Weekend Reads: Olympic Champions Lauren Nelson | August 12th, 2016

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that athletes from around the world are kickin’ butt and takin’ names down in Rio right now. Stateside, we’ve cheered and cried as Phelps, Biles, Ledecky, and Simone Manuel have delievered golden performances, and we’re looking forward to ongoing coverage of folks like Raven Saunders, Jenny Arthur, Claressa Shields, Foluke Akinradewo, Nico Hernández, and more.

But as we cheer on the red, white, and blue, we’re also thinking about the years of dedicated study and practice these athletes put in for a shot at a medal, and how all of us could benefit from emulating their work ethic. Do you want to be a champion in your chosen field? Here are some weekend reads to help keep your eye on the prize:

Are you bringing the personality, spunk, and sass of Laurie Hernandez when you step up to the social media plate? Get inspired by some of the best social media campaigns of 2016.

Are you fearless in the face of impossible odds, bold enough to accomplish huge firsts like Simone Manuel when you get to work on content marketing? These folks certainly were.

Are you relentless, constantly honing your campaign, and kicking the competition’s butt like Kayla Harrison with your ad campaigns? If not, these folks might have some pointers.

Are you, like the incomparable Simone Biles, striving every day to not only beat those competing for your customers, but the personal bests you’ve set in the past? Here are some examples of companies who do… and how they’ve won.

Can you, like Lilly King, back up your smack talk when it comes to design? Need some inspiration to get to that point? Check out these 42 amazing designs to get the creative juices running.

13740943_1058697800886776_889960884_n

But as Le Clos learned after a brutal beating at the hands of Phelps, winners focus on winning; losers focus on winners. It’s good to learn from the best. It’s better to redefine it on your own terms. Food for thought for your weekend!

Tips and Tricks for Maintaining Productivity on the Road Arielle Kimbarovsky | August 12th, 2016

14261972267_3c9e287f9e_z

Image credit: Lisa Jacobs

I love to travel, even when traveling exclusively for business. It’s always fun to explore new places, people, and adventures. In fact, some entrepreneurs believe that traveling helps them to be more creative, improves productivity, and increases their expertise – so they travel even while running their company!

Whether it’s for business or relaxation, travel is often a large time commitment. And while it is extremely valuable to be connected worldwide, the price of time can be costly. Think about it – even a simple two hour flight becomes a four hour airport ordeal by the time you go through baggage, security, and find your gate. And even if that flight is just two hours, it’s probably sometime in the middle of the day – cutting into your productivity or causing you to have to work through a break. Yikes!

Luckily, we can overcome some of the pain when traveling by using the many digital devices we already carry with us – laptops, tablets, and smartphones. For many people, work is reasonably transportable, turning an unproductive block of time into something useful, if it’s carefully planned.

To make travel productive, however, you must plan ahead. And since you can never predict everything about your trip, here are some of our favorite tips to help you stay productive while traveling.

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: skyram Audree | August 11th, 2016

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this small website design project.

Let us start the slow clap for skyram. Check out more great work on skyram’s profile page.

Nicely done, skyram, nicely done!

FFTS-skyram

In Defense of the Renegade Marketers Lauren Nelson | August 9th, 2016

With the dawn of social media and explosion of internet access across the globe came a revolution in marketing. New channels were available with larger audiences, more segmentation opportunities, and a myriad of engagement opportunities. The possibilities were endless. Indeed, we’re still exploring them.

But with these possibilities came no small amount of chaos. Curious minds outpaced establishment marketing types in understanding and utilizing these new tools, and as a result, the language we use to frame conversations about marketing began to evolve. As folks tried to merge the new terminology with existing rhetoric on the fundamentals of marketing, they realized something: it was a mess.

In a recent article for Tech Crunch, Logz.io Director of Marketing and Communications Samuel Scott put it this way:

I could run an advertisement during an episode of “Friends.” I could pay NBC to have the coffee house hold an event that would feature my product in an episode. I could hire a “Friends” actor to appear in an infomercial that would air directly after an episode. And so on.

