Before and After Website: Parrot Creek Child & family Services

It was a great pleasure to help Parrot Creek Child & Family Services with their new website.  We are launching the new site early November 2015.  We wanted to share with you the great things they do and to give you a sneak peak to their new site!  If you or someone you know works in a non-profit and need help on branding web design or anything in the realm of marketing, contact Spot!  We happily offer discounts to licensed 501c3 entities.

Mission

Parrott Creek Child and Family Services, in partnership with others, helps families and youth identify strengths and develop skills that build stronger families and safer communities.

Values

  • We are a place of great hope and care.
  • We believe in the capacity for troubled youth to change—and change starts with accountability.
  • We never quit on a child and his or her family—we’ve seen too many lives transformed, futures secured and dreams attained
  • Clackamas County is our home, too. And like all who reside here we want our communities to be safe and healthy

Belief

One of the most important things we have learned over the last 40 plus years is that it is not just the child or individual family member in crisis who needs support and care. It is the entire family. That’s why our programs are built to support the whole family—including parents, siblings, grandparents, or any other significant individuals involved in your family dynamic.

We believe that with whole family involvement, our chances of helping any individual or family experience lasting change are exponentially greater.

We also recognize that some families may require assistance that is beyond our doors.  The bottom line is this: if we can’t help a family, we’ll help them find someone who can.  Once they call us, they are not alone.

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Email your clients a virus (just kidding)

How a negative email turned into a positive experience.

A few months back one of my employees sent me an email with an attachment saying, “I can’t open this, can you? Is this from one of our clients?” I glanced at the email, saw it was from one of our valued clients and opened the doc. Uh-oh!

Thank god it wasn’t a terrible destroying type of virus, but it was a “phishing” email trying to collect as many emails as possible. It started sending the same email to all 3000+ friends, family and clients in my in contact list.

Within two hours my phone was ringing off the hook and my email was jammed. “Why are you sending me this? Did you mean to send me this? How do I open it?” On and on for the next 48 hours, argh!

Ok, so this experience was annoying and embarrassing, but it was also delightful! I heard from clients and friends that I haven’t heard from in years. We were reconnected! We set up lunch appointments and happy hours, I had past clients wanting new work, referrals were passed, the list went on and on.

When was the last time you reached out to your clients?

In a way it was one of the best “mistakes” I had made. Marketing 101: Reach out and stay on the top of people’s minds. We tell our clients this all the time. Why? Because it works. You don’t want to be selling to your clients all the time, that would get annoying and become of the best reasons for them to unsubscribe from your list. Instead, reach out to say “Hello” and see how things are going. Send along a cool article or give them some nugget of information that may help them with their business or personal life. That’s the good stuff! There are six types of emails that you can send to stay connected to clients without overwhelming their inbox. Let them know you value their opinion by sending a short survey, you can even offer an incentive to encourage a response and thank them for their time. Another great way to keep in touch is by sending a holiday email, this type of email is a great way to connect on a more personal level and build relationships. Those little touches can make a huge difference, please don’t send them a virus, but do stay in touch!

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Internships in Marketing

Is it time to find an intern?

If you are a small business owner, at one time or another you may have thought “I have no time for marketing or social media, maybe I will hire a marketing intern to do it for me!” How did that go? I laugh because I have had that same thought. Over the 14 years that I have owned Spot Color Marketing, we have brought on several interns. While none of them took over our marketing, they did help.

We have had design interns, marketing interns, and even development interns. Some of them lasted for a couple of days, others did their 3 month internship and became full time employees that stayed for a couple of years. A few have even turned into our top employees.

A couple of things to think about when hiring an intern:

Don’t think of an intern as “free labor”. The internship isn’t really supposed to help the company as much as it helps the intern. Internships are best if there is someone in your office who will take the time to teach and train. Some interns can be very time consuming and will ask 20 times a day how to do something, while some just ask my favorite question, “What’s next?”

The best marketing internships we have had are the ones where we took the time to create a detailed plan for them before they started. For example, if you want someone to write Facebook and twitter posts, write up the content calendar for them ahead of time and have the topics decided upon. Definitely review all their work before anything is posted. Jeff Selin, agency owner and friend, says an intern could easily ruin your business and reputation in 5 minutes by posting something inappropriate. OYE! That might be the worst case, but it could happen! Do not let your intern run your marketing.

