Twitter Link Roundup #232 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | August 29th, 2014

Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

If you’re a little kid and your dad is a video animator, you can have quite a lot of fun, as the above video shows.


Empower Your Small Business, the latest crowdSPRING SmallBiz Newsletter –

Labor Day! TCB and TCP –


The 10,000 Hour Rule Is Not Real | Smithsonian –

Stop Wasting Time With Low CTR Strategies | WordStream by Larry Kim –


Good analysis on How Foursquare Onboards New Users | User Onboarding –

To Be Customer-Centric, Stop Talking And Start Doing –

Stop Wasting Time With Low CTR Strategies | WordStream by Larry Kim –


A collection of spectacular examples of hand lettering –

12 Mobile Apps Essential For Developers and Web Designers –

30 Sets of Free Globe and earth Vector Graphics and Icons –

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Labor Day! TCB and TCP Mike | August 25th, 2014

“My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.” —Indira Gandhi

Next Monday is not just a day off for our team, but is also the holiday that I believe matters most of all to businesses. This time last year I wrote about the protests that were occurring around the country in support of an increase in the national minimum wage rate and the movement to empower fast food workers. This is s subject that I care deeply about, and one that is engrained in how I was raised. My grandfather was a union organizer; starting in the years of the Great  Depression and through his retirement in the 1970s, Bob Herbin worked for labor unions such as the United Mine Workers, the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen, and the International Fur and Leather Workers Union. He advocated, administered, and fought for the rights of hard working men and women for decades, sometimes putting himself at serious peril to do so. Family legend has him being shot at as he was run out of Harlan County, Kentucky and living under an assumed identity for years in order to keep his family safe. He was a profound influence on my life both personally and professionally and I try every day to run my own small business in a manner that would make him proud.

At crowdSPRING, from day one, we have worked to make sure our people are well taken care of. We offer generous benefits packages to our full-timers, competitive pay to everyone we hire, flexible policies on work hours and vacations, and try hard to maintain fun and energizing workplace. Productivity is very important to us, but so is creating an environment in which individuals can grow and learn and where they have opportunity for personal and professional development. Profits are important to us, as they are with all businesses, but top-of-mind is building a company where people want to work. The payoff comes in loyalty and low turnover – we’re proud of the fact that after 6 years in business, our average team member has been with us for almost four years! Low turnover has many benefits for a company, including reduced recruiting and training costs, improved productivity, and lower absentee rates. Not to mention the fun and friendship that happens when people look at work as a welcoming and safe place.

As a manager, it pays to be worker-centric in your approach to business and this starts with pay. Basic economic theory teaches that the most talented workers will always gravitate to the highest pay. Remember it is a competitive environment and your workers can and will go to the employer that places the greatest value on their labor. This is not just about wages, though; research has shown over and over that, while pay scale is critical, quality of life matters as much as the paycheck. Allowing your team flexibility in scheduling and office hours leads to happier, more productive and engaged work. Providing solid medical benefits leads to healthier workers and fewer sick days. Offering retirement benefits leads to stable, long-term employees who know that their future is secure. And allowing unlimited vacation days let’s them know how much you value them and messages that you trust them to find their own work-life balance while their responsibilities to the team are met.

To me, this Labor Day, I’ll remember that Taking Care of People = Taking Care of Business!

United States Labor Day stamp: Photo by Karen Horton

Twitter Link Roundup #231 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | August 22nd, 2014


Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The image above shows Caesar’s movements as he defeated Pompey and allies in the civil was around 48 BC. You’ll find 39 more interesting maps that explain the growth and ultimately collapse of the Roman Empire, in the Other section below.


