How to start a successful business

Link

If you’re like many businesses trying to sell your product or services in today’s extremely competitive market, you already know the importance of getting the word out. You’ve got several choices on how you can best do this. And since this is literally our full-time job, we have plenty of answers to help you out.

One of our loyal readers recently submitted a question that we think many of you are wondering about yourselves.

WeCanHelpQ: I’m interested in turning my hobby into a full-time business. Where do I even begin to get the word out so I can make some money?

A: That’s awesome. Congratulations! In today’s technology-driven world there are many options for you to market your business. But before we think about how, you need to think about who.

Who are you selling to? Knowing your audience is an essential part of knowing how you’re going to market.

For example, if you’re trying to sell to a specific demographic, consider how they get their information. Do they pick up the daily paper every morning? Turn to social media? Listen to talk radio or go directly to the Internet to look something up? Once you figure out who you’re selling to, figuring out how you’re going to reach them is easy.

Let’s say you’re a physical therapist here in the Hill Country and you’re seeking to expand the number of patients you treat.

  1. Look at your current clientele. What do they come to you most for? Sports injuries? Accident rehabilitation? Age- or health-related wear and tear? And how far do they travel to get to you?
  1. How did your customers come to know you? Were you referred by other patients or doctors?
  1. Think about why you would come to you. What makes your company stand out against others offering similar services?

Getting your name and information out to general doctors’ offices and even fellow physical therapists is essential for referrals. Other doctors may not be able to help, but if you’re available they most likely will tell their prospective patient to come to you. It’s considerate to do the same for them. Customer referrals are extremely strong as well. If you have someone exceptionally pleased with your service, ask them if you can use them in marketing campaigns.

But just like strong referrals can push your business forward, so can your company branding—an attractive, clean logo can do wonders for you. Put that thing everywhere: business cards, letterheads, pens and notepads you pass out, on your store sign up front, on staff shirts, EVERYWHERE. Not sure where to start with that? We can help you. Give us a shout.

If you have a question on how to get people knocking at your business door, email us at denise at rudkin productions dot com.

Behind the Scenes of “A Rudkin Christmas Story”

Do you love our new “A Rudkin Christmas Story” Facebook cover and posts?
We are pretty obsessed with it ourselves and have been excited to use the frozen flagpole scene from the movie, A Christmas Story as our Christmas theme inspiration for quite a while!

Do you wonder how something so awesome was created?
Well, here is a run down of how we built this amazing graphic.

First, we came up with a theme. A Christmas Story is a group favorite and we always loved the idea of someone in our office getting their tongue stuck to a frozen pole… so the theme was a no brainer.

Second, since we live in the Texas Hill Country, a frozen pole isn’t exactly easy to come by, so we created our own. We found a nice stock background image of a school to fit our theme and we layered on a frozen flagpole. Boom! We have our setting.

Next, we needed the crew! But shooting everyone in the Rudkin gang at the same time is never an easy task since we are all over Texas and we are all busy little bees! Our solution to this is to photograph each person individually… this is actually one of my favorite parts of the project. Shooting each person individually so they can fit into one overall theme is quite humorous!

You can see each of our individual shots on the image below. Can you imagine what we look like to a passer-by? Posing in awkward positions, making strange faces and wearing all of our winter garb on a balmy 75-degree day? HA! Amusing to say the least!

RP_Individual

You may notice that Meg and Monica’s photos have different backgrounds, this is because they were not at the Rudkin office at the time of the photo shoot, so their husbands graciously stepped in and worked their photography magic to capture their wives’ best-panicked face.

Once we had everyone’s individual photos shot, we needed to clip the bodies out of their individual backgrounds allowing us to compile them all into one photo. This process is very detailed and quite interesting – so interesting we are working on a step-by-step process to share with you in our next post!

Finally, each person’s clipped out image is compiled on top of the background setting image we previously created, slowly the overall image you see here is built! Putting us all together in one image is similar to assembling a puzzle; you add one layer at a time until the overall image layout is just perfect!

As a final touch, we added an overall tinting layer to the graphic in order to make it appear like we are in a snowy, frozen region and better work with our theme of A Christmas Story.

