In September 2013 AlphaGraphics will be moving to 100 Westminster Street, Suite 105. We are upgrading to a larger, more efficient space so we can offer our customers more of the same great service and products we provide. The new location will still be located in the heart of Providence’s downtown district, just a few blocks from our old location. Please stop by to say hello and check out our new diggs!
Finding Inspiration and Solving Problems
If you’re like most people, you’ve got problems. Some are big, some are small, but everyone’s got ‘em. You’ve heard it said too, “If you don’t have problems, it’s because you’re dead.” So basically, problems are unavoidable.
“Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds.” – Norman Vincent Peale (1898 – 1993), American Author
How to Find a Solution (Easy Way)
While I’m not going to say I have the solutions to even my own myriad problems, what I have found to be the case is that I often find inspiration for solutions while concentrating on things not related to the problem. In my work as a graphic designer, the answer to each individual customer’s visual presentation is the challenge. Visual representation of each client’s identity or message in a way that’s suitable to their personality, and attractive and useful to their customers can be taxing. It’s often when I’m not thinking about what to do with Client X’s project that I run across something that inspires the solution.
“Ideas may also grow out of the problem itself, which in turn becomes part of the solution.” - Paul Rand (1914 – 1996), American Graphic Designer
If you need help with any visual or graphics problems, come see us at AlphaGraphics Providence. Then try my method on other problems you’re facing. See a movie, visit a museum, or wander through the library. You might be surprised to find that a change of context inspires an unexpected solution.
The last couple of years have been more challenging than others. Everyone has been through the wringer, no thanks to the economic challenges that surprised us all in 2008 and continue to put economic pressure on families and individuals.
We’ve all learned things we didn’t necessarily want to know. That real estate doesn’t ONLY appreciate, that we can end up paying $4/gallon for gas, that banks and institutions we always trusted can let us down, that food prices seem to go nowhere but up. As this year comes to a close and we try to find a little bit of cheer, fill the stockings, find parking spaces and stay warm, the question inevitably comes up: what do you want for Christmas?
Now that I’ve grown out of the pony stage, I’m not sure what I should say I want. This seems true for a lot of people. People say that they don’t need anything; they have everything they need. “Thing” being the operative word. We all need things that aren’t necessarily “things.” There really are altogether too many “things” that are superfluous but which way too much energy goes into supporting.
For 2013 I think I’ll work on making sure I’m not working for too many silly things but only for things that actually matter. Here’s my list of ideal gifts I will give others and which I would ask for myself this year:
Love and regard
Freedom from worry
Opportunities to learn
A sense of belonging
Maybe you have other gifts like this to give and receive. It’s worthwhile considering what kind of energy goes into the quest for things and what kind of meaning they really hold. Best wishes in the new year from everyone at AlphaGraphics Providence!
If you’re inundated with holiday cheer, you’re not alone. Chocolates, nuts, sausage and cheese baskets appear at work and at home. Holiday music plays everywhere you go. The shopping frenzy is on! Holiday cards are a really low-key, much-appreciated way to share the warmth of the season.
Thanks to All Who Made This Holiday Possible
The holidays are a traditional time in business to reach out to the folks whose involvement with our business and our lives is meaningful. It’s a great time to let them know how much we appreciate their being a part of our success. Sometimes it’s vendors we want to thank, many times it’s customers.
When Predictable is Good
There are holiday cards you can always count on. The card from your dentist, your financial adviser, your insurance agent. Maybe since I’ve moved around so much, I have fewer friends who send me Holiday cards these days, but it almost makes the cards I do get sweeter. I always loved getting the fancy die-cut card from my Realtor. I doubt I’m the only one who appreciates the effort it takes for a business owner to send me a card. It certainly would be cheaper not to do it, but in the case of the Realtor, guess who I called when my husband and I wanted to sell our house?
May All Your Christmases Be White
There’s really no better time of year for reaching out to people to say “I hope your season is bright” than there is between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. If you haven’t planned your holiday outreach, this might be a good time to consider holiday cards. At AlphaGraphics Providence, we print postcards and traditional folded holiday cards with envelopes. We can help you with a custom design that reinforces your brand while reminding the people around you how much they mean to you.
