Marketing and Laundry Labels

Laundry symbols with japanese

Have you ever taken a good look at clothing care labels?  A friend posted a funny version which was just a meaningless string of symbols, then the words, “or just ask your mom, she knows.”

This got me thinking.

Those labels are broken

Apparently, all those symbols represent a full page of different clothing instructions – water temp, dryer settings, whether to use bleach (or not) and on and on.  The trouble is, that the symbols are not intuitive.  They make no sense unless you have a long ‘cheat sheet’ to crack the secret clothing care code.

I wonder how many garments have been ruined because buyers couldn’t figure out how to care for them. Those labels are there because the FTC requires them. Apparently, there was no requirement that they be understandable (though the FTC is seeking new comments).

Instead of those silly symbols nobody can understand, why not either a) get better symbols (get input from Apple’s designers) or b) write it out in words.

Even worse, I just bought something which has a label with pale gray symbols on a black background.  It’s nearly impossible to see the symbols, let alone figure out what they are.

The same thing can happen with marketing or client communication efforts.  You’re busy focusing on code and using terms like UX and UI.  You’re talking about decision trees and canonical URLs and how critical it is to SEO.

Your client’s head is spinning around. They know you’re saying something important, but they’re not quite sure what it is.  They also aren’t sure why it matters or how it affects their business.

Have you had this experience?  Tried to talk to someone who was speaking in symbols instead of plain English?  Or have you done it yourself?

7 Common Mistakes That Can Sink Your Freelance Project

sinking feeling

© Copyright Paul Glazzard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

This post was inspired by 10 Freelancer Mistakes That Damage Your Success on Men with Pens. It’s not just freelancers who can make costly errors.  Sometimes, the freelance hiring mistakes are made by the companies who hire them.  And, those mistakes can be costly, in both time and money.

Someone in the comments on the Men with Pens post that a post from the company’s point of view would be useful

So, here are seven common mistakes that companies make when hiring freelancers.

1. Hiring the wrong specialty

If you need a screenwriter, get a screenwriter; if you need a speechwriter get a speechwriter (and so on).  Copywriting, for instance is a particular skill, requiring that you know why  people buy.  There’s been some discussion recently about whether it’s necessary to specialize – but I know that as a copywriter, I haven’t the slightest idea how to write a screenplay.

2. Choosing by price

Price isn’t what matters.  Value (and return on investment) is.  As a creative, it’s part of your “job” to show them why you’re worth it (think Lamborghini vs. Hyundai).

3.  No contract

A handshake is fine for trading bubble gum cards (do they still have those?).  If you’re doing business, write down what each party is responsible for.  Make it clear what the objectives are, who does what, when they’re supposed to do it, and how much it will cot.   This protects both of you.

4.  Unclear objectives and budget

Before you hire someone, you need to be able to tell them what you want.  “I need copy for a web site” is too vague.  You want to say something like, I need a 10 page website to sell our widgets.  We want to increase sales by _______.  We have a budget of $___________ and a deadline of ________________.

5.  No ideal customer

If you don’t know who you want to reach/appeal to, your designer or copywriter won’t be able to doing her job properly.  Before you start working with someone (heck, before you start your business at all), you should know that your ideal customer is _________ . Their problems are ____________ and __________.  You solve those problems by ________________.

6. Lack of milestones

Most creatives will ask for tiered payments based on milestones.  Often this is a payment to start work, a second payment on delivery of draft copy or mock-ups, and a final payment on completion.  Set clear deadlines for delivery – and hold up your end too (they can’t start work or move forward without clear instructions).

7.  Poor communication

Tell the designer what you want (see point 4).  If you’re not sure about something, ask.  If something changes (deadlines, personnel, concepts) say so.  Respect their time and professionalism – don’t call at all hours.

What mistakes have you seen companies make?  What’s the biggest problem you had working with a client?

Why Clients Want “Dumb” Things


Image by Candie_N via Flickr

If you’re like many creatives or web developers, you wonder why clients seem to want dumb things.

Why do they want the logo big

What’s wrong with using 99 Designs for a logo?

People should just learn some PHP or CSS. It’s not hard. What’s the big deal?

Heck coding is easy, anybody can do it!

Except they can’t

CSS is as foreign to them as Monte Carlo Calculations of the Ground State of Three- and Four-Body Nuclei are to you (Yes, that’s a real topic; it’s even a book. No, I don’t understand it either).

If you’re good at something, it’s easy

People in other businesses (fitness instructors, business coaches, hardware store owners) who don’t know CSS coding from CBS tv broadcasting want something simple and easy to use.

They’re not dumb, and their behavior is perfectly rational. They want to be fitness instructors, coaches, and hardware store owners, not designers or code warriors.

A simple solution

If you can figure out a real turn-key solution to the non-techie who wants to blog problem, you’ll make a fortune. Offer a simple setup for a flat fee (customization extra). Or, write a guide on the essentials of a successful logo. Designers hate 99 Designs. Businesses choose it because they don’t see the difference between a high quality logo and a poor one.

It’s an opportunity. How will you take advantage of it?

What do Baby Showers Have in Common with Marketing?

Baby Shower Cupcakes

Image by clevercupcakes via Flickr

What does a baby shower have to do with marketing or identifying your customers’ needs?  Isn’t that just a chance to buy gifts, talk to your friends, and eat?

Not so fast.

A long time ago, I went to a friend’s baby shower. She’d just had a baby girl (who is now an adult).

All of her other friends got her lots of lacy dresses for the baby.  There was a bassinet full of bows.  It was a sea of pink, lacy, frilly, conventionally girly gifts.

Know your customer

I, on the other hand, got her something completely different. It was a sporty outfit from The Gap. I think it may have come with baby-sized sunglasses.

Why? Because I knew my “customer.” My friend just wasn’t a ruffles and lace kinda gal. She hated all those frills.

Her other friends got her what they liked. I got her something she would like.

On another occasion, I bought a then-colleague a baby outfit with an abstract purple and orange print. I hated it. She knew it too (my dislike of purple is legendary).  However, she loved it (and I knew she would).  She also appreciated that I got her something I knew she would like (even though I didn’t like it at all).

Appeal to them (not yourself)

It’s OK to do what you like if your audience is just like you (for example, you’re a geek marketing to other geeks). However, if you’re a geek marketing to lawyers, you’ll need to understand what lawyers want and need. You’ll have to learn to speak a bit of legalese, and watch your use of tech speak.

You may be excited about new server software. The lawyer just wants to know that her network will stop crashing. Sell the software as a solution to the crashing, not as super-cool new software with redundant backups and offsite mirroring.

See the difference?

How to identify customer needs and wants

In the case of my friend and colleague, I simply paid attention and listened.  For clients, your approach has to be a bit different.

First, start listening to their questions.  What comes up over and over about your product? Are there particular features that they like? What do they have trouble using?  Is there a new feature they’d like to see?

  • Try sending out a brief survey and ask them what they want.
  • Review the tech support questions you get and develop new features (or change old ones).
  • If you have a sign up process, go through it yourself. Identify any speed bumps your customers may be experiencing.
  • Use an ideal customer profile, to guide your decisions.  If you don’t have one, make one.  This will help focus your marketing too.

Know what they want, and give it to them. They’ll love you for it. They’ll stay longer too.

Get More Fans

rock concert image

Today, we’re having a roundup. No horses or cattle involved. Instead, it’s a series of posts about how to get fans, influence people, and make more money!

How to Charge More and Still Have Raving Fans

Six Ways to Build Your Company’s Fan Club

Get Your Customers to Love You

How to Charge Higher Prices in a Recession

Share your own tips in the comments.

Image: motumboe