Archive for September, 2009

Photography Meets Design: The Personal Approach to Online Marketing

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

It seems today that websites have either photographic elements or graphic design elements, but not necessarily an integration of the two. Jennifer Huffman Photography is making its mark in the website design and photography industry, incorporating photographic elements with graphic design elements for a creative and humanistic approach to online marketing.

Jennifer Huffman, photographer and owner of Jennifer Huffman Photography, brings the personal sides of businesses to life through her photographic and design elements. In an exclusive interview with Jennifer, she shares the secrets that make her designs work to facilitate a connection between the customer and the business, while expressing a clear brand message and personality.

Sūmèr: Some of your sample postcard designs and brochures are absolutely stunning. How do you so seamlessly incorporate photography with design?

Jennifer: What a nice compliment, and thank you! I’ve only just launched my new business after working in corporate communications for several years, so what you’re seeing is a giant burst of creative energy applied to new clients, purposes, and projects. I’m having a blast, and I am delighted that it translates into designs that some call stunning!

My designs are usually inspired by a photograph or collection of photographs. I try to build the design around the photos, keeping it simple while showcasing the photos. I want the images I choose to convey meaning. I aim for tight, articulate, and fresh copy, for streamlined designs that complement my photography. Ideally, all of these elements come together in marketing pieces that are memorable and hard to throw away. So far, I’m finding this is a strategy that works well for me and, hopefully, for my clients.

Sūmèr: What’s the importance of good photography on a website or print collateral?

Jennifer: With “good” photography, you can achieve, in a single photograph, what it may take a combination of fonts, symbols, and graphics to communicate. Busy consumers appreciate that, especially in the current marketplace where they are literally ducking from the barrage of images coming at them from every direction. And businesses can reap the benefits of that appreciation.

Sūmèr: What do companies need to consider before hiring a photographer to take pictures for their marketing materials?

Jennifer: Just as one would want a teacher to know his / her students or a doctor to sit and listen to a patient, great marketing starts with great conversation. When I meet with my clients, I try to find out as much as I can about their image, their mission, their vision, and their passion about their work. I need to be inspired by them—for them. Uninspired marketing pieces get thrown away, which breaks my heart a bit. But, if I can see the company as special and can communicate that through my designs, consumers will pick up on that, too. It’s a more nuanced, more human approach to marketing. I believe consumers want to know that real people, real ideas, and real exchanges are still at the foundation of every business, despite what anonymous online retailers and standardized, commercialized wholesalers may have us think. Photography can capture those nuances. 

Sūmèr: What advice would you give companies who are looking to add photography to their website—whether it be product photography for eCommerce sites, headshots for bio pages, or just anywhere on their site?

Jennifer: I don’t think you can go wrong with paying the utmost attention to detail. That single element, applied to anything but especially to marketing and photography, is key to conveying a polished, thoughtful image to clients or potential customers, regardless of the size of the company or business.

Ideally, a company would use photographs taken expressly for them, with their needs and marketing goals in mind. Anytime a company runs a photo, it is a chance to convey a thousand words in a 480×360 block of webspace. With that opportunity, it’s important to be thoughtful. Photos aren’t fillers; they are communication tools. In every way, those photos should represent the essence of your company, perhaps even more so than the text that the photos are only meant to supplement.

Sūmèr: What are the benefits of incorporating photography with design? How does it project a different brand message than a site with just photography or just design elements?

Jennifer: A single photograph can really be quite powerful. It can evoke emotions, tell a story, and reconnect the viewer with the human elements of business. That is so important today, especially for small businesses competing against the big dogs.

Another benefit to incorporating photos into design is that it can be a fairly inexpensive way to build a marketing product. My designs are simple and are meant to enhance the photography and communicate information about a business. If I were to design, from scratch, trying to create graphic elements that convey the same meaning of photographs, it would take me twice as long and cost the client twice as much.

Sūmèr: What is your favorite thing to photograph and why?

