5 Ways to Make Your Newsletters Shine

What’s so great about vacation? It’s a chance to cut loose and take a break from the ordinary!

But vacation just wouldn’t be as fun if it wasn’t anchored to the sense of consistent routine in our lives. In order to vacate, you have to have a place or a routine to break AWAY from.

A Foundation to Build From

The same is true in design.

To have the freedom to challenge the norm, some type of coherent foundation must first be established. This is particularly true in multi-page publications like newsletters. One of the most important features of multi-page publications is consistency. So, before you go rogue in design, first you need to ensure each page looks like it belongs to the whole.

How can you create this sense of cohesion? With repeating colors, icons, fonts, bulleted lists that repeat a formatting style, matching pull-out quotes, and more.

Here are five strategies for organizing your next newsletter so you compel viewers to read and respond:

1. Avoid a different typeface or formatting arrangement for every article.

Instead, create a strong, consistent structure throughout the pages and add flair with boxed photos, pull-out quotes, or just ONE free-flowing graphic per page.

2. Make headlines clear and bold.

Most people skim newsletters, so headline text should be straightforward and easy to read. Use leading questions or creative subheadings to build suspense and entice the viewer to read more.

3. Keep alignment consistent.

To build an organized page, choose an alignment and stick with it.

If everything is left-aligned, photos should be cropped to this sharp margin as well. 

Does this mean you can’t ever break the rules of the system you’ve created? No! A firm set of columns actually creates MORE space to break out of the grid. But when you do this, do it with gusto! Items that are just a smidge out of the normal alignment will look like a mistake.

4. Avoid Helvetica and Arial

If your newsletter seems drab, juice it up with heavy sans serif typefaces that create a strong visual hierarchy.

Often people default to Helvetica or Arial, but these just aren’t bold enough to create a strong contrast. Instead, invest in a sans serif family that includes a heavy bold version as well as a light subheading complement (such as Eurostile, Formata, Syntax, Frutiger, or Myriad). You’ll be amazed at the difference this contrast makes.

5. Create a Compelling Call to Action

Printed newsletters are a great way to build goodwill and reinforce brand awareness, but at the end of the day, you want readers to take action.

When scripting your text, ask yourself, “if the reader was going to act on the content in this newsletter, what would I want them to DO?” Brainstorm many call-to-action phrases and places they can be used in your design, and make this journey easy for the eyes to follow.

Ideally, there should be a call to action on each page with one very prominent “next step” CTA near the end of your piece. Here are a handful examples:

  • Subscribe Now!
  • Sign Me Up!
  • Activate _____ Today!
  • Find Out How!
  • Claim Your Discount!
  • Try it Yourself!
  • Schedule (or Book) __________!
  • Register Now!
  • Call for a Free Estimate!

Make Them Look Forward to Your Next Newsletter

Time is a precious commodity, and the moments people invest in reading your newsletter are important.

To make the most of this unique privilege, build a strong design grid with a few spectacular deviations. Create visually engaging publications with helpful takeaways, and your newsletters will be something your audience looks forward to reading!

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Mastering the Psychology of Discounts to Make More Sales

What is the right strategy when it comes to discount marketing: presenting strong visuals, mystery offers, or the word “free” in your print ads?

Everyone is attracted to a deal, no matter the size. By using coupons or discounts, you appeal to shoppers in a unique way.

Incentives Prompt Action

When shoppers feel like they’re getting a good deal, they are excited and more willing to purchase.

Incentives also create urgency, build goodwill with clients, and dissuade people from looking for other offers.

Want to move more products? Experiment with discount tactics like these:

1. Dollar or Percentage Off

This discount type is the most widely used, simply offering a reduction on the original price, such as $50 savings or 40% off.

Discounts can be placed on specific products or applied to an entire order.

2. BOGO

Short for, “Buy One, Get One,” this discount type prompts customers to purchase additional items.

Examples of BOGO include, “Buy One, Get One Free” or “Buy One, Get 50% Off the Next Item.”

3. Quantity Discounts

Quantity discounts encourage shoppers to increase their order value to receive a discount.

For example, “Purchase two items and get the third free,” or, “Receive 30% off your $100 purchase.”

4. Rebates

A rebate is an amount that’s returned or refunded to customers after their initial purchase.

Often used for large-ticket items, the most common is a mail-in rebate. One example? Listing a price as, “$499 after rebate.”