Now, none of this would be “television marketing” because “television marketing” is not a “thing.” “Television” is a marketing channel, not a marketing strategy. If I choose to advertise on television, “advertising” is the strategy, the advertisement itself is the content and “television” is the channel over which I transmit the advertisement.

In the same way, “Facebook marketing,” “social media marketing” and “content marketing” are not “things.” “Facebook” is a marketing channel. “Social media” is a collection of marketing channels. “Content” is a tactic, not a strategy. “Content” is produced in the execution of strategies such as advertising, SEO and publicity.

Some feel like this linguistic train wreck is a function of many modern marketing thought leaders today coming from diverse backgrounds. In an article for Marketing Week, branding professor and marketing consultant Mark Ritson highlighted the growing schism:

Sitting on a train on Friday grading exam papers I got a tweet from marketing consultant Glen Gilmore. The tweet was a little grid of 24 headshots and the message, “24 Marketers you Should Follow on Twitter”.

Intrigued, I clicked the link and discovered it was actually an article by Nicholas Scalice for Earnworthy.com in which he presented a list of his “24 top-notch marketers”. I scrolled through the list. Some of the faces were familiar to me and I smiled when Gilmore himself appeared. I was about to head back to my exams when I had a fantastically cynical thought. “I wonder,” I said out loud to the immediate concern of the woman sitting opposite me, “how many of them have actually studied marketing?”

[…]

Do you know how many have a formal training in marketing of any kind, according to their LinkedIn profiles?

Four of them.

In that whole list of 24 world-leading experts in marketing only four have a formal education in the subject. There was one MBA, two undergraduate degrees and a community college certificate.

Now that’s not to say those other 20 thought leaders aren’t intelligent people. They have degrees in all kinds of subject areas – electrical engineering, English literature, political science. It’s just that they don’t have any training in the thing they are meant to be telling you about. The author of the article, himself an expert in “inbound marketing tools” (bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, master’s in public administration), had managed to pick a list of people that are less well trained in marketing than the average local PR agency.

There might be some merit to these lines of argument. These gentlemen are correct in that many of the buzz words used in conversations about marketing today (including here) don’t fit in the traditional marketing framework. And they are also correct in that we sometimes focus too much on trendy tactics and not enough on critical thinking about overall strategy, which could be a function of digital marketers boasting less formal training in their fields.

But they’re also both very, very wrong.

Part of the reason the language doesn’t fit is because language isn’t static; it evolves right along with the rest of the world. And just like we experience growing pains while adapting to evolution in every other part of our lives, there’s going to be some awkwardness as we figure out the best ways to talk about marketing strategy in the modern era.

But maybe — just maybe — the problem isn’t that the language used by modern marketers is incompatible with more conventional marketing rhetoric. Maybe the problem is that conventional marketing rhetoric is incompatible with the modern marketing climate.

 

yjbmm

 

I know — radical concept, right? But stick with me for a minute.

Lots of folks who like the conventional marketing rhetoric will try to explain that it still works by putting modern initiatives in the old school wrapper. Scott, for instance, attempts to recast conversations about content marketing by placing some of the elements involved into a more traditional framework, writing:

If someone creates informational material that aims to rank highly in Google search results, here is what he is doing:

  • Strategy = SEO (which may need to be added to a new, modern Promotion Mix)

  • Content = The blog post

  • Channel = The company’s blog/Google search results

That’s not an inaccurate breakdown, but it is woefully insufficient for someone engaging in marketing right now. Sure, you’re probably working to advance your SEO goals with a blog post, but any modern marketer worth their salt will also be chasing other goals with the same piece of material. You write to provide value to your audience. You write to position yourself as an expert. You write to open up engagement opportunities for lead acquisition, conversion, and brand awareness.

We have, in so many ways, outgrown the “buckets” approach to marketing. Our marketing strategies today are sprawling, with defined initiatives peppering broader tactical execution. Content is dispersed along multiple channels with different goals and measures of success. What qualifies as PR or advertising has changed dramatically with the introduction of opportunities for native advertising and services like PRWeb.

 

promotion mix graphic

 

And some of the work we’re doing doesn’t fit in any of the buckets at all. For example, how, exactly, would you classify something like tweeting out something off of Giphy to make a joke about a trending topic in a way that shores up a carefully cultivated brand persona, but doesn’t directly relate to your unique value proposition?

