How Giving CRAP to Your Clients Will Keep Them Coming Back For More

Are your promotional materials – your flyers, websites, business cards, and logos – just utter crap?

Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity.

Thanks to Robin Williams (no, not the actor) and her signature book, this cheeky little acronym will help you remember the core principles you need to create designs that keep your audience engaged.

Let’s look at how each of these principles can be used to make your message clearer and more compelling to your customers.

Contrast

Contrast is what we use to show the reader what is most important. Clearly identify the main thing, and then build your page to highlight it. The last thing you want is for your reader to be confused because your contrast is weak and elements on your page are only “kind of different.” Be contrast-strong! This can be achieved through: large/small font, cool/warm colors, small/large graphics, etc.

Take a look at the difference between these two images. Notice how color, text size, and message importance can be conveyed or neglected depending on a strong or weak contrast. Below each colored design is how that graphic looks in grayscale.

William Beachy, Go Media: Become Master Designer: Rule Three: Contrast, Contrast, Contrast

Tip #1) Don’t make everything symmetrical

In a great Shutterstock blog about design mistakes, they recommend dropping the boring idea of symmetry and instead using asymmetry as a way to “create visual interest and spontaneity.”

Think how “not special” the Apple logo would be if it looked like this:

And not this:

Or Pepsi, if it decided to keep this dull design…

…instead of a more interesting and unique look:

These examples and more help with symmetrical and asymmetrical design can be found at the Pandaqi Design Tutorial.

Repetition

Consistency is key. Users are always trying to make sense of your pages. Make this easier on them by repeating the same design styles throughout your document to unify the message and design.

Notice how this image uses similar round shapes in the flower petals like in the bee. This helps to stick to the theme of the document.

Zach and Jody, Tuesday Tips: Accomplishment Through Repetition

Tip #2) Not everything has to be a bold typeface and 100 colors.

Pick a small color palette and a few shapes and typefaces and repeat those to make your design organized. Generally, I recommend picking between 2-3 colors, shapes, and typefaces and using those over and over within the same graphic or document. Let the color wheel guide your color choices, and get to know complementary colors. If you want to use two colors, pick a color you like and go directly across the color wheel. For three colors, pick a color you like and then divide the circle into thirds, where the lines fall are the other two ideal colors to use.

Eric Kim, Color Theory For Photographers: Color Theory 101

Alignment

There is no better way to create a confused user, and look like an amatuer than to have poor alignment. Your goal is to guide your reader through your content. Alignment ensures that the user’s eye flows to each part of your information.

Tip #3 ) Give up on centering your text.

One, it looks quite messy. Two, the uneven and jagged edges are hard on your reader’s eye. A quick change to left or right alignment will help your user know where to start and stop.

Here are two business cards. No color or graphics here, just focus on the alignment. What might it “speak” to you about my work?

Proximity

Things that relate should stick together. Create relationships on your page between graphics and text. Don’t spread out your design. We can only process a limited number of elements at a time. Grouping things makes it feel like there are fewer elements and keeps from overloading your reader.

Tip #4) Whitespace is your friend.

By having whitespace on your document, you help to give a visual hierarchy to the elements on your page, telling the reader what is most important and what to look at first.

See what I mean?

Jason Forrest, Digital Ink: The Importance of Whitespace

And not to compare apples to oranges here (or in this case  juice and whiskey) but take a look at these websites. You can see how the whitespace keeps the distillery’s website looking modern and clean, while the juice site looks way too busy.

David Morton,MarginMedia 5 Examples of Poor Website Design

JustInMind, 10 Most Inspiring Whitespace Design Websites You’ll Want to Copy

So there you have it. The four cornerstones of design: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity will help you communicate more clearly to your customers through all of your design. Now go give ‘em tons of CRAP!

Clarify Your Message & Clients Listen

Businesses want their digital marketing to get them in front of the right people, make them look good, and get people to buy from them. The problem is, they’re unsure if their website is doing any of that.

Maybe your site doesn’t show up on Google when people search for your industry. Or you hope it doesn’t show up, because you’re embarrassed by what people would see if they actually went there. Or maybe you’ve spent a lot of money on a custom site but now you feel taken advantage of because you can’t tell whether your site is getting you more business or not.

