A Logo For a Brick and Mortar Gift Shop

Curious Experience is a retail store that combines eclectic products from around the world with an interactive digital experience that brings the store to life. They sell a carefully curated collection of gifts, home décor, art, and clothing that has a unique story to share. By marrying interactive technology with their store displays and flow of new products, the store creates an experience that’s different every time.

Owner Brianne Osowski’s vision was to create a space that rekindled the joy we feel when discovering and experiencing something new. She came to us for help creating a brand that would bridge her brick-and-mortar store to her e-commerce website, and vice-versa, all while inspiring a sense of adventure and curiosity in her customers.

Curious Experience Gift Shop Logo Design

Meg worked on the designs for Curious’s new identity, starting with the logo. When asked what she envisioned, Brianne said:

I LOVE LOVE LOVE full blasts of color (or simple hints) when it is done right. Otherwise I default to black and white. This brand needs some personality.

Working on logo designs for brick and mortar stores often means taking into account things like printing costs (which can be more expensive the more color you use), and how the design will be integrated into both your interior and exterior spaces. For example, the signage throughout the strip mall where Brianne’s store is located required horizontal signage with specific measurements. Meg began with logo concepts that explored different typography treatments combined with elements of quirkiness, bursts of color, and twists on the normally expected, all while focusing on a design that was horizontal in nature.

She and Brianne also brainstormed color concepts that would work well printed on signage, business cards, flyers, and postcards while complementing the layout and color schemes of the store’s interior. “The important thing is to create a cohesive brand appearance that blends well with the brick and mortar store,” Meg noted. The initial concepts spanned a spectrum of clean and minimal to fun and playful.

After a few tweaks and revisions, Meg narrowed down Brianne’s vision to two aesthetic elements: handdrawn and very bold & modern. She created a logo that embraces the store’s philosophy to look at the world from different angles:

PrimaryLogoT

Curious Experience Website Design

Thrilled with the new logo, Brianne was ready to move on to site design. She expressed a desire for a short and sweet homepage that quickly conveys what Curious is all about, but that doesn’t make the store feel small. Meg’s initial homepage design fused the brand’s personality with a fun and simple-to-navigate shopping experience:

My main goal was to keep your content well organized and clean while keeping a lot of the colorful quirkiness that makes Curious so special. It’s important that this shop looks like more than just a mom and pop shop but still has an intimate feeling.

It was love at first site (wink, wink)! Brianne said she was speechless and took a couple of days to let the giddiness settle so she could comment on minor tweaks, like changes to the site’s graphical elements, footer, and promos section.

Then she took some time to think about user experience. For customers, she wanted to make sure visitors could shop easily between categories, and view several products at once. To that end, Jon, our developer, implemented infinite scroll on all category pages to make shopping more seamless. Fewer clicks (typically) means higher sales, which is always a good thing!

Brianne also wanted the flexibility to add, remove and change product categories as her store evolved and they began offering new products. Fortunately, all Aeolidia designs are done in a way in which site owners can add or remove pages and categories on their own with little impact to the design and functionality.

You can see the final site design and Curious’s beautiful storefront signage below. Doesn’t it make you want to wander in and see what you find?

curious-experience-home

curious experience storefront

Ready to bring your brand’s identity to life?

Our designers have created countless logos and shopping experiences that burst with personality both online and in person. Contact us to begin making the store of your wildest, quirkiest dreams a reality.

Naming A Business After Yourself: When Is It A Good Idea?

The following post is by our beloved Emily McDowell. If you don’t follow her, please trip on over to her site and go buy some stuff. Emily describes her business perfectly: “This company was founded on the success of one card that spoke to a truth about Valentine’s Day in a way that wasn’t yet represented in Greeting Card World, and that’s what we most like to do here: identify universal, emotional truths and observations on being human, and turn them into products that speak to people.”

Please enjoy Emily’s thoughts below, on why you should probably not name your business after yourself. I’ve written about this before, and Emily’s article is the perfect in-depth follow up.

Naming A Business After Yourself: When Is It A Good Idea?

by Emily McDowell

naming a business after yourself

Photo © Emily McDowell

When I started my business, I tried (but not that hard) to think of a good name. When I didn’t come up with anything I loved (after not that long thinking about it), I decided to just go with my own. “Hey,” I thought, “it worked for Jonathan Adler and Diane von Furstenburg!”

I am here to tell you this: I gave myself kind of bad advice.

Now that I’m a couple of years into this venture, with the benefit of our old pal hindsight, I now know a lot more about when naming a business after yourself makes sense, and when it might make more sense not to.

If your business is one person (you), providing a service that only you perform — whether that service is illustration or personal training — naming your business after yourself generally tends to work fine. The same is true if you’re an author, fine artist, or musician; in these cases, it might actually work better to use your own name, because you’re not looking to project a commercial image. You may end up with several products (i.e., books you’ve written), but the one and only thing they all have in common is you.

However, if the primary focus of your business is manufacturing products to sell, and you plan to create a company, I think it’s a good idea to try harder than I did and come up with a name that’s not your own.

Here are some reasons why, in no particular order of importance:

1. Unless your name is Bob Loblaw, it’s not that memorable. If you look at our web analytics, way too many people find me by googling “emily who makes cards.” That is not ideal.

