Kristine Neil

Press

Meet the Community — Kristine Neil

Business, Web DesignKristine NeilComment

How did you get into the industry?

Like most designers, I didn’t necessarily embark on a direct path to a web design career from the start! Where I am now is a mash-up of all my past experiences, and I am lucky to have been able to shape my own job description as my interests and skills have evolved. In some way or another, I’ve worked in and around the intersection of technology, business strategy, communications, engineering and creativity for the past 20 years and for the past 5+ years have used those skills almost exclusively in the web design and development space which is where I feel like I was meant to end up.

Why do you work with Squarespace over other platforms?

My first experience with Squarespace was out of necessity. As an entrepreneur and small business owner myself, I needed a website. I needed it to look amazing, of course, and I didn’t have the patience or time to build it on Wordpress, which is what was de rigueur for the time. It didn’t take long to realize the power of Squarespace to allow other small (and not so small!) businesses to create an online presence in an accessible way. That first experience in building something for my own company turned into doing a few sites for some select clients, which snowballed into doing more and more web work. Markon Brands, the creative studio I own, now exclusively designs and develops on Squarespace for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and small teams.

What makes your business unique?

At face value, we don’t do anything magical. There are lots of people who are experts in web design, Squarespace, development, strategy, etc. Where we are different is in our ability to tackle projects from both a creative and a business perspective — things have to look good, but they also have to make practical sense. Collectively, our team can cover both of those areas which can often have divergent or competing priorities. Clients are often surprised when we offer simple solutions to seemingly complex challenges. This may be because they have had poor past experiences with other designers who left them wanting more or with developers who made managing information unnecessarily complicated. Whatever the reason, what we hear most from clients is that working with us was a refreshing experience. (Best compliment ever, BTW!)

What services do you offer?

Most of our larger projects fall into two main categories: new web designs or website redesigns. Basically, you either already have a website or you don’t. We like both types of projects. Working with startups on a new site is exciting because it’s a blank slate and we can put some great foundational elements in place to help them succeed as they grow. Website redesigns are very rewarding both creatively and professionally as well. These clients typically come to us because something in their business isn’t working as it should and they’ve attributed the problem in some way to their website. What we discover in working with these clients is that there may be a systems or organizational problem that we can solve at the same time as we give their website an aesthetic facelift. It could be something as simple as helping route forms to the proper departments to reduce admin headaches or more technical solutions like streamlining the way online orders are handled and processed or how blogs are tagged and categorized to improve discoverability.

What work are you most proud of and why?

Markon Brands recently celebrated its 7th birthday which I think is a huge accomplishment! Sadly, most small businesses only last a couple of years so to be able to say we’ve made it over that hump is something to be very proud of. I attribute this success to our ability (and willingness!) to continuously evolve and adapt to changing market conditions. We are always learning and invest a lot of time on professional development and ongoing education, continually pushing ourselves professionally and creatively, so things don’t feel stagnant or boring.

What are your preferred industries to work with?

We don’t work in a specific niche. Our style and strategies can be adaptive to any type of content from service-based businesses to e-commerce experiences. We do work best with entrepreneurs/solopreneurs or with small dedicated teams like nonprofits since we tend to work very collaboratively with clients through our design and development process. We’ve found these clients more willing to push boundaries than larger organizations with many levels of bureaucracy to navigate.

What is one piece of advice you would give clients?

Find a designer or design team that you trust and then truly hand over the reins to them. We are students of our industry and work hard to stay on top of trends, changes, and challenges that the layperson just doesn’t have time to master. We call our process collaborative because we need the input and experience you have about your industry, but it’s not your job to come up with design or technical solutions to any perceived problems — that’s what you hired us to do!

What inspires you?

Personally, I am always inspired by travel, and I do my best to travel as often as possible even if it’s just getting away for the weekend to explore something new. Getting outside your comfort zone, seeing things from a different perspective, learning about other cultures — all of these things inspire my work and push me to help clients communicate better online.

What do you do to overcome creative blocks?

We’re lucky that our office is located in the heart of the city we’re based in so creative blocks are often overcome by walks around the neighborhood to get some fresh air or sometimes taking our laptops to one of the many local coffee shops to work with a change of scenery. Music also helps, and our office is always pumping with something, typically electronic, pop or hip hop.

What are you working on at the moment?

