Monday, November 11, 2013

Facebook's "New" Star Rating for Small Businesses Set to be a Gamechanger

By Vin Ferrer / Social Media Strategist, NJ Marketing Agency, Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

Seeing Stars? Facebook's latest change is star ratings for desktop viewers.

Less than a week ago, Facebook began unrolling a new 5-star rating feature for small businesses. Like large online software services and utilities often do, Facebook unleashed these changes without warning or announcement. Small businesses nationwide need to be made aware of just what implications this rating system carries with it. So we're here to shed some light on the situation:

Why Did They Do This? 

The star rating system is not a new feature, but instead one that just got moved from the mobile to desktop version. Facebook users since 2012 have had the option to rate your business via mobile device. Some businesses may have utilized this facet more than others, but predominantly, users did not fully take advantage of this function. Mobile check-ins and ratings were areas where users went to other channels like Foursquare of Twitter to announce and discuss.

However, Facebook is a powerhouse thinker and innovator. They're out to steer you away from those utilities, competing for more eyeballs. And as a business, they are also in the data mining industry--selling your gathered profile information anonymously to third parties for a premium. A new rating system allows them to sway a bit more traffic their way and better refine those profiles. It also gets small businesses more serious about social media in the process.

What Do 5-Star Ratings Mean For My Small Business?

For small business brands who can't afford to payoff huge data management firms to instantly attain 5 stars (unethical, yet to be expected), the game just got a bit more complex.

The star rating is prominent, appearing in blue just below your company name and right above the smaller number of likes, people talking about this, and people who have checked-in metrics shown in light grey.

Now Facebook puts a great deal of strategic thought into their user-friendly-focused design, so we are safely able to view this change with a marketing lens. The size and location of the star rating suggests a new focus for Timeline visitors and a bit of a lessened emphasis on "Likes," which oftentimes can be emotionless and ambiguous. This article by TechCrunch explains why. The very light level of grey gradient used to denote the absence of a star or part of a star serves to put an initial emphasis on the amount had and not the amount lacking. However, the overall positioning of this metric (immediately left of the profile picture and just below the profile banner) negate that attempt at lessening a poor rating's impact. Combined with society's need for best in class, ultra premium quality, a "some rather than none" attitude will not suffice. Small businesses need to get as close to 5 stars as possible.

Businesses in good standing within their immediate online communities will be sure to achieve a high rating right off the bat. This star rating will coax a new need to better interact and meet the needs of customers through social media--something social marketing mavens like Gary Vaynerchuk believe should be treated with the same importance as an in-person customer interaction.  

What's Bound to Happen? 

One of two things will come from this:

More than likely, Facebook's newest metric will create a momentary jolt for small business owners and entrepreneurs, a call-to-action of sorts to get their services in gear and remedy a way to get that rating fully filled as quickly as possible. Big brands will enlist expert third parties to "fluff" the average and manipulate outward consumer appearance--in much the same fashion as those companies discovered to have been paying for fake YouTube views in an effort to add a few million views to their videos, thus boosting the potential impact of said videos. To keep up, small businesses will need to put a greater emphasis on brand reputation management and engaging in the already-present conversation about their brand.

Less than likely? Facebook will drop the rating system all together, try their best to shrug off the defeat, and find another magical metric for small businesses to have to deal with. Since the 5-star rating has been in place for so long, and given the added burden of meeting shareholder quotas, this major move is likely to stick.

What's a Small Business Owner to Do? 

Firstly, don't panic. While this new metric is slowly being unveiled, one segment at a time, it will ultimately be on everybody's plate. Knowing is half the battle, so good job for already making yourself aware. High-five!

Next, you need to recognize social media's importance if you haven't already. Now, an even more complex and substantial rating system is coming your way. You can meet this challenge head on, or watch it start sucking the life out of your online presence. Your choice.

Thirdly, you can have a big effect on this metric. If it's low, you might not be meeting the needs and expectations of customers. Turn the conversation back to them, ask "how can we better our brand?" and start steering your ship to that goal. The quicker, more appropriate, and more qualified service you can provide, the greater your customer satisfaction will be.

Lastly, endure! Nearly all social media initiatives take time to see fruition. If things don't seem to be changing, don't lose heart but instead try an alternative way. Think about enlisting qualified experts to capture your voice and manage your content creation or your entire channel for that matter.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Marketing: The Ultimate Investment

By Vin Ferrer / Social Media Strategist, NJ Marketing Agency, Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

Quick tips and tricks are a dime a dozen in business. Yet very few are actually worth their weight.

The reason why most don’t work fully (or even at all) is because they are dead on arrival, doomed from the start. They harp on a business’ ability to leverage its greatest asset.