2. As you grow, “me” becomes “we.” (I realized as soon as I hired my first employee that it sounded weird to have her answer the phone “Hello, Emily McDowell!” because that’s not her name. Yet, that was the name of our company, so it would have been even weirder to have her NOT answer the phone that way.) I now have several employees, and we all work together to make our company function. Yes, I write and design the products, but we wouldn’t get very far without our sales team. If our name were, say, Sunshine Industries, I think it would feel more like an umbrella that we all live under.

3. It’s limiting. When you’re starting out, you don’t know where your company will go, or what you’ll love doing most, or what the best business model will turn out to be, so it’s a good idea to pick a name that keeps your options open. Right now, I run the company and do all the creative, which is likely not sustainable forever, especially if we keep growing. If at some point, I decided I wanted to bring on other artists or writers and function as a creative director, it would be a lot less awkward if my company was called Sunshine Industries. For example, my friend Mati Rose is a painter. “Mati Rose for Sunshine Industries” sounds viable as a collection within the brand; “Mati Rose for Emily McDowell” just sounds confusing.

4. When you have a brand that’s your name, people expect you to BE that brand 24/7. Which makes total sense! But this can be an uncomfortable problem as you grow and sell products to/interact with an increasing number of people who don’t know you. In my case, sometimes I’m funny and say interesting things and otherwise embody the spirit of my products, but sometimes I’m introverted and kind of boring and forget people’s names not because I’m an asshole, but because I have a crappy memory. (And if THAT was a brand, nobody would buy it.) Of course, strangers will always have assumptions about who you are and what you’re like as a person based on your work, no matter what your company is called, but if it’s your NAME, it’s an added, strange layer of pressure to “live up to the brand” at events, trade shows, etc.

5. When there’s an obvious name associated with the ownership of your company (yours), some customers really, really want your personal attention when things go wrong, even if you’re not the person most equipped to handle their problem or issue.

6. Social media gets weird. Sunshine Industries could have a social media manager who isn’t me, but if someone who isn’t Emily McDowell is tweeting or posting as Emily McDowell (the brand), it feels disingenuous. As you grow, you can’t do everything yourself.

7. If you ever want to sell your company and go do something else, your name goes with the company and belongs to the people who bought it. If those people start making incredibly hideous products with your name all over them, you can’t do anything about it. Except change your OWN name.

And so! Now that I know all this stuff, we’re actually in the middle of transitioning our brand name from “Emily McDowell” to “Emily McDowell Studio.” This is a good solution for keeping the brand equity we already have, while also expanding the brand umbrella and fixing some of the above issues. (People are still going to have to google “emily who makes cards” to find me, though.) Here’s our new logo, which is deliberately pretty similar to the old logo.

Did I miss anything? Any other reasons you can think of? Do you disagree with anything? What did you google to get here? (A lot of people also end up on our site by searching “lady ass,” and I’m sure they’re very disappointed.)

This article was originally posted on Emily McDowell’s blog, and is reposted here with permission. Go read the lively comments on her original post!

How to Sell Custom Products or Personalized Gifts

Are you curious about whether it’s worth the trouble to try to sell custom products online? One of the pleasures of selling online is that you can easily offer customizable, personalized items. Customers love to purchase something special by choosing from colors, sizes, engraving options, printing options, you name it! A customizable product can be very appealing.

Custom products allow customers to choose from available options, or even make new requests, and items can be personalized by adding custom text, names, dates, even special graphics or photos.

At Aeolidia we’ve worked with shops of all shapes and sizes and have found that selling customizable items is definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution. Every shop owner offers different types of options, and our goal is to make the shop easy to run on the back-end for the shop owner, as well as easy to understand for customers. We sell custom products on Shopify by integrating an app or creating a solution custom to our client, depending on needs.

I’ve rounded up a few examples of the types of customizable items we’ve helped shop owners set up!

 

Sell customizable jewelry

Many jewelry stores such as Bel Kai offer color, size, metal, and engraving options. A combination of drop-down boxes and text boxes makes it easy for customers to order just the right piece.

How to sell custom products or personalized gifts

Sell custom party decor

It’s important when setting up customizable items to consider the types of mistakes (oops!) customers might try to make when ordering, and minimize them. In the example above from Shop Sweet Lulu, customers can choose one letter or number to personalize the item, and the text box will not allow more than one character to be entered. Smart!

How to sell custom products or personalized gifts

 

Sell personalized baby clothes

If you’d like to offer font and color choices to your customers, it’s important to show them how the options will look. In the example below from Boco Baby, font and color options are shown as images on the item page so that customers know exactly what color Orchid is. This page is also a good example of a page with options that can change the price. Choosing the size of the blanket changes the price on the page so that there are no surprises for customers.

How to sell custom products or personalized gifts

 

Sell personalized stationery

Stationery shops, such as Lindsay Letters, below, often have fairly complex customizable items – options can include price breaks based on number of items, type of printing, ink color, paper color, add-ons such as envelopes, text options, and more! Sometimes we break a complicated process down into sections to make it manageable for customers.

How to sell custom products or personalized gifts

 

Steel Petal Press uses conditional statements to show or hide product option fields for their custom stationery. For example, if you choose ‘yes’ to Return Address Printing or Envelope Liners, additional fields will show up to add that info.

How to sell custom products or personalized gifts

 

It’s important to remember that the more options you offer to your customers, the more difficult it can be for them to choose what they want. We often recommend limiting the number of available options, and making those options as easy to understand as possible.

Making a solid plan to sell custom products

This information is especially useful to bring to the person building your website, so you can make sure that a proper solution is set up that will work for you.