Jennifer: I don’t think there is just one thing; that’s why photography is so exciting! I adore photographing kiddos and faces. I love to shoot interactions—moments between people when they don’t think I’m watching. One of my favorite photographs is of a mother who was trying to console her newborn boy. He wasn’t excited about having his picture taken. She picked him up and started shushing him in his ear, cheek to cheek. It turned out to be a beautiful photograph, an authentic moment.

There is definitely beauty in artistically arranged photographs, the kind taken after a great deal of time spent preparing for the shoot. And there is definitely a place for that, including in my own work. But what I love the most is when life brings that same kind of beauty to me, during moments of time you can only catch by paying attention. Usually, this happens when people care for each other, and you can’t create or arrange anything for that.

About Jennifer: Jennifer Huffman Photography and Creative Services launched earlier this year after I quit my job last July as communications director for a large nonprofit in Iowa. Before that, I spent eight years in radio and television news as a reporter and writer. Two small kiddos provide me with daily inspiration and laughter, and I currently live in Des Moines, Iowa, with my incredibly supportive husband. We travel back and forth to Kansas City and St. Louis, both for my business and to see family. I’m also working toward an MFA in writing at Hamline University.

Contact Jennifer today via phone at 515.988.0646 or email her at .

Michelle Salater to Host Free Telecall on Using PR2.0 to Grow Business

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Join Michelle Salater on a free telecall Tuesday, October 6, 2009 (8 p.m. Eastern / 6 p.m. Pacific), and learn how to boost your credibility, increase website traffic, convert more prospects to customers, and stop working so dang hard on trying to figure out how to promote your business. During this 60-minute call, Michelle will discuss using PR2.0 to grow your business. “The Ultimate Strategies to Boost Your Online Presence” will be recorded, but you must sign up for the call to receive the audio.

Lines are limited.

Learn more:

Who Are You to Your Prospective Clients? The Answer May Be More Complex Than You Think.

Monday, September 28th, 2009

What do you represent to your clients? The answer has been sitting right under your nose, but perhaps you have been too busy trying to sell to actually see it or think about it. For many business owners who haven’t been seeing the results they desire, they have not truly discovered how their clients and prospective clients perceive them.

For example, if you own a travel company that specializes in family vacations, you may think that your clients view you as simply a family vacation provider. Au contraire.

When people are looking for a family vacation, they don’t view a travel company as simply a vacation provider. They view the travel company as a facilitator. In the clients’ mind, a travel company has the ability to provide their family with a time and place to spend quality time together, on a safe and fun vacation, as well as a great price for their trip. See the difference?

Your target audience isn’t coming to you because you provide family vacations—they’re coming to you because they believe you will fulfill their family bonding needs, provide them with a happy and stress-free experience, and meet their vacation standards and criteria. The more specific you are with what you are actually providing for your clients, the easier it will be to connect with them.

Here’s a challenge for you:

1. Analyze your website copy, social media site profiles, past press releases, blog posts, and print marketing materials. Are you speaking to the needs and desires of your target audience? Are you reaching deep down into what you are truly providing them? Remember that you may perceive yourself as a travel company, but that’s not necessarily how you want your prospective clients to see your company—if this is how you’re projecting your company to your target audience, you may find you have no clients.

2. If it appears you’re simply trying to make the sale and not hitting your target market’s sweet spot with your marketing materials, you may be spending tons of precious time with no results—running yourself into the ground.

3. Step back, take a deep breath, and start brainstorming. What exactly do you provide to your audience? How do you satisfy their needs?

4. Now, the trick is to touch your prospective clients with the right marketing strategies and materials. Once you’ve hit the sweet spot, you’ll start to attract more clients, build online exposure, and have a clear brand message that speaks volumes to prospective clients.

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Maximize Your Online PR Efforts

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Are you working hard to promote your business online, only to find your message drowned out in the crowd?

How would your life change if your business gained more online exposure, prospects could easily find you online, and you attracted more clients while staying current with constant changes in technology?

No matter your industry, now more than ever you need an integrated PR strategy that works for your business. Here’s why…

According to a case study by Coke Oasis, 3 out of 4 of the top media vehicles for increased brand recognition are online.

