Working with Creative Professionals – Part 1

Working with Graphic Designers, Copywriters, and Web Developers: An Interview with Alizah Epstein Part 1

I interviewed Alizah Epstein, Chief Creative Officer at Epstein Creative for this Q & A. Epstein Creative is a full-service graphic and website design studio that provides a full range of professional creative and marketing services. Alizah and I discussed what you should know before hiring a creative professional to help you promote your business.

Creative professionals include graphic and multi-media designers, copywriters, and web developers who work in a variety of settings. They can be self-employed freelancers. They can work in design studios or marketing communication firms that offer branding, logo development, and web services. Full-service advertising agencies offer marketing research services and the full range of creative services, including advertising placement. Some studios and most advertising agencies employ account managers who act as a liaison between you and the creative team. They manage your project.

Question: Where can I find creative professionals?

Answer: One of the best ways to find creative professionals is byword-of-mouth. If you like someone’s website, logo or printed promotional literature, get the name of the person or persons who wrote and designed it. If you need design work, and have budget restraints, think about going to a local art school. Graphic design students are always looking for work to use in their portfolio.

There are design industry publications that have directories of design professionals. For example, you can browse designer’s portfolios at www.comarts.com or go to AIGA.org and look under Find a Designer. AIGA also has local chapters. You can post your job on the Art Directors Club website, adcglobal.org. Another place to look is LinkedIn where there are design groups and advertising copywriters groups and you can search for designers in your area.

You can search for multi-media and graphic designers, writers, and web developers. If you see a website you like and you think it’s appropriate for your business, look at the bottom of the home page and you’ll see the name of the designer who built the website. You can click on their name and go directly to the designer’s website.

Question: Should I hire my brother-in-law’s cousin to design my website and logo?

Answer: It depends. If this relative has experience creating websites and logos in your specific industry or business, interview him. Can you have a frank discussion about fees?

Question: What do creative professionals charge for their services?

Answer: This is a big topic for freelancers and design firms. Creative costs should be considered part of your business start-up costs such as branding and logo development. Creative fees vary by the experience of the designer and location. A designer in Oklahoma City will charge less than one in Chicago. Logo designers charge anywhere from $300 to $8,000. You can look at www.howdesign.com to find hourly rates of freelancers. You are paying for the value, experience, and education of your creative team.

Most designers charge by the hour. Some do value-based pricing. Value-based pricing sets the fee for the project based on the value to the customer rather than on the cost of the project. However, most creative professionals charge by the hour. When selecting a web designer, you should find out what the charges are for: your domain name; web hosting; website design and development. If you were not going to handle maintenance such as updating your site or adding blog postings, it would be fine to use these services. To find specific prices go to GoDaddy, Bluehost, or MediaTemple.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Working with Creative Professionals.

Contact Alizah

PowerPoint – Making the Most Out of Your Presentations Part 2

Five Surefire Ways to Make the Most Out of Your PowerPoint Presentation

  1. Use as few slides as you can to make your point. It’s like packing a suitcase for your vacation. First, you pack everything you want and need. This overloads your suitcase and makes it hard to close. Next, remove at least half of what you packed and repack the suitcase. Now everything fits and you can happily go on vacation knowing you did the right thing. Go through the same exercise with your slides.
  2. Face the audience and talk directly to them. Do not look at your slides. As I said above, this is the most important thing you can do to keep your audience engaged. In other words, don’t talk to your slides.
  3. Turn your presentation into a story using visuals, not bulleted words. Do not use cartoons to make your point. Some audience members might feel you are infantilizing them.
  4. Distribute your presentation handout to your audience in document form, not in Powerpoint.
  5. Use your own slides. I was listening to a talk at a conference where the speaker was using PowerPoint. She showed a slide that I thought would fit perfectly in a presentation I’d be giving in a few weeks. I asked her if I could borrow that slide. She said that would be OK. When I presented the talk and clicked on that slide, I froze. I could not, for the life of me, remember how this fit into my talk. It made sense when she used it but did not work for me. I’ll never do that again.

The most important lesson I’ve learned about using PP is that less is more. The less I explain, the more my audience will comprehend. I ask myself, “Do I really need to flash slides on a screen as a way to get my message across? Instead, I prepare a coherent and brief document to be handed out.

So, what’s an effective use of PP? – Try using one or two slides with graphics related to your happy-ending story. Tell a story. It’s a powerful way to get your message across and connect with your audience.

Before your prepare your next PowerPoint presentation, you’ll want to read a brilliant essay by Edward Tufte titled The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within. You can find it at http://www.edwardtufte.com

PowerPoint – What’s the Point? Part 1

According to my son Max, “Death by PowerPoint is painful”. As a marketing major in college, Max sat through countless hours of Powerpoint presentations in his classes. He would complain and say, “Just give me the notes”.