  • What types of customizable products will you sell?
  • Will the customizations vary from item to item, so that you’d need more than one product page template?
  • What types of options will you offer customers?
  • Will any of the options affect the price of the item?
  • How will you display the options? Can people select more than one of any choice? Are any choices required?
  • How will you explain the options? Do you have photos, illustrations, or color swatches to clarify?
  • How will you manage your inventory?

Getting some help selling customizable products online

This is one of those things that often doesn’t work just how you’d like it “out of the box,” and is often the time to call for some expert help. If you are ready to set up your own e-commerce website and want to sell customizable items, talk to us! We have a lot of experience in taking lots of information and options and making product pages easy to understand for your customers.

Do you sell custom items? If so, what tips do you have for our readers, or questions that you find yourself getting caught on?

Why & How to Start an Email Autoresponder Series

If you do any kind of business online, it’s crazy not to have an email mailing list. We’ve talked about this on the Aeolidia blog before, and here is the quick rundown of why:

  • No algorithm is going to filter your email away from your reader (unless it’s super spammy!)
  • People check their email every day, often many times.
  • People are likely paying more attention to their email than to social media streams.
  • If people don’t act on your email right away, it will still be in their inbox to look at later.
  • It’s easier to provide a personal experience through email.

So yes, you need a mailing list – but ugh! Coming up with fresh content can be hard. What about your new subscribers? You want them to see your absolute best stuff, not whatever quick email message you jotted off this week. Maybe you wrote something just brilliant last week that the new folks will never see.

Well, good news! There’s a way you can sit down and do some preparation now to create “evergreen” content for your mailing list. New people will get to know you in the way you want them to, and they will get your best information while they’re still interested.

Read the rest of this post on Launch Grow Joy »

Infusing Your Website With Your Story: Verde Cosi

This post is part of our Best Next Step series, where you will hear from creative business owners like you, who are wondering what to focus on next. The background stories and questions are from all kinds of businesses in various stages of growth, and I share my ideas for how to proceed forward most efficiently and ambitiously. Today we’re hearing from Verde Cosi.

Verde Cosi

Business: Verde Cosi
Owner: Suzanne Luby Ahrens
Site: verdecosi.com

Below is a screenshot of Suzanne’s website:

verde cosi website

About:

Verde Cosi is a collection of originally designed textiles which are handmade into pillows, scarves, tea towels, and select handbags. We have a stationery collection of boxed notecards, wrapping paper, and gift tags based on my art. In addition, I sell my watercolors and photography which often integrates my textile designs. Customers can buy some of my products online. My latest products are available at the many juried shows that we participate in Paradise City Arts Festivals, SOWA Open Markets, National Stationery Show so far. We have been asked to do the Architectural Digest Home Design Show in March of 2015 – we are hoping to do that show! I have so many new designs that I have been selling at shows, a new printed catalog. I am just overwhelmed a bit with the upkeep of our website and the message/branding we are trying to convey. Our textile product needs to be channeled into a more upscale category because it is expensive to produce. Our paper goods aren’t as expensive but I feel are very beautiful and unique so I think customers would pay a bit more for what we have to offer. My work is very complex sometimes – it can take me a year to develop and then extend that design. Other work is very spontaneous and doesn’t take me as long. .

Challenges:

Keeping the website updated is a challenge. I also feel it needs to be updated to look more professional with more options for people to explore. I have the ability to create beautiful sets and visuals. I am a little confused as to how I want to brand myself. As a total business or more like an individual artist/designer. I have been thinking about a blog… not sure if I can handle the additional piece of that.

Objectives:

We got invited to do the Atlanta Gift Mart in January. Just around the corner. If we get accepted in one of the juried sections of the show my focus will be to prepare our booth, product, etc. for that show. However, we need to be selective about the larger shows because they are so expensive. We are trying to figure out our priorities. Most of our sales come from direct to public shows and from some wholesale customers.

Promotion:

We use Facebook, Twitter, Constant Contact, and our website. We also hand out beautifully printed cards at out shows with future shows listed on those cards. We were featured in the July/August issue of Victoria Magazine and in Stationery Trends Magazine so far.

Verde Cosi: Best Next Step

verde-card

Verde Cosi: Best Next Step

Verde Cosi’s Best Next Step

Hello Suzanne,

Thank you for entering our Best Next Step giveaway – hooray, you’re a winner! My thoughts follow (read them with a grain of salt, since I only have a brief outline of your business and challenges right now).

Capturing your spirit online

Goodness gracious, Suzanne! Your lookbook is beautiful. If you could capture that spirit online, you would have a website worth blogging about, and could use that to drive more traffic to your site. Once people are there, they will understand why they should be interested, and will be inspired to purchase.

What your lookbook has that your site doesn’t is mostly the beautiful photos. On your shop site, I just see two photos of bouquets up top, without your lovely pillows in them. Switching to a theme that features large photos, and then putting the lookbook photos on the site will instantly make things more appealing.

It sounds like you do a lot of shows – an Events page on the website with a list of places where people can go to see and touch your work in person may be beneficial to local shoppers – or at least show people that you’re out, about, and popular! Similarly, having a list of retailers on your site could interest people who just have to see things in person. And if the list of retailers is long or prestigious, it can serve as “social proof” that your goods are worth investing in.

You told me, “My work is very complex sometimes – it can take me a year to develop and then extend that design.” This is very interesting, and adds to the value of your work. This is the kind of personal, engaging information that is missing from your website. Information like this can be featured on the home page, about page, in product descriptions, etc. Lots of ways to infuse more personality and add a story to your site. Stories are what help people to decide to make a purchase.

