Sep 06 2018

Choosing a Web Host

There are a lot of moving parts working together to make your website look awesome on the web.  As a website owner, you’ll want to have at least a basic idea of what’s going on under the hood of this beautiful machine, so that you can feel confident about making decisions in the initial set up, and empowered when an issue arises.

One of the key pieces that’s often overlooked — or left until the last minute before site launch — is your web host.

What’s a Web Host, you ask?

Websites may seem like a bunch of intangible 1s and 0s, on a basic level, but you do still need a physical home for all of the code and data that comprise it. Your web host provides that home, so that visitors can see view and interact with your website at anytime, from anywhere.

Essentially, a web host sells space on their server for all of your website files. They keep this server connected for the public 24/7, so it can deliver your website to the visitor’s web browser when they visit your URL.

Hosts vary in security, load speed, customer service, and ancillary services, such as software updates and frequent backups. They may also only support certain website platforms. For example, while many web hosts support WordPress installations, there are a few that don’t–which is particularly important to us and our clients.

Your Selection Criteria May Vary

Whether you’re choosing your first web host, or are dissatisfied with one you have, it’s a good idea for you  to research and understand your options, and define and rank your priorities.

How important are these factors to you?

  • annual fees
  • automatic software updates
  • bundled services, such as domain registration and email hosting
  • comprehensive support documentation
  • customer support
  • ease of use and user interface
  • site load speeds
  • regular data backups

We Picked Flywheel

cute dog in a party hat web hosting
This dog is celebrating their making a great web host selection!
Photo by Delaney Dawson on Unsplash.

Upswept Creative is a proud agency partner with Flywheel, and with their help, we offer managed hosting for WordPress websites. Flywheel automatically updates WordPress core software, ensuring our clients are always running the most secure, fully-featured, and up-to-date software. Flywheel features quick load time and nightly backups, so if there is a data loss we always have yesterday’s website to restore today, not the backup from six months ago.

And maybe best of all, when you host your website with Upswept and Flywheel, we handle the set up and support, saving you time and mental energy so you can do more of what you do, while we do what we do.

Don’t love your WordPress host? Send us a message right now to start the conversation about hosting your website with us.

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Aug 20 2018

Secure Your Website with SSL

The web is a go-to place for your audience to learn about–and buy from!–your business. As the online market grows, security is becoming more important, both for you and your customers. A secure site means that the people who visit you online feel safer, and are more likely to stick around.

Website security matters even more when your customers browse through mobile.

That’s why, beginning this summer, Google Chrome and other major web browsers has started labeling all websites without SSL (secure socket layer) encryption (that is, http sites) as “not secure.” You may even have heard from your web host about enhancing your security to avoid losing website visitors–but what does it mean?

SSL Keeps Your Information Private

You’ll often see an HTTPS when you shop online. Seeing an HTTPS in that address bar lets you know that the website you’re using has an SSL certificate, and that your information is protected.

SSL is the standard in website security: it creates an encrypted link between your website and your customer’s web browser. That encryption ensures that any sensitive information that’s passed between their browser and your website stays private.

But Why Does My Website Need SSL?

Activities like e-commerce and online banking always use SSL, but there are also reasons why an HTTPS website with SSL-security is a good idea for the rest of us:

  1. Keeping sensitive information safe. SSL encrypts any information you send through the Internet, so the only people who can read it are the ones you want to see it.

  2. Protecting you (and your customers!) from info theft. Hackers look for weaknesses in your web presence, and encrypting details that are sent through your website (like credit card numbers!) will keep both you and your customers safe.

  3. Building trust with new customers. New people who come to your website will see that your website is secured with SSL. That helps them feel safer when contacting or buying from you, and gives your business an added boost of credibility.

If you’d like to enable SSL security for your domain, we’re here to help! In most cases, it only takes an hour or two to enable SSL and replace internal HTTP links on your site to HTTPS.

If you’d like to help protect your customers and add SSL encryption to your website–or even if you just have questions about it–drop us a line and we’ll fill you in on what’s needed.

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Aug 06 2018

Communication is Collaboration

Last month one of our team members moved out of Portland, all the way to another state! Social Media Maven Josselyn Haldeman now calls Olympia, Washington home. We couldn’t be happier for her, but working  remotely can present unique challenges.

