WIN-WIN!! Charitable Contributions as an Opportunity for Branding

Special Note:
Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group.

The requests for donations of time and/or money never stop.  (I know – because the need never stops!) 

Generally speaking, the causes asking for help are very worthwhile, and you’d really like to do your part . . . but didn’t that agency just make the same request last month? 

While this blog can’t suggest ways to cut down the number of times you are approached, we do hope to help you view these solicitations just a bit differently – as chances “to get” as well as “to give.”

Charitable contributions take many forms.  Sometimes, you are asked to sponsor an event.  Maybe someone wants you to take out an ad in a program book – often honoring an individual for community service.  Or, have you been given a chance to underwrite the cost of a little league team (who will wear the name of your business on the backs of two dozen kids several times a week for many months)?  Or, perhaps you’ve been asked to support a high school sport, a public broadcasting station, a local church, etc.

Typically, the cost to participate is low (relative to the cost of advertising in the media) . . . and you choose the amount.  Since many of us will “just say yes” very often due to good intentions/guilt/a sense of moral obligation, we encourage you to recognize the value of such local “advertising.”

Frankly, you are associating your business in a positive way with a good cause and promoting an image (and self-image) of community involvement, which can be very valuable (especially for a local retail operation).

However, you must be sure to take full advantage of the quid quo pro benefit you are provided.

  • Always include your logo.
  • Mention as much of your “boiler plate” description of yourself as possible.
  • If you are given ad space in a program, you certainly congratulate the honoree but be sure to also mention your products and services as well in a manner consistent with your branding (so the message gets repeated the same way every time).
  • If your sponsorship includes a t-shirt (or some other imprintable promotional item) or perhaps even a banner bearing your company’s name, spend time on the artwork to make your branding elements as visible and prominent as possible.
  • If the organization you sponsor does all of the preparation, be sure to provide the quality logo needed to produce the best results and request to see a proof of the complete artwork in advance of printing.
  • If accompanying radio or TV advertising for the event includes mention of you, be very specific about the way your name should be handled.
  • If you are in a growth pattern, use these charitable platforms to let people know you are hiring . . . and provide a link to your web site to learn more about the company, the openings and internships available, and perhaps even apply online.

While proper care will enable you to take good advantage of the benefits provided, your branding opportunity does not have to end with the event.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Use your social media platforms to post news about your involvement in the community-based activities.  For artwork, you can often post the logo of the agency sponsoring the event as well as your own . . . and perhaps a picture of the person being honored.  Typically, those images will generate views/readers.

Social media traffic is one factor that can assist getting your name to turn up in Internet searches . . . so your charitable efforts help you in this way, too.

(Note:  Efforts to get your name to appear in searches is referred to SEO – Search Engine Optimization; future articles are planned that address this subject.)


PRESS RELEASES

Very often, charitable acts can be used to prepare press releases that stand a very good chance of achieving publication.  For example, did your employees volunteer at a soup kitchen, watch over a Salvation Army collection kettle, or perhaps participate in a United Way Day of Caring.  If so, let the world know.  In fact, very often the organization you are helping will have created PR (AND social media postings) of their own so you benefit from their mention without requiring the preparation.  However, be sure to request the right to review prior to submission to make sure your branding elements are included and handled correctly.  (Most organizations are used to getting requests of this kind!)

WEB SITE CONTENT

News about your charitable involvements can be good web site content that allows you to reveal a different, less formal side of your culture – the kinds of information that can be very helpful in recruiting prospective employees looking to learn more about you and decide whether yours is the kind of company that s/he wants to join.

So . . . the moral of this story is to recognize the potential of charitable contributions to do good for others . . . and you, too!  A WIN-WIN!! situation.

While you may have to get a little more involved than just writing out a check, the time and effort you devote will not be significant, and the benefit to your branding efforts can be great.  You can become better known . . . and known as a good citizen to society, which will encourage people to think positive thoughts when they see your logo.

Finding the Right Font: A Review of the Best Available Font Viewers

Since I’m writing this post during that unique period in between Christmas and New Year’s . . . when you have no concept of whether it’s Tuesday, Sunday, or even still December, I figured I would write about something that brings me great joy.  Fonts.  I am a collector of fonts.  I have ones that are beautiful, ones that are classic, straightforward, jovial, and downright odd.  I learned today I have 1,266 of them to be exact.  Most I know I’ll never use, but hundreds of them MAY get used . . . one day.  I am a font hoarder.

