7 Important Packaging Design Trends Amanda Bowman | September 18th, 2017

Packaging used to be inconvenient, hard to open, and uninspiring.  Much packaging still is.

But smart companies have found that exceptional packaging can create brand value and a phenomenal customer experience.

Packaging design is having its moment. You don’t have to look further than the unbelievable number of YouTube channels dedicated to the unboxing of products to see how far packaging has come. You can now spend hours watching someone free a bevy of toys, electronics, or even food and makeup from the bonds of artistic prison.

The pragmatism of blister packs and frustration-free packaging still have a place. Still, for those companies that ship a packaged good, a customer’s first experience with that product is critical. It’s the first touch-point between you and your customers.

If you’re not investing in packaging design, you’re missing out on a powerful branding opportunity.

As with anything designed, the “look and feel” of packages also goes through the ebbs and flows of trends. To help you stay current, we’ve identified seven important trends that you should understand today.

Minimalism

Simplicity never goes out of style. Streamlined, elegant, and visually simple, the minimalism trend feels timeless and fresh all at once.

Businesses of all kinds can incorporate a minimalist look into their package design. It’s a very appealing style because it has artistic merit without overwhelming or isolating the viewer. Many companies are adopting this trend for their package design, and one of the great aspects of this trend is that there is more than one way to achieve it.

Bold typography against stark white, a splash of color against a clean background, a basic arrangement of simple shapes; all of these are just a few of the ways elegance and clarity are expressed in minimalist package design.

by Sucre

by Branding

Go bold

There are plenty of things that go into a well-designed package, but one of the most important is color.Colors evoke emotions and impact a consumer’s buying decisions.

Read the rest of this post »

7 Signs It’s Time to Update Your Small Business Website Katie Lundin | September 14th, 2017

Your online presence is vitally important to your business and your brand.

If your website doesn’t sell your company’s products or services effectively, you’ll find it impossible to compete in an increasingly crowded, and noisy world.

According to the Search Engine Optimization blog Mr. SEO,

…if you are in business, you should also know that 93% of all buying decisions start with an online search.

And, today’s consumers are more tech-savvy and discerning than ever before. If your website isn’t well-designed, quick-to-load, and easy-to-navigate, you’re sabotaging your brand’s valuable online presence.

A 2016 article in Fortune revealed that for the first time, consumers were making more purchases online than in stores. 51% of purchases were made online in 2016 – a significant jump from 48% the year before. And the trend is accelerating.

With so much to gain, your website should be working for you, not against. The stakes are too high to risk losing business due to weak website design or poor user experience. So don’t leave it to chance.

Check out our list of 7  trackable factors that will tell you if and when it’s time for a website redesign.

 

1. Your Website Is Non-Responsive

Millions of consumers are searching the web for businesses on their smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs every day. If your website is non-responsive, you’re making a bad impression on those consumers.

And, here’s why: websites designed to be viewed on a computer screen are designed to look good on a computer screen. Makes sense, right? But, your smartphone is a different shape and is smaller (at least for a few more years) than your laptop.

If your website can’t adapt to the various screen shapes and sizes consumers are using to view it, it’s going to look bad and be harder to navigate on mobile screens. We wrote about this earlier this year in our post about Small Business Web & App Design: Five Common UX Mistakes to Avoid (see mistake #5).

Responsive design exists to solve that challenge. Tyler Horvath of Tyton Media explains:

Responsive web design is an approach to creating a website that allows it to work on any device; whether it’s a mobile phone, tablet, TV or a laptop… Responsive web design uses HTML, CSS and sometimes Javascript to move, shrink, grow, hide and show elements based on the users’ device.

A responsive website is easier to read on any device, making it more likely that a viewer will actually read and remain on your site. More than that, as of April of 2015, Google has included responsive design in their SEO algorithm. Sites with responsive designs rank higher than their non-responsive brethren.

Every day your website remains non-responsive, you’re losing customers. Time to upgrade to a responsive website.

 

2. Your Web Site Has a Low Search Engine Ranking

I’m not going to say that all people are lazy, but I do believe that most people prefer things to be easy.

No one wants to scroll through 10 pages of search engine results to find the information they’re seeking. Heck! I don’t want to scroll through more than 2 pages.

