Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Importance of Design in Printed Communication

When was the last time you came across a really ugly document – one that caught your attention because it was such a mess? It’s probably been quite some time. That’s because desktop publishing has given people the power to create all kinds of documents, from marketing and image pieces to more utilitarian forms and documents, using tools like typography and text line justification.

Desktop publishing has raised the bar for appearance. Today ugly documents really stand out when compared to those that are well designed. In fact design is now so important that it is integral to document creation. A well designed document is more likely to be read in part or entirely by the intended audience and increases reader comprehension. Good design also reflects well on the individual, business or organization presenting the document, lending credibility and a sense of professionalism.

Five principles of design

Principal 1: Good design has a purpose. Consider what the document is intended to accomplish, what the audience expects, the image you want to portray, and what reaction you want to invoke. This will guide all your selections the typeface, the color palette, the layout itself. 
Principal 2: Good design makes things simple. A good design makes a difficult concept understandable by guiding the reader to the important points, illustrating them and reinforcing what needs to be learned. This improves reader comprehension and makes persuasive documents more powerful. 
Principal 3: Good design holds the reader’s attention. Engage the reader immediately with an eye-catching headline, graphic image, photograph, white space, or unusual layout. Then guide the reader through the important points so nothing critical is missed. 
Principal 4: Good design has an underlying logic. Readers will see not only the text, graphics and photographs on the page; they will react to the underlying organizational structure of the document. Be sure you have one, and be sure it is consistent. 
Principal 5: Good design doesn’t call attention to itself. One measure of a good design is when the reader gets the intended message without being distracted by the design itself.

Design tools

Unless signaled to do otherwise, readers scan a page in a predictable pattern. Beginning at the upper left hand quadrant, the reader scans the balance of the page in a Z-shaped movement – across to the right quadrant, then to the lower left, and end at the lower right. This is a quick and efficient way for the reader to determine within seconds whether to continue with reading the copy on the page, or whether to move on to something else.

The placement of design elements on the page grid can be either in cooperation with the natural eye movement, or to direct the reader to encounter the information in a precise order. Either technique is an effective way to gain and hold the reader’s attention; these are some tools that can be used in either case:
• Use color to attract attention. Color can also be used to evoke emotion.
• Use lines to direct the reader to points of interest, create shapes and forms, and divide space into sections. Lines can be used for alignment and to suggest proximity.
• Use typography to create contrast or emphasis. As a rule, limit the number of fonts in a document to two or three, and set a uniform point size for headlines, subheads and body copy.
• Use images and photographs to convey meaning and create repetition with body copy.
• Use symbols, charts and graphs to represent ideas or concepts or present information.
• Use white space to create proximity or lack thereof. White space can also separate elements to make them easier to read.

Design: know when to do it yourself 

– and when not to

We are supportive of our customers who do their own design work. We know designing documents can be fun, may be faster, and is certainly less expensive than having us do the work. And because we know you want the best possible design, we will be happy to look at your layout and make suggestions.

Despite this, we believe there are certain projects that merit professional design. Our graphic design department is staffed with people who have both formal training and years of experience. This means we may be able to complete a complicated project faster than you could, especially if you have the Word files containing text and the digital photo and image files ready to go. We have the tools, skills and experience to get to the finished product on time and within budget.

Reprinted from Printing Arts Press The Word on the Street newsletter.

Posted by Chuck Gherman

For more information about Printing Arts Press please visit www.printingartspress.com

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Win in the Marketplace by Finding Your Next Great Employee

"To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace."  Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell's Soup

Great companies need outstanding employees in order to grow. The problem is finding and retaining that caliber employee. 

"Effective organizational leadership is simple:
1. Have a vision of where you want to get to.        
2. Clearly and persuasively communicate that vision to employees.        
3. Be consistent in your behaviors as you strive to achieve that vision." from A Roadmap for Employee Engagement by Andy Parsley

Many make the mistake of hiring an employee without clearly thinking the process all the way through. They neglect to think about what they actually want from the new hire. Hiring in this way sets the new employee up for failure before they ever walk in for their first day of work. This turns out to be a waste of time and resources for everyone.