The worst part is, you don’t know what to do about it. You know you need to be marketing online. But digital marketers are hard to trust when they seem bent on confusing you with all of their buzz words and techno-babble.

We feel your pain. You deserve to know what you’re paying for, and so do your customers. That’s why we’ve teamed up with StoryBrand to bring simplicity and clarity to your digital marketing. Using the StoryBrand framework, 1000’s of businesses have clarified their message and increased revenues, some having doubled, tripled, and quadrupled their sales in less than 6 months! How did they do it? Communicating more clearly.

Now, as a StoryBrand Certified Guide, Greyphin is excited to bring that same clarity to your company, and it starts with your website. We want to remove the mystery surrounding online marketing so you can be confident that you’re getting what you’ve paid for, that your message is getting through to your audience, and that you can turn your audience into buyers.

So if you feel like your online marketing is confusing, stressing you out, or non-existent, here are 3 steps to help you regain clarity.

1. Contact us for a free website review.

2. We’ll help you identify what you really want from your website.

3. We’ll build you a plan to help you get it.You know that you have a great product/service. Let’s make sure everyone else knows too.

POP: Management According to Dick Winters

As I sat across from him in an absurdly small and armless chair, he kicked his feet up on the oversized executive desk and began unpacking the events of the last 12 months. Not understanding how these details were relevant to his website rebuild, I listened intently in an attempt to follow the breadcrumbs to his final destination.

Life had been hard, and it wasn’t his fault. He’d been hustling, everyday working toward a better business. But finding good help is tough. People don’t want to work and can’t be trusted. It’s the nature of his industry. While there’s a grain of truth to every story, this grain was pretty tiny. Nonetheless, that was the narrative bouncing around in his mind.

His solution, treat his employees as though they were the enemy. “Trust no one” had become his mantra, and it was obvious the intensity of his paranoia had grown with each passing day.

Doing my best to continue listening, all I could think about was the fact that his company would be a lot less effective, if not belly up, without his employees.

“One day my grandson said to me, grandpa were you a hero in the war? And I said to him, no I’m not a hero, but I have served in a company full of them.” – Dick Winters

So many “leaders” behave as if their organization would be nothing if not for them, but in my experience that sort of “leader” is usually holding those around them back. That sort of “leader” tends to cling to the idea they’re supposed to be the smartest person in the room. And that sort of “leader” thinks they’re the hero. They must be, right? They’re in charge.

“There is no need to tell someone how to do his job if you have properly trained your team.” – Dick Winters

At Greyphin, we live by this philosophy. In fact, we’ve seen it pay off so many times that we’ve given it a name. POP: People + Operations = Profit. If you hire the right people and train them well, they’ll create the operations that make you profit. I know it sounds too simple to be true, but it’s not. It worked for Dick Winters and Easy Company, and it’ll work for you.

So, where do you go from here? Follow these 6 easy steps to start running a POP driven organization, today.

  • Thoroughly Vet Candidates Before Hiring. Check Facebook and LinkedIn for mutual connections. Once you’ve found a few connections, reach out and see what they have to say about your candidate. If you’re struggling to ask the right questions, take a page out of Brian Halligan’s book. Ask, “On a scale of 0 to 10, what is the likelihood you would hire this person again in the future?” If they don’t answer with a 10, ask “Why not 10”.
  • Hire The Best Person For The Job.
  • Make Your Expectations Clear. Once the candidate’s been hired, make certain they know exactly what it is you want them to do, by clearly and frequently communicating your expectations to them.
  • Develop Your Team to Deliver Results. As a leader of a team, your job is to make certain they have all the resources (education, authority, time, money, etc.) they need to execute the job they’ve been hired to do.
  • Institute a Weekly Check-in. Check-ins are an amazing tool that can help leaders and team members alike. This is a weekly 30 minute meeting broken down into three 10 minute blocks. The first 10 minutes is for the team member to discuss any successes or issues they might be having. The second 10 minutes is for the team leader to provide positive affirmation or constructive feedback to the team member. And, the third 10 minutes is to make plans to address anything that came up in the meeting that might need resolution.
  • Hang Tough. “Lastly, hang tough! Never, ever give up regardless of the adversity. If you are a leader, a fellow who other fellow look to, you have to keep going.” – Dick Winters

10 Best Business Books I’ve Read This Year

I’ve read a lot this year. Maybe…too much. (gasp!)

