5 Elements of Stunning Letterhead Design

Personalized mail is a special commodity these days, especially something that looks smart or sophisticated.

And everyone agrees that there’s a huge difference between a typed letter on a bland white page and one aligned smartly on a beautifully designed letterhead.

While many view letterhead as an afterthought, it’s time to raise the standard!

A sharp letterhead can communicate proficiency, increase response rates, and make your communication more memorable. As you craft a unique, professional look, here are some elements to help you cement your image without overplaying your hand:

1. Embrace Simplicity

One of the guiding principles of letterhead design is to make it flow simply.

While it’s important that your letterhead looks and feels great in the hand, it should still play second fiddle to the communication itself. If designs are too bold, you run the risk of competing with the page content to demand reader attention. When in doubt, simple is best.

2. Represent Your Brand

Letterheads present companies with a great opportunity to represent a brand with sharp fonts, crisp logos, and subtle borders or shading.

Look for ways to draw the designs of your website, envelopes, and letterhead into a more cohesive unit and add some extra depth to your marketing mix. When trying out size contrasts, try to balance the shape of your images with the offset to create a connected design.

3. Don’t Be Afraid of White Space

Like silence between musical notes, a break between elements communicates elegance and ensures a quality user experience.

White space is not “wasted” space, instead, it balances elements, organizes content, and creates spatial proximity so your readers can digest information quickly and simply. Use generous amounts of white space between a large heading and a block of subtext. Or experiment all text flush left or flush right to create more white space between margins.

4. Use Colors Wisely

On printed letterhead, nothing communicates like color.

Use color strategically to draw attention to specific areas of your letterhead, or to add subtle shading to a more grayscale design. If your brand features bright and bold colors, it may be best to use color sparingly in the letterhead but more prominently in your envelope design or packaging. Color can make or break the success of your design, so tread lightly.

5. Don’t Overlook Details

The most critical information to communicate in letterhead is your contact info.

Who is writing the letter, a company or an individual? Decide which pieces of information are critical and build your design around this hierarchy. Keep key information obvious and reduce print size for lower priority info. If you are updating designs or re-ordering, take a fresh look at your materials. If the company you are sending to no longer utilizes a fax machine, perhaps it is best to omit this number. If your organization is larger, consider tailoring several letterhead designs to specific departments.

Letterheads remain an integral part of a brand’s marketing mix. Inject new energy into your designs with thoughtful layouts, creative contrasts, or complementary envelopes that keep your messages stand out in a crowd!

We can help you with bright and stunning letterhead design, printing envelopes, business cards and other marketing products.

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Go Off the Grid with Transparent or Overlay Design Options

Transparency can be a great!

Want to stretch your designs or look your very best in print?

Consider the bold, creative flair overprinting or transparent layering can bring.

Typically, when you generate multi-layer designs your design software will cause one element to cover the artwork below it. Graphics obscure backgrounds, fonts cover image details, or text wraps around focal points as you format it to your preference. This layering process organizes your piece and prevents the muddy look that can occur when colors bleed together.

Overprinting allows you to use one color on top of another in a way that blends two colors to make a third. This is especially useful if you’re working with a limited selection of Pantone colors or to create a unique, funky feel when two pieces of artwork overlap.

Overprinting is an element that can be turned on and previewed in the attributes panel with your design software, and flattened (or exported) in the print settings.

Want to try it? Here are some basic examples to experiment with:

1. Blend text over images.

Start with a simple, uncomplicated photo like three bright citrus oranges.

Choose a photo with fewer details so your design isn’t too busy. Add text over the image in either a lighter shade of the same citrus hue or a totally contrasting color (white font on orange fruit, for example). Blending the words and image will create a new, third color where the font overlays the fruit.

2. Apply a typographic hierarchy.

Create order in the way your design is read by adjusting font transparency levels throughout the image.

For example, try a textured wood background but allow it to peek through your text by adding transparency to your type. Primary headlines should be less transparent for a bold, commanding presence. Secondary heads or copy text down the page can increase in transparency for a more faded, mysterious feel.