Organizing your website

Your two websites are disjointed and confusing right now. My recommendation is to move your About and Contact page to Shopify, quit using the site that’s currently at your domain, and point your domain directly to your Shopify shop (using these instructions).

Once everything is in one place, you can then work on making the categories more understandable (“gift” and “garment” are so barren they should either be added to, or combined into one category – and whichever category is most important – I’m thinking Pillows, should come first), and adjusting your product photos so they all use the same dimensions – that way you won’t have some tall and some short, leaving gaps in your grid of photos.

Making shopping more appealing

Make each category more appealing by putting one of those beautiful photos at the top, and whenever you have a styled photo of a pillow, for example, make that a photo you can see on the product detail page.

Your product descriptions are currently boring, dry, and just-the-facts. Hiring a copywriter to make them come to life can help convince customers to click the “buy” button. We have a copywriter on our team, and I can share more info about pricing and process if you are interested.

Branding your business

You say, “I am a little confused as to how I want to brand myself. As a total business or more like an individual artist/designer.” Without more detailed information about your future goals or how you want to be perceived, I don’t have a solid answer for this, but my gut feeling is that you want to be an individual artist. The name Verde Cosi is just fine to use, and keeping your name close by it is a great way to let people know that there’s a talented designer behind the collection, not a faceless business. It’s also fine to leave “by Suzanne Luby Ahrens” out of the logo and just use your photo and name on the website. You don’t have to club people over the head with it, but do make it obvious that you’re a designer with an interesting story.

To blog, or not to blog?

You’re trying to decide if you want to have a blog or not. If it’s just you, and there’s no one else on your team to take on blogging duties, you first have look at your priorities and see if there’s a way to squeeze in a blog post once a week. If there isn’t, you can probably continue to focus on shows and wholesale accounts and consider blogging as a future addition to your marketing efforts.

If you do think you have time to blog, ask yourself if you like writing, or if photos are more your style. There are lots of ways to do a blog. You may just want to post a few photos with a short caption, or you may want to do full-fledged articles about your story, behind the scenes of your business, collaborations you’re working on, etc. Before starting a blog, sit down with a pen and paper (and maybe a glass of wine), and brainstorm as many possible topics that you can think of. If you’re having a hard time, visit the blogs of similar businesses and see what they’re posting about. Look around at the blogs you like to read and jot down the types of articles that you’re interested in. Think of ways to relate your interests to your work. You don’t have to be super salesy all the time, but you do want your blog to have a general topic to stick to. Once your topics list looks pretty beefy, it’s safe to give blogging a try.

When you’ve started blogging, stay consistent. Slow and steady is better than trying to post every day and then giving up or having big dry stretches. Once a week or even once every two weeks is good if you stick to it. When you post to the blog, promote it on social media and ask others to share it. Get the word out there so that all your work isn’t in vain.

Use your own voice, stick to topics that are interesting to you, and don’t worry too much about making each post epic or impressive. As long as you’re genuine and engaging, you’ll be fine.

Figuring out your priorities

This is a big question! Do you track statistics on the shows you go to? For instance, do you compare the cost of each show (including setup costs and travel costs) with the profit each one makes? Can you easily tell which shows are worth the effort and expense and which aren’t?

You don’t currently make money from the ecommerce website, but you’re also not promoting it. Remember that even if most of your sales come from in-person events, that people are viewing your website and getting an impression of you. Interested retailers will check out your website when they’re deciding if they want to start a relationship with you, and blog and magazine editors will take a look at your website when they’re deciding if they want to feature you in their publication. Having a professional, organized, temptingly beautiful website can improve your relationships offline as well as online.

Thanks for the chance to learn more about your Verde Cosi. I hope this all makes sense, and I encourage you to step back from all the busy-ness of in-person events and see what aspects of your brand and online presence could use some work. Then, you’ll have a cohesive public presence that makes people feel comfortable working with you.

If you would like any help with your brand, logo, or website, we would love to discuss these more with you and make a plan.

Are you ready for the next step?

If you’d like the power and experience of the Aeolidia team behind you, please get in touch! We would love to untangle your business priorities and take a few tasks off your hands so you can do your work. Contact Aeolidia – we never bite!

What to Do If You Don’t Want to Blog

So you’ve heard that you need a blog for your business, to use as a marketing tool. In my last post in the product-based business blog series, I covered how a blog drives traffic and sales. I’m sure a lot of people read that and thought, “oh no! I don’t want to blog! I hate writing.” Well, I’m happy to say that you don’t have to have a blog if you don’t want to. There are alternative ways to market your business instead of blogging.

Is this you?

  • I don’t have time to blog
  • I’m not a good writer
  • I don’t know what to blog about
  • I feel like I have to blog, but I don’t want to!

what to do instead of blogging

The thing about blogging is that it’s not going to work for you if it’s halfhearted or grudgingly written. If you’re not interested in it, your content won’t be inspired, valuable, entertaining, or unique. People won’t stick around. Having a good-quality blog is going to be a huge boost for your business. Having a sporadically-updated mediocre blog is only going to waste your time. Time which you could be using to market your business in another way.

If blogging feels like something you don’t want to do, I’d first suggest that you think of a way to make blogging work for you. If that doesn’t work, then I’d move on to another way to market your business.

