The 2019 Culture Olympics

 

Last Thursday the 2019 Annual Holmes Custom Olympics took place at company headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida.

Following a festive barbecue lunch, members of the executive team stepped up to the microphone to share big news with the room full of ‘holmies’ (the affectionate nickname for all company employees). Alice Viego, Head of People Operations, opened with a warm welcoming statement.

Bryan Croft, CEO and President, gave a state of the company address.  He shared some of the obstacles and achievements of the last year. He spoke about where the company has been been and where we are going. He shared his excitement to make it to 65 years in business with a forecast of many more to come.

SEO Assistant Katie Viego and CFO Steve Fernandez

Steve Fernandez, CFO and Vice President, provided insight on how the company plans to pursue the next goals. He introduced holmies to the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) and why the company chose this strategy. He then passed the torch to Jim Gruhn, Chief Technology Officer, who went on to explain how the EOS business model will help the propel the company’s productivity, accountability and growth. He described how the EOS will be the pulse of Holmes Custom’s next evolution.

Holmies ready to hear the new core values.

Bryan returned to the stage  for the big moment everyone was anticipating. Bryan announced the new core values. The Holmie Nation will strive to embody these core values: Grit, Accountability, Passion, Curiosity, Collaboration, and Winning!

After the announcement about new values, Sarah De Nicolais, People Operations Coordinator, shared the rules to the next challenge, and the company broke off into teams to take on this year’s Olympics.

The first challenge was a scavenger hunt. Each team was to search for clues that led to a token

Holmies break up into teams for the scavenger hunt.representing one of the core values. The teams scrambled around the premises to find the hidden treasure and attempt to finish first. Once everyone conquered the scavenger quest, it was time to huddle up again.

One of the winning teams.

The final competition centered on the question “What do our Core Values mean to YOU?” This challenge turned out to be a great platform for holmies to give shout outs to individuals they have seen demonstrate core values in everyday work. In true Ninja spirit, people shared praise and thanks for employees that have seen model values in tangible ways. The teams brought humor, creativity, and passion into their presentations.

The games ended with scavenger hunt and presentation awards, as well as handing out a specially designed 65th anniversary company t-shirt and water bottle featuring the new core values.

 

Holmes Encourages Learning with Employee Scholarship Program

As Holmes Custom celebrates our 65th anniversary and how much we’ve grown, we know that our talented team of employees, or ‘Holmies’, as we’re known, are the key to our success! While some of us have been here since the beginning and many of us are just getting started, Holmes Custom’s goal is to invest in our team by making ours one of the best companies to work for our employees and the communities we live in!

This May, we’re proud to offer the first annual Holmes Custom scholarship to a deserving employee who’s passionate about hitting the books for professional growth! Whether it’s going back to school at a local university or working toward certification in a technical field, we want to help our Holmies reach their educational goals. Each year we’ll award $2,500 to one of our resident scholars.

This month, Holmies from across the country convened to take part in our day of Culture Olympics. Our second annual event – and quickly becoming a favorite! – welcomed all employees as we came together as a team to celebrate how far we’ve come and share our excitement for a future focused on continued growth. Through a mix of fantastic food, exciting team building events, and shared values, memories, and inspiration from all of our participants, Holmes Custom’s 2019 Culture Olympics made us all feel like gold medal winners!

We’re also quite proud of our Holmes Cares program, centered on the mission of engaging our employees in active volunteer service focused on giving back to our local communities. From blood drives to Best Buddies Friendship Walks to product donation allowances for charitable contributions offered to every employee, Holmies love to give back.  And spreading our wings just a bit further, there’s never a shortage of volunteers ready to travel with our owner, Bryan Croft, on our annual Haiti180 mission trip. We’re dedicated to making a positive impact where it matters most.

Launched last year, our Healthy Holmies Wellness Program is designed to provide all our employees with the tools and encouragement to reach our personal fitness and wellness goals and live our most healthful lives. Chosen by employees, our wellness program focuses on stress management, fitness and exercise, nutrition, weight loss, and financial wellness.

Our ‘Holmie Nation’ that has evolved over the past 65 years has become a terrific environment for employees to work, play, and grow together – and this is just the beginning!

Holmes Custom Teams Up with No More Homeless Pets

Here at Holmes Custom, we are all about our pets. If you’re like we are, you know that nothing is better than coming home to a warm greeting from your favorite furry friend. Many of us have dogs or cats at home, so we have compassion for the thousands of animals that are still waiting to be adopted. Our Holmies recently rolled up their sleeves and went to work helping local pets find new homes.

On February 16th we teamed up with First Coast No More Homeless Pets, a Jacksonville organization that works tirelessly to get animals off the streets and out of shelters.

