Why Your Company Needs a Freelance Contract and What it Should Include

Thirty percent of companies hire freelancers. Hiring a freelancer allows you to hire an individual to help you with anything from graphic design or social media management to creating videos or accounting services. You, too, may utilize independent contractors to meet deadlines, handle staff shortages and fill in talent gaps. Before you hire freelancers, though, create a detailed contract.

Why your Business Needs a Freelance Contract

 

The independent contractors you hire for temporary jobs are not your official employees. To get on the same page and protect your company, you need more than an oral agreement. Your freelance contract will be specific and clear as it outlines details about the project, including payment, deadlines, confidentiality, and other conditions of your work agreement.

For the freelancers, a contract provides peace of mind. As they create your company’s promotional video, complete remodeling projects, or perform seasonal deliveries, they know exactly what type of work they will perform, how long they have to deliver the goods or services, and when they’ll get paid. Signing a contract also motivates your freelancers to commit adequate time and energy to the project.

The contract protects your company’s assets and proprietary information, too. A contract reduces your liability during a project disagreement and gives you legal recourse if a freelancer steals privileged information. Additionally, you will need copies of all freelance contracts if your business undergoes an IRS audit.

What to Include in a Freelance Contract

When creating a freelance contract, include several details:

Contact Basics

Include contact information, such as the address, phone number, email, billing address, and contact information for your company and the freelancer. This information ensures both parties can contact each other throughout the project process.

Project Details and Scope

Record details about the project’s parameters and expectations. Be as specific as possible to ensure you get the product or services you need, to verify that the freelancer knows what’s expected and to prevent misunderstandings. This part of the contract will also outline steps you will take if the work isn’t completed on time or as expected.

Nondisclosure Agreement

Protect your interests, including sensitive, confidential and proprietary information, when you require freelancers to protect details about the project’s work and clients. You can ask freelancers to sign an NDA before you begin contract negotiations or include it in your formal contract.

Non-compete Agreement

Preserve the relationships you have with current clients and protect your interests. For example, if you hire a freelance graphic designer to create graphics for your clients’ presentations, the non-compete agreement prevents them from offering their services directly to the clients.

Deadlines

Define deliverables and milestones. Include specific delivery dates and details about what happens if the freelancer misses a deadline.

Expenses

Describe who will pay for expenses such as software, stock photographs or mileage. While most independent contractors take sole responsibility for these expenses, your company may wish to cover some or all costs associated with specific projects.

Payment Terms

Outline when the freelancers will be paid and the payment total. Be sure to include the hourly pay rate, if applicable, and who’s responsible for billing. For payments made in increments, include the project and invoice deadlines and the exact amount of the payments. Remember to add information about acceptable payment methods and how quickly you will pay after you receive an invoice.

Final Copyright

Detail which party holds the final copyright to the finished project. In most situations, freelancers retain full rights until they deliver the milestone or final project.

Relationship of Parties

Specify that you are hiring freelancers as independent contractors, not employees. You may also need to include that the freelancers are responsible to pay their own income taxes.

Dispute Resolution

Review the procedure for handling disputes over incomplete or completed work and other contract details.

Signatures

Remember that both your company’s representative and the freelancer must sign the contract. It’s not legal or binding until it’s signed.

DIY Contracts Versus Hiring a Lawyer

You can customize a freelance contract template online or hire a lawyer to write one. With a legally-binding DIY contract, you can write in understandable language and customize each contract. Alternatively, a lawyer can write a clear, concise and specific contract that covers your legal bases. Ultimately, the decision is yours.

If your company hires freelancers, you need a contract. Use these guidelines to create a thorough and clear contract that protects your company and your freelancers.

Guest post: About the Author

 

PJ Taei is the founder of Uscreen, a video monetization platform to help you sell any kind of videos online.

 

How to Make The Most out of Your Direct Mail Marketing

Many people have dismissed direct mail since the introduction of online advertisement tools. While online tools are vital for small businesses, it is a mistake to assume direct mail is not as helpful; for one, it can be highly targeted. A small business owner has to purchase a mailing list with the addresses of people interested in what the company sells. It is much easier to entice people who are interested in your product or service, which is just one thing that direct mail marketing can do for a business.

Building Your Target Audience

The first step you need to take is purchasing a mailing list. The list will contain individuals who are interested in the products you sell or the services you offer. Now, some people just use that mailing list and send off their marketing material. The material is marked with a coupon or something similar that you can track if those coupons are used in your establishment later. You can slash the mailing list, and just focus on a particular area that responds well to your mailing list.

