Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What's All This Chatter About Branding?

An online presence for your business is an opportunity to establish a consistent brand through the various services and sites that you use. Branding is a simple concept: determining what distinguishes your business, and then marketing it consistently and persistently. Your brand then becomes your identity.

Is Branding Important?
Branding is essential in the current competitive business climate, and building an identity online might even be more important. Your logo and website should be the #1 tool in the promotion of your business. There is a logical reason that what people do on the Web is called "surfing," not "reading." The Web is all about speed: take a look...click...that's not what I want...let me try this...click...no...click...not that...click...YES!

Think of a website as the ultimate "elevator pitch." An elevator pitch is a 30-second pitch that entices the prospect to want to hear more. You have to provide people with a compelling reason to go to your site and remain there rather than moving on to a competitor's site.

Communicating Your Brand Online
Your brand should be reflected in every facet of your online presence, from your website name to the colors you use. There are several factors to consider for a consistent online brand:
  • Choose a web address that identifies your business and is easy to spell.

  • Create a site layout and writing style that will be reflected in all of your online and offline marketing materials including the tone/voice, colors, logos and even the font you use.

  • Visitors want to know about the products or services you offer and how you differ from your competition.

  • Tell your customers your company history, why you are in your industry and why you are the best!

  • Get on the social media bus by starting a blog, joining social networks and engaging with others via forums or micro-blogging communities.

  • Photos and videos help reflect your company's culture, your staff and your products.

  • Publish general information about your industry and expertise through the use of a blog or FAQ.

  • Nothing can build a brand more effectively than satisfied customer testimonials.

Increase Your Visibility
After you grasp the big picture, you can then start being more creative in your space. Start listening to the conversations happening and get involved. Tracking this is really the hardest part and Blooming Footprint can help you. We can teach you to listen and lead these conversations, create brand awareness and visibility, gain consumer insight while measuring the effectiveness. It is imperative to establish a dialog with your potential customers, know what is being said about your industry and competitors while being transparent to gain information about the personality, preferences and points of view of your potential customers.

The Bottom Line
Remember, you're not coming up with a "whole new identity" for the Web. Instead, your web presence should reflect and reaffirm your company's existing brand. Keep in mind that every element of your site - logos, photos, colors, type style, writing style, and content - can contribute positively to your brand and win customers.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tip: Be A Green Small Business, Part 2

I worked on many blog posts over the years with Jenny Martinez, Creative Director at MissJenny.com, when we were with the Cartfly and Sellit brands. Please enjoy Part 2 of our "recycled" Green Small Business series from back in July of 2008.
We started with Marketing Materials and Shipping Supplies, but why stop there? Greening your office can also mean saving some cash. Part 2 of Being A Green Small Business: Your Office and Supplies.

Whether you work from your kitchen table on the weekends or have a dedicated office space with a staff, here are some tips to get you started.

1) Office Supplies

Being a designer and merchant running my own business I tend to burn through a lot of paper if I'm not careful. I've learned to get into the habit of printing on both sides for drafts, which also cuts down on my paper costs. I have a paper-only bin in my office that I toss fully used paper to (or this can be shredded to become free packing material!). And I support businesses that make recycled products by purchasing 100% post consumer recycled paper and supplies.

Toner Cartridges
Instead of throwing disposable ink cartridges into landfill, you can use refillable computer ink cartridges. Most office supply stores carry these products now, but if you need a good online source The Green Office is a great place to start.

2) Equipment & Energy

Compact Fluorescent Lighting
This is an easy thing to check off the list. Your electric bill will drop and the bulbs will last longer. Don't forget you have to dispose of these properly because they contain mercury. Home Depot recently started a CFL disposing program.

Power Strips
Another easy one. Don't plug your chargers directly into the wall, they will always drain power whether or not your device is plugged in to charge. Add them onto power strips and switch the strip off when not in use.

Energy Star Rated
You can find Energy Star fax machines, copiers, printers and more. These will use less energy, save money and have less of an impact on the environment. Dell even has a line of Energy Smart computers.

Electronics Disposal
If an older electronic is not something you can sell or give away, as a last resort there are companies that will properly dispose your toxic gadgets. I've used Green Citizen who "provides convenient, safe and accountable solutions that make it easy for individuals and organizations to help save the environment from harmful electronic waste."

