What is a style guide and how can you create one for your business? Amanda Bowman | March 20th, 2017

A style guide is a set of rules to follow any time a member of your organization wants to publish, present or promote content for your brand. It answers questions like:

What font does your logo use? What colors are approved? When you need an image for a project, what tone and feel should it have? Should writers use “email” or does your organization prefer the hyphenated “e-mail?” What is your stance on the Oxford comma debate?

These seem like small details, but if they’re not captured in a style guide your beautiful brand can quickly drift into an inconsistent experience for your customers and employees.

Fast Company’s Delia Bonfilo noted consistency as a critical part of  crafting a sustainable identity, and your style guide can play a major role in maintaining this consistency: “It’s consistent manner of use will evoke a sense of dependability and professionalism.”

Who benefits from a style guide?

Well, everyone:

New Hires

It’s likely that at one point or another, you’ll have more than one person creating content for your brand. You’ll hire new people, your teams will grow and change, and everyone will need to know the ‘rules for your brand’. Vieo Design’s Melanie Chandler said it best:

“Branding style guides are helpful whether you are a small company with only one designer, or are well over 100 employees. They ensure that every visual element produced by or about your company is consistent, so a new hire doesn’t decide to take their own creative spin on your brand.”

Outside Help

External contractors need to quickly be able to pick up on the correct tone and language for your brand, too, and a style guide allows them to do that. It also saves them the time (which as everyone knows is money) trying to track down this information from other sources.

“Visual language is like any other language. Misunderstandings arise if the language is not shared and understood by everyone using it. As a product or team grows, the challenges within these modalities compound.” – Airbnb’s Building a Visual Language

Management

Managers and editors benefit from a solid style guide, too. The less time they have to spend making edits to their employees’ work, the better. Removing uncertainty from a brand discussion (“The logo’s background color is cerulean blue!” “No, it’s deep sky blue!”) saves time and reduces frustration. Having a definitive guideline to refer to allows everyone to feel confident that they’re staying on-brand.

The Customers

Making sure that you define the visual experience throughout all of your communications will lead to a better customer interaction with your brand. Having a style guide ensures that you avoid inconsistent messaging, which is confusing and isolating to your audience.

How to Create a Style Guide

Feel ready to embark on assembling your own style guide? Great! It’s not as overwhelming as you think. How many elements and items that make up your style guide will be based on the size of your company and your branding needs. While your list may expand, here are six basic items that should be on your style guide:

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Your Small Business Needs An Online Presence. Here’s How to Get Started Katie Lundin | March 17th, 2017

 

If your small business isn’t maximizing the benefits of being present online, you are not alone. However, many of your competitors have built a credible online presence and as a result, are likely pulling ahead of you.

Why are many small businesses still largely ignoring the Internet?

We are living in an age dominated by digital devices. Looking around my workspace I can see two laptops, a tablet and an iPhone. If I look into the office next door I’ll find another laptop and a second smartphone. I’m sure you can see a similar picture if you look around yourself.

Many businesses are using this to their advantage, connecting with new and existing customers in entirely new ways. But, for a surprising amount of small business owners, creating an online presence requires exploring unknown terrain and opportunities, like settling a new frontier.

If you’re one of those business owners, we’re here to help.

In this article we’ll share several compelling reasons why you need to expand your online presence and we’ll also give you actionable tips to help you do it.

What is an online presence?

An online presence for a business is the business’s website, social profiles, online memberships in directories, and any other places on the Internet where customers and potential customers can find you. It’s the collective sum of all identities you’ve created on the Internet.

Many businesses limit their online activities to their website, where customers can find them using a single address (a URL).

A case for getting online

Some companies must have a physical presence. The nature of their business demands it: hair salons, restaurants, bouncy-house play centers for kids, bakeries, drugstores, gyms, furniture/appliance stores.

But even the most traditional businesses may be missing out if they don’t have an online presence.

Steve Goedeker is the owner of an appliance and furniture store in Ballwin, Missouri. He was motivated to go digital when sales slumped in the wake of the 2008 recession. But, what he first viewed as merely a survival technique turned out to be so much more.

