your content with informational evergreen content. Remember that content marketing isn’t push marketing — it’s a pull strategy that can be thought of as the marketing of attraction. It’s marketing that is engaging, educational, helpful, entertaining, and there when you need it.
4. No one likes a one-sided conversation. Don’t be the person on the date who only talks about themselves. Start your content strategy with a goal of establishing genuine customer-brand relationships by offering up content that your target audience would find shareable. Be the person on the date that wants the other person to go tell their friends about it, because that person will be one who gets the second date, while the one who only talks about themselves is in the never-ending cycle of first dates.
5. 90% of purchase decisions now begin with an Internet search. You’ll need content to help you show up in these searches.
The brilliant, warm, and deadpan David Carson gave one of the most humorous, geniune, and arguably insightful TED talks about Design and Discovery. In it, he gives insight into the mind of a true designer, a world which most creatives do not look life, objects, themes, and constructs the same way an average person does.
There’s a layer below that piece of paper, a diploma, to how every creative thinks, one in which having a degree in design doesn’t necessary make one a great designer any more than getting an MBA makes you an world-class business person. Quite the opposite, sometimes getting degrees can mire a person by teaching them constrictions instead of endless possibilities. “World of endless possibilities” could sum up the approach David Carson takes towards design, and life in general.
David’s original education is that of sociology, how social actions, structure, and functions relate to the theoretical understanding of social processes. Understanding sociology may well be a better key to understanding marketing and design rather than a straight up education of either discipline. Design is far more than making pretty pictures, visuals, and how things look. Marketing is more than a mere process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers. There’s much more beneath the surface to understanding either or both. David entered design as an observer, he looked around and design and then put his own unique take on it. Had David perhaps formal training he wouldn’t be renowned in many design circles, leaving an indelible mark on the creative visual aesthetic. Shudder to think, but had he a four year design school education, his work would most likely wind up looking like everyone elses.
When one looks for talent for an organization, brand, what-have-you, whether that’s to assist in a message, visibility, to get the word out, to hire, retain, or whatever the relationship, there’s so much more than a person’s education or background. There’s the person’s perspective on the world and how they see it, and the value they add as a person, not a bloodless list on some job qualification requirements or bullets on a resume. David Carson’s talk should remind all of us in some position of hiring authority we must look past the formal education, learn what makes a person tick, their passion, their enthusiasm. Never discount intuition about someone, or your own. These are things that go much further than one’s education or background and can make the next great thought leader and one to watch in your industry.
[Anyone who's seen my lectures and talks already has heard this before.]
- Would a doctor be asked to do surgery on patients, for free, just to see if a hospital liked how they operate?
- Would an accountant be asked to balance a quarterly report for free just to see how he ran numbers?
- A pilot be asked to fly a major airline route without an compensation to see how he lands planes?
- A fireman asked to battle some major blazes for no pay first before a check or even or insurance to see how well he fought fires?
- Professor told he has to teach a semester free? A nuclear engineer at a power plant? An actuary? Architect? Police officer? Asked to do work for free before getting any compensation?
None of these careers are asked to do free work as a theoretical carrot dangling in front of them, the reality, most cases, you’ll get the stick.
Put it to you another way as Topic Simple did in an informative video, could you ask a chef at a fine restaurant to make you a delicious meal for free simply to see if you liked it? Or a lawyer to do up your will, but you’d only pay him if you think it’s good enough.
A recent student I mentored awhile back wrote me about a potential job he was offered, but first, they had him design mockup web pages and logos for their new line of software. This company never had him sign anything (red flag), but he was hungry for the work, and potential employment. He spent hours, thinking, crafting, anguishing over designing beautiful web pages that would take the company to the next level and impress upon them enough that he would be a perfect fit for their oranization. They thanked him, he never heard back despite leaving message and emails, but they did use his work on their website. Not only is this borderline criminal, again, ask yourself, what other profession would this happen in?
It’s a story I’ve heard too many times, seen too many times, and the majority of times it ends badly. I’ve been on the hiring end of many creative talent, I’d never even dream of asking any potential hire to do work for free.
The AIGA, the largest professional association for designers in the world, official stance:
Fees: A designer shall not undertake any work for a client without adequate compensation, except with respect to work for charitable or nonprofit organizations. A designer shall not undertake any speculative projects, either alone or in competition with other designers, for which compensation will only be received if a design is accepted or used. This applies not only to entire projects but also to preliminary schematic proposals. A designer shall work only for a fee, royalty, salary or other agreed-upon form of compensation.
So creatives everywhere, stop chasing free work. Unless it’s your Mom, a buddy, or something you’re doing for fun, say no. Saying yes hurts not only yourself, but the design industry’s legitimacy. I’ll add, the same goes for writers, programmers, or anyone in the creative or IT field, say no to spec work.
For more information including tools, education, and further resources, visit nospec.com
“Whether between a client and provider, two networked people, your friends and family, in business and in your personal life, you have to cultivate and maintain your relationships. Relationships are a lot like a garden, tend to it and good things will grow and blossom, be apathetic or careless and they will wither leaving you nothing but fallow soil.”
As I look to providing better content strategy to clients and the Colin Nekritz brand (be it what it is) I’m reminded of this social media explained on a dry erase board.
A report from identity and brand consulting company Interbrand shows that Apple has overtaken Coca-Cola, where I once worked creating branding and identity, as the world’s most valuable brand. This knocks Coca-Cola from its 13-year tenure in the annual “Best Global Brands” reports The New York Times.
How much is a brand worth? Apple’s brand as valued is close to $100 billion, that’s a lot of iPhones. Intriguing, though not surprising, Google sits rather comfortably now at #2, bumping Coca-Cola down to #3, the top ten is dominated by tech, it’s a tech world after all. Only non-tech in the top ten is Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Toyota which has held the same position for a couple years. It should be noted that, at one time, IBM would often be at the top this list or be #2; honestly I’m a bit surprised it’s still holding on here considering how much is divested itself from being everything tech, guess it’s the collective conscience permanence that keeps it there.