Tech Tips from 9 Industry Leaders in Jax

Jacksonville was recently ranked No.10 for local business population growth, according to Yelp’s Q2 2018 Economic Outlook Report. We turned to market leaders in Jacksonville to learn how their businesses are using ecommerce to grow.

Nine experts in finance, technology, law, strategic communications and other industries are letting us in on their behind-the-screens contributions to internet marketing.

Read exclusive insights from top Jacksonville industry experts who know what it takes to build a business in the bold city. Both established companies and startups can use these insights to stay competitive and help establish Jacksonville as a tech hub:

Jason Mudd, Managing Partner at Axia

‘You have to keep up with your audiences and know the new technology they’re using. Adopt those platforms early and capture new members before the competition arrives.’

In our company’s 17 year history, we’ve often hired military spouses who join our team in military cities like Jacksonville and eventually transition to working for us remotely and from other cities. It’s also our way of supporting our service men and women. At the same time, this employment strategy  builds the Jacksonville brand as a great place for employment of the creative class.

To keep up with advances in technology and enhance the profession, every quarter each employee pursues an additional certification in a trending area of measurement and technology for strategic communications and marketing.

Brian Swallow, SVP, Strategy & Partnership Development at Fanatics

‘Culture is galvanized in the early stages of business, for good or bad.  Don’t let the soft issues get lost in your efforts to grow the company. At the end of the day, your people are driving the business.’ 

Find the right partners and negotiate everything, whether with vendors or business partners. If their values and services match up with your own, use long-term commitments to lock-in favorable business terms.  Capital is scarce at this stage; manage it aggressively. Leverage acquisition-based marketing. Eliminate front-end risk when possible by paying only for performance.

Offer only differentiated services or unique products and surround yourself with innovators. Work with people who don’t just perform tasks, but who find better ways of doing things.  You can never have too many ideas.

Kelly Dyer, CEO at Inventory Source

‘Stay lean, test new SKUs first, and be agile, then automate and integrate. Sell on every channel and from every source that has profitable returns and constantly iterate.’

Inventory Source provides automation tools and dropship fulfillment options for online retailers, along with software for distributors and brands.  We automate and simplify the challenge of selling your own products, leveraging third party fulfillment, and working with drop ship partners to allow retailers to sell thousands of SKUs across dozens of channels in a fully automated way.  We see lots of ways that retailers achieve success, and the ability to be flexible with your integrations and fulfillment partners is a big part of that.

My advice for ecommerce businesses is to follow the lean approach just like a startup would. Start small, with a limited number of SKUs, and experiment with both fulfillment sources and channels.

Mark McCrary, Senior Account Manager at Presidio

‘Unless you are a technologically sophisticated company, leveraging an outsourced processing company can put the onus and risk squarely on their shoulders versus yours.’

Getting into the world of commerce can be tough going at first. You’re bound to get some bumps and bruises along the way. There are compliance things to consider like PCI (Payment Card Industry) security standards. These standards are put in place to help protect you and your client from risk of getting their credit card information stolen. If it gets out that your client’s information isn’t secure when they do business with you, it can be tough going to keep them as a customer. Obviously on their side, dealing with credit monitoring and auto denials as they legitimately apply for credit or attempt to use their cards can be problematic.

PCI compliance basically ensure that the information that stores and credit card info for your clients is secure on your side as well as any transmission of their credit card information. This can best be done by leveraging an outsourced service for handling credit cards whether it be kiosks, credit card machines or card processing software.

Alan Ferguson, Chief Underwriting Officer at US Assure

‘Think about what sets you apart, how consumers will find you online and what type of experience you want them to have on your website.’

A great, mobile responsive website that takes all the search engine optimization techniques into account is important! You need consumers to find you when they’re online searching. There’s nothing more frustrating than a business who doesn’t provide the consumer with a contact method or buries it in FAQs. Because the world of digital is constantly evolving, we collaborate with experts in the space to review emerging trends and then determine if they are a good fit for our products.

Ultimately, when we decide to try a new tactic, we test, monitor and optimize based on engagement and conversions.

Jim Satterwhite, CEO at Venture Pointe

‘Through educational forums, ensuring our clients are receiving regular information on how to better their data management, and through constant network monitoring, the battle to protect your business’ data should never stop evolving.’

Venture Pointe, as a Managed Service Provider in the Jacksonville market, is continually trying to educate our clients on the importance of network security. The one thing that is always true; the pitfalls of data exposure are consistent. Most businesses fail to recognize “where” they have exposure, usually in simple circumstances, such as employees sending emails to themselves pertaining to work related items.