In a March 2015 article in Entrepreneur Goedeker confided:

We thought if we could do 5 percent of our business online that would be enough to get us through the hard times… Now we understand that online is where the business is. That’s where the growth is.

What began as an entirely brick and mortar enterprise with 15 employees and decreasing sales is now a thriving online business employing 90. Today, Goedekers.com generates a whopping 92% of Geodeker’s total revenue.

Still not convinced? Let’s talk about four reasons why it’s absolutely essential for your business to establish an identity online. Read the rest of this post »

Fresh from the SPRING: JACSDESIGN Audree | March 16th, 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 feminine logo for a high end consignment store. This lovely entry has a modern look while still conveying the elegant vintage feel of yesteryear.

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

Nicely done, JACSDESIGN, nicely done!

How 5 Successful Entrepreneurs Stay Creative While Running a Business Arielle Kimbarovsky | March 15th, 2017

Successful entrepreneurs share a common trait: they are creative. As I wrote previously:

Startups are like roller-coasters. If you run or work at a startup, you experience many highs and lows and you can’t always anticipate what’s ahead. Education and experience help us overcome many difficult situations, but education and experience are rarely enough. To be successful, we also must be creative in the ways we face and overcome problems.

Creativity balances the analytical part of our brains and encourages us to take risks. While some entrepreneurs focus solely on crunching numbers and logistics, the most successful entrepreneurs are creative and look for a balance between their left and right brains.

Creativity and success are not cultural phenomena limited to a few countries and cultures. Because the crowdSPRING community is global (our clients come from over 100 countries and our creatives come from nearly every country on Earth), we pay attention to many different trends around the world. Regardless of culture, language or geography, we notice similarities among entrepreneurs.

For example, we’ve observed a revival in entrepreneurial activity in the United Kingdom over the past few years.

Independent studies confirm that unlike many other countries in Europe, entrepreneurship in the U.K. increased in 2016 and this trend has continued into 2017.

Recently, London was named “Most Innovative City.”

We wondered why the trend in the United Kingdom (and to a lesser degree, in France) differed from what we’ve been seeing in other counties over the past year. To help answer that question, we looked at what 5 successful entrepreneurs in the U.K. are doing to regularly spark their creativity.

1. Rosie Davies,
London Fashion Agency

Take a break!

As the founder and director of one of the UK’s leading PR agencies focused on independent brands, Rosie Davies built her business through creativity and innovation. Through her journey as an entrepreneur, Davies found that start-up guilt plays a major role in crushing creativity. Specifically, the pressure to build a successful that causes many entrepreneurs to stop innovating and become stuck in their own heads. To take some of that pressure away, Davies suggests taking a break:

The pressure of success can be overwhelming, but if it tells you anything else, it’s that taking a break every once in awhile may just be the best thing you can do for your business because it is no myth that a strong mind and happy self will produce better work.

Use that break time to do something fun! Our favorite ways to take a break include going for a bike ride, playing a board game, or even just talking a walk down the hall. When you actively engage in an activity, it makes it easy to let your mind wander.

2. Mark Shayler,
Do Lectures

Question yourself more.

For Mark, innovation is the foundation of business success. He’s found that while many large companies envy the ability of a startup to continuously be creative, many entrepreneurs still struggle to stay creative while running their companies. This is extremely important for entrepreneurs because startups require lots of creativity, patience, and testing in order to discover strategies that work. To stay creative, Shayler asks “why” a lot- and says to look for an unfair advantage:

We are lazy. Lots of us only innovate when we have to; only innovate when our back is against the wall. This wall could be commercial constraint, regulatory constraint, financial constraint. Whatever it is, use use it to help you. Use your opponent’s weight against them. Obstacles are the way…We ask: What if we had to do this ourselves, TODAY?

It’s important to think big! Making lists and doing extensive competitive research is already something entrepreneurs do for themselves and investors. When it comes to creativity, it’s simply a matter of flipping that research into a series of questions.

