Archive for the ‘Business Practices’ Category

Marketing Budgets 101

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Map your company’s marketing budget now and navigate your way to consistent branding.

Few people would argue that having a budget for office supplies, personnel, or vendor services is not a good idea. But too often, people approach their marketing in a scattered fashion, creating a piece of marketing collateral as the need arises, or placing an ad when a good deal comes their way. The result? Overspending on some projects, underspending on others, and an overall inconsistent message to your target audiences.

The solution? Plan your marketing budget for the year, then spend it strategically.

As a rule of thumb, many experts suggest spending 8-10% of your annual budget on marketing. This is helpful, but it’s also important to ask yourself about your marketing goals as they relate to your company’s overall exposure and branding.

For example, if you’re a new company, your budget should be larger than 10% of your expected annual revenue to accommodate the need for basic start-up materials, such as a logo, website, business cards, business stationery and marketing collateral.

If you have an established company with a strong client base, perhaps you’ll plan your budget with the objective of staying in front of your audiences through primarily advertising efforts.

Finally, if your company is going through a transition or is ready to refresh your marketing materials, you should plan to spend a little more to re-communicate your brand through a logo refresh, website makeover, and updated marketing collateral. Don’t forget a roll-out advertising campaign to let your clients know how you’re changing!

Wherever your business falls on this continuum, know that your marketing budget will need to encompass a range of products and services, including many of the following:

  •     marketing consultation, planning, or market research
  •     graphic design services
  •     media purchasing
  •     printing services
  •     website hosting
  •     website programming
  •     copywriting
  •     video production
  •     professional photography
  •     model fees

Confused about what you may need? Get suggestions from your agency. They’ve likely worked with companies of many sizes, and can help you prioritize your marketing needs based on experience, and even give you ballpark estimates of costs. Better yet, if you know your budget, enlist your agency to help you spend it strategically. They can help you determine where it makes sense to cut costs and where it may make sense to spend a little more.

Here are a few more resources to consider when planning your company’s marketing budget:

How to Weather an Uncertain Economy

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Weather an uncertain economyIn the current economic climate, companies may be tempted to scale back on their marketing efforts. For gosh sakes, Don’t! Now, more than ever, you need to get your message out to current and potential clients that your doors are open for business and that you’re doing just fine. If you simply must cut back on funds for marketing, here are five inexpensive solutions to get your message out (in fact, do these even if you’re flush with cash, they’re just good sense!):


1. Network. Show up early and often to business networking events and start meeting potential clients or making connections with people who can benefit your business. Print a busload of business cards and pass them out like candy on Halloween night.
2. Send out an E-Newsletter. The start-up fees and monthly dues are very affordable. Once you have your template, it’s a breeze to update and send on a regular basis. Just make sure that your newsletter offers a real value to your subscribers, or you’ll quickly end up in their spam box. Consider, for example, a coupon for goods and/or services.
3. Blog. Keeping a blog helps your company to be found organically through the search engines, and lets people know your areas of expertise. Write about current projects, upload industry white papers, show examples of your work, stream video, and much more! Mix Creative’s blog (through is completely  free!
4. Update your Website. Archive your e-newsletters on the site, add an e-newsletter sign-up form, update your client list/products/portfolio and get rid of out-of-date information.
5. Focus on Customer Service. Remind your customers through excellent service why your company is a good value. It’ll increase both your repeat customers and your referrals.

5 Tips For Selecting and Building Your Target Audiences

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012


As a business, you have the ability (and privilege) to select the audiences to whom you sell your goods and services. Here are some factors to consider when selecting your audiences:
  • Do they have money?
  • Are they someone you want to work with? Do they match your aesthetic/philosophy/company mission?
  • Will they withstand fluctuations in the economy? Consider having 3-5 industry focuses.

The best way to get started: survey your customers to find out how you’re doing, what they’d like to see, how you can improve, and more. It’s tough love that will pay off if you make the effort!

Make it easy for potential customers to hear from you: include your e-newsletter signup link on every page of your website, offer something of value (a free report, a book, etc) for people who sign up for your list, hand out comment cards when you give a talk, ask at the time of purchase, or even customize your email footer with a link to sign up for your newsletter.


Educate audiences about your product. Network, host events, give demonstrations, and even offer classes related to your products and services. See more ideas in our blog post, Tips for Surviving the Economy.

Gone are the days when everyone watched the same programs (and commercials) on television. Today’s audiences are incredibly segmented, getting their information and influences from incredibly diverse sources. Trying to reach, well, everyone, therefore, is a nearly impossible task that requires a herculean budget. It’s smarter, more efficient, and lucrative to go after a small chunk of the market. The trick is to go at it full-on, don’t be timid! Communicate your niche to everyone you know!

