How to Create a Customer For Life: Marketing Lessons

I just received a package in the mail today – my first order with this company – and with one simple gesture, they created a customer for life! Their marketing strategy is brilliant and as a marketing person it makes me happy.

As a designer, I’m fulfilling a personal obligation to create personalized artwork as gifts and for decoration in my office: canvas printed art. canvas prints PPC ad

I first looked at Costco but their canvas sizes were awkward and a bit pricey. With a quick Google search for ‘canvas prints,’ I came across (This is proof that PPC still has a use! As an inbound marketer I like to think that everyone ignores the paid ads, yet I can’t find this site on organic results so I must have clicked the ad; it is #1 in the advertised position. Here I was thinking that I only clicked on organic results….)

Not only were their prices better than Costco, their step-by-step print customization and uploading process was very simple. (I admit I did look at one other site to compare prices but they were listing $30 canvas prints for $6… Some things are too good to be true and I was afraid I might only get as good as I was paying for…). gift cards
A gift for me and a gift for you!

I liked that they were competitively priced (this is not always the best market for a business to compete on, but as consumers we are all looking for a deal), had a well designed website (aesthetics do matter) that looked professional, and had a very simple order process. I was very happy and even publicly “Liked” their page and shared their site on my Facebook wall (social media for the win!) but was holding judgment until I actually received my final print.

In the end, what really matters is the quality of the product I received. If it had been bad, then I would have learned my lesson about going to unknown sites. Instead, it turned out extremely well! A gift I will be proud to give or hang in my office.

But that’s not all! They made me a customer for life because my order came with two $10 gift cards to use on their site again. They even have a little message that says:

So how does it work?
The top card is for you to use and the bottom card is to be gifted to someone special. Simply detach across the perforation and fold along the crease – then watch it instantly transform into a greeting car with a gift card contained inside! Now, just add a personal note and you’ve got a great gift to pass on!

Why 2 cards?
Well, we know it’s a little strange but we figured it wouldn’t be fair to just send one for gifting or just one for personal use – so, after lots of brainstorming (and coffee and doughnuts), we came up with the One for Me and One for You™ gift pack. We hope you like it!

Do the cards have an expiration date?
Well, that just wouldn’t be fair would it? Take your time – we’re not going to rush you!

Making moments last a lifetime..

Canvas4Life.comCute huh? They also chucked in several business cards and another flyer but getting money back with my first purchase is awesome! They shared their reasoning in a smart and funny way so that I would not be suspicious of why they would give two. It is a brilliant marketing to help get their name spread amongst my friends. I’ll do one better and write a blog! I love sharing examples of good marketing…it makes me happy inside.

So now I have two $10 gift cards. If I’m feeling generous I may even give one away… If at least 5 people leave comments on my wall or blog post within the next few days, I’ll pull a name out of a hat and give one away!

Social Media Comparison for Small Business Owners [Infographic]

Many small business owners feel overwhelmed at the thought of even starting their own social media profiles and activities and do not even know where to begin. This is completely understandable; technology is constantly changing  and trends fly by.

However, social media is here to stay and it should be a major part of your online presence and marketing strategy. Social media is just a tool and should be used in conjunction with other strategies: ideally, your website would encourage users to “Like” you or “+1” your website pages.

Once they are a fan on Facebook, connect and engage with your customers. Offer interesting information and become an expert in your industry so that they can come to you for help.

Run contests and competitions. Encourage users back to your website for free downloads. Bring customers to shows and events via social media and then encourage Twitter conversations at the event (webinars, trade shows, etc) through more competitions, treasure hunts, Q & A sessions and more.

Social media should be just another tool to engage with your customers…in order to increase sales. Don’t be overwhelmed by it and take each day one step at a time. Start out by creating an account where your target market is likely to be found. Spend an hour creating your profile then set aside time each day to nurture it – nothing major. 30 minutes a day is perfectly fine.