We have several open projects at the moment, and they are all pretty different from one another! Right now, we have new websites in the works for clients from California to Australia to Ireland to just down the street and in industries as diverse as travel, wedding, photography, real estate, and food.

Why did you join Sixty as an expert?

We love that Sixty loves Squarespace as much as we do and that they are building a place to connect pros and clients specifically for the platform. There is a focus on creating a positive experience for all parties involved that you often don’t see; on some other platforms either creative work is devalued, or customer service is lacking. Sixty has proven to take care of both sides. As professionals, we feel valued and respected, and clients are also reporting very positive experiences with the Sixty team and interface. Win-win!

What do you love most about On Demand sessions with Sixty?

What’s great about Squarespace as a platform is that clients do find most of it very intuitive and accessible, but it’s also easy to get overwhelmed or not know exactly how to achieve what you want to do. It’s gratifying to be able to share some of my knowledge and expertise in training sessions or to be able to quickly fix a problem that a client’s been stuck on for a while. One of my favorite things is when clients start with “I know this isn’t possible on Squarespace but…” and then for me to be able to show them that it is! (It’s also fun to get to work with people all over the world every day!)

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’m excited to see how this industry continues to evolve and change over the next few years. There’s a lot about what we do as web designers that is affected by things like what social media platforms are popular, what devices people are using, how people are accessing information and the dreaded algorithm. In five years, I’ll still be working in this industry, but at the rate things are changing in tech and online I have no doubt that it could look and feel very different. What will stay the same is that business will still be about connecting humans with other humans so even if we’re using artificial intelligence to do the matchmaking it’s still all about relating to and connecting with others.

https://blog.usesixty.com/meet-the-community-kristine-neil-a0bc9e3f7ba3

How Small Businesses Use Websites in 2019

Business, Web DesignKristine NeilComment

Working in web design, it’s difficult to imagine a business owner who thinks our products and services aren’t necessary for business but in a recent survey and report from Visual Objects, a surprising 40% of small businesses choose not to invest in a website citing concerns over cost and relevance.

Brand-building opportunities aside, the benefits of having a website for your business are tremendous and done right, the return will far exceed the cost over time. The following is an excerpt from that report which I was happy to contribute to. Be sure to click the link at the bottom for the full article!


Website-building software still costs money and often requires time and manpower that small businesses may not have. Some agencies like Markon Brands, however, work within website builders to create beautiful products for their clients using existing frameworks.

Kristine Neil primarily develops high-quality Squarespace websites for small businesses working with limited resources.

“The cool thing about working on a platform like Squarespace is we’re able to offer a high-caliber product to a client with a smaller budget,” said Kristine Neil, Markon Brands’ owner and creative director. “We hand [clients] a website where they have some modicum of control, but they had professional help to take care of all the backend settings – the things that were a little overwhelming from a DIY standpoint.”

Squarespace and other platforms, with professional help, provide a greater ROI for small businesses with limited budgets. Agencies like Markon Brands help small businesses create a beautiful website with a high-quality UX and empower clients to manage the day-to-day aspects of website maintenance.

Although hiring a web design agency often feels daunting for small businesses looking to launch a simple website, partnering with a qualified team is a worthy investment for building an online presence.

https://visualobjects.com/web-design/top-web-designers/small-business-websites-2019

More Than One-Third of Small Businesses Have No Website, Survey Finds

Business, Web DesignKristine NeilComment

More than one-third of small businesses (40%) choose not to invest in a website, according to a new survey from Visual Objects, a portfolio website that showcases work from top creative firms from around the world.

In addition, the survey found that 28% of small businesses are unlikely to create a website in the future.

Graph - resources small businesses use to maintain their websites

Graph - why small businesses do not have websites

In contrast, most small businesses (60%) do have a website, primarily to establish brand legitimacy and authority.

The survey of 529 U.S. small businesses found that quality websites are affordable and accessible for small businesses. Most small businesses believe a website is a necessary component of any successful digital marketing strategy in 2019.

Some Small Businesses Consider Websites Irrelevant

Nearly a third of small businesses that choose not to have a website (28%) say a website is irrelevant to their company's needs. These companies tend to leverage their personal networks and traditional marketing strategies, such as email and PR, to generate business.

Industry experts, however, are skeptical of businesses that rely on word-of-mouth marketing strategies without websites.