5. Free Shipping

Increasingly popular among online business owners, this removes the shipping cost associated with any order.

Many merchants offer free shipping for a specific order amount, such as “Free shipping when you spend $25 or more.”

Test Discount Variations to Find A Formula for Success

Since there are so many ways to frame discounts, it can be helpful to test multiple variations of a discount to see which are most impactful.

For example, you could offer a segment of your VIP customers a percentage discount and another segment a dollar-off discount to test which discount best appeals to core customers. Or you can experiment with varying communication channels, length of promotions, or discount “add-ons” (like free shipping or store credit for a future purchase).

Here are some examples to consider:

Catherine’s Women’s Clothing: Private Offer

In an ad pitching swimwear specials, Catherine’s framed a gleaming yellow swim ring afloat a dreamy blue pool.

The overlaid text offered one of two choices: a “Buy 1 Get 1 Free Clearance Item,” or “Private Offer Up To $100 Off.” Catherine’s used imagery that transports viewers to a place they want to be, evoking an emotional fondness for swimwear. The bright floaty draws eyes to the deal, and the company wisely gave two sale options to accommodate the price points of individual customers.

J. Crew: Flash Sale

In a spread featuring outdoor apparel, J Crew positioned a yellow sailboat cruising the waves of a dark blue backdrop, using this pitch: “Smooth seas and clear skies – perfect conditions for a flash sale. Extra 30% Off & Free Shipping, Use Code: SetSale.”

For this flash sale, J. Crew took advantage of good sailing weather to create urgency and nostalgia that tied to real life. Because this ad catered to unique preferences and behaviors of a particular market segment, the piece moved beyond a sale into the emotional story of its readers. This, combined with a compelling offer (and clever coupon code), brings a winning combination.

Once you have a better understanding of your most effective offers, you’ll be a great position to mix up your campaigns and boost customer engagement.

3 Ways to Help Your Team Love Mondays

In 1966, an American band called the “The Mamas and the Papas” released a song about Monday that captured the mood of millions of people regarding that dreaded first day of the workweek:

“Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day.

Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way . .

Every other day, every other day, every other day of the week is fine, yeah . . .

But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes . . . you can find me cryin’ all of the time.”

How to Kick Those Monday Blues

It’s true. Not many of us look forward to the start of the week.

Half of all workers will be late to their jobs on Monday mornings. The abrupt transition from a free weekend to the grind makes many people miserable. But Mondays don’t have to be a drag. While you can’t magically get your team excited to head back to work on Mondays, there are a few things you can do to make Mondays a bit better.

Ax Monday Meetings

How often do you say something like, “let’s follow up on that first thing Monday morning?”

The start of the week may feel like the perfect time to reconnect and launch a new week. However, research shows that Monday mornings are actually a time when many people are at their most energetic and creative levels.

Rick’s investment team found that, when scheduling Monday morning meetings, they unwittingly drained energy levels and decreased momentum. By giving team members several hours alone to start the day, Monday morning “jump starts” made mid-day meetings much more effective.  

Team Breakfast

Pivotal, a software company based in San Francisco, believes company breakfasts are the key to building a cohesive company culture.

They actually serve breakfast EVERY DAY of the work week!

What makes Mondays better? Breakfast! Serving food warms people’s hearts and bonds your co-workers. Occasional Monday breakfasts can soften the workweek blues, build camaraderie in your team, and give people healthy fuel to launch into the routine.

A team breakfast doesn’t have to be strictly social. You can also use this time to brief people on announcements, share upcoming projects, or celebrate workplace wins for your team.

Friday Fun Days

A typical five-day workweek is a given for most managers.

But, did you know that 15 percent of companies have started implementing four-day workweeks?

Reusser Design, an Indiana Web app development company, slashed their hours from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursdays. Founder Nate Reusser says that the policy motivates everyone to work faster and with greater focus, much like the way people work just before going on vacation.

“You wouldn’t believe how much we get done,” Reusser said.

Four-day workweeks can boost morale and increase productivity. Employees with a shorter workweek are usually more enthusiastic when returning to work, and those energy levels fuel higher outputs.

Could your business consider taking one Friday off each month, or implementing half days on summer Fridays? A happier, more productive workforce may be worth the sacrifice!

Lighten That Monday Mood

In the US, approximately 100 million full-time employees aren’t engaged at work, which means a staggering 51 percent of people are slogging through their days on the payroll.