With so much good information out there, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to consume it all. But just like with food, wolfing it all down as fast as possible doesn’t make for good digestion.

What really matters is what we do with what we read.

So here’s a short summary (in no particular order) of the 10 best business books I’ve read recently.

But don’t add them all to your reading list. Instead, just pick one – whichever one you think will give you the best chance to change your life for the better. And then go and do what you learn.

Deep Work by Cal Newport

The ethos of this book is similar to what I just said. You’ve got to focus if you want to get more out of your time. Fractured attention hurts the quality (and Cal argues, the volume) of your work, and as science has shown, is bad for your brain. So after making a case for why you should focus, Cal gives some practical advice for how to do it. Thankfully, he doesn’t tout a one-size-fits-all approach. He suggests 4 different ones for us to experiment with, depending on our own personal circumstances.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

A critical reading of this book will reveal a number of issues, but nevertheless, it’s a classic with relational techniques that have now become common knowledge. The principles are quite sound, though in hindsight we can see how some of them can be twisted by less-than-conscientious salespeople. But the straightforward, folksy how-to approach is endearing, and it’s good to be reminded of implicit knowledge by having it spelled out once in a while.

Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

Are you a Multiplier or Diminisher? It’s something easy to spot in others, but sometimes we need someone to ask the hard questions for us to be able to see it in ourselves. Multipliers amplify the intelligence of those around them. Diminishers drain the intelligence, energy, and capabilities of others. Lest you answer too quickly, this book is a gut punch to help you really see what you’re made of, and what you do to those around you.

Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson

This book describes the findings of one of the largest sales studies in history, and how it bucks the conventional wisdom on who makes the best salespeople. It describes 5 sales profiles (Hard Worker; Lone Wolf; Relationship Builder; Problem Solver; Challenger), and shows that the top performers were overwhelmingly situated in the Challenger category. (Not the Relationship Builders, as was supposed.) What do Challengers do that sets them apart? In a nutshell, they teach, tailor, and take control. If you want to learn how to do that, read this book.

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard

It’s not a business book per se, but a it’s a good reminder about how business is part of the larger ecosystem that is our world. The book reads a lot like a biography, but in many ways it is a biography of Yvon’s company, Patagonia. It reveals the company’s values and how dedication to such values can turn a company into so much more for its employees – a cause they can believe in.

Killing Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and Robert John Rose

Marketing doesn’t have to be a cost; it should be viewed as an investment. But brands are now taking it a step further and using marketing as its own revenue generator as they embrace providing valuable content and not just widgets. Whereas traditional marketing was about describing value, today’s content marketing is about creating value. Successful business is largely about building an audience and then consistently creating value for that audience. That’s what content marketing is all about.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Here’s another book about focus. It’s about doing less, but better. We do so many things each day, but how many of those things would you deem really and truly important? Not many. Ultimately in life, you get to choose what you want to expend your time and energy on. So you might as well spend it on things that are important to you. Of course, there are problems associated with every choice you make. But the real question is: Which problems do you want?

Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller

People are drawn to story. It’s how we make sense of the world and our place in it. That’s a powerful thing. But most brands aren’t thinking about that. And if they are, they are too wrapped up in being the hero. But customers don’t want a hero; they want to be the hero! Don’s book shows brands how to connect with that desire in a way that translates into huge returns.

The Effective Manager by Mark Horstman

There’s no shortage of management books, but what I like about this one is that it is simple and practical. It’s based on the claim that managers are responsible for two main things: results and retention. It then describes 4 basic behaviors (one-on-one meetings; feedback; coaching; and delegation) that managers should perform with their direct reports to these ends. The book has some good instruction on how to start implementing these tools, and is a good starting place for aspiring managers.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

This book hinges on the idea that you are what you do, and if you want a better life, you need better behaviors. About 40% of what you do is on autopilot. These are your habits, and they are made of 3 things: cue, routine, and reward. The book shows us that we can replace ‘bad’ habits with ‘good’ ones by simply changing the routine. In other words, the same cue, plus a different routine, can still give us the same mental reward. Yeah, but what about willpower? You can build that as a habit as well. You’ll have to read the book and try it out to be sure.

