How To Lead The Way and Gain Trust On Social Media

Housing Associations, you’ve got a mixed bag of folk to reach out to, which means your marketing communications, especially social media, need a touch of TLC. Your social media managers will be juggling a whole circus of news, from shiny new builds to the latest buzz from the local community. The question is, how do you shine out from the crowd and really connect with your audience?

Well, we’re here to give you a leg up. Stay tuned for our savvy tips on how to master the social media game and win over your audience’s trust. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Be different by being authentic

Authenticity isn’t just a buzzword; it’s the star player in the game of trust, particularly in the digital playground of social media. Let’s wave goodbye to faux smiles and posts that paint an incessantly rosy picture. It’s time to bring some raw honesty into the frame.

Social media is the stage for authenticity and transparency, so don’t tuck away your mistakes in a corner. Be brave enough to admit when things have gone pear-shaped and address your followers’ concerns head-on.

But remember, it’s not just about holding your hands up; it’s also about how you right the wrongs. Discuss how you’ve tackled the problem, and elaborate on the new measures you’ve introduced to prevent a replay. That, my friends, is how you build trust with your followers and keep them coming back for more!

Bromford – Cyber Incident: How would you talk about it?

Choosing the right social media channels

Social media is a brilliant tool to connect with your residents and stakeholders. But remember, not all channels are created equal. So, it’s about creating content that fits like a glove for each audience.

Think TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook for customer and resident engagement, and keep LinkedIn and Twitter in your arsenal for business and corporate communications. There might be some overlap, particularly for companies who’ve got their ears to the ground to understand how residents feel.

However, it’s always a smarter move to create bespoke social content for different platforms than to churn out the same message across all channels. Trust me, your followers will thank you for giving them a tailored experience!

Respond quickly, and honestly

To show your followers you genuinely value their two pennies’ worth, it’s crucial to respond promptly and honestly to their comments and messages. This shows you’re all ears and ready for a chat.

Setting up alerts can be a handy trick to ensure you don’t let any interactions slip through the net. But, let’s not forget the personal touch. Avoid sounding like a robot, and mix up your responses so they don’t all kick off with the same old line. Remember, it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it.

And when it comes to complaints, honesty is always the best policy. Avoid biting off more than you can chew by promising something you can’t deliver. Always aim to take the complaints off the public stage as professionally as you can.

With this approach, you’re all set to build a loyal following and bolster your relationship with your audience. After all, every good conversation starts with good listening.

Use social media to showcase your work

Social media is a great way to share stories and highlight the good work that your organisation is doing. Share photos and videos of your work, and share testimonials from satisfied residents. People will trust reviews over the Housing Association’s word, so get lots of reviews and case studies that external parties can research into themselves.

Consider hiring a social media manager

If you don’t have the time or resources to manage your social media accounts effectively, consider hiring a social media manager to help you. This person can handle day-to-day tasks like responding to comments and posting updates, freeing you up to focus on other important tasks.

Ready to lead the way? Contact us today.

What are the three building blocks of successful marketing?

Marketing – it feels like the buzzword of the decade, doesn’t it? You can’t spend more than three seconds online without seeing someone talking, tweeting or TikTok-ing about it, with promises of sneaky strategies that will transform your business.

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all, allow us to chuck a lifebuoy and bring it back to the bare bones! From our seasoned know-how, successful marketing boils down to three building blocks: Message, Market, and Media. Get these sorted in your marketing strategy, and you’ve got yourself a rock-solid springboard for business growth that you can buff up and blossom over the years.

Message

Let’s start with Message, which let’s face it, is the whole point of marketing. What’s your business trying to communicate? Whatever your message is, it should be clear, concise, and compelling. Think about what sets your brand apart from the competition; does your audience know about it? Pop a spotlight on the one-of-a-kind perks that your product or service brings to the table. What problem can you solve for your customers?

Message: Now, when we think about the message, we’ve got to give a good think about the tone of voice we’re using. Are we going for a bit of a chit-chat vibe or is your crowd a bit more bookish? Would a cheeky tone hit the spot or is the topic a bit on the sombre side? Having a chinwag about the tone of voice will give your message a realness, and it’s more likely to get all ears on deck. It’s also important to dig into the pain of your client, learn what they’re struggling with and how you can help them the most.

Market

Your “market” is the gang who really need to catch wind of your message. They could be business gurus, parents of ankle-biters of a certain age, retired lovebirds, or just folk with a specific snag to sort out. Nailing your target market is absolutely vital; it calls the shots on how you relay your message and which media channels you pull out of the bag. Retired folks probably won’t be hanging out on LinkedIn, but they might be inspired by a well-crafted leaflet popping through their letterbox, for instance.

For this building block, you’ll need to have a look at demographics, psychographics, and behaviour. Sounds all scientific, right? Demographics include factors like age, gender, income, and education level, while psychographics are all about personality traits, values, attitudes, and lifestyle. Behaviour is all about how your target audience gets cosy with your product or service; how often they nab it, why they grab it, and how they put it to work.