Underperformers can have a devastating effect on your company, but often a simple remedy can transform a negative work culture.

Look for ways to lighten up the Monday mood, and Mondays will lighten up on you!

4 Mistakes that Make Your Ads Fall Flat

Have you ever seen someone make a pitch without clearly selling their product?

In business, sometimes we get so close to our product that it’s easy to assume every reader “gets it.” Marketers spend big bucks to grab attention but fail to craft a message that truly connects. Take this example:

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is a technology company offering innovative computing and graphic solutions for work, home, and play. AMD has begun partnering with a famous auto company to significantly reduce design time on new electric vehicles.

AMD recently ran a 2-page BusinessWeek ad with this headline: “AMD Makes It Possible.” The problem? People have no idea what AMD is. So what would cause people to keep reading?

In this ad’s copy section, AMD mentioned that they were able to cut design time on electric cars by over eight months. By burying this information under an obscure headline, AMD confused the reader and probably lost many sales. A better, more specific headline might have said this: “How AMD Cut Design Time From 12 Months to 10 Weeks.”

Quick Fixes to Make Your Message Count

When you use print advertising, you have approximately three seconds before your prospect moves on.

You need to make your message count! Here are four things to avoid in your next ad or direct mail campaign:

1. Too Much Copy

Too much copy is boring to read.

Often direct mail buries the lead under volumes of copy, hoping to save the best for last. This assumes people are interested in your content and that they’ll read to the very end. Even if you’re lucky, only a handful will.

Instead, try this:

  • Use loads of white space.
  • Keep things short.
  • Use sizzling adjectives and action-packed verbs.
  • Put your main benefits in your headlines and other prominent places.
  • Do all you can to make your offer leap out when people scan the page.

2. Focusing on Benefits vs. Value

The service you sell has its benefits, but sharing those features isn’t enough.

Customers want to know more than “what’s in it?” they want to know, “what’s in it for ME?” If your coffee pot has a delay start option, don’t just share this perk, describe the value it brings. Which statement do you find more compelling?

Equipped with a Delay Start Feature

— OR —

Prefer Breakfast in Bed?

Delay Start Brings Piping Hot Coffee as Your Feet Hit the Floor!

3. No Clear Call to Action

One of the primary reasons print ads fail is a lack of clarity.

Does your piece contain a clear, single call to action? Is this call large, memorable, and easy to follow through with?

In today’s market, it’s not enough to give people a reason to buy your product. You must also show them why they need to act now. Don’t leave an offer open-ended – put a deadline on it (like, “Shop today! Sale ends on Monday!”) Or use a personalized URL, QR code, or concrete numbers to grab attention. Try something like: “Book today! 15% off your next visit,” or “order by Sunday for 1-day shipping!”

4. Vague Visuals

When designing an ad, ask yourself, “who is my target market?”

If it is 17-28 year-olds, be sure your images reflect this demographic. When possible, use photos of your target customers putting your product or service to use. When prospects wonder WHO your ad is for, your images should show “WHO” with a “when, how, or why.”

Tired of Falling Flat in print?

We all make mistakes from time to time, but using these tips will ensure you don’t keep repeating those errors.

Be clear, be brief, and offer value and your print ads will undoubtedly hit the mark.

Practical Skills for Successful Entrepreneurs

It’s not easy to start (or run!) a business.

Many factors compete for your time and attention. Unexpected storms dampen passion or erode your resiliency. And then there are your competitors, who often have a jump on your best ideas.

The best entrepreneurs master a broad set of skills to manage obstacles that arise each day. While you need expertise and focus to succeed in your business, you’ll also need to nurture these four practical skills:

Adaptability

In business, things change quickly.

The smartest people in business are those who grow and evolve. What works today might not work tomorrow, so to stay competitive, you need to keep a few steps ahead in the game. Be flexible and be willing to change your strategy. This requires ambition, strategic planning, and creativity.

How do you keep those a priority? By embracing change!

If you always do the same thing, you won’t enjoy greater results. Be proactive about enriching your life with new experiences, expanded networks, and unique learning experiences. This may be as simple as talking to customers, delegating your areas of weakness, or signing up for a community course. Each experience can open doors to opportunities, or open your eyes to possibilities you hadn’t previously considered.

Time Management

If you don’t manage your time, your time will manage you.