3. Overlay a graphic with a solid color.

Use color to make a statement with a solid color overlay over the whole page.

This means that you cover an image or page with a semi-transparent colored box. The effect can add meaning to an image, bring attention to a design, or help you get creative with limited image options. Another option is to use gradients or filters to fade a background image or bring a bright hue to give a boring image some spark. A neutral color or sepia overlay can add a rustic flavor, then be paired with a bright or transparent font that really pops out.

Transparent Layering in Print

Transparency is also a great layering option that can also be used in all kinds of designs to bring exquisite elegance or unforgettable flair.

Curious? Feel free to visit with us about outstanding options like these:

  • Clear frosted business cards
  • Arresting posters printed on translucent stock
  • Frosted tote bags with artwork or logos foil-stamped on the surface
  • Translucent vellum paper used in formal invitations
  • Oversized translucent stickers for windowfronts, clever displays, or sharp packaging
  • Catalogs or booklets featuring bold text overlaid by a simple, transparent cover

Transparency can be a great way to reveal what’s inside your package or under the project cover, letting the product inside sell itself! Use transparency and overlay techniques to give your project more depth, structure, or sophistication.

In PrintItPlus we can do modern and bright design for you.

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Expert Advice for Classy Custom Labels

Custom printed labelsIn today’s visually-oriented market, brand persona is everything.

Strong, simple visuals go a long way toward giving you a rock-solid image to stand tall above competitors and to capture customer attention.

While companies work hard to shape outbound marketing, they can easily overlook options for the packaging and presentation of their products. Even simple tweaks can go a long way in making your brand shine!

Custom printed labels can offer a durable, stunning accent to your product or printing. But there are many variables when it comes to printing labels. From the right materials to laminate finishing, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Here are a few tricks we’ve learned over the years to help you craft labels to heighten brand appeal.

Less is More.

When it comes to labels, it’s important for your message to connect immediately.

When a label has complex fonts or busy designs, it can be difficult for readers to engage with your product. Keep your designs, images, and borders clean and simple for maximum user experience. If you post nutrition facts, make them as concise and reader-friendly as possible. Non-standard shapes or labels that match your package size are a great way to bring precision and flair.

Color is King.

Want to stop them in their tracks?

Colors command attention and make your message sing.

Try splashes of color against neutral backgrounds, or complementary colors that bring depth and warmth. If your label intends to communicate flavors, seek to pair colors that carry these natural associates (like greens for lime or orange for citrus).

As you design label colors, your goal is to help users find or associate with your product more easily. If you already have a branded color scheme, use this as your prominent theme. Colors help customers recognize your product and feel secure when they purchase in the future.

Fonts Rule.

Nothing says sleek like a perfectly sketched font.

Work to find the right balance of clean and clever. If a font is too generic, it will be easily missed. If it’s too wild, it may be hard to read or seem silly. Stick to a font you’ve branded your company with, or use two fonts (max) to keep your label coherent and easy to read.

Experiment with font pairings: consider a headline that’s bold and condensed with a copy that’s light or vertically stretched. Or try an all-caps serif with an italicized sans serif to compliment. Test your font pairings on volunteers or gather feedback from artistic friends before finalizing a design.

Consistency Counts.

Labels help you build a personality.

What message will you send? What ideas do you hope to convey?

Keep your labels consistent with your brand identity, looking for distinct features you can highlight or graphics that illustrate your story. 19 Crimes Wines uses an interactive “Living Labels” app to allow each wine to unveil a mystery. Fieldwork Brewing uses blown up oceanside photos for its Island Time Sour Ales. Fit Buns High Protein Bread comes in a box that makes the pastries look like a ripped dude’s abdominal “6-pack.” The label also conveniently features a free fitness center coupon inside. Also, remember to keep your contact information accessible so customers can visit your website or contact you with feedback.

Let’s face it: in the marketplace, beauty is often skin deep.

Your label is a representation of the things you’ve worked hard to build, so go the distance to make your brand stick. Need ideas to get you started? From hangtags to custom adhesives, we’re your one-stop shop for creative label options!