Make blogging work for you

When you think of blogging, I bet you have a particular blog or style of blog in mind. When you think that you don’t want to blog, maybe you’re imagining that type of blog, which is just not a good fit for you. But there are a lot of different ways to blog! Think about your interests and your skills and get creative.

I just don’t feel like a strong writer

If you’re thinking of blogging as long, researched posts, eloquently written, and something that’s out of your skill set, instead approach your blog in a way that works for you. Instead of long wordy posts, your blog could be:

  • A photo blog – lots of beautiful photos, each with a simple, keyword-using caption
  • An illustrated blog – your own artwork, with captions, and possibly downloads, such as free wallpapers or printables
  • An infographic blog – these types of graphics are shareable
  • An audio blog – you can record what you want to tell people, and transcribe it into text as an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) bonus
  • A video blog – take videos of yourself – behind the scenes, tutorials and how-tos, and updates about your business
  • A curator’s blog – gather together products you like into collages and briefly set a scene with words

Remember that the less writing you have on there, the less search engine keyword benefit you’ll be getting, but these other types of posts can have value, too.

I can write, but have a hard time getting graphics together

Maybe you like writing, but turning it all into a full blog post with photos and graphics seems like too much to do. Here are ways to make that easier:

  • Don’t have graphics in your posts. It will make them slightly less shareable, but it’s not a requirement
  • Create a template (or three) for blog post headers, and re-use it over and over
  • Purchase or download free stock photos instead of taking your own
  • Hire an illustrator or graphic designer friend to team up with you

I feel like I could blog, but I can’t find the time

Blogging does take a lot of time! If you’re going to commit to it, have a plan for how you’re reasonably going to publish on the schedule you’ve set for yourself. Here are some ideas for finding time for blogging or making blogging take less time:

  • Prioritize it, and make a non-negotiable plan for yourself
  • Start with a reasonable schedule – don’t get too ambitious before you’ve tried it out
  • Create an editorial calendar (more about this in a future post)
  • Hire someone to blog for or with you
  • Request submissions from people in your field
  • Show off customer photos or stories about your products
  • Share other peoples’ work on your blog (with their permission)
  • Hire someone to take over some of your other tasks, so you’ll have time for blogging
  • Create a multi-author blog, where you’re only responsible for some of the posts
  • Instead of having a blog, have an “articles” page

Articles instead of blogging

Blogging is not only time consuming, but it stays that way. If you commit to blogging, you’ll have to continue blogging on the schedule you set, basically forever. If this neverending responsibility is too daunting for you, you can accomplish almost all of the marketing benefits of blogging without actually having a blog. You can do this by having articles.

What is the difference between “articles” and “blog posts?” Not much! Articles are blog posts, they just don’t have dates, and there is a limit to them. For instance, you may decide to write 10 articles for the new Articles page on your site. Once you’ve written them, you can just be done. Or you can add to them any time you feel like it, without feeling stressed by a schedule.

In fact, this is what we recommend to clients who had a blog, get some good search engine traffic from their past posts, but don’t intend to blog anymore. We change the link “blog” to “articles,” adjust the Articles page to list each article, and then remove dates from the posts. Google will still send the traffic, but people won’t be expecting more to come.

So if you can muster up the time and energy to write a handful of high quality, keyword-infused, informative, entertaining, and valuable articles, you can see all the benefits we talked about here, but without the constant demands on your time.

What to do instead of blogging

So, if none of the above felt like a good fit for you, and you still don’t feel like blogging is the answer, what can you do instead? “Content marketing” is a buzzword these days, and that means marketing your business using content. But guess what? “Content” does not have to equal “blog posts.” Content is pretty much any media that your visitors can consume in some way. Instead of writing blog posts, you can:

  • Send a newsletter
  • Record podcasts
  • Record videos
  • “Microblog” on social media (a photo and a thoughtful paragraph)
  • Advertise
  • Pay for search results on Google
  • Work on your search engine optimization
  • Guest blog for other people
  • Get others to blog about your business by pitching your story
  • Host a webinar
  • Write an ebook
  • Teach online courses
  • Host creative events

Enthusiastic marketing on other channels is going to serve you much better than lackluster blogging. Get out there and communicate where you feel most comfortable.

And you know what? If you do any of the stuff in the list above, it couldn’t hurt to have a blog to share it. Gotcha! For instance, embed your Youtube videos with a paragraph about them. Link your podcast episodes with the text transcribed. Share your newsletter content on your blog. Share chapters of your ebook as blog posts. Make it all a lovely tapestry of marketing efforts.

Focus on your mailing list

I think everyone should have a newsletter, regardless of whether they’re blogging. Maybe you’ll feel more comfortable sending chatty, personal emails rather than writing more formal blog posts.

I asked Jena on our team for her perspective, and she told me:

I think a mailing list is the first and best option in terms of connecting with customers and more important than a blog in the first place. Most people, especially product sellers, don’t utilize their mailing lists well or focus on building up their audience there, which is a big mistake because those are the folks who are wanting and asking to connect with you. You can do a newsletter instead of a blog and send it bi-monthly or weekly or more often leading up to holidays/new launches. These can be mostly visual for the non-writer types, sharing behind the scenes pics, sneak peeks, favorite Instagrams/pins from the week, etc – these really are the best way to stay in touch and start to bring traffic back to your site and I think the #1 priority over a blog or social media presence.

More help for your blog

Take a moment now to subscribe to my newsletter, so you won’t miss the next posts (you’ll also get all the free guides and workbooks I’ve been working on for my readers!):

How do you feel about blogging?