And the biggest asset that a business has is itself. Its outward projection to the world of its value, mission, and identity. Simply put: its brand.
When it comes to marketing your brand, you need to go all in. You need to commit. You need to invest in making your marketing efforts integrated and appropriate.

Now think big for a second. Red Bull is a perfect example. Started as an energy drink company, Red Bull as a brand now stands for an action-packed lifestyle that strives to be larger than life. It pushes the limits. Its stylish and sexy. It drops from outer space at 800mph speeds.

Yet at its core, it is still an energy drink seller. Nevertheless they chose to invest in themselves, their brand, and their marketing efforts. Because of successful marketing, they have a brand that’s an out-of-this-world success.

Now think of Nike—the king of successful marketing. From humble beginnings as a shoe company (their shoes were made using a waffle iron), Nike worked meticulously to market their products with unique messages in line with the brand they hoped to create. Superior athleticism, indomitable spirituality, and refined modern style are some of the calling cards they’ve come to be known for.

They were making shoes in their kitchen and a few years later being associated with the biggest names in sports. And it was all because of marketing.

Now back to you, your brand, your customers, and your goals.

You need to tell a story. You need to form a relationship with the customer. And that’s called marketing.  

If you offer a quality service, product or combination then you’ve nothing to fear. Take hold of the conversation, and start off with social media. It’s the most cost effective use for your marketing dollars. Next, look to establish a true presence with a fresh logo, site design, and other collateral thereafter.  

Stationery, business cards, and brochures should all integrate your logo flawlessly and communicate your brand’s voice with compelling copy. Keep your brand in sync and integrated across all media, and one day you’ll be having billboards made up to advertise your awesomeness.

Being flaky and deceitful isn’t going to get you there. Think about the straight-shooting politician who’s later discovered to be cheating on his wife. World War III happens, from which his once hallowed reputation can never recover. Unless you’ve got millions stashed away for such an occasion, listen up. You need to be authentic and honest. You need to get this right.

Bring the personal touches to the spotlight, shine a light on some noteworthy insights, and carve out a voice that’s original and on point with the identity you want for your company. Brands big (like 7/11) and small recognize the power a smart marketing effort can have in ensuring their future.

Make the right decision and invest in your brand. Look past the short-term expense and see it for the long-term investment that it truly is. You’ll be creating a value for your products and services that is one step closer to priceless.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Top Examples for Plumbing Truck Wraps

By Vin Ferrer / Social Media Strategist, NJ Advertising Advertising Agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

For the less glamorous services available in today's market like plumbing companies, differentiation may be a tall order. Still, this presents a unique opportunity for some well-placed and implemented creativity to help separate your brand from the rest of the competition.

The fundamentals of the business remain the same: a commitment to friendly, efficient, timely and effective service will gain you word-of-mouth notoriety. However, an easy way to spur that word-of-mouth along is with a properly executed truck wrap design or fleet branding effort for larger businesses.

Take a look at some of the eye-catching truck wrap designs we've created for plumbing companies and contractors. They certainly do scream quality, professionalism, and positivity--all before you even experience their service. When a company can do that without even lifting a finger, you can be sure business is moving in the right direction!

plumbing service truck wrap, plumbin truck wrap example 1, best plumbing truck wrap design 1
 Here's a retro-themed truck wrap design for a plumbing, heating and air company near Chicago. 
It took home silver at this year's New Jersey Art Directors Design Awards. 

plumber truck design, plumbing contractor design
 Here's one of our best plumbing truck wraps, designed for a Florida HVAC & plumbing service.

plumbing company fleet design, plumbing company fleet branding
 We had some fun with this unique lettering design for a Minnesota plumbing company.

plumbing company fleet branding
 A truly Americana-type retro design for this California-based plumbing & HVAC company.

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 Time-honored values and modern efficiency is communicated in this NJ-based plumbing company truck wrap.

best plumbing service design, best plumbing service truck design 
A modernized retro design for the fleet branding of this NJ plumbing & HVAC company.

best plumbing truck wrap design
 This Las Vegas HVAC & plumbing service has a truck wrap that really pops off "The Strip."

best truck design for plumbing industry

 One of our best mascot-themed  plumbing truck wraps & fleet branding designs immediately shows a rock-solid brand promise.

Graphic D-Signs, Inc - The Small Business Advertising Agency is a New Jersey based advertising agency serving the marketing needs of small business with logo and branding creation, web design and online marketing, print design and collateral development and traditional advertising and consultation services for Plumbing contractors and other small businesses of all industries.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Crowdsourcing Your Logo: Pretty Much The Worst Idea You’ve Ever Had

By Vin Ferrer / Social Media Strategist, NJ Marketing Agency, Graphic D-Signs, Inc

Imagine this.