So there you have it, a little taste of the best business books I’ve read this year. Pick one, read it closely, and apply what you’ve learned before you even think of picking up another one.

5 Softwares Every Small Business Needs to Use

Running a small business is big work. Fortunately for you, there are some stellar tools out there that can make that work a little more manageable. Here’s our list of the 5 Softwares Every Small Business Needs to Use:

GSuite: Everything you need in one packageGoogle’s been providing the world with solid business solutions since Britney Spears got married… the first time. With GSuite, you can connect to your clients and colleagues via Gmail, create collaborative documents with Google Docs and Google Sheets, access and store files in the cloud with Google Drive, and control your data by managing users and devices. Google designed these tools with business in mind.

Trello: Make lists not warThis productivity management software helps you efficiently move projects from concept to completion. Time’s a limited resource, and unless you’re Hiro Nakamura, you only have 24 hours in a day. So make those hours count, with Trello.

Hubspot: Close deals faster by selling smarter not harderThis handy little tool is more than just a customer relations manager. It’s an inbound marketing and sales platform that allows you to attract strangers, convert them to leads, and make them your customers. And without customers, this whole business thing’s just busy-ness.

Quickbooks Online: Smarter business tools for the world’s hardest workers. With over 4.3 million users, QBO knows a thing or two about making accounting more tolerable. Whether you need to track income and expenses, digitally invoice and accept payments, or maximize your tax deductions, you can with Quickbooks Online.

MailChimp: Build your brand. Sell more stuff. Small businesses need marketing automation, and people around the world are sending 1 billion automated emails every day using MailChimp. Whether you want to build your brand or sell products via the internet, you need to spread the word. Because as Derby Brown always said, “The business that considers itself immune to the necessity for advertising, sooner or later finds itself immune to business.” Build your business with MailChimp.

Don’t Be an Ass. Take The Kindness On Purpose Challenge.

I used to be a news junky. I mean, I was seriously addicted. All news. All networks. All the time. I was consuming information quickly and frequently. Most of it sensationalized. All of it monetized. It was as though I was watching a tragic Shakespearean play unfold before my eyes. Each headline more insane than the previous. Nations at war, politicians infighting, and people killing one another for seemingly no reason. I had seen too much. I hit a wall and realized it was time for me to step away from the computer before I started to believe mankind was a lost cause.

It’s been years since I burned myself out on the news, but every now and again I see something that makes me wonder why some people are just so damn mean. Today, while picking my children up from daycare I watched a lady repeatedly bump her car door into mine. No biggie. The spaces are small, and the damage was minimal. I let her know I was going to move my vehicle so she could have more room to get her child situated. As I pulled my truck into another spot, words poured from this mother’s mouth that would make a seasoned barkeep blush. It seems what I thought was a kind gesture, was offensive to her. She was furious and it was pointless for me to explain that I was simply trying to help. Perhaps she thought I was calling her to the carpet, and that made her feel disrespected in front of her son. Or, maybe she was in a hurry and me moving my vehicle further exacerbated the anxiety felt by time slipping away. Either way, she unleashed a verbal lashing on me.

We humans are silly creatures. We’ve cloned organic matter, perfected flight, and can, occasionally, predict the weather. However, we’ve yet to master our pride, and our pride again and again causes us to be disrespectful to or feel disrespected by others.

So, what does this have to do with websites or software or video production or business consulting? Well, nothing. And everything. While we may not feel like we can do something as grand as get the political right and left to realize they’re individual parts of the same body, or bring peace to nations who’ve been at war for generations…we can. But, let’s start small. Treat those in your sphere of influence with kindness. Everyday. No matter what. Sometimes you may get a verbal lashing, however more often than not you’ll motivate others to be kind to those they encounter.Without kindness we’d all be devils. As business leaders, we have an opportunity to share kindness with people in many stations in life. At Greyphin, we’re going to spend the next 30 days trying to out-love those in our world. It may improve our revenue, it may not, but it will certainly improve the lives of those we encounter.