So how do you ensure that customers will actually find your website? You’ll need to claim some real estate in Google’s coveted top Search Engine rankings. Read the rest of this post »

Make Your Small Business Smarter with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Amanda Bowman | September 11th, 2017

Mention artificial intelligence (AI) to someone, and they’ll probably think of things like sentient robots or murderous computers. (“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dave.”)

You have to look no further than the phone in your pocket or the credit card in your wallet to know the truth: AI is no longer just a science fiction plot device; it’s everywhere, and super useful for your business.

What is AI? At its most basic, AI is the ability for computers and machines to show real intelligence. It’s a computer’s ability to understand your request and work out the best action or answer from all of the available information.

Another term often used alongside AI is “machine learning” (ML). ML is a type of AI that many companies use right now to great effect.

Your wish is my command

AI is everywhere.

Your smartphone uses AI to understand voice commands. Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana all use AI to understand what you’re telling them to do.

Much of what you see on big store websites like Amazon or Target rely on machine learning to predict what you might like and what you’ll buy. And banks often use AI alongside human review to figure out if a transaction is fraudulent.

AI and machine learning are not just for large companies. Small businesses can add machine learning to their repertoire of tools to help make better decisions. For example, business owners can take existing customer data and apply machine learning to find patterns and trends that used to be impossible to uncover.

If you work in marketing or sales, machine learning can be used to track how your customers interact with your brand across multiple social networks, all in real time. It can make collecting and making sense of vast amounts of information like sales data or customer profiles much easier. AI saves you time to concentrate on more meaningful work, such as finding ways to use the information these systems uncover.

Read the rest of this post »

Twitter Link Roundup #308 – Terrific Reads for Small Business, Entrepreneurs, Marketers, and Designers! Amanda Bowman | September 8th, 2017

For hundreds of years, people have been worried that technology will replace people.

Yet at every step, technology has also helped to create jobs.

Today, with the increasing promise and prominence of Artificial Intelligence (AI), people are worried that computer intelligence will replace human intelligence.

The Economist thoughtfully reassures us that while AI will unquestionably take over certain jobs, the use of AI will demand specific job creation.

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto! (Sorry – I couldn’t resist).

Now, we hope you enjoy another great set of links and articles that we shared with you over the past week on our crowdSPRING Twitter account (and on Ross’s Twitter account). We regularly share our favorite posts on entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, logo design, web design, startups, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

Read the rest of this post »

Grow Your Business With This Excellent Advice from 7 Exceptional Small Business Coaches Katie Lundin | September 7th, 2017

No matter how successful you are or how good you are at what you do, there’s always room for improvement.

Sometimes an outside perspective is exactly what you need. Businesses coaches offer precious experience and tested strategies to help take your skills – and your business – to the next level.

There are a number of reasons why you may want to seek out a business coach.

As a business evolves and grows, you need to build new strategies and tactics to thrive. If you’re too busy, or too close to your business, you may not be able to make the adjustments needed for your business to grow. People often refer to this as working in the business versus working on the business.

Business coach and entrepreneur Scott Hallman (more on him below) shares his own cautionary tale in an interview with Mindvalley Insights:

We began to lose money. See, I made the mistake of thinking that I had succeeded at this level here – I don’t need to make any structural changes to now take my business to the next level. And we had to scramble. We had to scramble to keep our reputation. I had to literally stop our growth… it was a humbling experience…

Business coaching delivers the perspective you need to determine how your business needs to change in order to successfully evolve; and, the guidance to successfully implement those changes.

Do you struggle with accountability and follow through?  As business guru Brian Tracy once observed,

You have to put in many, many, many tiny efforts that nobody sees or appreciates before you achieve anything worthwhile.

Accountability and self-discipline are vital to your business’s success. Business coaches provide that extra accountability you may need. Entrepreneur’s Jeff Boss writes:

A coach serves as an accountability partner who challenges you to strategize and develop your goals while aligning your efforts toward achieving them.

Finally, you may be struggling to achieve real, measurable results.

Intentions are great, but in business the bottom line is king. Good business coaching provides tried, actionable strategies that will deliver increased profits.