"At some point, businesses get into the outer reaches of that word-of-mouth network," said Jackson Fox, director of user experience at Viget, a full-service digital agency near Washington, D.C."Without a digital presence in some way, people who don't know you may not trust your business."

Cost and the use of social media for a web presence are other reasons small businesses gave for not creating a website.

Most Small Businesses Spend Less Than $10,000on Their Websites

Websites have become more affordable for small businesses: 65% spend less than $10,000 to design, build, and launch a website.

Website builders such as Squarespace and Wix help small businesses establish a basic website presence quickly without budgetary strain. However, the ability of these website tools is limited, and the advanced design features are often beyond the average small business owner's skill level.

Kristine Neil, owner and creative director at web design firm Markon Brands in Vancouver, Wash., says website builders tend to establish unrealistic expectations for amateur web designers.

"Those [platforms] really oversell and underdeliver when it comes to the lay person's ability to execute or recreate the samples that they're seeing," Neil said.

Web Design Agencies Help Small Businesses Meet Strategic Goals

Nearly 20% of small businesses use a web design agency to maintain their websites. Most small businesses (52%), however, keep website maintenance in-house and may not have the necessary expertise for complex website features.

Web design companies can save small businesses time and effort by creating a high-quality product that empowers clients to take over day-to-day maintenance of the final version.

Roxana Colorado, creator of the LatinaNomad business blog, hired a developer after attempts to build her own website came up short.

"The hours spent trying to figure it all out were insane," Colorado said. "The learning curve on the development side was huge. I would have been better off hiring someone."

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/more-than-one-third-of-small-businesses-have-no-website-survey-finds-300803983.html

Technological Illiteracy is a Real Problem

Business, Web Design, UXKristine NeilComment

We’re at a place in history unlike any other when it comes to access to such a large amount of information at the tips of our fingers. So much of what happens in our real lives, in our communities, in our classrooms, in our town halls, and in our boardrooms is affected by or has the power to be shaped by the information that we get first online. Unfortunately, technological illiteracy is a real problem and those of us who work every day online and with technology often forget how overwhelming it can all seem to those that don’t. Teaching everyone how to use, manage, evaluate, and understand technology and information online is as critical a subject as reading or math. I believe that we have a civic responsibility to make sure that not just our students but other demographics that are routinely marginalized online have the tools they need to access information and engage in the conversations that will shape our collective future.

https://medium.com/authority-magazine/technological-illiteracy-is-a-real-problem-and-those-of-us-who-work-every-day-online-and-with-102bb9ba509d

Kristine Neil, Owner & Creative Director at Markon Brands accepted into YEC Next

BusinessKristine NeilComment

YEC Next is an invitation-only community for the world’s most promising early-stage entrepreneurs.

Vancouver, WA (February 4, 2019) — Kristine Neil, Owner & Creative Director at Markon Brands, has been accepted into YEC Next, an invitation-only community for the world's most promising early-stage entrepreneurs 45 and younger.

Kristine was chosen for membership in YEC Next based the success she has already achieved with Markon Brands, as well as the selection committee’s analysis of her potential for future growth.

As a member of YEC Next, Kristine will have access to a curated network of influential peers, personal brand building and publishing opportunities on top media outlets, volume discounts on business services, and VIP events. Kristine and others in YEC Next also benefit from the mentorship of members of YEC (Young Entrepreneur Council), which counts among its ranks some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs.

“I’m honored to have been invited to join YEC Next and look forward to sharing with and learning from my fellow entrepreneurs,” says Kristine Neil. “The coming year is poised to be a standout year for Markon and I look forward to the opportunity to further solidify our footing as Squarespace web design & development experts.”

Scott Gerber, founder of YEC Next, says, "We are honored to welcome Kristine to YEC Next. Our goal is to provide the most promising up-and-coming entrepreneurs around with the opportunities and connections that will accelerate their path to every business milestone.”