As a company, we value the personal connection and efficient brainstorming that can come with in-person meetings. It’s one of the reasons that we make an effort to have initial consultations with new clients before we even write their project proposals. In a typical week, though, we may not see each other’s radiant faces in person. We’re busy making marketing magic at Upswept HQ, in coffee shops and home offices, or anywhere we find ourselves with a speedy internet connection and a job to do.

We felt confident we could meet these remote working challenges head-on, mostly due to our strong communication. To that end, we’re continually refining our process of internal communication. We use a handful of tools to help keep us all connected and knowledgeable about the work.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

If you’re looking for a task management system, we’re big fans of Freedcamp. Slack is great for multi-channel workplace chatter. Zoom Communications allows us to make eye contact over any distance, and share the documents we’re working on as easily as passing them across a table. We’re also big fans of the Google suite of apps that allow us to collaborate directly all in the same document. With all of these tools at our disposal, long-distance collaboration becomes much easier. Not to say that there hasn’t been a learning curve.

The best way for a team to use a tool or service effectively is to, well, use it! You’ll never know if the tool is right for your team if you don’t get everyone on board. On Team Upswept, we talk a lot about different protocols for setting up tasks and refining processes. This helps us all stay on the same page for how the service is meant to be used, and thus helps us use it more effectively.

 

We know that we can continue to collaborate with Josselyn because we already have an effective system of communication in place. Across town or across state lines, not a lot has to change. We credit the success of our communication plan first to a common dedication to openly collaborating and operating as a team. This is one of our core philosophies, both in working with each other and with our clients. So if you’re looking for more than an impersonal client/firm relationship, reach out to us and let’s get collaborating!

Jul 12 2018

Congratulations! Your Website is Live!

Your Website is a Living Thing

Congratulations, your new website is out into the world, ready to be discovered by wonderful people far and wide! This isn’t the end of your journey, however: to get the most out of the investment you’ve made on your website, you’ll need to update and maintain it.

Like a newborn person, your website is all hope and potential and investment come to fruition. Unlike a newborn — thankfully! — there are no diapers or rough nights.  Your website might not need daily attention, but it’s too important to let it go without adult supervision indefinitely. Unless you’re investing in ongoing professional website support, that Adult-in-Charge is you. Don’t fret, though. You’ve got this.

What to Expect When You’re Launching a Website

A few tips to help make launching your website as hassle-free as possible:

  • While it’s still in development, visit your website on all of your devices and in multiple browsers if you can. Ask some friends to do so as well, because fresh eyes can be valuable in finding errors that others might miss. If you find something that seems broken or is not working as expected, give your web team as much information as you can about it. Device and browser information is very helpful, as are screenshots.
  • Read your website content again now that it’s framed by beautiful design. Now is not the time to re-write your website copy, but it is the perfect time to correct copy-level errors. If you have business hours, double-check them. If you have a staff page, make sure everyone’s name matches their photo and bio.
  • Avoid adding new features or functionality near launch. Feature creep is particularly dangerous now, because it is distracting and can negatively impact your timeline. Your developer should be focused on methodical finishing touches, not brand new ideas. If something comes up that you can’t launch without, be prepared to delay your launch date as the project scope is redefined.
  • Get to know the dashboard. If you plan to blog, know how to create a new post before you want to publish your first new entry. If you’re running an e-commerce website, get in there and dial in your shop settings before you make your first sale. Your web team can help you get acquainted, and be ready to explore the support documentation as well.
  • Consider a soft launch before you shout your new website from actual or metaphorical rooftops. A soft launch extends your Quality Assurance period a bit, under real-life conditions. You can test the load speed on your web host, double-check that your security is dialed in, and that everything got put back together correctly after flying over our heads in a million pieces.

    Look! He's up there over our head in a million pieces!
    Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

(Website) Parenthood is Forever

The heavy-lifting of the design, content creation, and development of your website may be over, but the work isn’t done. Now that you have the keys to your finished website, you’re in charge of updating and maintaining it so it can keep working its magic.

Content Updates!

We’ve said before that Content is Queen on the web, and your website was designed to show it off. There’s no firm rule about how often your website content will need a refresh, but it should always be current and accurate.