I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like the sound of these two words together. Even if you’re not technically a person, positive reinforcement is powerful. I’m thinking of my dog Wally, a.k.a. “World’s Greatest Dog,” “World’s Cutest Dog,” etc. Thanks to positive reinforcement, he’s truly a pleasure. Say “sit,” you never saw a dog sit faster. “Down,” same thing: he hits the deck.
He doesn’t get a treat reward every time, but he performs his commands with as much dedication as if he were going to. That’s from positive reinforcement. Action requested, action performed, pleasant outcome. “Go ahead, ask me again!” I can almost hear the wheels turning in his head.
How Positive Reinforcement Works
When training a dog, it’s important to focus on positive reinforcement. Punishment is simply not effective. There are so many ways to go wrong with punishment, including the likelihood that the punished behavior will be misunderstood. Here your dog is thinking, “Well I DID come. After I got done chasing that cat, I did come! And then I got a bunch of grief about it. See if I come next time!”
Positive Reinforcement is Good for People Too.
I’ve heard positive reinforcement described as a “warm fuzzy.” A very attractive-sounding option, as opposed to a “cold prickly.” Who would want a cold prickly? Nobody.
In business and in life, positive reinforcement is what you should give if you want someone to repeat the action. This is very natural. Someone walks into your shop, you smile and say hello. That’s positive reinforcement to their walking in the door. People can be very sensitive, and if they’re not getting positive reinforcement from you–even if you don’t mean for your actions to be seen as punishment–your actions may be misunderstood. Ignoring people is punishment, for instance. Acknowledgement is positive, and not much harder. Think of the waitress who tells your table, “I’ll be right with you,” as she rushes by to drop off drinks at another table. It makes all the difference to know that you’re not being overlooked. The same holds true for how we treat people in any business. Make sure your customers know they’re important by the way you positively reinforce their continued business with you.
I Just Reviewed Your Business on Google
Today, customers have the ability to give our businesses warm fuzzys or cold pricklys also. Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor and other review web sites are where people let businesses know whether they got the good product or service they expected. If you want to keep the good juju coming and your cash register ringing, remember that people are paying attention. At AlphaGraphics in Providence, we make a concerted effort to give positive reinforcement, a smile, and great service to everyone who walks in our door, and we recommend you do the same in your business too.
by Amy Bowen
Ever get that itchy nose feeling? Or burning ears? According to superstition, those are clear signs that someone is talking about you. If you believe the old wives’ tales, that is. For my part, I believe it.
The only drawback is that you don’t know what’s being said. Could be good or bad. In your case, hopefully it’s all good. In the old days we could only guess what others were saying about you, but things have changed, and now you can actually find out.
Setting a Google alert is a good way to find out what people are saying about you and your business. It’s easy and it’s free! I know, I know: there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but truly in this case there really is no catch.
How to Find Out
All you have to do is go to http://www.google.com/alerts and enter your settings. Just type the subject you want to keep track of in the “query” field. Put your business name, your name, or anything else you want to start tracking. In addition to keeping track of yourself and your own business, maybe you want to set some alerts on your competitors’ businesses too. Or other subjects you have an interest in. Just enter your term in the first box.
In the second pull-down menu, you can adjust the result type. That is, do you want to get an alert on every single thing that’s said about your subject? Or do you want to limit your alerts to news or blogs or some other category? Totally up to you.
Then you can decide how often you want to receive your notices that there’s something found on your term. Do you want to know the minute it’s published on the web? Or would you rather find out once a day or once a week? Alerts will be delivered to the email address you specify.
So decide what you want to know about, how often you want to know it, and then you can just sit back and wait for the results to come in. How easy is that?
Do you love ghost stories? Do you just love to be thrilled with a little scare? Imagining the witch creaking open the oven door, thinking you hear the trample of the headless horseman’s steed, or a muffled ringing as the killer calls the babysitter from inside the house…?
It’s the time of year for jack o’lanterns, haunted houses and frightening costumes. But what about a real scare? Like when you’ve just printed printed 5000 postcards and you hear inter-office rumblings that the size you printed isn’t within postal regulations. You check USPS, and sure enough, square postcards are as unlucky as black cats. Now some wiseguy in your department just mentioned that postage might not actually be what you had in the budget, and suddenly your boss wants to know if you need any help finishing the mailing that is supposed to reach its audience before the big event coming up right around the corner. [Insert Psycho shower scene music here.]
