Fresh from the SPRING: greymatter Audree | January 12th, 2017

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

The challenge of this project was to create a thorny rose logo that is: “Fun. Dark. Gritty. Realistic. Deep. Powerful. Innovative.” We think greymatter checked off all the boxes with this design!

Let us start the slow clap for greymatter. Check out more great work on greymatter’s profile page.
Nicely done, greymatter, nicely done!

6 Experts Predict The Digital Marketing Trends for 2017 Arielle Kimbarovsky | January 11th, 2017

Image source: William Iven

Marketing is constantly evolving. Over the past few years, we’ve seen new social media platforms, new strategies, and new tactics. Everyone from entrepreneurs to experienced marketers/CEOs have had to rethink their strategies and tactics.

Among other changes, in 2016 we saw increasing interest in “content marketing” and a huge increase in noise on social media. The below graph from Google Trends shows that interest in content marketing flattened in the second half of 2016.

It seemed like everyone was writing about content marketing in 2016. We too wrote a few posts in 2016 on content marketing on the crowdSPRING blog: How To Create Content Marketing Unicorns, A Mile In Their Shoes: Framing Your Content Marketing Strategy, and Repurpose Great Writing With Visual Content Marketing.

And of course, everyone was content marketing. This created a lot of noise and many companies found themselves struggling to stand out.

2017 will bring a new set of marketing changes and opportunities. To learn more about what we’re going to see happen in marketing in 2017, we reached out to six marketing experts and asked them for their insights.

 

Content Marketing

According to Harris, content marketing is going to continue to trend into 2017- expanding well beyond blog posts. Harris, the CEO of Elumynt, a digital marketing agency, thinks that it won’t be enough for companies to hire strong writers or have their own employees write from experience:

Every startup is trying to create an “epic” blog post, which is making it harder and harder to rank (and harder and harder to outdo each other). The savvy ones will need to bring on experts to help with their blog strategy, but they will also need to spend time creating many other forms of content — such as video, graphics, podcasts and more. Hiring a “writer” to be your content strategist simply won’t work in 2017.

We couldn’t agree more. Trying to write an “epic” blog post is like trying to become a Silicon Valley unicorn overnight. It’s the modern version of trying to create a viral video, five years ago, that would be seen by tens of millions.

Instead of focusing on the attention grabbing, potentially explosive content, companies should focus on creating high quality content that people will actually want to read. In 2017, your content will have to stand out on its own in a sea of tweets, posts, and emails.

 

Value Driven Marketing

When asked about the next year in marketing, Josh Steimle focused on three key points: influencer marketing, empathy, and speed. Ultimately, Steimle emphasizes the idea that marketing in 2017 will focus on empathy, because it’s the way that customers differentiate high quality and low quality content. In 2016, there was a lot of useless content being pushed to consumers every day. Low quality content quickly becomes annoying and turns people away from your brand. But Steimle says that 2017 will be different:

In 2017, one advantage great marketers have that will become more clear is empathy–the ability to truly understand consumers. Many marketers just don’t “get it” and they’re trying to push what worked in the past, the “interruption marketing” as Seth Godin has described it. The ultimate victory will belong not to marketers who figure out how to interrupt consumers and get in their face, but the winning marketers will provide what consumers want, the way consumers want it, and there will be more of a win-win mentality.” Great marketers are concerned less with protecting what they create, and more concerned with connecting with consumers in an authentic way and moving fast to maintain that connection so somebody else doesn’t take their spot.

Steimle believes that companies will need to have a more clear idea of why they are asking for something and how they are going to provide true value to their customer outside of the product. In 2017, consumers will become more picky and smarter.

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Five Tips To Help You Brand Your Law Firm or Law Practice Ross Kimbarovsky | January 11th, 2017

For decades, law firm branding in the United States was simple: take the last names of the key equity partners, pick a font, and you have a name, logo and a brand. Such  simplicity has one very important drawback – it’s ineffective.

Many law firms and lawyers believe that branding is optional. That’s not quite right. Whether you want to or not – you have a brand. Your brand impacts everything you do. In fact, although clients typically hire individual attorneys, the law firm’s brand is the second most important reason clients retain particular legal counsel.

Big firms spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (and over time, millions, to craft their brands). Smaller law firms and solo practitioners can’t afford to invest so much into branding. The good news is that you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars to have a great legal brand.