Constant education and network management is genuinely at the core of what we do every day.

Harold Boyett, President & CEO at Blue Streak Couriers

‘Every interaction we have seeks to gain a five star review of the customer’s experience. In today’s digital age, we are perceived to be only as good as our last delivery.’ 

Harold BoyettThink about what you want as your result, for your ecommerce platform, and then work backwards to develop your plan. Search Engine Optimization should play a major role in your plan. We work in the final mile segment of ecommerce.  As a result, many companies use Blue Streak to complete their final mile delivery.  We are the Ambassadors of Service for our customers with their clientele. The customer experience, in today’s day of social media and online reputation, is first and foremost on everyone’s mind.

Lee Lockett, Managing Partner at Lockett Law

‘There are two types of businesses that need a heavy presence in digital marketing: Those that are, and those that need to be.’ 

Try and be as active with posting as possible on our business Facebook page and Instagram. We utilize LinkedIn as well. Pay-Per-Click will be launching soon. Never try Search Engine Optimization  (SEO) on your own. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is complicated enough for laypersons such as myself, but trying to conduct SEO on your own is akin to attempting to remove your own spleen.

Bryan Croft, CEO, Holmes Custom

Start small – the first order is often the hardest to get.  Focus on the customer and what they need the most!

It’s the #1 agenda of our marketing team to keep up with the latest trends.  We use a wide range of tools to help clear through the clutter of “digital marketing.” Some of those tools include blogs, podcasts, email updates from industry leaders, tradeshows, seminars, webinars, and LOTS of tools to stay updated and ultimately ahead of digital marketing trends. I was born and raised in Jax (Bishop Kenny, UNF!)  and will always have a huge sense of pride for Jax. I feel it’s my duty to create jobs as a business owner today.

It’s no secret that technology jobs are typically high pay, innovative, and creative. This inspires me to build that within our company and have the most talented driven people in our city to make our world a better place!

Action Items for Jacksonville Businesses

To help your business stay competitive in this swiftly changing digital landscape, consider these action items from the above leaders.

You can keep up with digital trends when you:

  • Consult with experts, from SEO specialists to processing companies, to ensure site efficacy
  • Identify your target market and increase engagement
  • Stay active on multiple digital platforms
  • Make sure your employees continually increase their technical knowledge

You can navigate ecommerce better when you:

  • Protect initial resources, from vendor relationships to capital management
  • Make sure consumers can find you online, contact your business and leave reviews
  • Make sure products and services are unique and that they add value
  • Protect your clients’ information

You can be a part of local growth in your tech community when you:

  • Invest in your employees and company culture
  • Utilize proximal space and local resources
  • Build relationships that make you an active contributor to your local community

The Next 15 Years

Holmes Custom is passionate about helping Jacksonville become a tech hub. With an increasing number of tech savvy businesses developing, more resources are put into the local economy. This creates a healthy and growing job market. The digital marketing capacity of Jacksonville grows with each step that local businesses take.

Staying competitive in technology is demanding, but you can be one step ahead when you turn to market leaders in your community. These people – even those involved in different industries, working with different sizes of businesses – are part of the same effort to stay relevant as the internet and mobile search continue to evolve.

In 2016, Forbes reported that Jacksonville had seen a strong growth of over 80 percent in tech jobs since 2001. What will the next 15 years hold?

Trophy Donation Drive for Children’s Cancer Awareness

According to the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, every single day in the United States 43 families hear these words – “your child has cancer.”

While many people know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, few know that Children’s Cancer Awareness Month is celebrated –just one month prior – September to raise awareness about pediatric cancer research.

In honor of this month, Holmes Custom has begun a Holmes Cares Trophy Donation Drive. We are asking the community to donate old or unused trophies. We will then be recycling the trophies and replacing the award plates with ‘Last Chemo’ to be donated to our neighbors at Dreams Come True of Jacksonville, Inc.

Last Chemo Trophies

Dreams Come True of Jacksonville

Dreams Come True is a non-profit organization started by Thomas R. McGehee. The organization inspired by McGehee’s friendship with George Lee, a 17-year-old boy with cystic fibrosis. McGehee learned of George’s love for golf and arranged for the boy to play with Fred Couples in the Pro-Am of the The Players Championship (TPC). Fred Couples gave George his driver. A year later, George passed away and was laid to rest with the prized driver.