PrintItPlus has makes different labels for you! We can produce labels in hundreds of various shapes and sizes that adhere to almost any surface. Surfaces such as paper, plastic, glass, wood, metal, bumpers, even refrigerated items are easy to produce. We can even custom die cut your label in a shape that matches your brand.

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Four Ways to Market Smarter in 2019

Four Ways to Market Smarter in 2019

Looking to energize your base or drum up new leads?

A new year is a great time to refresh your marketing matrix. Whether you’ve been in business for two months or for 20 years, creating awareness and interest is always a current challenge. Here are four areas to tweak as you build a competitive edge this year.

1. Know Your Audience.

Who are your ideal customers? What are their challenges or the goals you can help them achieve?

Revisit your buyer persona regularly and make sure you’re still clear on who you want to reach. These profiles can be used to segment your list and to personalize your latest pitch.

Knowing your audience also means examining whether you’re hitting your target. Are you sharing information that your prospects are actually hearing? Re-examine your media strategy and conduct regular database purging.

If you’ve been neglecting your database, your communication will be skewed as well. Successful marketing relies on data-driven decisions, so ensure your contacts are current.

2. Employ User-Centric Content.

In an increasingly individualized market, blanket sales pitches have lost momentum.

If you want to gain trust from your network, make it your goal to reach people in a more personal way.

How?

Position yourself as a giver, a helper, or an equipper in your print marketing. Use content that is insightful, entertaining, and easy for your prospects to apply.

3. Move From Keyboard to Camera.

Hubspot recently found 72% of people prefer video when they want to learn about a product or service.

With the dominance of YouTube and social media, the explosion of visual content is bound to continue. Our brain processes images 60 times faster than words, and humans are naturally drawn to narratives and stories.

Why not share more of your story through video?

Whether it’s quick bursts (think Snapchat, Instagram Stories, or Facebook Live) or a professionally edited piece for your website, video content will keep you connecting in ways that are real and relevant to this generation.

As you grow, look to connect your online and offline presence. One example: ask a leading question on your direct mailer and have them scan a QR code or use a personalized landing page (PURL).

4. Lighten Your Load Through Marketing Automation.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t do it all.

A great deal of effort can be saved through automation software, which expands your reach and boosts your efficiency.

Marketing automation allows you to identify warm leads and nurture prospects with highly personalized content that meets users at every stage of their customer journey. This can lighten your administrative load, provide an excellent return on your investment, and generate significant new revenue.

Automation software is especially effective in transforming traffic to leads and prospects to customers. Automated content is tailored to consumers based on how they interact with your company, growing their trust in you and making them much more likely to buy.

A recent Salesforce study found that 67% of marketing leaders use marketing automation of some kind, and this number is expected to grow significantly in years to come.

Keep in Shape

Your customers will change and evolve, and so will your business.

As people change, your job is to understand how your customers want to buy and to make it easy for them to do it!

Keep your marketing in high gear as you find new ways to streamline data, boost engagement, and improve the customer experience of each person you serve.

We are always have some bright creative ideas! Give us a call – (561)7900884!

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What the Amazon Effect Means for Your Small Business

How small businesses can adapt to Amazon’s influence?

When Josh Silverman took over Etsy (an e-commerce website focused on handmade and vintage items), he faced immense pressure to revive the company financially.

He didn’t disappoint. While shedding jobs and increasing holiday promotions, Etsy swung from a $29.9 million loss (in 2016) to an $81.8 million net income in 2017.

Managing this feat in the face of Amazon’s competition was impressive. Amazon notched $51 billion in net sales in the first quarter of 2018, recently confirming it has exceeded 100 million Prime members globally. In contrast, Etsy has 1.9 active sellers and 33.4 million active buyers.

Amazon is everywhere: delivering groceries, storing music, and putting items at your doorstep in two days or less. Amazon has been so present that it has become a verb: as in, “I Amazoned it.” While Amazon brings smiles to many, it brings tremors to some small businesses. Many are outraged at the demise of mom-and-pop shops, and even large-scale retailers have taken hits.

What It Means For Small Business?