For more information about YEC Next, visit yecnext.com.

https://markonbrands.com/kristine-neil-owner-creative-director-at-markon-brands-accepted-into-yec-next

Why being authentic is the most important principle for success in social media

Business, Personal Branding, Social MediaKristine NeilComment

Be Authentic. The quickest way to get people to zone out is to show them exactly what they see on everyone else’s accounts. You’re not keeping up a robust posting schedule and all that goes with it to blend in! Users are quick to notice when someone isn’t being real. When faced with an endless scroll of pretty, polished, manicured personas, offering an authentic picture of who you really are as a person (or as a brand) can be a breath of fresh air. Brands and influencers alike shouldn’t be afraid to put themselves out there; I’ve found that the messy behind-the-scenes posts usually generate the most engagement. If you’re hesitant to post anything less than perfect to your grid, that’s what Stories are for! You can be silly, speak directly to your followers, play with fun features like gifs, polls or questions and still maintain the picture perfect main profile we all strive for.

https://thriveglobal.com/stories/why-being-authentic-is-the-most-important-principle-for-success-in-social-media-with-kristine-neil/

Creative Studio Markon Brands Helps Brands Tell Cohesive And Compelling Stories Online

UX, Web Design, BusinessKristine NeilComment

Below is our recent interview with Kristine Neil, Owner and Creative Director of Markon Brands:

Q: Kristine, can you tell us something more about the company?

A: Markon Brands is a small, creative studio based in the Pacific Northwest. We specialize not just in designing websites but in helping brands tell cohesive and compelling brand stories online. We are first and foremost, communication experts and it just so happens that in 2019 nearly all communication is digital! Our best clients are small to medium businesses or nonprofit organizations that want to communicate better with their target demographic. They may not realize that poor messaging or inconsistent logo usage or an outdated web design layout is costing them money; they may only feel that something is off about their current site or know that they can do more. We also do a lot of work with new companies that are in the startup phase so for those clients the goal is to anticipate the needs of an audience that doesn’t entirely exist yet and build in room for growth and adaptation.

Q: Can you give us insights into your services?

A: Of all the projects we work in during the course of a year, I would say that 70% of them are website rebuilds and the remaining 30% are entirely new sites. Whether we’re working with a client that has an existing site or not, our process remains pretty much the same. After working on so many websites over the years, we’ve honed and refined a method to make things easy for our clients who may not be as familiar with technology or the ever-changing demands of search engines like Google. Our services are designed to be holistic treatments of the entirety of a brand’s digital footprint, with the foundation being a beautiful, user-friendly, modern website. We also provide ongoing website support services for clients whether we built their original site or not. For us, it’s not just about getting a client to launch day; it’s about allowing them to have a website that can grow and change for them as their business does.

Q: No one in your studio has ever taken a dedicated UX design course? Is that true? Why?

A: This is true! That’s what happens when you’ve been at this game for as long as we have; what used to be taught under several different disciplines has now been modernized under the singular “user experience” banner. So even though neither of us has ever taken what is now billed as a UX design course, we’ve unintentionally been training and building our UX knowledge and skillset over decades of real-life education and experience. User experience as we define it is really just an amalgamation of the theories and teachings of many different fields. From understanding things like buyer psychology and color theory to what actions convert and how environmental conditions affect buyers, user experience design has been given life through all the new ways we interact with brands – online and IRL. Creating great user experiences pulls equally from the fields of psychology, art, economics, design, information sciences, and linguistics, and these are all areas we’re lucky to be able to translate into a digital medium such as web design.

Q: What is the best way to create readable web pages, and why is it important?

A: Most pages need to be way more straightforward and simple than the average business owner imagines! Most of us can probably differentiate a great website from a mediocre one when we land there as a visitor ourselves, but the problem we see most business owners have is that when it comes to their own site, they get bogged down by their personal knowledge and passion for their industry. They forget that visitors don’t share their same level of skill or expertise in their field and end up providing too much of the wrong information when, in fact, pared down copy with a highly targeted call-to-action helps create a highly readable web page and more enjoyable experience. Putting yourself in your client’s shoes is the best first step in this process. Try to understand what they know, what they don’t know and when it’s appropriate to share different types of info with them. Clearly defined sales funnels like this convert at higher rates and have the side effect of being more readable by search engines as well!

Q: From your perspective how can search engine optimization change a business owner’s life?