Read your website copy periodically — does it still reflect who you are and what you do? Has your understanding of your audience or market shifted since your copy was written? If so, it might be time for an update so that your website remains true and authentic.

Software Updates!

Keeping your software up-to-date goes a long way in maintaining the stability and security of your website. This is a great time to backup your database in case your web host experiences an outage — you’ll be able to restore from a recent copy of the site without too much downtime.

After you update your website CMS and any plugins, it’s a good idea to tour through the front end of your site to ensure that everything still looks and works as expected after the update.

You’ve gone on quite the journey to get to this point. Your website is ready to launch. You should definitely feel proud! But you should also feel prepared to handle everything that comes after launch, so you don’t have a meltdown if any issues occur. I hope this blog post helps you feel courageous as you get comfortable managing your new website. If you’d like to seek more of our help, we’d be delighted! Reach out to us today to learn more about our website support options.

Jun 25 2018

Use Better Hashtags

I’m back this week with yet another lesson in social media marketing basics! Hashtags are ubiquitous on social media. Not only are they fun to use in a creative way, but they can also be used as an effective marketing tactic… if you use them strategically. Learn how to hashtag the right way!

hashtag
Don’t stress. You’re about to become a #superstar.

Hashtag Platforms

Hashtags as a method of informally tagging similar content in a group or message first became popular on Twitter, but has since spread to nearly every social media platform. So which platforms are best suited for marketing specific hashtag use?

Not the originator, but as the platform that saw the first widespread use of hashtags, Twitter is a great place to start. Twitter has a regular user base in the hundred millions. While that number is starting to decline, there’s no denying Twitter is a big, big platform. A user’s ability to curate their own content means there are thousands of insular, bubble-like communities. Instagram is the same way. It can be hard to grow an audience if no one is seeing your content.

That is where hashtags come in. Doing your research and finding the right hashtags will allow your posts and profile to appear in relevant searches within the platform. Using these hashtags regularly is a key strategy in growing your audience on Twitter and Instagram.

Facebook is a different story. Hashtags on Facebook are an opportunity to build your brand in a custom way. I’ve been experimenting recently with creating my own hashtags on Facebook, and I found that posts with my custom hashtag out-performed posts without. So if you post regular, timely content (say, a link to a weekly blog post) to Facebook, consider coming up with a unique hashtag to make your own!

Hashtag Strategies

Knowing your audience is key to using hashtags strategically. Really, you can determine which hashtags to use by answering one big question: what is everybody else using? It’s only a little more complicated than that. Let’s break it down:

  • What is the competition using? What hashtags are your rivals in the same field using? Especially ones that have been around a little longer or found more success. You have an opportunity to share your content with their audience by using some of the same hashtags.
  • What are industry insiders using? In nearly every professional field there are thought-leaders, innovators, and people the masses just pay close attention to. Making yourself a part of the same conversations those people are having is a great way to get your brand presence in front of new eyes, and build a reputation as a thought-leader yourself.
  • Can I make my post a meme? I can’t recommend every brand go for the sillier side of the internet, but there are all-time popular hashtags that are meme-related that are still in wide use. If you have an old photo that can go on Instagram, maybe save it for Thursday and use #tbt (throwback thursday). Other popular hashtags to explore are #love, #friday, #fashion, #cute.
  • Now you have a handle on #hashtags!
    Does my location matter? Yes, there are popular hashtags that are location based, too! If you operate out of a brick-and-mortar storefront, or prefer local clients, these can be useful hashtags to use to engage your local community. #pdx represent!

With these guidelines in mind, start making a list of hashtags you can use with your posts. Use the platforms themselves to explore how each hashtag is being used, to make sure it’s a conversation you want to be a part of. Remember, active and popular hashtags are good, inactive, unpopular hashtags are not.

Hashtags might seem intimidating at first, but while there is a lot to know about them, you can start seeing results with just a few small steps. Above all, remember to stay flexible, and don’t be afraid to experiment! If you need a hand, we can help! Reach out and chat with us about social media today.

