Creative and Keepable Business Cards for Your Small Business

Take a look at your business card. If it looks like this, your card is failing at marketing your small business:

Boring Business Card

Custom printing technology has advanced to make many premium elements realistically affordable for small businesses, such as gold foil, rounded corners, double-sided printing and glorious full-color. Take advantage of these possibilities to turn your business card into a marketing asset that customers talk about and keep.

Photographer Laura Northrup of Reflected Spectrum Photography details how her business card design facilitates conversations with prospective clients:

“I use double-sided business cards as a mini-portfolio for my photography business. When I meet a new person who may be interested in my services, I can casually share my photographic style and philosophy through my business cards.  It makes a memorable first impression, yet keeps the conversation fun and friendly.”

Here are samples from three online printers to give you some ideas.

Personalized Pizazz from MOO

With all the design options MOO offers, any small business can craft a meaningful, custom design that speaks to customers. Some of my favorite choices are large-format cards and spot gloss. Find your favorite here.

MOO Business Card

Watercolors and Vintage Style from Zazzle

If MOO has you feeling a bit overwhelmed with choices, here are two interesting styles from Zazzle that draw inspiration from watercolors and vintage designs. View more of their catalog here.

Zazzle Business Card

Zazzle Business Card

Striking Typography and Patterns from Minted

The designs at Minted combine typography and patterns for a modern, artistic effect. Here are two examples (with a little gold foil thrown in). See other designs here.

Minted Business Card

Minted Business Card

Make Your Card Purposefully Creative

Your creative business card design needs to be part of your overall marketing strategy. There are many beautiful designs that won’t encourage customers to buy from you. Be purposefully creative to help customers connect your card with your brand.  Identify these goals before finalizing your business card design:

  • How your business card should be delivered. Do you personally hand it out? Do customers take it from a standalone holder?
  • What you want customers to think when they take your card. Should they think that you’re professional with deep expertise? Maybe a creative problem-solver?
  • What you want customers to do with the card. Hang it on the fridge? Share with a friend? Connect with you on LinkedIn?

Want to improve your business card design? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out to me at

Keep Mobile in Mind: Small Business Marketing Tip

More than 50% of customers view email marketing communications or social media marketing campaigns on a smartphone. This means every message you share must keep mobile in mind or risk being ignored by half of your customers.

Keep Mobile in Mind

Here are some tips for designing mobile-friendly marketing messages:

  • About 500 pixels wide will display beautifully on smart phones. Minimize the amount of horizontal scrolling required to see the content.
  • Try to keep file sizes as small as possible. Smartphones load content more slowly than desktop computers, and customers are ever more impatient. Also, you need to be mindful of how much data you are asking customers to download.
  • If you have fairly sophisticated abilities, design elements using responsive design that adapts with the customer’s screen size. One good option for email marketing are services like Mail Chimp that have responsive templates.
  • If you have to send your content as an image, use a PNG, GIF or JPG format. Avoid PDFs, as that format usually won’t display automatically like other file formats.

Designing mobile-friendly messages can be more challenging than designing for print or desktops, because screen sizes are different among devices. But if you embrace the challenge, you’ll have the marketing advantage over your competitors who stay stuck in the past.

How to Use Photographs in Your Marketing

A photograph is only worth a thousand words if you pick the right one for your marketing message. Here are examples from three photo shoots I have done for clients that we now use in their marketing campaigns.

Show your product in action.

How to Use Photographs in Your Marketing

Use a photo to tell the story of your brand and how it benefits your customers. TriState Water Works provides Prompt and Proven Sprinkler Service so that customers can enjoy lush lawns and beautiful gardens throughout the summer.

Rivet your audience.

How to Use Photographs in Your Marketing

Unique, dramatic or beautiful imagery will draw customers’ attention and interest them in your brand. Paramount Lawn + Landscape offers customers the beauty and drama of architectural landscape lighting, with the added benefit of security. For this product in particular, the photograph does more to encourage the sale than any marketing copy ever could.

Get personal.

How to Use Photographs in Your Marketing

Featuring people or animals is especially effective for small businesses that primarily provide services. This photograph for Grady Veterinary Hospital conveys happy, healthy pets and compassionate, understanding care.

Here’s something to avoid: clichés. Stock photography clichés like a woman wearing a telephone headset or a family holding hands and smiling cloyingly at the camera are completely useless for communicating marketing messages. Customers are so accustomed to seeing these images that they have become meaningless. I won’t even include an example stock photo image, because it might cause you to skip reading this paragraph entirely.