So, it’s a total waste to shout your message to folks who’ll never give your product a whirl, so get specific! Doing a bit of market research and rustling up buyer profiles can help you nab some solid gold insights into your ideal customers. Dive deep into their needs, wants, and what gets them going. Sounds like a bit of a palaver, but take it from us, this will make your marketing that much more gripping and engaging.

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Media

Lastly, but by no means least, is media. This is the ‘how’ of marketing, the path that your message trots along to reach your market. There’s a head-spinning smorgasbord of media channels out there, including print, broadcast, digital, and social media.

So which media channels should you have a punt at? Maybe just a handful, maybe the whole kit and caboodle. The secret sauce is sussing out which ones your audience is tuned into on the regular. Your work on target audiences should give you a leg up here, as you ought to have a decent idea of how your potential customers roll. If they’re buzzing on social media, zero in on content for their fave platforms and think about splashing out on a few adverts too.

This is where a bit of try-it-and-see comes into play, because when it comes to marketing moolah, there are no dead certs! It’s all too easy to get carried away and blow all your budget in one spot, so take a breath and decide what’s the bee’s knees for your business. Running ads or pay-per-clicks can rack up the pennies, whereas social media channels are free to use but need a hefty dose of time and elbow grease to keep the engagement cranking.

Review and Refine

So, there you have it, the three cheeky building blocks of successful marketing – Message, Market, and Media. Hopefully, this blog has given you a glimpse of how essential they are for a cracking marketing strategy.

Once you’ve brewed a clear and captivating message, pegged your market, and picked the top-notch media channels, you’re off to the races! Now you can whip up a dazzling marketing campaign that will turbocharge your business’s growth and success.

And it doesn’t stop there, oh no! You can use these three crafty building blocks as a way to give your marketing the once-over year on year. Sometimes you’ll need to tweak one, two, or all three of them as your business and audience shape-shifts and grows. And who knows what new-fangled media channels will rock up on the scene in the future!

If you can take a bit of time to review and refine your marketing strategy, you’ll stay one step ahead of the pack and continue to grow and succeed in this madcap world. And if it all gets a bit too much and you’re in need of a bit of backup, get in touch to see how we can help you.

How to successfully onboard a design client

Customer onboarding is like the second date of business relationships – you’ve impressed them on the first date, now it’s time to get a bit more serious! It requires a little persuasive charm, a lot of honest communication, and will be a critical part of sealing the deal with your potential client.    

What’s client onboarding?

Client onboarding is the nitty gritty of turning a potential client into a paying one. You want them to sign on the dotted line for what will hopefully be a long-lasting creative collaboration. But first, you’ll need to address their concerns  and make sure they fully understand your design services and how you operate.

Think of it like a journey from your first ‘hello’ to the day you start working on their project. Onboarding is your chance to discuss with the new client:

  • What kind of service you’ll provide
  • What their role is in the partnership
  • How you’ll keep in touch with each other
  • When and how you’ll invoice
  • And of course, all the juicy details about how it’ll all come together

Why is client onboarding important?

Let’s look at this from two angles.

From the client’s point of view:

It can be nerve-wracking to choose a new supplier, who is, let’s face it, a relative stranger. And clients may not know  how partnering with a design agency works. But proper onboarding is like a sneak peek into the magical world of design. Show them the ropes and help them understand what it’s like to work with you, and they’ll feel a lot more confident about their decision.

From the supplier’s point of view:

Onboarding is not just a chance to get to know your clients (although that’s a big part of it). It’s also an opportunity to wrap your heads around the design project and get a feel for their communication style too. At this stage you can also share your ‘plan of attack’ with the client, letting them know what they can expect of you and vice versa.

Filter out ‘bad’ clients

There will be some clients that just   And let’s be honest, some that would just be a nightmare to deal with! The onboarding process is a great way to weed out these ‘bad’ clients before either of you makes a commitment. And it’s a two-way street; a chance for both parties to suss each other out and decide if you want to work together.  

Show them what you’re made of!

Finally, the onboarding process is a great opportunity to show off your skills and prove that you’re the design gurus they’ve been searching for. By doing this you’re putting their minds at ease, sealing the deal, and getting the relationship off to a great start.

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What happens without a good onboarding process?

Without a top-notch onboarding process, you’re likely to either deluge a potential client with info overload or leave them feeling a bit, well…meh. It’s all about serving up just the right amount of detail to reassure them that you’re the bee’s knees, but without launching an all-out info blitz.

Remember the real nitty-gritty of onboarding – it’s about sharing what a potential client needs to know, and importantly, lending an ear to their questions and worries. The end goal is to make the journey of hiring a designer as smooth as a very smooth thing.

A dodgy onboarding process will leave the client with a sour taste, and the chances of them bringing your design agency on board will be slim. But, do it well, and they’ll be convinced there’s no one else they’d rather tango with than you!

If you’re racking up enquiries from potential clients faster than a magpie collects shiny things, but very few are converting into paying clients, then it’s definitely time for a good ol’ rethink.

Client onboarding gives you direction

Kicking off a fresh creative project with a client is always a bit like opening a box of fireworks. Ideas are buzzing around like sparklers, and everyone’s buzzing about the potential. But, without a compass, you’ll soon find yourselves wandering aimlessly in the creative wilderness.