Take the Greyphin Kindness On Purpose Challenge today. Post pictures of you or someone you know committing intentional acts of kindness to your social media platforms with the hashtags #Greyphin and #KindnessOnPurpose.

Bad Bosses

You ever had a bad boss? Of course you have. We all have. You know what they say, “People don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses.” We know this instinctively, but the data also backs it up. Gallup research shows that over 50% of Americans have left a job because of a manager. So what gives? Why are there so many bad managers?

Well, think about it. Where do managers come from? (Hint: it’s not the stork.)

Most of the time people become managers because of their past work performance. Maybe they were the most responsible or have been there the longest, you get the idea. Then they assume their new job consists of trading some grunt work for some “managerial” duties, whatever that means. Oh, and telling people what to do, of course.

News flash: that’s not the point.

And that’s why there are so many bad bosses. Managers don’t know what their primary role is, nor how to fulfill it.

This leads to what we call wild west management. Managers may know their team’s basic goals, but each manager uses whatever tactics they’ve learned from the manager who went before them, both good and bad. And the cycle continues without any underlying ethos. Management is assumed to be something that has to do with personality, something that can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t.

That’s not a strategy for success. That’s a crapshoot. And your company deserves better than that.

At Greyphin, we know that management is a science. To us, the goal is clear: Develop your team to deliver results. And so is the path. There are specific, teachable, skills that your managers can use to draw the most out of their teams to achieve results you didn’t think possible. But I’ll have to save that for future posts.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in digging further into the science of good management, you can download our free infographic: 5 Proven Tactics for Managing a Stellar Team.

 

If you’re really ready to get out of the wild west and start doing something serious, and proven to boost productivity, employee engagement, and profits, contact us to schedule a free consultation to see if our POP Program is right for you.

Don’t Be The Problem. Solve It.

I don’t like the word problem. I mean, it’s not blatantly offensive like the c-word, or decaf. But I hate what it has come to signify.

What do you hear when someone says, “I have a problem.”

I’ll tell you what I hear. I hear, “I have a problem and I need you to handle it, because I can’t.”

When someone says they have a problem, it’s like they’re implying that they’ve got some obstacle that is insurmountable and they’ve abdicated their responsibility to overcome it.

I have little appetite for such problems.

So I apply a general rule of thumb: Do not come to me with a problem unless you can also provide a potential solution. It doesn’t have to be the right solution. Just show me that you’re trying.

Teddy Roosevelt shared this sentiment when he said, “Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.”

Because, it’s easy to find fault. It’s easy to see that things aren’t perfect and that there are important questions that need to be addressed. And it’s easy to hand difficulties off to others. In fact, we’ve been conditioned to do so, first by our mammalian upbringing, and then later by numerous other authoritarian institutions.

This “passing the buck” becomes the default for people once the discomfort elicited by any problem reaches a certain threshold. The fight-or-flight reflex kicks in and many choose flight, rushing to their “superiors” for salvation.

In the workplace, there are a couple of lessons to be learned from this.

The most obvious is to resist the urge to run to your boss with a problem without first giving your best effort at coming up with possible solutions. Always have something constructive to present.

In the rare case that you just can’t seem to figure it out (after, like, days of working on it), walk your boss through your attempts to do so; it’ll show that you’re at least trying. But seriously, with the right information, YOU can solve almost any problem.

The second lesson is for leaders. You, like me, may get annoyed at all of the problems that people bring your way. But, it can also be quite gratifying to be the Fireman, the Answer Girl, the Savior. It’s that feeling when the lowly frontliners are running around frantically, and you my friend, have what it takes to restore peace and unity to the world. (Cue trumpet sound.)

Don’t do that.

Because in doing so, you weaken your workforce; you arrest their development. Encourage your people to take more responsibility by giving them more opportunities to solve their own problems. And that will be much more gratifying.

To Be or To Do?