Time to get noticed online: Here’s how you can do it –

Complete Guide to Google My Business | TechFunction –

Mobile and Web UI/UX Tips to Retain Customers | SpyreStudios –

How to Test Whether Your Business Model is Worth Pursuing –


Death by a thousand small features –

Venture Outcomes are Even More Skewed Than You Think –

You Can’t Hire a VP That You Don’t Love | saastr –

Workers In Windowless Offices Lose 46 Minutes Of Sleep A Night | Co.Design –

Our Additions to Tomasz Tunguz’s Seed Fundraising Post | PitchBook Blog –

We Analysed The Homepages Of 20 Awesome Startups And Here Is What We Learnt | Outside The Jar –

A Dozen Things I’ve Learned from Paul Graham | by Tren Griffin –

How to Test Whether Your Business Model is Worth Pursuing –

Mobile and Web UI/UX Tips to Retain Customers | SpyreStudios –

The Minimum Size Seed Round to Maximize Series A Follow On Investment –

The Logic Of Crazy Valuations | TechCrunch –

5 Women In Tech Share The Best And Worst Advice They’ve Ever Received | Fast Company –


We Analysed The Homepages Of 20 Awesome Startups And Here Is What We Learnt | Outside The Jar –

Cause Marketing on Ice –

The Science Of Menu Design: How Restaurants Can Make You Choose A Salad Over A Cheeseburger | Co.Design –

Complete Guide to Google My Business | TechFunction –

Mobile and Web UI/UX Tips to Retain Customers | SpyreStudios –


9 nightmare clients and how you can avoid them | Webdesigner Depot –

Freelancing 101: How to Stay on Top of Trends | Design Shack –

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Cause Marketing on Ice Mike | August 18th, 2014

The other day while sitting on the deck, we heard a great splashing sound from across the way. We looked over to see a neighbor pouring a huge bucket of ice-water over his head while his girlfriend recorded the chilly event on her smartphone. It took me a second to grasp what was happening, but I quickly realized that he was not crazy and not trying to cool himself off from the heat of a Chicago August. The guy was raising money for a charity which he may or may not even feel a particular affinity for.

Right now, today, appearing in virtually every corner of the the internet you can be find my neighbor’s video along with thousands of others and witness one of the most successful, most impressive viral media campaigns of all time. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has, um, caught fire and spread globally to build awareness and raise over $7 million in donations for the ALS Association. It’s pretty simple what this charity has done: they have leveraged their community to invite others to donate a small amount of money to the organization. But not just donate – they are using social media to put  people on the spot in a fun (and funny) way and shame them into a contribution. Here’s how it works: an ALS supporter is encouraged to pour a bucket of ice water over their head, have a friend take a video of the chilly event, and then post the video online and, in the video, “nominate”  friends and family (by name) to do the same thing within the next 24 hours or else donate $100 to the ALS charity.


The ALS Association has been around for almost 30 years, and its mission is fight the disease know as Lou Gehrig’s. They provide funding for research as well as care and support for people suffering from the illness and lobby governments on policy and funding issues. The organization builds awareness through events and outreach – historically their most popular fundraising effort has been their annual Walk to Defeat ALS , which since 2002 has raised almost $200 million in donations. While successful by any measure, the Walk still presents logistical hurdles for both the organization and the participants.  In contrast, the Ice Bucket Challenge is a low-cost, light-touch, ongoing event that works to build awareness and create involvement with little or no oversight or management. It is the perfect fundraiser in that overhead in terms of cash requirements and staff capacity is reduced very close to zero.

Why does it work on its own? The videos are hysterical, the pressure tactic effective, and the results have been formidable. Thousands of average people as well as dozens of celebrities have stood up to make their own videos and post them online while coercing donations from family, friends, and complete strangers. Interestingly, the participants tend to donate whether they rise to the challenge or not.

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Twitter Link Roundup #230 – Small Business, Startups, Innovation, Social Media, Design, Marketing and More Ross | August 15th, 2014


Every day on the crowdSPRING Twitter account and on my own Twitter account, I post links to posts or videos I enjoyed reading or viewing. These posts and videos are about logo design, web design, startups, entrepreneurship, small business, leadership, social media, marketing, and more! Here are some of the links that I’ve liked and shared this past week!

The image above is a fun look at how some of the most famous scientists in history might have personally branded themselves..