5 ways to rethink the standard business card

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Tired of the same old business card? Get creative! Here are some great ways to break the business card mold and catch the attention of your audiences.Magnetize your business card

  1.  Magnetize it.Pin It Why not harness the earth’s intrinsic polarity to influence others to let your card stick around?
  2.  Make it a gift card. Your services are valuable, why shouldn’t your cards be? Prospective clients and current customers alike will appreciate receiving a business card printed with your contact information on one side and a gift card for your services on the other. Consider either a cash gift or an offer redeemable for a promotional item, which will be viewed as more valuable than percentage off offers.
  3. Luggage tag business cardShow off your product.Pin ItOwn a nursery? Consider printing your cards on seed-embedded paper that can be planted. Sell stationery? Make the other side of your card a gift tag. Travel agent? Why not make the reverse of your card a luggage tag insert? Recipients will remember your innovation.
  4. Customize it to your networking event. Frequent the same BNI group, Chamber event or Women in Networking get together each month? Customize the back of your card to say “Great to meet you at the WIN event!” It’ll help to jog the memory of people you give the card to.Mini brochure card
  5. Opt for a mini-brochure that folds to a standard business card size.Pin It
    You can include bullet points of your services, photos of your work, or even a map to your location inside. It’s unexpected, and likely to be kept if it’s a valuable reference.


With printing prices dropping, there’s no need to have a “one-card-fits-all” philosophy. Order several types of cards for different occasions or prospects; your creativity will be remembered!

Recap of a Successful Social Media Campaign

Monday, January 16th, 2012


For many of us, there was clearly something special about Old Spice’s “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign from the first time we laid eyes on it. Overnight, the commercial became the “have you seen it?” talk of households, with those who had missed it rushing to YouTube to see what the fuss was about. Cheesy, ridiculous situations paired with a deliciously deadpan performance by the shirtless Mustafa, and culimnating with a truly absurd line (“I’m on a horse”), made this commercial stand out in multiple ways. And for many of us, it was the first introduction we had to the bold, bright red re-branded product packaging that departed significantly from the cream-colored, nautical-themed predecessors that graced our father’s medicine cabinets.

Later, as marketers rushed to analyze this successful campaign, it also became clear that it was one of the few men’s product campaigns to directly market to women—a demographic that is clearly supported as an influential market when it comes to making decisions about what fellas are placing in their showers.

An article written by Paul Maccabee in today’s Star Tribune, “Beyond the ‘Man your man could smell like’: Marketing lessons from Old Spice’s online video campaign” focuses much of the attention, however, on what the campaign achieved in terms of viral marketing via social media. Stemming from its popularity on YouTube, the Mustafa videos—and the Old Spice campaign—rapidly gained momentum on Facebook and Twitter, increasing the reach of the ads, which originally aired during the Superbowl and on American Idol. Here’s a paraphrased summary of what the article listed as “what companies learn from what Mustafa called a ‘life-altering, society-changing’ interactive campaign”: (more…)

Chinese Domain Name Scam

Sunday, January 15th, 2012


I’m no expert on email scams, but when I received the following email I was weary. It sounded legit, and I couldn’t see any request for financial or other information, but something still didn’t ring as right. Here’s the message:

Dear Manager,

(If you are not the person who is in charge of this, please forward this to your CEO,Thanks)

This email is from China domain name registration center, which mainly deal with the domain name registration and dispute internationally in China and Asia. On January 10th 2012, We received Tianhua Ltd’s application that they are registering the name ” themixcreative ” as their Internet Keyword and ” themixcreative .cn “、” themixcreative ” 、” themixcreative .asia “domain names etc.., they are China and ASIA domain names. But after auditing we found the brand name been used by your company. As the domain name registrar in China, it is our duty to notice you, so we are sending you this email to check. According to the principle in China, your company is the owner of the trademark, In our auditing time we can keep the domain names safe for you firstly, but our audit period is limited, if you object the third party application these domain names and need to protect the brand in china and Asia by yourself, please let the responsible officer contact us as soon as possible. Thank you!

Best Regards,

General Manager
Shanghai Office (Head Office)
3002, Nanhai Building, No. 854 Nandan Road,
Xuhui District, Shanghai 200070, China
Tel: +86 216191 8696
Mobile: +86 136615 29704
Fax: +86 216191 8697

Here’s what felt wrong about this email: (more…)

The Power of “She”

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Should Your Company Be Marketing to Women?