Jun 07 2018

Nellie McAdams is Safeguarding Oregon’s Farmland

One of my favorite things about client work is getting to know a little bit about each person we work with, and what makes them passionate about the work that they do. Uncovering and connecting with the story of their work is a key step in creating authentic design. It’s also just fun to learn new things, such as these figures about Oregon’s agricultural land:

  • Oregon is 25% agricultural land
  • In the next 20 years 64% of that land will change ownership as the current generation of farmers retires
  • That comes to 10.5 million acres changing hands, potentially irreversibly affecting Oregon’s natural resources, economy, and culture

Working Together for Working Lands

Portlander Nellie McAdams has made it her business to help protect those 10.5 million acres from development. In 2017, we worked with Nellie and Maggie Sisco to develop an infographic to explain succession planning and working land conservation easements that speaks to farmers, the general public, and decision makers about  the threats to farmland and how we can all help farmers safeguard their land against development.

Farmers comprise less than 1% of the population and, even for the motivated, Nellie says it can be difficult to break into the industry without a family connection. Startup costs are high, margins are low, and both the weather and the markets can be unpredictable, making farming for a living a challenging proposition.

Nellie’s professional background in environmental law and agriculture, as well as her lived experience growing up the daughter of a hazelnut grower, places her at an ideal intersection. She can relate to parties on all sides of farm succession.

Nellie McAdams chatting with Team Upswept. Photo by Sarah Giffrow.

Nellie says she was drawn to the farming lifestyle for personal reasons. For her, working the land is deeply gratifying, as are the natural connections with land and community, and she feels lucky to be set to inherit her father’s land when he’s ready to retire. For her, a farm is not only  a commodity to be bought and sold, but also an heirloom and natural resource. Both sentimental and practical in nature, it farmland more difficult to divide among successors than a typical business or estate.

When we met last fall, Nellie was splitting her workweek between her own farming training, and her outreach and program development work. In partnership with several organizations, Nellie leads programs that support a retiring generation of farmers with succession planning. They’re also building support for the next generation of Oregon farmers to help them gain the business and land-management skills they’ll need to succeed at farming.

Our Safeguarding Oregon’s Farmland infographic is at work for these three organizations

The Oregon Community Food Systems Network is a collaboration of 40 nonprofit organizations and allies dedicated to strengthening local and regional food systems to deliver better economic, social, health and environmental outcomes across the state. They provide networking, information sharing, research, education, training, planning,  fundraising, and more to participating organizations in pursuit of their vision: that all Oregonians will have meaningful access to healthy and affordable foods that are grown and processed regionally in an environmentally and economically resilient food system.

Rogue Farm Corpsmission is to train the next generation of farmers and ranchers through hands-on educational program and the preservation of farmland. They do so by offering practical training programs and farm succession planning and access to land workshops.

The Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program(OAHP) was passed by the 2017 Oregon State Legislature to help address the challenges of preserving farmland from development and helping farmers pass it on to the next generation. The program provides voluntary incentives to farmers and ranchers to support practices that maintain or enhance both agriculture and natural resources such as fish and wildlife on agricultural lands. OAHP was developed by a collaborative of organizations representing natural resource conservation and agriculture, including farmer and rancher representatives.

Good Design for Farmland

When Nellie and Maggie approached us to develop the Working Lands infographic, their “rough draft” was in pages of notes that  looked more a grant proposal outline than a snappy single-sheet infographic for public consumption.

The first phase of our work was in helping them and their stakeholders narrow down the scope of the document and refine the language to be concise, direct, and effective. Using color, typography, simple icons, and an intuitive content structure, we were able to communicate a lot of information into a relatively small space while maintaining a visually appealing and user-friendly look. After we completed the final product, Nellie told us that the development process of refining the images and talking points helped her better communicate about the issues in the rest of her work.

What makes you passionate about your work? Team Upswept can’t wait to hear about it, and work with you to reach your ideal audience and grow your business. Click to Get Started and schedule your consultation with us.

May 24 2018

Why Your Social Media Sucks

So you’ve committed to, and prioritized your social media presence. You’ve thought about your audience, found a ton of free image content you can use, and started posting pretty regularly… you think. It’s been about a month, and you’ve lost that determination that got you started in the first place. Your numbers are horrible. You dread logging in to Facebook because that little arrow indicating your weekly total reach is always red, always pointing downward.

So what gives?