Energy Audit
If you've got a dedicated office space you can find out what changes to make by getting an energy audit. Most utilities offer this service for your business at a reasonable cost. And your changes are likely to offset this initial cost.

3) Shared Kitchen Space

Water Filters On Tap
Wow, Americans spend more than $8 Billion a year on bottled water. Install a water filter that will cost pennies a gallon, instead of expensive bottled water. You won't notice a taste difference and you won't have to recycle all that plastic.

Bring your own mug and do away with the disposable paper and styrofoam cups. Make sure that the cups are washed with green cleaners and you're totally good. Did you know that according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency more than 3 million tons of polystyrene is made in the U S each year and almost all of it ends up in landfill? This stuff practically never goes away.

Green Coffee
Oh how the office loves it's coffee. But do we realize that most coffee is imported after being cultivated on small farms in the tropics? For the highest standards, buy coffee that bears the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal of approval. This means that this product is from farmers who pledged to control pollution, conserve natural resources and wildlife habitat, while treating their workers responsibly.

For Further Reading and Advanced Greening!
The amount of online information about eco-responsible practices is endless. In addition to the links above, here are 3 great online resources all aimed at reducing your environmental impact.



Green Living Toolbox from Mashable
(80+ Green Sites & Resources)

Tip: Be A Green Small Business, Part 1

I had the pleasure and opportunity to work with Jenny Martinez, Creative Director at MissJenny.com, when I worked with the Cartfly and Sellit brands. Together we helped create great customer experiences through graphic design and social media.

We worked on many blog posts over the years and I thought I would "recycle" our Green Small Business series from back in July of 2008. So enjoy!
Branching out on your own and starting a small business can be an opportunity to establish some green business practices. Online info is endless and can be overwhelming to sort through but we are here to help! Part 1 is about your shipping resources and marketing materials.

Whether you work from your kitchen table on the weekends or have a dedicated office space with a staff, here are some tips to get you started.

1) Shipping Resources

By having an online shop, I've had to figure out how to package up and ship my product. I purchase eco-friendly envelopes from a company that also operates by eco-friendly standards, Action Envelope. From my research they look to be "the" online resource for eco-friendly envelopes.

Reusing Supplies
One very economic and green shipping practice is to enlist friends, neighbors and the local post office to collect previously used boxes and other supplies like bubble wrap. You can also get reused cardboard boxes from Usedcardboardboxes.com, a Co-op America approved company. While this is a great way to reuse and get free shipping materials, keep in mind that it is important to be mindful about not mixing boxes marked for particular delivery companies and services.

Packing peanuts come in two varieties: foam and cornstarch. Foam are not eco-friendly, but you can sign up to get reused foam peanuts for free through the Peanut Hotline and the Plastic Loose Fill Council. This keeps them out of landfills and re-used over and over. However, once they are out of your hands, you have no way to know what the person on the other end will do with them. If you depend on peanuts, the cornstarch variety are biodegradable.

2) Marketing

Green Printing
What I really want is soy or vegetable ink toner cartridges so I can continue to print my marketing materials, tags and inserts as I go. But that's not a reality yet. For those of you ready to print in large quantities you may want to consider a print shop that uses these friendly materials and operates in eco-responsible ways. Google 'green printing' and you find plenty of options including Greener Printer in Berkeley, CA or PsPrint in Oakland, CA. They are certified "green business" as eco-friendly printers, using soy and vegetable based inks, and recycled paper.

Co-op America Business Network
"Co-op America's Green Business Network™" is dedicated to helping socially and environmentally responsible businesses emerge and thrive to form a global green economy." Benefits of membership include: listngs in the National Green Pages™, use of the Green Business Seal of Approval, invitation to participate in Green Festivals, special discounts, access to groups, media exposure, and more. Learn more here.

1% For The Planet
1% For The Planet is a growing global movement of 924 companies that donate 1% of their sales to a network of 1,601 environmental organizations worldwide. The company states that "membership creates opportunities for companies to network, conduct business and simply associate themselves with over 700 companies that have made the same noble commitment. From a consumer standpoint, member companies re-enforce a positive perception of their brand, adding value that can result in greater customer loyalty and an increased customer base, especially among the growing number of people who recognize and appreciate the importance of environmental responsibility." Learn more here.