Finally, high-quality, professional photos are much more effective than ones taken by an amateur with a smartphone. Professional photographers know how to tell a story with their camera and capture your brand’s benefits to best effect. Choose a photographer who understands your business goals and brand personality.

Traditional Website Navigation Isn’t Boring. It’s Easy to Use.

Imagine a car designer saying, “It’s boring to have the brake on the right and the accelerator on the left. We need to stand out! Let’s put the brake next to this cup-holder.” How well would a car like this sell? Can you imagine re-training generations of drivers to drive differently just for the sake of one car design?

Every day, web designers are having the same conversation about website design (admittedly, with less fatal results). They are so bored of putting the “Contact” button on the right side of the menu bar that they forget having these conventions makes websites easy to use.

Sometimes web marketers mistake user habits for boring design. If users are researching dozens or hundreds of websites looking for products and services like yours, they appreciate a site that’s easy to navigate– and they’re only going to visit your site for about three seconds before they decide to stay or move onto the next one.

A website design must show the user what they’re looking for in those first three seconds before any user will take the time to admire beautiful design elements or creative devices. Part of that experience is having traditional elements in expected places. If a user can’t find your contact information, how will he ever call you?

Marketing Podcast: Facebook Timeline for Business

In this small business marketing podcast, learn some tips for marketing with the new Facebook Timeline and why I believe it’s a good marketing tool. For instance, businesses should change their cover image to match current marketing campaigns.

Listen or download below:

Facebook Timeline for Business

Marketing Podcast: Facebook Timeline for Business (3.1MB)

This segment first aired during “Getting Down to Business” on Alaska’s Fox News Talk 1020.

IT Tips for Small Business Marketing

An effective technology setup is crucial for any small business marketing department. Strategy documents, forecasts, design documents and web files are all managed with computers. Here are some tips for helping you be more protected and productive with your IT setup.

Back up your marketing files

The most important thing a small business can do is develop and implement a back-up process. The hard drive containing all of  your marketing information is simply a mechanical device. And like any other machine with moving parts, eventually it’s going to fail. It’s certain that your hard drive is going to crash someday.

Fortunately, back-ups are pretty easy these days. If you use Macs, the included Time Machine app makes it simple to back up to an external hard drive. Windows 7 also has a Windows Backup utility.

For added protection, consider an off-site back-up service like Carbonite. This way your files are protected from catastrophes like fire.

Be smart with passwords

Social media marketing is great… unless your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or blog accounts are hacked and subject customers to spam communications. I hate seeing this happen, especially since creating secure passwords is easy. Make sure you and your employees are considering security when they set up social media accounts. Microsoft has some nice guidelines for secure passwords here.

Buy professional equipment

I’m always amazed when I see a marketing professional editing video or switching between five PowerPoint presentations on a consumer-grade computer. The extra cost of a more powerful computer is well worth the investment when you consider the value of you and your employees’ time.

Go for the big screens

One of the biggest boosts to productivity is adding screen size– whether that be buying a bigger display or a adding a second display. Apple, in an attempt to sell more Cinema Displays, published an interesting study on productivity and screen size. Here’s a graph from the study:

If you don’t trust Apple to be impartial (and I wouldn’t blame you!), the Wall Street Journal also has an article on the topic.

Calibrate your devices

If you are regularly disappointed that the colors you see on your display don’t match the colors on your final printed piece, try calibrating your devices. Calibration will ensure your display is showing colors correctly. X-Rite is one company providing this service with their i1 Display product.

These are just a few tips to get your small business started on your marketing department’s IT setup. The perfect setup for your small business depends on your goals, marketing partners, kinds of productivity you want to optimize for and how much protection is required. I recommend every small business take some time to think about what they really need. Too often, I uncover serious marketing problems for my clients that could have been prevented with a little planning.

A Primer on the New Facebook Page Design

How businesses can quickly integrate the new page design into their marketing efforts

Savvy businesses already know that Facebook is launching a mandatory page design update for all businesses on March 30, 2012. This quick primer will help your business get ready for the switch and outline a few of the marketing benefits of the new design.

First, to see the new page design in action, visit Zoo in a Jungle Marketing’s Facebook Page. Here’s a screenshot for you to preview:


How to update your business’s Facebook Page

When you visit the admin section of your Facebook Page, you’ll be encouraged to take a tour of the new layout. Throughout the tour, you’ll have an opportunity to upload key graphics and learn how to update the content.