Another step you can take is to use the mailing list as a starting point. What you want to do is make a mailing list even more specific by using demographics. You probably already know which groups of people respond well to your product or services. Use that information to target your potential customers even better. What you are doing here is reducing waste because you do not want to spend so much on advertisements that may simply end up in a trash can.

Getting the Best ROI From Direct Mail

Making sure your direct mail marketing is effective takes work. There is no doubt about that truth. The following are a few tips to ensure the best ROI you can:

Clear Call to Action

Potential customers do not want to be confused regarding what steps they can take to benefit from your products or services. This means your direct mail should be very clear and use simplistic language to tell potential customers about your offers.

Be Sure to Include Perks 

Potential customers are being pampered by many other businesses like yours. You need to make sure that you pay attention to the perks competitors are offering potential customers and see if you can beat them. A good option is to offer a few coupons, but you can spice it up by partnering with other complimentary businesses to double your clientèle.

Use Names Effectively

People love to receive mail, especially mail that is addressed to them directly rather than just the resident. You want to make sure that you use the name of the person who lives in the location. Pepper the recipient’s name throughout the letter or marketing material.

Try to Avoid Being Aggressive

Yes, you want new customers, but you do not want to seem too desperate. Do your best to ensure you only include a few calls to action or just one. People do not like a pushy salesperson, so they will not appreciate pushy marketing material.

Taking these steps should help reduce the chances of your material being tossed away with the rest of the refuse in a household. Make sure you design your marketing material with intent. Usually, what works best is something clean, simple, and printed with big letters. It would be wise to speak to a direct mail marketing consultant. This specialist can help get your message across effectively.

Guest post: About the Author

Caylanne Crowne is a contributing writer and the media specialist for Allegra Network. She regularly writes for marketing blogs with an emphasis in career building and print marketing.

Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses

Accounting is not the most fun aspect of the business, but it’s surely one of the most important. That’s why, no matter whether what kind of products or services you sell, you’ll need a reliable accounting software as the backbone of your business’ finances. But if you’re a small or growing company, you probably don’t need the huge-scale feature—or price tag!—of the accounting programs that are targeted for much larger companies.

So which ones are the most affordable and intuitive to use? Are there any programs that create automated invoicing, expense reports, and bill payments? What about cloud-based software for convenience and security? If you’ve been wondering about the answers to these kinds of questions, the good news is that we’ve done all the research so that you won’t have to. After all, you’ve got a business to run.

QuickBooks Online

If a convenient and simple-to-use accounting program is what you’re looking for, Quickbooks Onlineis a smart choice. With an intuitive interface and cleanly designed dashboard, you have an at-a-glance look at your overall financial health, from outstanding or paid invoices, expenses, sales, and profits and losses. With built-in report templates and automated features like recurring invoices, bill payments and reminders, QuickBooks Online does away with the tedious and time-wasting nature of manual transactions to free up your time for actually running your business.

Via Quickbooks Online

QuickBooks is compatible with a ton of external applications so that you can automatically import and export data with no hassle. Plus, your data is automatically backed up, so you never need to worry about losing important transactions or reports. With a $10-$30 monthly subscription fee, as well as a free trial, the price for making your small business more efficient couldn’t be better.

Wave Accounting

When something seems too good to be true, it usually is. But Wave Accounting is a completely free accounting software, with no catch or tricks up its sleeves. Even better, it’s one of the best financial software programs out there for small business owners who don’t plan to scale (past 10 or so employees). Keep in mind that it is a step down in complexity from some of the more robust accounting programs since it doesn’t track billable hours or automatically attach tracked expense to invoices. And because it’s not capable of tracking inventory or creating purchase orders, this one isn’t for you if your business provides more than a handful of products. Still, reviewers swoon over its ease of use for a small company with simple needs.

Via WaveApps

And with basic features like automated recurring billing and payment reminders, automatically synced data with your other financial services like your bank, credit card, or PayPal, as well as cloud-based data backup, you can rest easy. If what you’re looking for is simple and frills-free, you can’t beat with Wave Accounting.

FreshBooks

Looking for a program that’s simple to use and offers reliable, top-notch customer service, as well as various integrations? FreshBooks makes it easy for you to invoice customers and track both billable hours and expenses. You can send payment reminders and see when a client has viewed your invoice.

Via FreshBooks

One downside is that FreshBooks is meant for single-entry accounting only, so if you require more complex features, this may not be the best choice for you. But with an easy-to-use intuitive design, mobile apps, and solid invoicing and billing capabilities, it gets the job done for a small business that doesn’t need all the fancy bells and whistles. Keep in mind that pricing is set upon your number of customers, as well as features and additional users.

