Friday, November 30, 2007

Here's a thought

inspired by this post from new acquaintance and fellow cat-lover Kelly Parkinson of Copylicious:

What if each day, for about 5 minutes, you wrote a "love letter" to a client or friend telling them how much you cared about them, how much you appreciate the way they've touched your life - and then you sent it to them? What if, rather than trying to figure out five things to be grateful for about today, you thought of five things to be grateful about in regards to a specific person? It's like a lovely double-duty bit of grateful; you feel good, you make them feel good, which makes you feel double-good - it's a veritable orgy of goodness. And we all love orgies, right?

I might try this for a while.

Ads that clean the streets? Cool!

My buddy Colleen Wainwright, a.k.a. the Communicatrix, just sent me this super-cool link. Full-service guerilla ad campaigns that not only use only water, but they actually clean up dirty streets. Too cool!

An excerpt:

The idea for the [Street Advertising Services], which launched last year, came to founder Kristian Jeffrey out of sheer frustration. Jeffrey explains: "I run several small online businesses, and was searching for cost-effective advertising to attract consumers to my sites. My potential customers were walking around me every day, and it was when I was walking through the dirty streets of London that the idea came to me: why not take advertising literally to the street? Having experimented with several different methods, we wanted to apply a technique that was not just eye-catching and effective but also friendly to the environment. What could be more natural than water?"

The full post is here. Now how cool is that?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

When Sustainable Isn't - a Green Marketing Dilemma

David Baker from ReCourses had a great newsletter this month about the ubiquitousness of terms like "sustainability" and "branding" in marketing speak today, and why in order for a business to truly be sustainable, it needs to do more than just employ green practices; it needs to run itself in such a way that your financial health, corporate culture, and all the things that keep a business going aren't being ignored in favor of being seen as "green".

An excerpt:

Acting in more sustainable ways is a very good thing indeed, but if we are not authentic (and aligned internally as we pursue it), the brief moments we get on stage will turn open consumers into skeptical critics. Here are some suggestions about having a deeper impact on the world around you.

First, start internally before you preach externally. Assess and then embrace the true cost of following your conscience and lead by example. It's very popular but entirely too easy to suggest how other people should spend their money. Start with your own.

Second, don't ignore the broader definition of sustainability. Your carbon footprint matters, but I'm not sure it should matter more than running a genuinely "sustainable" business. That would be one that cares about financial health, management culture, work/life boundaries, doing effective work for clients, and even the sustainability of your own role. Taming chaos today by solving the same problems you fixed yesterday doesn't ooze sustainability. The best way I could synthesize this point is as follows: control follows viability, and impact follows control. Be the right sort of firm in order to give you the sort of control that can be wielded on behalf of clients that need it (even if they don't know they need it).

Third, be yourself even if it isn't all that sexy. Generally ignore what others are doing and craft something that's real, authentic, and substantive, so much so that you'll still be energized by it a decade from now. That's the sort of real differentiation that accompanies genuine branding. If you've done it right, the message on your web site can remain virtually unchanged for years and years. That, my friends, is a component of sustainability, and throwing my Venti Latte into the recycling container is more lip service than substance.

It's time to broaden our perspectives and be more balanced and authentic marketing partners who tell the truth, regardless of where it leads. It's time to drop flippant uses of the word branding, and it's time to take a more sustainable approach to sustainability. Seldom have larger businesses embraced a message as significant as this to marketing firms, and whether genuine or not, we have an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation and move from the transactional work we've been doing to the consultative role we've longed for. Just keep in mind that good consultants aren't always popular, but they do have a point of view and they are honest.

The full text is here, but I'm not sure how much longer it'll be up there.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Word of Mouth Marketing is Big Business

According to a recent article in the Boston Business Journal, word of mouth marketing is the Next Big Thing - so much so that companies are investing over a billion dollars collectively on word-of-mouth campaigns, in a trend that's only expected to increase soon.

But you already knew that.

Let's face it: what makes you buy? Certainly, commercials and ads have their place, but people are more likely to buy something if they hear its praises from someone they know and trust. Your friends, current clients, colleagues - all of them can provide great word of mouth for your business (and much cheaper than paying an ad agency to get it for you) - as long as you give them some guidance about a) what to say, and b) who to say it to.

Now, the basic idea behind this isn't about creating some puppet orchestra amongst your friends; it's about helping folks understand what you really do and what kind of folks you want to be doing it for. It's marketing 101 - know your audience.