The Amazon effect is a catchphrase used to describe how Amazon has influenced our interactions with other businesses.

Because so many people are Amazon subscribers, this platform has raised expectations for shopping experiences. As writer Corey Pemberton notes,

“Because the vast majority of us use Amazon regularly, we’re well aware of a new kind of customer experience. We used to drive to the shopping mall, painstakingly search for items, and wait in long lines with little complaint. But now that we’ve experienced the joy of picking out things in our pajamas and clicking to have them shipped straight to us, the alternative seems substantially less desirable.”

Subsequently, expectations of all businesses have increased.

HOW YOUR BUSINESS CAN ADAPT

Here are four ways small businesses can adapt in the wake of Amazon’s influence.

1. Work to develop distinct, personalized products.

Part of what makes your business irreplaceable is the individual products only you can produce.

While resellers can undercut some sales, a small business with a unique, quality product can’t easily be replicated.

2. Partner with e-commerce platforms.

A recent Insureon insurance company poll of 2,400 business owners showed 68 percent of businesses surveyed said that online retailers had a positive impact on their business:

“[Online retailers] have forced small businesses to embrace e-commerce as a critical route to reach their consumers and revenue source,” said Jeff Somers, president of Insureon.

Businesses that don’t sell online will struggle to stay relevant in the modern age, but e-commerce doesn’t just mean partnering with Amazon. Typically, a small business’s website is the most common place to sell.

3. Feature customer ratings and reviews.

When buying online, people need extra input to tip toward commitment.

When you’re looking to buy, who do you trust more: a long-time neighbor or a sophisticated salesperson? Obviously, humans are biased toward “ordinary people.” One of Amazon’s best features in their abundance of ratings and reviews. Capitalize on this yourself and allow the words of others to convince your prospects.

4. Become a destination.

Amazon is convenient, so make your business an experience, not just an errand. Change your product mix regularly and make it enjoyable for people to physically “discover.” Add entertainment with lessons, parties, samples, or anything to engage families. Tell your story and give people pride in doing business with you.

An Enhanced Customer Experience

Amazon isn’t killing small business, but it is changing the way we buy and sell.

Payoneer e-commerce manager Iain McNicoll says Amazon has given entrepreneurs a chance to create customer experiences they might have otherwise been overlooked:

“People see Amazon as crushing small business,” McNicoll said. “Really, I think it opens up a door for small business, allowing them to now reach new customers that they wouldn’t have been able to reach in the past.”

PrintItPlus always can help you with different advertising solutions and branding!

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Target Local Consumers with Event Sponsorship

Corporate sponsorship is one of the most effective marketing channels, but most businesses haven’t tried it.

What is event sponsorship and why should you consider it? From a 5K road race to a good old-fashioned neighborhood picnic, companies that get outside their walls can make a huge splash in the community.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Businesses that rely on local support understand that their company will grow primarily through the support of its neighbors.

How do you engage your neighbors?

By being a good neighbor! Put a face on your business by sponsoring a baseball league, hosting community events on your lawn, or by mobilizing your city to benefit a beloved charity.

Community development events show you are invested in your region and you enjoy its people. Here are some fun examples of how firms have made this a reality:

  • Budweiser helps sponsor the annual “duck” tape festival in Avon, Ohio. With music, brews, fashion shows, and family-friendly movies, the three-day event draws more than 60,000 people from around the world to see taped parade floats and a playful tapestry of taped costume creations.
  • McDonald’s and Pizza Hut sponsor “the Chicken Show” in Wayne, Nebraska, which features a “national cluck-off” and the world’s largest chicken dance celebration.
  • In 2016 Pretty Pampers Beauty Essex hosted a charity event that offered affordable and luxurious experiences while raising money for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Local spas teamed up to provide steeply discounted services like massages and facials so donors could relax and unwind. Between sessions, guests could shop boutique vendor stalls featuring local clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, and home decor.

Hosting or sponsoring an event can help your business demonstrate its commitment to community involvement, philanthropy, and family fun. Of those local businesses who get involved in a community event, 80% said they were satisfied with the results and many reaped tangible benefits like features in local newspapers, tags in citywide blogs, promotional newsletter highlights, and social media selfies!