Xero

If you’re looking for a platform that provides real-time updates from your bank and credit cards, and you’re the type who wants to know what’s going on with your finances on a moment to moment basis, a subscription with Xero will be your best bet.

Via Xero

Xero features a subscription model with tools for bookkeeping, invoicing, expense management, taxes and more. When you upgrade from the starter subscription (which allows you to send invoices to send five invoices and quotes, and reconcile 20 bank transactions per month), you get unlimited access to these features plus payroll, so you can adjust as your business expands.

Guest post: About the Author

Lauren Pezzullo is an east-coast-raised Austinite and musicophile who writes about the latest software and B2B trends for TrustRadius. She’s currently at work on her debut novel.

 

Tools Bootstrapped Business Owners Will Love

The most obvious weakness that a bootstrapped business has is its lack of capital. Without investment, a business simply can’t grow. The biggest strength of a bootstrapped business? Most often, it’s the creativity and enthusiasm of the founders. By hook or by crook, they find a path to success, using their minimal resources effectively.

Tools also help. In 2018, there’s a tool for everything, and if you run a bootstrapped business, there are tools that can help you cover many things, from logo creation to organization. Let’s take a look at the best affordable tools that bootstrapped business owners will love:

Google Search Console

100% free, Google Search Consoleis a great way to monitor the performance of your website.

You can use it to gauge where search traffic is coming from, and assess what’s working and what isn’t on your website. Once you have this invaluable information, you can start to fine-tune your SEO efforts so that you drive more, high-value traffic to your website. Over time, this will boost conversions and help you grow a stronger audience.

Shopify’s Logo Maker

All businesses need a logo – a logo essentially represents the face of the brand and it’s the first thing we picture when we think of a company. Try to think of Coca-Cola without picturing the logo! Of course, creating logos can be expensive, especially if you hire a professional graphic designer.

This is where Shopify’s Logo Maker comes in. It’s a neat tool that lets you put together a creative and stunning logo or banner in a matter of minutes. For bootstrapped business owners, it’s absolutely ideal.

MailChimp

MailChimp is an email autoresponder that you’ll need once you start building your email list.

It’s free until you’ve got around 2,000 subscribers, or alternatively you can sign right up to their ‘Growing Business’ plan for $10 a month that gives you access to unlimited sending and advanced testing tools.

Email lists are important for all businesses. They’re a very cheap way of bunching our customers together in one place, and when you use a tool like MailChimp – which can segment your list so that the right customers receive the right emails – it’s super easy to build awesome relationships with people.

BuzzSumo

All online companies – no matter how big or small – produce content. But what happens when we run out of content ideas? Worse still, what if we keep pumping out content that no one wants to read? Conversions drop, as do sales. Our business loses its presence online.

BuzzSumo is a tool that resolves these problems. It analyzes the best performing content on the Internet so that you can generate better content ideas. In other words, you can use BuzzSumo to create a content marketing plan that will score you more readers. This, in turn, can improve your conversions and sales.

HootSuite

You don’t need a massive pot of gold to succeed on social media if you’ve got a tool like BuzzSumo for content ideas – and a tool like HootSuite for managing your social media channels.

Social media can easily get on top of us, which is why HootSuite was created. It comes with a 30-day free trial, links up over 35 social networks, and measures things such as trends, which posts are performing best, and what’s working and what isn’t on your platforms.

Slack

In 2018, more and more teams are remote-based. Keeping track of everyone can be tricky, especially when cash is sparse and you don’t have office space.

A tool like Slack helps to keep your team together in one, digitized space. It’s great as a  communication resource, and it helps to keep your team on track and up-to-date. It works well as a project management tool and comes with real-time messaging.

Pitcherific

Pitching isn’t easy, but it’s essential. A solid, well-crafted and compelling pitch can be the difference between you securing investment for your business and going back to the proverbial drawing board.

Pitcherific is the tool that raises your presentation to the next level so that your pitch convinces investors to do business with you.

Conclusion

Overall, bootstrapping is exciting and there are affordable and even free tools that can help you grow your business.

However, businesses ultimately live and die by cash flow. If you feel like your business could do with some extra capital right now, we at IOU Financial provide affordable small business loans to help you scale. For instant pre-approval and funding, apply now.

Guest Post: About the Author

Michelle Deery is a content writer for Heroic Search in Tulsa. She helps businesses improve their sales by writing educational and engaging content.

3 Ways to be Smart about Business Expenses as a New Business Owner

New business owners become overwhelmed by expenses, taxes, and financial issues in a short time. With so much to do and manage, it is challenging to keep tabs on expenses. But, if you want to stay in business, you must keep your spending in check, stay on top of your tax responsibilities, and prioritize tasks and expenses. Our tips will show you how to do it all.

