How Crowdsourcing Can Help Agencies Lower Costs and Reimagine Their Business Models Ross Kimbarovsky | May 24th, 2017

In the days of Don Draper, agency life was different. Agencies had account men, creatives, and clients willing to pay a lot of money. Things have changed quite a bit since then.

When computers and the internet were added to the marketing mix, suddenly many agencies were fighting for their lives.

There are still heavy hitters in the agency world, but many of them have struggled to keep pace with innovation. Even smaller, more nimble agencies have found themselves in a position where managing overhead and declining client budgets is threatening their existence.

The truth is that agencies are spending so much time and so many resources on trying to keep up with the relentless pace of digital innovation that their overhead is ballooning while their revenue is eroding.

Companies, in the meantime, are playing Russian roulette with their brands by cobbling together piecemeal marketing through freelancers without any kind of strategic guidance.

Everyone loses in that scenario.

That’s where crowdsourcing can help.

Maintaining an in-house creative staff is expensive and takes a lot of time. With the crowd, you get access to a creative pool many times larger than anything you could tap in-house, for a fraction of the cost. While strategy is still necessary to make sure the crowd is effectively utilized, it’s far less expensive to hire one strategist than four designers.

Now you might be wondering – why would an agency crowdsource design when it can leverage it’s internal design team instead?

The answer might surprise you.

Watch the video for four reasons why crowdsourcing represents an opportunity for agencies to reinvent themselves and their business.

5 Scientifically Proven Ways To Improve Your Focus and Concentration Amanda Bowman | May 22nd, 2017

Anyone looking to maximize their productivity, achieve goals, and advance their career must learn how to focus their attention and eliminate distractions.

Distractions in our modern day work environments abound; learning to direct your attention amongst the endless chatter in our lives is crucial to success.

There are many different strategies that can help minimize distractions, decrease stress, and improve focus. Not all work for everyone, which is why we wanted to explore whether there’s scientific support for some of those strategies.

We found five scientifically sound strategies and want to share them with you:

1. Meditation

Meditation isn’t just for yogis and new age-y folks listening to Enya. Vastly successful business people – Oprah, Jerry Seinfeld, Joe Rogan, Jeff Weiner and Arianna Huffington, to name just a few – are all advocates for the practice, and swear by its effectiveness in calming the mind and improving focus.

Studies have shown meditation can alter your brain matter by reducing your stress levels, which consequently leads to better mental health and improved decision making. A study published in Consciousness and Cognition, for example found that meditation training improved cognition, leading to a better mood, increased verbal and non-verbal reasoning, and improved capability for manipulating mental information.

According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, mindfulness meditation refers to “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment.”  Anyone working in a highly stimulating, fast-paced environment knows that being centered, focused, and aware is critical to successfully navigating the overload of day-to-day activity.

The benefits of mindfulness meditation are clear. Regular practice can boost the immune system, improve your emotional well-being, and significantly increase your ability to focus.

Read the rest of this post »

12 Questions with Self-Taught Designer and crowdSPRING Creative jhharoon Nick Bowersox | May 19th, 2017

In our 12 Questions blog series, we feature interviews with someone from the crowdSPRING creative community of 200,000+ designers & writers from 200 countries. Today we feature Jahanzeb, who goes by the username jhharoon.

Jahanzeb is a self-taught designer (and self-proclaimed handyman) from Pakistan that has been on crowdSPRING for over five years. During that time, Jahanzeb has participated in over 700 projects with a focus on logo design. We asked Jahanzeb 12 Questions about design, creative inspiration, and what it’s like working on crowdSPRING:

Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: miamiman Audree | May 18th, 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 logo project:

The challenge of this project was to create a cool logo for a Cape Cod brewery. A blackfish is a type of whale… and now a type of brewery!

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

Nicely done, miamiman, nicely done!

6 Tips to Help You Build a Great Team For Your Small Business or Startup Arielle Kimbarovsky | May 17th, 2017

Image source: rawpixel.com

No matter what kind of business you own or the size of that business, chances are you’ll need a team of employees supporting you as you develop and grow your company.

A team is a group of people who share a common purpose and a common goal or set of goals.