RP_Final

What do you think of the end result? Pretty cool Christmas card, eh?

Rudkin’s talented graphic artists are ready to help you make your creative campaign a reality! As you can see, nothing is out of the realm of possibilities! Call us today for a quote on your next project!

Merry Christmas, y’all!

Marketing Collateral 101

By Meg Guillory Burke

Our daily lives are saturated with advertisements and marketing messages. Practically everywhere you look someone is trying to capture your attention and sell you on the idea that what they have to offer is the best of the best. Estimates now show the average American sees over 3,000 of these messages every day, talk about overload! As a business in today’s market you are probably wondering how you are supposed to stand out in this crowded marketplace long enough to earn your potential customer’s hard earned dollar… well, it all starts with your marketing collateral!

What the heck is marketing collateral anyway?

Basically, marketing collateral is any Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 4.53.15 PMprinted element used to promote and sell your ideas, goods and services. Smaller businesses may have basic marketing collateral such as business cards, letterhead, envelopes and perhaps a brochure or a flyer; while larger businesses may have sales kits, catalogs, mail-outs, data sheets, charts and graphs, specialty products and more.

Whether your business is small or large, your marketing collateral is used to visually communicate who you are and what you do, to your target consumer. Your marketing collateral acts as part of your sales team and represent you to the public, so make them as good as your finances allow.

How do you create effective marketing collateral?

Set a goal.   Initially you must decide what each of your collateral pieces will be used for. Your business cards provide pertinent contact information and may be used in initial meetings with potential customers. A brochure may provide a brief overview of your company’s benefits and capabilities; while flyers or direct mailers could be used to promote a special event or sale. Letterhead and envelopes support brand identity and may be used for follow up communication or invoicing. Sales kits provide a more detailed insight into your business and/or services and can work as a secondary form of communication to keep your business top-of-mind and recognizable.

Develop a theme. Each element of your marketing collateral must work to convey
your company image and collectively. Implementing a consistent theme throughout creates brand recognition or an awareness of your business’ existence and availability. People buy from who they know; generally the more recognized brands achieve the most sales.

Consider your audience.  Most businesses have a specific target. A simple way to Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 4.53.47 PMdetermine your target consumer is to ask yourself who, what, when, where, why and how questions.

  • Who is your end user?
  • What do they do?
  • When would they seek your services or products?
  • Where do they live?
  • Why should they choose your business?
  • How can you reach them?

Answering these questions help you understand your audience’s demographics and psychographics, or what drives them to buy.

Determine your message.  Once you have determined who you are selling to, you must be able to inform them about what you are selling and then motivate them to make the purchase from you and not your competition.

It is imperative that your information and facts are accurate and truthful. Use proper grammar and check spelling and punctuation, something as simple as a misspelled word can reflect poorly on your company’s image. Include a call to action or incentive for your audience, such as a discount or special reward, as a way to track the return on your collateral investment. You can even generate a sense of trust by including past client testimonials or listing any performance recognitions your products or services may have received.

Remember to keep the message simple. Your marketing materials have a matter of seconds to capture someone’s attention, so make sure the benefits of doing business with your company can be comprehended quickly without causing any confusion.

Implement strong creative.  Are your marketing materials attractive and engaging? Do they persuade the potential buyer to inquire further? The look and feel of your materials greatly affects whether or not you make the sale, so every detail matters.Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 4.54.36 PM

There are countless ways to visually communicate your message and achieve a one of a kind look. For example, on a brochure, flyer or sales kit, use graphic elements, charts or graphs to make facts such as your capabilities, costs and/or business location stand out. Use photography or images to suggest reality in your customer’s mind. Then, add captions to help convey necessary details.

A unique shape or size can make your brochure stick out in a stack of hundreds. A catchy or humorous slogan could make your business memorable.

Even the paper stock you print your materials on can set it apart from your competition. Really, the possibilities are endless when it comes to creativity, just be sure these creative aspects compliment your overall message and are consistent.

Don’t forget to include your logo on everything! Continually use the same color selections and font styles on all your materials. An inconsistent look can confuse your customer and negate your brand’s identity.