Do you feel like blogging is not for you, and have you pinpointed something else that you would like to do? Or do you see that you can shape your own blog in a way that works for you, and are you excited to do so? Again, I’d welcome any questions about blogging or content marketing in the comments. Let’s hear about your unique problem!

Choosing Fonts: Foolproof Combos For Your Business

There certainly are a dizzying array of fonts available these days and it can be tough to know where to start looking!

choosing fonts guide choosing fonts guide

This infographic explains the fundamentals of typography and the classifications into which fonts are sorted. Running though these and cross-checking with your business can help define if you are a serif business, sans, script fan, or some combo of all three. A graphic designer will likely refer to your font options using these terms when choosing fonts for your business.

A designer’s eye

Someone who works with fonts is trained to be sensitive to the various styles, history, usage trends, paired with the concept behind your business when selecting typefaces for you. At any given time I’ve got a dozen or so fonts I’ve been crushing on that I look at first when picking fonts for a client. And because I work with a lot of branding, it’s important to be aware of what else is going on in the landscape to make sure I don’t repeat or copy anyone else’s font usage exactly. It’s mostly research, and scrolling through pages and pages of typefaces from various type foundries, but there’s also a whiff of gut reaction (like oooh yes this one is perfect) that comes into play too. It’s hard to explain exactly, but not everything can be totally systematic when working with visuals. Otherwise it wouldn’t be an art, it would be a science!

Font budget

Budget is also a factor. Most small businesses spend an average of $200 on their custom-picked package of fonts with desktop and web licenses. Though this varies depending on how grassroots or high-end a business is. There are quite a few free fonts available which helps too, but this is an area to be mindful of because often free fonts are buggy, overused, amateurish in design, or an awkward hybrid of styles. It’s better to stick to simple looks if selecting free fonts, and save your money for a rarer fine specimen later. Lost Type Co. offers a pay-what-you want model for their carefully crafted options. Google Fonts are reasonable too, but I stay away from services like Da Font or 1001 Free Fonts for reasons I mention above.

Choosing fonts

I start looking by picking out 3-4 adjectives that describe the client or their work and punch that into MyFonts.com (my most often used font service) to start the process. Are they upscale & glamorous? Or more no-frills and approachable? Friendly and sweet or refined and austere? Are their products handmade, or manufactured? Are they on the edge of the trends or prefer a more classic approach? If the business involves creative work like illustration or photography, a memorable display font for their name and a simple font for supporting information is typically enough – most of the “brand” comes from their work and whatever graphics I select or create need to highlight their work instead of compete with it.

Choosing font combinations

Once I have a couple options in mind, I pick 1-2 well-contrasting others for uniqueness, pizazz and that extra special something. More contrast is best, as using two similar typefaces won’t be dramatic enough. Almost all online font providers allow basic typesetting in words of your choice which helps get a better “real life” sense. Sometimes I screen shot this text and bring it into Photoshop to manipulate it even more to test it out, but this is a tedious way to typeset and means replicating this work with the real font once its been purchased so it’s not my first choice if I can avoid it.

choosing witty fonts choosing energetic fonts choosing dignified fonts

The images above are from this fantastic guideline for pairing fonts and what makes for good harmony.

choosing feminine fonts

Nesha shows us 5 best feminine Google Font combos here.

5 best elegant google fonts

And Web Designer’s Journey shows the 5 most elegant Google Font combos:

choosing beachy fonts

And because I’m itching for Spring (oooh we might crack 40ºF next week here in Chicago! Break out ya sunscreen!) here’s some free fonts inspired by California by June Letters Studio!

Brand consulting

These resources should get you cooking, but should you run into a jam or are looking for a more custom look, you know who to call (or, email, rather these days) to get you sorted! I’m happy to do a consulting session with you on your brand if you are looking for fresh eyes and some new ideas on where to take things next. Get in touch for rates and availability!

Do I Need a Blog For My Business?

I recently spoke at the Dream Rock retreat in Sedona about creating a website content strategy. I showed some example websites from our portfolio on Aeolidia that had very well-organized, goal-based navigation, and then during the Q&A time, someone asked me, “I noticed that all the sites you showed us had a blog. Do I need a blog for my business?” We talked about that briefly as a group, and when we chatted in person later, she thanked me for the insight and confessed to me that she didn’t have any idea that blogs drove traffic to a website, but instead thought that blogs were, “just something women liked to do.” This really surprised me, and I made a note to tackle this topic on our blog.

So, if you think that women business owners are blogging because they’re chatty and enjoy sharing their lives, think again. These women (and men, of course!), are strategically driving traffic to their websites, enjoying tons of love from Google, and making their other marketing efforts easier. Let me explain how.

Do I need a blog for my business?

What is a blog?

A blog is part of a website that displays articles. Your articles (or blog posts) are usually updated on an ongoing basis, listed in chronological order on your blog, and show dates of posts and an area for people to comment. Some websites are blogs (you go to the main page and see the posts), and some websites contain many pages, with a blog being one of the pages on the site. This article is mostly about ecommerce websites also including a blog, though I’m also talking about service providers, who want to supplement their portfolio with a blog.

Do I need a blog for my business?

No, you don’t. There are plenty of other ways to drive traffic to your site without a blog, and if you don’t have the time or the talent (or the money to hire someone) to start a blog now, it is fine to concentrate on other ways to bring people to your website and keep them engaged. But the blog is such low-hanging fruit, if you’re able to do it that I would recommend it.