Time management is the art of telling your minutes where you want them to go, and this requires two things: self-reflection, and the ability to say no. When you’re the leader of a business, there will be many demands on your time. People will constantly ask you for input, attendance, or leadership in areas that can overwhelm and distract.

How can you manage time well? Block out calendar segments where you can’t be interrupted or double-booked.

Hold firm boundaries: end meetings on time, set timers during phone calls, and refuse to multitask (when possible). Define your priorities, give focus to individual tasks, and use laser focus on accomplishing the very next thing, and you will be one step closer to achieving your big-picture goals.

Money Management

Nothing works if cash doesn’t flow.

No matter how solid the idea, success is doomed without the ability to raise, manage, and generate money.

As a business owner, you must create (and stick with) a budget, keep up on bills and expenses, and effectively invest in the right areas. If this seems overwhelming, consider taking a class, finding a professional mentor, or hiring an accountant to keep you on track. This is a small investment that can save you a load of sweat (and cash) while you’re growing your business.

A Thick Skin

Growing as a leader is an exercise in rejection.

Investors will pass, people will criticize, and team members will leave. To be the best in your field, you’ll have to learn from mistakes – and from criticism. If you let failures get you down, your business will never succeed.

Instead, view each disappointment as a chance to learn about people or to grow your courage. Be kind to yourself when others aren’t, and remember, you’ve only truly failed if you decide to quit! You can’t succeed without a few risks.

Seize the Day

Killing it as an entrepreneur isn’t easy.

But when you are flexible, courageous, and intentional, the odds tilt in your favor! Start with small improvements so you can seize the day and get the job done.

4 Ways to Maximize Impact with Pictures

They say a picture paints a thousand words, but pictures go beyond just that. Sometimes they force an emotional response.

Consider the Snake Campaign from Playland, an amusement park in Vancouver.

This print ad features a horrified man on a background split between two scenes: on the left, a jungle landscape, on the right, an outdoor amusement park.

In front of the amusement park scene, the man clutches the handle of his roller coaster safety bar as he seems to be hurtling from a high drop on the ride. In front of the jungle scene, the man’s hand is nearly clutching an enormous snake that has slithered itself over his neck and waist. The snake and safety bar are precisely symmetrical, harnessing the man in for a ride he wishes he hadn’t taken, while playing on people’s nightmarish aversion to snakes.

The message? Playland is a place to scream yourself silly: “Fear Made Fun.”

For the Love of Imagery

People like pictures. A lot.

Why? For one thing, pictures help our brains process and retain information.

According to John Medina, author of Brain Rules, people can often remember more than 2,500 pictures with at least 90 percent accuracy several days after seeing them. When comparing pictures to oral presentations, researchers found that people listening to an oral presentation could only recall around 10 percent of the details. But when an image was added, recall rose to 65 percent!

The brain also processes images faster than any other form of communication. A team of neuroscientists from MIT found that the human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds.  So whether you’re writing a report, brainstorming ads, or creating handouts for a seminar, be sure to prioritize pictures!

Bring Your Content to Life with Pictures

Here are several ways to incorporate images in your next project:

Show, Don’t Tell

Since pictures are so efficient, an image almost always exceeds an explanation.

A diagram of a machine, a blueprint of a building, or a map of your facility will do much better conveying a concept than paragraphs of text.

Overlay Text

An image can be a great way to introduce a chapter or a section of your presentation.

To add clarity, try placing text on top of an image (like a magazine cover, which features a signature photo with overlaid text) to create a nice header. Many online editor tools exist to help you with this, or even basic tutorials from Photoshop.

Color Code

Since colors are a form of imaging, using color coding in brochures, catalogs, or store displays can help viewers make sense of your information.

Color-code sections of a binder with predominantly red images in one section and green in another section to delineate subjects. Color code inventory or training manuals to keep people and products organized, or use colors to organize workflow boards to convey urgent tasks versus those that are on-going.

Turn Bullet Points Into Icons

Looking to spice up a flyer or brochure?

Lots of text is distracting to an audience. Instead, try replacing bullet points with a photo or icon that represents the message you want to share. A yellow triangle with an exclamation point works for highlighting caution areas. A speedometer can be used for acceleration. A bulls-eye can be used for sales targets. Be creative and have fun with icons!

Like any campaign, consistency in tone and photo content will naturally boost the message you bring. Adding thoughtful, seamless photography can help you maximize the impact, clarity, and beauty of each piece you produce.