Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Do you want to make it easier for prospects to find your company? Google Places and QR Codes—can help.


Most of my clients are small business owners and that means they have a tight budget. One of the easiest (and free) things you can do to help your business get visibility online is to create a Google Place account.


Yellow pages are a thing of the past, I realized recently, thanks to my 10-year old son. The internet connection was down one Saturday afternoon (sigh) and I had to reach into a cabinet and pull out an old, dusty, yellowed copy of the Yellow Pages to look for a phone number of the local fish supply store (don’t ask why). “What’s that?” asked Omar, as I heaved it on to the kitchen table. Could it be possible that this child has never seen a Yellow Pages book before? Explaining the value of the handy guide was as difficult (almost) as explaining to him the workings of a rotary dial phone.


Next question: “Why would anyone look through a yellow pages book when you can search on Google much faster?” When the Internet was not around of course we all relied on the wealth of information offered up by the yellow pages. Not so much these days.


Creating a Google Place account is like taking out an ad in the yellow pages – except it won’t cost a penny and you can make changes whenever you like. It certainly helps people find your company when searching on Google. And lets face it, who isn’t on Google these days? More and more prospects are searching for local, reliable goods and services online, and Google is still the leading Search Engine.


So, go ahead and create a Google Places account. Be sure to complete your listing with Description, Hours, Contact info, Website Link, Logo, Images, Reviews, etc. AND – since Google loves Google – your website ranks higher thanks to the 30 minutes you spent creating a places page. The wonderful, thoughtful people at Google will even send you a decal stating that you are a “favorite place” along with a handy QR code. You can place this on your storefront – if you have one – and incase someone walks by and wonders what you sell – they can zap the QR code on their smart phone and zoom into your business!


You look puzzled. You are probably wondering, “What is a QR code?”. “QR” is short for “Quick Response”. According to Wikipedia (yes, I Googled QR code” and this is what I found):


“A QR code (short for Quick Response) is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.


So what is the big deal about QR codes? You may have seen them on newspaper ads (especially car manufacturers). You will need a “decoder” on your smart-phone (I have “QR Reader” – a free app – on my iPhone). When you launch this application it uses your phones camera to detect and read a QR code from a printed ad or even from a computer screen. Then it takes you directly to the URL specified on the QR code.


You are probably wondering how this could help your business. Right. I wondered the same thing. Then it struck me! (It’s so obvious that I have to admit I am embarrassed). QR Codes can be used anywhere – for anything! I see you are still scratching your head. Let me clarify.

Basically a QR code can take your potential customer to a specific URL. What you put on that URL is up to you. A Coupon? A Video? Your Google Place Page?


1. You can use the QR code on your email signature (if you don’t have an email signature – you better stop reading this blog and go to my previous one). When used in your email signature, the user can “read” your contact info, website or any special offers!


2. Place the QR code on an ad, brochure or even a coffee mug – and suddenly you can “talk” as much as you like! Your prospect can even see a video, go to your website… get coupons! Wow. Now a postage stamp sized ad can actually work! And, you can make changes to the URL without even touching your printed piece. So go ahead – print up 10,000 copies and still keep everything current.


3. Include the QR code on your website and the viewer can download and save your address, access a Google map for directions, etc. or again, get coupons directly on their smart phone.


In the day and age of smart-phones, this is simply genius!


Here are some useful links:

http://www.google.com/places/

http://www.sitemapdoc.com/QR-Generator.aspx


And when you are ready to include your very own QR code on your marketing materials – you know you whom to call.


Aparna Mulchandani,

Creative Director


TWO BY TWO, LLC


www.twobytwodesign.com

aparna@twobytwodesign.com

201-684-1515


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Email Signatures

“Why?” you ask?


Many (read most) of the people I receive emails from don’t use an email signature feature. Why do you need it?

1. Its quickly provides your contact info – incase someone actually needs to call you

2. It can provide your address – incase someone needs to actually see you in person or send something in the mail.

3. It can even include your fax number – if – just incase – someone actually needs to fax you something.


The Basics.

Believe it or not – even though email is the preferred means of communication these days (even for yours truly) every once in a while I do call, visit, fax and mail! And that is when I have to dig through my antiquated Rolodex (yes – I do have one – and I am planning on keeping it for this very reason).