Over 90% of online merchants plan to add rich media and social networking functions in 2009. -Internet Retailing

Social networks have enjoyed a 25% growth in unique visitors in the last year. Some sites have doubled their user base. -Comscore, August 2008

If you want to know exactly how you can save thousands of marketing and promotion dollars and, at the same time, maximize your online PR efforts in ANY economy…

If you want to boost your credibility, increase website traffic, convert more visitors to customers, and stop working so dang hard on trying to figure out how to promote your business…

If you want to have a business that prospects view as a credible resource…

Then you’ll want to attend my Free Teleclass on October 6, 2009, at 8 pm ET. It may just be the best decision you’ll ever make.

I’m going to show you simple strategies that you can use to maximize your online PR efforts–strategies you can implement right now and do on your own.

You’ll learn some of the exact same strategies and tactics I use for my own company and for my clients to build a powerful online presence–using nothing but the Internet to promote and attract prospects.


In this 60-minute Teleclass, I’ll reveal…

  • The 2 most important questions you must ask and answer before you create an online PR campaign.
  • What PR2.0 is and why it’s crucial to your brand and success.
  • How to successfully integrate online and offline PR efforts.
  • What you can do today to get more online exposure, without spending a ton of money.

On the call, I’ll also be announcing the details of my 4-Week Online PR Bootcamp: “The Secrets to Maximizing Your Online PR Efforts Through Proven Strategies.”

Over the course of 4 weeks, I will show you the exact step-by-step online PR process that has worked for my clients and me.

You’ll learn the fundamentals of promoting your business online as I lead you through my proven process of how to implement these strategies easily and on your own (this alone will save you thousands in what it would cost you to hire professionals).

If you’re ready to gain online exposure for your business, then you’ll want to register for this Teleclass…immediately! SIGN UP NOW!

Are Your Keywords Performing For Your Company?

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

If you’re having trouble cutting down the hodgepodge of keywords you have for your website, WordStream might just be the solution for you. In the video below, WebProNews conducts an exclusive interview with Rob Adler, CEO of WordStream, a company specializing in keyword organization and discovery. In the video, Rob analyzes the affects keywords have on your search engine rankings and illustrates how having a niche-oriented group of keywords is highly beneficial for your website’s online exposure.

More WebProNews Videos

Michelle Salater to Speak at Queens University

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Michelle Salater will be speaking to the Queens University MFA Creative Writing Alumni Program on November 6, 2009, in Charlotte, NC. In a seminar titled “Start Your Own Business as a Writer,” she will discuss how she transitioned from freelance travel writer to owner of a successful copywriting company. Michelle graduated from Queens University in May 2006 with an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction.

If You Could Outsource What Would YuDu?

Monday, September 21st, 2009

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss has been floating around our office. As Sūmèr grows, I’ve been trying to set systems in place so I don’t work myself to death. Two weeks ago, I decided to reread this book and, this time, implement Ferris’s advice.

On a Monday, I made the decision to start delegating more. Two days later, at a networking event, I was introduced to Sarah Hays, co-owner of YuDu, a personal concierge company that helps business and individuals fulfill their daily to-do lists.

I cannot do it all. As much as I’d like to think I can, I can’t. So, I hired YuDu to help me with some business tasks and asked co-owner Sarah Hays if she’d share her expertise and services with our blog readers. Below is the interview.

Sūmèr: What benefits do YuDu’s services bring to a business?

Sarah: YuDu’s benefits to businesses are twofold. On one hand, we are an alternative to part-time or temp employment, allowing businesses to have “on demand” temporary assistance with specific jobs such as filing, invoicing, mailings, supply runs, etc. This allows more flexibility for a business that is not in a position to permanently increase the size of their staff or team. Letting YuDu perform these tasks also allows businesses to better utilize their full-time team members in other areas, such as marketing, sales, or design.

YuDu can also help a business to increase the productivity of employees by taking on their personal errands. This allows employees to focus their time and efforts on work, rather than stress over external errands. For example, YuDu can do a company’s dry cleaning run, a bank run, a Post Office run, meet contractors at employees’ (or owners’) homes to start repair projects or even obtain reliable estimates for work around the home.

