How To Fix Sputtering Marketing

Is your marketing generating a steady stream of sales leads?

If not, ask yourself this question: Do you have a marketing plan?

You may know what your business goals and objectives are. And you probably have a website and some advertising. But without a game plan, your marketing activities are reduced to a few unconnected activities that are unquestionably to produce the results you want.

A marketing plan helps you tie all your marketing activities together and keeps you focused so that you can create a roadmap that will lead you to your objectives.

And a simple, one-page marketing plan will take you a lot further than no marketing plan at all.

So what should your plan be based on? You can start with these basics:

1. Identify Your Marketing Goals

What specifically does your marketing need to achieve for your business to thrive? How many new leads do you need each week? What percentage of those leads do you need to convert to sales? What is your revenue target?

2. Create A Marketing Strategy

Take a look at your goals. Now what is your overall approach and position in relation to your goals and competition. My marketing strategy uses an educational approach. By providing people with useful information and ideas, I get an opportunity to demonstrate the value I provide and establish my credibility.

3. Set Up Your Marketing System

Create an action plan. Tie all your marketing activities together into a system that reflects your marketing strategy. The idea is to have everything working together as one.

4. Creation And Implementation Of Your Marketing Activities

Now that you have identified what your marketing activities will be, it's time to take each marketing activity and figure out who will create and implement it and when.

5. Fine Tune Your Marketing Tools

Your marketing activities require the use of one or more marketing tools. These include your website, your marketing messages and things like article marketing. To get your prospect's attention, you need to ensure your marketing tools are really ready to cut through all the marketing noise.

Creating a written plan may seem intimidating but as you can see, you should be able to hammer out the basics in a few hours.

Graphic Design: Degree Or No Degree?

Through my design career I have come across many job adverts for a graphic designer 'with a degree'. It always made me feel a little frustrated – "If I do not have a degree do you automatically assume I will not be good enough to join your company?". Surely a designer's portfolio and / or experience should say more than a piece of paper with a qualification on it.

I studied for a higher national diploma in graphic design at college and when the course finished I had the chance of pursuing a degree in graphic design or go for an advanced diploma in art and design. One of my lecturers told me that the degree contained more theory work where the advanced diploma was more practical. I opted for the practical work … after all that's what graphic design is.

The advanced diploma was only a year of study but most of the work was project based even if the deadlines were a bit too generous at times. However, since leaving college (armed with my qualifications) I admit that I learn more during my first design role and by teaching myself. That kind of education never stops with the design world and technology continuously changing.

This led me to question the importance of a degree as a designer and I know that I'm not the only one to ask this. In my honest opinion a degree does not automatically make someone more creative and successful than a designer who is self taught or who has learnt on the job. Their portfolio should be the strongest reflection of their skills and abilities especially when it comes to finding employment. Do companies advertising for a designer 'with a degree' honestly think that they are going to employ a better designer or is it a status thing?

Now I know that things have changed since I was at college so I thought I had a look at what degree courses my local college offers and found that they offer a BA in Art and Design. Here are the modules:

Year 1: Visual arts; applied crafts; digital arts; site specific design; graphic design; performance related design; web design; animation; self-employment; video production; community art; textile design; teacher or lecturer.

Year 2 : Creative skills and concepts; integrated project; visual literacy; digital applications; specialist options: skills development; contextual studies; personal development planning.

Year 3: Creative practice; contextual practice; specialist options: skills application practice; research skills; critical and contextual studies; pathways and concepts; professional and studio practice; professional and contextual studies; creative futures.

I did not study most of this stuff and I've spent 9 years in design studios working on a wide variety of projects of all sizes and with good feedback. I'm now working full-time as a freelancer trying to grow my own business. I like to think that I turned out okay without a degree.

So I guess my question is … does a degree make a better designer or is it all down to natural creative flair, experience and keeping up-to-date with the latest trends?

Unethical Search Engine Optimization Explained

If you've ever thought about hiring a professional search engine optimization (SEO) consultant or read about SEO as a subject then you may have seen the term "black hat" mentioned. Let's take a closer look at what black hat SEO really means.

To begin with, we'll revisit what is meant by the term search engine optimization (SEO). SEO referers to methods that improve search engine rankings for a particular website. Techniques can vary but will often involve making the most of the website by ensuring that its content and structure appeal to search engines, as well as visitors.

There are various schools of thought on how best to carry out such optimization. As far as the major search engines are concerned, there are ethical methods of improving search engine rankings and unethical methods.

Within the professional search engine community, ethical techniques are known as "white hat", while techniques that are viewed as unethical have been labeled "black hat".

White Hat SEO involves making the best use of the structure and content of the website to improve rankings. Black Hat techniques will often involve trying to fool a search engine into believing that a particular website is more relevant or highly regarded than it actually is.

Examples of Black Hat methods may include cloaking, which is where a search engine is effectively shown a different version of a website to visitors. Other techniques would include employing hidden text and links.

Although Black Hat SEO can have some impressive results, the major search engines are constantly trying to clamp down on such methods, banning websites who employ them.

For long-term results, ethical White Hat methods are the most effective.

Cross Pens Make Outstanding Gifts

If you need a special gift for a special occasion, birthday, graduation or special holiday gift; consider the gift of a Cross Pen.

It can be hard to find a good gift for a graduate. A Cross Pen will make an outstanding gift for the graduate that is just going forth into the professional world. First impressions are everything on job interviews and when networking. Having a really nice pen to take down important names, numbers or notes just looks more professional than a leaking, blotting cheap pen.

You can further personalize your gift of a Cross Pen by having it engraved. People tend to keep specially engraved gifts for years upon years. Cross pens can be refilled and used again and again so the engraved gift you give will be useful forever to your pen recipient.

If you need a special gift for your Dad for Father’s Day, consider a Cross Pen with a special message. If your father has retired, the pen will still come in useful for jotting down notes, signing necessary documents and even just writing checks to pay the bills. Choose a humorous saying that means something between you, a simple “I Love You” or his initials will all make great engravings for the pen.

Along with an engraved Cross Pen, you can make the gift complete with either a personalized portfolio to hold appointments (written with a Cross Pen of course); and add in a leather Cross Pen holder for the person that travels or is on the go. The holder fits right into a carry on bag, suit pocket or purse and keeps their Cross Pen neatly tucked away until it is needed.

Cross Pens are constructed to be high quality, non-leaking and always deliver a clean line. This attention to detail in their design has made Cross Pens one of the most recognized names for fine writing instruments around the globe. An engraved pen is an outstanding gift for your groomsmen or bridesmaids. You can have the special date you all celebrated together engraved on the pen and give each of your wedding attendants a special pen as a memento of their participation in your special day.

If you’ve been searching for a good gift and you want to get a special someone a gift that they can use for years to come, consider a personalized Cross Pen that lets them know that they are special to you and they are often in your thoughts, even when they don’t see you face to face.