Enter stage left: Bangin’ client onboarding. With a well-mapped plan and timetable for the project, you can delegate roles, share out responsibilities, and set expectations for all those involved. This framework makes the whole shindig a lot smoother, sidestepping any unexpected curveballs or crossed wires.

Once you’ve cracked the art of onboarding clients, it’ll be as breezy as a Sunday afternoon stroll. You’ll be strutting with confidence, comfy as a well-worn pair of trainers in your process, and clients will be well impressed with your orderly and top-notch approach.

Consider a Welcome Pack

How about rolling out the red carpet with a top-notch Welcome Pack? This is your golden chance to set the vibe for your design agency and give clients a crystal-clear picture of what they’re in for when they team up with you.

A Welcome Pack doesn’t just dish out the need-to-knows about your services, but it also helps sift out clients who might not quite fit the bill. Think of it as a trusty satnav, guiding both you and your client down the road to a triumphant project finish line.

Your Welcome Pack won’t be spilling the beans on all the individual  details (keep that tucked away for proposals and contracts), but it’ll cover the essentials like:

  • Your payment policies
  • Time frames
  • How you work
  • What you expect from your clients
  • How communication typically works

The results of good client onboarding

Strap in for the magic ride that good client onboarding can take you on. You’ll not only watch your potential clients turn into proud, paying customers, but you’ll see them:

  • Stick around for the long haul
  • Turn into loyal brand advocates
  • Snap up more of your products and services

The cherry on top? They’ll become your own little squad of brand cheerleaders, boosting your company’s growth through the timeless power of word-of-mouth. There’s no marketing tool that packs a punch quite like it!

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn’t easy, so pop us a message and we’ll see what we can do to help.

Don’t be afraid to show a bit of yourself in your marketing

It’s a well-known fact that a client, or a potential client, trust and loyalty can’t be bought, and it can’t happen through glitzy marketing—it’s something that you earn. Sure, marketing is great for sales, promotions, or product launches, but if you want someone to fully trust and believe in your brand then you’re going to need a deeper and more genuine connection.

This is why the smarter brands are starting to focus on authentic marketing.

 

What is authentic marketing?

Authentic marketing is where you stay true to your brand values and present yourself and your brand with sincerity and authenticity. It’s about making genuine connections with your audience and letting them see the real you.

You understand your target market, what they value, and why they seek you out as an authentic brand. You don’t invest in marketing gimmicks to entice consumers who aren’t in your target audience because you know it violates their trust, and in the long run, they won’t be interested. Being authentic involves establishing and maintaining trust.

 

Why is it important to be me in my marketing?

In a world of constant advertising, many people are craving authentic connections and interactions. When you see someone bold and daring enough to be themselves, it resonates, especially if they’re recognising and working on their flaws or drawbacks.

Gone are the days where you needed to look perfect and professional 100% of the time. Now, when putting yourself out there as a business person, people want to see the human side of you. Even marketing professionals agree that consumer loyalty is driven by emotional connection. People want to know and connect with you and the values you represent, and have little interest in hearing exclusively about your product, offering, or service.

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The importance of core values

Part of being authentic means promoting your values and purpose. To do that successfully, you first need to identify what your business stands for and use it to guide your marketing efforts. Don’t believe us? Findings from an Ipsos study revealed that, across all 25 countries surveyed, an average 70% of respondents say they buy from brands they believe reflect their own principles and values.

If you’re struggling to pinpoint your values, tell the story of your business and do it in a genuine way. By identifying what drives the business, what motivates it, and what you stand for (such as being honest), you can then state your purpose.

Once you’ve become clear on your values, purpose, and story, find ways to spread the word. Look at your marketing channels and other assets, then use them to promote your brand’s ideals and narrative.

Don’t shy away from transparency

Being open and honest is the simplest form of authenticity. Insight into your company’s inner workings or the production of your products is a sure-fire way to boost trust in your brand, leading to increased sales and customer loyalty.

Ways of doing this could be through social posts, declaring when you made a mistake and how you fixed it. Or Linked In interactions of difficult scenarios and how you navigated them while asking others what they would have done. Transparency is simple, but really makes a difference.

Freedom to grow and change, like humans do

As people, we change, grow and develop new habits and interests. If you put yourself in your marketing, your marketing will stay fresh, and keep your brand interesting too. It’s not surprising that with change, some of your old audience might not stick around, but new audiences will find interest and your brand can continue to develop in the new direction. If you stay stagnant, your audience will get bored and fall away so don’t fear being yourself and growing your company.

Be smart, and be yourself in your marketing. Contact us today to help you build your authentic brand.

Communicating repeat messages effectively

Damp and mould, bins, and neighbourhood nuisances are all regular topics that social housing organisations need to communicate about with tenants. Important guidelines are often ignored, as people like to think once they’ve heard it once, they’ve heard it all. Or they may feel that the messages don’t apply to them. If this is resonating with you and you work in comms, we’re here to help you communicate repeat messages effectively.

