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Astute Graphics and the design plugin uprising

Interview with Nick van der Walle, head honcho at Astute Graphics, that has found a niche creating design software plugins for Adobe Illustrator.

We’ve been working with Nick for a few years now but Ben wanted to dig a little deeper into his background and how he’s built a successful company with a predominately US audience from rural Herefordshire.

Nick also takes us through his development process, the importance of a great product and 2 tips.

Contact Nick and his team on Twitter, Facebook or website.

Simple ways to build your brand

Few business leaders these days can ignore the impact that social media has on their organisation, but how many don’t really understand how to interact or engage with it? Quite a few I’d wager. Yet social media is an open connection to the largest community in the world, and as such our social media personality can have a significant impact on us, and our company’s reputation, it’s sales and ultimately, its survival.

Lets take Twitter, for example. Does it really matter that we use some funky obscure handle that makes us look a bit fun and quirky? Well, actually yes it does, the simpler our profile name, the better.

  • To build your brand successfully you need a twitter handle that is going to work for your particular circumstance. For example, if you’re trying to build a strong personal brand then focus the handle name, avatar and bio on yourself. On the other hand, you could use your company name before your own name, which will not only build the company brand but will put a personality to the company name.
  • Make the most of your profile picture. Research shows that customers are more endeared to a company if they can associate a real person.
  • Write a bio that matches your branding, based upon your skills and interests.
  • A Twitter background that matches your website can help to create a more consistent brand. You can also use it for contact information or products.
  • Build up your reputation by regularly tweeting your knowledge or links to your area of expertise. The more you tweet about your topic of interest and knowledge then the more people will remember you when they need your expertise.

Ultimately, branding and marketing is about the long haul, you can’t set up a twitter account and leave it to do it’s thing, it needs investment of time and active participation, and only those who do that will see the real benefits.


The Builder’s High

If you’re feeling down, build something says Rands.

“When I am in a foul mood, I have a surefire way to improve my outlook – I build something. A foul mood is a stubborn beast and it does not give ground easily. It is an effort to simply get past the foulness in order to start building, but once the building has begun, the foul beast loses ground.”

Like Rands, I often find building lego models with my children settles the mind after a day with my head in a screen or two. There’s a simple pleasure to it, something I can plan, build and complete in 20 minutes after dinner.

Sadly larger scale projects like my office, a truly blank slate in the garden, require a little more consideration and “consumption” of information before I feel ready to begin.


The Little Free Library

Heart warming video about a book sharing idea that brings a little light and colour to Hackney’s residents.

The Little Free Library – Clapton from Lucio Casellato on Vimeo.

“Sharing, free knowledge, information, technology, education, future, happiness, beauty, these are only some of the things people stop to talk about in front of the Little Free Library. This is a little ‘house’ in the middle of Clapton with free books and knowledge for all, just come over and take a book, give a book. Or maybe have a conversation about the destiny of mankind, or hear a poem, stop and think.”

Try new things and experiment, especially where they involve giving first.


Why We Love Top 10 Lists

Good article in Fast Company on why people like round numbers and why you shouldn’t be on the wrong side of them, numbers that is not Fast Company.

“lumping things into round-number groups and viewing everything outside them as inferior. So the difference between items ranked No. 10 and No. 11 feels enormous and significant, even if it’s actually quite minimal or unknown.”

The following paragraph is particularly useful to know

“In another experiment, Isaac and Schindler found that when test participants were exposed to a sharp1-numbered list–like a Top 19–their perceived gap between 10 and 11 diminished. The business lessons for the Number 11s of the world is pretty clear: crack the Top 10 at whatever the cost or change the reference point to Top 12.”

1 Not ending in 0 or 5

Social media – What’s all the fuss?

Marketing used to be about companies pushing their ads in front of people in order to sell; now it’s about engagement with the audience. There has always been competition in business but with such a plethora of options these days, companies must stand out in a very positive way, they almost have to seduce potential clients like a new sweetheart.

Less than a decade ago, few people thought of social media as a useful channel for online marketing, now small businesses are embracing it and are reaping the benefits with increased customer engagement and sales. From Facebook to Twitter and Instagram to LinkedIn, some of the savviest businesses are establishing a presence on social media and capitalising on the massive exposure available from it.

Whichever social media platform you choose will depend on your individual preferences of course, but to some extent the nature of your business can determine the most suitable for your purposes. LinkedIn for example is the platform of choice for some professionals because of the more formal nature of their business services, whereas Facebook and Twitter are less formal, and reflect more of an individual’s or company’s personality, while still providing opportunities to promote the business. Twitter gives valuable exposure to small businesses and Pinterest is highly visual, which businesses can benefit from using the impact of images to attract interest.

Once we’ve identified the best platform(s) for our business we cannot rest on our laurels. Continued interaction is important in keeping people interested and they will, in turn, reward us with their loyalty, and their custom.

Content can go out-of-date very quickly and if we are not updating it, our followers may just head off somewhere else. Also, we can get insights into what is being said before it ever becomes a problem. The best performing businesses constantly monitor and measure activity and responses and adapt their strategies accordingly.

Social media is a stage upon which we can stand, view the landscape and make a judgement about where we need to be heading to effectively market and promote our business. It reaches the ears of so many more potential opportunities than was ever possible before its invention. It does the hard work connecting us to the people that matter to our business and we reap the rewards.

Who owns your LinkedIn contacts?

An interesting article on Muddy Wall about the legal ownership of your LinkedIn contacts.

“Back in the day life was so simple. Mobile phones didn’t exist, your favourite 80’s pop star was still a good guy and all of your contacts were saved on your rollerdex which sat, OCD like, in a strict alphabetical order on your desk at work. Therefore, when it came time to change jobs it was as easy as packing up your Sony Walkman and rollerdex, and swanning into the sunset like John Wayne. Times however have changed.”

It reminded me of a drinks company we spoke to about their social strategy. We asked what would happen when the young people they promoted and sponsored, grew out of their target market and took off with their Facebook and Twitter followers. It wasn’t something they’d even considered but it got them thinking about the ownership of the Twitter account. I’m sure this isn’t a problem with a well managed transition though.

While the legal case mentioned in the article might now serve as a precedent I’m not sure it’s important where our contacts are stored but whether we’re allowed to make use of them when we’re no longer employed in or contracted to the company in which they were gained.

“A lot of employment contracts also contain non-solicitation or non-dealing clauses which restrict employees from approaching clients of the company for a certain period after their employment. This has proved a safer approach for companies wishing to take legal action against former employees where they may not have a social media policy in force.”



Image courtesy of Pexel

Customer Care or Computer Care?

I recently required the services of an out-of-hours GP (yes, I know, silly me) only to be put through to the new NHS 111 service. My answers to the operator’s questions were duly guided through a computerised diagnostic tool and a paramedic dispatched to treat the cardiac arrest I wasn’t having. I don’t even want to contemplate what this cost the NHS but I’m guessing the difference between a paramedic being sent out to a rural area versus the patient ably making their way to a surgery to see an out-of-hours GP is quite extensive. (more…)

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