2011 was an eventful year for Mix Creative: we helped to rebrand and market a chain of retail stores, designed collateral for an awards ceremony in Los Angeles, helped to brand businesses with storefronts in Stillwater, Ottertail and Minneapolis, and continued to partner with a wonderful mix of existing clients. We also did a fair share of speaking—at the Destined to WIN conference, at a summer eWomen event, and for students at both the U of MN and MCTC. Mix Creative also received some pretty great recognition in 2011, including two design awards and a case study of our work that was included in the 2011 book, Visual Marketing.

A highlight of 2011, though, was attending Stephanie Holland’s talk at the October MIMA Summit in Minneapolis. Author of She-Conomy, a blog that bills itself as a “guy’s guide to marketing to women,” Holland eloquently presented the facts of how and why companies should market to the female consumer. Some statistics she presented:

  • 70% of new businesses are started by women
  • 85% of all consumer brand purchases are made by women
  • Women are the majority of Facebook users, and drive 62% of activity in terms of messages, updates and comments, and 71% of the daily fan activity
  • Women ages 50 and older own more than 75% of the nation’s wealth
  • American women spend over 5 trillion dollars annually
  • Women influence the clear majority of purchases in travel, homes, healthcare, consumer electronics, cars and more

But the most telling statistic from her talk was that 91% of women report that advertisers don’t understand them. Clearly, there’s some room for improvement!

Here at Mix Creative we continue to be specialists in marketing to women, helping our consumer-facing and retail clients to reach and connect with this powerful market. As Holland suggests, this means understanding women’s needs, studying the buying process, and engaging her social networks—not flooding every design with pink! We look forward to sharing our experiences and insights with you about marketing to women—and marketing in general—over the next year. Thanks so much for reading, and keep in touch!

Skylanders Toys Show Marketing Genius

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012


Shortly after Christmas, I picked up my son from playing at a friend’s house and immediately noticed a frenzied spark in his eyes.

“I know what I want to spend my Christmas money on!” he exuberantly stated. “Kyle got a Skylanders game for Wii and it’s SO cool!”

Key elements of Skylanders

© 2011 Activision Publishing, Inc

Ok, I’ll bite, I thought. I asked him what the game involved and why it was so fun. What followed was what I perceived to be the most calculated marketing genius since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Here’s the low-down:

  1. It’s a video game. Available for all of the major gaming systems (Wii, Playstation, Xbox), it uses the tried-and-true game formula of first-person adventure that children to adults are familiar with.
  2. The game has special gear. In order to get started with the game, you need to purchase the required accessories, namely a starter pack that has several plastic action figures and a special platform on which to place them. The platform informs the game system which character has been selected by the player.
  3. There are collectible characters. The characters, available in additional single packs for $7.99, have different powers and skills associated with them. Essentially, they’re 3D equivalents of collectible Pokemon or Yugioh cards—which my son started collecting when he was about 5 years old. To advance in the game, players will need to collect additional characters from those purchased in the initial starter pack. (more…)

Gift of Time Direct Mail Campaign

Thursday, July 14th, 2011


Forever Stamps inside

Recently, Mix Creative had the pleasure to work with Minnesota Women in Networking’s 2012 Destined to WIN recipient, Deb Brown of Time Creators.

Deb came to us looking for an innovative direct mail campaign that she could send out to a select group of prospects in her target market, most of whom signed up to receive more information at one of her sponsor booths at networking events for women business owners.

Time Creators specializes in taking on the little things so [business owners] can do big things. “Little things” include some business-related, but more frequently personal tasks that would otherwise consume hours set aside for work. In essence, she provides the gift of time, allowing business owners to be more productive.

In brainstorming ideas for the mailer, we came up with the fun idea of literally giving gifts of real value that would result in saving time for the recipient. We liked the notion of having a package that the recipient could open, knowing how much fun it is to receive and open a gift. The first mailing, a notepad marked with grocery sections to make shopping easier, set the tone that future gifts would be of equal or greater value. A second mailer (shown below) included a small book of stamps, and the final gift (also shown below) presented a gift card to try Time Creators for three hours free.

Below are some examples of how the campaign was implemented. (more…)

Hold A Mirror To Your Company

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011


One of the most effective ways to improve your company’s products, services and customer relationships is to ask customers for feedback. But for many business owners, asking for feedback feels about as comfortable as standing in a glass box in Times Square and asking people to critique their weight. That said, here are some strategies for getting feedback, from simple to advanced. Once you try one, move on to the next level until you’ve built immunity to critique and are ready to really get some valuable comments.

Easy Feedback Strategies:

  • Add a one- to three-question survey to your email footer, register receipt, or even invoice. Try a phrase like, “Help us serve you better! Please let us know your answers to the following.” Ask about new products or services they wish you’d to offer, if they’d recommend you to a friend, or even how they heard about you. (more…)