One warning: Don’t use social media just for the sake of it. Customers sense insincerity and it is a waste of your time and theirs. Do it right.

Some great places to learn more:

Social Media Examiner

For more information on how you can use social media in your own small business, I will be running a presentation with fellow GNONers, on September 20th. We will take you step by step through the process of how to set up an account, how to set your privacy settings, best usage ideas – all in a small and hands on tutorial! Contact me to learn more.

10 Steps to A Killer Blog – SEO Tactics and more

No matter how much marketers say otherwise, an attractive design is a significant influence to bounce rate and what visitors think of your site (yes, I had to emphasize this). Design is about making information more legible, and attractiveness is one factor that affects usability. Most of the following steps came from SEO Moz’s list on Blog Design for Killer Infographics, but a few I added on my own.

10 Steps to a Killer Blog

  1. Quality Design A visually appealing presentation of information significantly reduces bounce rates.
  2. Search Box This makes it easier for the user to find the information they are looking for.
  3. RSS Feeds RSS feeds allow users to follow your blog and receive instant updates without having to constantly check your site. (Personally, I prefer email subscriptions.)
  4. Breadcrumbs A way for users to track where they are on the site and get back to where they were – usability.
  5. Navigation Duh! The user must be able to explore your site easily. It does not have to be standard but it does need to be intuitive.
  6. Images These help with your SEO ranking as well as add visual interest.
  7. Keep It Above the Fold Most visitors have short attention spans and are very quick to jump from your site. You must catch their attention in their first few seconds on the site.
  8. Emphasize Your Popular Content Link to your best content to help visitors find valuable information and improve its SEO importance through backlinks and increased traffic.
  9. Blog Frequently Search engines like new content and visitors like new content. How can you lose by doing this?
  10. Focus on Keywords Last, but definitely not least, use relevant keyword phrases that your customers will be using to find information.
While I only discuss 10 of these items, SEO Moz created an awesome information graphic to cover their 15 most influential items to a killer blog. Check it out here:

Client Project: Dr. M. Riad El Ghonemy Website

I’ve been building and coding websites for over half my life now (wow! I can’t believe I can say that but I really did begin at 12 when I first taught myself HTML code) and last year I realized I needed to expand my repertoire of web design options.

Last fall I joined a Meetup group, Webify Your Business Tri-Valley, with two great guys who help small businesses with social media and SEO.  We meet weekly and it has been a great place for me to bounce ideas off them about different online strategies, as well as learn from each other.

Through this meeting, I finally forced myself to learn WordPress for two reasons.

Many of my inquiries lately have been for websites that the users could update themselves and custom CMS websites start in the thousands and go up.

It was a major trend in the online industry and I wanted to at least gain an understanding of what WordPress could offer.

I am pleased to say that since the beginning of 2011, I have built 6 WordPress sites. Yay! I now have the confidence and experience to offer these websites as a part of my services repertoire for those looking for the additional features it provides and with a smaller budget.

The website for Dr. M. Riad El Ghonemy is just one of those websites. The client came to me asking for a website for his father, who is a published author and renowned Development Economist. His basic requirements were to have a site to provide information for his father with more emphasis on content than design. Click to view the completed website.

A wordpress website for Dr Rhiad El Ghonemy
I now make WordPress websites too!

Interested in more information about the Webify Meetup Group? Contact me and visit the host’s website for more information about internet marketing.

Client Work: Leading Renovations Flash Banners

On several ocassions, I have worked with ReachLocal in San Jose. ReachLocal is postitioning itself as a leader in local search through Search Engine Marketing (SEM), such a PPC ads, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Here is an explanation of what they do: ReachLocal services.

I have worked with ReachLocal on several ocassions to build SEO focused websites for their clients as well as create the flash banners for their remarketing campaigns. The remarketing campaigns only show these banners to customers who have previously visited their site, encouraging them to return to the site through special offers. This is a much more cost efficient solution for smaller businesses with a limited budget, rather than paying for every visitor on a website to see them, they only pay for qualified leads who have already visited their site.