If Scott is correct when he says, “[t]he terms that we use reflect the assumptions that underlie our approaches to marketing,” we’re in a bit of a pickle. Yes, the terms we lean on today might be muddled, but the terms being presented as an alternative rest on assumptions that just don’t jive with the reality of modern marketing. Our strategies are so much more complex now.

Now, one could argue, as both Scott and Ritson do, that this isn’t the case. One could argue that the “necessity” of changes in marketing rhetoric is being driven by those without enough formal marketing training. But such a perspective is short-sighted and out of touch.

The fact of the matter is that we live in a world where the idea of the “self-made man” is more potent than ever. Proliferation of the internet has spawned millions of opportunities to teach yourself new skills or trades. Knowledge that used to be walled off to those without the means to seek out higher education is now easily accessible. Though there is indubitably value in such programs, they are no longer necessary to achieve proficiency in most arenas.

This is something we see all the time at crowdSPRING. Our designers are a diverse bunch. Some of them were classically trained in four-year programs. Some of them took courses at a community college. Some taught themselves to use the Adobe Creative Suite while their little ones napped. The best on the platform continue to educate themselves in order to stay fresh and competitive. Respect the hustle, folks.

 

giphy (14)

 

So you’ll have to forgive us for finding the idea that someone without a “formal” education in marketing is somehow not educated in marketing at all utterly foolish. You know what people don’t necessarily list on LinkedIn under education? The hours and days and weeks and months and years spent on attending webinars, watching video tutorials, listening to podcasts, reading informational materials, and practicing their techniques. Not to mention participating in things like Ritson’s own “Mini MBA in Marketing” program… which I’d bet talks about the traditional promotional mix that he complains folks can’t learn outside of a formal education.

And the whole idea of sneering at established marketers without a formal marketing education seems nonsensical. Yes, there are certainly self-proclaimed experts in marketing out there who are anything but, just as there are people who claim to be experts in all sorts of things who can’t walk the walk. But these non-formally-educated experts in marketing got to where they are because they can and do on the daily.

So what are we trying to accomplish by sighing at their degree choices? Are their quality results somehow less impressive because of their educational pedigree?

 

wtf_true_blood

 

I don’t get it. I really don’t. Would you criticize someone with a successful business because they didn’t study business before launching their own company? Or would you hold them up as an example of how hard work and creativity can win the day?

These folks without a formal background in marketing are so good at marketing that they now command massive followings — followings they were able to build because they know what they’re doing. So why is what they studied once upon a time somehow disqualifying?

If anything, the past decade has demonstrated that there is value in diverse minds coming to the marketing table. It wasn’t the old guard trailblazing in the early days of social media; it was individuals and small businesses taking risks and learning fast. You have to wonder if they would have made the same strides if they’d carefully constructed their approaches to align with the 5 P’s.

It is totally valid to argue we should come up with more concise language and frameworks for discussing modern marketing. It is absolutely legitimate to say we shouldn’t lose sight of the basics as we explore our strategic options. But complaining that people don’t use language that doesn’t fit right anymore? Criticizing thought leaders because they don’t have a homogeneous background? It’s unproductive at best and insulting at worst. Let’s do better.

And as for the rest of you renegade marketers out there — you self-taught linguistic corrupters with degrees in political science and wild ideas that challenge the status quo — we salute you! Stay crazy.

 

orson_wells_Slow-Clap

 

Why “To-Do” Lists Are Hurting Your Business Arielle Kimbarovsky | August 8th, 2016

todo

 

It’s Monday morning, which means professionals around the world are kicking off their workweek. They’re getting coffee, catching up around the water cooler, firing up their computer, and getting down to business. And in the process of getting down to business, many of them are hurting their own productivity before the work can really even begin. 

They’re writing a to-do list.

To-do lists are often recommended as good strategies to increase productivity and efficiency. Walk through a typical office and you’ll probably notice lists, post-its, and other reminders littering desks, laptops, and smartphones – manifesting in a giant reminder of things that haven’t been done. While the idea is for these lists to serve as a reminder, they actually end up having a negative effect on our psyche… and in turn, our overall output.