You’re an auto mechanic working seven days a week to make ends meet. You save for a few years, purchase an old Thunderbird, and spend the next three years fixing it up at nights and between shifts. You finally finish working on it, and instead of hitting the road, you turn the keys over to a stranger.

They immediately drive into a tree.

Crowdsourcing your logo is exactly the same thing.

Any hardworking business owner, entrepreneur or self-respecting worker for that matter knows the true value of what they create. They spend time on the things that matter, that drive business, and that create ROI. Yet many still can’t seem to understand the importance of the finishing touches. Your logo is that finishing touch, which should accompany the customer through every part of their experience.

Your logo is your outward brand representation to the world. It’s your calling card and your handshake. It’s a slick paint job on that T-bird, covering the muscle-powered machine of a business that took years to perfect. A random passerby shouldn’t determine how it looks.

Such has been the case for some big businesses, most notably Yahoo!, which held a “30 Logos in 30 Days” campaign to discern its current logo. While at first glance this may seem like a great way to engage your followers and fans, the approach is spectacularly flawed. Here are the main reasons why:

The Average Joe isn’t a Logo Designer— A well-crafted logo is a strategic tool, blending aesthetics and business strategy. The ability to design one isn’t something innate, it’s an expertise garnered over years of training, experience, and practice with logos. That’s why it’s called logo “design” and not logo picking. They don’t grow on trees. 

Bad Logos Cost More Money–The quick fix is a popular notion nowadays; this is why there is such a boom in convenience-related products and services. People can’t wait. But the smart individual realizes how costly shortcuts can truly be.

Most likely the design factory is using quick templates and clipart to create their logos. They may even go so far as to flat out copy an existing logo they find online. Not only will their victims not be able to copyright their own logo, but they may also become engrossed in an expensive infringement suit.

While a well-crafted logo might cost more in the beginning, a poorly designed one will cost way more in the end.

Quality Takes Time— Look on at any piece of valuable art, gourmet meal, or Top-10 highlight on ESPN. There you’ll find the culmination of years of hard work and steadfast dedication. Why shouldn’t your logo be of the same high caliber? If you’re willing to wait out the necessary steps, it can be. But recognize, that it won’t be done in a day or a week. The old adage “Rome wasn’t built in a day” certainly holds true for this case.

If it’s going to last, all bases need to be covered through some extensive research, versioning, and forecasting. A design shop churning out hundreds of different designs at the drop of a hat should be a red flag.

The Crowd Doesn’t Know Your Needs—Why do lawyers spend so much time with jury selection before a trial? Because they want the best combination of people that will ultimately side with their perspective on the case at hand. They have their own agenda—winning the case—and their own motivations, goals and bottom-line needs.

Your business is the same way. It has its own particular needs, financial aspirations, and industry requirements. How can you expect a third party unaccustomed to your world to understand that?

Simply put: you can’t. You need a professional who knows how to speak at length about fonts and color patterns, whose storied portfolio boasts success stories similar to what you’re after.

In the age where businesses are trying to become more personable, more human and humane, and more insightful, the branding is make or break. Your logo is the face of that brand, and it’s in your best interest to ensure that it’s approachable, appropriate, and appeasing.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Google’s New “Hummingbird" Algorithm & What Small Businesses Need to Know

By Vin Ferrer / Social Media Strategist, NJ Marketing Agency, Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

It’s safe to say that business takes place in both the physical and Internet world, not just in separate ways but also as one.

Getting in front of your desired audience takes diligence, a working blend of organic SEO and well-placed content, and an individual or team with superior knowledge of the SEO game.

This little guy is meant to make your life better
This team needs to maneuver through your competition, financial resources, and a well-intentioned strategy to make SEO work for you. However, they must also work with Google – the constantly changing, unforgiving, always updating key to the searchability of your business online.  

Enter the "hummingbird" algorithm: Google's latest system overhaul meant to make their search engine even more accurate and efficient. The update boasts a deeper focus on user context and the multiple meanings words may have.  

An example of this might be if you searched “best place for dinner in town.” Instead of searching out entries to those listings that best contain your particular selection of keywords, it may search based on the underlying meaning – using your geographic location to locate brick-and-mortar establishments that have achieved a high consumer ranking. A number of other factors will also be used to forecast and put forward results based on the tremendous wealth of data Google sifts through, from a variety of online locations.

Going forward, a better emphasis will be placed on every word of a search query instead of simply the main keywords involved. The mission of Google is to better serve the consumer searching out a query, and this new algorithm is intended to do just that.

This system overhaul for the mega search engine is sure to not be without its fair share of kinks, and even though it was launched a month ago, Google only saw fit to announce it this week. For a more tech-savvy listing of the algorithm additions check out this story.

Small businesses may have already experienced a fluctuation in their search rankings; however, with this new-found knowledge, they can make strides to alter their SEO strategy accordingly.