So why not have an email signature at the end of every message you send? Only if you want to remind people of important information – even a link to your website maybe? Who doesn’t need more web traffic?


Be sure to include:

1. Main Phone Number (include the extension number - if you have one)

2. Cell phone (if you don’t mind people calling you on that line)

3. Address

4. Fax Number

5. Website (and link to it)


The Not-So-Basics.

I went a few steps further – not only do I have “The Basics” - I included my tagline (very proud of it – and it tells people what I do), a link to my Google Calendar (makes it easier for people to see my availability for meetings). And – wait for it – even a link to receive online payments. Now my clients have no excuse to pay their bills on time.


“Why Not?” I say.

Depending on the software program you use for your emails – you can get creative. Change colors, fonts, size, etc. Being a Graphic Designer, of course, I had to design my signature so it follows my brand identity. There. I said it. It’s a part of my brand. Why not? It’s free. It looks professional. And, gosh darn it, people like it!

Even if you don’t own a business or work for a company, why not add your phone number? Admittedly, I do like the phone ringing once in a while.


Best Regards,
Aparna Mulchandani


TWO BY TWO
Collaborate. Create. Communicate.


17 S Franklin Tpk | Suite 300 | Ramsey, NJ 07446
P 201.684.1515 | C 201.264.3232 | F 201.221.8898 | skype: aparna.mulchandani

www.TwoByTwoDesign.com

Link to Aparna’s Calendar:
http://twobytwodesign.com/contactus/google-calendar.htm

To make an online payment please click here:
http://twobytwodesign.com/contactus/2x2cc_form.htm


Join us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/collaborate.create.communicate

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving. Bring it on.

This is going to be a monumental Thanksgiving at our home. I don't usually like to brag, but this year, we are READY!

First, I should give you some background info: we moved into a new house about 6 weeks ago. Are all the boxes unpacked? No. But I am completely ready for the arrival of 7 family members who will stay with us for the 4-day weekend. And, if you are doing the math, that means, 5 boys, 6 adults total.

So here's how I did it

1. Delegate Delegate Delegate.

The kids really look forward to a traditional thanksgiving meal (and actually - so do I). I had the good fortune of realizing and admitting to myself (and now the whole world) that I really would not know what to do with a Turkey. Look, I grew up in India. There was no Thanksgiving, let alone Turkey. So - to ensure the safety of all involved - I placed an order with Whole Foods for the whole nine-yards. Turkey, sides, dessert, bread. Dinner. Done.

2. Recruit some helpers.
So moving into a new house, I realized I had a new pile of mis-matched linens. I thought about throwing the whole lot out and starting over. But then realized that would be a costly affair. So, I looked around and realized that an 8 year old and a 10-year old were sitting around doing nothing. So, I asked the kids to help me figure out which sheets fitted which bed. That kept us busy for half a day - but by the end of it - we had beds for every body, sheets that fit the beds, and even towels for everyone!

3. Break up large projects into bite sized chunks.
As I mentioned above - we moved into a new house about 6 weeks ago - and yes, there are still unpacked boxes in some corners. Staring at these unpacked has been torturing me. I have a pile in my office, another stack next to the TV. So... I decided to empty one box per evening.... progress! By this time next week - I will be done!

So, whether you are getting a website ready for your business, or hosting Thanksgiving Dinner, don't get overwhelmed! Delegate tasks you don't have the expertise to handle, ask for help when possible, divide a large project into small chunks.

Now, back to work...

- Aparna Mulchandani
Creative Director at Two by Two Design
(An award winning Graphic Design and Website Development firm based in Ramsey, NJ 07446
Check out our website: www.TwobyTwoDesign.com

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ten things you should do to build an effective website. Fast.

Recently we got an email from a very concerned client. Seems like he signed off on a website project 2 years ago and has yet to see it completed. “Unacceptable” we said.

Why in the world would it take 2 years to create a simple website you may ask. Well, unfortunately blaming the designer was not an option. Seems like the client had 4 decision makers and for some reason, every file we sent took a month to get feedback on. Plus, they were VERY slow in providing us basic content and guidance.

So, I thought it would be wise to put together a punch list for anyone who may be looking to create (or recreate) a website.

Ten things you should do to build an effective website. Fast.


