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Design flaws

Posted on April 28, 2006 by Kat.

As a matter of habit, I try to nurture in myself a "design sense" in everyday life — that is, I take the time to notice things that I run across that either work really well, or really badly.  It's a way to inform myself of what's out there, to cultivate my awareness and ability to "see" things from a design or aesthetic point of view.  It's the habit of a good artist, a form of "practice" if you will, a way to keep my senses and talents sharp.  It also gives me ideas for elements or combinations of elements to try (or NOT to try), and fresh perspectives on my own design challenges.  I admit I'm not always good at keeping it up, but I try.

And my design "practice" isn't always visual design.  Product design, if done exceptionally well or badly, comes across my radar too.  For example, last night on my way home from work. I take a city bus on the last leg of my journey.  The city transit system uses two types of fare cards now — the old magnetic strip cards, and newer RFID (radio-frequency ID) cards.  The new cards are nice, I have one (being a geek and an "early adopter"), and they usually allow for faster boarding since I only need to touch my wallet to a touchpad, rather than digging out the mag card and inserting it into the reader.  Most of the time the touchpads work well enough that I don't even have to slow down.

Except yesterday we came across a problem.  Each bus has two fare card readers nowadays, one for the mag cards, and the touchpad for the RFIDs.  So while someone is fumbling their mag card out of their purse or backpack, I can usually just walk around them, touch my wallet to the pad, and sit down without waiting.  However, yesterday I learned that if someone inserts a mag card that doesn't have enough money on it for the fare, none of the fare card readers will work until they've made up the difference in cash. Not even the touchpad, which is an entirely separate machine from the mag card reader.  So here we have a bunch of people standing in the door of the bus, hanging out doing nothing for two or three minutes while someone digs around in her purse for an extra dollar.  In that time, the entire line, or at least those with RFID cards, could have "touched-in" and gone to sit down.  Instead, we can't get the bus loaded until someone who may or may not make a habit of carrying change gets her fare sorted out.

Now, the city transit system is certainly not as bad as it could be, but at the same time I've lost count of the number of times in the past five years that I've waited more than 30 minutes for a bus during peak periods, or seen four or five of them right in a row.  This seems like a major design goof to me.

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April 28, 2006 in blog publish, company blog, company magazine, corporate magazine | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

So Simple, Yet So Right

Posted on April 26, 2006 by Sarah Eaton.

In the past, I may have mentioned that, in my opinion, a little distraction never hurt anyone.  And I do still think that getting away from a project for a few minutes allows you to return to it with a fresh perspective.

Yet.  But.  And.

That's all well and good, if that's what distractions are doing for you, but lately, that hasn't been the case for me.  Whereas before I could enter a state of flow with relative ease, my brain has felt cluttered lately.  To flow, I have needed silence and/or earphones.  I have needed tunnel vision.  I have needed no email notification popping up.  No nothing.

So, go ahead and label me an exploration dummy, but I just discovered the Full-Screen view that you can use with Word (the program I'm mostly likely to be in while attempting to flow), and it has Changed My Life.  Apparently, just getting rid of that little toolbar at the bottom of my screen and making me look at just one thing--the task at hand--is all it takes.  So simple. 

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April 26, 2006 in award winning blog, award winning magazine, Award winning publications, Blog Outsourcing, Blogging Tools, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, bulk email marketing, business credibility, Business publications, company blog, company magazine, company newsletter, company newsletter sample, Corporate Blogging, corporate magazine, create a newsletter | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

In Review: The White Paper Marketing Handbook

Posted on April 26, 2006 by Kathryn Regina.

lRobert Bly’s The White Paper Marketing Handbook gives a comprehensive look at its subject’s history and current applications.  The term white paper has always denoted valuable information.  As a derivative of the white book, an official publication of a national government, white paper was a term used during World War II to describe high-level classified information.  Now the precedence of using this term to signify highly-valued information has carried over into marketing.

So what is a white paper, exactly?  Robert Bly gives this simple definition: “A white paper is a promotional piece in the guise of an informational article or report.”  A white paper, then, serves the same purpose as a sales brochure or pamphlet, but “reads and looks like an article or other important piece of authoritative, objective information.” 

The Secret to Their Success

Bly states that a white paper is an effective marketing tool for several reasons.  First, it begins a relationship with an act of perceived generosity.  When white papers are done well they give valuable information to the reader with very few or no strings attached, in order to grow a business relationship.  Here at BeTuitive, Todd Smart calls this “making a deposit in the relationship bank account.”  Just like an actual bank account, you have to make a deposit before you can make a withdrawal.