I resisted starting a blog for a long time. Then I did it a couple of years ago, and now that’s how we get most of our traffic.

A blog will bring traffic to your site

Um, heck yeah it will! If you write useful, interesting, or inspiring articles, your readers will share those with their network and bring new people to your site. For an ecommerce site, it can be easier to promote a post about a product than to try to promote just a product itself. Blogs can be used for giveaways and contests, or to announce sales, all of which will keep people reading and will bring new people in as people share the good news.

A blog is good for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Yes, absolutely! Think of it this way: an ecommerce site without a blog has a handful of informational pages (about, contact, FAQ), then all the products. If you add in a blog, that adds to the number of pages on your site which have content that others are linking to (Google likes that), with as many juicy keywords about your business as you’d like. If you decide to blog once a week, at the end of the year you’ll have 52 new pages on the site that Google will be returning to people who are searching for exactly that type of content.

A blog can establish you as an authority

Regularly writing posts for your blog (and guest posts for other peoples’ blogs) will showcase you as an authority on your subject, whatever it is. If your competitors don’t have a blog, and you’re continuously showing up with timely articles about trends, techniques, and news about your industry, you will have the edge and appear to be a leader in your niche.

A blog can make your other marketing efforts easier

What? It’s true! If you’ve gone to the trouble of writing a blog post for this week, you can now use that post to promote your site without having to come up with any new content. Grab a photo and paragraph from the post and put them on Instagram. Pin the most compelling photo from the post to Pinterest with a blurb interesting people in heading back to the blog. Tweet about your post with a link, and let everyone know about it on Facebook. Ask your colleagues to share your great new article. Include a blurb and a link to your blog post in your newsletter. You don’t want to only be recycling content on these social media outlets, but remember that people want to hear about your blog post – go let them know about it where they’re hanging out!

A blog humanizes your brand

As creatives, handcrafters, and makers, people come to us because they enjoy being part of our world, rather than hitting the big box stores. That means they’d love to hear a bit about your personal life. Of course you need a balance, and your blog can’t be all baby pictures, but taking the time to share a bit about your life, your process, your team, or your opinions can draw people in. Even sticking to business, but infusing your posts with your own voice, sense of humor, or outlook on life can serve to make you more real and compelling to your customers.

A blog drives sales

Above all, a blog can drive sales or be used to steer your readers to help you with your business goals. You aren’t writing these posts selflessly, entirely to entertain people. You want something from them, and each of your posts should have a call to action: something you’re asking your readers to do. For ecommerce stores, this will usually be to purchase a product, so make sure after you talk about the product, you give people a link to go take a look at it. You can also use a blog post to ask people to sign up for your newsletter, follow you on social media, share info in the comments, vote for you in a contest, share your site with their friends, attend an event you’ll be at, go read another great blog post you wrote, look at your portfolio etc.

You want the time you spend on each blog post to have value, and the best way to do this is to have a business goal for each post, then write it in a way that will help you with that goal.

More help with your blog

Take a moment now to subscribe to my newsletter, so you won’t miss the next posts (you’ll also get all the free guides and workbooks I’ve been working on for my readers!):

Do you have a blog? Are you thinking of starting a blog? What questions do you have about blogs for business, or blogs on ecommerce sites? Please share in the comments. I’d love to offer some personalized tips.

How to Bring Quality, Targeted Traffic to Your Online Shop

I’ve discussed conversion rate on on the Aeolidia blog before, and this is a useful companion piece, about how to get serious buyers to your website in the first place. It can be very puzzling figuring out how to get people to visit your site, especially if you’ve been relying on a service such as Etsy to drive traffic to you. Once you have a website of your own to promote, you need a plan to reach out to all the right people.

I have a lot of great email chats with creative business owners who receive my newsletter, and I was recently asked:

Another thing we are currently working on right now is probably something a lot of new e-commerce site owners are trying to figure out – good quality traffic. We are working through our marketing plan/checklist now, but I know it’s just going to take time to get the traffic flow we want. I think all the pieces are there – good quality site, good products, and good social media interaction. We just need to grow our trickle of customers to a steady flow!

This question shows a lot of insight, because the biz owner knows she should be looking for good quality traffic, not just traffic. “Traffic” is how we refer to the flow of people onto and through our websites. Your traffic is how many visitors  you get. If you have low quality traffic, you may get hundreds of thousands of people on your site, with only a few remaining there to purchase. High quality traffic will give you a lot of sales with less people visiting (and less marketing effort on your part).

Why you want targeted traffic

Many of our clients run creative businesses that are so unique and out of the mainstream that they’re going to want highly targeted traffic – meaning visitors who understand the type of business they are, and who are looking for the kind of stuff they sell. For instance, we featured Finspo on our blog recently, a business that creates wearable mermaid tails. You can’t just tell a random person on the street about Finspo and expect them to bust out their wallet. Advertising someplace for everyone to see will likely be a waste of Finspo’s ad dollars. But advertising in places where she knows mermaid tail lovers are hanging out will pay off well, such as a sci-fi/fantasy conference where people dress in costume, or a mermaid-loving Facebook group.

Your business doesn’t need to be wildly unusual to want targeted traffic. Most readers of a blog like Design*Sponge, for example, are interested in design, naturally, so a business selling design-oriented products or services would much prefer the targeted traffic of a Design*Sponge editorial post than a mention on a website that caters to an audience who don’t value design.

