weakest link

Most restaurant menus are bad. Really bad. If you’re a restaurateur, here are some tips to help you create your restaurant menu.

An eager entrepreneur is passionate about food. He scrimps and saves with the dream of opening his own restaurant.

Why invest in other restaurant startup costs if you're going to butcher your restaurant menu in Microsoft WordOne day, the opportunity presents itself. He sinks all of his financial resources into the building, fit-up, and other start-up costs. His success hinges on the success of that restaurant. He has spared no expense to make it the best it can be.

Opening day approaches.

He cranks up Microsoft Word and makes the menu complete with typos and freakish justification.

The end.

***************

While I’m on a rant about restaurant menus…

  • If I’m eating something in a restaurant, then logically it CANNOT be “homemade” (unless you’re in trouble with the health dept). The word you’re looking for is “homestyle”.
  • Do you sell salads? Most people eat salad dressing on those. How about a listing of your salad dressing choices?
  • Own a restaurant? Have a website for it? Do you know why people come to a restaurant website? The menu. Why have you hidden it, strung it out on 8 different pages, and made it a 25MB PDF?
  • Dear Fast Food Behemoth: How about listing what you have and the prices on the menu boards instead of blinky-flashy tv screens that change about the time I start reading them?
  • And to the original point of this post – If you own a restaurant, please hire a graphic designer to design a menu that works. Proofread it. Pass it around to people who are not your friends to see if it makes sense to them. It’s amazing that the single most important marketing piece for a restaurant is so badly butchered by so many restaurateurs.

good design and UX

ios7
I hate to be one of those redesign resistant people, but at first glance I don’t like the design changes of iOS7 announced this week at WWDC.

My displeasure comes down to the loss of skeuomorphism and the flat design.

Aesthetics are all judged by opinions. And opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one. But design goes beyond whether you “like” something or not. Design has rules and order.

Good design is intuitive. And most of our intuition comes from our life experiences. Round colorful circles don’t tell me what something does.

Contrast, color, and hierarchy provide a means for the designer to command the places for the user’s eye to go. With no depth, everything is equal.

It all comes back to something that I’m seeing more and more of. Design for the sake of design rather than for user experience. It’s fun and feels edgy for the newly hatched designer to smear a gradient across their screen and slap a thin font on it. Not so much for the user to who has to deal with it on a daily basis.

web browser snobs

I wrote this post about web designers who are browser snobs 5 years ago.

I’ve embarked on another project with a completely new set of web designers and I see attitudes haven’t changed.

Sure. You can hate on Internet Explorer & love another browser. But if you want people to visit a website and have a good experience, you have to be realistic about the stone cold numbers.

And these numbers aren’t even close. In this example, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari put together don’t add up to the share held by IE. Why would you ignore the reality and shoot yourself in the foot?
click to make bigger

Four Online Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make (And How to Avoid Them)

The following is a guest post by digital marketing strategist Seth Spears.

As a small business owner, when it comes to marketing your product or service online, there are two options: jump in feet first as an early technology adopter, or sit back and wait to see if the new methods actually work for those crazy early adopters (your competitors).

In the last few years, the marketing landscape has changed drastically. This is primarily because of changes in buyer habits due to technology advances such as broadband internet access, search engines, social media, and smart phones.

As a marketing consultant to small and local business owners, I’ve seen firsthand the mistakes many of these owners make, usually out of ignorance. It’s very unfortunate, as with a little advance planning, they could save thousands of dollars, and more importantly, hours of time.

So without further ado, here are the top four online marketing mistakes small business owners make, and how to avoid them.

Mistake 1. Poor Website Design, Structure, & Content.

In the rush to get their business online, many small business owners throw up a website as quickly as possible, but neglect the three most important aspects of any site: visually appealing design, ease of navigation, and quality content.

Your website is a direct extension of your business. It’s highly likely that your site is the first thing a potential customer will see when deciding to do business with you. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so what kind of impression is your site leaving with potential customers?

Design: Your business website should not look like it was created on Frontpage 10 years ago, but needs to reflect today’s web standards and capabilities.

Structure: It needs to be easy to navigate, so that visitors have a consistant experience on every page of your site. If I go to your site and have to click the “back” button to return to the homepage, I’m more likely to click the “x” button, and visit your competitor’s site instead.

Content: The information presented needs to be what potential customers are looking for. Who you are, what you do, the products/services offered, and how to contact you.