You may be making some common, key mistakes. As a social media manager, there are major issues I see all the time in the world of small business social media marketing. Here’s how to avoid them:

YOUR POSTS ARE TOO LONG

Facebook’s character limit for a single post is 55,000, but from a marketing perspective, your posts should never, ever approach this limit. Except in rare circumstances, you should even avoid having the “See more…” button appear on your posts.

One guiding philosophy I use across all online marketing is minimize clicks. People have short attention spans online. If your potential customer has to click “See more…” just to finish your post, it is way more likely they’ll lose interest before they get to the content you really want them to see. Make your clicks count! The ideal post both avoids the dreaded “See more…” button, and links directly to your shop/website/article/where you want your customers to go.

What you almost never want to see on one of your posts.

You’ll have to experiment with each post to find how just how long you can make it. There is no official character count before “See more…” appears. It depends on a number of variables (how you attach your photo, the title of your link, size of your screen, etc…) To find out, write your posts in Facebook’s publishing tools, and save it as a draft. From there, you can view the post as it will appear in someone’s feed.

YOUR PROFILE IS CONFUSING

I can’t overstate the importance of having an optimized profile on each of your active platforms. Your profile is the place people go once they’ve already been hooked– either by a post they saw, or looking you up by name– and they want more information about you. This is your opportunity to show your best side, while also directing people towards your end goal.

Yet, all too often, I see incomplete profiles, too-long descriptions in the “About” section, and incomprehensible profile pictures.

On Facebook, the “About” section is best used as a space for a very short description of what you do–I’m talking one, maybe two sentences. These sentences should be both engaging and immediately answer the question, “so what exactly do they do?” A longer description can be put into the “Our Story” section.

Make sure you fill in all the relevant details for your business, too: phone number, business hours, address, and founded date, link to your homepage, etc. This is the kind of information people are looking for.

Instagram is a little different, because profiles have a lot less information. In order to optimize that limited space, the profile description should be even more engaging and descriptive. Feel free to use emojis and hashtags, if you can identify some that work well for your business. The space to link to your website is prized real-estate on Instagram. It’s the only opportunity to point folks in a direction, outside of Instagram’s “Story” feature. Linking to your homepage is fine, but you should consider changing it periodically, to match what you are posting about. Advertising a specific item in your online shop? Change your link to go directly to that item’s page! Now, when you post about it, you can caption the photo with “Link in bio.”

YOU FOLLOW TOO MANY PEOPLE

PDX Alliance for Self Care is a new, local non-profit that is doing their Instagram profile right.

On platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, it’s so important to maintain a low follower to following ratio. These platforms use this ratio, in part, to determine “who to follow” recommendations. These suggestions are a key method of growing an audience.

And really, it comes down to a matter of trust and optics. As a potential customer, would you put more trust in a business that has 560 followers but was following 1100 people, or one that has 495 followers and following 460 people? It simply looks better to

have a lower ratio. It shows people that people are, in general, more interested in you.

One easy tactic to keep this ratio low is to only follow people that are already following you. Most social listening tools have automated this strategy, and allow you to toggle it on or off. But it’s not too difficult to do manually, especially in the early stages or if your overall audience is less than 1000 people.

 

It’s easy to make mistakes and oversights when first starting out in social media marketing. Even if you’ve made all of the mistakes I outlined above, I hope I’ve equipped you with the knowledge to fix them, so your numbers can improve. Rest assured, you’re still doing the right thing by getting serious about social media in the first place. After all, the first step to a successful online presence is an active one!

There are a host of further issues to explore. Social media marketing is an ever-evolving landscape, and it’s difficult to stay on top of things. We can help with that. With Upswept Creative, we’ll work closely with you as a partner in social media marketing. Together, we’ll build a presence that works. Reach out to us today!

May 14 2018

Authenticity Online

Authenticity can often seem like it’s in short supply. Especially on the internet. Whether it’s a snarky meme or “fake news,” genuine voices are in high demand online. People are starved for them.

Whether you’re managing the social media channels of an established business, or taking a DIY approach to building your own online marketing materials, it’s so important to keep it real. Trust is the basis of any good relationship, customer to business included. Connecting with potential customers from a place of genuineness, honesty, and passion will make them more likely to purchase your product or services. In fact, 80% of consumers polled said “authenticity of content” is the most influential factor in their decision to become a follower of a brand.