  1. Hire a Financial Advisor Specializing in Small Businesses

It seems strange to emphasize keeping expenses in check and then suggest hiring a financial advisor, but it is the best way for you to comply with tax laws, make smart purchases and investments, and protect your assets as your business grows. Your best move is to choose a financial advisor who has ample experience in assisting small businesses and who understands the ever-changing tax laws.

If you work from home, you especially need a financial advisor to help you determine whether claiming your home office is the best way to proceed with your taxes. It also is more challenging for small business owners who work from home to keep their personal and business expenses separate, and a financial advisor will ensure you do things by the book to avoid penalties or fees. Your financial advisor also will help you find areas to save costs and prevent you from using too much of your personal money to grow your business.

  1. Create a Budget… and Stick to It

Your financial advisor also will help you create a budget for your small business or your home office. It is critical that you stick to your budget because you don’t want to stretch your new business too thin in the early stages.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 80% of businesses with employees survive their first year in business, 66% survive their second year, and about 50% will survive their fifth year. However, only about 30% survive their tenth year. Why do so many small businesses fail? For many of them, the answer is lack of sufficient capital and cash flow problems. One study shows that 82% of businesses fail due to cashflow problems.

The lessons new business owners must learn are that they need to manage their expenses wisely, and they need to have enough capital to grow. The solution to these common issues is to prioritize your needs by creating and sticking to a budget.

If working from home is the best way to start your business, do so to save overhead costs. You’d be surprised by how much you can accomplish with the perfect workspace in your home and the right technology. You’ll likely be able to get off the ground with reliable, high-speed internet, a laptop or tablet, and a reliable printer and phone. There are even online payment systems that allow remote business owners to receive one-time or recurringclient payments from the comforts of a home office. Reliability and convenience are much more important than spending too much for the latest technology, phones, or gadgets.

  1. Make Priorities

As a new business owner, the bulk of the work will fall to you. Because your time is money when you’re in charge, you need to be as productive as possible and make time for yourself and your family. That may be easier said than done if you work from home, so set your hours based on when you are most productive and make time for your family to strike a work-life balance. The perk of working from home is setting your schedule, so do so wisely.

You’ll also need to prioritize your workday tasks. While answering emails is an important part of your role as a new business owner, other tasks will suffer if you spend too much time checking your inbox and replying to emails that are not urgent.

To spend less time on email, set up an automatic response and take advantage of canned responses. You’ll still respond to customers promptly, but you’ll also be more productive if you schedule time for email throughout your day. It’s also important to prioritize record keeping for tax purposes and to create a system for filing receipts and other documents that will support your business expense claims each quarter.

New business owners succeed when they make smart decisions about expenses. Make it easier on yourself by hiring a financial advisor specializing in small business, creating and sticking to a budget, and making priorities.

Guest post: About the Author

Ms. Fisher has spent more than 20 years as a CPA, and is currently working on a book about financial literacy (due out in 2018). She also runs Financiallywell.info.

Financial Questions Every Business Owner Should Ask Themselves

The most significant strength of a small to medium business is its size. A small-to-medium enterprise has a reasonable overhead cost. The infrastructure is confined to one location in most cases. There are fewer employees (or perhaps none). The company can tweak its policies to suit its customers or clients, scaling up or down a bit is not a major challenge. And lastly, there is substantial scope to grow because one is starting small.

However, these advantages are countered by one significant disadvantage. Most small-to-medium businesses have limited capital or available cash. A majority of small businesses fail due to a financial crisis. Lack of sales or revenue is the obvious cause of failure in theory and in practice. However, that problem can always be tackled for a longer period of time if there is enough financial backup. Every business needs time to mature and grow, to solidify its clientele or consumer base, and to become a self-sustained enterprise.

Business owners must ask themselves hard financial questions and only rely on actual numbers, not estimates, speculations, expectations, or assumptions. As a business owner, be sure to ask:

How much does it cost to run my business?

A business owner should know every cost or financial liability like the back of their hand. Many people focus on rent, utility bills, wages, personal income, and cost of inventory. These are indeed the quintessential recurring expenses, but there are more. A business will need funds to advertise its products and services or promote itself as a brand. There are costs to maintain and upgrade the infrastructure, even in the short term. Very few businesses launch with an infrastructure that can sustain its short term growth. Using the last penny from the revenue generated to finance minor upgrades or to procure more inventory can risk the sustenance of the business, as the working capital will dry up.

How much profit does my business actually make?