To help avoid this, you need to go through the interview process. The first and most critical step is to write an advertisement that attracts great people in the first place - one that encourages the kind of candidates who want to work for your company.

Thinking this through will also make you consider the short term and long term responsibilities and tasks required for this position.

The challenge of finding great job candidates starts with the ad itself. Mediocre job ads attract mediocre workers. To improve your placement ad, you should incorporate the following in the description.

  • Make your company sound innovative and interesting. This will help attract more dynamic applicants who want to work for a fascinating company.
  • Let the applicant know with whom they will most likely be working. Candidates will look forward to learning from someone who is the expert in their field.
  • If the location of your company is a plus for applicants, make sure to mention it. The more benefits you can mention in the ad, the more attractive your ad becomes.
  • Make sure to mention that the position offers growth for the right candidate. Everyone wants to know that they can grow with the company. This also implies that they will be able to make more money as they grow.
  • Include the total compensation and benefits in the offer. Paid holidays, flexible hours, and other perks can be very attractive.
  • Mention that the position requires hard work and dedication. This can help filter out the lazy applicants before time is wasted with the interview.
  • The ad should stand out from all the others. If you want creative, superstar applicants, the ad should be creative, too.
  • Be sure to include if your are willing to train or if you provide ongoing training for professional development and be sure to have your training materials ready to go.

Finding and retaining top talent is one of the most important tasks for any organization. A strong recruitment ad is just the start but one that can't be overlooked. Include these tips in your next ad, and hopefully you will attract the type of superstar employee you desire.

Posted by Chuck Gherman

For more information about Printing Arts Press please visit www.printingartspress.com

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Where are the emerging stars at your company?

The answer is simple: They're everywhere. And it's up to you to find them.

In his biography of Bill Russell, author Murry R. Nelson writes about the NBA legend's athletic struggles in high school and about one teacher/coach who helped to bring out the best in the young man others had overlooked and taken for granted.

After failing to make the school's football team, Russell decided to try out for basketball instead. There were 15 spots available on the junior varsity team, and Russell, who had never played organized basketball before, was number 16 on the depth chart. But his coach "saw something in him as a person" and allowed him to split time with another player in order to make the team. He also helped Russell join the local Boys Club, where he could "practice his game on an indoor court."

"In return for the faith and 'investment' [the coach] made in him," Nelson writes, Russell "provided a constant drive and energy on the basketball court." What's more, he began practicing hard throughout the year and was able to make the varsity team his senior season.

Bill Russell would go on to enjoy a Hall of Fame career in the NBA, where he led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA titles over the course of 13 years.

Just as faith from a coach helped to mold a young Bill Russell's career path, guidance and mentoring are valuable training tools in business, too. Providing team members with the training materials and skills resources needed to succeed at their jobs can make a difference not only for the individuals you're helping but also for the company (and team) as a whole. After all, who knows what potential "all stars" might be waiting to be discovered on your team. All they need is a chance to shine.

Posted by Chuck Gherman

For more information about Printing Arts Press please visit www.printingartspress.com

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Optimism, Publishing, and the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Optimism is not a trait born necessarily out of good fortune. Edgar Guest was 11 years old in 1893 when his father lost his job. Barely a year earlier, the family had emigrated from Birmingham, England, to Detroit, Michigan. Now, young Edgar had to take on odd jobs in a still unfamiliar land to help support the family.

In 1895, at age 14, he went to work as a copy boy for the Detroit Free Press. This would prove the beginning of a career that would span more than six decades.

At first, Edgar was able to attend school while working. However, in 1898, when Edgar was 17, his father died. Edgar dropped out of high school and began working full time to support the family. Later that year, his first poem was published in the paper.

Over the next half century, Edgar Guest would become one of the most prolific writers of his time, publishing more than 11,000 poems, syndicated in more than 300 newspapers and compiled into 20+ volumes. He also hosted a popular radio show in Detroit and later appeared nationally on the NBC-TV show A Guest in Your Home.