The more unique or niche your business is, the more carefully you’ll want to target your marketing efforts. If you feel like you offer something most everyone would want, go ahead and send a firehose of untargeted traffic to your site and enjoy! But generally, it’s easier to distinguish yourself by not appealing to the masses, and instead speaking to your own group of likeminded people.

Research your target customer

Things to know when marketing your products or services:

  • Who is my target customer?
  • What problem can I solve for my target customer?
  • What desires can I fulfill for my target customer?
  • Where does my target customer hang out?
  • How does my target customer communicate?
  • What motivates my target customer to make a purchase?

Spend some time in your customers’ shoes and find out what blogs they’re reading, what hashtags they’re following, what Pinterest boards they build, what language they use. This will allow you to do the right thing when trying to attract them.

Make a plan to attract the right people

Understanding your target customer will help you know:

  • What blogs you want to be featured on
  • What sites to advertise on
  • What keywords to pay for
  • How to word your pitch, advertisement, or website
  • What benefits to point out
  • What offers to make
  • What collaborations to forge

How can you apply this research? Here are some ways to market your business and get the traffic that will convert to sales on your website:

  • Get editorial features, do giveaways, or guest post on blogs that you know your perfect customers are reading.
  • Pitch your business to niche publications.
  • Use Google’s retargeting ads to only advertise to people who have already visited your site and are likely to be interested (best quality traffic!).
  • When purchasing keyword ads, use very specific keywords, rather than vague or broad ones (for Finspo, “mermaid tail,” not “costumes”).
  • Adjust the copy/content on your website to speak directly to your target customer, and remove anything that’s trying to pander to a wide audience. This will help with retaining the traffic you get, and making sure Google shows your site to the right people.
  • Post regularly to a blog on your site that is very specific to what your target customer is interested in. This will make you show up on Google when these people are searching for their interests.
  • Be familiar enough with your audience that you can keep them subscribed to your newsletter and  your social media feeds, and share with their friends.
  • Collaborate with a non-competing business that has an audience that will like your stuff, to promote each others’ work in a win-win way.

How do you market your business?

Are you trying to reach a lot of people, or enough of the right people? How do you know when you’re doing things right? What questions do you have about applying this advice to your business? Please share in the comments!

Get your targeted traffic workbook

Originally posted on Create & Thrive »

Shopify Design Before & After: From Theme to Custom Site

Tickled Teal before and after

A new custom Shopify design for a gift shop

Tickled Teal is an ecommerce business specializing in custom gifts such as custom coffee mugs, cell phone cases, personalized pet tags, license plates, and more.

Renee contacted us last fall about redesigning her logo and website. She wanted to create a cohesive, professional look that would make her feel more comfortable driving traffic to her own website. Tickled Teal began with a pre-made design from the Shopify theme store, which is a great way to get started for a new business. You can test out what works and doesn’t work for your customers, hone in on your brand’s identity and style, and then when you’re feeling confident about your business, move on to hire a designer to create a custom Shopify design for your website.

Renee explained why she was ready for a custom design:

Currently the site is pretty plain and we feel it could use more personality. We love to make it feel more fun and whimsical to go along with our products. We don’t feel that our site, as it is now, is a good representation of what we have to offer. As a graphic designer, I am too close to the project and feel like I need some outside help to help break through to what I know it can become.

Here is Renee’s original website:

Tickled Teal before

The website worked, but lacked personality and showed little of the whimsy that is such a big part of Tickled Teal’s line of products. You can see that the item page, below, was rather plain. Important information, such as the price and social sharing buttons were easily lost on the page.

Tickled Teal before

Sarah on our team began by creating a new logo and identity for Tickled Teal, which is a huge improvement over the bland “before” look. We posted this one on Instagram recently, and got more “likes” and comments than we ever have!

Tickled Teal Brand Identity

Sarah then carried the new brand over to the website design. When presenting the new look, Sarah explained to Renee:

I tried to keep things simple, light and friendly while scattering lots of nice little details throughout the design. Your colours are so lovely and bright! There is a lot of white space to keep things looking un-cluttered and while I have used colour to grab attention, each section of the design stands out in its own subtle way so that nothing is annoying or distracting.

Tickled Teal after the website redesign

Custom Shopify design for a gift store

The new Tickled Teal site is full of personality. The design (those feathers!) carries the customer’s eye down the page, and important information is now easy to find. One feature that Renee needed on her new site was a way to easily sell her customizable products. For this project, we used an app which will allow Renee to change all of the fields and drop down options for an item, as well as add new fields in the future. This makes it easy for Renee to set up customizable products, and the design of the page makes it easy for customers to understand how to order them.

Custom Shopify design for a gift store

We asked Renee for feedback about her project with us and she shared:

I went into the project not really knowing what to expect, but I am definitely thrilled with the finished product for our logo & website re-branding project! Throughout the project you were incredibly easy and great to communicate with.

I really enjoyed the way we could bounce ideas off of each other and work through design challenges to create awesome solutions. It was awesome to always feel like the designer and I were on the same page. I would describe something for her and what she would come back with was like she had read my mind.

I really appreciated how organized you were and that you were quick to answer all of my questions. I would definitely recommend Aeolidia to anyone looking to re-vamp or start a new web design project.

Ready for a before & after of your own?

We would love to talk with you about a website redesign, get you started with a marketing plan, or get your logo and packaging ready for the big time. Contact us at Aeolidia!