That is not the kind of scare most of us want to encounter, even as the little girls choose their princess costumes and the little boys decide on pirate, superhero or monster for this year’s big night.
Although they’re about the most basic kind of marketing, there’s a lot that goes into printing postcards. What looks easy when it’s done well still has a lot of potential to go badly wrong if you don’t have an expert to back you up.
At AlphaGraphics, we know everything (so you don’t have to) about direct mail. From designing your piece, if you need help with that, to list sourcing, addressing, sorting and mailing. We take your postcards all the way to the post office, even.
We can give you pricing for any variety of variables you may have, including quantity, whether you have color on one side or 2, whether your design bleeds the edge, whether you would like to personalize your postcards to more effectively grab the recipient’s attention, we can help with all of those things. We can incorporate QR codes, personal urls or special coupons to help you track your marketing.
Doing it yourself is definitely a good practice in many arenas. Some of the best Halloween costumes are made-at-home projects. But if you feel like you are a little in the dark concerning the nitty-gritty details of your upcoming direct mail, give us a call and we’ll make sure it all comes out great. No tricks; only treats!
Are you a list maker? Many people use lists to help them keep themselves on track. Lists for big things, lists for small thing; list making is universal. There are many reasons that paper pads–ones with your logo and contact information–make a great promotional tool.
Everybody needs a list
When you make everyday lists like “rake lawn, tighten screws in fence posts, buy dog food,” there’s a lot of satisfaction when you can check off the box next to each task. Maybe you make a list for the grocery store. “Scallions, eggs, shrimp…” Speaking from experience, I usually end up making more than one trip to the store if I forget my grocery list. Around January, lots of people make lists of resolutions: lose weight, save money, go to the gym every day…
It’s free; it must be good!
People love anything free, and paper pads make a great giveaway. They are appreciated and useful for list makers. They make a perfect leave-behind gift for sales calls or a thank you trinket for customers. If you’re looking for a smart way to keep your name, phone number, address and web site in front of clients, look no further than a paper pad.
It’s an easy project
Unlike more ambitious projects that require extensive design, a copy writing phase, list management, and a follow-up plan, you can’t get more straightforward than a simple design and message on a paper pad. In terms of design and steps to production, there are few. Choose lined or un-lined. Decide how big you want your pads (they can be any size). Decide where you want your logo, and what other contact information you want: address, phone, web url. That’s about it. You’re practically done with a great marketing piece.
Who to call for help
When you’re looking for a thoughtful and useful part gift, part promotional tool, AlphaGraphics Providence can help you with a fast and easy paper pads project that will help keep your name in front of your customers.
by Amy Bowen
Even if your business isn’t show business, you still want to look clever. Or reliable, or fancy, or fast, or tasty… or whatever it is that is your business stands for, you want your logo to communicate that.
At AlphaGraphics, we help a lot of brand new businesses with logo development and their marketing package: business cards, letterhead design and envelope design, basic brochures and flyers. Nearly every businesses need a variety of materials to convey the “Call us when you need [insert your product or service here]!” We also work with a lot of businesses that never really created a formal logo or brand when they started, and so a number of business owners come to us for help well after their grand opening.
The following are 3 really good reasons to have AlphaGraphics’ professional graphic designers create your logo.
Reason #1: Keep Your Friends/Family
While it might be tempting to try to design your logo and business identity on the cheap, asking your nephew to design your logo and flyers might not be the great idea it seemed like at first. If you come in to AlphaGraphics for professional logo design, you will save yourself from the huge potential for family discord. Don’t forget–this can last for years! If you work with us, you won’t have to hear your sister mentioning “the logo episode” every Thanksgiving. Nor will you have to endure the “ugly factor” applied to your new business identity because you’re too nice to really tell your nephew (or whoever it is who tries to help you) the truth.
Reason #2: Get it Done Right
Every kind of business has its special geeky, in-the-know abbreviations and acronyms. You don’t have to know what a PMS color is, necessarily, but you will want to know why it’s better to design your logo with one. Or without one. We can explain why it can save you tons of hassle and expense later when you start with a logo design that will color-separate properly.