As a Christmas present to myself, I decided I would find a good utility for browsing my collection.  When I am trying to decide on the perfect font for a project, this very common, teeny tiny, one-font-at-a-time preview is not nearly sufficient:

I went out seeking a utility similar to google’s font viewer . . . where I could type in my desired preview text and then browse the available options in an easy-to-see size and easy-to-scroll format.

If you are in the beginning stages of forming your brand, having a tool like this — to see your company name and test out body copy in all your currently installed fonts — would be a wonderful luxury.  Once your brand has solidified a bit, you’ll still have instances in which you’ll need to choose a different font for a specific need . . . whether you’re creating a Happy New Year graphic for social media or a “clearance” sign for display in your store. 

So I went looking for the best available font viewer.  I read a number of articles reviewing the options, and I sampled a select few of them based on the reviews . . . .

CPS Font Viewer
This program was my absolute favorite, checking all the essential boxes on my font viewer wish list, excepting the very important fact that my computer would freeze for about a minute every time I interacted with the program, which is designed for a 32-bit version of Windows.  (I’m guessing this is an important fact.)  Frustration prompted my uninstalling the program before even taking a screen shot for you, but I was able to grab one from the software provider:

If your computer is a rare gem running 32-bit Windows, this program is a great choice. 

FontBase

I initially really liked FontBase, performing the requisite job in a clean and modern interface.  I also like that you can easily switch from your fonts to Google’s selection of 2,533 free fonts as desired.  However, I really wanted to better utilize all that wasted screen space and increase the number of fonts I could peruse at a time.  Unfortunately, the ability to switch from a row view to grid style, along with a number of additional options, requires an upgrade and at a pretty hefty price tag at that.  Many seemingly functional buttons annoyingly transport you to this screen, where your options are $3/mo, $29/yr, or $180 forever. 

Since I try to resist the low-price allure of ongoing subscriptions whenever possible, I was left with the $180 option, which was about $100 more than I was willing to spend.  Goodbye, FontBase. 

If you don’t mind the free row layout and can quickly learn which buttons to avoid OR you’re willing to pay for the upgrade, this program is a solid choice.

Wordmark.it

Another modern and clean interface that can also easily switch from your installed fonts to google’s free fonts, this viewer is a big step up, providing a grid layout entirely free of charge.  In fact, this is the only utility I sampled that is browser-based and didn’t need to be installed.  Your only required payment comes in the form of one font block dedicated to an advertisement every other screen or so – a very reasonable price to pay in my book.  However, this utility scans and previews your installed fonts using Adobe Flash Player, outdated software that Adobe has announced will no longer be supported as of December 2020.  I noticed a bit of a lag on the web page itself and even more inconveniently in my other software while accessing Wordmark.it.  (So going back and forth from discovering a possible font option on Wordmark.it to trying out the font in my project was not a smooth flow.)  Hopefully, the company will find a more current way to make this utility available, because it’s pretty slick otherwise.

AMP Font Viewer

This program has an old-school feel.  The installation process and program interface are reminiscent of the good old days . . . Windows 97, 56k modems, and floppy disks.  I almost immediately wrote the program off as a result. 

Upon browsing all the options in the program’s menu, I found that the view is almost completely customizable, and I was able to scroll through my 1,000+ font options with ease. 

Unlike the outdated Flash Player, this program’s age adds to its allure . . . not modern and clean but user driven and quick.  I happily declare my unlikely victor!

Do you have a favorite font viewer?  Let us know in the comments below.  Did you have an opportunity to try out one of the reviewed options?  I would love to hear your experience.

How to Create a Facebook Page for Your Business

Your first step to your business’s social media presence on facebook is quick and easy.  In the five steps below, you’ll see how to create a page for your business.

1.  Log in to your personal account on facebook.  Go to Create > Page.

Select Business or Brand when asked to choose a category.

2. You’ll then be prompted to input an address, or you can click “Don’t show my address.  Only show that this business is in the City, State region.”