Events spread your name in print through T-shirts, prizes, water bottles, and giant displays, and photos of real people in action. This prompts word-of-mouth marketing that simply can’t be captured elsewhere. In 2016-2017, companies who used local events saw sales increase by an average of 14 percent.

Use Corporate Events to Spread the Love

How can your business get started in spreading some cheer?

Sponsor a charity event or contest, host a sales or promo booth at a community festival, promote an on-site event, or allow your customers to nominate recipients of a “give-back” incentive you sponsor for your city. Sponsorship doesn’t always have to be monetary: you can also look for ways to volunteer branded items, free service from your company, or concessions donations for a city-wide festival.

Want to multiply your marketing dollars and make a lasting impact? A micro-market event focus can bring better results and spread the love. When companies support issues they care about, they gain greater trust and loyalty from patrons. And that investment is sure to yield great returns!

 


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Craft First-Class Flyers with 5 Quick Tricks

Rock Night Party Poster. Flyer. Vintage Styled Vector Illustration.

Craft First-Class Flyers with 5 Quick Trick

Want to grab attention for your event, promotion, or group?

Flyers are a low-cost form of mass communication that can be personally delivered, distributed through mail, posted in public places, or sent via e-mail. Flyers are fun to create and provide a great place to experiment with unusual images or layouts. As you explore the possibilities, here are five areas to sharpen your design:

1. Magnetic Focal Point

When you begin your design, clearly identify the theme of your message.

Look for an image or headline that best communicates this, and build your entire design around it. Every flyer should have one thing on the page that is huge, dominant, or captivating. If you catch their eye with this focal point, they are more likely to read the rest of your text.

2. Logical Design Flow

After the focal point, your flyer design should have a sensible layout that intentionally leads the reader through the page.

Strong subheads should allow viewers to quickly scan the flyer. If the skim layers don’t interest them, people won’t read the copy. Designs should include engaging color and graphic contrast. If everything is large, nothing can really grab a reader’s attention. Sequence a logical flow: left to right, top to bottom, or using visual cues like numbers, arrows, or a “map” of dashed lines.

3. Strategic Repetition

Whether your headline uses a playful typeface, script style, or an ordinary font with unusual colors, consider bringing a little of that font into the body of the text for repetition.

This may mean using one letter or one word in that typeface or highlighting key words or phrases in each section of the design to make them pop. A strong contrast of typefaces will add interest to your flyer, but intentional design repetition will bring a sense of integrity and solidarity to your piece.

4. Cohesive Alignment

Choose one alignment for the entire flyer.

Don’t center the headline then set the body copy flush left. Don’t center everything on the page but also squish extra elements in the bottom corners. Be confident in your layouts: try all flush left or flush right. Your design should feel brave and bold!

5. Appropriate Content

What should you include in a flyer?

While brochures or foldable flyers come in a variety of formats, a basic rule of thumb is this: the “where” determines the “what.” The delivery of your publication has everything to do with its content. If your piece arrives in the mail to someone on your mailing list, you can include much more on it. If it is to been seen on a display board as people stroll by, your main feature must be readable at a glance.

Flyers are fun to create because they allow you to abandon restraint.

Your flyer will often go head-to-head with dozens of competing pages, so grab their attention and really go wild. Anything out of the ordinary will make people stop and look, and that is 90 percent of your goal.

 


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Tips to Become a More Decisive Leader

 

Each January, people set New Year’s resolutions, embrace a visionary attitude for the year, or dream about possibilities for the future.

Some people thrive due to this natural “reset,” but others ignore it altogether. And some people just feel stuck. They wrestle with questions like these:

  •    “I’d like to write a book, but where would I start?”
  •    “I want to be more organized, but what is the best scheduling system?”
  •    “I want to quit my job, but what would I do next?”

Do you feel stuck as a leader?

Twenty years from now, you won’t remember how many loads of laundry you did or which Netflix series you binge-watched in 2019. What will matter is the relationships you cherished and the challenges you overcame. You’ll feel pride when you look back at goals you achieved or significant contributions you made. And this begins with action!