This brings in the question of how much do you want websites to know about your web travels, but personally, I’d much rather see ads that are relevant to my interests than random ads. This targeting has actually worked in my advantage to find deals I was actually interested in. Browsers are now working on features to block this.

Anyway…back to my work for Leading Renovations. Here are still shots of the three ads I created, rectangle, skyscraper and leaderboard.

Leading Renovations Flash Banner Ads
My proof for the rectangle ad before it was animated. (Offer may be expired).
Leading Renovations remarketing campaign
Flash ad proofs for the leaderboard ads


Skyscraper marketing flash banner ads
The final piece to the matching set of ads

Want to learn more about how I can help with your online marketing campaign? Send me an email and I’ll get in contact.

Creative Research and Mood Boards for More Effective Designs

One of the first stages for any project is the initial research of style, color, mood and tone that I am trying to create, in addition to research into the company/product/service itself.

This is creative research and it is a vital part of any graphic design project which helps me get to know your business better and understand how I can translate this information into a compelling reason for your customers to choose you. Below is an excerpt from another designer who puts it quite nicely:

What is Creative Research and Why Is It so Important?

This past week, I’ve been working on a project for a new client. He’s an AICP certified consultant to city planners and, in a remote way, his project is related to picking strawberries. I’ve peppered him with questions. I’ve checked out his competitors’ websites, as well as thoroughly reading his own. I’ve even called planners from a variety of cities. In essence, I’ve looked at his project from many different directions so I can better understand it.

All this “looking in different directions” is considered creative research and, oh, it’s so important. In fact, when I participated in The Pricing Group, an exercise in pricing, creative research was the portion of the design process my seven peers and I spent the most time on. The exercise’s project was for a relatively small website of 6-7 pages, yet the time designated to research ranged from 3-15 hours. For many, it was more time than they designated to the actual building of the site.

Creative research is the studying a designer does before even opening up a sketchbook. It’s the getting to know the client—his business, industry, target market and competitors. Creative research is the foundation for the overall project, because, really, how can we successfully communicate a business if we know nothing about it?

When shopping for a designer for your project, whether it’s a website, printed piece or logo, be sure to ask about creative research. A professional designer will know what you’re talking about. (From Adunate)

One of my jobs is explaining to clients how important this part of the process is, because it is often extremely under appreciated and under valued.

However, the next step in this initial process, the mood board, is always appreciated by clients. When I create a mood board, I’m taking the ideas I learned from the creative research process and visualizing it for my clients, before beginning the actual design.

What is a Style Guide?

A style guide puts my concepts and ideas into a visual sample, before I focus my time on actually designing. This is an extra step to ensure that I am on the same page as my clients about where the project is heading. A picture is worth a thousand words right?

A style guide is like a collage, where I have taken a wide variety of images based on their colors. mood and imagery to represent the ideas that are in my head.

I use several ways to develop my style guide but the overall idea is that I search for images based on feelings or colors. I’ll search for “browns” “taupes” “calm” “subdued” and more, to build up the feeling that I’m looking for.

Create a style guide before initiating the design project
A page from the style guide I created for Blackhawk Plastic Surgery

Style Guide Tools

There a hundreds of stock photo websites out there, but I found that I really like the photos on istockphoto and I like the way they allow you to preview photos (simple but when I first searched stock photos this was the most convenient to use website).

Google Image Search
One great feature for this is the Google image search by color option. This allows me to choose moods or other abstract search terms, but then I can still search for within one color scheme.

Google image search for mood by color
A quick and easy way to search for both mood and color scheme

I’ve listed this article under both design and marketing, because even though this is an integral part of the design process – it is marketing as well. The two are so intertwined that you cannot do one without the other!

Facebook Contest Rules That You Must Follow – Or Else!