Try communicating in different formats

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to communication. Some people love the instant media of texting and social media. Others, such as the less tech-inclined, elderly or vulnerable tenants, want more personal visits, letters, and phone calls. Changing your format to entice your audiences as needed is important, as is maintaining consistency in style and language across all formats, which promotes trust.

Texting isn’t redundant yet!

Text messages put the information directly in front of your audience and catch their attention with their notifications. By texting instead of calling, you can send out meaningful, personalised messages and help improve the chances your audience will read them. It’s a fantastic option for accessibility too, as those with visual impairments can have the text read aloud or have the font sized up to make it easier, those who are hard of hearing can read the messages without worrying about a phone call, and those with English as a second language can translate the messages into a language they’re more comfortable with.

Post to a variety of social platforms

Social media is great at getting messages out there, generating discussions, and informing people of any impending changes or things to be aware of. Not everyone is on every social media, so by posting on the main ones (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook), and your website you’ve got the best chance of reaching all bases.

Worried about negative comments? Don’t be! People are discussing these issues anyway so it’s better off in public where you can reply. It means you can publicly show how great your customer services teams are. You might find that customers go full circle and end up becoming positive ambassadors once you’ve helped them via Facebook.

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Understand the people you’re communicating with

Keep it short and simple where possible. People don’t always want to read paragraphs of overwhelming information, so stick to the key points. If possible, involve other residents in producing materials or vetting them before you publish to embrace the community element. Let them know what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you’ve told them. Make sure your message is simple and clear without jargon or acronyms. If you want someone to take action, make this very obvious in your comms.

Ask industry experts to spread the word, for example, Facebook live

People don’t like to be told much these days, but if a piece of communication is enticing or fun, people find themselves drawn in without realising it. You might choose to do a Q+A with an industry expert on preventing mould, saving energy, or dealing with neighbourhood problems. This enables people to get involved with the message, and show your tenants you’re listening to their concerns.

Struggling to get messages across effectively? Contact us today and let us help you.

 

Be Smart – What Should Your Annual Report Include?

At its most basic (and boring), an annual report is a gathering of information that tells the story of your business.

It provides a detailed account of how well the company has done in the previous year, for the shareholders and other interested parties.

It’s also a legal requirement but that doesn’t mean it has to be rigid or intimidating.

Your annual report can instead be a great story which tells the tale of how far the business has come, and the number of bumps it encountered on the road.

Approaching your annual report as a story will breathe life into your data and make it come to life.

 

Make it fun and interesting!

The approach to annual reports has changed over the years.

Rather than the dry, boring print reports of the past, there are now a plethora of exciting and engaging ways to tell your brand’s story.

The goal of an annual report is to highlight your company’s accomplishments in a meaningful way. The format you choose will most likely be influenced by your target audience as much as it is the product, service, or mission of your company.

It’s vital that you choose the right format for your report. This could be the standard print version, or you can explore other avenues with digital and interactive versions.

You could even make a video.

This is a great way to get people to engage with the information (we all know that numbers on their own can be boring!).

This is where the design aspect takes control.

 

Captivate and sell through design

It’s important to sit down and work out a ‘theme’ for the document rather than just create a standard annual report.

Start by asking yourself a few questions.

  • What’s happened in the last year?
  • What’s coming up in the next year?
  • What do you want people to know about your organisation?
  • What do you want them to DO after reading the report?

Take these questions and create engaging visuals and designs. (Or ask a quality design agency to do it for you!) The visuals will help to engage your audience and enhance the information.

Instead of it being a dull presentation, the design you choose will have a great impact on how the numbers and data is received. The viewer’s interpretation of the data will be influenced by the images, photos, colours, and any other visuals you use – they’ll feel the report, rather than simply read it.

 

The basics to include in your annual report

Once you’ve gathered and structured the information for your report, you can turn it into something more creative and innovative.

The start of the report is an opportunity to highlight the company’s mission statement and values.

This is where the story begins, and we’ve got two tips for making it leap off the page.

  1. Start with a letter from the Chair or company founder. Paint the picture of why you started, and how you got to where the company is today.
  2. Write about the vision for the business and an overview of all the investors, directors, and the products that generate revenue.

Oh, and don’t forget to nod towards your competitors; it’s important to establish who those people are, right from the start.

 

Humanise the data

This is your chance to keep hold of your audience’s attention.

Ignore the temptation to simply slap a bunch of graphs and numbers onto the page. Instead, explain them – reveal how they paint a picture or tell a story. Indicate why you’re sharing the data and what it means to people.

Be honest and give real examples that reflect what is working – and what isn’t.

Focus your efforts on the sales, profit margins, and revenue over the last year. New products, employees, and any changes regarding sales will also add to the narrative.

The balance sheet, cash flow statement, income statement, and statement to shareholders are among the details that will also need to be present, but don’t lose yourself in the numbers. Start with an introduction that explains why they matter and why the reader should care.

Annual reports aren’t easy to create. They have to be comprehensive, data-rich, and yet completely engaging. If you fail with the latter, it won’t be read by anyone – it’s that simple.

Branding plays a huge role in the best annual reports, so why not get in touch with the Be Smart team to find out how we can make yours come alive?