Your habits compound over time to shape your identity and to impact others. But this starts with an action-oriented, decisive mindset.

Here are several catalysts to help you become a more decisive leader.

The worst decision is no decision.

Many times, people postpone decisions for fear of failing or making a poor choice.

But most failure stems from inaction, not from mistakes we make in the process. Though some decisions matter more than others, often the decision not to act is the most costly choice of all. Don’t worry about doing the wrong thing or obsess over details. Make up your mind to be an action-oriented person and to learn from both your success and your missteps.

Action trumps the “perfect” plan.

It’s easier to steer a car that is moving than one that is parked.

Often, we over-prepare or over-think things, which is really just a form of procrastination. Taking action may mean prioritizing undesirable tasks above all others, or refusing to do things you enjoy until you solve a stalled problem. Momentum is powerful, so pick one area to begin and get started!

Narrow the field.

Sometimes the hardest part of a decision is the plethora of options before you.

It takes time to evaluate the pros and cons of every choice, so pare down choices (or have your team do this for you) until you have only a handful of options to consider. It’s easier to select one choice from two options than it is to select two options from 200!

Set deadlines.

When you struggle with passivity in a certain area, don’t keep kicking this pain point down the road.

Instead, give yourself a time frame to research options and set a deadline for making a choice. Putting “deliberation dates” on the calendar transforms possibilities into realities.

Delegate more.

As you start a new season, challenge yourself to stop doing just one thing, and to empower just one person.

Step back to evaluate your schedule or ask someone to help you do this. What is sucking unnecessary time or energy? Could you purge this or share more of your load with your team?

Delegate authority to a trusted staff member and empower leaders around you by training and trusting them. And don’t micromanage people, even if their style is different than your own. This discourages others because it suggests you don’t trust them or you desire control more than you want growth!

Failure to make a decision or take quick action can sometimes hurt your business more than miscalculations along the way. Improve your decision-making capabilities and make this your most productive year yet!

 

 

 

 

 


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Gain the Mouth-Watering, Competitive Advantage

In 2011, Matt Salzberg was a restless associate at a Silicon Valley investment firm. He and his friend Ilia Papas wanted to create a business and were intrigued by food.

“We both loved food,” Salzberg said. “We liked trying new ingredients, new recipes, new techniques, but we found it really inaccessible to cook at home. It was expensive, time-consuming and difficult to find recipes that we trusted.”

The duo tried a few ideas before landing on the one that became Blue Apron: give people an easy way to make dinner using chef-recommended recipes and the fresh, precisely measured ingredients they’d need. With 20 friends beta-testing the product, Salzberg immediately realized they had a winner. Beyond rave reviews and contagious social media sharing, they had undeniable momentum:

“Pretty much from day one we’ve had steady exponential customer growth. I think the moment we did our first week of deliveries we sort of knew that we had a business that we thought would be really successful.”

By August 2012 the team was shipping recipes to early testers, and three years later Blue Apron was delivering millions of meals to monthly subscribers, the company valued at a whopping $2 billion!

Find Your Competitive Advantage

Initially, some scoffed at the thought of paying restaurant prices for something you labored to cook at home.

But they overlooked Blue Apron’s unique advantage: appealing to “foodies” who loved high-end meals but relished the opportunity to cook them. Blue Apron found a niche in the market that catapulted them to exponential growth and national exposure.

Competitive advantage is that “special something” that draws customers and keeps them coming back.

Why do you buy a Ford versus Chevy? Why do you spend $80 on a certain brand of jeans? The answer lies in the competitive advantage, the unique set of features a product has that makes it superior in the eyes of a target audience.

Competitive advantages include niche strategies (like Blue Apron), cost advantages, and product or service differentiation. Consider these examples:

Cost Competitive Advantage

Companies can grab an edge when they control costs and efficiency in ways that create maximum value for consumers.

Walmart uses this advantage by providing a large selection combined with low prices through its retail size and strength. Some companies draw from years of experience, overseas production, or streamlined workflows to minimize expense.