Read the rest of this post »

Repurposing Content Through Visual Reimagination Lauren Nelson | August 4th, 2016

recycle-content

 

As any content marketer will tell you, diligent strategy execution and time can yield a treasure trove of promotional material for your use. That content creation, however, can take up a lot of bandwidth. It’s not easy to consistently turn out high quality blog posts, white papers, newsletters, emails, and more. But in a fast paced world of social sharing, there’s pressure to do exactly that. You have to stay fresh. You have to stay relevant. You have to stay hungry.

That doesn’t mean that you have to reinvent the wheel six times a day. As your library of existing content swells, it’s not only perfectly acceptable but absolutely advisable to find ways to recycle or repurpose that content for ongoing use.

There are a number of ways you can do this. Quora conversations can become blog posts. Webinars can become informative videos. Blog post series can become white papers. White papers, case studies, and blog posts can become ebooks.

This sort of tactic works. Taking information you already have and putting it into a new wrapper not only frees up some of that precious bandwidth, but allows you access to broader or distinct audiences through leveraging new mediums.

But there’s one type of repurposing that is frequently forgotten or ignored: design.

We’re living in a visual world, where images lead to greater content and social account engagement in addition to higher share rates and wider reach. Yet when the subject of repurposing content is broached, the talk usually revolves around how the existing content can be given what amounts to a light makeover. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it ignores the possibilities that arise when you take content and put it into a completely new visual format.

How can you do that?

1. Infographics — Infographics are shared at 3 times the rate of any other sort of content published online. That’s a lot of power in one image. And though we usually associate infographics with the organization of data, they can also be used to illustrate concepts involving process and composition. Somewhere in your existing content is a piece that begging to be translated to this format.

2. Quote Graphics — People love them some quotations, and they love sharing them. They don’t even need to be accurately reported or attributed to gain traction; there is an ocean of quote graphics out there “from” Marilyn Monroe if you’d like some examples. We wouldn’t encourage anything like that, but it makes total sense to transform some of the memorable or powerful lines from blog posts of days gone by into shareable quote graphics.

3. Cartoon Strips — People like to laugh. They like making other people laugh. They like folks who help them do both. So why not satisfy that itch while also showing off your smarts? Take a blog post on common mistakes in your industry, for instance, and commission illustrations to drive the point home in snarky fashion. It’ll help you stand out, and maybe snag some new audience members who might otherwise not have found you.

Have you tried other visual means of repurposing content? Tell us about it in the comments!

 

Image Source: AllProWebTools.com

Fresh from the SPRING: JCarlos Audree | August 4th, 2016

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we noticed this gem submitted in this print design project.

Let us start the slow clap for JCarlos. Check out more great work on JCarlos’ profile page.

Nicely done, JCarlos, nicely done!

FFTS-JCarlos

How to Design a Fantasy Football Team Logo Jason Byer | August 3rd, 2016

Geek Fantasy Football Names

The 2016 NFL season isn’t far away, which spells excitement if you’re playing fantasy football this year.  But does your team logo inspire excitement? While your office colleagues might be excited about the team name, the logo is a powerful source of pride that shouldn’t be forgotten. 

Picture your team sitting down at your favorite wing bar ready for the Fantasy Football draft. What symbol will you rally around? Will it look like a kid slapped it together in MS Paint or will the other bar patrons give you a nod of approval when they see your team logo? Here are some tips to create a team logo that creates excitement and pride all season long. 

Read the rest of this post »

How Crowdsourcing Can Supercharge Your In-House Brainstorming Lauren Nelson | August 3rd, 2016

brainstorm

 

Advertising executive Alex Faickney Osborn was frustrated. The storied firebrand of world renown advertising agency BBDO, he was less than impressed by the creative ideas his team had been bringing to the table. So in 1939 he began working on a process he believed would inspire his team and others to think outside the box and push each other to dream big. He shared that process with the world in his 1948 book Your Creative Power, calling it “brainstorming.”