Small Business Tips: 5 Steps to Building Great Customer Relationships –

Small Business Tips: Engaging Customers (Sell, Sell, Sell) –


Why aren’t App Constellations working –

12 Tips for Creating Your Startup’s Board of Advisors | ReadWrite –

The Founder’s Null Hypothesis | by Tomasz Tunguz –

The 11 Risks VCs Evaluate | by Tomasz Tunguz –


Why can’t advertisers get personalization right? | ThoughtGadgets by Ben Kunz –

The Neuroscience Of Emoticons | Co.Design –

9 Responsive Websites All Online Marketers Should Mimic –

30 Unofficial Redesigns of Popular Social Media Sites –


20 Outstanding Free Photoshop Text Effects –

45 Brilliant Tutorials for Learning Pixelmator | Vandelay Design –

Brilliant Package Design Ideas | AntsMagazine –

Top 10 Free Programming Fonts –

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12 Questions: Meet Connie Zegers (The Netherlands) Audree | August 12th, 2014

In our 12 Questions blog series, we feature interviews with someone from the crowdSPRING community. For these interviews, we pick people who add value to our community – in the blog, in the forums, in the projects. Plainly – activities that make crowdSPRING a better community. Be professional, treat others with respect, help us build something very special, and we’ll take notice.

We’re very proud to feature Connie Zegers (crowdSPRING username: StudioZ) today. Connie lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


1. Please tell us about yourself.

I live and work in Amsterdam and I’m single. Since 2000 I have been self employed as a graphic designer and illustrator. I also paint.
Before that, I worked for almost 20 years as a packaging designer for HEMA (department stores). I started off working the old fashioned way; pencil, markers, ink, drawing board, scalpel, repro camera, Letraset etc. (showing my age now).
When the Mac came into our studio, it was love at first sight and Illustrator became my favorite creative tool.
After HEMA I worked as a desk top publisher for almost a year, but I quit as I missed the creativity. I learned a lot though.
Starting as a free lancer work was slow at first, but luckily I was asked to do 2 illustrations weekly for a national newspaper, which was great and meant a regular income.
In between jobs I did a lot of painting for fun and on commission (mainly portraits). I always use photographs but I work on them first in Photoshop. Then when I’m satisfied with the result, I start the painting.
Since discovering crowdSPRING almost 2 years ago however, I’ve said goodbye to my brushes and have been back at the computer almost full time.


2. How did you become interested in design?

Can’t remember exactly, but I was always drawing as a child. I used to make my own little magazines with advertisements copied in a funny way from magazines. I was also interested in typefaces from a young age and had a strong opinion about how things looked  esthetically (shoes, furniture, fabrics, clothes, houses, interiors etc (never cars though).
When I heard about the Design Academy whilst in high school, I instantly knew that that was what I wanted to do. And I have never regretted it.

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Small Business Tips: Engaging Customers (Sell, Sell, Sell) Mike | August 11th, 2014

Last week I wrote about building lasting relationships with your customers and the critical importance of nurturing and maintaining strong ties over time with those most important to the well-being of your business. Today, I thought perhaps we could start from the beginning, with a discussion on how to start those relationships.

Perhaps the hardest thing to do in business is to establish a relationship with a prospect, whether that person is visiting your office or store or website for the first time, or you are picking up the phone to cold call the latest lead. Sometimes they come to you and sometimes you have to go out there and find them. The tools of the engagement trade include everything from a friendly smile when a prospective customer walks into your store, to an blast via a recently purchased mailing list, to the trash that seems to stuff your mailbox, to the family-dinner-interrupting call from a tele-marketing professional (do-not-call lists aside).

There is an art to the initial engagement and the very best salespeople have perfected the elements over centuries. That flattering Fuller Brush salesman from the 1950s knew exactly what he was doing when he gave that housewife a huge charming smile and told her what a pretty dress she was wearing. And today’s SEO/SEM experts have their own ways of flattery and charm that work to bring in new customers.

Here are 5 straightforward things you can do to build strong ties, encourage word-of-mouth and create relationships that will last!