As you brainstorm cost advantages for your customers, consider how you can improve productivity from your team, if your technology or equipment is cost-efficient or needs upgrading, or where you can give customers a cost break via delivery options, locked-in service rates, or freebies that come as a bonus for specific orders.

Product Differentiation

Another way to gain a competitive advantage is through product differentiation.

As you distinguish yourself in the marketplace, focus on the value you offer through your unique products. What makes your toothbrush one of a kind? How is your technology superior to other market options? How does your farmer’s market produce outclass the bounty of your competitors?

People love getting the best product for their penny, so work hard to highlight your advantage and shout it loud through print and digital pieces that spotlight your strengths.

Service Differentiation

While cost or product advantages can quickly disappear (or be duplicated), every company can offer one-of-a-kind service advantages.

Whether its bundled subscriptions, outstanding customer care, or unrivaled warranties, build a benefit that is exclusively yours. Consider bonus delivery features, apps that are user-friendly and easy to learn, terms that are simple and risk-free, or energizing ambiance (like funky décor or stellar store atmospheres). Make customers so spoiled they’d never consider your competitors!

 

 


 

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True Empathy Can Win the Day

 

A farmer had a litter of puppies for sale. As he was driving the last nail into his advertising yard sign, he felt a tug at his overalls. “Mister,” said a boy at his feet, “I want to buy a puppy.”

“Well,” said the farmer, “These puppies come from fine parents and cost lots of money. How much do you have?”

The boy dropped his head momentarily, then drew several coins from his pocket. “I don’t have much, but is this enough to take a look?”

The farmer paused reluctantly but before he could answer three puppies rolled out of the doghouse. One tiny, awkward pup hobbled behind. The boy’s eyes lit up. “I want that one,” he exclaimed, pointing to the runt. The man shook his head solemnly. “Son, that puppy will never be able to run and play like the others.”

The boy rolled up his trousers to reveal a steel brace running down both sides of one leg. “I do want that puppy. I don’t run too well myself, and he’ll need someone who understands him.”

That day the boy won the puppy because he moved the farmer’s heart. Why? Because empathy impacts people. Researchers define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions and to imagine how they might be thinking or feeling. Empathy is essential to human interactions because it allows us to connect in authentic ways and to offer helpful words, comfort, or assistance. Empathy is essential in every human interaction but is especially significant for those in customer service.

Empathy Begins with Real Listening

Would you like to be more successful in minimizing difficult situations or by helping customers overcome their hesitations as you’re trying to make a sale?

All empathy begins with real listening. As you listen with empathy, ask questions like:

  • “How is this situation affecting you?”
  • “Can you tell me more about _____?”
  • “What do you think would be your ideal outcome here?”

As a person processes, take care not to interrupt. While you may not be equipped to address their concerns, asking empathetic questions can shift your focus to listen more effectively, opening new lines of communication and diffusing tension so everyone can move forward.

Empathy involves reflective listening, using phrases that demonstrate your understanding. Phrases that show customers you are taking customers seriously might include:

  • “I can understand how frustrating it is when . . .”
  • “I see this is very complicated/upsetting.”
  • “I’m sorry to hear that and I’ll do my best to help.”

Pair Compassion with Action

As you communicate compassion, be ready to follow your words with action.

Take ownership of a situation by following up immediately, by referring it to a superior, or by positively addressing both the person and the problem. Phrases like, “ok, we can fix this,” or “let’s get this sorted out right away,” will reassure customers you’re taking ownership of the problem.

Action-based empathy also means thinking outside the box for large-scale change. Erin Henkel, portfolio director at the IDEO global design and innovation company, says often positive innovation begins with empathy:

“Effective companies need employees who constantly imagine themselves in the customer’s shoes. As they make the customer’s problems their own, they are better able to meet expectations, make necessary changes, and to retain customer loyalty for another day.”

Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is a hallmark of intelligent leadership and of excellent teamwork. Work hard to grow empathy and you will open new lines of communication, create greater understanding, and help everyone achieve common goals.

 

 

 

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