Reason #3: Posterity
Until you make your millions, you’re going to have to get up and get to work for every day. As long as you’re going to be there, you should have a logo you like and that you’re happy to gaze at day after day. It goes on your web site, letterhead, business cards, signs and banners, T-shirts and business forms. You will want to love your logo. Be sure to work with professionals like the ones you’ll find at AlphaGraphics and every time you see your logo, you’ll be happy you did.
Just the Basics
What’s the most basic marketing tool everyone needs in business? Some might say, “a web site.” Admittedly, that’s almost a requirement today, but even more basic than that, what is the most elementary marketing tool you need? Answer: a business card.
The First Sophisticates
In Victorian times, anyone who was anyone had a calling card. Calling cards were printed with moveable type with simply the person’s name: Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So. Sometimes their address was printed on the card also. Calling cards were indispensable part of society in those days, and when a card was presented at the home of someone whom one hoped to meet, depending on that person’s inclination, the card and the social call might or might not be reciprocated. According to the standards of the time, one paid calls to people in one’s circle (or to those in circle into which one wanted to be admitted) during certain hours, on certain days, and relative to events like the birth of a child, a marriage, or a ball. Callers stayed for a prescribed amount of time, and left immediately when another caller was admitted.
Today’s Social Circles
Luckily today, at least among friends, we can just text something like: “where r u?” and dispense with the formalities. Right? Well, maybe if you’re under the age of 23.
For most professionals, having a business card is still very important for self-promotion, but unfortunately, is much overlooked. Business cards today contain much more information than calling cards: office phone, cell phone, email address, web site, Facebook page, Twitter handle. They are useful for sharing your contact information, of course that’s the main reason you give someone a card, but they are also helpful as physical reminders of you and the impression you made.
Being Memorable (a Card Helps)
You’ve probably done this: reviewed a stack of business cards after a tradeshow or a networking event and thought back on each person you met. What stands out in your memory is different based on what the encounter was like with each person. If you met 50 people in one day, you might not be able to associate each one with his or her corresponding card, but for most of them, something probably will stand out in your memory.
What about the people without cards? You probably forgot all about them. Hmmm… You don’t want this to happen to you if you are trying to build your business.
Tried and True Method: What Worked Then Still Works
What if you were new in London in 1872 and had no cards? Well first of all, if you were smart, you’d make sure you never ran out of cards. You would be completely incommunicado without. Not only would you be unable to call on anyone’s home or business, upon meeting others, you would be unable to exchange cards. What would that say about you?
Well things are much different now, and since we’re not so formal anymore, many people don’t think twice about not having business cards. Don’t let this be you! We may not be as formal but we still have a use for cards! I can’t believe how many times I have had a friendly conversation with someone about his or her business, asked for a card, and then learned that they don’t have one on them. This happens to me all of the time. Other times, a person I might have a card with a couple of numbers crossed off and others handwritten in ink. That is just sad. Business cards are just not so expensive that it should be difficult to 1) keep some on you and 2) hand out versions with all current information.
In Summary, Why Business Cards Are Important
Being ready with your business card is not difficult, it’s not expensive, it makes a great impression, provides your contact information and could win you future business. Your card can be a stand-in for a more involved marketing piece such as a brochure. If you are at a booth, desk, table, farm stand, workbench or any other setup, providing business cards is a wise thing to do. Why not provide a means for people who can’t talk to you right then to get ahold of you or find your business later? If your business card directs people to your web site or helps them contact you via email or phone later, it’s done its job.
Not to be overlooked in today’s sophisticated digital age, business cards are a great place to include a QR code that links either to your contact information, your web site, or some special offer. But don’t let that suggestion intimidate you. First things first. Having people remember you, learn your name (or your business name) and know how to contact you later is the point of a business card. Although its roots may be formal and old-fashioned, cards have an important role still today.
How to Get Help (If You Need It)
If you need help designing, re-designing, updating or otherwise ordering business cards, don’t wait another minute. AlphaGraphics has the paper, the equipment, and the graphic designers to get you going with a card you’ll be proud to hand out. We can help you with anything you need in this arena. With your new cards, you’ll surely be admitted to the finest social circles!