How do I find out who my ideal client is?

Did you know there’s such a thing as an unprofitable client? You’d actually be better off without them!

This comes as a surprise to many business owners.

Often, they’re clients who have been attached to the business for years and who have relentlessly requested product changes, additional support, and your undivided attention.

Only, they sit at the bottom of the pile when it comes to their contribution to your bottom line.

Then you have the clients you rank above them – those who barely murmur a word but who are happy. You get on well with them, and you work efficiently together. They see you as a trusted extension of their business. They EARN their place as ideal clients.

So, how do we find more of them?

 

Your ideal client questionnaire

Here’s bit of homework for you.

Ask yourself the following questions and note down your answers:

  • Who are your raving fans?
  • Who do you want to work with?
  • In which demographic do these people reside?
  • Which clients do you have who you like right now?
  • Who are profitable and don’t suck time away?

You do have fans among your customer base – every business does. But what’s their demographic? What’s their age, occupation and marriage status? Do they have kids? What are their hobbies and interests? Where do they shop? Where do they hang out? What websites do they visit?

This stuff matters more than you think. It’s why you need to walk a mile in THEIR shoes, rather than your own.

When you answer that final question above, the answers to the other questions should come a little easier. Just think about the clients you genuinely love and ask yourself why.

They probably don’t bother you much, and when they do, they’re full of praise and reasonable requests. And guess what? They’re probably all from a similar demographic with near identical requirements.

 

You MUST niche!

We cannot overstate this. ‘Niching down’ might be a slightly irritating phrase, but it’s the only way to build a successful brand.

Which of the following two statements sounds more primed for success?

“We sell candles to women.”

“We sell scented candles to women who are married with two kids. They work from home, regularly feel stressed, and look forward to some time alone at night, watching Netflix or having a bath.”

Immediately, that second statement paints a clear picture of the ideal client. You can see them. By comparison, the first statement is just a massive room of people, most of whom probably have zero interest in candles.

If you don’t find your niche, you’ll attract far too many of the wrong type of clients, and they’ll be unprofitable, unsatisfied, and completely devoid of any brand loyalty.

 

Where to start

The best way to find your ideal client is to place your current clients into three bands.

Warning: this requires ultimate honesty, and it may not be easy if you have good relations with certain clients.

Here are the three bands you’ll need to work on:

  • Band A: Great clients – you enjoy working with them.
  • Band B: OK clients – they pay on time, but there aren’t any fireworks.
  • Band C: Unprofitable clients – you do everything you can to avoid them, they constantly moan, or they take up inordinate amounts of your time. Your heart sinks when you see their name in your inbox.

You need more As and Bs, clearly. But that last point is where it can sometimes get rather tricky to differentiate a great client from an unprofitable client.

This is because clients who take up inordinate amounts of your time are sometimes the nicest. You may even count them as friends.

But are they your ideal client? If they’re constantly requesting changes and arguing for lower fees in-between chit-chat about your shared love of cricket… probably not.

It’s a pretty brutal process, but one which will lead you to a tightly defined ideal client.

If you need help with this, or any form of branding work, the Be Smart team can lend their considerable experience. Just get in touch today to find out how we can help you find out who your ideal client is, and how to speak to them with your brand.

10 ways to help your business get through the impact of Coronavirus

What a very strange and unsettling time to be in business. There are no promises and no future dates to plan for. It feels like the world has been thrown into the air like a snow globe and we’re just sat (at home in lockdown) waiting for it all to settle. One thing’s for sure – we’re all in this together. We’re all affected and there are very few (if any) businesses who are not struggling, having to adapt, or reeling from the effect of COVID-19. Here’s something to consider… You can’t change what’s going on globally, so it’s actually a case of accepting what’s not within your control. You’re where you’re supposed to be, along with the rest of us. This is like a reset button for the whole planet. The sooner you accept it, the sooner you get real and start to think productively. There will be opportunities to grow your business. That said, it’ll be a tough and rough ride so it’s time to act Smart. We’ve collated some ideas and suggestions to help your business navigate your way through the chaos. If your business has been impacted by Coronavirus, Be Smart is here to support you.    

Stay healthy!

This is beyond anything that we’ve seen so make sure you’re frequently checking in on your team who are now almost certainly remote. Ask them how they are, and what they need help with. And look after yourself too. You’re human too and you need to practise self-care, however that looks for you. One of the best ways to maintain some normality is to have a new routine.
  • Get dressed. Please don’t sit around in your PJs as it’s not good for your mindset.
  • Stick to your same morning routine.
  • Build in some exercise even if just a ‘Boris walk’ or cycle around your street or town.
  • Tend to your garden. It needs it now anyway!
  • Don’t watch the news 24/7 and avoid untrustworthy opinions on Facebook.
  • Go for reliable trusted sites like gov.uk/coronavirus or just take yourself offline.
Protect your mental energy by limiting the amount of time you spend on social media and take a look at meditation if you can. It’s really good for you, especially if you’re having difficulty sleeping.  

