Monday, September 15, 2008

This blog has moved!

Hey all,

As of today, the zen kitchen's blog has a new home, at It's a long overdue change, and I hope y'all will follow me there.

Thanks for reading, and talk to you soon!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Image is everything

Recently on the Marketing Mix blog, Ilise Benun and a few commenters got into the subject of typos in company literature - a subject I've thought about a lot since starting the zen kitchen.

I've actually met people online who are even harsher than this - they'll actively snark people who make even a small typo, or folks whose English isn't quite so good yet (i.e. they're still learning). Even though my English is pretty darn good, I've actually left communities because of this habit.

I do think there's some room for forgiveness on the typo thing - but I think that the more likely cause of Ilise's sketchiness around this person's sign is the lack of care it represents. If this is the way the person presents themselves BEFORE you work with them, how will they be if you do work with them? Why should you care about a company that obviously cares so little about themselves?

Your marketing materials, no matter what form they take, represent your business to people who may or may not know you. While many entrepreneurs do find themselves having to "bootstrap" and do things on the cheap, one of the biggest mistakes I see them making is rushing just to "get something up there," and ending up with something that represents their business in an extremely unflattering light.

Think of it this way: say you're looking for a marketing/branding expert to help you market your business. You have a big vision for this enterprise, and you need someone who's going to get that, and help you succeed. Now let's say someone approaches you saying that they're just the marketing/branding expert you're looking for, and they hand you a card that was obviously ordered from VistaPrint. Would you trust them? If they can't do what they say they do for THEMSELVES, can you really trust them to do it for you?

The same goes for high-end consumer products. Customers in this market (think really good chocolate, wine, fine custom jewelry, organic bath/body care, scented candles etc.) are paying as much for the image of the product as they are the actual product. If your packaging doesn't present that high-end image, the customer is less likely to see the high end nature of the product, and more likely to choose your competitor, over there in the pretty pretty box.

It sucks, yes, but it's the nature of things. When it comes to how you market your business, image is everything. What does your image say about you?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Design and Sustainability: You can't do it if you can't sell it.

Recently, I was contacted by a design student in London who was collecting information on how sustainability can be integrated into traditional design education. As someone who's been practicing sustainable design for some years now, she asked me "what are the resistance points when it comes to adopting sustainable practices?"

Personally, I think that much of the resistance that designers face when it comes to integrating sustainability in their practices has much to do with client management, another thing that tends to be lacking in standard design education. Since adopting sustainable design principles at the zen kitchen a couple of years ago, It's been my experience that many designers are informed about and concerned with sustainability, but they lack the ability to convince their clients that incorporating these principles into their work can be balanced with creating an effective marketing tool. As a result, they're reluctant to bring it up, or to get started with sustainability in the first place.

While it's great that more students are interested in learning about sustainability and it's certainly a valid thing to add to any educational program, all the sustainable ideals in the world mean nothing if the designer can't convince the client of why they should be doing it. So, more than just teaching designers how to work sustainably, it's important to give them the skills to be consultants for their clients/bosses, and not just the girl at the Mac. This is especially important because the skills required to sell sustainability to clients are no different than the skills needed to sell your concept to a client, or convince him that while he may want the logo to be bigger, it won't be as effective as leaving it at a tasteful size. It's all about working *with* your client, rather than *for* her.

Monday, September 01, 2008

How to be a good client

A friend of mine pointed me to this great post on the Swiss Miss blog. Quite apt, really.

How to be a good client (PDF). By the good folks at Number17.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How not to network; or, how to get people to like you.

Photo by bluebetty

Recently, I had a fascinating interaction with a woman at a networking event I attend with some frequency. It was the first time we had met, and she was sitting near me at one of the tables as I had just started a conversation with someone else. As has occasionally happened, when the woman I was conversing with heard that my business name was the zen kitchen, she assumed I was a personal chef and got very excited about the possibility of having someone to plan meals for her. Amused, I explained what I actually did, and the fact that one of the things that I love about my business name is that people hear it and immediately ask me "ooh, what's that?" 

Without skipping a beat, the other woman sitting near me, who I'd known all of about 5 minutes, told me that my name was confusing. She also mentioned that, as a Feng Shui practitioner, one of the principles of Feng Shui is that if your business name is confusing, "your business will never take off."

After going over a couple of potential responses in my head, I decided on, "Thank you for your feedback, but I've been doing this for three years, and things seem to be going pretty well."

Mind you, this wasn't the first time I had witnessed someone express confusion over the name of my business. The reason I chose this name, and stay with this name, is because it's a very good representation of who I am as a business owner, strategist and designer, and because frankly, I get many more people who love my business name than I do people who don't get it. But what struck me about this particular interaction was the fact that here was a woman I'd barely met, at an event where the point is to make friends and business contacts, and she's literally telling me that my business will "never take off" because of my business name. Why would someone think that's appropriate?

The point is this: expressing an opinion is one thing. Insulting someone is another. Telling someone that their business is going to fail is a completely new ball game, and one that should NEVER be attempted when the goal is to make solid connections.