Every business owner should know the fundamental difference between gross profit and net profit. Gross profit is not the difference between the selling price and cost price of a product or service. It is the amount you are left with after paying for every recurring expense and after putting aside whatever amount of money you wish to infuse in your backup fund. Net profit is calculated after business and individual taxes. The difference between revenue and gross profit and subsequently with net profit is substantial in most industries. A wrong calculation of profit can wreck a business.

What is my business credit score?

Most business owners worry about their credit score only when they have to apply for a loan. This is fine if your business credit score is healthy and acceptable to the lenders. If not,  there are many ways you can improve your credit score over a period of time so when you have to look for some financing, your rating doesn’t prevent you from getting a loan. Keep a tab on your business credit score and work on improving it. This will save your business when the going gets tough or even when you wish to expand and grow, which requires fresh funding.

What are the financial highs and lows in my business?

Every business owner should have a budget. It is an integral part of any business plan, not just at the inception of an enterprise, but every year and every month for some companies. No business has a uniform or entirely predictable revenue stream throughout the year. What you do with the surplus revenue when “the going is great” and how you manage the revenue deficit when “the tough gets going” will determine the long term fate of your enterprise.

What is the cost and income per unit for my business?

This is a difficult calculation. Even successful companies struggle to boil all its income and expenditure down to a unit. A unit can be a piece of inventory you have or every dollar you spend. The objective is to find out how much your business earns for every penny you spend. This is one of the surest ways to know if your business is financially viable. There will always be some inventory stocked up and some receivables pending. There will be credits granted to you and owed to you. Some incomes and expenses will always be in limbo because of the ongoing cycle of purchases and sales. There will be the need to expand. And lastly, a compulsion to change your products or services.

All such mathematical calculations can become subjective and circumstantial unless you focus on the cost and income per unit. If this correlation is in the green, then your business is financially viable and stable. Else, you need to review the financials of your business.

Guest post: About the Author

Steven Millstein is a professional personal finance writer and contributor to many leading financial publications. His work has been mentioned in and linked to from The Bustle, The Huffington Post, Benzinga, Yahoo Finance and many other publications. He also has his own personal finance blog, Credit Zeal, where you can follow him.

Reach Employee Communication Goals With Texting

Now is a great time to assess your process and look for improvement. You can save a lot of money and time by establishing more effective communication policies for your employees. Here are five of our favorite ways to improve your company-wide communication policies this year.

  1. Prepare for Connecting with the Incoming Generations

Younger generations are showing a strong preference for texting, according to Pew Research Center and other surveys done recently. As you work to appeal to upcoming talent, you will want to expand your methods to include text messaging for recruitment. Text messages will help automate your hiring process, speed up your training sessions and allow your new employees to be more efficient and prepared for their positions.

  1. Use More Dynamic Content

Most professionals prefer less wordy emails and won’t read generic newsletters. Instead, create dynamic content to increase engagement levels. You can always text links to video content or blog posts with images to keep readers engaged. You also want to take advantage of the short nature of texting that will force you to cut the fluff and get to the point. Boost employee communication with SMS that will keep departments and teams communicating and collaborating.

  1. Empower Employee Advocacy

You want to increase your reach, brand recognition and influence, so make sure your employees are turning into advocates. Start by creating a workplace that your employees are excited about and making sure your professionals feel valuable in their jobs. Then, empower your employees by giving them access to key industry news and insight, encouraging them to share and participate in various platforms. You can use employees to help write articles in your newsletters or share their best posts to encourage more interaction. You will only have truly influential advocates if you help promote their value as a professional in their field and on your team.

  1. Increase Flexibility and On-the-Go Communication

Texting can help employees gain freedom they wouldn’t have through email and phone calls alone. Use a texting platform and company phone plans to enable your employees to do more work while they are on-the-go. Give employees as much freedom as possible to work as they can from home or while traveling, allowing for more flexible hours and scheduling. The improved work-life integration will appeal to younger generations that value flexibility and are willing to have increased interruption with working during strange hours on their devices.

  1. Speed Up Policy Changes and Strategies

Automated mass texting can really help your company get the word out about new policies and strategies. Simply send out texts to your entire team or the specific department that it will apply to in order to notify them of changing rules, training dates, industry information, deadline reminders or prompts for paperwork. Text messages are typically read within seconds, allowing your important company notifications to be distributed quickly and effectively. Emails often get lost and phone calls waste time, so use text messaging to send out these notices in a way that is sure to get the message across.

In an age of technology, don’t let your employees waste their time by worrying or gossiping – work to improve communication each year. Text messaging and great content will help you communicate in a stronger way with your employees.