Get good at remote working

This might be a breeze for some, but if you’ve never worked from home before then it’s OK to be in the process of adjusting to it all. Here are some tips to help:
  • Mirror the desk set up you had in your office – your environment is important.
  • Use tools like Office Vibe to manage the team morale.
  • Have daily ‘scrums’ – online team meetings. In these meetings lead on how everyone is, chat, get social and keep that team morale high and communication flowing. We all need that now.
  • Let your team know that you’re aware there may be children around and that you understand. If you can offer flexible working times they’ll thank you for it in future.
Get good at using tools like Skype, Zoom, Slack, Dropbox and other cloud-based systems.  

Don’t slash your marketing!

We understand that you need to ‘be careful’ with your expenditure for a while but the last thing you need to do right now is strangle your future business by starving it of oxygen. Marketing is the oxygen of your business! Re-work things. Move budgets around a bit. Consider more online marketing than traditional marketing. Look at how you can go online with products and services if you can. Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and other online marketing channels are going to be more important, more needed, and clicked on even more now. Make the most of this ‘forced’ online movement.  

Pivot!

It’s time to re-think things. The world will be different on the other side of this, so can you make a decision to change how you do things and what you offer? Just look at people like Joe Wicks whose morning workout videos on YouTube are incredibly popular with children and adults alike. What can your business do to help and make the most of this huge shift in behaviour?  

Stay alert!

Look for the opportunities out there – they do exist. The beauty of a situation like this it’s like a re-set button to review EVERYTHING. What opportunities can you see? Keep a growth mindset and make sure you’re ready to take on more work than you ever had, rather than focus on those few leads, clients, and deals that might fall by the way side. The universe loves a vacuum – so fill those opportunities with new and better ones.  

Get pragmatic in your business

What are you paying for that you don’t need? What can you cancel? Where can you save where you really should have been anyway? There are loads of things you can stop, pause, and if things are really tight – claim! With a combination of business interruption loans, Government grants, and the cancellation of subscriptions and services you really don’t need, you could come out of this stronger than ever. Make sure you’ve applied for everything you’re entitled to. Your accountant should be able to confirm what this could be. Don’t forget to review your bank statements and see what’s going out. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve paid for twice, or you might be paying for services you don’t use.  

Check your KPIs… daily!

If you’re anything like us, we have a set of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), which we always used to check monthly. This includes the number of leads, conversion rate for existing clients, conversion rates for new clients, etc. STOP! Check them daily from now on. Get really focused and drive your activity. This is an ever-changing situation, often by the day or even sometimes by the hour. Get there first with your phone call, Zoom meeting, or proposal.  

Build a new plan

Why not create a 90-day strategic plan for your business while you have time? Make positive plans to grow now; not when ‘it all gets back to normal’. Then repeat after us: “There is no normal!” Work on your plan to boom over the next 90 days and get your business into a fabulous position with all the new opportunities are out there right now, right at this moment.  

Call them, maybe?

Call all of your clients! Yes. Call them. Don’t hide and wait for them to contact you. Make the decisions, make the moves, aim to help and serve them and check in to see how they are. They’re probably struggling now. They’re worried. They might need your help. See how you can support them and start having some positive conversations.  

Take advantage of our FREE offer!

As our clients are changing, regrouping, and reviewing their budgets, we’ve freed up two hours of design work a week free of charge for small businesses who are really struggling but want to keep going. It will be on a first come, first served basis. The maximum is 2 hours per project to give everyone a fair chance of benefitting. Interested? Contact us right now and we’ll get you booked in! Be quick. These will get snapped up really quickly! We look forward to helping you now and in the future. Stay safe.  

Not what you wanted? Here’s why your design work isn’t up to scratch

Getting what you want or expect from your design agency is a healthy objective. If you’ve ever commissioned some design work, perhaps for a new website, leaflet, or brochure, and felt a little disappointed, then we have some terrible news for you…

… it’s your fault.

Well, actually, it’s your design agency’s fault, but you chose them, and you gave them the information, so you have to own some of the responsibility.

Sorry.

There’s a really simple way to avoid this, but it’s not common knowledge, so we often need to explain this to clients.

Before any work can be carried out, the proper design process needs to happen.

 

Good grief, that’s not a brief!

It all starts with a good design brief. The design brief sets out everything: where you are now, what you want from the work, and ultimately how that looks at each stage.

The design brief is a partnership between you and your agency, and it should never be 100% from you. We’re sorry to say, but nearly all clients don’t actually know what they want. They think they do, but they soon realise they don’t.

We’re well known for pushing back when we’re given a brief. Don’t give us a brief and expect us to put it into action before we’re certain it’s actually right for you. This is probably the reason the majority of disappointment happens: the design agency just do as they’re told!

No, no, no!

We’re the experts in design, and you’re the experts in what you do. Although some direction and guidance from you is essential (and meetings will very much involve you and your ideas), you’re not the brief makers – we are.

Which is good for you, because we’ll listen rather than just sending you a bunch of paperwork to fill in.

If you’ve been disappointed in the past, it’s likely you created the brief and your design agency weren’t brave enough to push back. We’re brave because it’s for the right reasons. We get the best results when we work on a brief that will actually give your brand or project the results you want.