A great team can make or break your business. That’s a lot of pressure put on us as business owners and entrepreneurs!

What differentiates winning teams from teams that fail or stagnate?

The key is to know what you’re looking for, and to adhere to the values that you want to instill in your team. Yunha Kim, founder of Simple Habit, emphasizes the importance of finding people who care:

Find smart people who care about the product. The most important thing you can do early on is build a team of people who move fast, work hard, and genuinely care. Your product will always change, and your early team members will have a huge impact in shaping it. Our team uses our product personally on daily basis and this has helped us build a great product.

With a clear direction, people who care, and a lot of patience, you can build a winning team that will set your company up for success. Here are six tips to help you build a great team for your small business or startup.

1. Identify Your Culture

Image source: Lauren Mancke

What are your values? Goals? Methods?

These are all things that you’ve either thought about or quickly should because they’re all essential elements in defining a company’s culture.

Your culture will be unique to your team, and will dictate the way you envision and plan for the future, communicate with each other, the amount of freedom within the company, and all the other details that make your company yours. Before you even begin to build your team, you have to identify the culture that you want those team members to embrace.

Unlike other aspects of business, culture is something that’s harder to teach. People will either fit in, or they’ll feel out of place and pull the team in a different direction. So before you look for people, consider the culture you’re building. And then identify habits of employees who will help you win.

For more information on identifying your team culture, check out 352 Inc’s blog post Defining Team Cultures Within Your Company.

2. Find Your Experts

Image source: Farzad Nazifi

Before you check for a culture fit, look for people with the technical skills you need. Depending on your company, you may need a mix of engineers, customer service people, marketers, designers, lawyers, managers, and more. It’s important to identify the specific roles you need to fill, and the skills that are required

Depending on your company, you may need a mix of engineers, customer service people, marketers, designers, lawyers, managers, and more. It’s important to identify the specific roles you need to fill, and the skills required for those roles.

Look for people that know their role better than you do. When you surround yourself with smarter people, you’re automatically forcing yourself to delegate all while strengthening your team by filling some of your own knowledge gaps.

For startups and small businesses, filling these roles all at once may be financially impossible. Luckily, smaller companies have some creative alternatives. They can hire people who have broad skillsets, like an engineer with design experience, or they can hire just the essential people to launch their product and then be on the lookout for additional team members once revenue starts rolling in. Holly Cardew, CEO of Pixc, offers a solution with her mentality of “always be hiring”. Cardew says that she saved a lot of time by keeping a growing list of potential candidates:

I thought I needed money to hire key players, however, in fact, I should have been making a list of amazing key players that I wanted to have on the team, ready to hire as soon as we grew. If you don’t do that, you waste too much time once you do have an opening: Recruiting, vetting, interviewing, and deciding. You can move much faster if you already have some amazing candidates in mind.

3. Check for Culture Fit

Image source: Joshua Ness

Although it should be obvious, it’s worth emphasizing: expertise shouldn’t be your only deciding factor when choosing a person for your team.

Make sure each person you choose for your team fits the culture that you identified earlier. Take a close look at how they communicate, what type of personality they are, or even how they respond to unexpected questions. You want to find out how they work, what types of people they like to work with, and how they react. Check to see if they share your company’s values, see if their personal goals would fit in well with your goals for the company.

Remember that a good cultural fit doesn’t mean that you found a new best friend to work with, it just means that there will be a good harmony in moving the company forward. Cultural fit also doesn’t mean that every person on your team is the same- diversity is an asset. But you do need cultural fit to succeed.

A 2005 study looked at the employee performance, satisfaction, and contribution of employees who both fit and didn’t fit a specific company culture. The study revealed that the employees who shared the company’s values and goals consistently outperformed the employees who didn’t fit in as well, and they also reported higher levels of satisfaction. Their cultural fit also ended up keeping the employees in the company longer, which helped the company focus on product growth rather than onboarding and team changes.

Also identify people who understand the difference between leadership and management. This difference is important because successful teams often reflect the work of many informal leaders.