Following these events, McGehee and his friends started the Dreams Come True, a locally-based non-profit organization out of Jacksonville, FL dedicated to granting the dreams of children with life-threatening illness. Since 1984, the organization has fulfilled the dreams of over 3,500 children in North Florida and South Georgia.

Now, we at Holmes Custom are working with our neighbors to assist them in caring for those fighting childhood cancer. As an organization, we are passionate about taking an active role in local community causes. For updates on our local community involvement, check us out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Where To Donate

We invite the community to participate in the Holmes Cares Trophy Donation Drive.

If you are interested in donating, you can donate your old or unused trophies by bringing them by our office at 2021 St Augustine Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32207 during our regular business hours  from Monday-Friday from 9:30 AM-4:30 P.M.

If you are unable to make it to the Holmes Custom location, The McInnis Company, CPAs is also assisting in collecting donated trophies at 2015 Park Ave Suite 3, Orange Park FL 32073.

We will be removing the award plates on your trophies and replacing these with new plates reading “Last Chemo”. The trophies will then go straight to Dreams Come True.

For those who would like to contribute but have no trophies to donate, the Dreams Come True 5k coming up on September 29th and they can register and donate on their website.

You can also participate by sharing this campaign with your neighbors.

FAQs

  • Do you accept plaques too? Yes, we will accept both plaques and trophies!
  • Do you accept all types of trophies? Yes, we are accepting all types of trophies and plaques as well.
  • Is the campaign over after September? No, we will continue to accept trophies even after September. There is currently no scheduled end date.
  • Can you mail trophies? Yes. Our address is 2021 St Augustine Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32207.

Seeking Partners for Trophy Donation Campaign

We are excited to share that our expectations have already been exceeded. We have had a massive response to this campaign on Facebook as well as an influx of donations. To meet the enthusiastic response of our community, we are looking for additional local non-profits organizations interested in accepting repurposed trophies as part of the Holmes Cares Trophy Donation  Drive.

For those interested, please reach out by private message on Facebook or email crogers@holmescustom.com.

To learn more about how Holmes Custom started this campaign, tune into the News4Jax interview with CEO Bryan Croft. More details to follow.

The Business of Branding: How to Use Blogging to Grow your Business

In today’s tech-savvy world, we turn to Google, Bing or another search engine for our unanswered questions. Often times, considering how you think will lead you down the right road for thinking like your potential customers. So it’s not hard to see why so many businesses are blogging. Blogging is one of the many ways you can give your brand a voice, show that there are people behind your business, and relate to your customers. But these aren’t the only benefits of updating your blog regularly; websites with current blog content also rank higher and gain more traffic than those that don’t. So in today’s The Business of Branding post, we’ll show you how blogging can help grow your business.

  1. Broaden your Customer Base

What small business doesn’t want more customers? The first way blogging can help your business succeed is by growing your customer base. As we mentioned before, so many of us head to our favorite search engine when you want to learn something, and by blogging, you make yourself findable in a search. For example, if you’re the owner of a small pet boutique specializing in holistic pet foods and environmentally-friendly pet toys, you may write about the benefits of feeding your animals a grain-free diet. You could also blog about why a certain toy is better for pets’ teeth than another. However, the key to blogging is to make your content compelling and provide value. Give your readers accurate information that answers their questions. The other trick is to play by the search engines rules and use relevant keywords. This will help search engines find your blog to then provide to your potential customers. In your post, include backlinks to the products you refer to and introduce your readers to your products.

2. Communicate with your Customers

Your business’ blog is also a great place to communicate with your customers. Use your blog as a platform to tell your customers about new products, answer commonly asked questions, and inform them of things happening within your company.  Customers appreciate businesses that are honest and transparent and your blog is a great tool to establish your company as that type of business. When others stumble upon your blog, they’ll be pleased to see this is the type of business you are and more inclined to become a customer.

3. Share your Knowledge

Whether you’re in the restaurant industry, a fashion designer, or a manufacturer of custom logo stamps, you’re educated in your area of expertise. Use your blog as a tool to show the world you’re an expert in your industry. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you could write a detailed blog post about the differences between vector and rasterized artwork is. By providing information that isn’t widely known, you’ll show the world that you’re an authority in your industry and make your work more creditable. Your blog is also a great place to share tips, tools and suggestions that your customers will find beneficial.

Just like no two businesses are the same, no two blogs are the same. Your blog should be an accurate representation of your brand, featuring your logo, color scheme, and your company’s overall identity. Successful blogs provide value to their readers, use relevant search terms, and hold content the world will want to share. It’s also very important your blog is visually-appealing, so include photos, infographics and videos whenever possible. Create a blog your current and potential customers will want to visit with content they’ll want to absorb and watch how it will positively impact your business!