Be nice. First things first. Just like when u met new kids at school, the rule is the same: you have to be nice to people if you want them to like you. Potential customers can tell if you are sincere and they can be quickly turned off when the sales pitch gets too intense. Take your time, get to know them, and let them see that you are the kind of company thay’d like to be friends with.

Create your own channels. There is no rule that any one tactic will work for your business. Conversely there is no rule that it will now. Experimentation, testing in small batches, and (mostly) taking data to see what works is the only way you will know if customers are responding to your pitch.

Get ready for rejection. No matter what u do, no matter what you try, 90% of the potential customers you approach will either ignore or explicitly reject your advances. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying; in fact a 10% conversion rate for any one tactic is excellent and should indicate that you stay with that approach. Train your people to be flexible, to accept rejection and to nt take it personally when a potential customer tells them to buzz off.

Go slow. Engaging customers can take time and there is no hurry. In fact, a slow, gentle approach usually works best – introduce yourself, let them get to know you as a company, and build trust without any explicit sales pitch. Mostly you need to be helpful, answer questions and, over time, let the customer come to you to say what they need.

Move them down the path. One of the keys is to understand how customers find their way to your offering. They need to be educated and moved along in a defined sequence of steps. Creating a “funnel” approach whether it is in how you arrange merchandise on your floor or the sequence of web pages that you guide a customer through will help them to learn about your company at their own pace and answer their own questions about what you do. In combination with a friendly and open approach from you, this strategy is most effective.

Advertisement: Fuller Brush Company

Small Business Tips: 5 Steps to Building Great Customer Relationships Mike | August 4th, 2014

You started a business and slowly, surely you have been acquiring new customers. They buy your products, they pay their bills. And they bring you their problems. Not the kind of problems they share at home with their spouse or on the couch with their shrink. Rather they share the problems they have with whatever it is you sold them. They want you to do it differently. They want their money back. They can’t make your website work. Customers inevitably run into issues and expect that you will help them find resolution.

And really there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, your customer’s problems represent a major opportunity for you to build a relationship with them, surprise and delight them, and build a great reputation and engender strong word-of-mouth. How can you do this? It’s simple, really; building great relationships with customers is little different from building relationships with friends. It is a mater of spending time, paying attention, listening and responding. It works the same with customer relations; just like you learn to appreciate your new friends as you spend more time with them and get to know them better, you’ll build lasting connections with your customers, too.

Here are 5 straightforward things you can do to build strong ties, encourage word-of-mouth and create relationships that will last!

Strike fast. First things first: attack. Whether a new customer walks into your shop or a new visitor loads a page on your site, this is the moment to begin the magic. Say hello, whether in person or via a banner or pop-up and have a smile on your face whether that face is physical or digital. It is critical that you begin the process immediately in order to let the new customer know that you are available, accessible, and interested in them as a person. If you are a service provider look for ways to educate the visitor about what you do and the values with which you do it; if you are bricks and mortar retail, be a welcoming presence so they feel comfortable asking questions; and if you are a web-based business make sure that your contact us information is front and center.

Follow up. Be sure to follow your initial introduction with a kind “May I help you find something?” or a “Welcome aboard” email if they register on your site. Studies have shown clearly that the follow-up is the most important step in building a lasting relationship. It is important that you not be annoying or overbearing in these communications, but a special offer, or simply a nice, personalized email goes a very long way to building those warm/fuzzy feelings.

Know them. Whether you get to know about the people who buy your products or services by talking with them and asking them about themselves, or by gleaning their data from their web visits, it is essential that you try to learn about your customers as people. They are, after all, individuals with different values, priorities, and needs and you can only serve them well if you know a bit about them. Keep track of their buying data so that you can offer them the things they want, survey them so that you can ask specific questions, send them offers so you can better understand what they find important.