If you’re not ready to pull the trigger and hire a business coach today, we’ve got you covered. We’ve curated a list of 7 exceptional small business coaches sharing some of their best advice.

 

1) Brad Sugars

Image courtesy of ActionCoach

Brad Sugars is one of the top names in business coaching today. He started his journey as an entrepreneur by running a few small businesses while he was still attending university. In his twenties – already an in-demand speaker and business consultant, Brad founded Action International (now called ActionCOACH) in an effort to bridge the gap “between knowledge and implementation”.

Brad hired and trained business coaches to share his knowledge and strategies with a wider audience. Eventually, his coaches were in such high demand that Brad was forced to evolve his business, yet again. Brad franchised ActionCOACH; which now operates in 54 countries, coaching more than 15,000 businesses per week.

So what can you learn from the ActionCOACH? In his book Billionaire in Training Sugars asserts,

The smartest people in the world hire people smarter than themselves.

Read the rest of this post »

7 Things You Need To Know To Create an Effective Business Card Amanda Bowman | September 5th, 2017

There are few statements as widespread in business as “Here’s my card.” Business cards have been a part of any entrepreneur’s self-promotion toolkit for a long time. How long? The Chinese handed out calling cards in the 15th century to let people know they planned to visit. The French in the 17th century swapped cards as a way of introduction, and this spread to the British and eventually America soon after.

Business cards have been a part of any entrepreneur’s self-promotion toolkit for a long time. Hundreds of years ago, the Chinese handed out calling cards (in the 15th century) to let people know they planned to visit. The French in the 17th century swapped cards as a way of introduction, and this spread to the British and eventually America.

The exchanging of cards is one of the most ubiquitous traditions in the business world. This institution endures even in a world dominated by e-signatures and digital address books. You can chalk up their longevity to many reasons, but one of the biggest is that exchanging information digitally still feels impersonal and cold. Business cards are tangible reminders of your business (and the fact that you have to be there to hand them out) and can’t be beaten for memorability.

You can chalk up the longevity of business cards to many reasons, but one of the biggest is that exchanging information digitally continues to feel impersonal and cold. Business cards are tangible reminders of your business (and the fact that you have to be there to hand them out) and can’t be beaten for memorability.

Business cards are also a cheap and effective way to ensure people have accurate contact information . More importantly, they serve as a physical reminder that you met someone. That can become a trigger for reflection and often leads to more business or a renewed connection.

But before you rush down to your local print shop to get a box of five hundred, here are some essential tips to make sure you get the best results.

Hire a professional

When you hand your card to someone, you give them a proxy for you and your company. That small piece of card stock is not just a way to hand someone your contact information. It’s a reminder of who you are, and what your company represents. If you don’t have the skills to create them yourself, make sure your card captures the essence of your brand: hire a professional. Designers on crowdspring have created many business card designs for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Read the rest of this post »

The Psychology of Design: Why Your Business Must Understand How Design Influences Customer Behavior Amanda Bowman | August 28th, 2017

Design can be an incredibly powerful tool when you understand how psychology influence’s people’s behavior. Science has proven that people respond differently to shapes, colors, patterns, and other design elements.

The good news is that you don’t need a degree in psychology to leverage good design practices in your own business or when you’re creating designs for someone else. You can apply basic psychological principles when formulating your next logo design, website design, print design or any other design project.

We took a close look at five psychological theories that can help you improve the effectiveness of the designs you use to market and grow your business.

 

Mental Models

The next time you walk up to a swinging door, take another, close look. What kind of door is it? How does it open? Do you think you should push or pull to open it?

The system your brain uses to figure out what to do is called a mental model. It’s the way you think something could work.

Your brain is continuously taking in information about the world and making sense of what it perceives. In the case of the door, our brain assesses many elements, including:

  • Whether the door uses a bar or push/pull plates,
  • What text labels are present,
  • Our previous experience using doors like this one, and
  • If we’ve never used one, maybe the memory of seeing someone else use one

Once we have this information in mind, we apply our mental model of how doors should work based on what we’ve learned to (hopefully correctly) try and open it.