Sūmèr: What’s the main struggle you see business owners dealing with?

Sarah: The main struggle we encounter with regard to business owners is time management. Many business owners have a hard time saying no, thus causing them to become inundated with places to be and things to do. As a result, some of the every day (or weekly/monthly) tasks that keep the company running are ignored. Typically, we find that entrepreneurs burn a candle at both ends. It does not take them long to realize that there are areas of their personal and professional life that simply need help. That is where we come in and help alleviate the stress and work to get things back on track.

Sūmèr: Business owners have a tendency to micromanage everything. Letting go of managing and doing specific tasks and delegating to others can be difficult, even though it’s necessary to grow a thriving business. What can you do for them to make their lives easier?

Sarah: Business owners are people, too, and we run into this problem as well with nonbusiness clients who are used to micromanaging their families’ (and even sometimes friends’) lives. Usually we find that if clients are in need of help, especially if they have a lot of tasks, it takes them some time to wrap their brain around their to-do list and explain each task. The great thing is that once they explain their tasks one time, whether in person, by phone, by email, or through our website, we can tackle the tasks without intruding much in their day. The best part, for ongoing clients, is that we work hard to learn their personalities, expectations, and likes and dislikes so that we are able to take on their to-do lists with fewer questions.

Our website and client pages also allow our clients to submit new tasks at any time as well as monitor the status of those tasks and the time it takes to do them. We know our clients are busy so this form of communication allows us to keep them abreast on what has been completed without inundating their day with nagging phone calls and updates. Ultimately, we use the clients’ preferred form of communication whether it be text, email, internet, or phone. We just like to provide them with convenient options.

Another way we make their life easier is making our service “on demand.” Clients buy a block of time (from 30 minutes to 5 hours), and as they need us, they contact us. The time does not expire, and we work in 6-minute time increments so that we can accurately fulfill the time they have purchased. By being “on demand,” clients can contact us immediately, and their tasks can usually be completed within 24 hours or less.

Sūmèr: Do people have a hard time delegating tasks to you even after they’ve hired you? If so, how do you help them cope with their decision and the work you do?

Sarah: Yes, on occasion we come upon clients who have difficulty delegating their to-do lists. Usually, we try to get them to talk a bit about what led them to contact us and take notes on different areas where we can help. Sometimes, clients are not even aware of all that we do, and they are pleasantly surprised that we can help them in so many ways. There are some people, though, who feel bad about asking someone else to do things for them. They think it reflects negatively on the type of person that they are. What I tell them is that we are really just facilitators who work to be their extra set of hands, or essentially an extension of themselves. We work to minimize the stress caused by nagging to-do lists and allow them to focus on more significant obligations in their lives, whether it’s board meetings, extra patients, or even quality time with their friends and family.

Sūmèr: What would you say to an entrepreneur who needs your help but is hesitant?

Sarah: Think about what your time is worth. Literally calculate the value of an hour of your time. Then consider your to-do list and decide which of those things is worth an hour, or more, of your time versus spending your time focusing on other priorities. You may rather spend an hour of your Saturday afternoon at the park with your kids, rather than grocery shopping. There may also be times when weekday meetings run late and your dogs have been waiting since breakfast to be let out. All clients have to do is prioritize their obligations and give YuDu a list of those things that need to be done, thus allowing them to focus on other areas of their personal and professional lives.

Sūmèr: How have your clients’ lives changed after working with you? Specifically, what do many of them say helped the most? Has it helped their business grow? What have they had more time to do because of your services?

Sarah: We received this comment from a business client of ours on Friday: “You are a life saver—who knew how much stress could be released simply by having a little helping hand? I’m already compiling a list for the next set of hours I buy! I’m recommending you to all my clients and colleagues.”

I know that this particular client had reached a point in her life where she was consumed by stress. As a local book publisher, she was trying to figure out how to best serve her current clients, manage the day-to-day stresses of her business, and still grow her company—all the while enjoying out-of-town weekends with her husband. We do simple things like mailings, local deliveries, and grocery runs that give her several extra hours per week to edit her clients’ work and make art and print decisions.  This allows her to have the extra time she needs to relax, refocus, and reenergize.

