What do you do when someone copies your unregistered original work?

The short answer is:  Scare. Them.

When you work hard creating components for your brand, you want them protected.  A registered copyright could be as little as $45 as long as you’re willing and able to file the necessary forms yourself.  Specific circumstances warrant higher costs, and attorney fees are much more expensive.  Still, the investment is worthwhile if you’re serious about your business and your brand.  That said, life happens.  What do you do when you find yourself with a copycat of your unregistered original work?

I have found myself in this position many times.  As a graphic designer selling invitations and other party supplies (totaling thousands of available templates/products), registering the copyright for every design is cost and time prohibitive.  Every few months or so, I will see a reproduction of my work being sold at a much lower cost.  On Etsy, they will not take any action in these cases unless you have a registered copyright.  This stance, while inconvenient, is similar to a court of law.  You cannot initiate a law suit for the unauthorized use of your original work without a registered copyright.  And if you think registering a copyright is time consuming and expensive, just imagine the process of initiating a law suit!  So, I bluff.

How to scare a design thief:

  1. Determine the appropriate recipient (name, address, etc.).
  2. Draft a formal letter on personal letterhead from someone other than you.  (If the stolen design was my husband’s, the letter is from me; if the design was mine, the letter is from my husband.)
  3. Introduce yourself as an individual writing on behalf of the author of the original work.
  4. Sound like a lawyer.  Take a legalese tone but NEVER claim to be a lawyer.
  5. Cite the infringing piece and the original work (include links or copies as applicable as well as dates of origin).
  6. Describe the specific reasons why/how the infringing work is “substantially similar” to the original.  (“Substantially similar” is the legal standard used to determine whether the reproduction rights of a copyright have been infringed.)
  7. Ask the recipient to cease and desist use of the infringing work.
  8. Give a reasonable deadline (depending upon the time needed to remove the work from circulation) and threaten ambiguous further “legal action” in the case of noncompliance. 
  9. Make a declaration of accuracy of the contents of the letter.
  10. Sign the letter.
  11. Mail . . . and cross your fingers!

Below is an example letter available for download.

How to Get Reviews for Your Business

Previously, good reviews might help a potential customer decide whether to purchase your product or service . . . once you’ve already done the hard work of getting that individual in the door (real or virtual).  Now with web sites and apps dedicated to company reviews, they can actually be a form publicity . . . serving as the driver that leads the potential customer to your doorstep.  So . . . how do you get reviews?  If you already have an established business and customer base, sure, reviews will just happen.  And they will help you get more customers, which will land you more reviews, and so on.  However, if you’re at the beginning stage of your journey, getting a large number of good reviews may be a little more challenging.  In that case, you can take a few steps to help speed the process along. . . .

1. Get your company listed on review web sites.

If your company isn’t already listed on Yelp (or whatever the review site is for your industry), your happy customer probably isn’t going to go to the trouble to add you . . . so lay the appropriate groundwork in advance.  Make sure you know which review web sites your customers go to and add your company along with as much additional information as you can (pictures, address, phone number, etc.).

2. Ask your customers for a review. 

I believe the most effective way to convince a happy customer to go the extra mile for your business is to personally take the time to ask for a review.  If asking in person isn’t possible and you have other contact information, send an e-mail or a text.  Be sincere and straightforward.

3. Ask again.

You don’t want to make yourself a bother, but one follow-up is completely appropriate.  Your happy customer could have had every intention of posting a review for you and simply forgot; a simple follow-up could make all the difference.  If, on the other hand, your customer never intended to write a review, ignoring two of your attempts probably won’t be too traumatic for them. 

4. Display a sign.

A personal request isn’t always feasible.  For those occasions, a sign placed in a prominent area (possibly next to your register) that makes the request visually can be a good idea.  (See:  Creating a Review Request Sign in Microsoft Word)

5. Include a request with your product.

Another option for a less personal request is a physical note included with your product – the more you can make the request stand out, the better your chances of getting your customers’ attention.  (See:  Clever Customer Service)

6. Reply to existing reviews.

Some review venues enable you, as the owner, to respond to reviews.  You can thank the customer for their kind words or you can try to explain or apologize for less-than-stellar feedback.  Sometimes, your visible presence will encourage other customers to share their thoughts.

7. Offer an incentive.

You can always sweeten the pot a little by offering a dollar amount or percentage off on a future purchase as a thank you for a review, which could help with repeat sales as well.

8. Offer a product sampling.

If all else fails, you may need to be willing to give away your product or service for free in order to get your initial reviews.  You can either utilize a company to supervise the process, you can informally reach out to people you know, or you can post the offer on social media.

9. Be review worthy.

This one is entirely open to interpretation and can be tailored to represent your unique brand . . . whether you ship your product with a free bonus item, offer an appealing gift wrapping for free, or send a thoughtful thank you note after a purchase, try to do something that makes your company and product stand out from the crowd a bit and inspires customers to rave about their experience.

A Simple SEO Hack from Neil Patel

How can I easily increase traffic to my website for free?

Start your page with a question and immediately provide an answer in one sentence.

(Like above.)

Then, you can provide more information underneath. . . .

According to NP Digital Co-Founder Neil Patel, 14% of internet searches are phrased as a question.  When starting your page with a question and answer, time spent on that page will decrease by over 20% (because people are able to find the information they need quicker); however, your rankings and traffic will go up.

To illustrate how this tip would be applicable for another small business, let’s use a painting company as an example.  (Why a painting company, you ask?  No good reason; just the first business type that popped into my head.  Anyway. . . .)