Gift Ideas for your New Years Eve Host

How will you be ringing in the New Year this December 31st? If you’ll be celebrating with your family or friends at someone’s house, don’t forget to consider the time and effort that goes into planning a party. From invitations to food and beverages, planning an amazing New Years Eve bash is no easy task. While hosts enjoy having their loved ones around on such an important day and are happy to play the role, be sure show them just how grateful you are with a small gift. We’ve put together a few of our favorite NYE party host gift ideas to make finding the perfect present easy!

If your party host is the foodie of your family or friend group, give them a personalized glass or wooden cutting board. This thoughtful yet practical gift is something they can use on both a daily basis and when entertaining guests.

A custom beer mug is a “thank you” gift your host will be able to use right away. Bring along their favorite beer and pour them a cold one in their new mug just in time for the ball to drop.

Is your New Years Eve host a craft beer enthusiast? If they know the difference between saaz and crystal hops, they definitely are. So what better way to thank them than with a custom beer growler?

Coasters are another great gift that your host can use every time they throw a party or even a small gathering. Whether they love modern, feminine designs, just got hitched, or are an eligible bachelor, there’s a coaster designed with everyone in mind!

Does your host love a good glass of wine or champagne? Choose from a clever, funny saying or personalize it with their initials. When it’s time to cheers at midnight, they’ll sip their champagne from their new favorite glass.

This gift is also great for wine lovers! Choose from a variety of different colors and monogram designs, then pair it with their favorite bottle of wine.

After the ball drops and the new year begins, many of us are working towards our resolutions. No matter how your host defines success, help them reach their goals in the new year with a motivational sign.

A great photograph is a gift that will always be cherished, no matter who your recipient is. If your host is your close friend, give them a custom photo gift of the two of you that will remind them of your cherished friendship, or use one of their beautiful family portraits.

Not only is planning a party often time-consuming, it can also be expensive. No matter what you choose to bring your host, be sure to let them know you appreciate their hard work and your invitation with a thoughtful gift.

Have a Happy New Year and a prosperous 2018!

The Business of Branding: Fundamentals & Branding on a Budget

Ultimately, branding is about creating and maintaining an image. The great news is that this can be done on a budget. The main objective is to stay consistent, all the way from your social media presence to your product presentation and packaging.

Whether you choose a simple yet memorable color scheme and logo that carries over from your online to offline presence, or you have a unique logo that speaks for itself, there are simple ways you can keep your image consistent to achieve the brand identity your business needs.

Today, in our The Business of Branding series, we will discuss five fundamental things you can do to brand your business in an affordable way.

1. Establish an online identity and stay loyal to your color scheme, imagery and diction. When designing your website, even if it is a small, single page website that gives information about your company, remember to adhere to a cohesive color and font scheme, and write in a voice that is true to your brand and culture. Take every small opportunity to make your message and imagery cohesive. Can’t afford a website? Be sure you are present on social media channels that reach your target audience. From creating hashtag campaigns to sending out tweets, there are simple ways to maintain your identity online.

It is key to remember who your target audience is! Use your unique identity and perspective to speak to this audience directly. Don’t get overwhelmed creating your online messaging by trying to reach the wrong audience.

2. Be consistent in your presentation. In today’s digital world, much of your correspondence may begin online, and must be cohesively merged into your real world communication. When it comes to real-life, tangible materials, always remember to incorporate your voice, color scheme, logo and other important elements that are found on your website and social media profiles.

If you’re selling T-Shirts from a brick and mortar shop as well as online, wrap orders in branded tissue paper and bags. If you don’t have the budget to create custom packaging materials for your brand, order a logo stamp. Logo stamps can include not only your logo, but other information including your name, location and website URL.

The objective is to never leave out details that bring customers back to your store or your website. The more a customer comes in contact with your logo, colors and messaging, the more likely they are to remember your brand. This sounds elementary, but when things get busy it’s easy to forget. A cost-effective logo stamp can be used in many ways, from branding your shopping bags to stamping letterhead.

3. Find ways to evolve your brand over time. In order to stay fresh, interesting and ultimately alive, a brand must be able to continue to communicate with its target audience in new ways. There are many fun ways you can keep people interested in what your brand has to say and sell.

From hashtag campaigns to giveaways and contests, social media has made it much more possible for brands to stay versatile. Let’s be honest, people live on their smartphones. Remember this the next time you’re struggling with ideas about how to reach your customer. Find out what your customers care about and build messaging around this.