Guest Post: About the Author

Joel Lee is the SEO marketing specialist at Trumpia, which earned a reputation as the most complete SMS solution including user-friendly user interface and API for mobile engagement, Smart Targeting, advanced automation, enterprise, and cross-channel features for both mass texting and landline texting use cases.

10 Signs It’s Time to Revamp Your Logo

Logos are a bit like a gallon of milk: They have a shelf life. The thing is, it’s not as easy to identify when your logo has gone sour, so to speak, as it is with the dairy in the fridge. But savvy companies know that keeping their logos fresh contributes to a better brand image and helps ensure that their marketing stays aligned with their company’s values. From time to time, a logo redesign may be just what you need to kick things up.

Consumers identify with logos, so much so that when Airbnb changed its logo from bubbly and blue to sleek pink, design critics drew irreverent parallels. And then there was that time that BP famously rebranded their logo to appear eco-friendlier, and critics found it a bit inauthentic following the company’s 4.9-billion-barrel mishap. The point is, your costumers pay more attention to your logo than you might think, so keeping it relevant is a worthwhile expense.

It’s Old… Plain and Simple

There’s no one-size-fits-all method to logo design frequency, but if you’ve had the same logo since your company’s inception — in other words, if it stayed the same while the business evolved — that’s a good indicator that it’s time to get a revamp in motion. That’s not to say that a dramatic change is in order. On the contrary, it’s the most subtle, forward-thinking logo updates that often make the most sense.

It’s No Longer Relevant to Your Brand

When your brand pivots, so too should your visuals. Look at your logo as an adaptive, iterative element — in other words, give it the good, old-fashioned agile approach — rather than a static mainstay. If you’ve discovered that your target audience has evolved or shifted, or that your values as a company are different than they were when the logo was originally designed, it’s time to pull the logo pivot.

It Doesn’t Tell a Story

There’s a reason why FedEx and the World Wild Life Fund are almost always referenced in stories about compelling logos. Their logos take total advantage of the white space in order to create a double meaning and to say something more about the brand. These days, researchers put brand storytelling at the top of the marketing ladder, claiming that a solid brand narrative can drive more sales and engage more customers.

It’s Too Complex

Take a good look at some of the most famous logo evolutions in history — the Golden Arches, the Nike Swoosh, the Target target — and you’ll notice one trend above all else: They’ve all been seriously scaled back, with simplicity the primary design principle. The reason for this is two-fold. Companies now have to design logos that look good everywhere­­ — from traditional shipping labels to computer screens and smartphones — but they also believe that simple logos are better for business.

It’s Plain Boring

Take a look at some popular logo designs of emerging start-ups and small businesses from the past year and you’ll see a clear trend: Designers are having more fun than ever before. They’re using unconventional shapes, next-level creativity and a little bit of humor to create logos that are anything but basic. At the end of the day, your logo should be instantly recognizable to your audience and should trigger some sort of emotion, so why not make it lighthearted?

It’s Not Contextual

 

This year, one of the hottest logo design trends is the contextual or responsive logo. These designs respond to their medium. For example, a craft brewery might create a logo for its beer bottle labels that’s different from the one on its business cards or website. But the key to a good, responsive logo is to allow it to be self-aware — in other words, let the end environment guide it — and to ensure that it doesn’t vary too much from one medium to another.

It Uses Out-of-Date Fonts

Paying tribute to the history of your brand isn’t a bad idea, says the Morton Salt girl. Infusing a nod to the past may actually be a good way to go overall, so long as it’s done tastefully. Fonts are one of those ever-changing facets of the design world that’s nearly impossible to keep up with, so nothing dates a design faster than an old, tired font. On the other hand, updating your logo’s font may be all you need for a rapid refresh.

It Plays It Safe

Successful logo design in 2018 must strike a delicate balance between tastefully simple and instantly memorable. Tall order, we know. Logos that play it too safe are less likely to achieve the latter, which equals majorly missed opportunity in the branding department. Implementing some out-of-the-box refreshers — this year, it’s all about experimental fonts, bright colors and pixelated designs — will help your logo stand out on a shelf or in the App Store.

It Feels Like a Fad

Paying attention to trends is really important, but you don’t want to go so far that your logo feels like it’s stuck in a certain era. Well-designed, up-to-date logos should be timeless. Last year, designers quickly jumped on the geometric bandwagon, and now any design that features a simple triangle or an arrow feels outdated and contrived. Try to keep all your logo design elements simple and fad-free to help extend their shelf life.