Sūmèr: What’s the oddest request you’ve ever had?

Sarah: We have not had an odd request yet. Now that we say that, I’m sure one will come our way soon! Most of our requests involve local errands (dog walking, grocery runs, mailings, meeting contractors at clients’ homes, etc.). However, every now and then we get asked to do special things such as getting estimates for a custom picture frame from local framers. We just need to make some phone calls and present the information to the client in a form that would allow him or her to make an informed decision.

We were also asked to travel with a client to Columbia to load and unload boxes/materials for an event.

Sūmèr: What area do you serve specifically?

Sarah: We cater to clients in the Charleston Tri-County area and will soon be franchising to other parts of the state and country. We will travel for local clients at their request.

Contact YuDu today at (843)972.4008  or send Sarah and Abby an email at .

Build Online Relationships through Real-Time Marketing

Friday, September 18th, 2009

More WebProNews Videos

Marketers now have the opportunity to analyze customer relationships and promote their business in real-time to prospective clients. Will you take advantage of real-time marketing?

Does Your Business Have the Personality of a Carrot?

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Message from Michelle

September already–I can hardly believe it. My schedule is already filled with networking events, birthday parties, and fall festivals. On top of that, there’s completing client work and implementing my own marketing plan.

It’s easy to get busy. It’s too easy to get caught up in the doing. This issue of Sumèr’s Secrets is about slowing down–taking a break from the doing–and taking the time to look long and hard at your company’s brand message.

Connect With Me Online at:

Feature Article:

Does Your Business Have the Personality of a Carrot?

You might not think so, but do your prospective customers? If you want to achieve online business success and attract more clients, you must step outside of your usual realm of thinking and view your company from an outsider’s perspective. From the perspective of your target market.

Too many times businesses either neglect their brand message or don’t project it accurately. When this happens, a brand image is easily misconstrued and it can have a devastating effect on your business.

Don’t let your prospects think your company is comparable to a carrot–orange is out of style.

Here are some tips for making sure an accurate brand image is shining through in all that you do:

Step 1: Take inventory. Review your company vision and mission, what types of products / services you offer, what sets you apart from your competition, where your products / services are sold, and all the details about your target market.

Once you’ve done this, it’s time to take a hard look at how you are projecting your business message. Take out a piece of paper, and answer the following questions as honestly as you can.

  1. Is your message accurate and consistent on your website, your blog, and social media sites?
  2. Are your vision and mission expressed in your messaging?
  3. Are you speaking to your target audience or at them?
  4. Would you purchase a product / service from your company based on what you see from your marketing materials?

You may be surprised to find that your message is boring–extremely boring. Or you simply aren’t conveying an accurate message.

Step 2: Don’t feel down about Step 1–your findings do not mean your company is boring or unorganized or incompetent. It simply means your marketing message is not clear and accurate. Every business should regularly analyze how they’re projecting their brand personality and message.

Step 3: Ask friends, family, and colleagues if they would purchase from you based on your current marketing message. Make sure to ask people who will give you an unbiased opinion. If anyone says that he or she would not purchase from you, ask why. Perhaps your web copy does not project the correct business image, and you lose prospective customers who visit your site. Maybe your website design is jumbled and difficult for viewers to navigate through. Perhaps your website lacks a strong call to action or is simply boring.

Step 4: Now that you know where your website and other marketing materials need improvement, it’s time to revamp them and inject some brand personality. Whether you need web design work, a professional web copywriter, a blog marketing expert, or a social media guru, it’s important to find the right one who can provide you with the results you desire. Don’t hire just anyone. Do your research.

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Melissa F. Brown, LLC, Selects Sūmèr to Write Web Copy for New Website

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Melissa F. Brown, LLC, has chosen Sūmèr to write the web copy for new website. Melissa Brown represents clients exclusively in family law matters. The firm typically handles high-asset and high-income divorce cases across the state of South Carolina, including Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Hilton Head, Beaufort, Pawley’s Island, and Myrtle Beach. These cases involve complex issues: financial, tax, business valuation, and custody disputes including interstate and international ones.

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