A steady stream of high quality content is bound to still yield positive effects in SEO as this is one of Google’s hallmarks. The small business owner would do well to enlist the services of content creators or at the very least create such themselves to grow or maintain a positive online community and appearance.

Friday, September 13, 2013

CQC: The Content Quality Cycle & How Your Small Business Needs to See It

By Vin Ferrer / Social Media Strategist, NJ Marketing Agency, Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

"Content is king" is the moniker most social media experts propel nowadays. High quality (original, timely, & compelling) content is what's going to get your business the Likes, Followers, Pins and everything in between needed to make it an online powerhouse. This, in turn, will lead to new leads, clientele, and the next level of future success.

So what does that look like for small business?

It may seem like your spinning your wheels at the beginning of launching a social media strategy. Try as they might, most small business owners can't afford to spend time reviewing the latest update or piecing together the need-to-knows from an analytic report. Thankfully, we're here to break down an easy framework for how your content growth should reflect your business growth (with the goal being vice versa). We like to call it the CQC, or "Content Quality Cycle."

The CQC is an organic process, a cyclical flow of content to your online visitors. It's five easy steps that repeat each time your business matriculates into the next level of advanced service or product offerings. It's an easy way to begin to take charge of your social media output and start competing with the big dogs. Here's how:

1. Start with What You Have

The best content is fundamentally original: your company's own mission, ideas, products, services. Ideally, it will change the world. Realistically, it's an 87' Chevy sitting in the garage waiting for someone to show it some love. Basically it's the bare bones of what your business is all about. This is where you must be upfront about your core brand identity and what you bring to the table for consumers.

For example, McDonald's is a fast food restaurant with a variety of food and drink options, at locations worldwide. Sure, they aim to create an experience around it, but at the end of the day, they serve fast food.

2. Optimize for the Appropriate Channels

Here's where you need to put on your marketing cap and get in touch with your brand's voice. Is it young and cutting-edge or seasoned, witty and resourceful? Are you already an authority, or a promising hopeful? You'll need to answer this and speak to your customers in the same voice across different channels. With this voice in place, start refining your content into bite-sized pieces for the web. Blog postings, whitepapers, Top 10 lists--these are the basics to get you started on crafting something people want to read, hear or see.

Once you've got it created, it's time to broadcast it through the correct stream. Want to display a series of images? Pinterest works excellently, and a Facebook album could too. Must it be mobile? Instagram or even Vine might be your best bet. Is time of the utmost importance? Dish it out via Twitter.

Before going channel crazy and signing up for every social media site under the sun, relax and think about your end game. Who is your ideal consumer (demographics/psychoanalytic/etc)? The better picture you can paint of him/her/them, the better you can refine your content.

3. Start Delivering in a Routine Fashion

Throwback Thursday. Superbowl Sunday. The Fourth of July. All these events guarantee essentially the same thing: a special occasion and a point in time when it will occur.

You need to do the same with your content marketing strategy. Stop thinking about the best time to post and start thinking about an overall content creation protocol that fits your busy schedule. Write some posts over the weekend, snap a few candid shots Monday and Tuesday, and spend an hour or so surveying the other online thought leaders in your industry. Pretty soon you will start to see that you have enough content to maintain a substantial online presence.

Make it easy on your online community and post in a routine manner. Keep it truthful, high quality, and on topic for the best results. Look to your audience for feedback and new angles for future content. It will take some time, probably a few months at least, but you will start to see a steady increase if you stick to your guns and keep consistency.

4. Shift from Presence to Thought Leader

After several months of establishment, it's time to up the ante. Make a move towards becoming an expert in your field by way of content. Further refine your content output and cut out what's not working. Spend some extra time and see what's working for your competition. Then see if you can put your own spin on it, and really make it pop.

Did your main competitor write a blog post on back-to-school shopping tips that got a significant amount of shares? Strip that idea down, add in your own images and thoughts, change the angle, and publish a better post on the best back-to-school shopping guide you haven't seen yet. Go above whenever you can to differentiate your expertise or value proposition.

Do your homework, think outside the box, and back up opinions and inclinations with resources (links to articles, clips from videos, etc.) Remember, in order to establish dominance you must first maintain relevance.

5. Monitor Results

If you have been pushing down on the content marketing pedal for several months and have been getting some solid engagement and feedback, the success will start to show. You'll begin to see leads referencing conversations that started on social media or that point to a particularly insightful post they read. A continual output of high quality content will have created a steady generation of effective WOM (Word of Mouth) buzz - the ultimate goal of any online campaign.

Consumers turn to their social spheres for credited insight and opinion on the products and services they engage with. A testament to a successful social media campaign will be the offline conversations it generates amongst your target market segment. There are tracking tools that exist which can pick up on some instances of these conversations, but the truly effective conversions by conversation occur in the physical realm.