You’ve Got New Competition

When new competition emerges onto the scene, take it as a challenge to improve every element of your business so that it has an edge. If your market has grown exponentially since your logo was designed, and if new competitors are vying for the attention of your target market, then a logo redesign may be just what you need. It will help reignite the consumer’s attention while showing that your company is up-to-date and adaptive.

Guest Post: About the Author

Kurt started Blanco in 1996 after working in the label industry for more than 10 years.  As a Salesman, Sales Manager, then Vice President of Sales for Southern Atlantic Label in Chesapeake, VA he gained a strong knowledge of the label and printing industry. Following Southern Atlantic , Kurt was Vice President of Sales at Custom Printed Products in Shreveport Louisiana. Kurt has experience with most every known Pressure Sensitive Label application, and is very involved in Production and Marketing at Blanco.

Looking to hire a designer to help you re-vamp your logo. Don’t let funds hold you back. Contact us to learn how you can get qualified for a small business loan of up to $300,000 in just 24-48 hours!

8 Effective Ways to Strategize Social Media Marketing for Your Business

For most brands, social media marketing is about accumulating as many likes and follows as they can. While this approach helps, it is just one of many maneuvers you should consider to grow your social media audience. The following are eight effective ways you should consider when creating a social media strategy for your business.

Create an effective content marketing strategy

After you’ve created excellent, unique content, the next step involves marketing this content in a way that guarantees results. You can do this by creating a social media posting schedule that befits your brand and using the right post publishing schedule. Doing this will grow your organic audience and reduce the need to use social media ads to grow your audience.

Conduct contests and promotional activities

What makes contests work on social media is the fact that they involve your audience directly and on a personal level. This has a significant positive impact on brand awareness. Promotional activities give your social media followers a reason to share your content with other social media users, ultimately increasing brand exposure to many other potential customers.

Indeed, there is research evidence to suggest that 35% of people who like your business page on Facebook did so for an opportunity to participate in your brand’s contests. Therefore, if you want to increase engagement on social media, consider conducting a contest.

Create and schedule your status updates

The key to posting on social media is consistency in posting content designed to empower, educate and entertain your audience. The status updates should include emoticons, questions, links, images and videos. Use a variety of post types to get the attention of a wide array of social media users.

Integrate social media sharing

One effective approach to social media marketing is the integration of social media plugins and share buttons on other brand channels like your website and email. Incorporating sharing buttons allows people who find your content educational or entertaining easily share it with their friends on social networking sites. Some of the most common plugins include Digg Digg, Flare, Mashshare and Ultimate Social Deux.

Create a personalized experience for your customers

This approach increases the chances of conversions by addressing the queries, concerns and questions a potential customer might have before buying your product or service. One way businesses are doing this is by use of chatbots. The chatbots create a more customized experience for individual customers and break the tradition that most customers are used to when companies are trying to sell them products.

Tell stories instead of selling stuff

Sometimes entrepreneurs are so enthusiastic about their products that they over-promote them on social networking sites. This can have a devastating effect on the long term viability of social media marketing for the business as many would-be customers get turned off by the overselling messages that make their way to their timelines.

Therefore, consider using social media sites as storytelling platforms first and only incorporate promotional posts occasionally. When you tell the stories that make your brand what it is, it personifies your brand and makes it more relatable. Finally, when it’s time for these people to buy your kind of product, your brand will be at the top of their consideration list.

Create a community for your audience

Growing your audience on social media is not simply about finding anybody who doesn’t mind liking or following your brand, it is about finding people who genuinely want to connect with your brand. Instead of haphazardly adding new people to your social pages, consider using social tools like Social Growr to find people who have a high likelihood of connecting and engaging with your brand. Growing this community will ensure your audience asks questions, gives you feedback, likes your content and shares it with their online social circles.

Respond to all comments, suggestions, inquiries, and complaints

You’ve spent a lot of time and money acquiring your social media audience. It is therefore important that you spend just as much effort engaging with it. When they comment on your post, they expect you to respond to their thoughts. When they make complaints, they expect you to address them. Indeed, a Convince and Convert report indicated that 42% of social media users demand that you respond to their queries within an hour.

 

Guest Post: About the Author

Marquis is a writer, social media manager and SEO content marketer.  She currently lives on the coast of Ecuador, working remotely as a freelancer. Her primary focus is on building online visibility of new, up and coming brand, particularly brands that promote health and wellness. She lives a nomadic lifestyle, though is originally from California.

Determining the Target Market for Your Small Business

It may seem a bit obvious, but targeted marketing is vital to ensuring that every dollar you reserve for marketing efforts is well-spent. When you’re able to identify exactly who is most likely to buy your product, you’ll be better-equipped to allocate funds that do double-duty to attract them. But it can be difficult for small businesses to effectively determine their target market, especially without shelling out tons of money to research firms and consultants.