Mental models are a powerful design tool because they leverage existing knowledge to help people make decisions about how to use something. Apple used mental models extensively when they introduced the iPhone in 2007. They relied on people’s mental models of real objects like phone books, telephones, and clocks to make the iPhone’s revolutionary interface more intuitive. It’s one reason why the early iPhone interfaces looked just like the non-digital objects they were seeking to replace. For example, the “phone book” had a visual look that reminded you of a phone book.

What happens when someone’s mental model doesn’t match how something ends up working? In the case of our door, we {BANG} push when we should have pulled or vice versa.  There is a mental model mismatch between how we think something should work and how it actually works. This mismatch can be highly frustrating, and if your products or designs suffer from a mental model mismatch, it could mean the difference between an engaged customer and one who does business with your competitor.

Read the rest of this post »

Twitter Link Roundup #307 – Terrific Reads for Small Business, Entrepreneurs, Marketers, and Designers! Amanda Bowman | August 25th, 2017

Photo by NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

On Monday, a total solar eclipse made its way across America. Millions of Americans watched the spectacle, reporting feelings of awe, wonder, and joy. It brought feelings of amazement in the grand vastness of our universe, and for a few minutes, the rest of the literal and figurative day disappeared.

Countless photographers took their shot (ha) at capturing the eclipse, but of course, NASA took some of the most incredible photos. Here are some of their best photos, giving us truly spectacular views at a once in a lifetime event.

Now, we hope you enjoy another great set of links and articles that we shared with you over the past week on our crowdSPRING Twitter account (and on Ross’s Twitter account). We regularly share our favorite posts on entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, logo design, web design, startups, leadership, social media, marketing, economics and other interesting stuff! Enjoy!

smallbusinessblog

 

startupsblog

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: welikerock Audree | August 24th, 2017

When perusing our galleries here on crowdSPRING, we see some amazing work submitted in the projects. Today, we recognize a gem submitted in this clothing project:

 

The challenge of this project was to create an awesome T-shirt design for the 2017 Comic Con in New York City. It’s a huge pop culture event and they were looking for designs that would interest a crowd that is known for their love of video games, comic books, science fiction, superhero movies and more.

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

Nicely done, welikerock, and we like YOU!

How to Revive a Toxic Work Culture in 5 Steps Katie Lundin | August 24th, 2017

Look around your office.

Are you seeing signs of a toxic work environment? Are your employees tired? Discouraged? Burnt out?

If you’re seeing these symptoms in more than one or two employees there’s a strong chance that a toxic culture may have crept into your workplace. That’s a problem for your business and your employees. Unhappy workers are less productive, make more mistakes, and are more likely to seek employment elsewhere.

And, once the word gets out, it can be difficult for a company to recover from a poor work culture reputation. Business.com’s Robert Glazer points out:

In the age of companies like Glassdoor, an anonymous company feedback website, employees are able to share what they like, and really don’t like, about working for a company. This can make it very difficult, or even impossible, to recruit quality candidates if those reviews reflect a toxic company culture.

It’s vital that you act quickly to turn around the negative work environment before productivity lags and employees start leaving for sunnier shores. But before you can jump into changing anything about your work culture, you need to understand what culture is.

John Kotter of Kotter International defines culture this way:

Culture consists of group norms of behavior and the underlying shared values that help keep those norms in place.

This definition lays out a very important aspect of culture – it exists on more than one level. Culture isn’t just behaviors. It’s also a supporting infrastructure of beliefs and values that enable those behaviors.

To effect a real and lasting change, your business must be willing to tackle their cultural issues on both levels.

But, don’t worry – you don’t have to go it alone. We’ve created a step-by-step practical strategy guide to carry with you into the fray. So, let’s get started reclaiming your office culture.

 

Step One: Identify Problem Behaviors

What’s your brand of toxicity?

Each and every company is a unique creature. No two are exactly alike. When a company’s culture turns toxic, it takes its own unique path to get there. And, that journey determines what form that toxicity will take.

Every bad work culture is just as unique as the company to which it belongs. As a result, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for repairing a damaged work culture. The first step is always to examine your business’s culture to identify your specific challenges.

So, start by taking a good hard look around you. And remember to keep an open mind – you might be unpleasantly surprised by what you find. Before you can make any changes for the better, you have to face these uncomfortable truths head-on.

Here are some common problems to keep an eye out for: Read the rest of this post »

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