White papers also acknowledge the prospect as an intelligent, thoughtful person capable of making an informed decision.  Advertisements that blindly trumpet a product’s virtues aren’t fooling anyone anymore.  Today’s consumer demands that claims be supported by proof.  A company white paper meets that demand while projecting an image of leadership and credibility. 

A Solution-Based Marketing Plan

Before writing a white paper, a solid marketing plan should be established.  Bly gives these tips:

1. Determine your target market.  Bly recommends that you ask yourself, “What do my prospects believe, desire, and feel?”  Or as an alternative, BeTuitive’s client Miller Heiman asks: “What are my prospects trying to fix, accomplish or avoid?”
2. Identify a problem.  What is your prospect’s biggest challenge?  Or as Bly puts it, what is keeping them up at night?
3. Identify a solution.  How do your services present the best possible solution to your prospect’s challenges?
4. Content—narrow the focus.  The best white papers have a narrow focus.  A topic that is too broad in scope will result in vague, useless writing.  You should be able to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the topic in ten pages or less. 

In addition, a marketing plan should include a schedule, a budget, a list of objectives, and a means of measuring success.

Don’t Go It Alone

Some white papers never see the light of day because a stall in production leads to the death of the project.  Building a strong white paper team is tantamount to the timely production and success of your white paper.  Team members needed include a production manager, several subject matter experts, a professional writer, a copy editor, a proofreader and a designer.

What You Need to Succeed

While an effective white paper will vary according to industry, Bly gives some standards for white paper success:

1. A good title.  Draw readers in with a title that is both creative and significant. 
2. A clear story line.  Careful attention should be given to the clarity and flow of a white paper, especially if a lot of people are lending their voice to the project.
3. Competitive positioning.  It will do no good to pretend your competition does not exist.  Acknowledge the competition’s advantages and show why your solution is a better fit.
4. Visuals that support content.  Charts and diagrams that support your content can lend credibility to your white paper and increase reader comprehension.
5. Third-Party references.  Demonstrate your objectivity by quoting other experts in your field.
6. Case studies.  Support your claims with proof.  Case studies are a credible way to demonstrate the viability of your solution.
7. Author’s biography.  If the author is a subject matter expert, a biography will lend authority to the white paper. 

How Does It Look?

Bly states that there are three important things to remember in regards to the design of a white paper.  First, you should have a “bold, visually arresting cover that grabs their eye and gets their attention.”  Next, design a clean layout.  Use a readable font like Times New Roman or Garamond.  Type size should range somewhere between a 10 and 12 point (or 40-45 characters per line). White space between lines should correspond to an increase in line length or type size.  Use bold headers to “chunk” the content and grab the reader’s attention. Most importantly, the design should make the white paper look like valuable information, not marketing material.  A design that is too slick or intentional will give away the white paper’s true nature.  Keep the design subtle and organized.

In Review

If you’re looking for information on white papers, Robert Bly’s book is the place to turn to.  Each chapter is thorough and concise.  Whether you want to learn general information about white papers or are seeking advice about a particular step in the process, this book is a valuable resource. 

And when in need of a professional, turn to BeTuitive. We create expert-level white papers that offer solution-based valuable content.  And with BeTuitive you can be sure that each white paper is professionally written and designed. To learn more about BeTuitive’s white paper solutions call us at 312-832-1500 and ask for Sarah, or email her at [email protected].

Related Links:

View a BeTuitive white paper created for Miller Heiman

Visit Robert Bly's website

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April 26, 2006 in award winning blog, award winning design, award winning magazine, Blogging Tools, Brand enhancement, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, bulk email marketing, business credibility, Business editorial, business magazine, Business publications, Business relationships, CMO, company newsletter, Corporate publications | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chews Your Facts

Posted on April 24, 2006 by Kathryn Regina.

As civilized members of society we follow rules that don’t always seem meaningful.  In middle school, “no chewing gum” was a rule that seemed particularly pointless.  As an adult I understand that the school administrators did not want a rainbow of gum smeared into the carpet and smudged all over the walls.  I’m sure we would have made a beautiful gum mural in the gymnasium if left to our own devices.

But what if the school had known then what we know now: That gum can decrease stress, improve memory, help you lose weight and whiten your teeth.  At least, that’s what preliminary studies are showing.   On March 29th Wrigley opened the Wrigley Science Institute in hopes of substantiating these claims.  According to Yahoo! News, Wrigley states it will fund large-scale studies by respected scientists in order to arrive at conclusive, peer-reviewed findings.