I was a trial attorney for 13 years (initially an associate and then a partner at two Chicago firms). I didn’t just believe branding was important – branding was the reason I left my legal practice in 2007 to start crowdSPRING (more about that in the video below). Since then, crowdSPRING, with 200,000 designers and writers, has helped law firms and lawyers in the U.S. and around the world with logo design, web design, and other graphic design needs.

In the short video that follows, I offer five tips to help you brand you law firm or practice. Investing in your legal brand today will pay dividends later.

Ready to invest in your legal brand? It’s not as expensive as you think! Many law firms and lawyers have turned to crowdSPRING to create professional, unique brands for as little as $199. crowdSPRING’s Logo Design Service offers a step-by-step creative brief that helps you outline your firm’s needs and allows you to select from over 100 entries on average.

Five Reasons Entrepreneurs Should Invest in Design Early Nick Bowersox | January 10th, 2017

Image courtesy of FreePik

Logo design is often one of the first tasks an entrepreneur needs to outsource when starting a new business. Used to doing most of the work themselves, it can be hard for a small business owner to justify the expense of a professionally designed logo. Though cheaper options such as ready-made design stores and designing your own logo exist, they rarely produce the type of quality design that is expected in today’s business landscape. In some situations, these options can even harm your business.

When it comes to design, investing in quality as soon as possible is the best way to get the most growth out of your business. Otherwise, you may find yourself working harder than necessary to earn customer trust and stand out from the competition. Here are five ways that investing in design early can influence business growth:

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Supercharge Your Startup or Small Business With A New Top-Level Domain Name Arielle Kimbarovsky | January 9th, 2017

Naming a startup or small business is tricky. The company’s name sets the tone for how customers and prospects perceive the company and is a critical part of the brand. Of course, you also want people to remember your brand, so there’s a lot of pressure to find the perfect name.

When we name companies or products, we always see whether the corresponding domain name is available. Finding an available domain name is often more difficult than finding a great name. It’s one reason we turn to the crowdSPRING community when we need a new company name – leveraging the power of 200,000 creatives from around the world is much better than reading every dictionary in existence only to learn that every word in Swahili has already been registered. Trust me, I’m nearly fluent in Swahili (I say this only half-jokingly) after looking up thousands of possible domain names.

One reason domains have become more scarce is because today, it’s easier to create a website, and new names are being registered at an increasing pace. Suddenly your first twenty name choices already exist as a .com, and you may find yourself compromising on a name that doesn’t fit, or a domain that is too long to remember. Even worse, you might find yourself in a domain dispute- an increasingly troubling problem (10% increase in domain disputes in 2016 according to World Intellectual Property Organization).

One good strategy is to avoid generic names or domain/trademark lawsuits by using different top level domains (TLDs). A top level domain is the last part of a domain name- it’s everything that follows the dot (.com, .gov, .org, etc.). Typically, TLDs are separated into two categories: generic and country specific. TLDs like .fr for France or .biz for business have become more common over the past few years as companies looked at strengthening their SEO. Moz explains this in a post about CcTLDs, or country code top level domains:

Important in international SEO, ccTLDs are the single strongest way to show search engines and users where the site originates. This means that, all things being equal, example.fr will likely rank better in a French user’s SERP than example.us or example.com

But is this the only way to differentiate your company and strengthen your ranking?

You don’t have to resort to country level domain names to differentiate. In 2016, over 50 new TLDs became active, and more are expected to open in 2017. According to United Domains, TLDs like .music, .app, .sport, .hotel, and more gained popularity in 2016 in order to create more industry focus. New TLDs are gaining traction quickly, which means that they’ll become even more competitive with time. With more room for creativity in naming and more simple domains, it’s going to be even more important for entrepreneurs and small business owners to understand all of the new opportunities that come with the new TLDs.

Here are three things you should think about to take advantage of new TLDs:

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Is Your Logo As Flexible As Your Marketing Strategy? Nick Bowersox | January 6th, 2017

One of the biggest advantages when marketing a small business is the flexibility to try new strategies and explore opportunities to grow your business. Because they have a direct relationship with both the product and customer, small business entrepreneurs are able to quickly analyze what strategies are or are not working and adjust accordingly. This is especially an advantage in digital marketing, where a businesses willingness to try something new can be a significant competitive advantage for reaching new customers in meaningful ways.