In fact, we’ve taken this advice even further at crowdSPRING by looking for ways we can compete with ourselves, and not just our competitors. More about this in our recent post on American Express’s Open Forum: How To Compete With Yourself.

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How to Find and Hire Highly Effective Employees Ross Kimbarovsky | March 14th, 2017

We’re fortunate to have built a great team at crowdSPRING.

What makes one employee highly effective and another average? For some of our job postings, crowdSPRING receives hundreds of resumes. How do we find the most effective people to join our team?

Contrary to the way most companies hire – we never hire the best candidate from a pool of candidates. We hire only when a candidate is the right fit for us. We’ve had hiring cycles where after reviewing hundreds of applications for a position, we elected not to hire anyone. We’ve also hired multiple people when looking for only a single hire. Ultimately, for us, it comes down to finding great people who we believe would be effective and who will make our team stronger.

When interviewing, I look for the following seven habits – every highly effective employee with whom I’ve worked (at crowdSPRING and elsewhere) possessed most of these habits:

1. Strong Self-Discipline
2. Welcome criticism
3. Embrace opportunities
4. Persistence
5. Decisiveness
6. Listen first
7. Know their limits

Watch the video for more detail on these seven habits and interview tips for identifying effective employees:

How Brands Are Using Facebook Live to Connect with Customers Amanda Bowman | March 13th, 2017

Ever dreamed of the chance to shout the iconic “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”? Well, that may still be out of reach. The good news, though, is that broadcasting before a live audience has never been easier. With a little planning, you could be reaching an audience almost as large as an SNL episode.

Facebook Live lets you stream–you guessed it!–live video, completely in real time, to your followers. It gives you a chance to break the fourth wall between you and your customers, sharing the unedited, real-life version of you. Nothing warms people to a brand more than authenticity, and Facebook Live is a great medium to convey yours to your followers.

What’s in it for You?

Stephanie Abrams Cartin and Courtney Spritzer are co-founders of Socialfly, a New York-based social media and marketing agency. They get straight to the point with the importance of video for your brand:“Let’s get clear: if your brand isn’t already creating video content for social, it’s behind the times…it’s more important than ever to produce video content if you want to stay relevant and keep up with your competition.”

“Let’s get clear: if your brand isn’t already creating video content for social, it’s behind the times…it’s more important than ever to produce video content if you want to stay relevant and keep up with your competition.”

Cartin and Spritzer are right. When it comes to engagement and sharing, video outpaces everything else. Video solutions provider Brightcove reports that social video generates 1,200% more shares than images or text combined. Combined!

Facebook Live takes advantage of people’s love of video, giving everyone the opportunity to connect in a compelling way. And with Facebook’s 1.23 billion daily active users, well…it’s kind of like shooting fish in a barrel.

Read the rest of this post »

Wellness Tips from Successful Entrepreneurs and Health Experts Katie Lundin | March 10th, 2017

Entrepreneurs are widely viewed as visionaries; the women and men who dare to gaze beyond what is, at what could be. But when you’re busy envisioning potentials (and managing the trillions of real world details of running an actual business) it can be easy to overlook things that are a little closer to home. Things like your own mental and physical well-being.

You’re busy! We get that. But at the end of the day, neither you nor your business will thrive if you neglect your health. So we’ve compiled a few pro tips from entrepreneurs just like you. Tips for how to take care of yourself in the midst of taking care of everything else.

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Five Tips on Leveraging Trademarks to Protect Your Business Ross Kimbarovsky | March 10th, 2017

Protecting your brand is an important part of building your business and maintaining your customers’ trust.

A trademark identifies the product your company sells. For example, Apple is a trade name, while the iPhone is a trademark for the smartphones sold by Apple.

Crucial brand elements like your company’s name, logo and tagline should be protected so that no other company can enter the market and use your identity to sell their product or service. One of the earliest steps you can take to protect your brand is to register your trademark.