Here are some ways you can find your authentic voice in your online marketing efforts:

Authentic to You

In order to come off as honest online, you first have to know yourself. At the very least, know your brand. Is a funny and light-hearted tone appropriate, or does your marketing require a more serious approach? What sorts of images will communicate your desired tone? Think these elements through before you start posting, or you may risk of coming off as calculated and facetious.

Being true to the core of your business identity is the first step in attracting the kind of customers you want.

Share Your Excitement

It’s no secret that passion is appealing. You should feel passionate about the work you’re doing. If you aren’t, it becomes much harder to get people to pay attention. I believe humans have the capability to be passionate about anything, we just have to find the angle that lets us connect with it. If you’re managing social media for a client, spend the time to learn the ins-and-outs of the business. Even if it seems really boring at first, you’re likely to find something that fascinates you eventually.

For example, last year I was tasked with promoting a conference by and for professionals in a particular field of social science. I don’t have a social science background, and at first glance it could seem dry and academic to the average person. But as I performed my due diligence and really dove into the deep end with what this field was all about, I discovered this conference was actually very progressive. They had booked speakers centered around social justice, provided continuing education opportunities, and kept the price of registration as low as possible in order to accommodate low-income professionals.

Because I took the time to learn these things, and really get onboard personally, I was able to highlight them in an engaging way on social media. Finding your way “in” to a topic you’re tasked with promoting is one of the most important aspects of being a successful social media manager.

Don’t Be Afraid To Have Fun

Having fun with the topic at hand, when appropriate, is a great way to show genuine excitement and passion about the products and services you’re advertising. Don’t be afraid of it! A great example is Wendy’s twitter account. No one wants to engage with an account of a fast food giant that just posts ads all day. That’s why Wendy’s snarky, sarcastic, and meme-filled feed has found such viral success. People are both shocked and amused, and you can tell that the person (or team) behind the handle is having a blast.

 

Getting started marketing online can be intimidating. It’s not easy to decide  what to put out to a potentially massive audience, And I hope these have helped you wrap your head around the topic.

If you find yourself needing some more guidance, or you’d rather hire professionals to collaborate with you on the decision making process, Upswept Creative is here for you! We can work with you to take the stress out of online marketing, and get your social media presence on a course to success. Schedule some time to sit down with us today – you won’t regret it.

Apr 26 2018

Letting Go: 3 Things Holding You Back From an Awesome Brand Redesign

Do you get an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach when you look at your logo? Do you feel sheepish when you hand out your business card? You may be thinking about a brand redesign, or even know deep down that you need to refresh your brand… and yet, it feels like an awful lot of work that you don’t feel prepared for.

I’m not going to tell you that rebranding isn’t a lot of work, because it does take time and energy! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, however. In fact, if you’re overwhelmed in your work, a rebrand may be exactly what you need.

Even if you think you have to stay the course, here are some thoughts that shouldn’t hold you back from a brand redesign:

“I don’t want to lose the brand recognition I already have. ”

Businesses both big and small can stay strong, even through multiple rebrands. (IBM logo evolution via Hongkiat)

You’ve worked hard to build your customer base, so it’s totally normal to feel hesitation about turning people away. However, we’ve seen a variety of businesses update their visual identity, and still keep going strong–the trust they’ve already built keeps their loyal fans coming back, while updated branding attracts new eyes.

As long as you make the right adjustments to your branding, you can keep your audience and keep evolving your business. Your creative team will often guide you through how to debut and start using your new brand assets, so your customers know what’s happening. It will take your audience a little while to adjust, but new branding will help you make sure the customers you love will stick around.

“My current logo is already on all of my tags, t-shirts, signage, etc.”

It may seem like a lot of trouble to incorporate a new logo and brand messaging. And yet, isn’t it a bigger problem to have a brand you aren’t proud of stamped all over your marketing?

Sticking with your current branding means everyone who engages with you will see an ill-fitting brand that makes the wrong impression. And, that outdated brand will continue to draw in all the same people–including the “wrong fit” clients that you don’t want to keep attracting.

It’s true that printing new business cards, having new signs made, or replacing other brand assets will take some time and resources. But, investing that time and effort now will help you connect with more of the people who are right for you, and that will make your life much easier in the long-term.

“I don’t have time to deal with that right now.”