Seek help.  Not everyone is creative and witty; don’t let this defeat the effectiveness of your collateral! There is no shame in seeking help. Hiring a third party, such as an advertising agency, who offers solutions for copywriting, editing, creative development and market research can greatly improve your chances of creating successful marketing collateral.

You are now equipped with all the necessary knowledge to create outstanding, eye-catching, unique marketing collateral elements! Just remember, businesses are a dime a dozen, but with proper research and a savvy strategy, your business can stand out from the crowd!

Google’s Web: How to Untangle Your Website Analytics

analytics-600

As we navigate through the mire of data available stemming from powerful tools such as Google Analytics, it’s easy to lose a sense of strategic direction when it comes to your website. Spinning the large quantities of information into a useful map of content is a bit trickier now, but not altogether impossible. By honing in on specific key metrics, you can deduce what adjustments need to be made in your approach to designing a successful website.

Conversion Rates
Does your website have a newsletter sign up, a registration page, downloadable content, or sell a product or service? You can find out if these call-to-actions are effective by extracting your goal conversion and your Ecommerce conversion rates. A goal conversion relates to specific actions you want a user to do on your website such as signing up for a newsletter or inputting customer information, while an Ecommerce conversion tracks an actual monetary purchase. You can monitor your online efficiency and sales performance, in the admin panel of your Google Analytics dashboard, just select an account, property, and a view. Then, click goals, and from there create a goal to measure how often users take or complete these specific actions.

Source

True New and Returning Visitors
Multiple platforms now exist in the range from tablets to desktops for users to visit and browse your website. As a result, it can get tricky to distinguish a brand new visitor to your website from a loyal returning visitor. It is important to know the difference between the two, especially the true new visitors so you can track how they found your site, what keywords they searched to get there, and what pages they frequented so you know what is working to attract (or not working) them. To solve this problem, create advanced segments in your settings to get true returning visitors and true new visitors.

Source

Bounce Rate
Another useful Google Analytics statistic is the bounce rate. You can evaluate the success of your website as a whole by gauging how many of them leave shortly after arriving. The lower that number is, the better. Moreover, these single page sessions can help you identify if your landing page design is off or your keywords are not correctly defining your page content.

Source

Long Term Statistics
Keeping the bigger picture in mind is also important when you are looking at so many details, ratios, percentages and statistics. When you take a step back and see the website trends of your page visits over an extended period of time, you can correlate the marketing initiatives taken on your end to the activity displayed as an outcome on the user end. Google, by default, features the results of the prior 30 days, but try extending this out to a three to six month period. Do you see random spikes and falls? How about a slow, but stable growth of visitors? Do any rises in page visits occur around the same time of a website update or a marketing tactic? Asking these questions will help you understand how your website is performing in the long run with your audience.

Source

Image Source

#Hashtag Trend: How Your Brand Can Benefit From The Internet’s New Symbol of ‘Cool’

by Ivonne Vega

hashtags

Image source:  http://www.wix.com/blog/2013/10/what-are-hashtags-and-how-to-use-them-on-social-media/ 

By now the use of the “#” symbol is as ubiquitous as the flurry of store signage along the freeway calling our attention on where to spend our money. Depending on the user, the hashtag can reach beyond its original purpose of pooling together like images and content to now dictating the current trending topics, or in a more flippant instance provide a sarcastic/funny call out in a tweet or post. Hashtags are now akin to a cursor directing us where to spend our attention as we browse online. They signal out what will be on everyone’s lips around the water cooler. How does the #hashtag trend relate to a company doing marketing for their brand? Well, “marketing,” as Seth Godin said “is a contest for people’s attention.”

No other social media forum can attest to this better than Twitter. Since 2009, Twitter has adopted to placing hyper linked hashtags in front of topics and filtrating the most popular ones to its homepage. They devised a way to find out where everyone’s attention was focused on. Now users of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are also taking penchant to them and conversations online are centering on these popular topics. This is where your company can come in to develop, track and engage the hashtags in that social space to capture the attention of your target audience.

However, just like driving, the use of hashtags must be used with precaution and measure to maximize a positive viral effect and minimize disastrous results. Think of a drivers manual you absolutely must crack open before you can even put the key in the ignition as we look at some of the best practices for the uses of hashtags.