Though you may be flexible enough to try new marketing tactics to grow your business in 2017, is your logo? Take a look at the checklist below to see if your logo is ready to move as quickly as you:

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Fresh from the SPRING: paganus Audree | January 5th, 2017

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

 

The challenge of this project was to create a book cover for a fantasy novel featuring Bomoki, an epic bad guy who oozes badness. The ideal cover would show Bomoki as a half living, half undead decorated in armor composed of ram skulls. Running down his arms and up his spine the actual spine of the ram’s head would be pincered into Bomoki with a multi-horned ram skull sitting like a helmet atop Bomoki’s head. Each ram skull would have its own baleful green light gleaming from its eyes at the viewer… And as you can see, paganus pretty much nailed it!

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

Nicely done, paganus, nicely done!

How Influencer Marketing Can Pay Off for Small Businesses in 2017 Arielle Kimbarovsky | January 4th, 2017

The digital space is constantly evolving, forcing entrepreneurs, small business owners, and marketing teams at bigger companies to continuously reevaluate their marketing strategies in order to stay competitive. In the past few years, we’ve seen significant changes in how companies market. These changes range from participation on new social networks, new technologies, and the increasingly popular content marketing.

But many companies are finding that there’s too much content – much of it not especially useful or actionable. Customers and prospective customers are becoming overwhelmed with content – much of it is just noise. These problems are made worse by changes made by Google and others in the way email is delivered. There’s no question that content marketing is more difficult to execute effectively today.
Smart business owners and teams are looking for creative ways to lift their content marketing efforts without relying on email or other more overused techniques. That’s where influencer marketing can help.

Influencer marketing pushed itself to the front of many marketing strategies, and will continue to be an important marketing tactic in 2017. While larger companies are already relying on influencers (60% of chief marketing officers plan to increase their influencer marketing budgets), startups and small businesses should also take advantage of this tactic.

We saw this when a company would partner with a celebrity like Kylie Jenner, and send Kylie free products in an exchange for an Instagram post. Kylie Jenner’s followers would see the post, and connect to the product by either following a social media account or purchasing the product. At an average cost of $50,000 per post, the company converted thousands of Jenner’s followers into customers. This worked because Kylie Jenner has positioned her brand as being luxurious and desirable, attracting 82.6 million followers just on Instagram and netting over $28 million last year between her lip kits, modeling, TV appearances, and social media ads. Her success has skyrocketed over the past few years, exponentially growing the demand for sponsorships.

But influencer marketing has become more sophisticated recently to include not just pure celebrities, but also other types of influencers. Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, defines influencer marketing in an interview for Prezly:

I look at it as ‘influence equals action’. It’s knowing there’s individuals that come in all different shapes and sizes, everyone from your own customers to bloggers, Twitter personalities, LinkedIn power-users, analysts and experts who are able to move the needle for you.

Similarly, Google discovered that certain content creators on YouTube had 3x as many views and 2x as many actions on sponsored content posts than celebrities.

These trends suggest that it would be smarter for companies to focus on influencers who best engage with their niche target audiences rather than just looking for general household names. Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Identify the right influencers.

Create a list of influencers who you find best engage with your target audience. Some might decline to work with you, so make sure you have enough names on that list to give you some options. Find people in your industry that are trending on Twitter, being talked about on Facebook, or have the most followers on Instagram. Identify people who run the most popular blogs in your industry, or even who your competitors are using as their influencers and build off of those networks. To find a high quality influencer, look at engagement to make sure that the influencer isn’t just pushing content, but that they are also having conversations with their followers. Renowned marketing expert Jay Baer clarifies the fine line between content pushers and influencers: “True influence drives action, not just awareness.”

Expert Tip: Find an influencer whose recommendation you would personally trust. According to Nielsen, 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations as opposed to 33% trusting advertisements.

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Small Business Web & App Design: Five Common UX Mistakes to Avoid Ross Kimbarovsky | January 3rd, 2017

You’re ready to build. Maybe it’s a website, an app, a landing page, or an email template. Now you just need to figure out the design. And it’s here, in this pivotal moment, before anyone has put pen to paper or pixels to screen, where you’ll either get it right or get it wrong.