A: SEO is a very tangled and complicated topic, and there are definitely people who consider themselves “experts” in this field that see things differently than we do at Markon. We tend to feel that there’s a lot of over-promising and under-delivering that happens in this segment and it’s unfortunate because many of the victims of sometimes predatory practices are otherwise pragmatic business owners that are just trying to improve their web positioning so that they can stay open another week. Search engine optimization best practices change faster than most companies can afford to respond to so, at best, most businesses are just playing catch up in a game that they are never going to win. We would recommend that for SEO to be truly “life changing” that business owners should focus on organic content creation that builds relationships and reinforces their position as an expert in their field. All of the fundamental elements (things like proper page or content formatting) should be taken care of as part of your web design experience. To us, great design is the foundation of great SEO. Growth happens as a result of the everyday activities that come after launch.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: In 2019, we plan to focus more on creating intentional user experiences and integrating more personalized elements into the sites we build for clients. This means being even more thoughtful about the placement of essential items on the page and increasingly conscientious about what motivates people to connect. On the personalization side, we’re discovering new apps and integrations every day that are at very accessible price points for even the smallest of businesses, and we’re excited to see how those features help our clients better connect and engage with their own customers. Designing for a great experience and staying ahead of trends is what sets us apart from ordinary web designers.

http://techcompanynews.com/creative-studio-markon-brands-helps-brands-tell-cohesive-and-compelling-stories-online/?fbclid=IwAR39gO1JgkkqQn_YCY_gtZf2cD4g2lzaIUXi79auwNdnwRkMhIxtxdeLaOg

30 Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Business Tips

Business, Personal BrandingKristine NeilComment

Stay True to Your Passion

In many ways, it’s easier than ever to start your own business but many people quickly realize that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the CEO desk. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart! There is a lot of romanticized content out there (especially on Instagram) that makes it seem like a dream to be your own boss; from the #digitalnomads who claim to only work four hour weeks while traveling the world and blogging from the back of their camper van to the always perfect snaps of #workathome life, it can be tough when your reality doesn’t seem to match up to what you’re seeing online. My biggest tip for succeeding as an entrepreneur is to stay true to yourself and not compare your version of success to anyone else’s. Being an entrepreneur can be risky and unpredictable enough without feeling like you haven’t figured out the “magic formula” for success yet. If you’re bold enough to step out on your own, stay true to that passion and success will eventually follow.

https://rescue.ceoblognation.com/2018/12/07/entrepreneurs-share-their-best-business-tips-4/

17 Experts Reveal the Ecommerce Trends Set to Fuel Serious Sales Growth in 2019

Business, Web DesignKristine NeilComment

Innovative ecommerce retailers will push the current limits of personalisation in 2019. This means going beyond passive product recommendation models by integrating conversational features that actively recommend products to consumers based on demographics, purchase history, locality and any other actionable data.

“The idea will be to create an online shopping experience that feels like it comes with the support one would find from a human associate in a store. Imagine logging into a favourite clothier’s website and being greeted by a bot that knows your dimensions, colour and style preferences, and can actively assist you in shopping for a new item.

https://www.veeqo.com/blog/ecommerce-trends-2019

What Successful Websites Will Look Like in 2019

Web Design, Strategy, DesignKristine NeilComment

Here at Markon, we love this time of year because it’s time to forecast what trends we think will define the shifts in branding, web design and marketing in the year to come. In 2019, we are expecting subtle, yet significant, changes in web design. The new year is a time when many businesses are thinking about new goals, so if updating your website is on your list here are some trends to keep an eye on.

First, a note on why it’s important to pay attention to trends – even if your business has a more traditional aesthetic and you don’t plan on implementing anything too crazy or boundary pushing. We don’t need to remind anyone with internet access that things move fast in the digital world and some of the trends we see are actually indicative of more profound, fundamental shifts in how customers are changing the ways they react and engage with online content. Right now, there’s a real push and pull between all of the tools that are becoming increasingly available to personalize experiences, for example, and also helping people feel that their information is secure and their privacy respected.

Other trends are rooted in just how much time we all spend staring at our screens and understanding just how overwhelmed consumers are by the massive amount of new content that’s published online every hour of every day. The reality is that consumers take just a few seconds to determine if the website they are visiting will be of value to them. That’s an eternity, and barely a blink all at once, and in that timeframe consumers are scanning for keywords and calls-to-action to help them decide whether to stay or go. They just have too much to look at.

With those things in mind, here are four simple aesthetic and structural trends that we believe will improve the design and function of websites in 2019:

Simplified Content & Navigation Structures

In 2019, we’ll see content concentrated on as few pages as possible, each designed to be easily skimmable so that consumers can get to what they need quickly. In the past, we often saw content spread thinly across numerous pages (and clicks!) to make a site appear “meatier” than it was. The truth is that this is not only cumbersome for the consumer but potentially damaging for overall site performance.