Wrigley’s commitment to research is driven by hard numbers.  While sales of regular gum has virtually flat-lined, specialty gums (whiteners, for example) is up nearly 300%.  Credible research could shoot sales through the roof.

Here at BeTuitive, we know that edu-marketing is a powerful strategy.  In this post-enlightenment world, facts are the new currency.  Unfortunately, though, there are a lot of meaningless facts floating around. It’s important to understand which facts your customers find valuable. Miller Heiman, a BeTuitive client, recommends that you ask: What are your customers trying to fix, accomplish or avoid?  Whether it be through a white paper or a content-driven newsletter, it’s key to offer solutions in a credible and valuable way.

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April 24, 2006 in CMO | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

When marketing, do not annoy your audience

Posted on April 20, 2006 by Kat.

I've been noticing these types of marketing pitches a lot lately, and I think it started with that voicemail:

"This is Mrs. Hamilton, we have urgent business with you that needs your immediate attention.  Please call me at 1-800-blah-blah-blah, for file number yadda-yadda."

Well great, Mrs. Hamilton, except I don't know anyone named Hamilton.  What company are you with again?  Oh, that's right, you didn't tell me.  And this business you have with me is so urgent that you can't tell me what it is.  Caller ID is drawing a blank.  I think you are a telemarketer, so I am going to ignore you.  **DELETE**

Ahh.  Except -- Mrs. Hamilton calls me back.  Repeats the exact same message.  (Oooh, a script.  Yes you are a telemarketer).  I continue to ignore her.  She continues to call back.  I change my outgoing message to state explicitly that I don't return messages that lack a compelling reason to do so.  Now she doesn't even leave a message, just continues to call hoping that I will be fooled by the <unavailable> on the Caller ID.

Here's the thing.  If you can't tell me who you are or why I should want to talk to you, your motives are automatically suspect.

Similarly, there is a print ad campaign going on in the El trains right now.  The ads don't mention a company or product, simply spout off cryptic slogans with a sketch of a yellow-stained pointing finger (the implications of which are kind of disgusting, if you think about it), and "FollowTheFinger.com."  Sarah and I had a recent discussion about how much this irritates the both of us.  What does "Follow the Finger" mean?  This isn't intriguing, it's annoying.  So much so that both of us immediately refused, on principle, to visit the website to learn more.  You're too cool to tell me who you are or what you're selling?  Your motives are automatically suspect.

Obviously, if I'm suspicious of you, if I have my guard up, I'm much less likely to buy what you're selling.  Viral marketing can work, but it helps if I feel like you're being upfront about what you're offering and what you're selling.  In a sense, electronic newsletters are a viral marketing tool, in that you're keeping your company brand in front of your audience without directly asking for anything in return.  Plus there's that handy "Forward to a Friend" button, the ultimate in viral marketing "spread."  And a newsletter that gives me something for my time (information), without trying to hide anything, gives me a lot more motivation to pay attention.

Of course, there's no saving telemarketing.  There's a reason for the National Do Not Call list.  Which makes me wonder why Mrs. Hamilton thinks she should be calling me in the first place.  Grrrrr.

April 20, 2006 in award winning magazine, blog publish, Blogging Tools, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, company newsletter, corporate magazine, create a newsletter | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Organic + Chocolate = Opportunity

Posted on April 19, 2006 by Kevin G.

I can safely say that I am all “Eastered out.”  The local stores are taking down the decorative pastel colors of green, blue and pink and putting all of their unsold chocolate bunnies back in storage for next year (good riddance).

There is one company, however, that is still operating at full force from the Easter holiday.  Green & Black’s brand of dark chocolate has remained a favorite in the organic chocolate market since the company's founding in 1991.  Trouble began to arise when their research team found ordinary chocolate lovers cringing at the offer of their organic dark chocolate.The UK company decided to reposition themselves this Easter as a chocolate company with an organic edge.  Considering the competition for chocolate consumption this holiday, G&B took the plunge as a small fish in a big pond.

Read how Green & Black overcame their obstacles with new marketing strategies.

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April 19, 2006 in award winning design, Building Customer Community, bulk email marketing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Stuff That Comes Out of Your Mouth

Posted on April 19, 2006 by Sarah Eaton.

I admit it.  I use email more than I should.  I've always thought I'm better at writing than I am at talking, so if I have something to say, I write it out, edit and hit send.  When you're writing, no one waits as you pause to recollect that perfect word.

Lately, though, I've been thinking more about the importance of being able to speak with ease and confidence--for me, that's half the battle: recognizing that I can be confident in my speaking skills.