Start protecting your brand and products with these five practical tips about trademark law:

1. Do a trademark search before you settle on a trade name (company name) and/or logo.

2. Register your trademark.

3. Maintain your trademark if you’ve registered it.

4. You can file a trademark application before you use a mark in commerce.

5. Understand the Permitted and Prohibited Uses When You Use Another Company’s trade name or logo.

Watch the video for more detail on these five tips, plus the basics of trademark law for business.

Fresh from the SPRING: nhr Audree | March 9th, 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 timeless logo for an event rental business that specializes in vintage, rustic and quality hand crafted products.

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

Nicely done, nhr, nicely done!

6 Women Entrepreneurs Share Their Most Important Advice About Starting And Growing A Successful Business Arielle Kimbarovsky | March 8th, 2017

There are more women entrepreneurs starting new businesses today than at any point in history.

We will all benefit as a result of this trend. Women are more likely to see and fix industry gaps than men are, making them more likely to identify business ideas that will succeed and help others.

And while it’s always challenging to start and grow a new business, there are many terrific resources tailored to help women entrepreneurs start, run and grow their businesses more quickly. As a result, women have founded very diverse businesses, across many industries.

For example, what do a fitness expert, sustainable apparel enthusiast, online magazine owner, media co-founder, and two crowdSPRING creatives have in common? They are all trailblazing, empowered, and highly successful female entrepreneurs that have worked hard to carve their own unique paths in the business world.

We spoke to 6 female entrepreneurs about their experiences with starting their own businesses, raising families, and their overall journey as female entrepreneurs. With years of wisdom, different industries, and different ages, these women represent a glimpse into what being an entrepreneur is really like. Here are the important insights they wanted to share with you.

1. Lisa Druxman,
FIT4MOM

As the founder of a fitness community for moms that includes classes, support, and a community of fit moms, Lisa has become an expert in leveraging 21st century marketing for her unique audience.

I have been marketing my company via word of mom for over a decade. The social media platforms may change but the talk has always been based on the story of moms. When moms like something, they talk. When they don’t like something, they talk. It doesn’t matter where or on what they talk, what matters is that they talk. We have made sure to create a very special business that moms want to talk about in a positive light.

When it comes to female entrepreneurship in general, Lisa has one big tip: know your purpose. With FIT4MOM, Lisa’s purpose is to empower mothers to lead healthy, active lives while caring for their children. But for aspiring entrepreneurs, knowing your “why” is Lisa’s biggest tip.

First, figure out your why. When you know your why and you are totally committed to it, you can get through any obstacle. Think about what you want your life to look like. If you want to be a remote entrepreneur and work from your laptop, then you probably don’t want to start a brick and mortar business. Figure out what you are most passionate about and see how you can bring that together with your purpose.

2. Paula Haunit,
Sheer Apparel

Sheer Apparel focuses on providing consumers with a central, online location to purchase fair and sustainable clothing. Paula wanted to bring transparency to the clothing industry- something that others have struggled and failed to do in the past. While starting such a new venture, Paula learned a lot about funding her business.

For now, my business is self-funded. Although that won’t work forever or for any type of company, it keeps you disciplined, makes sure you spend money in a smart way, and shows a future investor that you are literally invested in the business- you aren’t just saying that you are. Also, people who are just starting out can sometimes forget that raising money, be it from Angel investors or through crowdfunding takes time and effort, so inevitably it’ll take you away from the day to day running of your business. So if you can, I suggest trying to start out self-funded.

Paula echoes what many other successful entrepreneurs say: entrepreneurship is a lonely, difficult road- though worthwhile! She suggests building a support network and anticipating the unexpected and the underestimated, especially for first time entrepreneurs.

I’d give female entrepreneurs the same advice I give to any entrepreneur, male or female: surround yourself with smart people who will challenge you when you are becoming too comfortable and will support you when you are being too hard on yourself. Also, everything will take twice as long and cost twice as much as you thought, plan for that.

3. Sallee Poinsette-Nash,
Tall Guides

Sallee has built her business based on an online magazine surrounded by a community of women seeking empowerment. When it comes to building a support network, Sallee is all too familiar with just how important it is to be surrounded by a support system.

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