 

New branding – what to consider

When we work on a new branding project we have a more detailed branding questionnaire which we use pre-strategy session to give us background information we need before we meet up with you.

It’s completely normal to not be clear on exactly what you’re all about at this stage.

If you’re not clear on your vision, mission, values, purpose and reason for being, that’s when our branding head honcho gets down and dirty and helps you to explore it with a branding questionnaire and dig deep strategy session(s) to arrive at the answers that drive results.

We wouldn’t just accept any old brief for a new brand. It’s up to us as the branding experts to diagnose and weed out the problem to get to the ‘big idea’ that will set you apart.

You might have an idea as to what the problem is, like:

  1. Lack of growth
  2. You’ve been bought out or you’ve merged with another company
  3. Your look is dated
  4. You have trouble recruiting and retaining good staff
  5. You have negative connotations/PR with their brand

This is where our skill lies; in working with you strategically to define and craft this in words (yes, words not pictures!) before we even start the creative.

Once you have your branding in place, everything else flows.

 

A design briefing conversation

With a design project, we start this off with an exploration into the project with a briefing sheet. We’ll ask probing questions that give us the answers we need to create the right end product for you.

This briefing sheet will guide us down the right path and make sure that the project is geared towards your customers and end users. It’s not about your CEO and their favourite advert. (Yes, that does happen!)

Inspiration from other places is great. We love that. But a design from someone else was designed for theirend users, not yours.

We often find that the design process is approached like a new hair-do…

We’re sure you’ve been there, in the hair salon, waiting for your turn. On the table are loads of magazines showing famous people with amazing hair. These are often used for new style inspiration.

But unless you’re a model, those people are not like you. They have different heads, different hair, better styling products, and more.

Choosing a haircut from someone else and whacking it on your head is nonsense. It’s exactly the same as nicking ideas from Nike for your social enterprise ad. They’re worlds apart.

The new hairstyle (and design) should start with the end result:

What are you working with?
What’s the best look for that?
Will that style suit your customer?
Will it get across the right messages?
And will your beliefs and values match that new do?

You have to design from the ground up. Not doing so is where some big mistakes and poor results can creep in.

 

The briefing sheet – the design sat nav

Not arrived at your desired destination? Maybe you put in the wrong coordinates! Asking the right questions at the very beginning will give us the best understanding of what you want and why you want it.

Each project is different, but we find that these questions help every situation.

This is what we ask our new clients, and it drives the project forward as a key part of its success.

Let’s take a brief look to give you a better idea of how the briefing stage should work.

What do you do?: This might sound obvious, but your branding agency need to clearly understand what you do. Why are you here? Who do you help? What is it that you provide? What difference do you make?

Your purpose: Well? What is your purpose? This can be your “Why” or your beliefs and values. These are core parts of any brand that you create. Without this, your brief is soulless!

Your mission: On a mission? Tell us. We need to know if you’re going to change the way people look at concrete or tell them that white is the new black. Whatever your mission is, you need this to come through in your brand and all the marketing you do.

USP:We’re not one for clichés, but your USP (unique selling point) is important. These simple three letters can really get clients thinking about themselves. This is especially important if they’ve never created their USPs.

Competitors:Who are you up against? This isn’t so we can copy them. On the contrary, this is so we absolutely don’t copy them. We want your brand, design, or whatever your brief is for to be 100% unique. Otherwise, you’re going to go through all this to simply blend in or confuse your audience.

Your message: What message are you trying to get across? We’ll work this into everything you’ve supplied so far and make it resonate in the right way with your ideal client or customer.

Values:Your values are important. What do you and your brand stand for? The last thing you need are words, phrases, designs, and images that aren’t authentic. Your values can often help to stop these from entering the project.

Brief description of the project: Thisisn’t just what you’d like us to create but also what else is happening around it. If there are real-world events or online parts to this, we need to know so that we can create a brand and design that fit it all.

The objective of the project:What are you trying to do here? What’s the end goal? Tell us (or your design agency) and you’re more likely to get it!

Target audience:Who are we aiming this at? This information will help us to find them, research them, understand them, and create a brief and then a design to suit them.

Limitations and considerations: What can’t we do? If there are terms, situations, brand limitations, politics, or other reasons to avoid certain things, tell us now.

Essentials:What mustbe in your project? Getting these details in place at an early stage ensures there are no “Didn’t you include X?” questions during the final brand reveal!

Budget:How much have you put aside for the project? Obviously, you can’t have the world on a local budget. Knowing this will help you to set the expectations for the project and even give you the rationale to get more budget!

Timing:When do you need all this in place? Well, this one’s simple. Every project needs a deadline to work to, to keep everything on track.

 

And now you’re ready to get what you want

If you’re not giving your design agency the right information, then don’t expect the best results. A good brief – one created by you TOGETHER with the brand and design agency and one based on all the right information – is what you need.

We’re brief makers, not brief takers (more on that here) because we know we’re good at what we do, and you’re not a designer!

It makes no sense to give your agency the brief and get them to do it. And it makes no sense to get started on a project without first building a watertight brief and roadmap. And of course the brand creation comes before any design work.