Solve their problems. Whatever it takes is what you’ll need to do in order to build that relationship and create that great word-of-mouth buzz. Listen to their suggestions, make returns and credits a breeze, and when they ask you for your help with something, do it fast! If a customer calls you or writes you, get back to them as soon as you can. If someone calls, be sure to pick up the phone or call them back as soon as possible. And if someone walks in the store – greet them with a smile and ask how you can be of help.

Ask them to come back. When they leave your shop, shoot them a “Have a nice day and see you soon.” When they haven’t been on your site for a while, shoot them a “We miss you” email. The point is to stay in touch and try to remain top of mind with your customers; you want them thinking about you, talking about you, and coming back to you soon. Remember that business is a 2-way street; you are dependent on your customers for their business and they on you for the service you provide or the products you sell. Build a strong, mutually beneficial relationship and they will come back over and over and over!

Symbiosis illustration, Wikipedia: Henry Scherren, 1906

Summertime Logo Fun Mike | July 21st, 2014

Summertime, right? Business tends to slow, strategy meetings are put aside in favor of ling weekends and early-dismissal Fridays. Vacations crowd the schedule, choices have to be made about which music festivals to attend, the grill and that beautiful whole snapper await and, frankly, our focus gets a bit soft. Between the chilled cocktails and the (please pass the) guacamole we find it a bit hard to concentrate. So what better time to take a few minutes for a bit of business fun, right? And what could be more fun than looking at a few great logos and deciphering the meaning hidden in each of them.

The art of logo design is a fabulous mash of artistry, strategy, and execution that, in the case of the best logos, culminates in an instantly recognizable symbol of a brand that conveys the substance or meaning of an organization. This can sometimes be just for fun, but often can contain significance about a company’s history, mission, or service. Here are 5 of my favorites and a bit of history behind each.

1. The Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo logo is a wonderful mashup of animals (duh) within a stylized cityscape, using negative space images of tall buildings to define the giraffe’s legs. Such a clever use of meaningful imagery to make this institution distinctly of and by New York!

2. Baskin Robbins

Exactly how many flavors of ice cream are sold by this iconic franchise? Well, I am glad you asked! The company has been around since the 1940s and adopted the ’31’ moniker in 1953, to illustrate the fact that they had “a flavor for every day of the month!” The current updated version of the logo cleverly uses the brand’s pink and blue color scheme to subtly emphasize the number ’31’ encompassed in the logotype. Sweet, indeed.

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Small Business and Startups: 7 Habits of Me Mike | July 14th, 2014

Steven Covey started it all with his seminal book, “7 Habits of Effective People.” His work has spawned hundreds of blog posts – a quick search turns up the “21 Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs,” and the “7 Habits of Effective Managers,”  even the “10 Habits of Happy Mothers.”

All of this exploration of habits and success, habits and effectiveness, habits and happiness led me to ask myself: “Self, I ask, what are your habits? Are they effective? Do they lead to my own success and happiness?” “Hmmm,” I answer, “Not sure.” It did start me thinking about my own life and work habits – what do I do on a daily basis that could be categorized ad habit? Do these work for me? Are my own habits a help or a hindrance? A quick analysis of the things I do habitually could help me to understand which work for me and which I might want to train myself out of. So this morning I sat and made a list (habit #4, below!):

  • Wake up early and get to work. Although I often awake without it, my alarm goes off at 530am on weekdays and I am typically at the computer answering emails (and drinking coffee) between 545 and 6. It takes me anywhere from 5 to 40 minutes to answer the important ones, trash the spammy ones, and read/sort the others to deal with later in the day. I check in on overnight customer service tickets to see if there are any issues that need to be dealt with right away, and also check on any tests we might be running or surveys we might have sent out recently or things of that sort.

Is this an “effective” habit? YES. I know enough about myself to know that I am most efficient in the morning, but also know that my mind is not fully awake for an hour or two after I get up. If I take care of the simple tasks (like answering emails) and leave the more complex ones for later in the morning I am at my most effective.

  • Read newspapers and online sources. Once the emails have been answered, and I have reassured myself that the site didn’t crash overnight, I sit with my (second) cup of coffee and read the paper, as well as several online blogs and other news/information sources. I typically start at the front page and work my way through to business, technology, op-ed, and politics (sometimes sports, especially if the NBA is in season!)