Concentrating content onto highly targeted landing pages with clear CTAs (calls-to-action) helps send a clear message to visitors that the real magic happens once a personal connection is made. This simplification will also affect top-level and secondary navigation in a big way. Large, multi-tiered navigation structures (i.e., drop-down menus that have drop-down menus) just expend more of the consumer’s time and eat up space at the top of every page. We’re not sure why this navigation style was ever popular but are looking forward to seeing sites with simplified content organization and plain language to improve user experience.

Improved Calls-To-Action

Speaking of CTAs, favorite page layouts of the past often meant that they got lost in the shuffle, despite often being the most crucial element on the page! To increase the usefulness of websites, we’ll see a renewed effort to intuitively place calls-to-action where they make the most sense from both a design and a user experience perspective. Web design experts are combining their understanding of attributes such as color, typography, and even animation, with studies that show us where visitors are most prone to move their eyes on a page, meaning that a great CTA really is part art and part science. This trend is heavily impacted by that idea that people are feeling very fatigued and overwhelmed by information online. Improving CTAs on your site is the first step in helping visitors feel like your job is to make their life easier, not harder!

Personalized Everything

Advances in machine learning and AI mean that incorporating personalized functions, like a chatbot, more accessible than ever. What that means for business owners is that some of the initial interactions with leads on your site (or social media accounts) can become automated, allowing you to focus on other things while potential customers consider your services. Customers are coming to expect instant personalization whether that’s that your bot knows their name or is able to look up their order history or understand their shopping preferences. The trend here is that consumers will continue to expect more and more of these interactions and businesses that fail to implement systems to manage experiences will quickly feel outdated. In the long run, we also see the creation of highly personalized on-page content that caters, if not specifically to a person, to at least a specific buyer persona to make them feel like your site exists to speak only to them. We’re expecting to see a focus on micro-interactions like these to help sites feel even more engaging and less static.

Bold, Monochromatic Design

Will this be the year that soft, subtle Millennial Pink finally dies? Maybe! We see some hints that the internet’s new favorite colors will be much bolder in 2019. What takes bright colors and bold typography from shocking to amazing is that this aesthetic will be paired with a considerable simplification in the amount of content and other design elements on the page (see trend one!). Creating evocative experiences through the use of color and type is not a trend, of course; but we’re expecting to see designs that feel fresh by focusing on monochromatic palettes that make minimalism feel luxe. Crisp, bright colors won’t feel overwhelming when balanced with plenty of white space, simple shapes and subtle animations.

Even if you’re not looking to make any significant shifts with your web presence in the coming year, it’s always smart to understand what updates and changes are fueling the trends so that you aren’t caught off guard by what you see in your analytics panel. These trends are indicative of a modern need to build simple interfaces with gentle user experiences, allowing consumers to learn more about businesses and find the things they need in environments that are pleasing to the eye and straightforward in their organization. You may not see your business as a trendsetter or follower, but adopting the trends described here are what will make your website successful in 2019.

https://www.vbjusa.com/opinion/columns/marketing-strategic-communication-column/what-successful-websites-will-look-like-in-2019/

Business Owners Need a Holiday Break, Too. Here's How to Take One.

Business, StrategyKristine NeilComment

For business owners, taking time off during the holiday season can be challenging. For one thing, you risk losing income if you’re not working. Second, it can be hard to find someone else to manage operations during this busy time of year.

The good news? Most of your customers will probably be taking a break, too. So with a little planning and a lot of communication, you can actually relax and enjoy the holidays yourself. Here are tips to giving yourself some rest and relaxation over the holiday season:

Communicate

Your holiday planning should start weeks—if not months—before your scheduled time off. Give your customers, clients and staff as much heads-up as possible, and then remind them of your plans at every opportunity. When Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of marketing firm Mavens & Moguls, took a month off to travel to Italy recently, she made sure colleagues and clients had months to prepare for her absence. “I told them about my plans, reiterated the dates as we discussed timelines for projects, and put it in emails, proposals, invoices and pay stubs,” she says. The best part: By creating that sense of urgency, clients pulled the trigger on some projects that had been lingering so they could launch before she left town.