4. Solve tech issues that may affect your ability to reach your audience online. This sounds complicated, but it can be as simple as making sure your text is in a readable font, or your contest page is view-able on a mobile phone.

Most businesses have a website that is the cornerstone of their communication with customers, so if you do, make sure technical issues like page load times and readability aren’t holding you back. People pay attention to these details, and if they have a bad experience with your web page, they are likely to remember and not return.

5. Be present. Even though people live on their smartphones, they still like to see the faces behind a brand, whenever possible. Make sure you’re in the know about trade shows, concerts, events and other real world opportunities to interface with your target customer. This is a great way to merge online and offline communication as well.

If most of your audience knows your brand online, through Facebook or Instagram, they may revel in the opportunity to engage with you in real life via a pop up shop, contest or meet and greet. On the other hand, real world meet-ups like these are also good for meeting new customers to send to your online experience!

Branding can be overwhelming and oftentimes elusive. When it becomes a struggle to come up with new ideas, or to keep your image recognizable and consistent, it helps to revert back to the fundamentals, like what we’ve discussed in today’s blog. Branding is an ongoing and vital part of business and it includes many aspects.

Fundamentally, however, effective branding involves consistent use of color, fonts, voice, your logo, packaging and presentation, and includes providing real world interaction that merges your online and offline identity. There are ways to reach your customer and stay within your budget!

The Business of Branding: Logo Design Tips & Trends

Your logo speaks volumes about your company, from who you are to what you do, and is arguably one of the most defining elements of your brand. It’s extremely important when developing your brand identity that you design your logo to accurately represent your brand. In the world of design, trends are ever evolving, but there are also many constants you’ll see in strong, successful logos. So today we’ll give you our tips for designing your company’s logo and share the current logo trends for inspiration.

Variation in logos is essential because it shows no two businesses are the same. While seeking inspiration from other brands and identifying elements that reflect how you want your brand to feel is helpful, your logo should be entirely your own. That being said, there are a few things strong logos all have in common.

What do GREAT logos have in common?

First of all, they’re simple. Often times we get excited when designing our logo and want to include as many different design elements as possible, but this can be distracting to potential consumers. Keep it simple by making every design decision with a clear intention. Why do you want your logo to contain three separate colors, or why do you want leaves surrounding your company’s name? If you can’t answer these questions indefinitely, you’ll know they’re unnecessary.

Secondly, powerful logos are always versatile. Keep in mind you’ll be using your logo across different mediums when you’re in the design phase. Your company’s logo should work well on both your website, social media accounts, printed business cards, or company brochures.

Your logo should also be timeless. We sometimes want to design our logo based on what’s trendy, but if your company is as successful as we all hope it will be, you don’t want to design a logo that will be out of style in 10 years.

Most importantly, your logo needs to be memorable. Be sure to design a logo that your customers will be able to easily identify. Make sure it’s unique and is a clear representation of your brand.

What are some of today’s trends in logo design?

Simplification

Over the last few years, companies like Airbnb, MasterCard and even Google have chosen to simplify their logos.  By choosing simpler fonts and color palettes, they’re able to give their logo a look that’s still easily identifiable as their brand, but is more aesthetically pleasing. Complex logos often make consumers lose focus, which is why large corporations are making their logos more clean cut and memorable.

Texture

By adding certain textures to a logo, companies are able to let their brand speak without really say anything at all. There’s an endless number of different textures to add to your logo to make it feel different ways. For example, some companies add texture to their logos to give their brand a rustic or vintage feel.

Geometric Shapes

For years geometry has been used in logos, but the way designers are using it these days is what’s so unique. Whether the logo is made completely of geometry or is the company’s icon, brands are speaking through geometric shapes. If you choose to go this route with your brand, be sure your design makes sense for your brand.

Hand-Sketched Logos

Hand-drawn logos are popular for smaller or more artistic brands. While they’re generally harder to translate to computers than a digital design, they humanize brands, which is extremely important to today’s consumers. If you want to give your company a small-business feel, a sketched logo may be a good option for you, but be sure you make similar decisions when developing the rest of your brand strategy.

Negative Space

Negative space logos are generally used to attract attention. It also gives the brand an opportunity to build meaning within the negative space. These logos are often designed to make consumers think twice.

Cropping

Cropped logos are rooted in the idea that less is more. This approach to design argues that we don’t need to see the entirety of a letter of word to understand what it means.