In spite of his rough start, Edgar Guest was known for the optimistic outlook captured in his verse. One of his better known works, It Couldn't Be Done, is a good case in point - and a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit we all share as business leaders. It reads in part:

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That "cannot be done," and you'll do it.

How Do You Tackle Your Work? is another of Guest's poems that sings the praises of optimism, hard work, and dedication - traits we as entrepreneurs hold dear. Here's a passage:

You can do as much as you think you can,
But you'll never accomplish more;
If you're afraid of yourself, young man,
There's little for you in store.
For failure comes from the inside first,
It's there if we only knew it,
And you can win, though you face the worst,
If you feel that you're going to do it.

The full text of each of these poems is available online, and I encourage you to read both of them. They're a good reminder - especially when the grind gets tough - of just why we chose this crazy life in the first place.

It Couldn't Be Done, PoetryFoundation.org
How Do You Tackle Your Work?  Google Books

Posted by Chuck Gherman

For more information about Printing Arts Press please visit www.printingartspress.com

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Your Best Competitive Advantage

What's the best competitive advantage in business and in life? It's your ability to learn and (just as importantly) to quickly put what you have learned into action.

"Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune." -Jim Rohn

The first key is to understand that education is a lifelong process. Formal education may be finite and time-based, but self-education is ongoing and perpetual.

"Hard work spotlights the character of people; some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all." -Sam Ewing

The second key is to become a voracious student in your field. Mastering your field requires an investment of time in study and continual practice toward perfection. All the masters and top earners in any field have this attitude toward learning. Having this attitude allows you to thrive in situations where your knowledge gives you the competitive advantage over your competitors. You must be passionate enough about your profession that committing to mastery is a natural step.

"Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in." -Abraham Lincoln

Mastery can come from attending conferences, reading books, or working with advisers, coaches, and mentors. There is no shortage of knowledge sources. Training, development, and continuous education are the highest return investments you and your business can make. Top businesses and top industry professionals make learning a priority. No matter how busy they are, they make time for it.

Brian Tracy, noted author and speaker, stated that the highest paid people in America read an average of 2-3 hours per day. Developing a habit of learning and an appetite for information, both within your field and also outside your area of expertise, are the keys to a life of passion, purpose, and profits.

"Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great." -John D. Rockefeller

Citing a recent study of successful companies, syndicated columnist Verne Harnish wrote that training and development "out-return[ed] any other investment a business could make - more than R&D, hard, or capital investment." According to Harnish, such investments (Source: The Growth Guy) resulted in:

  • 24% higher profit margins
  • 218% higher income per employee
  • 86% higher company value
  • 21% increase in productivity
  • 300% reduction in employee turnover
  • A return per dollar invested of $6.72

Seek out the knowledge you need to be worthy of being a "trust agent" - someone who is viewed as a trusted adviser, rather than simply a supplier of services and goods. Make the investment and commit to continuous learning. You can't win if you rely solely on keeping up with the status quo. Being a leader in your field means staying ahead by learning and becoming the known expert.

Posted by Chuck Gherman

For more information about Printing Arts Press please visit www.printingartspress.com

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How Far Would You Go?

There's a story told of a middle-aged man and a teenage boy who checked into a hotel together while traveling. The staff noticed that both seemed quiet and somber and that the boy appeared pale. That evening, the two had dinner at the hotel restaurant. Again, they seemed unusually quiet, and the boy barely touched his food, before excusing himself and returning to his room.
After finishing his meal, the man asked to see the hotel manager in private. Concerned that he was dissatisfied with the service he had received, the manager obliged his request.

Once alone, the man explained that he was spending the night with his son, who was set to begin chemotherapy treatments at a nearby hospital the next day. Instead of waiting for his hair to fall out on its own, the son planned to shave his head that night, and the father was doing the same. He wanted the staff to be aware of their situation, so they wouldn't be alarmed when the two showed up for breakfast with clean shaven heads. The manager said he would let the staff know and that the man need not worry.