Delegate

If you have staff who can cover for you while you’re away, have more than one person trained to handle key tasks, advises Jamie Cunningham, with SalesUp! Business Coaching. Also document all of your critical systems. “There are usually only a handful of mission-critical systems in a business that, if failed, would cause irrevocable damage,” he says. “These are the ones to focus on.”

Automate

Technology and IoT (Internet of things) have made it easier than ever to be out of the office without being out-of-pocket when clients need you. Kristine Neil, owner and creative director of Markon Brands, lets automation take care of routine tasks when she’s not in the office. She creates workflows in Dubsado, her customer relationship management (CRM) platform, to automatically respond to leads, follow up on proposals or even track down anyone who may have missed a scheduled payment while she’s out of the office. Ruby Receptionists will route calls to her cell so she can answer them from anywhere in the world. “If I’m truly trying to disconnect, they can answer basic questions or route callers to helpful resources until I’m back in the office,” she says.

Outsource

The rise of virtual assistants has been a game-changer for many entrepreneurs. As their name implies, virtual assistants are contract or freelance workers who perform basic executive assistant tasks while working from home. They can answer your phone, respond to emails, manage projects or maintain your social media presence while you’re away. They can be hired by the hour, by the project or by the week or month, depending on your needs.

Check In

The reality is that you may not be able to completely sever the line between work and home during your days off. So if you do need to check in, set boundaries around your availability. Let your staff and clients know that you’ll be checking messages or emails once or twice a day, and leave an emergency contact number on your voicemail. Also set your email to out-of-office mode and leave a message letting them know you’re on break and how to reach your business if necessary.

“While I’m not a fan of a business owner being on call during their holidays, it can give both you and your team peace of mind knowing that if an absolute disaster happens, there is a way to connect with you,” Cunningham says. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, these disasters never come to pass, but the fear they will often prevents business owners taking the length of holiday they really should.”

https://spectrumbusinessinsights.com/technology/business-owners-need-a-holiday-break-too-heres-how-to-take-one/

The Nightmares of Web Designers [Stories About Difficult and Unsolved Cases]

Business, Web DesignKristine NeilComment

In our years of working with businesses to build successful online experiences, the projects that have presented the most friction are the ones where clients try to micromanage the design process despite having little-to-no experience or authority in the world of design. As designers and UX professionals we bring our best to every project, so when a client is attempting to steer the project in another creative direction that we don't think will help them achieve their goals, it can grind the project to halt. It's an unfortunate scenario considering the client has paid for our expertise. In these cases, our job becomes helping clients see beyond their own design bias to what is best for their target audience.

https://www.templatemonster.com/blog/web-designers-nightmares/

26 Genius Product Marketing Strategy and Examples

MarketingKristine Neil

Instagram is a great platform to gain traction when you sell online and are a new brand in the marketplace. Find a few hashtags you can gain traction around and then gear your content to fit the content being shared around those hashtags. Post to both your grid and via stories. Be sure to include those hashtags in your story posts too. By doing so, you’ll become part of a larger story around that hashtag and increase your reach. The link in your bio can drive people back to your store, or you can check out how tools like the SHOPPABLE feature on Planoly can help make selling from Instagram easier.

https://fitsmallbusiness.com/product-marketing-strategy-examples/

How to Promote Your Business

StrategyKristine NeilComment

Encourage User Generated Content

Brands that want to leverage social media and the power of word-of-mouth marketing should aspire to craft an ingenious way to encourage user-generated content. When you can get your audience to post content about your brand, you are turning each of those persons into micro-influencers for your brand. People within their own social networks will be exposed to content about your brand and may even generate their own (or at least visit your website). This is marketing that leverages the power of human networks facilitated by technology, and it’s really the best of both. Each post is another link living on the web about your brand, so encourage users to include a link back to your website and to tag your company, of course! People will never stop craving for good stories.

https://fitsmallbusiness.com/how-to-promote-your-business/

How to Make a Media Kit

MarketingKristine NeilComment

Any business can put together a media kit, whether they want it to represent their enterprise as a whole, or cover a specific topic or event. The key [is] to bundle all of the necessary components in a neat, consistent package.

At Markon, we recommend the following:

  • Short descriptor of your company/event with key stats

  • Images optimized for digital use

  • Video 30 seconds or less, this way it fits well into a news clip, article, or social media post.