Searching for more inspiration for creating a logo? You may find it helpful to view an analysis of some The Best & Worst Real Estate Logos of 2018. This article features useful examples as well as tips for making an unforgettable logo.

Designing your logo will likely be one of the most exciting times in developing your brand. Be sure not to rush through the process, hire professional assistance when necessary, and make every decision with a set intention. Once you’ve decided on a final logo for your company, be sure to keep different versions of your logo, like PSD and other vector art files, in a safe place for future promotional use. In our next “The Business of Branding” post, we’ll share ideas for affordably branding your small business!

Learn how to establish your brand voice and position here.

7 Employee Gift Ideas for the Holiday Season

The holiday season is quickly approaching! For many industries, that means the busiest time of the year is here and businesses will be  working extra hard to keep up with the demand. Whether your company is hiring seasonal employees or your year-round employees will be working longer hours, it’s important that the hard work and dedication doesn’t go unnoticed.

The holidays are a time to show our gratitude towards those around us, and your employees are no exception. There are many ways to show your employee appreciation, from throwing a holiday party for your whole team to gift giving. Here are some of our favorite business holiday gifts ideas to show your employees just how thankful you are to have them on your team!

1. Business Card Holders

Do your employees go to conferences and other external meetings? Do they enjoy going out and mingling with other professionals? Give your team members something classy to carry around their business cards in! These days, making connections means everything. A personalized business card holder is a great way to help your team members make a powerful first impression.

2. Travel Coffee Mugs

Pretty much everyone loves a good cup of coffee, but we don’t always love when our hot cup turns cold, or iced coffee gets warm. A custom travel coffee mug will give your employees an easy way to bring their coffee into work with them and make sure it stays at their preferred temperature. Personalize the outer sleeve with either your employee’s initials, or make them all uniform by adding the company logo.

 

3. Luggage Tags

Do your employees travel often for work? More and more companies are requiring work travel, and whether your team members take a trip twice a year or every month, you want to make sure their trip goes as smoothly as possible. To help add ease to their travels, give your employees personalized luggage tags so they’ll always be able to quickly identify their bags.

4. Fun Desk Plates

We all love a little desk decor. Our work space is our home-away-from-home, and it’s important we feel comfortable while we’re there. A funny desk plate is a great way to keep gift giving light and fun. We love trendy desk plates here at Holmes Custom, so we’ve got many designs to choose from! Give your team member a desk plate that will make them laugh or keep them motivated.

5. Motivational Signs

Speaking of motivation and decor, our motivational signage is a great way to keep your team members going. Not only will it add a pop of color to their desk or office, it’ll also be a gentle, fun reminder to keep working “like a boss.”

6. Funny Coffee Mugs

There’s a coffee mug for every employee in your office within our collection of fun designs. For the coffee lovers that always seem to have a cup in their hand, order them the “Coffee Before Talkie” or “But First, Coffee” mug. There’s also an option for every Harry Potter-lover, Proud Mom or Dad, and Veteran on your team.

7. Employee Awards

If you’re throwing a holiday party, it’s always a fun idea to involve employee awards. Celebrate anniversaries and reaching sales goals, or come up with a list of funny awards. At Holmes Custom, we’ve got a huge selection of awards to choose ranging in price points and designs.

There are so many fun, creative ways to express your gratitude this holiday season. Be sure you don’t let your appreciation go unnoticed and find the perfect gift for all of your team members at Holmes Custom!

 

The Business of Branding: How to Establish Brand Voice & Position

Have you noticed that the oldest and most established companies change their voice and messaging over time?  In the 1980s, for example, Pepsi’s “The Choice of a New Generation” campaign used Michael Jackson’s iconic music along with other popular culture idioms to attract the ears and eyes of a youthful audience. (As early as 1961 Pepsi branded itself as the cola for “those who think young.”) Through the years, Pepsi Co. successfully positioned itself as the brand for a younger, hipper generation. (This messaging adversely marked Coke as the soda for a more mature demographic.)

This kind of messaging is powerful and it keeps brands growing, thriving and competing with one another. Company branding is fluid and should be intuitive to the voice of its consumer base and a constantly evolving marketplace. As this week’s “The Business of Branding” post, we will focus on creating a brand voice that not only speaks directly to your target customer, but that also stands out amid a sea of competitors.

First, it is helpful to define what brand voice IS NOT. Brand voice is not music, jingles or sound effects. Once you have reached the point of creating your brand voice and position, you ideally have your visual elements in place, including your color palette, imagery, patterns and other cues that draw the eye in and create an aesthetic identity. Your brand voice should work in collaboration with visual elements to build a cohesive, unforgettable message.

