New Year DusterAs we begin a new year, most of us think about what we were able (or unable) to accomplish the previous year, and we set new goals for ourselves. Sometimes our goals are personal, like losing weight, starting to exercise, and eating better. Maybe we plan to make home improvements or spend more time with the family.

In business, we often focus on reaching more customers and selling them on our products or services. But unless we have a business that no one else has, or it is so much better than all others, it may be tough to make a big impact. Not to fear! There are myriad ways to get your company out there and get noticed by new contacts that won’t break the bank.

Here is a short list of things you can do to help promote your company:

Email Marketing – Bing works with small to medium businesses to help them reach out to current and new clients, creating awareness for their product and services. We take advantage of various online services that offer pre-made templates to simplify the process and keep it affordable. We’ve also found that creating customized HTML emails is a way to get attention and promote what you might be up to or have to offer. Costs for the various services are based on your recipient list. Costs for customizing HTML and graphics for your brand is determined by your goals.

Social Media – Many people now have their own account on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, or other popular social media sites. Why? Some like to have personal access to friends, co-workers, or staff, others just like to share with the world. Here at Bing, we know there is a real benefit to having a social media presence for your business. One, you are out there in a very public space and accessible. Two, you can use that space to attract old and new customers. Just note, social media outlets are very keen to businesses fishing for new business. Be real, be honest, join in conversations and you’ll find leads. With many sites, you can also have a small page for your business. Just be cautious about depending on these sites for all your web presence, they still own the space, not you. Most sites are free to join. Costs for strategically establishing your brand and goals is determined by your situation.

Web Site – The days of starting a small business site out with a very expensive platform and hosting package are gone. These days, reliable hosting is extremely affordable and we can help you establish a CMS site with all the contemporary bells and whistles. Bing works with clients daily to establish hosting, select and purchase a domain name(s), map out a site, and build content that is good for SEO, relevant to users, and easy for clients to edit and modify if needed. We often work with clients on monthly maintenance such as copy revisions, new content, and special offers relevant to individual branding and marketing needs.

The economy seems to be slowly progressing and growing. If you can position your company well now, you’ll be in a better place to manage new work, with less struggle to bring it in.

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SummitUp

Last week, Roger and I attended the SummitUp conference held at Sinclair Community College organized by the many great Dayton creative associations.

The morning keynote from Todd Henry of Accidental Creative was worth the price of admission to the event.

He spoke of the creative process and how it’s easy to gravitate toward activities and environments that reinforce our expectations or existing beliefs. In other words, it’s easy to stay in our comfort zone and that we have to be committed to continuous improvement.

“The love of comfort is the enemy of greatness.” – Todd Henry

I’ve always been an advocate of a great work/life balance but it has changed thru the years to creating a creating rhythm. Brilliance at a moments notice begins with the fundamentals.

The fundamental elements to create rhythm are:

Focus

  • Define the real problem or challenge, refine them, and cluster adjacent tasks. Don’t jump from conceptual to emails.
  • Tame the “PING“; Things that distract you from being creative and productive. Emails, calls, and IMs can all distract and add up. Checking email every five minutes equals to checking it 24,000 times a year.

Relationships

  • Start circles with like-minded individuals/creatives who can contribute to ideas, help solve struggles in work, inspire us.
  • Try “head-to-head” problem solving. Going head-to-head doesn’t always have to mean a competition. Share ideas and collaborate. Choose someone whose notebook you’d want to look through.

Energy

  • Practice pruning; sometimes you have to say NO to things that will drain time/resources from you when better used for creative.
  • Think “Whole Life” – Be mindful of big picture and commitments where you need to place energy. It is better to be effective than efficient.

Stimuli

  • Engage in activities that stretch and create new skills.
  • Create relevant experiences in your life.
  • Take better notes and listen to your intuition. The quality of our notes equals the quality of our creative process.
  • Try a ‘stimulus dive’ and get out of comfort zones and try something new or difficult. Put yourself in a position to experience something new to you.

Hours

  • Try some unnecessary creative projects. When did you last spend time creating something for yourself and your own growth? Draw, build, or develop something on your own. Most of us started into design this way, doing only ‘work’ and not anything for your personal benefit can erode creativity.
  • Try some idea time with yourself or work peers. Engage in activities to build your skills.
  • Don’t rush! Rushing can equal mundane and imperfect work. Set your own style. Where you are putting your time determines your success or failure.