 

Had poor results in the past? Want to avoid the same thing happening in the future?

Be smart and contact us now. We’ll grab a cuppa and chat about your plans.

Copyright in design: How to own it and never get caught out

Copyright protects graphics and design. Copyright, patents, designs and trademarks are all types of intellectual property protection. Designers get some types of protection automatically, you’ll have to apply for your copyright after you get your content from your designer, or arrange it prior to work being carried out.

It’s pretty obvious that you can’t go around stealing someone’s logo, and your designer should know this. You’d not only look a little silly, and you’d deserve a threatening letter on your doorstep!

But, this goes far deeper than using some one’s jpeg…

Copyright runs deep in many areas of design and you might not have ever thought about how that transcends into images, style, and where you place them.

If you’re working with a branding agency like us, then here are some areas of copyright in design for you to consider.

 

 

The copyright is all ours… we created it

Here’s the big one that many are surprised to hear.

If you commission us to create a design, brand, logo, or similar then the copyright is ours. It’s ours until you pay us and it’s ours afterwards too. We’re the creators and the copyright is automatically given to us.

It’s pretty much unknown, but unless you ask for the copyright, the design copyright will stay with the agency who created it, as that’s who the law states owns it – unless it’s passed over in a legal agreement.

The important thing to remember therefore is to get the copyright when you have anything designed so that you’re future proofed. Ensure that you have full ownership over your design so you don’t find yourself in trouble with your own collateral or brand.

 

 

The design itself can be protected; the rest can’t

 

The actual design can be protected and the way the design is set, the unique logo or graphics, and the images you use can be protected as a final entity. But you can’t protect it all.

There was an interesting case recently where a baby product was (allegedly) copied by supermarket chain, Aldi. In any case, the design was rather similar. The pushchair cover that helps to keep the baby cool in the heat, Snoozeshade is a simple design and uses a material that covers the pram or pushchair and stops the heat getting in.

The Aldi alternative is very similar and the supermarket marketing even uses a lot of the wording from the original site. It’s unclear as we write this what the outcome of this scenario will be, but it shows you that big brands can and do copy – or at least ‘get inspired by’ other products and that you can’t protect against it all.

Plagiarising text and content is one thing, but using elements of a design, including materials, can’t be protected as much as one might think.

This follows through with other areas of design too. You can protect the final product, and we suspect this will be the argument against Aldi, but you can’t protect the elements such as colour, style, or story that make up the design.

That said, when you go up against Sainsbury’s like Jel Singh Nagra did, you’re best to back down and remove your Singhsbury’s sign when they threaten legal action against logo infringement as they have most likely protected it beyond most!

 

 

If your design or images are used, you have rights you can push for

Just like Sainsbury’s and other brands who’ve fought for the removal of images or branding that infringed on their copyright, you can protect your brand.

Most large companies will cooperate and try to come to an agreement…  it’s simply not worth the bad PR and they have the money and resources to re-design products and re-work their marketing.

If you’ve taken images or commissioned someone to, and you own the copyright then you have a very good case against anyone who uses them. For the most part you’ll find it an easy conversation with a larger company as they know all too well the rules of the game.

It’s always best to check who owns the copyright before you publish, though, so that you’re covered in the future.

In the US they’re less protected than us, and this article about fashion companies copying smaller businesses’ designs makes for interesting reading.

 

 

Be careful of other’s copyright

 

Moving on from being copied yourself, make sure that you or your designer source content for your designs that are eligible for use. Right-clicking on Google images isn’t the best approach and even on your company blog you’ll be seen to breach copyright.

An approach like this might result in you getting an email like many did from Shutterstock after the digital image site they used digital tracking software to find all the images that were used without being purchased (cross-referencing the meta data in the images). They issued fines to the website owners.

If you or your designer is going to use images, graphics, or photography then make sure you know who owns the copyright.

In an interesting case in the past few years, it turns out that selfies taken by a celeb’s Crested Macaque Monkey, using equipment belonging to the British nature photographer David Slater, was first seen as the right of the monkey, not the photographer.

In a cruel twist of fate, the photographer lost the rights to the photos as he didn’t ‘create’ them, and they were deemed the right of the monkey. This was until in 2018 the courts stated that an animal can’t own the copyright for anything as it’s not human and the images remain copyright free and are freely used (as well as by the photographer himself) across the web.

But most images are not taken by a monkey, and will be the property of someone human, so make sure that you buy your images and graphics and save a copy of the contract and Ts and Cs so that you can prove you have the right to use them as deemed by the creator.

 

 

Commission it and then ask for copyright

 

The main takeaway here is that, unless you ask for it, you don’t own the copyright and you should if you’re going to use it in your marketing and branding. It’s unlikely that a designer like us will ever try to be awkward about it and you should be given copyright right away. That said, it’s not always standard practice and if nothing is done, you don’t own the right to designs created for you.

If you need help, advice, or of course new designs then please do contact us.

We create from credible sources, we use elements that are acquired correctly and then of course we create brand, graphics, images, and photography ourselves so our work is as unique as a Macaque selfie.

For unique branding and design that you own, BeSmart and drop us an email today.