As your next level clients begin to roll in and you continue to maintain your output, there will naturally be a need to upgrade your efforts. The key here will be a continued emphasis on listening. Engaging with your customers appropriately will help you keep incoming business going.

Of course, it always helps to employ a social media management service to maximize this outlet's potential.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Before You Waste Money on a Truck Wrap, Read This!

By Vin Ferrer / Social Media Strategist, NJ Marketing Agency, Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

All it takes is a quick 5-minute drive through town and you're bound to see it.

A company truck, cruising amidst locals and commuters—usually with a ridiculous or bland advertisement—is quite literally your brand on wheels. Unfortunately, this effective means of mobile marketing is often reduced to a 5-ton waste, mostly because of poor execution.

Small businesses stand to reap the most from these in-area beacons of their brand, yet more often than not, poor execution of a truck wrap gets them negative impressions.

The problem is this: consumers make judgments on the quality of your business when they see your company trucks, cars, or other vehicles. An old and busted Buick with your logo suggests an old and busted company. Conversely, a slick looking truck wrap on a newer, well-kept model emits an aura of being a well put together business that’s going places. Proper fleet branding can land you new leads, notoriety, and in turn, new business opportunities.

One of the more expensive facets of marketing and operations, the company fleet may seem like the place to err on the side of saving. The less appealing model may seem like the proper choice because of the smaller price tag. However, business owners should consider this: the amount of money you are going to save on gas is the amount of money you are going to lose on marketing.

The clients we’ve worked with on fleet branding and truck wrap design have always experienced a noticeable growth in sales. Since consumers are always on the lookout for the next big thing, a stylish truck wrap with your brand’s integration is something that can garner immediate attention once it hits the roads.

truck wrap advertising, truck wrap design example
Our Award-winning truck wrap for Timo's Air Conditioning and Heating (Palm Springs, CA)

<a href='portfolio-vehicle-advertising' target='_parent'>View Gallery</a>
Prestige Plumbing, Heating & Cooling (North Aurora, IL)

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At Your Service Heating & Air (Spartanburg, SC)

If your worried about the cost-effectiveness of your fleet branding efforts, consider the tremendous ROI that some of our clients have experienced. An increase of over 800 percent in leads is nothing to shake a stick at, as one of our HVAC clients enjoyed soon after implementing our design. 

Not to mention the long-term marketing value this facet of marketing allows, take a moment to recognize the potential available. You have a chance to turn heads on a daily basis with your fleet branding.

Immediate differentiation, top-of-mind awareness, and positive impressions are always the result when effective truck wrap design is employed. If your progress has stalled, it just might be the key to kick-starting your success.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Imitation: the Sincerest Form of Intellectual Property Theft

By Vin Ferrer / Social Media Strategist, NJ Marketing Agency, Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

You see it everywhere: at the supermarket, in the media, and especially in business.


Allegedly the sincerest form of flattery, imitation is better defined in business terms as the polar opposite of innovation and the definitive deal-breaker for attracting prospects.

When it comes to the look and feel of a brand’s image – the entire point is differentiation.  In this age of sensory overload, your brand needs to stand out and stick in the minds of your target consumers. You want to ensure that you are the clear and decisive favorite, the industry standard, and the emerging legend. Our society’s insatiable need for top ten lists, best-in-show awards, and unforgettable experiences is a testament to how important this really is.

Original v. Conventional

No one wants to pay for an average or ordinary service. In fact, consumers will go out of their way to inform others against falling into the same trap in the event they do. So your brand must rise above.

That means innovation, novelty, and newness. The best way to do this is through your brand’s image. It’s the first interaction any potential consumer is going to have with your product or service, and it needs to be on point.

Take a moment and recognize the brands you know and love. In most every case, your affinity for each brand started with a promise made by their image—a logo, website design, or themed advertisement. It captivated you, impressed you, or maybe even peaked your interest. The bottom line: it promised a quality experience to follow, and it got you hooked.

The Road Less Traveled

When it comes to your brand’s image, the only thing that mimicking an already thriving company’s image accomplishes is setback. People always try to duplicate a proven method, but a petty copy/paste job for your brand’s image is more like shooting yourself in the foot. Using a replication of an already existing image for your own business communicates dishonesty, artificialness, and inferiority.

Our agency has experienced a number of instances in which other companies appeared to have near carbon copies of logos, images, and designs we worked hard to create for our clients. While small business owners may not be aware of the shortcuts a hired designer took to create their brand’s image, such will not excuse them from potentially being brought in to a costly trademark infringement case.
Our interconnected world and the competitive nature of consumers and businesses alike do everything to ensure that falsities in the public eye are realized and dealt with accordingly. Businesses need to recognize the expensive legal implications that exist when intellectual property is sampled or stolen.