  1. The first step is to create and upload a “cover photo,” an image 851 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall. I chose a photo I took at the Cincinnati Zoo with my tagline, “Uncage Your Potential!” Get creative with your cover photo, but be cautious about making it too promotional. Facebook won’t accept an image with too much text, pricing information or calls-to-action.
  2. The next step is to ensure the image containing your logo is square, with a minimum size of 180 pixels by 180 pixels. A rectangular image will not display properly.
  3. Finally, you’ll be given a chance to organize your content, highlight important updates and learn how to interact with Facebook users.
That’s it! Updating your business’s Facebook Page is pretty easy. Remember to keep updating your page at least weekly with interesting content for your customers.

Benefits of the new Facebook Page design

  • Businesses can develop a richer experience for the customers on the new page. Details like “milestones” allow businesses to share more with customers than they could before.
  • The “cover photo” makes the Facebook Page look more polished, like the important marketing communications tool it is.
  • Businesses can customize the new page to fit their brand and business goals.
  • In my opinion, the information on the page is better organized, allowing for faster communication.
You don’t have to wait until the end of March to switch to the new page design! Get started on your Facebook page today. And if you have any questions, just call or email: 513.833.4203 or

5000 Marketing Mistakes – Should We Keep Them?

My colleague Joanne Glass recently shared an experience with me that all marketers can learn from. It starts with this excerpt from a deli’s marketing communication:

During a quick glance at the menu, Joanne also spotted “Chichen Salad,” along with “Tow locations.” This menu was so replete with errors that she was prompted to ask the cashier why the deli handed it out to customers. He replied,

“The printer refused to give my boss a credit for the typos. He said they were our fault, because we didn’t proofread it. We don’t want to throw away 5000 flyers!”

This deli owner could benefit from learning about sunk costs. Just because a vendor is in the wrong, doesn’t mean a business should pass the mistake onto their customers. Sometimes businesses must face the unpleasant task of recycling 5000 flyers for the sake of their customer relationships.

In other news, this business is currently looking for a new printing partner. Sometimes vendors must also face the unpleasant task of admitting a mistake for the sake of their customer relationships– or face the consequences of losing their customers.

Email Marketing: How to do it right

Email marketing should be alive and well in your marketing plan. You may ask, “What about Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn? All the marketing buzz is about social media!” It’s true that social media is growing in popularity and marketing potential, as 61% of all Internet users visit these sites. But the same 2010 Pew Internet Research Poll shows that 92% of all Internet users send or receive email. With a great email marketing campaign, you can reach practically the entire Internet population.

Some assert that younger consumers are eschewing email, but Pew Internet research shows that’s not the case. No matter which generation your customers are, 80-90% of the ones using the Internet are using email. Considering that Older Boomers spend more than their younger counterparts, this knowledge could be particularly profitable.

Since email marketing is such an important marketing tool, I want to give you some tips for doing it right. Businesses can’t just blast coupons to all their past customers and expect success. Let’s use this Pillar to Post marketing email I received as an example of how to run a successful email marketing campaign:

See the full size Pillar to Post email here.

Pillar to Post is a home inspection company. Home inspection not a service customers often need to purchase. The company’s email marketing strategy does a great job of keeping in touch with past customers and helping them remember who to call if they (or their friends and family) need a home inspection.

I’ve analyzed the Pillar to Post email to help you learn how they did it. Following are some email marketing tips you can start using today in your own marketing:

Send emails that fortify your brand and your customers will care about. Share information that will be useful, interesting or funny. Coupons or other promotions can be great, but they can’t be your sole strategy. For customers to be eager to open your emails, you need to give them something to be excited about.

The first day of summer was June 21, and most homeowners perform their home maintenance on a seasonal schedule. Knowing this, Pillar to Post shared a fairly thorough Summer Maintenance Checklist with their customers. This information is not only helpful to homeowners, but it establishes Pillar to Post as an expert in the field of home maintenance as well.

Mind your timing. Communicate with customers too often, and they will unsubscribe from your list or mark your emails as spam. Pillar to Post sends quarterly emails, each with season-specific advice. They recognized their customers’ natural home maintenance patterns and customized their approach for them.

Keep your content fresh. Avoid sending duplicate emails, even if they are months apart. Customers have a knack for remembering when they’ve read something before and will unsubscribe if they believe a company is putting forth a lackluster effort to engage them.

Design a clean, easy-to-use template. The Pillar to Post example email isn’t the most beautiful or effective design the company could have developed, but it is simple and easy to read. It has the added benefit of using as few images as necessary- images don’t always load in your customers’ email inboxes, so avoid placing text in an image.

Depending on your type of business, your email marketing strategy could be markedly different from Pillar to Post’s. Pillar to Post has a long sales cycle- a customer likely will go years before needing a home inspection. A retailer, on the other hand, might expect customers to make purchases seasonally, monthly or even every single day. Your sales cycle determines your messages and frequency.