Why Targeted Marketing Matters: The Research

Target marketing requires you to break down your entire market into unique segments — often by age, gender, education level, income, marital status or geographic location — so that you can specifically target the customers whose needs and wants most closely match your product or service. Savvy marketers implement this technique primarily to attract new customers, but it can also be used for other marketing goals, like increasing loyalty among existing customers and creating hype around a new product.

We all know that this is especially poignant in digital settings, and that online consumers prefer more tailored advertisements compared with broad and general ones. But it also matters in a physical landscape; designing shipping labels, brochures and even business cards that speak to your audience can translate to big gains. Think of what you put out in the digital world as equally as important as the things you put out in the real world, especially when it comes to brand messaging and storytelling.

Here’s why it’s just as important: A recent study by Neilson showed that millennials and generation X consumers are more likely to seek out products that are labeled organic, GMO-free and hormone-free, but that older consumers pay less attention to this kind of wording. This speaks to the fact that different segments prefer different things, and that when you advertise to your core segment, that group is several times more likely to engage with your brand. Simply put, target marketing is good for your bottom line.

How SMBs Can Determine Their Target Market

With all of this being said, identifying your target market can be costly. Small businesses have different budget considerations than large or well-established ones, which makes the process a bit more challenging. Still, it’s important to remember that even if you do have to put in some dollars to pinpoint the right segment, there’s a good chance those dollars will have a pretty big return once you use what you know in your marketing strategy.

No matter the size of your business, it’s important that you don’t make assumptions about your target market in your strategy. While your hunches may be right — you know your customer better than anyone else, after all — there’s no substitute for good, old-fashioned research. Putting aside your premonitions and instincts will help you overcome confirmation bias, which will help avoid muddled data.

  • Leverage Existing Customers
    Your loyal customers are key players in your quest for identifying the right target market. And, because they’re already liable to have a positive view of your brand, they’ll probably be willing to help you figure things out. We recommend providing an incentive to your customers — a percent-off coupon, a free gift or free shipping, for example — in exchange for filling out a survey. You’ll be able to identify key demographics that your existing customers share in order to narrow down your target market.
  • Use Digital Tools
    More than likely, you use big paid advertising tools to get the word out about your brand. Facebook, AdWords and other platforms often have built-in analytics tools that will help you discover who buys your product, how they buy it and when they buy it. eCommerce stores bring even more opportunity; platforms like Magento and Shopify can be customized with analytics plug-ins that store essential customer data and allow you to draw conclusions about your consumer.
  • Do Some Market Research
    Even though it seems like a waste of money, A/B testing and other forms of research prove fruitful time and time again. The process allows you to test variations of a product and identify how certain groups of people respond to each one. How does this help you narrow your target audience? It allows you to see which groups of people respond more favorably to your brand messaging, which helps you determine where you should funnel those vital marketing monies. For example, a brewery might show two iterations of beer bottle labels to a group of consumers to see which groups respond better to which design.
  • Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes
    We already mentioned that making assumptions can be detrimental to your target market studies, but using a little bit of empathy can go a really long way. Ask yourself what pain points or problems your product fixes, and then determine who is most likely to benefit from it. Take it a few steps further by asking yourself what kind of person would pay for your product or service and at what stage in life or the buyer’s journey they’re most likely to pull the trigger.
  • Engage Online and Off
    Using social media, blogs and e-mail marketing, you can reach your existing customer base or potential customers and send out regular customer surveys, but you also want to make sure you’re getting to know your clients offline, too. Every time you get face-to-face time with a potential customer, whether at a trade show or in a brick-and-mortar store during a demo, make sure that you take the opportunity as a way to learn more about your audience. Ask questions, identify pain points and record the data every time.

The most important thing to note when entering the target market research phase is that you may have to spend a bit of money at the outset for things like market research and promotions, but at the end of the day, targeted marketing has the potential to bring back a huge return on investment. Start by using the tools you already pay for — digital analytics and your current customers, for example — before shelling out for outside help.

Guest Post: About the Author

Kurt started Blanco in 1996 after working in the label industry for more than 10 years.  As a Salesman, Sales Manager, then Vice President of Sales for Southern Atlantic Label in Chesapeake, VA he gained a strong knowledge of the label and printing industry. Following Southern Atlantic , Kurt was Vice President of Sales at Custom Printed Products in Shreveport Louisiana. Kurt has experience with most every known Pressure Sensitive Label application, and is very involved in Production and Marketing at Blanco.

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