Moreover, it puts a serious blow to your brand’s integrity, which in many cases can be fatal.

A Much Needed New Path

Repeatedly seeing the spitting image of the work we do for our clients is off-putting, but assuring. We are continually working to raise the bar for our craft and quality, and there’s bound to be some competitors who overstep the boundaries of flattery when they see spectacular design.

Public relation faux pas can be addressed. Unhappy customers can be appeased. But a lackluster brand image is something that requires much more legwork. Now more than ever, businesses must compete strenuously to gain, engage, and maintain their target market’s attention. Any inkling of averageness only makes it easier for consumers to remove your brand from the equation.

Thankfully admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Investing in your brand’s identity, image, and upkeep is critical to realizing the breadth of your potential. 

Due to pending litigation, we are not able to provide examples of our work being sampled.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Socially Acceptable: Social Media Strategy Crucial for Small Businesses

By Vin Ferrer / Social Media Strategist, NJ Marketing Agency, Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

It’s no secret that social media is the next big thing for small businesses, and for good reason.

More people are heading online to get their news. More people are searching online before making in-store purchases. And more people are connecting online with the ideas, stories, and brands they love – instantly.

Social media is the cohesive bond that seems to tie all this activity together. Every experience – personal, professional, and even paranormal—can now be shared with the world, for better or for worse, through social media.

Consider the facts: One of every seven seconds online is spent on Facebook (MediaBistro). Over one-fifth of the world’s Internet population actively uses Twitter (Yahoo!). And social media produces double the marketing leads of trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail, or PPC (Hubspot).

For businesses everywhere, social media means a seemingly limitless degree of insight into consumer behavior and feedback. It also means a new avenue to help them meet their major business goals. But particularly for small businesses, it means a huge chance to level the playing field with their corporate competition. Small businesses can now discover new audiences across the world, acquire the best talent available, more aptly calculate the effectiveness of campaigns, and quickly hear their customers’ biggest concerns. This can all be done through social media.

The main obstacle against them is time. The social media industry is as fast-paced as any, driven by the latest tech and biggest venture capital firms. For the average small business owner, keeping up with the latest updates, platforms and demands of social is a daunting task.

Most see it as a space that they simply need to fill. Yet, the cost-effective opportunity available through social is a beast onto itself that should not be left in the corner.

At GDS, we can help you fully leverage your social media presence in the easiest way possible for your small business. We have the top caliber strategies, the latest industry insights, and the creative capabilities to maximize your social media presence and truly make it work for you. Our cutting-edge services will integrate your desired business goals with thoughtful tactics and best practice to ensure that your brand stays relevant. Moreover, our masterful creative storytellers will make sure that your brand’s message shines through and reaches the proper audiences.

We can ensure your brand appears on the appropriate social media channels and is armed with a winning content marketing strategy, integrated email newsletter campaign, dynamic editorial calendar, and comprehensive metric analysis. We offer full management of your social media channels and brand campaign, so you can spend time on the things that matter most.

There’s no better way to reach your consumers than through a device they keep in-hand and at the ready. Our strategies and content creation encompass the increasing emphasis on mobile tech, as industry sources predict smartphone sales in 2013 to exceed 1 billion. Likewise, we go to great measure to stay at the forefront of the latest innovations by creating organic strategies that adapt as well as impress.

To learn why Graphic D-Signs should be your no-brainer choice for social media design, management, and strategy, view our full list of social media services.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What Goes Down Must Come Up

How to successfully market your small business in a down economy.

By Dan Antonelli / President & Creative Director, NJ Advertising Agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc.  

“Successful companies do not abandon their marketing strategies in a recession. They adapt them.”
John Quelch, Harvard Business School

So, like everyone else in the world (except for hedge fund managers and NBA stars) you’re feeling the effects of the sluggish economy. And like everybody else, you’re making cutbacks. Conventional wisdom says the first thing people slash in down times is their marketing. But conventional thinking doesn’t build too many lasting businesses.

The truth is, small businesses need to marketing themselves MORE in a down economy, because it’s an opportunity to introduce your brand to a whole new audience—while all the conventional guys are cutting back.