Take inspiration from this great email marketing example to refresh and revitalize your email marketing (or to start email marketing, if you haven’t already!).

Small Business Logo Design: The good, the bad and the ugly.

Reflected Spectrum Photography just unveiled their new site featuring the logo I was pleased to design. Take a look:

During the design process, I realized many small businesses could use some design tips for their logos. And since logos are, by definition, visual, the best way to give advice is to show you the good, the bad and the ugly.

Design Criteria 1 – Legibility

The most important aspect of logo design is legibility. Is your company’s name easy to read? It sounds like an overly simplistic criterion, but sometimes designers get caught up in exciting font choices and graphics, losing sight of a logo’s legibility.

The Good

This logo is very easy to read, and as a bonus includes a tagline explaining what you can expect of the CEO Club.

The Bad

This logo is a work of art – much too pretty to designate as ugly. It is also a failure. Could anyone glancing at it tell what those letters are? Even after studying it, are you certain what it’s supposed to communicate?

The Ugly

Those malformed polygons are supposed to spell out 2012, as in the 2012 Olympics in London. It’s clearly an example of a designer losing sight of a logo’s most basic goal – to communicate the brand clearly.

Design Criteria 2 – Color Palette

Your logo’s colors need to blend and contrast pleasantly. Color theory is science, but all too often amateur designers try to put the boldest colors together to make the highest impact. Hire a good designer, or Google search for a color wheel, but don’t put blue letters on a red background.

The Good

Brown is an unusual color to use in a logo, but combined with the taupe and cranberry red, it blends to show an image of folksy charm and wisdom. Scott Hogue writes a blog and books providing life advice, so it fits.

The Bad

Combining bright red with bright blue confuses the eye, because your eyes can’t focus on certain shades of red and blue at the same time. You may see the logo vibrate or feel the need to blink. These are not the reactions you want when people look at your logo.

The Ugly

Many times, I’ve been requested to create, “Just a simple graphic of red text on a plain white background.” Many people assume that if it’s simple, it can’t be bad. Unfortunately, red text on a white background is not just bad – it’s ugly. The colors you choose influence how customers feel about your business. Do you want them to feel like your logo is like a stop sign?

(Isn’t it funny that a business named Piece of Cake chose a gift box for their logo instead of, say, a slice of cake?)

Design Criteria 3 – Visual Interest

A logo should never be boring. A logo communicates a vibe to your customers and should have visual interest. Often in small businesses, design-by-committee impulses take over, resulting in a logo that everyone can live with but no one is excited about. If you and your employees aren’t excited, your customers certainly won’t be.

The Good

Yes, this is our logo. But it has very good visual interest. It communicates that we think outside the box (or zoo, as it were), are creative and have a little bit of fun. The logo directly ties to the name of the business and draws customers’ attention to what we do – MARKETING.

The Bad

They’ve tried to spruce up the plain, boring wordmark with spacing, but it doesn’t work. Does seeing this logo make you want to learn more about these lawyers? Probably not. Many small businesses fall prey to boring visuals like this because good design requires a talented designer who costs money. But a good logo is the cornerstone of your visual communication. It appears everywhere your business is mentioned in print and on the web.

The Ugly

When you think of bars, do you immediately imagine a hummingbird? No? This logo demonstrates that even if your business name is your own name, the visual interest needs to focus on what you sell. For instance, this business would have been better off depicting a tough blue jay or even an eagle.

Design Criteria 4 – Scalability

Many small business marketing designers don’t consider how a logo will scale for different uses. Your logo needs to be scalable for every intended use – small for business cards and online banner ads, medium for letterhead and print ads, and large for building signs, billboards or vehicle graphics.

The Good

This logo is built of modular pieces that can be arranged according to where and how it will be displayed. For a long, narrow space, such as a sign on a car wash, the lighthouse graphic can be removed. For a square space, like in the corner of a website, the text graphics can be stacked. Your logo doesn’t have to be identical in every place it appears as long as it uses the same components.

The Bad

This logo is interesting, but it’s certainly not scalable. If I shrink it another 30%, the text becomes very hard to read, and the graphics begin to be indiscernible. This problem exists with most circular logos that have text around the circumference. Consider the smallest size you will need if designing a logo like this – if it needs to be on a business card, you will likely have issues.

The Ugly

I enlarged this logo, so you would be able to read the text. In its original state, the text was impossible to read. When your lion is roughly five times the size of your text, you have an ugly scalability problem.

Using the criteria of Legibility, Color Palette, Visual Interest and Scalability, rate your own small business’s logo. Is it good, bad or ugly? Need some help judging? Send it to me at, and I’ll give you an analysis.