In pursuit of my improvement program, there are certain things I'm attempting to correct.  I'm trying to eliminate the non-word "um" from my vocabulary, and I've tuned into other words that I use too much (like "essentially").

I found this article (it's a couple of years old, but no less relevant now) about the way women speak--using qualifiers, disclaimers and apologies--and how they're perceived as a result.

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April 19, 2006 in award winning design, award winning magazine, Award winning publications, Blogging Tools, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Intuition, bulk email marketing, company newsletter sample, corporate magazine, create a newsletter | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How Big is Your Right Amygdala?

Posted on April 18, 2006 by Kathryn Regina.

I don’t usually buy magazines.  But when I saw this month’s issue of Science & Spirit, I felt the power of marketing work its magic on me.  First, there was a baby on the cover. Second, the cover of the magazine read: “Why is this baby smiling? Like the rest of us, he may just be HAPPY to be here.”  What does a cute baby plus the promise of a scientific explanation of happiness equal? My five dollars.

As a new member of the BeTuitive team, I’ve been taking some time to re-evaluate things.  I think this is true of a lot of us; a life change re-invites old questions: What makes me happy? What is my purpose? The chicken or the egg?  Here at BeTuitive a lot of stress is placed on a happy work environment-- it’s practically a part of the business model.  But what actually makes people happy?  I was hoping Science & Spirit could tell me.

Here’s what I found out:

  1. If you’re married, you’ve got a heads-up on happiness.  So for all you married people out there, rest in the knowledge that you’d probably be a lot more down in the mouth without your partner. 
  2. Extroverts tend to have a higher baseline of happiness.  When viewing pleasant images like smiling faces and ice cream, “their brains show an increased activation in many cortical and sub-cortical regions, but even at rest, their brains display elevated blood flow in the left frontal hemisphere, an area known to be involved in positive emotions (March/April 2006 p 40).”
  3. The size of your amygdala plays a role.  “Extroverts appear to have more gray matter in the right amygdala than does the average person, while people high in pessimism or negative affect show more gray matter in the left amygdala, an area more involved with negative feelings (40).”

So what do you do if you’re a single introvert with a giant-sized left amygdala?  Don’t despair.  As Aristotle argued, happiness is its own end and the only thing that we can’t pursue directly.  Not even through marriage or brain transplants.  Happiness, Aristotle argued, is the ultimate end of every means.  And there are a lot of means.  A good career is one of them.  Being happy with your profession can be satisfying and rewarding, and working with a supportive team of people can make it even better.

More so, I think the key may be to know what is most important to you, and to live in a way that supports that.  Realizing that you are in control of your own happiness (somewhat, at least) can be a turning point.  As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

I’m going to go with Abe on this one.

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April 18, 2006 in award winning design, Blogging Tools, Building Customer Community | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

As I Look Around the Office...

Posted on April 12, 2006 by Kevin G.

…I suddenly realize a change inside of me. I feel inspired!

Winter has left that dreary taste in my mouth from overcast days and slush collecting on the sidewalks…gotta love Chicago

A change was needed to reinvigorate my morale.  Our offices have had a major facelift with readjusting our work areas and lowering the level of clutter. With a new paint job and snazzy lighting fixtures to top it off, it seems that spring has sprung within our walls.

These changes allow me stay fresh and look at situations with a clear and open focus. Mark Arend, in his article concerning workplace performance, states how, “investments in the work environment add value for all users of that environment.” Not only can measures taken to enhance the quality of a working environment be enjoyed, but measured through productivity. Here are some ideas to consider when addressing your work space:

  • Lighting - natural and processed
  • Walls - providing privacy but not seclusion
  • Visibility of nature - through potted-plants or windows
  • Color scheme - a new paint job can make or break focus and happiness
  • Colleague visibility - creating a sense of community while being independent

Take a look at Todd’s rant on the importance of workplace efficiency and how to eliminate the bad seed.

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April 12, 2006 in award winning design, corporate magazine | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Judging a Book By Its Cover

Posted on April 10, 2006 by Sarah Eaton.

How I wish I could say it's the words that suck people in to a publication!  Actually, I am going to say it, but I'll put a "sometimes" in front of it: Sometimes words suck people in.

But, facing reality, I also must acknowledge that design is a great big part of it.  So, I sat down with two of our designers and we talked about what's hot right now, what tactics you should employ, and what you should avoid.


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April 10, 2006 in audio publication, award winning magazine, award winning newsletter, Award winning publications, Blog Outsourcing, Blogs, Building B2B Relationships, business magazine, Business publications, company blog, company magazine, Company newsletters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack