Dealing with a bad customer-provided design


By SignCraft Magazine

SignCraft turned to a veteran sign designer Gary Anderson [Bloomington Design, Bloomington, Indiana], who has been creating custom signs for over five decades, for advice. Gary’s work and his articles have been published in SignCraft since 1983, and he has published two books on sign design with SignCraft: Signs, Graphics & Other Neat Stuff and More Signs, Graphics & Other Neat Stuff.

We’ll let Gary explain the straightforward, practical solution he developed over the years, and share a few examples of his outstanding work:

I’ve been talking about this scenario for years. Customers bringing homemade designs to sign makers was always a tough issue—even before computers and the Internet came along. Then it got worse.

One option is to make the sign, turn it around and lean it against the wall until they come to get it so you don’t have to see it. When they arrive, take it quickly out to their car and put it in the trunk. But that only solves part of the problem. The bigger issue is that other potential customers will see it, and you don’t want to be held responsible for that bad design.

My favorite way of dealing with this issue was pretty simple. I would look thoughtfully at their design for a minute or so, then say, “You deserve something better than this.” Most of the time, they would look a little surprised and maybe a bit uncomfortable.

I would go on to explain that it isn’t about my ego. It’s simply that they deserve a more functional sign design than this. Usually, they don’t understand what you’re talking about, so I would go on to point out a few of the key weaknesses in their design in a professional and respectful way. There’s no point in being rude or arrogant about it. It’s just the facts.

The font choice is almost always wrong. It’s often some flowery script that no one can read. The sign may be for their gun shop, but the script makes it look like they sell lingerie.

Is the copy on their design properly prioritized, and are there strong contrasts to add interest? Are the colors appropriate? Is negative space used to make it more readable? Probably not. Is some piece of irrelevant clip art eating up space needed for their main message?

By telling the customer that they deserve something better, it’s pretty hard for them to argue that they don’t deserve a better sign. It often opens the door to moving away from their homemade design. The bad news is that their design probably won’t be very effective for them. The good news is that you know how to get them what they deserve.

You have to be ready with a list of how a better design will benefit them: More people will notice your sign. It will be easier to read, and faster for readers to understand your most important message. IT WILL MAKE YOU MORE MONEY. It will get more people in the door. It will get your phone ringing or send more people to your website. What business owner is going to argue with that?

As you explain this, it helps to be standing in your display area surrounded by cool examples of what you can do, and to have a portfolio of great-looking signs that you have done for them to look through.

I would go on to explain that it’s not going to cost any more for them to have a more effective sign. They are going to spend the same either way, whether they get an attractive sign or not. I don’t want to just take their money. I want their sign to be a success. That was another point that was hard for them to dispute.

I believe even a basic sign deserves some design attention. You want to make sure that it has adequate contrast, appropriate font and color choice, well-prioritized copy and proper use of line value and color to make it appealing. Even on a parking sign, you have to make those design decisions.

On rare occasions, though, I would finally have to just say, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you with the sign. You may want to check with a few other shops.”

About the time I retired, the problem was getting even more pervasive. People were playing around with designs on their computer at home and bringing those to me. Or they would bring a two-page list of fonts and say, “These are the fonts I like…” Usually, none of them were appropriate, and I had to explain that to them.

It got harder with the Internet. Now people get online and fall in love with things they see, whether they are relevant for their business or not. I used to have to talk people into something cool that I knew would be good for their business by building a picture in their mind. Then it got to where I had to first talk them out of whatever they had seen online—and erase the image they had in their head first. That takes more time, and that’s not a good thing.

As a designer, I was pretty dictatorial. Because if you’re not, you’ll be stuck doing signs you know won’t be effective and that you don’t enjoy making. If you let customers steamroll you, you’ll never do anything you’re proud of. Your life will be boring and you’ll be frustrated. It’s a bad situation to put yourself in. –Gary Anderson

If your business is relatively new and you don’t have much work, you may feel forced to produce their ineffective design. If so, you can still get to work on producing some great-looking samples that you can use to sell the type of work you want to do. Keep improving your design skills so that your work is obviously more effective than the generic signs that dominate the marketplace. You’ll be able in time, and you’ll be more successful when you say, “You deserve better than this…” —Editors


Source: SignCraft Magazine

Smart Strategies To Go After (And Achieve) Your Goals

Smart Strategies To Go After (And Achieve) Your Goals

By Audrey Sellers |PC Today|

Smart Strategies To Go After (And Achieve) Your Goals

Sales professionals know all about setting goals. They know that the best ones come together at the intersection of achievable and challenging. When you meet sales goals, you are often rewarded with a bigger paycheck or a more impressive title.

It’s not an easy road, though. Most people don’t end up accomplishing what they set out to achieve because they are afraid or lack the motivation to make their goals a reality. The Statistic Brain Research Institute reports that 92 percent of people fall short of their goals.

Janet McKee, a speaker, bestselling author and wellness expert, says that if we want to achieve our goals and get the successful life we envision, we must start by feeling joy in our careers now.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share McKee’s six ways to find joy in the pursuit of your goals and make them happen.

1. Establish goals you can get behind. According to McKee, make sure you set goals you believe in. You can dream big, but just make sure you step up the rungs of the ladder slowly with thoughts that feel more achievable. Tell yourself, “I know I can do great work” or “I’m on the right track and excited to keep going.”

2. Know why you have established your goals. You can set lofty goals for yourself, but to make sure you achieve them, you must know your “why.” McKee recommends peeling back the layers on your goals and writing down what you find. When you get to the feeling you are after, consider how your life will change when you achieve your goal.

3. Go for goals that energize you. Do your goals constrict you or make you feel energized? McKee notes that when you feel expansive, you are more open to allowing all the possibilities and opportunities to flow to you.

4. Envision that you have already achieved your goals. McKee says it’s a powerful exercise to imagine the life you want as already a reality. This triggers thoughts and feelings in your mind that prepare you for having those goals be your current reality. For example, instead of saying, “I want to be the top salesperson on my team,” say “I am my team’s top salesperson.”

5. Stay flexible. When setting goals that you can achieve, plan for daily action steps but give yourself room to adapt and adjust as situations change. McKee advises professionals to be open to any ideas for positive, forward-moving action that may lead to even better ideas.

6. Appreciate the setbacks. They might not seem like it in the moment, but setbacks can make you stronger. Think about how Oprah was told early in her career that she wasn’t right for TV. Don’t give up when you come to a hurdle. Trust the big picture and learn to flow through the ups and downs as they come.

Whatever goals you may have in mind for the next half of the year, know that you have what it takes to achieve them. Let your goals energize you and remember to stay fluid as things change. When you stay focused on your goals and envision your life as though you have achieved them, anything is possible.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Janet McKee is a speaker, bestselling author, wellness expert and CEO of SanaView. She is one of only 200 elite Certified High Performance Coaches™ in the world and has been inducted as a member of the National Association of Experts, Writers and Speakers.

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May 4, 2020|Informational

 By Grant Freking | SIGNS OF THE TIMES


At press time, there are over 2 million cases of the highly contagious coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) around the globe, with nearly 700,000 in the US . COVID-19 has placed a massive strain on the American economy, with stay-at-home orders and other restrictions intended to curtail the virus’ spread sending the unemployment rate to its highest mark (13%) since the Great Depression, per The Washington Post . The federal government has responded, chiefly by passing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, creating $2.2 trillion in support for individuals and businesses. Despite the uncertainty brought on by the virus, signs are still being designed, fabricated and installed across the country, albeit under unique and trying circumstances.

The following is a collection of sudden new realities for sign, graphics and visual communications businesses, as well as stories of manufacturers fighting back with their production lines. We also asked industry experts, among other things, “Where does the industry go from here?”


Right Way Signs (Chicago) regularly churned out 80 projects per month when its CEO, Alex Perry, was named one of Signs of the Times’ 2019 Makers of Tomorrow. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Right Way had 12 employees. Since, Perry has furloughed 80% of his staff, and he and two other Right Way employees are running the company as best they can on staggered shifts. According to Perry – who worked with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce before forming Right Way in 2014 – the Illinois Sign Association indicated that Right Way “fit within an essential category,” but Perry’s health and safety concerns for his staff prompted him to minimize exposure to his workforce. Perry and his team considered pivoting Right Way’s production to virus-related projects, but “decided that scaling back and waiting this out is the best way to go,” he said.

Sign companies have been deemed an essential business in Colorado, too, so RiNo Sign Works (Lakewood, CO) can operate in a “very limited capacity,” per RiNo partner Willis Wood. Front office employees are working from home, and staggered schedules were implemented for fabricators and installers, along with “robust” shop cleaning protocols. “So far, we have chosen to not lay anybody off and to keep our employees paid for as long as possible, while also maintaining their health insurance coverage,” Wood said. “Even though this will cost us thousands of dollars, we felt it was the right thing to do for our employees.”


RiverWorks Printing (Greenland, NH) , with a client list including several hospitals, healthcare facilities and IT companies, is also considered an essential business by its state. “Other orders are still coming in for our construction and real estate customers,” said Print Manager Danis Chamberlin. “We are not doing the numbers we normally do this time of year, but it is just enough to keep us going.” Chamberlin noted that all employees who can work remotely are doing do, and that on-site employees are sanitizing workstations, materials and equipment, and are following social-distancing guidelines.

Pre-COVID-19, Right Way had been expecting a recession within the next 12-24 months. “And while we have always weathered those storms well, nothing could have prepared us for this,” Perry said, “and I think the majority of businesses large and small agree. This is a ‘wake-up call’ to plan better for these ‘black swan’ situations that no one can see coming.”


The first wave of reactions from sign industry manufacturers was mostly press releases and social media posts issued to announce that said company was A) authorized to stay open, or had to close, or B) if the company were open, that it would be in compliance with new health regulations (i.e., social distancing and sanitation) to certify that the employees and equipment, as well as the client’s order(s), would remain safe. Not long thereafter, many manufacturers began modifying their operations in varying degrees, shapes and forms to assist the world’s depleted healthcare system.

On March 22, 3M CEO Mike Roman announced that his company had sent 500,000 respirators to Seattle and New York City, two areas of early COVID-19 infiltration. Days later, the company said it would not increase prices for the respirators it was manufacturing. Per Bloomberg , by late March, 3M doubled its global production of N95 masks – a form of protective equipment that is used to shield the wearer from about 95% of airborne particles and liquid that can contaminate the face – to 100 million a month.

Another company, Provis Graphic, has converted its 3D-printing capacity– typically meant for illuminated signage – to produce face shields for frontline healthcare and law enforcement officials. With its present injection-molding process, Provis can generate 1,000 face shields per day. Provis initially focused distribution in the regions around Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the company’s production is based. (The US branch is located in Minneapolis.) Provis expected to export face shields to the US by mid-April, and has made its 3D-printed face shield production files free to anyone.


It’s also possible to affect positive change on a smaller scale, and that’s what JDS Sign Supply employees have done, led by call center director Patti Moberly. They’ve sewn masks for hospital staff, as well as for JDS employees with friends and family who work front-line positions at nursing homes, clinics and other medical facilities. Summa has cut masks for first-line caregivers with the help of volunteer seamstresses, and the company has also used its flatbed cutters and laser cutters to cut surgical aprons.


International Sign Association President/CEO Lori Anderson stressed the importance of sign companies’ continuing to provide products and services to areas such as healthcare and food markets. “Mandates and guidelines regarding which businesses are deemed ‘essential’ are rapidly changing and often confusing as cities and states have issued stay-at-home orders,” Anderson said, “[but] our industry has been agile enough to offer products or adapt their equipment use to assist hospitals, restaurants and to meet other communication needs.”

Specialty Graphic Imaging Association President and CEO Ford Bowers noted that most states have recognized print as an essential business. “This has helped stave off forced shutdowns in many areas,” he said. “There are also numerous government programs that, although a work in progress, also aid to preserve staff and continue operations long enough for businesses to return to a normal level of activity.”

Both Anderson and Bowers encouraged businesses to use government programs for help, with each highlighting the Families First Coronavirus Response Act , and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance program. Implementation of these new “life-preserver” type of initiatives has reportedly been at a measured pace, though. So much money has been made available over a very brief period of time that banks and the SBA are struggling to keep pace, while other banks are hesitant to get involved at all.

As for long-term damage to the industry, Bowers said that the economic ripple effects of COVID-19 may take another year or more to resolve, even if the spread of the virus is soon contained and curve flattened. “If you look at the equipment supply chain, for example, think of the number of tradeshows that have been cancelled or postponed,” Bowers said. “This means fewer leads for OEMs and less capital investment by printer companies. Less capital investment means less R&D by OEMs, slowing down the development of new products and capabilities.” Anderson observed that the industry and economy are in a constant state of flux, though she admitted that the present is “just faster, and, yes, scarier.” “While [most of us alive today have] never encountered a global pandemic quite like this one, we as a country and industry have seen tough times before,” Anderson said. “Our creativity and ingenuity are unsurpassed and definitely will be needed. I believe that signs help communities thrive, and there will be no better time than [now] to prove that to each and every community we serve.”

Source: Grant Freking | Signs Of The Times

Nine Lessons To Learn From COVID-19

Nine Lessons To Learn From COVID-19

April 9, 2020|Informational

By: Staff |PPAI Media: PC Today

While you might feel a massive loss of control, there are some important takeaways to learn from this moment in time.

Kristen Lee, Ed.D., LICSW, lead faculty for behavioral science at Northeastern University, says there are nine lessons we can draw upon for individual and collective fortitude. We share Dr. Lee's lessons in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Lesson 1: Intellectual humility is vital. We are not all public health experts. We are an evolved civilization with extraordinary advances in science and medicine and access to information. Dr. Lee says we must all consider the ources we rely on and how we transmit information across our spheres of social influence.

Lesson 2: Time-outs are not always punishments. We are creative, innovative, agile creatures. Moments of distress call us to rethink our typical routines and identify new strategies for coping and living. Dr. Lee says this pause might prove to be a return to creativity for many who might find it has been squeezed out during typical routines.

Lesson 3: We are more resilient than we realize. Humans are wired for resilience. Dr. Lee asserts that resilience can increase even during difficult times when we focus on activities that help to cultivate it. Join forces with people who co-nurture and provide reciprocal support.

Lesson 4: Kindness is contagious. While fear and illness itself can be contagious, so are acts of love and kindness. When we focus energy on helping those who are most vulnerable in times of crisis, the positive effects spread and strengthen our collective well-being.

Lesson 5: Challenges help us discover our strengths and resources. Dr. Lee reminds others that we have a host of internal and external resources to harness, including strong analytical and problem-solving abilities and people and places that provide solace and grounding.

Lesson 6: The basics are not basic. The elements of air, water, earth and fire are unparalleled. Spend time appreciating nature and get outside as much as is safe and possible, recommends Dr. Lee. Watch sunrises and sunsets from your window. Find ways to take in the elements.

Lesson 7: There are no wrong emotions. Pandemics can evoke powerful emotions, including fear, anxiety, shock and panic. Don't stress about being stressed. This is human, says Dr. Lee. Take time to name what is happening and consider what resources you can access to help you.

Lesson 8: Self-care is essential all the time. Crises can show us that we were previously running on fumes. There's no health without mental health. Proper sleep, nutrition, hydration and exercise can go a long way towards boosting our mental reserves, notes Dr. Lee.

Lesson 9: Mindfulness helps us combat mindlessness. When we focus on the now and engage in a non-judgmental stance, it strengthens our resilience and capacity to enjoy what is and cope with what isn't.

As you continue to adapt during these times, reflect on the lessons above and consider how you can help share them with your team members.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Kristen Lee, Ed.D., LICSW is lead faculty for behavioral science at Northeastern University. She is the author of Reset: Make the Most of Your Stress and Mentalligence: A New Psychology of Thinking. Dr. Lee has also given a TED talk called "The Risk You Must Take."


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Ways To Lead Well Through Difficult Times

Ways To Lead Well Through Difficult Times

April 2, 2020

By: :  Audrey Sellers | PC Today


As businesses of all sizes react to mandatory shutdowns and employees working from home, it's crucial to have a solid crisis communication plan in place. Your customers want to hear from you and know your plan for next steps. Heidi Robbins, a principal marketing consultant with Salesforce Marketing Cloud, says that while it's important to adjust your marketing messages, social channels and website during times of crisis, you must also formulate a plan to communicate to your clients.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Robbins's five tips for reaching out to customers during a crisis.

1. Show that you care. People seek connection during times of uncertainty. Companies in our communities play a role in this, says Robbins. Consider a message to customers to show you're aware of the issue and offer helpful resources. Social media, email or your online community are particularly accessible mediums for a brief and immediate message.

2. Be proactive in your communications. Your customers count on you even more than usual during a crisis. Robbins recommends proactively announcing changes or impacts to your business. Do not make customers hunt for the information they need. Instead, bring it to them. Proactive communication will free up staff to focus on tasks other than answering the same customer questions over and over again. Be sure to create communication that is appropriate within a variety of channels, including email, SMS, push notifications, social and chatbot introductions. Establish a parallel approach designed to inform customers and employees in equal measure as appropriate.

3. Offer a shoulder to lean on. Show your humanity with an authentic, sensitive response. For example, Walgreens and CVS are waiving prescription medicine delivery fees during the current pandemic. Small businesses are also stepping up. Robbins says she received an email from her local deli offering free delivery for customers over the age of 70 within a five-mile radius of the business.

4. Inspire your audience. In times of need, those who are not affected are often in a position to assist others. Robbins says you can be a catalyst by allowing corporate citizenship to shine. Do all you can to help. Share a donor portal, communicate your philanthropic position, assist with collection coordination, or donate products, services, money or time. Be sure to communicate how your brand's community can get involved.

5. Audit your content queue. Review your entire messaging stream, including social media, promotional and transactional emails, push notifications and SMS to identify communications that need to pause or shift as a result of the situation, says Robbins. If you don't, you risk potentially damaging your brand if a message comes off as insensitive, incorrect or seeking to capitalize on a tragedy.

As the world navigates the coronavirus crisis, it's critical for businesses to step up for their customers. How can you demonstrate that you care about your clients' well-being? How can you offer a helping hand? In these uncertain times, remember to approach your client communications with empathy.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Heidi Robbins is a principal marketing consultant with Salesforce Marketing Cloud.


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