“To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do? Which way will you go?” (Col. John Boyd)

John Boyd, considered by some to be “the most influential military theorist since Sun Tzu,” would pose this question to his mentees when confronted with major life decisions that pitted institutional success against their values. For Boyd, deciding to be was about focusing on institutional success, becoming part of the club, being somebody. But to do was about doing the right thing, doing things that make a difference, and being true to yourself.

This is an idea that feels familiar to us. It’s the dilemma of Faust. It’s the temptation of Christ. It’s Robert Johnson at the crossroads. It’s a real thing that most everyone has to confront at various points in their lives. And many choose to sell their souls. I mean, just this week I was confronted with a situation of this sort, and it was a harder decision than I’d like to admit.

For those of us interested in living moral, principled lives, it’s easy to see the potential pitfalls of success. If the classic cautionary tales aren’t enough, celebrity gossip columns are there to remind us. It’s etched into our social psyche. But what is a bit more difficult, is to see the dangers of “being a good person”. There aren’t many cautionary tales written about that. So let me explain.

Most of us want to be a good person. But our actions don’t always line up with our stated values. We give ourselves a pass because, well, at least we’re trying. In a thousand different little habits, we compromise, believing that it’s a few big things that really set us apart from “bad” (or lost, or misguided, or whatever) people.

That’s why some people would never vote Democrat (or Republican) no matter how good a particular candidate’s ideas or track record is. They could never bear to be associated with those commies (or fascists). That’s why others would never drive a big new SUV, even if it got better gas mileage than their old VW bus. How would that look to my freegan friends? It’s also why many people shy away from giving honest feedback. We don’t want to “be mean”.

Sometimes it’s harder for us to care about the actual impact of our choices than the perceived meaning of those choices. Even when it’s goodness we’re shooting for, we often prefer (to appear) to be good, rather than to do good. Col. Boyd’s question still applies.

Consider this analogy.

Swords are made from steel. Swords are made to kill. I don’t want to kill, or be associated with those who do, so I’m not going to use steel.

You can see the breakdown in logic. But what’s less obvious is this: If I don’t use steel, then I’m giving up dominion over steel to those who want to use it to make swords to kill people. If I really care about life, I’ll do what I can to wrench that power from those who use steel in that way. I’ll buy mines and steel mills. I’ll buy the swords (gasp!) myself.

And then I’ll beat them into plowshares.

I’ll reimagine the use of the steel and thereby redefine its meaning into something life-giving. If people want to lump me in with my opponents in the meantime, so be it.

Screw being good. Do good.

Respecting Others, Part III: Information

Welcome to our last post in our Respecting Others series, where we’re examining oft-overlooked ways of disrespecting those around us. In our first two posts we discussed stealing people’s time, and unleashing upon them our poorly prepared communication. In this post we’ll look at disrespect through withholding information.

Now before we get started, let’s get one thing out of the way. I’m not saying that there is never a legitimate reason for withholding information from someone. I’m not talking about: secret recipes, magic tricks, nuclear proliferation, or your coworker who’s way too open about his bunions, for example.

I am talking about information that is pertinent to the shared goals of a group of people. Withholding that kind of information is disrespectful because it undercuts team members’ abilities to make decisions toward the shared goals. At work, there are few things more frustrating than having responsibility without the resources to carry it out. Withholding information takes away a valuable resource.

As a leader, you can’t afford to do that, especially because the goals they’re working towards are your goals. Not only is it disrespectful, it’s counterproductive.

It’s a classic power move that leaders mistakenly make with their people. The thinking goes something like, “Having all the answers got me to the top. I can’t just make my knowledge public. That will endanger my authority!” While that may be appropriate in terms of your competition, you’re not competing with your employees.

This fear-based move creates classes of citizens within an organization (those who know vs. those who don’t), and that breeds a culture of secrecy and doubt that is often at the heart of deep divisions, malcontent, and bickering within a company. The withholding of information becomes a sort of modus operandi for employees dealing with others outside of their “class”: managers to their teams, or this department to that department, for example.

The key here is to remember that we are a team and that our shared goals are best met when we’ve got what we need to make informed decisions.

Knowledge is power, and sharing that knowledge is respectful.

If you’re interested in real strategies for incorporating transparency into your company’s DNA, give us a call at 843-249-6588. And don’t forget to check out greyphin.com.