Read the rest of this post »

Use Science To Avoid Bad Business Decisions Ross Kimbarovsky | May 16th, 2017

If you’ve recently made a bad decision (or a baker’s dozen of them), you are not alone. Not a single person is immune from making bad decisions.

Humans make mistakes.

Let’s face it, even though we often deny it, we have inherently imperfect judgment. Anxiety, stress and fear can easily distort our choices. In fact, in the competitive and strenuous world of small businesses and startups, it’s much too easy to make bad decisions. Often, we don’t even know whether the decision we are making is good or bad.

This is because the aggregate total of the decisions we make throughout the day impacts our ability to clearly see the upsides and downsides of some of the decisions we must make. Plainly put: the more decisions we must make, the more likely we’ll make bad decisions.

This is known as decision fatigue.

In this video, learn the science behind decision fatigue and what you can do to avoid it (and bad decisions) in the future.

7 Smart Ways to Increase Brand Awareness for Your Business Amanda Bowman | May 15th, 2017

Brand awareness reflects the degree to which customers or potential customers can recognize or recall a brand and correctly associate that brand with a specific product or service. Creating brand awareness is one of the key components in promoting a product or service.

In his article “The Brand Formula”, entrepreneur and marketer Seth Godin explains why brand awareness is important and presents a simple formula for measuring brand awareness:

What’s a brand? I think it is the product of two things:

[Prediction of what to expect] times [emotional power of that expectation].

If I encounter a brand and I don’t know what it means or does, it has zero power. If I have an expectation of what an organization will do for me, but I don’t care about that, no power.

Godin goes on to write that he believes building a valuable brand involves building “the most predictable, emotional experience you can among those that care about you.”

Here are seven ways to help you increase the brand awareness of your company:

1. Provide Exceptional Service

It seems obvious: treat your customers well, and they’ll keep coming back. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen from high-profile customer service disasters such as United Airlines’ “dragged off of a plane” fiasco or Comcast’s disastrously viral “recorded phone call,” great service isn’t a given.

Companies like Zappos, Trader Joes, and Wegmans are renowned for their customer service. A simple search online turns up many stories of how these companies go above and beyond expectations to really please their customers.

There’s a good reason those companies go out of their way to make customers happy. Happy customers tell their friends and colleagues about their great experiences.

Such testimonials are powerful. According to a recent survey by Harris Poll, over 80% of Americans seek recommendations from family and friends before making a purchase of any kind.  Attaching positive experiences to your brand with exceptional service is an invaluable form of marketing.

StoreStream Metric’s Adrian Weidmann confirms this:

The two most challenging, elusive and yet most effective operational ‘home runs’ for your brand are the atmosphere and courteous staff.

2. Be real

Exceptional customer service has to include the idea that your company strives to be as authentic as possible. We’re not talking about farm-to-table dining and mason jars, though. Remind your customers that there are real people behind the brand. After all, customer service impacts the degree to which customers and prospects trust your brand.

Read the rest of this post »

20 Essential Tools for Startups and Entrepreneurs Katie Lundin | May 12th, 2017

Every year, there are many entrepreneurs who start new businesses. And, of course, there are many others who never quite achieve lift-off. What differentiates the entrepreneurs who act from the dreamers who never try?

Chances are good that the perceived barriers to entry are just too intimidating to overcome.

According to a 2015 Gallup report, 25% of Americans have thought about starting their own business and decided against it. 

A business demands many skillsets – fundraiser, marketer, HR rep, web designer, and so much more. And since 62% of businesses in the US have 5 or fewer employees, this means that many of these responsibilities inevitably fall to the founder. The great news is that there is a huge variety of tools available to help support potential entrepreneurs.

We’ve gathered a collection of tools for startups and entrepreneurs that help you simplify, streamline, and get your new business running in no time.

 

Fundraising Tools

67.2% of entrepreneurs use their personal savings to fund their start-up. And, with the lack of personal savings ranking as the second most common barrier to entry for starting a new business, it’s impossible to ignore the importance of raising funds. Luckily, there are other options, besides draining your personal bank account.

Before you follow in the footsteps of 52% of entrepreneurs (who pay for their start-up by taking on debt before their business even makes its first penny) consider angel investors and crowdsourcing.