Without all of these aspects in place, you are giving a negative first impression to potential customers, and probably losing business.

Mistake 2. Lack of Basic Search Engine Optimization.

The way most people use the web is to go to Google, type in the keyword or phrase they’re looking for, and click on the first result. Even if they know the URL of a business they’re interested in, many will still let Google do the work for them, instead of simply typing it in the address bar. Because of this, every website MUST have some basic on-site search engine optimization.

The single most important aspect of SEO (search engine optimization) is the title tag, what you see at the top of your browser when you are on a particular webpage. The title tag tells Google what that particular page is about.

If the title tag of your homepage says “home” your site does not have optimized title tags! (If you’re not in the ‘home’ industry, you probably don’t want to rank for that term.) At the very minimum, your title tag should include the keywords or phrase(s) a potential customer would most likely search for, along with the name of your business. For example, the title tag of Shotgun Concepts looks like this:

Chris Houchens .:. Marketing Speaker | Marketing Author | Shotgun Marketing Blog

Secondly, each page of your site must have a specific meta description. This is the information that Google (or any other search engine used) will show below the link to your site in the search results. (Click here to see what the Shotgun Concepts meta description looks like to Google.) Without it, the big G will pull whatever information it feels is most relevant to the page, without your input. Since you know your business, it’s probably a good idea for you decide what info you want to show up.

Get these two elements correctly in place, and your site will rank much higher for your business/industry keywords.

Mistake 3. Using Social Media as (another) Broadcast Medium

The web has changed marketing. No longer can you simply broadcast your message to the masses and hope your intended customer will see/hear/respond to it. Social media has fundamentally changed all that. Now, past, current, and future customers have a way to communicate with you.

If you have a Facebook page for your business, yet don’t allow comments on the wall for fear of what someone might say, you’re using Facebook to broadcast. If you tweet out a daily special or promotion, yet never follow anyone back or check your @ replies, you’re using Twitter to broadcast.

Social media is a dialog, not a monologue. It’s (should be) a back and forth conversation between you and your customer (or future customer). If that scares you, good! It means you’ll work harder to provide a valuable product or service. It also means that customers will be choosing to do business with those who listen to them, rather than just advertise to them.

Social media is a three-spoked wheel, one-part marketing, one-part public relations, and one-part customer service. Treat it like such and your customers will love and thank you!

Mistake 4. Lack of Consistency

Your web presence can be one of your biggest marketing assets, but the key is consistency. Just like any other area of business, you have to set expectations and live up to them.

If your website has a blog, update it regularly. Whether that is once a month, once a week, or every day, be sure to keep it consistant, as your visitors will have an expectation, and if that expectation isn’t met, they’ll begin looking somewhere else for what you offer. If you can only spend an hour each day from 4:00-5:00 PM on social media, that’s fine, but set the expectation upfront and live up to it.

If a new customer came to your place of business and you had 4th of July sale signs prominently displayed (in August), they’re probably not going to take your business very seriously, no matter what your excuse. The same holds true with your web presence.

Keep your website updated. Be consistant in your social media usage. Treat it as another aspect of your regular business activities and your customers will get to know, like, trust, and buy from you regularly!

There you have it. The top four online marketing mistakes small business owners are guilty of, and how to resolve them. Are you guilty of any of these? Which ones? What steps have you taken to correct them? Any others I’ve left out? Leave a comment below to let us know!

Seth Spears is the chief strategist/principal of Spears Marketing, a digital marketing consulting firm specializing in WordPress web design, local search engine optimization, social media, email, video, & content marketing, brand strategy & consulting. He is a small business crusader passionate about helping small businesses grow through targeted, online marketing, direct-response strategies, and fantastic customer service. You can follow him on Twitter & Facebook.

recycling ideas

I led a daylong training for the Executive Directors of the American Advertising Federation back in 2008 at the AAF National Conference in Atlanta. This was their imaging for the conference:
2008 AAF National Conference

Flashforward to the present where the Wired Business Conference is happening today.
Wired Business Conference

Maybe they’ll talk about unique and fresh design.

Design Basics

Via Scoble
I’ve always said that marketing by committee is never a good idea. This video parody shows what might have happened if Microsoft had designed the Ipod box.

This is true for creating all your marketing pieces as well.
The idea of “we paid for this space so we need to use all of it” sometimes kills your message.

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Czech Mate

Just as we’re “re-branding” every spot on the map in the U.S….the phenomenon has spread worldwide. The Czech Republic now has a logo. [LINK]

Newsflash:: Most countries already have a logo…it’s called a FLAG.

