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Thinking about Stock Photography Choices

Tampa Bay marketing firmIf you’ve spent any time perusing ads or websites of SMBs (or larger companies that don’t do much consumer advertising), you’ve probably seen identical photographs pop up occasionally.  Those are stock photography images — and for a reasonable fee, they are available for just about anyone’s use.

Overexposure of popular images is the most obvious danger of using stock photography. There have been cases of different companies with the same stock photo seeing their ads placed side-by-side ads in a publication. (Whomever did the layout deserved a good spanking!) By and large, however, the relatively miniscule cost of stock photos versus a professional photoshoot can make the risk worthwhile when budget is a factor.

And actually, the embarrassment of seeing a photo of “your” smiling customer service representative apparently moonlighting for an unseemly industry, isn’t really the worst thing that can happen when it comes to using stock photography.

No, the biggest stock photography danger is having an image that doesn’t work with the message that it’s supposed to convey. This could be due to pictures which are so generic that they carry the visual impact of plain beige walls at the local DMV. Or they could be quite interesting images that are, nevertheless, badly mismatched to the message. Unfortunately, this problem comes from the “off-the-rack” nature of stock photography, so to mitigate such inherent deficiencies, here are a five helpful strategies:

  • Be mindful of your brand image – The message in any marketing communication is more than just the words to be read or heard. It should also express your brand’s most important value proposition—e.g. what makes your company special and most inspires people to do business with you. So when you flesh out the theme for your particular marketing piece with imagery, keep in mind that you’ll want to reinforce a specific, clear message and also complement your brand identity

 

  • Let the message drive the process – Before you start looking for images, you’ll need a concept or theme for your ad, brochure, website, etc.  Basically, this means copy first—or at least you should have some headlines and subheads in hand to substantially narrow the image possibilities. This may seem limiting—mostly because it is—and that’s a good thing. The narrower your imagery focus, the less likely you’ll use the same picture as a thousand other companies; and the better the picture reinforces the copy, the more effective your message will be. And if you can’t find a picture that works with your copy, you can alter the wording or look for a new concept … but don’t force it.

 

  • Use search filters – Assuming you’re getting your stock images from one of many online services (Deposit Photos, Shutterstock,  iStockphoto, etc.), how you set your search parameters will greatly affect your ability to find a good image. For example, with or without people, a specific color scheme to match the piece (or your company/logo colors). You can also filter by orientation (horizontal, vertical, square) so that any necessary cropping will be less likely to damage the picture’s visual impact.

 

  • Choose your search key words thoughtfully – Your online search will also require some key words. As a starting point, try to think of a noun to match your target audience. Now throw in a couple of important words from your proposed headline. Next think of a word that could convey a specific benefit or activity associated with the message you’re hoping to convey. Finally throw in a word associated with your brand. Once you do this, you’ll probably get nothing … or nothing useful. But this exercise is still worthwhile in making you cognizant of the parameters you should honor with your key word search. Even as you tweak the word choices, you probably won’t be able to find an image that checks every box. Just make sure not to choose any picture that works in direct opposition to any of the qualities you were originally seeking.

 

  • Get feedback – You’ve looked at the images and headlines together and think you’ve achieved perfect symbiosis for uniformly conveying your message. Now get the opinions of a few people whose marketing judgement you trust. If you ask five people for their opinions, you’ll probably find that two enthusiastically like it, one will say it’s “okay,” another will offer a different concept idea completely, and one won’t get it at all. If so, congratulations, you did alright! Any reaction worse than this, though, you might want to rethink things. Of course, you should take any valid criticisms to heart and make adjustments accordingly.

Unless you have a very robust marketing budget, stock photography will probably be an important element in your marketing materials and online presence. That’s fine. Just as a suit off the rack may not fit as perfectly as a tailored garment, with a little forethought and a critical eye, there’s still no reason you can’t still look very, very good.

The Importance of Measuring Client Satisfaction

Tampa Bay marketing firmAre your clients happy with you? You might answer, “Business is good. In fact, it’s never been better!” If that—or something similar was your response—frankly, you haven’t answered the question. You see, customer satisfaction is just one among several factors that motivate buying behavior. There’s also price (a big one!), convenience and brand familiarity. One of those may be the reason for your success. So why is customer satisfaction still a big deal if you have another of these important business-drivers as your ace-in-the-hole? Here’s the thing. Customer satisfaction affects loyalty, so when a competitor matches your best general attribute (and one will, eventually), happy customers stay with you. That’s why you should be measuring client satisfaction.

To gather information that will allow you to evaluate customer satisfaction, conduct a survey or some form of live interview … or maybe both. Take a look at the following questions for your survey subjects:

  • How would you rate the quality of our products/services?
  • Do you feel our products/services fit your lifestyle in terms of ease-of-use and convenience?
  • Are you satisfied with the range of products/services that we offer?
  • Do you feel that our products/services are a good value for their cost?
  • How well do we meet your expectations in terms delivery or provision of our products/services?
  • How satisfied are you with the level of courtesy you receive from our staff?
  • How would you rate the availability of our staff?
  • Are you satisfied with the knowledge levels of our staff?
  • Would you describe our staff as friendly and responsive?
  • If you have ever had a problem or question in regard to a purchase, how would you rate our ability to resolve your issue?
  • What would you say is the public perception of our company?
  • When business with us is concluded, how do you usually rate the experience?
  • Would you recommend us to a close friend or family member?

Please note, the questions above should serve as information reference points for your research. Simply rephrase them to match your own survey format. The questionnaire design should allow easy comparison across all respondents (apples to apples), and you will want to distinguish differences in intensity such as “very satisfied” to “not at all satisfied” for easier quantification. Survey templates are readily available on the Internet (i.e. Survey Monkey, Qualtrics) and many of these are free, so explore your options.

There are a number of ways to conduct your survey including regular mail, email and website, phone or in person. Regardless of which best fits your circumstances, it’s most important for your survey to be randomly drawn from the same population pool—presumably current and/or former customers. As much as possible, avoid letting respondents self-select themselves. (This is one reason that phone surveys and face-to-face interviews may result in more accurate results than mail or online surveys).

Naturally, you’ll review the survey results looking for potential trouble areas. If your “report card” is good to very good across the entire of range of questions with little variance, that’s great! Doubtlessly, you can still find something to improve—even if your customers haven’t noticed—but be proud of yourself. And if you have mostly good customer ratings, with only one or two trouble areas, at least you now know what to work on—immediately!

But—just theoretically speaking—what if your ratings are uniformly abysmal? Where do you start? The best approach is to choose the easiest thing to remedy first and go from there. That way, customers who stick with you can see improvement quickly as you set about making things better for them.

One thing you should always do with a customer satisfaction survey, is let everyone know the results. You don’t have to get into details (especially if the results, were really, really bad), but make it plain that you value the feedback you received, note that areas for improvement that will be getting your immediate attention (and possibly the specific steps you’ll be taking) and promise to continue to maintain high standards in the other areas (a little humble-bragging never hurts anyone). And if (theoretically) you got a massive FAIL on your report card, let your customers know how hard you’ll be working to regain their trust. It’s been done before, very successfully, so don’t panic and get to work.

Customer surveys, just like any other, need to be carried our consistently over time in order to measure progress toward your customer satisfaction goals. Because, ultimately, happy clients are your best defense against determined competition.

Some of the information in this article was culled from Customer Satisfaction Surveys & Research: How to Measure CSAT.

Other links to check out:

12 Steps to Creating an Effective Customer Survey

How to Develop and Effective Customer Satisfaction Survey

How to Write a Customer Survey

Logo Design and Corporate Identity Manuals

Tampa Bay advertising agency, graphic design, web design, brochure design, newsletter design, logo designThe history of graphic design is extensive and can be traced back hundreds of years. For the sake of this article, we are going to focus on graphic design as it was forming during the industrial era, and how the appearance and growth of corporations affected one aspect of graphic design in particular – logos.

Once upon a time, graphic designers were more likely to work full-time for a company for many years, unlike today, where there is an entire workforce of talented freelance designers that complete projects on a contractual basis. At the onset of corporate graphic design, the designer who created a logo, tagline or slogan for his or her company knew how the logo was to be used on all materials. However, it soon became clear that it would be necessary to communicate the proper usage to other people both inside and outside the company. After all, the designer couldn’t work at the company forever, and graphic designers also began to work outside companies as consultants. Thus, the corporate identity manual was born.

The practice of creating the corporate identity manual developed after WWII, as it was around this time that graphic designers began working more frequently as consultants on a contractual basis. The corporate identity manual is often a work of art in and of itself, as the designers showcase the many uses of a company’s logo, its color palette, typography, and proper orientations of the logo and other text. The purpose is to communicate to other designers how to apply the corporate identity, including logo, slogan and tagline, in a variety of formats and also how not to use the pieces in a design. Today, a corporate identity manual will describe both digital and print applications to maintain consistent design across all platforms.

A well-known designer (in the graphic design world at least), Lester Beall, can be credited with some of the earliest corporate identity manuals. He designed the manuals with care, and the books themselves are creations of beauty. Examples of his work for insurance company, Connecticut General, are seen below. The pieces are so appealing that they could be framed and hung on a wall rather than simply be used for their practical purpose. It is in this practicality and simplicity that the beauty of these manuals resides.

logo design corporate identity program

logo corporate identity program

Corporate identity manuals can be quite fascinating and beautiful, existing in the unique space of being both practical guides for other designs, as well as works of design artistry themselves. Check out this list of 50 stunning corporate identity manuals for ideas.

Pinstripe Marketing’s logo design program is built around helping you discover your company’s character, and we can help you create a logo and corporate identity manual that will set the tone for your company’s success. Our creative team consists of listeners and discoverers that have an innate ability to help you achieve your vision. Contact us to tell us more about your company and the logo you envision.

 

 

Spotlight On: Nikki Devereux, Project Manager at Pinstripe Marketing

spotlight nikki devereux marketing design Nikki became an invaluable asset to the Pinstripe team the day she started at the agency. Her skills match the project management role – intelligent, organized, friendly, insightful – but we hit the jackpot with her numerous talents, not the least of which include photography and videography. She sees challenges from different angles and opportunities from an artist’s perspective. Clients love her and so do we. Read her spotlight and you will too!

Nikki Devereux

Project Manager

Pinstripe Marketing

St. Petersburg

www.pinstripemarketing.com | www.nikkidevereux.com

What inspired you to pursue a career in a creative field?

I grew up an artist and that natural inclination has always been a huge force in my career choices and everything I do.

What do you like most about marketing?

I love that my work in marketing, especially at Pinstripe Marketing, allows me to use my wide variety of skills. As an artist, I like to be very creative and use my mind in that way, but I am also very analytical and love problem solving – I studied engineering for a few years in college and I actually enjoy math, so I still like to exercise that part of my brain as well. Working in marketing gives me the variety and freedom to do it all. I shoot and edit video, write articles and other content, and manage web design projects. So many creative outlets plus analytics all wrapped up in one position!

What challenges does your industry face?

People are inundated with advertising and marketing every day. Recently I attended an event about inbound marketing and the speaker was talking about how we’ve “been bad” as advertisers and marketers. We’ve interrupted people’s lives, family time, and relaxation time to sell products. Now it’s time to give back and stop “being bad.” People are tired of us, but it’s not too late to change that. Inbound/content marketing is one way to start being better.

How do you measure your success?

As long as I’m learning, I feel like I’m successful. I don’t set monetary goals or goals of status – I always want to keep moving forward in everything I do, and the best way to do that is to devour information. I am constantly learning new things about video, photography, artistic techniques, design, and marketing. As long as I can continue to learn and improve my craft, I feel that I am successful in my work. My education is passed on to my clients and informs my art – I do a better job at everything when I keep up with it.

What do you think is the biggest mistake companies make when working on marketing projects?

I think that it’s a huge mistake to think “I need new printed collateral” or “I need a new website” without thinking about the larger picture. When you “need something new” take a look at your entire marketing campaign. Each piece is a part of a symbiosis, and if they’re not working together, you’re wasting your time and money. We always try to steer clients in the direction of thinking about the whole rather than just individual pieces. We want our work to be effective, not just a one and done deal that has no lasting effects on the brand.

What is the most interesting trend you see in marketing?

The current trend is and has been inbound marketing. It’s interesting to me because it really fits my style of relating to people. I am not an in-your-face, salesy kind of person – I like to give. Whether it’s lending an ear, teaching, informing, or helping, that is my preferred way of interacting with people. Inbound marketing allows me to do this in an organic way, and in this way we gain people’s trust.

How has technology helped/hindered your work?

I’m not sure that I can say technology has hindered my work – definitely there are applications and software that have helped make many things quicker, easier and more automated. The thing that I always try to keep in mind is never to resist technology. That means you’re losing your game, getting rusty. A new technology comes on the market, embrace it and learn it as quickly as you can. It may or may not remain viable, but you will be as long as you’re not afraid of change. With technology, and many facets of life, you have to flow like water. When you resist like a rock, you break things, other people, yourself, and your flow.

How do you stay on top of your field?

I love learning, so I am constantly reading industry news, books, and taking courses related to marketing, art, photography, design, and video. I am the Director of Communications on the board of the Society of Marketing Professional Services Tampa Bay (SMPS), and they offer webinars and other educational events that can be pretty enlightening. I take courses in design, art history, and project management on Coursera – there is a wealth of coursework from top-notch universities on the site. I’ve taken some really interesting courses there.

What marketing resources do you recommend? (Books, magazines, web, etc.)

Fast Company is great for just about anything cutting edge, whether it be art, music, design, film, environmentally friendly design, architecture, and even infrastructure. It’s a great resource for anyone in a creative field. American Advertising Federation’s newsletter is full of good advertising industry stuff. Joining local marketing organizations or your local small business association is a great way to keep up with people and learning. St. Petersburg has the St. Pete Greenhouse, which is a wealth of info and education for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the area.

What are your hobbies?

I go to the beach, I cook, do yoga, go to the gym, run with my dog, travel, road trips, I like to go to salvage yards and make stuff with the materials I find, hike, kayak, outdoor activities, river trips, badminton with friends, concerts, art museums and galleries.

Favorite food?

I LOVE FOOD. But I guess if I have to choose – Vietnamese and Indian

Last book you read?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series and The Hours – all SO GOOD