Six basic steps to creating a brand voice:

  1. Define your brand’s personality in words. These words should precisely say who you are. They should speak definitively to your target audience. At this point in building your brand, you should have a strong idea of who you’re trying to reach. Are they young, energetic and ready for the latest trends, or are they older, more mature and established in their beliefs? For decades, Pepsi chose to reach out to a youthful audience, while Coke was the “classic” of soft drinks. Start with 3 words that define your brand, and build from there. (Example: Young, bold and energetic, or mature, established and steadfast.)
  2. Stand apart from the competition. Review what your top competitors are doing. What messaging and verbiage are they using to speak to their customer? Once you find out, DON’T copy what they’re doing. Say something unique. What do you offer that your competitor doesn’t? Reflect this uniqueness in your verbiage.
  3. Ask yourself “How does my audience communicate?” Are they sarcastic, funny or formal? Once you understand the way they speak, you can use this to communicate with them.
  4. Use a call to action; don’t be passive in your messaging. Your visual elements and written communication should work in tandem to grab your customer’s attention.
  5. Find a way to engage your audience. No matter how formal your business is, or how serious your products are, you can find a down-to-earth conversational way to engage your target customer. Speak to them. Consider what is important in their daily life, and how your brand can help solve their problem. Don’t be afraid to use humor or even daily annoyances to get on a human level with your customer base.
  6. As mentioned above, don’t feel confined to your brand voice. It can change over time and fluctuate in response your audience’s needs. Pepsi and Coke are 2 of the oldest and most successful commercial brands, and they continue to find ways to engage their customer while competing with one another in the marketplace.

Positioning your Brand and Product:

At this point, you have ideally pinned down the audience you want to speak to and you’ve begun establishing the diction and visual language you will use to reach them. These elements will also help you position your brand in the marketplace. Consider Pepsi and Coke once again. Which is your favorite and why? If you can answer these questions, you can begin to understand your own business’s position. Is your product essential and affordable, or luxurious and uncommon? Only you can answer these questions, but once you do, you’re on your way to a distinct voice and strong position on the market.

Information we found useful in the creation of this post:

http://www.advergize.com/marketing/history-of-pepsi-slogans-connect-generations-years/

http://larsen.com/insights/creating-the-right-brand-voice/

The Business of Branding: Establishing your Company Culture

What is your company culture and how will it affect your business? You can think of your company culture as the personality of your business, from your workplace environment to team values, company-wide goals to overall expectations. Today we’ll be sharing the importance of establishing your company culture and how this internal element and your business’ brand are closely knit together.

When we think of a great company culture, many of us think of the napping nooks at Google or the tuition reimbursement provided by Starbucks. Many businesses understand that by taking care of their employees, they will in turn be loyal to the company and work hard at everything they do. But what many people don’t realize is that a company’s culture and the business’ brand should be integrated. The most powerful branding starts from within. If you have a team full of individuals ready to show the world how great your company is, whether it’s two or 200 people, you’re already a step ahead of your competition.

Now more than ever, consumers are showing their loyalty to companies they can relate to. They want to see the faces behind the business they’re supporting, which is why humanizing your brand and company culture has become so important. While we here at Holmes Custom have grown exponentially over the years, we value our small business status and our team of #Holmies. Our brand and values makes for a natural connection with so many of our customers because they too are either small business owners or a part of a small business team. We’re eager to help equip their small business with the tools they need and chase their dreams.

Once you’ve defined your brand, you have the foundation for your company culture. What do you value as a company and what is your purpose? If you’re an energetic fitness business helping your customers reach their health goals, your culture should be motivational and competitive.

No matter what your company represents, marrying your brand and culture will give you a powerful platform to create a company that’s both cohesive and authentic. Be sure you’re being unique when establishing what you want your company’s culture to be. It’s easy to look at successful corporations and mock their strategies, but if you create a company culture that is unique to your brand, standing apart will be easy.

When building your team, look for candidates that naturally possess the characteristics you want your business to have. If customer service is a top priority, look for friendly, out-going individuals who want to see your customer’s smile. If you’re opening a high-scale bar that serves craft cocktails, search for drink enthusiasts with keen attention to detail. By finding the right team and creating a solid, transparent company culture, you’re giving your employees the tools they need to succeed. By being clear with your company values, your team will never have to guess what is the right decision and will feel empowered to make judgment calls they know you will approve of.