Social media is the most obvious place to run a competition; it is about interacting with and providing value to your customers. What better way to encourage engagement and interest from them than with a free offer or fun contest? While the most obvious choice to run a competition would be to encourage your followers to “Like” your page and comment on your wall, beware!

Did you know that Facebook has strict rules about how users and businesses can use their site when running a competition? If you don’t follow their guidelines they will close your account. Unfortunately, many of these rules are unknown or written obscurely, and even the big players have been known to goof up.

Facebook Contest Rules

This topic of Facebook contests has come up in conversation so frequently lately that I wanted to share this information with those who are considering it. Read the official Facebook Promotion Guidelines.

Essentially, Facebook does not want any active or explicit involvement in your competition and does not want to be associated to it in any way. Facebook defines a competition as:

A “sweepstakes” is a promotion that includes a prize and a winner selected on the basis of chance.
A “contest” or “competition” is a promotion that includes a prize and a winner determined on the basis of skill (i.e., through judging based on specific criteria)

Facebook Competition Rules

You cannot require competition entry based on Facebook features such as

  • Liking a Page
  • Checking into a Place
  • Being the first to comment on a post/picture/etc
  • Posting pictures to your Wall
  • Commenting on your Wall
  • Using the “Like” button as a voting mechanism

You can use a third party application to require users to

  • Post a Photo to the third party application
  • Submit an entry form with contact details
  • (Essentially you can require it as long as it goes through the third party application itself)

You must not use Facebook features or functionality as a promotion’s registration or entry mechanism.  For example, the act of liking a Page or checking in to a Place cannot automatically register or enter a promotion participant.

Facebook Competition Registration

Entry into the competition cannot require participants to:

  • Like a Page
  • Check into a Place
  • Connect to Your App

However, in order to access your contest rules and entry form you can require participants to

  • Like a Page
  • Check into a Place
  • Connect to Your App

You must not condition registration or entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app.  For example, you must not condition registration or entry upon the user liking a Wall post, or commenting or uploading a photo on a Wall.

These are semantics and the best analogy would be that you can’t require a purchase in order to enter the competition, but you can require them to be a customer…. Essentially you are requiring them to already be a fan to access the contest information.

How to Use Facebook to Run A Competition

You have only one option here because Facebook wants no involvement in your competition.

In addition, you must also:

  • Provide a complete release of Facebook by participants upon entry
  • Acknowledge that Facebook has no connection to your competition
  • Disclose that the participant is providing information to you (the recipient) and not Facebook

You CANNOT use Facebook to

  • Notify Competition Winners through a message, chat or wall post

Instead you must use a third-party app to collect contact details from the entrants so that you can contact them outside of Facebook.

What Facebook Apps Can I Use for Running a Competition?

One of the most widely used apps is Wildfire. There is a cost to using this service though. Wildfire offers you 10 different types of competitions or promotions.

EasyPromos is free for first time users with fewer than 5,000 fans.

Others include

For more information on Facebook promotions (and the place where I got the list of Facebook competition apps above, visit Facebook Promotions: What You Need to Know


EcoScape Landcare – An Antioch-Based Landcare Company

Recently, I finished the initial work for EcoScape Landcare. This included business cards, brochures and a small website to get their name out there. They have years of experience in the landcare industry but are only just starting this company on their own now.

Ecoscape landcare business cards - alameda & contra costa county
The business card has a relaxed yet professional tone with highly saturated colors and whimsical grass across the bottom.

They wanted to convey this experience while also creating a more personable brand that is both environmentally friendly (by creating more sustainable garden areas that require less water) and community focused.


They chose the bright vibrant greens for the refreshing tone and a modern clean style.

Ecoscape landcare style guide choices
The final choices of style direction that EcoScape Landcare chose from the style guide I created.

EcoScape Landcare required a website immediately so that they had a stronger business presence while approaching new customers. While their basic requirements were just to have information about them available online, I made sure to include an easy to reach contact form on every page in order to encourage customer interaction at the very moment the visitor was ready.