3.  Next, you’ll need to add a profile photo.  You’ll want to use one that can be squared, the corners rounded/cropped, and at least 170 x 170 pixels in size (which is pretty small).  We would ideally like to use our logo, but it’s not one that would work well in facebook’s profile frame:

If uploaded as is (as I did above), portions would be cropped.  If I added white space to the top and bottom so the sides wouldn’t be cropped, the logo would be very hard to see when displayed at 170 x 170 pixels and smaller.  As a result, I went with an icon version of our logo, created for purposes such as these.  White space has been added all around to accommodate the round frame. 

If your logo doesn’t work for your profile picture or you’d prefer to use a photo of yourself or some other image representative of your business, just be sure to regularly include your logo in your posts (preferably as an overlay on pictures related to the post).

4.  Next up is your cover photo, which displays at 820 pixels wide x 312 pixels tall on computers and 640 pixels wide x 360 pixels tall on smartphones.  The minimum size is 400 pixels wide x 150 pixels tall.  Since the dimensions of your cover photo will vary somewhat in different environments, a simple landscape photo is your surest best – as opposed to including your logo or other text.  (If you do go the route of including your logo or other text, be sure to include lots of white space, so the text does not get cropped regardless of the environment.) 

A Quick Note About Graphics Software:  If you’re not quite sure how to go about creating a cover photo that includes text or how to add white space to your logo, you may want to check out Inkscape (https://inkscape.org/), which is a free graphics editor that also makes a number of tutorials available:  https://inkscape.org/learn/tutorials/.

For our facebook cover, I just used the main image included on our home page for continuity purposes.

You can “drag to reposition” if desired.

5.  Finally, you’ll be asked whether you want to “invite friends to like your page,” which is recommended since pages with 10 or more likes get more engagement.  If you want to wait until you’ve been regularly posting for some time before inviting a lot of people, you can start off with a small group of your close family and friends until you get better established.

And you are done!  You have a facebook page for your business.  Unfortunately, that was the easy part.  The challenge is creating a regular posting schedule and sticking to that plan.  How often . . . ?  A number of sources cite one facebook post per day as optimal.  If you can commit to that, great.  If you feel like twice a day is better for you, just pay attention to your engagement.  If those posts aren’t getting sufficient attention, facebook may decrease your visibility and put your posts into a “spamming” category.  If you’re like us, once a week is a much more reasonable goal.  Do what works for you and your business, experimenting a little to find your optimal posting schedule.

Good luck!  Stay tuned for more posts about facebook.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a reply below. 

How to Set Up Simple Print-and-Cut Business Cards in Microsoft Word

You want simple, nice, and professional looking business cards.  Easy, Peasy, right?  Unfortunately, creating business cards from scratch can be a little intimidating for even a tech-savvy person.  Thankfully, Microsoft Word actually makes a decent amount of business card templates available to you.  While the focus is clearly quantity versus quality, their templates do save you a number of groundwork steps, so they are a good place to start.  You can go from a blank Word document to print-ready business cards in only ten steps. . . . 

(For a personalize-and-print option for $6, skip to the end.)

1.  From within Microsoft Word, go to File > New and type “business cards” into the search box. 

Scroll down through the search results to the vertical “flower personal business cards”.

Press Create.

2. Right click the cross within a square at the upper left and choose Table Properties.

Select Table > Borders and Shading > Border and set the Setting to All, the Style to dashed, the Color to light gray, and the Width to ¼ pt; press OK.

Then go to Cell and set the Vertical Alignment to Centered and press OK once again.  You now have business cards that are horizontally and vertically centered with very faint visual guides for cutting.

3. Delete all the content from the first card, insert your logo, and size to your liking, keeping in mind you will need space for your contact information.

4. Press enter to advance to the next line and set the font to Calibri, the font size to 11, and the font color to black.  Press Ctrl + D for advanced font and character options.  Click the Advanced tab and set the Character Spacing to Expanded By 3 pt.  Press OK and turn your Caps Lock on.  Type your name.

5. Press return to advance to the next line.  Change the font to Calibri Light and the font size to 10.  Click Ctrl + D, change the character spacing to .5 pt, and press OK; then, type your title.

6. Press return to advance to the next line and change the font size to 7.5.  Then include your contact information, limiting yourself to three lines. 