Once your company culture has been established, let it be known. If you work in an office environment, set a small portion of your budget aside to decorate with motivational signs or other decor to represent your culture. Celebrate achievements with your employees, whether it’s with something as simple as an ice cream social or as big as a weekend retreat for the whole team. Be sure to document it in a professional yet fun and engaging way on your company blog or social media accounts. Not only will your customers enjoy seeing the faces that work so hard behind the scenes, your team will also know they’re a valued part of your company’s mission.

In the next “The Business of Branding” post, you can look forward to learning all about establishing your brand voice!

 

 

 

 

The Business of Branding: Small Business Spotlight featuring Grease Rags Clothing Co.

Here at Holmes Custom we are passionate about small business. We often receive orders from small businesses with big goals and even cooler logos! Here in our local Jacksonville community, many small businesses are succeeding and thriving, not through sales alone, but also through relationships with their community and passion for what they do.

As part of our “The Business of Branding Series” we are featuring Grease Rags Clothing Co. for our small business spotlight. We would like to introduce you to Cindy Platt, owner of this inspiring and unique Jacksonville based small business. Cindy has just recovered her shop from damage it underwent during Hurricane Irma and she has just had her grand re-opening!

We are excited to share Cindy’s unique point of view and the trials and successes that inspired her to spread her wings and become a business owner.

Q: When did you start grease rags?

A: Grease Rags Clothing Co. celebrated its 4th year anniversary at the beginning of October.

Q: What encouraged you to open your own retro clothing shop?

A: My prior background was in corporate banking. After completing treatment for Stage 4 oral cancer, I realized a few things. My brain worked a bit differently than before and my priorities had completely changed. No more banking for me, but I had to do something to keep me busy enough on my own terms so I could stop worrying about my health. I always loved the styles but they were difficult to find unless I shopped online.

Q: What keeps you passionate about running your business?

A: There have been moments when owning a business is too taxing on my energy. I still have late effects from my previous treatment and this makes daily life a challenge quite often. In those moments when I think I can’t do it anymore, I think about the community we have built around Grease Rags Clothing Co. I think about all of the good things I can do, such as starting my non-profit organization, to help others.

The shop is a home base for all of these other activities and also a safe place for people to come and decompress from things that are bothering them in their lives. It may sound silly, but this is more than a place to buy a pretty dress and I feel both committed and honored to provide such a place to the community.

Q: What damage did Hurricane Irma do to your business?

A: The storm surge flooded our dress shop and adjoining barbershop. The property owner had a crew down the day after the storm to tear out the damaged drywall, dehumidify the building, and replace the drywall. I believe the quick action saved us from having bigger problems. Luckily, the great majority of our merchandise was not harmed. The little things I initially thought were no big deal have really added up though. Most of our furniture had to be thrown out, we had to rent a commercial floor cleaner to scrub the floors (3 passes on that), replace all of the shop rugs, repaint the floors and walls, buy a new steamer, and more. Even though there has been some significant expense, I chose to look at this as a kind of reboot for the business. The rising water was a kind of forced de-cluttering so we are definitely more organized now too.

Q: What has been most difficult about recovering from Irma damage?

A: The most difficult thing has been trying to keep some sort of business activity going while trying to get the shop squared away. Our online community has done a great job at keeping orders coming in and we did some pop up shops at local businesses such as Steele Hair Gallery, The Volstead, and Hourglass Pub. We greatly appreciate how everyone has gone out of their way to support us and hope we have done a good job at expressing that gratitude.

Q: What has been most rewarding about recovering from Irma?

The most rewarding aspect of this process has been the activities we have participated in to help others. It has been very refreshing to see so many different kinds of people come together for a good cause.

Q: Tell us about your grand reopening!

A: Our Grand Re-Opening was held on Saturday, October 14 from 11 am to 7 pm. We had a huge cake along with refreshments, live music by Redneck Hummus and a sidewalk sale chock full of deals! The turn out was great!

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: You can find us all over social media so please feel free to check us out.

Cindy modeling one of her styles

It is the determination of small business owners like Cindy that keeps our team at Holmes Custom passionate about what we do! If you would like to learn more about Cindy Platt’s not-for-profit, visit www.rocstartjax.org. You can also follow Grease Rags on Instagram at @greaseragsclothing.

Grease Rags Clothing Co. is a great example of a small business owner taking her personal passion and style and turning it into a brand. From clothing tags to custom buttons, the company’s aesthetic and brand style is apparent the moment you enter this unique shop.

Check back soon for our next post on establishing your brand’s culture!