If you want to reach more customers in a down economy, here are a few great cost-effective ideas marketing ideas:
  • Update your website. Quick quiz: When was the last time you upgraded your company’s website? Was The Sopranos still on? If so, it’s time for a revamp. This goes double if you don’t have a mobile-friendly site (link to Going Mobile page). Here at Graphic D-Signs, we can hook you up with the coolest site around. Just check out some of our latest looks for proof (link to gallrey). 
  • Search Engine Optimization. It might not be all that glamorous, but ensuring that it’s easy for customers to find your site on search engines is one of the smartest things you can do. At this point, even great-grandmothers know how to google. Talk to us about an SEO plan today. 
  • Social, social, social. Alright, we admit it. Saying “Social Media is a great marketing tool” is sort of old news. But so are ice cream cones. And they sell like mad. If you get confused by all the Likes and Tweets and Check-ins, don’t worry. We’re super geeks with that kind of stuff. And it works. 
  • Vehicle Wraps. This is a no-brainer. Got a van? Then you’ve got a billboard. Better yet, a billboard with wheels. Graphic D-Signs has one of the best vehicle wrap design teams in the country. We’ll make sure you get noticed every time you hit the road. It’s one of the most cost-effective ways to get your name out. After all, you’re going to be driving anyway, right? Might as well score some new customers while you’re at it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Semantic Soup: Marketing vs. Advertising

By Danielle Avenoso / Senior Brand Strategist & Marketing DirectorNJ Marketing Agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

In our industry, the terms advertising and marketing are routinely viewed as one in the same—and with the growth of non-traditional media, social media and the digital landscape, the lines are increasingly blurred. While advertising and marketing are both important to long-term business success, they are different components of a tactical communication plan. When you understand the differences, you’ll be better prepared to allocate funds and establish a strategy for business growth.

It’s easy to see how advertising and marketing are commonly confused, since they both play a role in generating brand awareness and driving sales. So, what’s the difference?
Think of it this way.

Marketing is the big picture that includes how your company differentiates itself, builds relationships, and promotes/sells/distributes services and products.

Your marketing plan may include a number of different components such as:

·      Logos
·      Websites
·      Social media
·      Marketing collateral (brochures, flyers, data sheets)
·      Packaging & displays
·      Trade shows
·      Press releases & publicity events
·      Door-to-door & personal sales
·      Advertising (print, online and vehicle) 

Advertising is just one facet of this marketing process.    

Here’s where it gets dicey. Whether you’re a startup or well-established business, it’s tough to determine how much money you should spend on marketing and advertising.  Advertising tends to be one of the most expensive ways to market your business. While print ads, pay-per-click campaigns and radio/TV commercials could yield worthwhile returns, there may be more affordable ways to achieve your marketing goals. Email marketing, networking, social media and publicity are inexpensive—and can go a long way to spreading the word about our business.
One of the best things about working with GDS? We’re not advertising salespeople—and we never try to sell you what you don’t need. Instead, we are marketing masters: working with you to develop holistic communication tactics for your business. Tailoring full-service marketing solutions to your budget and business objectives, we develop short- and long-term strategies that guide your advertising decisions. Then, we evaluate your marketing strategy at regular intervals to adjust to the changing market climate—because what works today may not be the best solution for tomorrow. 

To learn more about developing a comprehensive marketing strategy for your business, contact a GDS team member today. Already have a marketing plan in place? We can help you create impactful advertising, websites and social media platforms while keeping your image consistent across all media. Give us a ring and get started today.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

ADCNJ 2013 Honors NJ Advertising Agency Graphic D-Signs with Nine More Accolades

By Dan Antonelli / President & Creative Director, NJ Advertising Agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

GDS was proud to be one of the top award winners at the recent 50th annual Art Directors Club of New Jersey (ADCNJ) Awards, where our team took home nine total awards for web, logo, vehicle and print design. Held at the Birchwood Manor in Whippany, NJ, the ADCNJ Awards recognize industry excellence in New Jersey advertising, marketing and creative strategy.

Sure - we’re proud of the awards, because they affirm our efforts to provide targeted branding and marketing solutions for small businesses. But we’re even more excited about the results we continue to achieve on behalf of our clients: for web design, print marketing, social media and turnkey advertising strategy. It’s your success that inspires us!

ADCNJ Awards Categories
  • Gold Award, Advertising: Consumer (Out-of-Home Advertising: Billboard, Transit, Posted or Painted Bulletin) for Town & Country, a heating and air company serving KS and MO.
  • Silver Award, Advertising: Consumer (Out-of-Home Advertising: Billboard, Transit, Posted or Painted Bulletin) for Main Street Heating and Cooling, a Utah based HVAC contractor.
  • Silver Award, Advertising: Consumer (Out-of-Home Advertising: Billboard, Transit, Posted or Painted Bulletin) for Prestige, an indoor comfort expert based out of Illinois.
  • Silver Award, Advertising: Consumer (Out-of-Home Advertising: Billboard, Transit, Posted or Painted Bulletin) for Mr. Handy, a handyman professional located in Las Vegas.
  • Bronze Award, Design: Corporate & Promotional Design (Booklet and Brochures:12 pages or more, 4/C or more) for Main Street Heating and Cooling, a Utah based HVAC contractor.
  • Bronze Award, Design: Corporate & Promotional Design (Trademarks, Logos:Brand) for Main Street Heating and Cooling, a Utah based HVAC contractor.
  • Bronze Award, Design: Corporate & Promotional Design (Trademarks, Logos: Corporate) for Metromedia Energy, energy partner and marketer.
  • Bronze Award, Design: Consumer Design (Website Design: Consumer) for Harrell King, a HVAC contractor located in GA.
  • Bronze Award, Design: Consumer Design (Consumer Design: Business to Business) for Coffin  Turbo Pump, a New Jersey based high-pressure turbo pump manufacturer.
Images of Our Award-Winners

Graphic D-Signs Continues to Grow!