Tap your full potential and leverage your value. This will keep you FRESH! Remember: “Cover bands don’t change the world.”

So go out, generate brilliant ideas and explore new opportunities.

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A few weeks ago I was asked how do you keep up with technology and industry updates. I started naming off some resources and then thought that a more in-depth conversation or blog post would help.

Technology is constantly evolving. For this reason, it can be difficult at times to stay up to date with information technology. However, staying informed is important for a number of reasons. In some roles, it’s important to stay on top of industry news and trends – you’ll build your expertise, you’ll command the respect of your team, and you’ll be better placed to identify and take advantage of opportunities. Below are some traditional and new media sources that you can utilize to stay informed.

Traditional Sources
Trade Organizations/Networks
Your industry may have one or more trade organizations that you can join. These are useful, because they can help to keep you informed with their newsletters and publications, and they provide networking opportunities with meetings and conferences. Face-to-face networking can be one of the most rewarding ways to stay on top of industry news and trends. Often, professional relationships can develop into deep friendships, especially when you meet on a regular basis.

Trade Shows and Conferences
Trade shows and conferences are great for learning about competitors, new products, and industry trends; and they can provide ample networking opportunities. Keep in mind that you have a wide pool of people you can network with. People directly related to your industry are an obvious choice, but so are suppliers, customers, and people working in related fields.

New Media Sources
There is a plethora of industry experts using every social network imaginable. Instead of naming off my favorites to follow, perhaps those not directly related to the design field might find these sources below can help you find knowledge resources in your industry.

Blogs
Blogs like Alltop and Technorati are blog aggregators that generate all the top headlines from popular topics around the web. You can search for a specific term and get a plethora of news and recent posts that are generating discussion.

RSS Readers
Opening up each blog and spending just 10-15 minutes on each one takes a lot of effort and time that most people don’t have. So using a reader like Google Reader or Yahoo Pipes allows you to browse briefly all the blogs you would typically monitor in a day with a quick glimpse. In case you don’t know how to use an RSS Reader here is a good guide. It is matter of what is comfortable for you. Right now, Google Reader is my RSS reader of choice
Social Media
Twitter and Facebook are excellent tools to follow industry experts and knowledge resources. Searching for specific #hashtags can give you real-time updates.

For those on the go, Flipboard and FLUD are great apps to use with excellent user and mobile interfaces.

Bookmarking
Social bookmarking is a way for Internet users to share what websites they’re reading. These sites often track trends and news more accurately than news sites themselves. You can see what articles are being read and shared in real time. Social bookmarking can help you stay up-to-date with social media because people bookmark new and interesting news sources as they come out in real time. Check out StumbleUpon, reddit, and Digg.

Email
You spend a majority of time in your day sending emails. Why not get your updates through them! The Google Alerts service notifies you when resources featuring certain words are indexed by Google’s search engine. For instance, if you’re a printing rep, you might want to get notified about articles containing the words “printing industry,” or the names of your clients, your organization and your competitors. You can be notified once a day or as they happen. Links can be contained in one email, or you can get updates via an RSS feed.

The advantage to using Google Alerts is that you no longer have to surf the web looking for industry news. However, you might find that you simply get too much information this way – if this happens, tweak your settings or use a longer keyword-string, such as including a demographic like the city you live in (e.g., “Dayton marketing”).

Making Time and Sharing
The biggest thing I stress, is that it’s your time. Once you’ve identified the best sources to use, you need to schedule time to get the most from them. It’s easy to get information overload, so schedule daily or weekly time to devote to catching up, and be ruthless when it comes to sources of information. Use your best judgment about what you need to know, depending on your role, and your career aspirations. This can be challenging, especially if your day is already filled to the brim with meetings, action items, or daily commitments. But it’s important to create time in your day to devote to staying current, where you need to do this for your job.

In some situations, sharing industry news and trends with your team can create a positive learning environment, and can help everyone to grow professionally. To share information in this way, you could devote the first few minutes of your weekly team meeting to sharing relevant news and information. You could also post articles on your organization’s bulletin board or blog, or in the company newsletter.

Would love to here some of your resources to keep you informed!

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