I hope you found these tips helpful and interesting! Check back next Thursday for Part 2: Greening Your Office and Supplies.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Optimize Your Blog for 2010

If you have a brand or a business, you should be blogging. This is one of the best and easiest ways to generate fresh, up to date content for your site and keep people coming back.

1. Find your own niche and try to be as unique as you can. Creative and thought provoking topics create interest and clearly defines who your audience is. You should always blog with your core audience in mind.

2. Use attention grabbing titles and relevant keywords. Anything you can do to grab users attention will help grow your audience. This also includes graphics, video and links you can find to relevant blogs.

3. Comment on popular blogs in your niche to make a name for yourself out there. Link back to the original stories in your own blog to give recognition and share the knowledge.

4. Make sure to have RSS (real simple syndication) and subscription buttons available at the top of your blog in the sidebar. This makes it easy for visitors to subscribe to your content and for your to track them. You will need to add these buttons yourself, but with services like Feedburner, it's not very difficult...mostly a copy and paste job. It's now owned by Google and is available with any Gmail account.

5. Post often and get on a regular schedule. If people are interested in what you have to say, they will appreciate consistency. Post weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, but stick to a schedule.

6. Use your networks to get the word out about your new posts. Market each post on Twitter, Facebook, directories and bookmarking sites.

7. Don't give up. Blogging is sometimes tedious, boring, monotonous and downright draining. Keep your ultimate goal in mind of educating and growing your audience and keep on truckin'.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fiji New Years Update: Day 9 & 10

So the festivities continued with a White Party on Yanuca Island. We took 2 30 minute boat ride to a private surf resort called Batiluva Beach Resort in the center of the world famous Beqa Lagoon, acclaimed by many as the location of some of the world's best diving. The resort is a quick boat ride from Frigate Passage, one of the most consistent surf spots not only in Fiji, but also the South Pacific.

There was a bar and bbq set up as well as a DJ hut set for a dance party. Here are Garth, Frank Richards and Adam Freeland, one of the most well established and heavily toured DJ's on the planet...who I had the pleasure of sitting next to on the boat ride! Feel free to check out an island interview with Adam from Laurel May (my villa mate) in 944 Magazine.

Needless to say, the party was awesome and the beats were epic...and we were on a private island!

So that is the end of Fiji New Years 2010. Quite an experience and certainly one for the books! Happy New Year to you and yours!!

Fiji New Years Update: Day 6, 7, 8

I finally lost track of days and time, but thought I'd just give the highlights and finish what I started ; )

We ventured to the neighboring Pearl Resort for lunch one day. Food was great, staff was friendly and helpful and the resort was extremely chic and well maintained.

Pearl lobby...

Pearl lobby bar...yes that is a waterfall mirror...

Mantarae Restaurant...

The Pearl beach...

BLVD provided us with a beachside set during happy hour...awesome!

And here are John and I enjoying the music and sunset...

Friday, January 1, 2010

Fiji New Years Update: Day 5

Most everyone took it easy on January 1st and we came to find out that New Years Day is a big celebration for the Fijians. John and I walked down to the public beach and there were thousands of families eating, partying, playing rugby and enjoying the ocean.

We were invited to participate in a Kava Kava ceremony where we learned about Fijian culture, traditions and rituals. Kava kava is an esteemed mind and mood altering agent enjoyed by the non-drinking locals. After a few rounds of drinks we all were dusted with powder and told we would all sleep well.

Fiji New Years Update: NYE

December 31, 2009

The day we have all been waiting for finally arrived...New Years Eve!! There were 2 seatings for dinner and the music began promptly at 9pm. The staff built a stage right off the beach and with the help of BLVD's own Leon Cook, the sound system actually came together.

Fiji is actually one of the first places to celebrate the new year and here is the list of celebration times from around the world...

It just so happen to be a Blue Moon on this night as well which is the second full moon in one calendar month. Here are some pics from the night...I'll go back and add names later ; )