Our 14-member creative team consists of illustrators, designers, developers and copywriters whose work has been published in dozens of magazines, trade publications and graphic design books. Our specialized marketing services include: logo design, brand identity strategy, website design and development, print collateral, marketing materials and social media campaigns. In addition, we offer full-service retainer agreements designed to manage all of your advertising--soup to nuts--so you can get back to running your company.

If you’re already a Graphic D-Signs client, thank you! We value your business, and plan to continue wow-ing you with our award-winning creativity. If you’ve been thinking about partnering with us, now is the time! Make sure your logo, brand and website are garnering the attention they deserve: call today to discuss your small business advertising and marketing needs!

Dan Antonelli is the President and Creative Director of Graphic D-Signs, Inc, a NJ advertising agency specializing in small business advertising, marketing, and brand development.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Top Fleet Branding and Truck Wrap Examples

By Dan Antonelli / President & Creative Director, NJ Fleet Branding Agency Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

Fleet branding and truck wraps provide the best ROI for your business.

The best fleet branding and truck wraps start with a great brand and logo.

Here's some examples of our favorite small business truck wraps and fleet branding we've designed at Graphic D-Signs - The Small Business Advertising Agency. You'll note how after we first designed their brand identity, we made sure that the branding was able to be integrated into the fleet wrap design and fleet branding. Several of these award-winning HVAC wrap designs have been featured in various trade magazines catering to heating and air contractors, including HVACR Magazine which awarded GDS 7 awards in the last three years.

The key to effective fleet branding is the brand itself. Start with a poor brand, and your bound to have a poor fleet wrap design. The primary reason why most wraps today are failures from a marketing perspective is because the business has a poor brand. Effect fleet branding requires a very specific expertise and understanding about brand implementation.

Below are several examples illustrating effective fleet branding. Note that none deploy photographs of any kind. Resist the urge to have photos on your vehicles. It's a common mistake many businesses make. Photos don't reinforce your branding - they take away from it instead. Every inch of photography on your truck is less space for your brand. Remember - keep your messaging simple, and brand centric.

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Fleet branding and vehicle wrap design for an HVAC company in San Antonio, Texas.
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Unique fleet branding and vehicle wrap design for an electrical contractor in PA.

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Retro-themed fleet branding and vehicle wrap design for an HVAC company.

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A cute retro character forms the foundation for this fleet branding.
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Fleet branding and truck wrap design for an HVAC company in San Antonio, Texas.

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Fleet branding integrating a retro theme into the wrap design.

Retro themed truck wrap example and fleet branding for a plumbing, heating and air company near Chicago.

Truck wrap example showing effective brand integration and fleet branding for a heating and air contractor in Fayeteville.

Fleet branding
Award-winning retro-themed fleet branding and truck wrap for heating and air firm in Palm Springs, CA. We also handled their branding and web site.
Retro themed fleet branding for an HVAC company in Union, NJ
Retro fleet branding and truck wrap design for a heating and air conditioning company.

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Fleet wrap example for an HVAC company in Oklahoma.

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Award winning truck wrap design and fleet branding for heating and air conditioning company in Chicago area.

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HVAC Truck wrap example and rebranding for heating and cooling company in Tacoma, WA. This company had their leads via their trucks increase four-fold since rebranding their fleet.

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Award-winning mascot design and fleet branding on this retro-themed truck wrap design for this NJ HVAC contractor.

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Award-winning Fleet graphic example and identity development for HVAC contractor in Florida, which won 2012 Tops in Trucks for HVACR Magazine.

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Retro themed van wrap for HVAC company in Utah.

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Fleet wrap design for HVAC company in San Diego, CA.
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Award winning retro truck wrap and fleet branding example for HVAC contractor in FL.

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Retro truck wrap and fleet branding for HVAC company in Georgia.

Truck wrap and fleet branding example for an HVAC company in Falmouth, MA.

Graphic D-Signs, Inc - The Small Business Advertising Agency is a New Jersey based advertising agency and fleet branding design firm serving the marketing needs of small business with logo and branding creation, web design and online marketing, fleet branding, print design and collateral development and traditional advertising and consultation services for HVAC contractors and others.