7. Place your cursor after your logo, right click, and go to Line Spacing Options.

Within Indents and Spacing, set the Spacing After to 6pt, and press OK.

Set the cursor after your title and repeat.

8. Once you’re happy with your layout, select the entire contents of that card, and copy by pressing Ctrl + C.  Then, select the contents of another card, press Delete, and Ctrl + V to paste your new design.

Repeat the process for the rest of the page.

9. Save your file and print; be sure to set your printer Print Quality to the best available option. (When choosing your paper, I recommend a quality cardstock in between 80 and 100 lb — any thinner, and your business card will be too flimsy; any thicker, and you risk problems using the paper in a conventional home printer. A matte versus glossy finish is really a personal preference, but you do avoid any potential for fingerprints on a matte stock.)

10.  Then, cut!  For the cleanest and straightest edges, use a paper cutter.   

A Note About Business Card Fonts and Colors:
While the instructions described above will achieve the simple and modern design pictured, you can (and should) customize the look for your business. If you’ve been brand building from the start, you already have a Style Guide in place, and your business cards should reflect the guidelines you’ve set for your logo usage, fonts, and colors. If you’re new to branding, be sure to review our story on The Role of a Brand Style Guide.

Personalize-and-Print Template

If you would prefer to forgo the instructions above and purchase a preformatted template, the file is available for $6. In this version, you need only enter your information into one of the cards, and the rest will populate automatically. Simply type your info, print, and cut!

$6.00

Small Business Saturday and Much More . . .

When looking at the above headline, what do you see?

OPPORTUNITIES NO WHERE

Or

OPPORTUNITIES NOW HERE

If you see the latter, you are probably a good candidate to recognize and utilize every available chance to brand your product.

Remember . . .

While branding is certainly a reflection of decisions you make about logo, color, font, byline, etc., branding is more importantly your way of telling the world just who you are, which encompasses all aspects of your daily operations and customer service.

What prompted me to write this article today was a recent great branding opportunity
. . . and my curiosity about the percentage of you that did (and did not) take advantage of . . .

SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY

“What is this event,” you might ask, “and why do I care?”

“First observed in the United States on November 27, 2010, it is a counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which feature big box retail and e-commerce stores respectively. By contrast, Small Business Saturday encourages holiday shoppers to patronize brick and mortar businesses that are small and local. Small Business Saturday is a registered trademark of American Express.” (nicely summarized by Wikipedia)

In other words, Small Business Saturday is a national event accompanied by a considerable amount of publicity and fanfare that you can use as a springboard for your own initiative (taking advantage of ad exposure without having to pay!), which is always an ideal circumstance.  Furthermore, you will be associating your business and your brand with the positive small business characteristics being extolled.

So . . . what can you do to capitalize on Small Business Saturday?

  • Add a reference to the event on your web site.
  • Plan a blitz of social media postings.
  • Have a sale.
  • Write a press release or op-ed article supporting the cause.

American Express, which helped create this nationally recognized day, continues to promote the occasion and makes lots of information and tools available from their web site. (Be sure to check out the section labeled “How to Participate.”)

About now, you are probably pretty annoyed at me for getting you all fired up to participate in Small Business Saturday just a few days AFTER the celebration has passed.

Sorry?

Not really!

Cuz now is the ideal time for you to start thinking about the ways in which you might take advantage of:

National Small Business Week

 (May 3rd – 9th, 2020)

According to the Small Business Association (SBA):

“For more than 50 years, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.  More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.  As part of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Every day, they’re working to grow small businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America’s global competitiveness.”

Visit the National Small Business Week page for the latest news and events.

https://www.sba.gov/national-small-business-week

Again, you have an event garnering national and local attention and publicity.   Make your current customers aware and ask them to spread the word further.  Perhaps you’ll want to use this week as an opportunity to request reviews and testimonials from your existing customers.  You might want to recognize your employees and call attention to the local, personalized service you provide on a daily basis – nice qualities to associate with your brand.

Simply stated, countless opportunities exist to promote your brand in a very visible way without necessarily incurring significant expense and very often enabling you to generate new customers and sales.  When no event exists, try to find a creative way to make one, which is, of course, the way in which Small Business Saturday began.

Good luck . . . and don’t forget that holiday cards and gifts represent great branding opportunities, too!!