  • Quotes pulled separately from a press release

  • Press Release single page

  • Contact Information Have all of these items live on a web page on your website. That way they’ll be safely accessible (not attached to an email), while the content also gets to live on your website (so it can be crawled by Google).

You can also combine all of this into a well-designed PDF that individuals can receive upon request. Or you can make it downloadable as a single file from your website, or some other space.

https://fupping.com/natty/2018/07/26/11-tips-on-how-to-make-a-successful-and-profitable-media-kit/

27 Best Photography Marketing Ideas from the Pros

MarketingKristine NeilComment

Go Where The Audience Is

A brilliant, ageless tip for photographers is to have their work featured in media that matters to their audience—be it a website, magazine, Instagram account, etc. Those features are leads that can take potential clients back to the photographer’s website, which better be branded and ready to go when they land! Some photographers make the mistake of treating their website as a visual flip board of images and nothing else. While showing a portfolio of work is vital, so is personality. Whether the photographer wants to work with individuals or brands, both parties are typically looking for a photographer they can feel comfortable with. Making sure your website has personality and a solid sense of brand is key to creating that sense of compatibility that could ultimately lead to a new project.

https://fitsmallbusiness.com/photography-marketing-ideas/

27 Social Media Pros Share Their Best Twitter Tips

StrategyKristine NeilComment

Know What Your Long Game Is

B2B businesses need to take a long game approach to their Twitter marketing strategies. The platform itself moves quickly and prioritizes brevity, but the decision-making process for a B2B customer tends to be drawn out and nuanced. In a B2B environment, the focus should be on providing value and building relationships and not on sales or conversion rates. Implementing a robust content calendar that exposes followers to consistent messaging over time is an essential first step as it will take repeated exposure to the same content to gain attention. Build relationships by sharing information or tips to potential clients by getting involved in organized Twitter chats or following trending hashtags relevant to your industry. It may take some time but done right, incorporating Twitter into your B2B marketing strategy will eventually pay off.

https://creativemindscape.com/27-social-media-pros-share-their-best-twitter-tips/

12 Ways Content Marketing Can Help Your Local Business Grow

MarketingKristine NeilComment

Brand Loyalty

Local businesses can use content marketing to draw attention to their store or wares by positioning themselves as a local authority on a topic. They can even go a step further and create digital and brick-and-mortar spaces to host conversations about that topic. For example, a local bee keeper could found a Facebook group about the value of locally raised food. The bee keeper would have simultaneously created a forum around a topic vital to their business, while also creating a direct line of communication to the people most likely to purchase their product, locally raised honey. Such an activity not only allows the local business owner to raise awareness of their brand, but the accessible content and contact to the brand often inspires trust among customers, which in turn, often leads to brand loyalty.

https://fupping.com/benskute/2018/06/27/12-ways-content-marketing-can-help-your-local-business-grow/

35 Experts Share Their Best Email Marketing Tips

MarketingKristine NeilComment

Email marketing isn’t for everyone

We often work with clients that assume email marketing is a requirement because they hear other entrepreneurs talk about building lists and growing a subscriber base. The hard truth of it is that email marketing isn’t for everyone. You need to have something to say (not just something to sell), and you need to be able to send quality, branded content consistently. If this is something that you can commit to and you have a real audience that has opted in to receive information from you, spend time crafting themes well in advance. Plan how your other digital marketing activities such as social media posts, online ads, and blog will serve to reinforce the messages in your email. Preparing in such a way also ensures that readers have someplace to land when they click out of your email and hopefully onto your customer list!

https://creativemindscape.com/35-experts-share-their-best-email-marketing-tips/

Augmented, virtual reality continue to grow in Clark County

StrategyKristine NeilComment

The average small business owner may not think the world of augmented reality is available to them but with technological advancements coming quickly, it’s not too soon to start thinking about how to integrate AR and VR into your marketing plans,” Neil said. “We’re especially excited for the level of cross-promotion it offers to those with brick and mortar stores. AR will turn in-person shopping into an interactive event, spurring repeat visits, while at the same time help online shoppers feel more intimately connected to the brands they love. It’s all about turning interactions with your brand, even virtual ones, into memorable experiences.

https://www.vbjusa.com/focus-sections/strategic-communication/augmented-virtual-reality-continue-to-grow-in-clark-county/