Time is precious in any business! But, if you don’t have time right now, when will you? Free time rarely appears on its own–you ultimately have to make the time for things that are important to the growth of your business.

And, consider this: how much time could you save if your marketing was refined for who your business is now? If you can attract more of the right customers, and fewer customers that don’t fit, you could save a lot of time in your day-to-day. You could deal with fewer questions or less back-and-forth on pricing, you could focus on your best and most beloved products, rather than maintaining a huge product line. The possibilities are plentiful!

 

Rebranding is daunting–I get it! It’s a big task full of tough decisions. But, thinking critically about your brand is how you not only survive, but thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape. Facing your fears, acknowledging where your brand can do better, and making those tough choices will leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated about your business.

Remember, you don’t have to do this alone! Upswept Creative offers all the resources you need to have a successful brand evolution: web design, logo and graphic design, and social media management to get the (new) word out. Contact us right now to start feeling good about your brand again.

Apr 13 2018

Design Monsters: The Committee

Often a project has multiple stakeholders who need or want to weigh in on a project. We call this designing for a committee. Whether your team of stakeholders is co-owners of small business, an entire non-profit Board of Directors, or representatives from each department in your operation, it can be quite valuable to tap into the knowledge and perspectives of a diverse group. But designing for a committee can also contribute to confusion, frustration, and missed deadlines. Here’s how to get it right.

Opposing Opinions

It may be tempting to send your designer a digest of everyone’s feedback. We’re always asking for more feedback, aren’t we?  But this is a case when quantity does not equal quality.

If one person on your team likes the green color in our logo concepts, and another thinks it’s too evocative of grass clippings, that leaves your designer with no clear path forward. We cannot both change and not change this possibly-too-grassy green, and we may not have a firm grasp on whose opinion carries more or less weight within your group.

Make sure you distill your group’s opinion in a coherent way. It should sound like it could be the opinion of one person.

Confusing Communication

Effective communication with your designer is key. As the Committee grows, however, so does the risk for communication breakdown, especially over e-mail.

You may feel tempted to e-mail five of your team members about your project, and copy your designer so they they can “overhear” the conversation, but that can actually be counterproductive! For one, there is a social context that your designer is likely wholly unaware of. They don’t know the dynamics of your team as well as you do. They can’t rely on existing relationships to understand the subtext of the messages.

Additionally, details can also be easily lost in long group e-mail discussions. Sifting through e-mail threads to look for possibly-actionable directives isn’t an effective use of your design team’s time or expertise. A clearly-stated action is guaranteed to get the job done faster.

The Committee by Indigo Kelleigh, 2017.

Curb the Committee

Being mindful of your communication and workflow can make all the difference in keeping dangers of The Committee from derailing your project. Here are our top tips:

Develop a trusting relationship. At the risk of sounding like a relationship counselor, you’ve all got to trust each other. Keep in mind that you’ve hired your design team specifically for their experience and expertise. Making you look awesome is why they’re here, and your cooperation and trust lets them do their best work!

Set expectations and boundaries, and speak up if something’s not working well for you. Talking about expectations at the outset of a project is an important part of getting started, and becomes even more critical if you’re working as a group.

  • Ask for a transparent project plan and an estimated timeline.
  • Discuss the ways you’ll all help to keep the project on-track, such as responding to queries within an agreed-upon period of time.
  • If your designer hasn’t provided you with any, ask for feedback guidelines to help make the most of your review.
  • If you have a problem, let your designer know what’s up promptly instead of simmering in your dissatisfaction. Sometimes workflows or communication plans need fine-tuning.

Assign a single point of contact to communicate with your designer. It’s likely that they have one individual who’s managing the details of your project, so your point of contact can take on a similar role. Over time, you’ll get to know each other’s communication styles, making collaborating on the project easier and more rewarding.

Take a moment to consolidate everyone’s feedback, whether you are meeting with your design team in person or sending an e-mail with your notes. Putting your feedback into one unified voice will make it much easier for your designers to understand and tackle your requests, while taking advantage of the richness of multiple perspectives.

Are you feeling as excited as we are about leveling up your brand’s presence online and in print? Team Upswept can’t wait to dig deep into the design problems keeping you up at night. Let us know what’s on your mind and schedule your free Clarifying Consultation today.