With a greater timeline and budget, this process would be thoroughly planned out and implemented to create a strong lead generation and lead automation funnel.

Ecoscape Landcare Website - An Antioch-Based Company
EcoScape Landcare required a site immediately so that they had a web

Visit their site at:

Marketing Customer Call Fail

I seem to be doing a lot of these Fail blogs, but I actually find them very useful to know what not to do as well as what you should be doing.

I may be a kinesthetic learner, who likes to learn through hands-on experience, but I also learn from other’s experiences – their successes and failures.

Here’s a perfect example of where they are trying to do it right…yet FAIL no matter how easy I make it for them.

I was contacted in early April by a web outsourcing company (it’s amazing how many out there are actually actively cold calling for work) by my contact Bob*.

He told me a bit about his business, the services, they offer, where they are located, etc. He then asked if he had my correct email address and listed it off quickly. Because of his accent I couldn’t quite tell if he had it right but let it be since I didn’t really want to be cold called.

Failing to follow up with a prospectA month later, he followed up in May. I mentioned that I had never received the email and asked if he had my email address correct. He sort of shrugged it off, repeated their list of services and said he was sending me another email.

Today, I received a third call. Again telling him I hadn’t received the email. I’m not actually interested in these services (I prefer to work with people I have met, are local or who I have a connection with in some way, a referral etc – as do many of your clients) but I like to scope out what other companies are doing.

It turns out, he had my email incorrect. How many times did he say he was sending me an email? If he had just waited to see if I received it, or asked to check if the email address he was using was correct (I even point blank asked if he had my correct email) he may have gotten somewhere. He was great on staying on top of calls (to my annoyance) but failed to actually put any of it to use.

Why make the effort if you aren’t going to do it right?

*Name changed


What is a QR Code? How Can It Help Me Find My Customers?

What is a QR code?

A QR code is a type of barcode that stores small pieces of information, which a smart phone can scan to receive data from. This requires a special app, but once it is installed all you need to do is snap an image of the QR code while in the application and you will receive its information.

How Does A QR Code Work?

Designflair QR Code for my facebook profile
Snap this QR code and become my friend! 🙂

QR codes can work in several ways. They can hold information for a:


  • Website URL (it will take your phone to that website)
  • Telephone number (you can add the number to your contacts or call it)
  • Text Message / SMS Message
  • Email Address (you can easily add it to your contact list)
  • Email Message
  • Contact Details – VCARD (adds their details to your address book)
  • Event – VCALENDAR (adds the event to your calender)
  • Google Maps Location (easily find directions to get there)
  • Wifi Login (Android only)
  • Paypal Buy Now Link
  • Social Media (direct them to your page immediately)
  • iTunes Link
  • YouTube Video
  • Message

How Can A QR Code Help Me Find My Customers?

Display QR codes in your store to encourage customer use
I've used QR codes to encourage visitors to join us on Social Media

The correct question is actually, how can QR codes make it easier for customers to find me?

Either question is about increasing customers and increasing sales but the real purpose of a QR code is to put yourself right there in front of them, before you lose their attention.

Here are some great ideas to use QR codes.

  • Have a page of daily specials, link a QR code to this page. Print the code on your menu and in your window for easy access by visitors.
  • Place a QR code on your product packaging or label, when the product runs out the QR code will link your customer to your online store to purchase it again.
  • Print a QR on your business card so that customers can scan your contact details directly into your phone.
  • Use QR codes in your advertisements so that customers can go directly to your site, a special landing page, or else call you immediately.

Statistics About Mobile Usage

  • Comscore reported earlier this year that 63.2 million people have smart phones.
  • 80% of searchers research online before purchasing within a 10-20 mile radius.
  • Currently, half of connections to the internet are from phones.
  • The #1 access method for local information is the mobile browser with 20.7 millions users per month.
  • 32% of searchers with internet capable cellphones search for local business information.