10 Do’s and Don’ts of Hashtags in Your Social Media Strategy

Source: http://media.about.com/od/toolsfornewsmedia/fl/How-to-Use-Hashtags-in-Your-Social-Media-Strategy.htm

1. Don’t Forget The Hashtags

The first rule of hashtags is to add them. To everything. You probably already know that Twitter, Facebook and Google+ all support hashtags but did you know Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, Tumblr and even Kickstarter, among others, also support hashtags? Add your hashtag to every post, without exception, or you’re missing an opportunity to generate buzz and grow your audience.

2. Strategize Your Hashtags

Hashtags have become a part of our daily vocabulary, so much so that you’ll find hashtags used in everything from TV commercials to everyday conversations friends are having in person without even being on the computer. What you typically find on social media sites are people who just want to add their opinion or a witty remark using hashtags or, worse, a company that is missing out on an opportunity because it chose random hashtags that have no strategy behind them. You need a hashtag that’s more significant than #NotCoolMan, unless you also own an air conditioning repair service.

3. Use Short Hashtags

How often have you seen #HashtagsThatAreSoLongTheyShouldBeBanned? Use short hashtags that are easy to read and actually have a chance of being retweeted. The longer your hashtags, the harder they are to read and the more real estate they take up in your post’s character limits. You’re not trying to be funny just to get a quick laugh, you want to use a hashtag that will be seen, is short enough to make retweeting easy and could end up trending.

4. Don’t Use the Same Hashtags

If you use the same hashtags over and over again, you’re not going to gain as much traction as you would if you varied up your hashtags. It’s easy for a media company to slap #news at the end of a post. That hashtag will get lost in a timeline full of #news hashtags but it also dilutes the power of hashtags by not capitalizing on what the post is truly covering.

5. Don’t Use More Than Two Hashtags Per Post

Statistics show that posts with more than two hashtags perform worse than those with only one or two. As this infographic shows , tweets with one or two hashtags have 21% higher engagement than those posts that are loaded with hashtags.

6. Break Out Your Hashtags on the Weekends

Surveys show hashtags are hot on the weekends, with engagement rates for brands being 17% higher on Saturdays and Sundays. However, most companies are missing out because they take the weekends off. If you can’t have someone manning your social media accounts on the weekends, use a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite to plan your weekend posts with hashtags ahead of time.

7. Take Advantage of Trending Hashtags

You know #AmericanIdol is going to be a trending hashtag on the nights the show airs. Take advantage of the trending hashtags. If your website has an interview with one of the contestants on your YouTube channel, promote it and tag that update with #AmericanIdol. Keep an eye on what is trending now to see if you can get your content in front of the millions of eyes watching for that hashtag too.

8. Interact with Other Users Using Hashtags

Want to expose your social media accounts to potential followers and fans? Join the conversation. Interact with other users using your hashtags and dive right in when you can contribute to a trending hashtag. Social media isn’t a one-sided platform. You will develop a more loyal, long-lasting following if you interact with your audience.

9. Ask for Retweets not RTs

You want your followers to retweet you so your hashtag gets passed around. Just ask … but do it properly. Stats show asking for retweets by spelling out the word “retweet” pull in retweets that are 23 times higher than the average. And posts that ask for an RT only perform 10 times higher.

10. Track Your Hashtags

You spent a lot of time coming up with the right hashtags so how do you know if your strategy is working or if you need to tweak it? Track your hashtags to see their peaks and plummets. This will help you see what types of hashtags are working for you and which ones should be #retired.

(Bonus) #AlwaysCheckYourHashtags

As some brands can attest to, jumping in too quickly on a trending hashtag without checking out what it’s referencing to can land you in some hot water. Using a hashtag representing say, a divisive political debacle or pressing social cause, to plug your brand can adversely create bad publicity for you whether it’s done knowingly or unknowingly. The kind of bad publicity where you have to continuously apologize to everyone, other media outlets pick up on your error and virally spread it, and you write a note on your desk in big, fat, red letters saying “#AlwaysCheckYourHashtags.” So, do a little research and map out where your tentative hashtag is coming from and use your sound judgment if it can get you to where you want to go to: at the forefront of your audience’s attention.