 

AngelList

AngelList is an online resource for would-be entrepreneurs. The site seeks to link start-ups with Angel investors to provide funding. Businesses can apply for funding with a wide number of incubators affiliated with AngelList here. AngelList continues to grow. Tech Crunch reports,

AngelList, the online platform that had made itself indispensable to early-stage startups for fundraising and recruiting, said it closed out last year having raised $163 million online on behalf of 441 companies. That’s about 56 percent higher than the year before in 2014.

 

Kickstarter

Kickstarter raises crowdsourced funds to a wide range of creative projects. They claim that their mission is to “help bring creative projects to life”; but don’t be discouraged if you’re not an artist, filmmaker or writer. Kickstarter welcomes projects in a wide range of fields.

As of May of 2017 Kickstarter has raised over $3 billion for almost 125,000 successfully funded projects. The important thing to remember about Kickstarter is that it’s an all-or-nothing platform. In other words, if you don’t meet your fundraising goal, you won’t see a penny of the money pledged to your project.

 

Indiegogo

Indiegogo is similar to Kickstarter in that it raises money through crowdfunding. But, Indiegogo bills itself as the “launchpad for entrepreneurial ideas”. Beyond the marketing spin, there are definitely concrete differences between these two platforms.

Indiegogo offers all-or-nothing projects like Kickstarter, but it also offers flexible funding options that allow an entrepreneur to claim the money raised even if they don’t reach their initial goal. Indiegogo also includes a marketplace service on their site that sells the products that have been funded through Indiegogo projects.

Whether you pursue crowdfunding or angel investors, know that you’ve got these easy-to-use tools at your disposal.

Read the rest of this post »

How Marketing Velocity Can Help You Increase Sales and Revenue Ross Kimbarovsky | May 11th, 2017

I’ve previously talked about lean marketing – testing your ideas in small batches, listening to feedback, tweaking campaigns, and re-testing. There’s another important concept that complements lean marketing: marketing velocity.

Marketing velocity is the speed at which marketing efforts deliver measurable results.

Why should you care about marketing velocity?

The answer is deceptively simple: speed matters. Until you actually deploy your marketing tactics, you learn nothing. You can spend months strategizing, developing theories, creating collateral, etc. But real testing doesn’t begin until you actually market.

If your competitors are able to set their goals, develop strategies and deploy marketing campaigns at a faster velocity than you can muster, you will never be able to beat them in the market unless your strategies and tactics are materially better. Even if your strategies and tactics are better, you’ll still need to deploy them at a reasonable pace. After all, there are many good tools that allow marketers to track, measure and turn-around real-time insights about their marketing efforts. The best marketers can make adjustments and tweak their strategies in near real-time.

If your competitors are doing so and you’re not, you’re already falling behind. Ultimately, you need marketing that moves at the speed of ideas.

Here are three tips to help you improve your team’s marketing velocity:

1. Create a solid foundation for success.
2. Test in small batches.
3. Be prepared to change gears quickly.

Watch the video for more detail on these three tips and how you can implement them in your marketing strategy:

Fresh from the SPRING: lamosca04 Audree | May 11th, 2017

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

The challenge of this project was to create a logo for a fundraising event benefiting programs for children in their first 5 years of life. The simple approach of this design conveys the concept beautifully.

Let us start the slow clap for lamosca04. Check out more great work on lamosca04’s profile page.

Nicely done, lamosca04, nicely done!

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 have 200,000 creative professionals ready to help you with custom logo design, web design, or a new company name. 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 »

Latest tweets

crowdSPRING @crowdspring
6 Tips to Help You Build a Great Team For Your Small Business or Startup https://t.co/LxqbL9Kd5u https://t.co/DOcCgxgHxf
crowdSPRING @crowdspring
Paid Search: Are You Wasting Your Money? https://t.co/rKvAP1vx42
crowdSPRING @crowdspring
12 Questions: Meet Cyrene Quiamco (USA) https://t.co/Daq1iyBleI

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 200,000 designers and writers work on crowdSPRING. We create designs and names people love. 100% guaranteed.

Learn more »