  1. Look at your competition. Your site should look better, work smarter and be easier to find then your competitions.
  2. Make a list of possible domain names. (If you don’t have one already). The name should be as short as possible. Easy to remember. Easy to spell. If you have a domain name already that does not fit the above criteria, purchase a new one.
  3. Purchase a hosting account from the same place as your domain name was purchased
  4. Make a list of "pages" that will appear on your navigation bar (Home, About Us, Services, Testimonials, Contact us).
  5. Jot down a few bullet points of text that would appear on each page. There should be some copy on each page. Not only for search engines, but your clients as well. Nothing is worse than going to a website and seeing “this page is under construction”.
  6. Make a list of key words that you would expect someone to search to be able to find your site.
  7. Once you have a few bullet points listed and a list of keywords for each page, you or a copyrighter can expand them into paragraphs of text.
  8. The Home page must contain some pertinent text including key words (not just images, and definitely NOT all in Flash). The home page is critical for Google and other search engines to find you.
  9. If you have pictures you would like to use on the site, collect them together so that you can hand them over to the website designer. Pictures are important to create an aesthetically pleasing site. Whether you are a Financial Consultant or a graphic designer. Use images that convey your overall message. If you don't have pictures, fear not. Your design team will come up with some really cool ones.
  10. Collect all these pieces and walk, no run, to your web designer.

When you sign off on a web design project contract and you provide the design firm all of the above, they can hit the ground running. Instead of 2 years, we should really get it up and running in 2 weeks!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Green Christmas and Eco-friendly Type

Well, I think we are all really questioning everything this year.
If not the economy, then the environment. And if not that then its politics. 
And terrorism.

I was shocked to hear that one of my clients took her grandchild to see Santa at FAO Schwartz in NYC - only to find that "santa" was in a green suit and when the child sat on his lap - he asked "What have you done for the environment this year". Forget the 4 year old - I was horrified. I can deal with the e-cards - but this is going a bit too far don't you think?

Don't get me wrong - I believe in "green". I have had my cloth grocery bags for over 5 years - long before they became a fashion statement. My office building doesn't recycle so I lug the recycleables from the office home every 2 weeks so the truck can pick them up. We even use both sides of the many reams of paper we print on.

Then this morning I found this piece of news: 
http://tech.yahoo.com/news/ap/20081222/ap_on_hi_te/tec_techbit_ink_saving_font

I think this is really going too far, don't you think? To reduce emissions is fine. The e-cards make complete sense to me. We are doing it ourselves this year here at Two by Two Design.  But to mess with a type face is just plain shocking. Almost as bad as the Green Santa. Some things should just be left alone. Or should they? Hmmmm... I guess if it does save ink - its good. But what if it looks aweful? 

Bad design - That is another form of pollution in my world. So, lets stick with some traditions this holiday, ok? 


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama win - a Miracle in Marketing!

By now you must have seen or heard the news and have come to realize that our next President will be Barack Obama.

No matter what your political views may be - you have to agree - this was a huge marketing challenge for Obama. 

Lets pretend for a moment that "Obama" was a business (ok - stretch your imagination for a few minutes people - ah! I heard something pop!)... 

Whether you think of him as a product or a service, consider all the obstacles in the path to success:
1. Unusual name 
2. Different "packaging"
3. New to the market (compared to his competition)

Yet, he was able to win the trust of the American people. 
Effective marketing has so many elements and he really nailed every one of them:

1. A consistent message
2. Strong branding (logo, website, collateral materials)
3. Attractive - likeable personality
4. A formidable support team
5. Talked about the benefits - not features

All these elements play a role in marketing. So, whether you are running a business - or running for president... think about marketing more effectively!

No wonder he won :) 

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I received a call from a client today asking whether we could rearrange a logo so that it would fit into a small space. 

My immediate thought was "No!". Nike would never do that, right? Infact, you don't suppose anyone would even dare to ask Mr. Nike's designer to do such a horrible thing. But, the client said - we have a small space on the facade of the building. The logo will work as it is - but will get very small. So lets rearrange it so that the icon goes behind the words. 

Oh dear. Every thing I have ever seen or learnt in the last 12 - or 13 years - says "no". So I figured I would reach out to my friends and see what the masses think. Feel free to take the poll, send your comments or let me be tormented by this by myself. Either way - the client will do what he pleases, I am sure. :)