If a painting company wanted to devote one of their web pages to pricing, they could start the page with a very commonly asked question like . . . “How much does it cost to paint a room?” and answer clearly while acknowledging every room is different.  For example: “A 12×12’ room typically costs about $600 to be painted, though a number of different factors can affect that price.” Then, they could go into more specifics about their cost structure in subsequent paragraphs/lists.

Can you think of a scenario on your web site that might benefit from this trick?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Landing Pages and Sales Campaigns (i.e., Make Them Land on Your Brand)

Whenever you are conducting a sales campaign, you are certain to have a “pitch” about the differentiating qualities of your product or service that results in a call to action such as a request to buy from you.  In our experience, a simple, well-executed, Internet landing page can be the most effective vehicle for accomplishing that task . . . and your landing page can provide an important opportunity to reinforce (and capitalize upon) your brand.

What Is a Landing Page?

According to “Unbounce” (a developer in the field):

“In digital marketing, a landing page is a standalone web page, created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign. It’s where a visitor ‘lands’ after they click on a link in an email, or ads from Google, Bing, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or similar places on the web.” (https://unbounce.com/landing-page-articles/what-is-a-landing-page/)

Getting Started

That said, landing pages are of course web pages . . . but unlike home pages or other content pages on your site, these have a very dedicated function and are constructed differently.  Whereas home pages – for instance – are created to communicate lots of information and encourage exploration, landing pages basically:

  • Reinforce your sales pitch as concisely as possible.
  • Offer supporting evidence (such as testimonials or research data) to help clinch the sale.
  • Provide a simple form to complete the transaction.
  • Include a logo that links to your home page (but just that) for those who need more information to finalize the sale.
  • Reflect the branding of the company to take advantage of past efforts to establish a readily recognizable identity that adds value to the product and/or service being sold.  (IMPORTANT:   Be sure your web site/homepage, sales vehicles, and landing pages all reflect the branding elements decided upon in your Style Guide to gain maximum value from each of them.)

Whether you are building your landing page from scratch . . . or are simply customizing one of the many templates now available, we have found a few key points worth remembering during your development:

  • Your goal is to be as simple, direct, and concise as possible.
  • Your headline and any body copy should reflect your sales pitch (i.e., differentiating sales qualities) being used at that time in ads, direct mail pieces, social media, mass e-mails, etc.  (Remember:  Landing pages are for TRANSACTIONS so keep copy and content short.  If a bullet point or two will suffice, use them.  Save your long, persuasively written copy for your web site and sales tools.)
  • Include art/graphic elements but limit the quantity to one or two mirroring the images of your sales pieces and consistent with the elements of your branding Style Guide.
  • Typically, a form will be used to complete the sale or other transaction.  Keep your requests as lean as possible with the absolute minimum number of fields required to accomplish your mission.  For example:  If your ultimate goal is to collect e-mail addresses to build a data base, just get that piece of information and use that at a later date to gather other details.  Your goal is to enable the interested party to complete the transaction as quickly and easily as possible, guarding against losing them along the way.
  • As part of incorporating your brand, plan (as previously mentioned) to include a copy of your logo that links back to your home page.  However, other navigation that does not fulfill the call to action should be excluded.  (Why risk the distraction?)
  • Sales campaigns usually use multiple media such as ads, direct mail, social media, etc.  Employing the same landing page for each of them can facilitate tracking efforts . . . but you want to be sure you can identify the source that generated the lead.  While a number of alternative strategies exist, one way to accomplish this objective is to use multiple copies of the same page with an identification such as “1” for ads, “2” for mass e-mails, “3” for snail mail, etc.  With all of your results arriving via your landing page, you get a very clear picture of your most successful sales vehicles AND have a bit more control over the closing of the sale, including any necessary follow up of now qualified leads that might be required.   Since so much time, effort, and expense is invested in developing a warm lead, you can’t afford to have any fall between the cracks.  (In my past life, we felt so strongly about this issue that our landing page was the only contact information provided on our sales vehicles; we did not include a phone number because we wanted to make sure all telephone contact was as timely and structured as possible.)

A Word About Testing

Like other sales materials, landing pages can be constructed in a number of different ways.  In our experience, running a controlled test of multiple versions before a limited audience should reveal which elements work best and which version should ultimately become part of your sales campaign.

Land on Your Brand!

Just for emphasis, we will close this article by repeating the importance of making your landing page reflect both the branding elements and the design and pitches used in the corresponding campaign.  Since your landing pages are designed to “seal the deal,” failure to fully reflect your branding wastes the time, effort, and resources spent shaping your identity and misses the last opportunity to have a positive impact upon the sales process.

Note:  To further develop this theme, a future article will be devoted to creating a landing page for our blog that further illustrates these principles in action.  For now, those interested in learning more can check out the writings of Neil Patel:  https://neilpatel.com/blog/beginners-guide-to-landing-pages/.

♫ These are a few of my favorite fonts. . . . ♫

Pardon the singing. Fonts make me happy. Beautiful fonts that are free for COMMERCIAL USE (and can therefore be used for branding purposes!) make me very happy. They are unicorns among an Internet of font horses. So with no further ado, here are links to my top ten favorites (in no particular order) . . . .

1. Audrey

2. Learning Curve

3. Inflatable Flamingo

4. Abuget

5. Daybreak

6. Sugar Script

7. Quicksand

8. Priscilla Script

9. Playfair Display

10. Silhouetto Script

Happy downloading! Questions or comments? Just post in the Leave a Reply section down below.