There might come a time when you’ll be asked to give a talk on a topic of interest to those in your business or professional world. And, chances are you’ll be asked to use PP, a slide show presentation software. I’ve been in that situation many times.

I want to talk about the use of electronics aids in presenting information to a group. Have you ever attended a talk and the some of the following things happened?

  • The speaker’s microphone did not work or it screeched with a deafening noise
  • No one knew how to turn the lights down in the meeting room
  • No one could figure out how to connect the speaker’s laptop to the projector
  • If a recorded video was shown, it’s quality was sketchy or inaudible
  • The notes that the speaker handed out were too small to read
  • The speaker’s slides were different than the written notes you were given

I’m sure you can think of other ‘challenges’ you’ve had with getting the electronics ready for your presentation. Assume that something will go wrong with the electronics. Talk to the conference organizers several hours before you give your talk and make sure everything works.

Using Powerpoint as Part of a Business Information Sharing Presentation

I’ve given many talks at national conferences and seminars. For most of the talks, I had to write proposals before the talk would be accepted. After the proposals were accepted, I’d be given a list of things to do prior to the actual talk. Now remember, these talks were not sales pitches but content-sharing presentations.

Here are some of presentation guidelines I came across.

  • Speaker is allowed to place their company’s logo only on the first page of the presentation
  • Speaker cannot in any way, mention what their business does. The conference organizers do not want sales pitches, they want the speaker to share knowledge about their industry or profession
  • Speaker is not allowed to mention the names of their customers or clients
  • If you are scheduled to speak for a one-hour, your talk should last no longer than 45 minutes plus 15 minutes for question and answers.
  • Speaker has to submit their PP presentation no later than three weeks prior to the conference. (I usually got in trouble because I generally do not finish my presentation three week prior)

These restrictions can be annoying, but if that what it takes to get yourself in front of customers, then just do it.

In the next installment of PowerPoint – What’s The Point, I’ll share five surefire ways to make the most out of your PowerPoint presentation without putting your audience to sleep.

Before your prepare your next PowerPoint presentation, you’ll want to read a brilliant essay by Edward Tufte titled The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within. You can find it at http://www.edwardtufte.com

Leepson’s Rules of Marketing Professional Services

Who said Old School marketing strategies aren’t effective in promoting professional services? Who said New School marketing strategies should replace Old School marketing strategies? I sure didn’t say that and I’m definitely not a marketing Luddite. The Urban Dictionary defines a Luddite as “one who fears technology (or new technology, as they seem pleased with how things currently are…why can’t everything just be the same?)”.

The book industry is a good example of Old/New School assumptions. Many industry observers were quick to predict the demise of the printed book due to the emergence of the e-book. James Surowiecki, writing in the New Yorker says, “Some people think physical books are technologically obsolete”.

On the other hand, according to a recent survey by the Codex Group, “ninety-seven percent of people who read e-books say they were still wedded to print, and only three percent of frequent book buyers read only digital.” Come to your own conclusion about the future of e-books.

What does this have to do with marketing professional services? My premise is that new (school) technology does not replace old school technology. New technology, in fact, enhances the old.

Take a look at Leepson’s Five Rules and come to your own conclusions.

#1: Talk to your prospects (Old School). The most effective way to promote professional services is to present a paper, give a talk or get on a panel at a conference where your clients hang out. Talks demonstrate your professional competencies to your target market.

It’s not good enough just to join your local or national professional association. You need to get on a committee or volunteer to do something. This is a great way to get your name out to your target market (such as association members and vendors).

#2: Publish or Perish (Old School) is the mantra of academia. Enhance your credibility by writing something. Write a short case study or a lessons-learned article for a publication your target market reads. If you publish your article online, make sure the article is placed on a site that you know your prospects will read. Use other online vehicles (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) to link to your article.

#3: You are your brand (New School). Branding is not the New School panacea for your marketing woes. Tell your prospects, “Use my professional services, and you’ll get this (specific) benefit”. Make sure your benefit claim is couched in terms of your unique capabilities. Your job is to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

#4: Websites are passive. (New School) Your website, blog and business Facebook page can help promote the features and benefits of your professional service. But remember, your website is a passive, not aggressive, communication channel.

However, prospects will most likely look you up online before contacting you.

#5: Social Media could be anti-social (New School). Tweets (without links to meaningful content), Instagram pictures and some blog postings as New School marketing strategies, are generally thin on content and have a fleeting quality. Also, there is little or no value in broadcasting your message to a wide, dispersed audience. Social media are great ways to communicate information, but your goal is to go beyond communication and establish a connection with your prospects. Don’t confuse communication with connection.

Leepson’s Rules are not immutable, but there are definitely both Old and New School best practices you should use when it comes to promoting your professional service.