Whether in the classroom, the conference room, or the boardroom, odds are you’ve taken part in some variation of this creative process. There’s a reason for that: it works. Groups can and do make each other better. As cliche as it sounds, iron sharpens iron.

Well, most of the time at least. Despite the brainstorming’s widespread popularity and ubiquitous application, it’s an approach that can be overused, wasting a great deal of time. It also only works if the dynamic of the team brainstorming allows for equal and unrestrained participation, which can be a tall order when your team is a mashup of personalities.

As a result, different tweaks have been introduced over time in an effort to make brainstorming more effective and efficient. In a video for Fast.co, Senior Editor Mark Wilson talked about some of those alterations, including something called “brain writing.”

 

 

But regardless of whether you’re writing down ideas or shifting coffee cups by a few millimeters, there’s still an inherent limitation to team brainstorming: the team itself.

That’s not to say that your team isn’t wonderful or that they’re incapable of coming up with good ideas. But they are, at the end of the day, existing within your culture. Over time, thought patterns can become increasingly homogeneous on your team, as members learn each other’s quirks and adapt to each other’s needs. That homogeneity can have a significant impact on not just demonstrated creativity, but creative capacity.

Does that mean brainstorming is worthless? Of course not. But it might mean that your brainstorming efforts need a shock to the system, and crowdsourcing creative work can do just that.

Crowdsourcing is often discussed in terms of convenience and value for your dollar. Those are absolutely some of the associated benefits. But really, the primary benefit of crowdsourcing is that you get a litany of ideas presented to you by a diverse group of creatives.

That’s fantastic when you’re looking for just the right logo or tagline, but the projects you commission via crowdsourcing do not exist in a vacuum. They’re collateral that will interact with a number of other elements in your overall marketing strategy. And that’s how crowdsourcing creative work can be uniquely beneficial to a marketing team in a rut. Seeing a wide array of creative concepts associated with your value proposition or upcoming initiative can help do what in-house brainstorming alone could not: spurring truly unique ideas from your team.

It’s a concept that would make Osborn drool.

 

Image Source: Iron Post Media

5 Ways to Tackle the Tricky Business of Measuring Branding and Marketing ROI Lauren Nelson | August 2nd, 2016

Return on investment

 

One of the major benefits of the digital age is that marketers now have far more meaningful metrics by which to evaluate the success of their initiatives. It’s no longer just about creative swagger and assumptions regarding your audience. We have an avalanche of data on consumer preferences and behavior, website usage, content engagement, and more at our disposal.

It’s enough to make ya giddy.

With this data comes the ability to quantitatively evaluate the performance of our efforts. A landing page, for instance, can be analyzed relative to conversions. Your display ads can be scrutinized according to cost per lead. Your social media posts can be compared on the basis of impressions and engagement.

But is that really enough to demonstrate ROI on an overall strategy? How do you calculate the dollar value of a shared meme from your Facebook page? How do you determine the expected RoR on a newsletter subscriber? How do you assess the impact of a prominent retweet to your bottom line? How do you nail down the contribution of a new logo to your profits?

This conundrum is particularly relevant to those making a case for a specific budget or allocation to a marketing initiative. This data glut has created an impression among those not directly involved in marketing that everything can be boiled down to decimal points. But what about all of the peripheral marketing and branding activities taking place that push your audience to convert? How does one explain that to the powers that be?

Read the rest of this post »

Join the crowd that's raving about the crowdSPRING Blog

Get our weekly digest of can't-miss content on how to take your brand to the next level.

Creative needs?

We've got 190,000 creative professionals ready to meet them. Take your project to the crowd!

Click to get started on

Free eBooks

interviews with graphic and web designers

12 Question Interviews with cS designers.
Get it »

contracts for graphic designers

Contracts for designers who hate contracts.
Get it »

contracts for software and website developers

Contracts for software developers who hate contracts. Get it »

About crowdSPRING

Tens of thousands of the world's best and most successful entrepreneurs, businesses, agencies and nonprofits rely on crowdSPRING for affordable and risk-free custom logo design, web design, a new company name or other writing and design services. More than 190,000 designers and writers work on crowdSPRING. We create designs and names people love. 100% guaranteed.

Learn more »