I’m no expert on Eastern European Graphic Design…but it looks a LITTLE busy to be a logo. It looks to be more of a poster. Each of the little cartoon bubbles highlights a part of the Czech culture. From the press release….

It’s very bouncy and playful, and one row of bubbles is dedicated to words like “mushrooming”, or “Christmas carp” and “remoska” referring to favourite Czech hobbies and a very famous Czech portable oven.

Ahhh, nothing like the lights on the tree and the Christmas carp in the oven.

(Sad Disclosure — I actually got a little giddy when I thought of the corny title to this post. Close runners up were “Czech, Please” and “Czech out this new logo”. …I think I made the best choice.)

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Graphic Artist Burger Flippers

There are some amazing graphic designers / graphic artists working in the marketing world today. Thier work creates the bridge that pulls the market in and allows delivery of the message.

And then there are some Graphic Burger Flippers.

Huh?

My personal definition of a “burger flipper” is someone who just knows how to do the job they’ve been assigned to do. They can turn on the grill and have enough manual dexterity to hold the spatula. They see that the end result of their job is that they have to flip the burger or drop the fries. They seem to be oblivious to the fact that someone on the other side of the counter has paid for and will consume this food. The end of the journey is getting the burger in the wrapper.

Compare this to the master chef…or the maternal southern lady who owns the best restaurant in town. The dining expereince of the customer is their final goal. They want the person they’re cooking for to have a delightful meal. The end of the journey is a satisfied customer.

There are “burger flippers” in every industry….and in every job. You’ve met them. Clock in….clock out…where’s my check.

Lately, for some reason, I’ve been running across alot of “burger flippers” in the graphic arts arena. I’ll get proofs from a YellowPage publisher or a printing company that would fail any basic graphic layout class. Fundamental items like kerning and basic spell check are blatantly wrong and should have caught before they were sent for me to proof.

The reason for this is a burger flipping graphic artist in a cubicle farm somwhere. My client has paid either hundreds or thousands of dollars for space in a publication or a Yellow Pages. And yet, their ad is only one item in a “”generic template–jam-in-the-info–where’s-the-next-one”” mindset of a burger flipper graphic designer who is doing 50 ads today. He knows how to make Quark/Pagemaker (the grill) work, but he has no idea (or doesn’t care) about how marketing works.

Demand better from these people. You’re making the investment in advertising. For it to work, the ad must be put together well. The best thing to do is to circumnavigate the cubicle farm and hire a good graphics person that understands your entire marketing plan and not just the quick ad copy that was scribbled down by a salesperson who probably didn’t have any idea about what you needed…(see this post about the dangers of marketing salespeople)

If you are a burger flipper or better yet…if you employ burger flippers, start thinking about the end results for your customers. Or, at the very least, have a little pride in your work.

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Dead Presidents

I’m a big fan of an unified graphic look for an organization.

Business cards, letterhead, websites, ads, etc should use the same fonts, colors, and “feel”. Success is achieved when someone can look at a piece and know it came from you even without looking at the name/logo. Even though brand does not equal logo, the essence of the brand is carried through your logo and graphic look.

In a very large organization, when the graphic look changes, it take a little time to integrate it throughout the company. And there’s no larger organization that the US Government.

I don’t like the current redesign trend of US currency.

With the state quarter program, the Sacagawea dollar, the Lewis & Clark nickels, and now a permanent new nickel, it seems the Mint has gone gimmick happy. With all these gimmicks, coinage is losing its unified graphic look.

Paper currency redesign has been better. Most of the redesign in recent years has been driven by the need to thwart counterfeiters rather than gimmicks. And as I said, with such a large organization, the Government is doing it slowly with one denomination at a time.

But what about the one dollar bill?

While the 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 are on the second round of redesigns, dour George is still the same. Why has it not been redesigned with a large portrait/colors/etc to “match” the other currency?

Obviously, criminals who counterfeit dollar bills are doing just for the pleasure of the work since there not a lot of payoff. I’m sure that’s the reason the Treasury isn’t hot to redesign.

In addition….although I’m sure the government isn’t thinking in branding terms… in terms of graphic image, this traditional one dollar bill is used all over the world as the graphical representation of the entire US economy. Changing it would be like McDonalds dumping the golden arches.

BUT the change has begun…and needs to be finished. It’s where marketing policy and fiscal policy meet.

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