The next morning, the man and his son (now with shaved heads) came down for breakfast. As they walked into the restaurant, they looked around and saw the staff busy at work taking orders, clearing tables, and seating guests. But something was different than the night before. You see, while each staff member was going about their business just as they would on any day, several had taken it upon themselves to shave their own heads that morning, too.

This story (whether true or not) provides a good reminder for how each of us should treat the people we encounter throughout our day. Whether customers, coworkers, or strangers on the street, it's easy sometimes to forget that the people we meet are just that - people - with individual challenges and struggles we may never know or understand. How we choose to interact with them can go a long way in determining how they will interact with us (and our companies) in the future.

So, while you may never shave your head for a customer like the staff members in our story did, going out of your way to treat the people around you with kindness, dignity, and respect is more than just good manners. It's good business.

Posted by Chuck Gherman

For more information about Printing Arts Press please visit www.printingartspress.com

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Are You Strategic or Are You Tactical?

Strategic planning and thinking are critical to success in business and in sales. Strategic thought focuses on the big picture. It looks at building sustainable, long term relationships with clients who can benefit from what you have to provide. Tactical thinking, however, focuses on the here and now. It cares only for making the quick sale and staying afloat. Without a strategy behind it, tactical thinking can often lead to reactionary planning that provides little or no long term viability.

If you find yourself in any of these positions, you may be too tactical:

  • Prospects are taking too long to make a decision and stringing you along to get lower pricing.
  • You're unclear on exactly who you are selling to.
  • Your sales efforts are not focused on a specific product or service you should be selling.
  • You're selling almost exclusively to the type of customers who buy one time projects.
  • You're selling to the type of customers who will switch to lower priced competitors at the drop of a hat (or price).

Being overly tactical can force you to become desperate for work. That desperation shows through to prospects, who are either scared off by it or use it to force a much lower price sale.

Being overly tactical forces you to be reactive to the marketplace around you, rather than proactive in growing sales. This can also lead to taking on clients at unsustainable prices, often clients you really should have declined in the first place.

Most executives who find themselves in this position will try:

  • Hiring a new salesperson who knows what they are doing
  • Creating an incredible new offer or service package
  • Offering a brand new capability
  • Lowering prices to increase volume

While these tactics can work, they often won't unless you first learn to start selling strategically in your business.

Strategic selling means creating a sales process that is based on:

  • Positioning your company as the expert for what you sell
  • Creating real relationships with prospects who truly value what you offer
  • Attracting prospects who can afford to pay for what you sell
  • Working with prospects and customers on their business goals and challenges, so you're not seen as a commodity vendor

This is what it means to change from a tactical business to a strategic business. 

Broke companies look for the cheapest, while successful companies are looking for value and strategic partners. Being tactical means having commodity conversations about commodity services and products. This leads to attracting customers who view you as a commodity and end up paying you commodity prices. On the other hand, having strategic conversations with strategically minded businesses means that you attract higher quality clients who value and pay for the services they seek.

As a strategic business, you'll begin to have conversations with prospects who truly value what you bring to the table. You'll talk about not just the tactical things but also how your services can help them grow. This type of client doesn't leave quickly and will gladly pay you for the work you do. This in turn will lead to a much higher client value and will allow you to provide better service to attract more clients just like them.

So how do you move to having strategic conversations? Start by asking the type of questions that generate the answers you're looking for. 

  • What are your biggest challenges?
  • Is your business growing as fast as you'd like?
  • What's working for you?
  • What's not working for you?
  • What are your biggest challenges?
  • What are you currently doing to market and grow your business?

The beauty is in the simplicity. No magic needed. Ask questions that are designed to let your prospects open up and share their challenges.

Moving from a tactical business to a strategic one starts with a mindset shift. It takes time and effort to change the culture of a tactical business. It starts with being clear that you need to seek clients who value and can pay for what you sell. Then you must have strategic conversations to prove the worth of what you bring to the table. Having strategic conversations separates you from your competition. Being strategic is one way to command and get higher prices.

To contact Chuck Gherman for more information about how Printing Arts Press helps organizations with their Marketing and Human Resource needs through print communications please visit www.printingartspress.com.

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