Is this an “effective” habit? YES. Information is critical to me as a business owner/manager. From news sources I learn about events that may effect the markets, about businesses that interest me or may have some strategic importance to mine, and absorb ideas and trends that can inform decisions I make every day. Keeping a finger on the pulse of the world makes me a better manager.

  • Analyze yesterday’s business data. One of the first things I do when I get to the office is to take a deeper dive into the BI data that I receive overnight. I am looking closely at sales figures, traffic, site registrations, and user activity for the prior 24 hours. I typically spend 30-60 minutes with spreadsheets, taking time to compare the day with prior periods and determining any patterns or trends that may impact decision-making.

Is this an “effective” habit? UNCERTAIN. While it is important for managers to have an intimate relationship with daily business numbers and data, I could probably limit the time I spend on this every day and do it weekly without compromising strategy or decision making.

  • Make lists. Most days I open my moleskin and start my work by writing a list of the 6 or 7 things I hope to accomplish before bed that night. This can include people I need to call, websites I need to visit, notes to share with department managers or the bookkeeper, emails I need to write, etc. Not everything I need to do makes the daily list, and there are many days when I don’t get through the entire thing, but the list helps me in two important ways – first it is a constant reminder, in my face, of what I need to get done; second it serves as a daily journal, allowing me to look back to remind myself of the exact date I had a phone call with so-and-so, or requested such-and-such from one of my colleagues.

Is this an “effective” habit? YES. Listing provides me with structure and helps me to remember and keep track of important tasks and events. By creating short lists, I prompt myself to finish work on time and allows me to compartmentalize tasks so that one doesn’t intrude on the others.

  • Return emails promptly. In the course of a given day, I probably check my email 20-30 times. I tend to deal with them in real time and answer most of them promptly. Sometimes an email check-in will take 2-3 minutes, sometimes as much as 15 or 20.

Is this an “effective” habit? PROBABLY NO. But a hard habit to break, nonetheless. Everything I have read suggest that the best way to deal with emails (and the way to limit their obtrusiveness) is to check email several times a day, on a pre-determined  schedule. Managed in the way I typically handle it, email can be a distraction, and can limit productivity by breaking concentration, splitting focus, and forcing re-prioritization. Must. Stop. Checking. Email.

  • Take an afternoon coffee break. I know myself well enough to predict that between 230 and 3 I start to flag. By flag, I mean yawn. By yawn, I men nod out in front of my computer. I have not decided if this is simply because by 3 in the afternoon, I have already been at work for 9 hours or if this is due to my natural body rhythms, but the point of it is that I need a break. Sometimes I go for a short walk and other times I open the paper and read a bit or watch a video online. 15 minutes is what it usually takes before I can get back to matters at hand.

Is this an “effective” habit? YES. By mid-afternoon, my energy has been drained and coffee is what brings me back. Not just the caffeine, mind you. The break itself helps me to recharge batteries, refresh energy, and re-set my mind and body for the remainder of the day.

  • Go home for dinner. The work-life split/dilemma is something that business owners and managers struggle with every day. How to focus on the important things in life while effectively managing a business is a challenge for all of us. One of my answers to this is to structure my day in a way that allows me to spend time with the people I love most in the world, while keeping an eye on the store. In the old days a grocer may have lived upstairs from his store; my version of this is to live within short walking distance of my office and to head home in the late afternoon to finish my day working there. This allows me to sign off for a couple hours to help make dinner and to hang out with my wife at the end of the workday. Even though I normally check back in at work after dinner and finish up any tasks that need to get done, at least I am at home and paying attention to that part of my life.

Is this an “effective” habit? YES. This is something I enthusiastically recommend to all managers and entrepreneurs. Keeping life in balance requires a commitment to both work and home, and being home at the important moments of the day is a large part of that.

Photo: Old Dog – Wikipedia, Lisa M. Herndon Alexander Torrenegra