For example, let's say that I have a client that I do some basic production for, but not much creative. I love working with her, and would love to get some referrals to grow my business. But she doesn't really know what I do - the zen kitchen specializes in identity and marketing design, not in production - so, in order to get the most qualified referrals from my client, I need to let her know the range of services I offer, and the average pricing for those services, so that she can refer me to clients who need the specific services I want to offer my clients.

So what do I do? I take her to lunch, talk about what I do, and ask her if she knows any business owners who are looking to invest in quality identity design and marketing to grow their business. If I get referrals, that's great. If I don't, I had a nice lunch. But, now she knows what I really do, and she can more likely spot a good potential client, which works well for both of us.

The same idea, by the way, goes for family and friends - while we love them, they don't always understand what it is you really do. One friend of mine consistently calls me a "webbie" and keeps referring anything and everything Web-related my way, even though I have to outsource Flash and any type of programming applications. By letting folks know the TYPE of leads you're looking for, you get much better leads.

Want to get noticed in the blogosphere? Keep it simple and relevant.

I just read a great post by my buddy Jess Sand over at Roughstock Studios (whose recent post on hormone-free milk labeling just got picked up by superblogger Seth Godin. In the post, she talks about how she serendipitously managed to get Godin to link to her post in his own blog, sending ridiculous amounts of traffic to her blog.

How did she do it? She kept it simple, kept it real, and kept it relevant.

My email was short and sweet: I briefly introduced myself and explained my reason for writing. I didn't reference my own blog post until the end of the email, and then I signed off. The entire email was less than 200 words.

My intention was never to get Seth to link to me. My intention was to get eyeballs on the issue of the Pennsylvania ban on "rBST-free" labeling, and I told him as much. I included a link to my post so he could read my own take if he so chose. Happily for me, he did.

My email to Seth was right after he posted his "Conceal vs. Reveal" entry, and it referenced a story that was a direct illustration of his point. More importantly, because I'm a regular reader of his blog, I know that he values fairness and consumer respect—values that played a big part in this particular story. I come across things every day that would probably interest this guy, but I knew that this one in particular was exactly suited to what was just on his mind.

This is great advice, and has definitely worked for me in the past - not to the exact level that Jess just experienced, to be sure, but some of the most valuable networking relationships and publicity moments I've gathered in my time operating the zen kitchen came from a short, honest and relevant e-mail to someone I admired - and often those e-mails were more notes of appreciation than requests for a plug.

So today's lesson? It pays to take notice.

And by the way, if you didn't catch the link above, you can read the post here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

tzk news: new article by Dani on Creative Latitude

I just heard from Derald Schultz over at Creative Latitude that one of my recent articles has just gone up for publication on the site. In the article, called "the seven deadly sins of e-mail marketing," I go over some fairly basic, but still noteworthy blunders that I see folks making when it comes to their e-mail newsletters.

Creative Latitude is a worldwide community that unites various creative disciplines for collective promotion, education and ethical business practice. Dani Nordin of the zen kitchen has been an active member since 2006.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Staying Sane Through the Holiday Networking Rush

One of the crazy things that I notice about holidays is that, despite my natural inclination to stick around the house in my pajamas and read books with a cup of tea until it's finally warm outside, I'm constantly busy... not only do I have family and friends to deal with, holiday cards to send out, and presents to buy, every networking group that I am involved with has their Annual Holiday Event - that one night that is, apparently, Not to be Missed. I do more networking in November and December than I do almost the entire year, and it's a bit of a challenge keeping up with it all.

Somehow, however, I manage to stay sane through all of this, and here are a couple of my tips to help you stay sane as well.

1. Loosen up your expectations for events. Holiday events are a chance to reconnect with your group, have good conversations, have a glass of wine. Don't stress out so much about getting a ton of business cards (even though you'll likely meet a ton of people) - you're much better off finding 2-3 good folks to keep in touch with. Trying to keep track of a dozen cards each night will just stress you out. This is also a good tip for regular networking events, but it's especially important during the holidays.

2. Set aside ample time for yourself. Read a book, take a bath, enforce a few hours on the weekend that's devoted to just you. I'm serious about this one - do NOT skimp on it. Today, after a long week of networking events, appointments, and other such busyness, I spent the entire morning reading Winnie the Pooh and relaxing on my couch. It was terrific.