If you aren’t familiar with First Coast No More Homeless Pets, they are a non-profit organization whose mission is to end euthanizing of shelter animals. While their goal is specific, this issue is prevalent. According to the ASPCA in the United States alone, 6.5 million animals enter shelters each year, with that approximately 1.5 million of these pets end up economically euthanized.1

So, what does FCNMHP do to put a stop to this? Their primary function is veterinary services. They offer high quality/low-cost vet services so everyone can afford to adopt and maintain their pet’s health. They also use these services for stray animals. As part of their feral freedom program, they implemented a trap-neuter-return strategy. With this program, they capture, sterilize, and release cats back into their native territory. Stopping the overpopulation in and out of shelters will hopefully end the cycle that stray animals undergo.

Another fantastic element of this organization includes its hosted events. The most important event they host is their Mega Pet Adoption. This gathering includes shelters from all over the state, who bring their adoptable pets with the goal of finding them a forever home. Some of these adoption events have resulted in every pet going to a new home! With adoption events occurring a few times a year and their veterinary efforts in motion, FCNMHP has saved approximately 30,000 cats alone.

After hearing about First Coast No More Homeless Pets’ mission we couldn’t wait to get involved. On a warm Saturday morning in February, some of our most devoted Holmies headed to their headquarters. With the next Mega Pet Adoption soon approaching, several Holmies tended to essential tasks around the FCNMHP facilities. A few team members started working on laundry. They needed clean towels and blankets for the animals after their surgeries.

Other team members worked outside, mowing the lawn, raking the leaves and removing pet waste. That’s what it takes to care for so many animals! Cleaning out pet crates proved to be the most intensive task.

Not only did Holmies clean and sanitize the crates, but they also power washed them, dried them and cleared away leaves and debris. This involved FIVE pallets full of crates!

While helping FCNMHP turned out to be quite the workout, we couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding experience. The knowledge that we were helping animals find new homes made the hard work well worth the effort!

Holmes Custom strives to stay involved in the Jacksonville community, offering free assistance to businesses and non-profit organizations such as No More Homeless Pets.

Even though we had a fantastic opportunity to help this inspiring organization, they could always use more help. While our holmies hope to be back soon, in the meantime you should get your friends and family together to volunteer! From their hospital, pet food bank, and adoption events there’s a place for everyone to lend a hand. By visiting their  Volunteer Sign-Up page, you will be one step closer to helping a shelter animal find its forever family. Until next time you can keep up with us and our work in the community by following Holmes Custom on social media and using the hashtag #HolmesCares.

 

References:

  1. https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics

Holmes Custom Celebrates 65 Years!

Who We Are

The Holmes Custom family, or ‘Holmie Nation’ as we like to say, is made up of a talented team of more than 100 employees who are the best in the business! Because of our passion for creating the highest quality products along with unparalleled customer service, our brand has grown to include seven specialty websites offering a variety of personalized products: Name Tag Wizard, Simply Stamps, Custom Signs, Promo180, 904 Custom, All State Notary Supplies, and The Corporate Connection. Whether you’re looking for professional trade show banners, personalized baby gifts, or anything in between, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for with the Holmes family of brands.

Under the leadership of our owners Bryan Croft and Steve Fernandez, our company has transformed from a brick and mortar storefront to an online marketplace, where 95 percent of our sales are conducted via the internet. What an evolution!

Where We Came From

Our journey started in 1954, when founder Owen Holmes opened a rubber stamp business in a small rented storefront in Jacksonville, Florida. Although we’ve moved a few times since then, and have opened regional offices in Massachusetts and Texas, our core philosophy has stayed the same. According to Bryan, “Mr. Holmes really set a foundation of hard work and innovation that we are still inspired by today, creating and building for our families and the communities we serve.”

Taking over for his father in 1985, Owen Holmes, Jr. partnered with Bob Croft (above) and continued to grow the company until 2009, when current owners Bryan and Steve took the helm and continued to develop this third-generation company into the e-commerce business we are today.

Holmies Make It Happen!

As we celebrate our 65th anniversary and how much we’ve grown over the years, we know that our team of dedicated employees, or ‘holmies’, as we’re known, are the key to our success. Some of us have been here since the beginning, sharing our wealth of knowledge and experience with the newest members of our Holmes Custom team!

What We’ve Become

Throughout the years, our vision and core philosophy have remained the same. We have an unwavering passion for innovative products made in America with the highest levels of quality workmanship, perfectly personalized for our valued customers. Our products are never mass produced. Rather, they are custom made to order in our state-of-the-art production facilities just for you.

Our ‘Holmie Nation’ also is dedicated to giving back to our communities. Whether we’re participating in quarterly blood drives, hosting donation drives to support our troops, collecting toys for local children during the holidays, or volunteering for our annual Haiti180 mission trip led by our owner Bryan Croft, we’re dedicated to making a positive difference where it matters most.

Here’s to the next 65 years!

 

Our 2018 Mission Trip to Haiti

When a friend invited Bryan on a mission trip to Haiti a few years back, he didn’t realize just how much it would change his perspective on life. The same can be said about every other missionary that traveled to the third world country in early November. For a few, it was their first trip there, and for the others, they return year after year to help the beautiful people of Haiti.

Haiti180 is the incredible organization that makes these mission trips possible. Founded in 2002, it’s mission is to “turn it around”. Since its inception, Haiti180 has established an orphanage with a church, a school, an elderly home, and a medical clinic, all near the village of Miragoane . While there is still a long way for Haiti180 to go, the impact this organization has had is tremendous.  

Katie, a 31-year-old missionary, is the orphanage director. She is also a cancer survivor and a modern day Mother Theresa. She left Ohio to live in Haiti and run the Catholic orphanage more than 7 years ago. During our week-long stay, she led us to individual huts to spend time with families in need.  Katie showed us how to serve the Haitian people through relationship. She does this by learning about the lives of the people in the village around her, identifying specific needs, and personally bringing goods and spending time together. We brought medicine, toothbrushes, diapers, clothing, food, vitamins and even candy right into each hut. We learned about every person we brought supplies to and Deacon, one member of our group, prayed for each.

Most of the stories we heard about their lives were heartbreaking and unimaginable. We heard about a family of nine living in a tiny hut who struggled to have enough to eat and slept on straw mats on the ground. We stepped into their lives for a moment to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve. We visited an elderly woman, named Vanaella, who spent the last 3 years in her hut, unable to move herself or even turn over. There were 4 generations all sharing a tiny space and an outdoor kitchen area. We brought them food and Vanaella had a message for us. She said, “Every morning, if you wake up, thank God that you are alive. And then at night thank Him again for all the things that happened throughout the day.”

Every time we went on a hike to the huts, our group filled our backpacks and bags to the brim with candy, Cliff bars, dolls and the essentials Katie knew the village’s families were in need of. The moment we walked out of the orphanage gate, flocks of kids would gather around us. They would grab our hands and walk with us for miles, smiling from ear to ear. I don’t know whose smiles were bigger, the children or the missionaries.

The Texas, Massachusetts, and Florida Trio of 14 Missionaries trekked all around rural parts of Haiti. Joe drove us over mountains, into rivers and through the mud to bring us to the orphanage. During our time there, we also worked to complete various manual labor tasks. We shoveled dirt and rocks which will be used to make cement for two projects. These projects are adding a separate boys house to the orphanage and building onto the senior living home. We painted parts of the orphanage to help prevent rust. It took high ladders, reaching long arms and balancing to get the edges of the second floor and roof. We painted the Cantor (missionary bus) which involved hovering around the roof to paint the top and climbing ladders to touch up the window grids.

We toured all the facilities Haiti180 built from the ground up, including the school where we taught the kids how to play basketball. Katie translated the rules from English to Creole and we played a 5-on-5 game with the students in some serious morning heat. We also passed out school supplies that had been donated, and the way the students’ faces lit up over something as simple as a notebook, pens and pencils was heartwarming. During our trip, we were able to spend time with the kids at the orphanage, from playing soccer, dancing on the kitchen steps and getting braids, to attending mass and being a part of their service through Bible readings.

There were many moments during this trip to Haiti that will stay with us all for years to come, but one stands out in particularly – our visit with John Simon, a man paralyzed from the neck down. Because he spends every day lying in bed and how long he had been neglected when Katie first met him, he’s now in need of daily treatment. So on day two we all went to visit and care for him.

Aimee, Sarah, Jesse, Karen, and Anna worked with Katie to address some of John Simon’s immediate medical needs by treating bedsores, cleaning excrement, and redressing wounds. They bent over his bed to complete this slow process and offer this man what help they could. When Katie first met John Simon, he was depressed and living a very lonely life, and while he’s still confined to his small hut in the middle of the village, he’s in much better physical and mental shape then he was a few years ago. He now has daily visitors to care for him and brighten his day.

It’s often hard to put into words an experience like the one we all shared in Haiti, but each and every missionary would agree it’s life changing. When you have the opportunity to witness such a beautiful country, filled with such loving and welcoming people, but who are struggling so deeply, you can’t help but to want to return each year to make whatever impact you’re able to.  

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!

  • Custom Cutting Boards

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.

  • Personalized Beer Mugs

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.

  • Beer Growlers

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?

  • Monogrammed Coasters

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!

  • Personalized Wine Glasses

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.

  • Custom Wine Bottle Bags

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.

  • Custom Photo Gifts

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!