Here are the top 5 mistakes commonly made in UX design – and how to avoid making them.

Mistake #1: Prioritizing your own aesthetic tastes.

We have preferences when it comes to the digital media with which we interact. Some people really like interactive sites with lots of video. Some people like a site that’s bare bones with simple, intuitive navigation and straightforward text explanations. Some people like a modern look. Some people are still big on gradients. It just depends.

And those personal tastes are all perfectly valid, but personal is the key word in this discussion. You are not the entirety of your customers and prospects. You do not represent your whole audience. And while it’s certainly within your rights to have an opinion on how a design looks, if you rely solely on your own tastes, your end result will be about you instead of the people you’re hoping to engage. This not only will create low-conversion pages (or app), but will also impact your search results.

Quick Tip: If something about a design is rubbing you the wrong way, frame your response as a question instead of a dismissal, and use the answer to check your concerns. Ask, “Is there a particular reason we would want to use this size image?” or “What was the rationale behind your color choices here?” If the response is grounded in evidence, research, and experience, be sure to keep that in consideration before you make a final decision.

Mistake #2: Relying heavily on fads.

Every year, and especially towards the end of one year and beginning of a new year, you’ll find a slew of articles detailing all the design fads to watch for over the coming months. Some of these are less radical than others. Some represent a significant break from convention, usually popularized by a handful of trailblazers. But much like our wardrobes, what is fashionable in one season can become passe in the blink of an eye.

And this is where trying hard to make your digital media fit with current design trends can backfire, especially when designing digital media intended to be durable. It’s one thing to tailor an email template to the hottest design look of the season, but when you’re spending good money on a website or app, you need to think beyond frills.

Quick Tip: Don’t hesitate to ask your customers what they like. If you’re just getting started, researching the design choices of your competition is a good way to kick things off. Once you’ve got a working idea together, though, consider leveraging a focus group to test your assumptions. For example, all design projects on crowdSPRING include free focus groups that let you quickly test your design options privately or publicly (with your own email list or on a social network like Facebook or Twitter). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run projects, picked a favorite, only to learn that my friends and acquaintances preferred a different design (and for good reasons).

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5 New Year’s Resolutions to Help Entrepreneurs Succeed In 2017 Arielle Kimbarovsky | January 2nd, 2017

With the New Year settling in, most of us can’t help but make that traditional list of resolutions. In a month when gym memberships are at an all time high, it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and create a list of goals. This often happens right after we reflect on the past resolutions we failed to meet. It’s no wonder that aerobics classes and health clubs are packed throughout the month of January – nearly everyone commits to lose weight and get in shape.

Yet New Years resolutions are important. They remind us to take a critical look at our lives and push ourselves to make some important changes. As entrepreneurs, this is especially valuable because we often find our focus jumping between many different things. We can easily lose focus and forget the details that will help our companies to succeed.

Looking back on 2016, you may find that your marketing and branding strategy slipped through the cracks because you were so focused on a new product design. Or maybe you didn’t make time to explore new trends in your industry. Maybe there’s an entirely other aspect of your business that you’d like to focus on. Either way, here are five helpful New Year’s resolutions for entrepreneurs.

1. Create or change your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy.

We cannot stress this enough! For a lot of entrepreneurs, search engine optimization sounds like a scary marketing technique that only the most sophisticated companies use. The truth is that in order to compete in the fast paced world of today, you have to learn how to push your company towards the top of the search results. With a New Year come new trends, competition, and a lot of other changes that can skew your current SEO planning. Plus, search engines are constantly tweaking their algorithms and these tweaks often impact search results. For more information on how to create an effective SEO strategy, check out our 2017 SEO strategy guide.

2. Reimagine your blogging efforts.

It’s no secret that blogging became one of the biggest marketing trends of 2016. In 2017, that trend is expected to continue, but it will be even more difficult to stand out from the crowd. Some experts caution that blogging will require a long term investment – something that many entrepreneurs and small businesses are rarely prepared to make. Social media consultant Andrew Davis says “A lot of brands will give up on content marketing as they are not seeing short term results. This can be a great thing for anyone who is playing the long game.” So push yourself to blog more and through more channels (think Medium, guest blogs, your blog, etc.) to make your voice heard in 2017.

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