3. Don't overdo it. This goes for wine, food, talk, and even the events themselves. It's tempting to go to all of them and stay all night, but it's really not going to do anybody any good if you're exhausted all the next day. Check in with yourself periodically to make sure that you're not about to drop, and don't be afraid to leave a bit early, if you don't have the energy to keep going.

Happy holidays, and happy networking!

Friday, November 09, 2007

What I'm loving about Facebook

Having heard many of the various opinions on Facebook's use as a social networking tool and the next Big Networking Site, I decided to give it a shot about last week. Having been burned (or rather, extremely annoyed) by MySpace last year, I wasn't expecting much.

Turns out, now I'm addicted. There are many reasons why, but the primary reason is that it adds a more personal level to professional networking - I can get to know people on a deeper level than just their work history or immediate needs. And this, to me, is what real "networking" is all about - creating a network of mutually supportive people.

Some other things that I'm particularly jazzed about:

1. The Visual Bookshelf Application: This is one of Facebook's many add-ons, but I love it because, being an avid reader and someone who is always finding books that would be just GREAT to read if I have the time, I can actually compile a list of not only the books I've already read, but the books that I notice in magazines, blogs, etc. that I really WANT to read. Very helpful - and there's something gratifying about the narcissism of showing off your vast reading experience to folks. Just sayin.

2. I can import my blog directly into the "notes" section of my Facebook profile. This is a great time-saver, and gets the blog (and my work, now that I'm starting to post work updates to the blog as well) additional exposure without requiring extra time from me. HUGE plus.

So, anyone else on Facebook? What do you like about it? What would you change?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

New Work: Peg O'Connell logos

Peg O'Connell, an independent bookkeeper based in Brookline, MA, started her own business after years of working in a large firm. She needed an identity that would hint at her naturally friendly and cheerful personality while still projecting the professionalism required by her - well - profession.

The bold, yet simple and elegant treatment of the final logo created by the zen kitchen speaks well to Peg's intended market - creatives and other independent professionals. It's sophisticated without being stuffy, casual without being unprofessional.

Included in the system are a notecard/business card combo that Peg can use to followup with folks she networks with as well as thank her clients for working with her. A website is soon to follow.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New Work: Kitchen on Common Website

It's been crazy with the work-finishing lately; just crazy, I tell you! The most recent addition to this flood of productivity is also one of the most exciting for me: the unleashing of the Kitchen on Common website (click the link to view in all its glory). Kitchen on Common is a new restaurant located in Cushing Square, just a stone's throw away from my office in Watertown MA (literally, I can walk there - and do. Quite often. It's just that tasty.)

Chef Joh Kokubo, a Lexington MA resident and owner of Kitchen on Common, is committed to using fresh, local ingredients whenever possible - no small feat in New England! But he does an amazing job, providing a terrific meal at reasonable prices, and creating food that's worth going back for as long as it's available (since much of his cuisine is dependent on local growing seasons, items don't stay on the menu for too long).

This design came together with fresh, simple imagery (much like the food at Kitchen on Common itself), and elegant typography. In order to make it easy for Joh to update the frequently-changing menu, a simple template was created for both the lunch and dinner menus that Joh can simply export to PDF and replace in the site files, saving both time and money on frequent updates.

In addition to the recently completed website, the zen kitchen designed the identity, business card, signage and menus for the restaurant, and will be helping with ongoing marketing in the near future.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

New Work: Christine Tetreault Website

Christine Tetreault, a freelance journalist and copywriter based outside Boston MA, needed a new web presence to help her focus her work away from the technical copywriting and editing she had been doing and lean towards more travel, outdoors and wellness/spirituality writing, her current passion. Working with Dani Nordin of the zen kitchen, a comprehensive identity package and website was created to help her showcase her work.

Feedback has already been positive for the new site. Says Christine, “From my first meeting with Dani, I found it impossible not to be energized and inspired by her positive energy and willingness to share her learning and experience as a creative artist and successful small business owner. Dani's business and design guidance have been invaluable in helping me to craft my writing goals and web site style, format, and content. Dani is a breeze to work with as a business partner, be it in person, by phone, or via email -- comfortable, open creative exchange, diplomatic artistic discussion, and above and beyond results! I highly recommend Dani and The Zen Kitchen for any creative graphic design, marketing, web project. Her green commitment is an added bonus to her exceptional talents.”

Check out the site here.