  1. Be prepared for your intern
  2. Be available to teach and train your intern
  3. Don’t expect them to be a social media genius just because they are young!
  4. Pay them if you can. We pay a daily stipend for parking and lunch.

There are a lot of ways to attract marketing interns. Reach out to local colleges or Barefoot Student, I put ads in the “gigs” section of Craigslist. The best interns we have had are smart, eager to learn, show up and do what they say they will. They are go-getters. Sort of like your best employees, right? Entrepreneur has more tips on the qualities to look for in a great intern.

For some of our favorite clients we have set up marketing plans and then helped our clients find interns or junior marketers to implement the work, when done correctly, it can be a win/win for everyone! Who doesn’t want to help a young person start their career, or help a person get into a new career? One of our favorite interns was 45! She was an awesome intern and we have hired her several times since to write marketing copy.

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5 Fresh, Free Icon Sets to Use on Your Site

We are always urging our clients to update the content on their websites because it gives their customers a reason to keep coming back, is great for SEO, and increases relevancy. Updating text is easy, but updating graphics can sometimes be daunting and costly. Today we are doing the heavy lifting for you – we’ve scoured the internet for 5 new sets of icons you can use on your website, totally free!

Ballicons 2

These icons are fun, simple, and whimsical. If you have Adobe Creative Suite you can customize them to match your web colors, mix and match elements between icons, and apply special effects or animation. Click here to download the set, as well as read about customization options.

free icons
Ballicons 2

Font Awesome

This set is aptly named and is changing the way we think about vector art and purchasing. Instead of downloading specific icons or sets, this site allows you to download a CSS file that behaves like a font. The big draw for these guys is that you can use them in Word or any other text editing program – no need to have Adobe products. Simply open a text editor, select the Font Awesome font, then insert icons as symbols. Easy and free, and they’re always adding new icons. Click here to download the Font Awesome icon set.

280 Vector Line Icons Pack

This pack is a steal! 280 icons presented in 8 EPS files. You will need to have Adobe Creative Suite to use these, but deals such as this are rare, so yes, we do expect to see some sailboats on some of your home pages soon! Get the bundle here.

digital marketing

Open Phone Pack

This set looks exactly like your app icons on an iPhone. Since most people in the western world worship all things Apple, these icons tend to be popular. We recommend this set not only because it is free, but also because the download includes PNGs of each of the 16 icons, so no expensive vector software is required. Get the trendy set here.

Vintage Social Media Stamp Set

We love this vintage take on social media buttons. If you’re looking to link to your social media profiles and are looking for a retro feel, this set is for you. Grab it before it starts popping up on all of your competitors’ sites!

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Ready for a web refresh but don’t have the time or know-how? We’d be happy to help you give your site a facelift. Call us today!

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Can Clean Web Design Increase Conversions?

Paired with content, we think so.

The hottest trend in web design these days is clean, flat design. Crisp interfaces and smooth modern lines are catching readers’ eyes and expanding businesses’ audiences.

Who knew that simplicity could be so compelling? We’re convinced that this pleasant, minimalistic style is here to stay, and here’s why.

Content is King.

We’ve all heard this phrase before, but it has never held more meaning than right now. A simple web design means that your readers can focus solely on your message, without being distracted by cluttered images, gradient backgrounds or fancy JavaScript effects. A simple design means that content can be the king of your marketing budget, too. Simple designs are easier to create, which means more of your resources can go towards creating fantastic content for your audience.

Content is Everywhere.

Your readers encounter information everywhere they turn. There is so much information out there that it can be a little overwhelming at times! Thankfully, there are plenty of tools out there to help us sift through all that content. Whether your readers are encountering your messages on Twitter, Facebook, Feedly or even iTunes, odds are they’re not reading it on your website. Using a clean web design helps you make sure your message is the most powerful thing you communicate. You can’t fall back on a fancy design or cool effects to pretty up your words. Your message stands on its own.

Content Makes a Difference

Nothing propels people into action like an inspiring message, and while it may be true that a picture is worth a thousand words, an inspiring photo is nothing without a call to action. Your words are going to be what make the difference between a passing viewer and a converted customer. Those potential customers want to know what you have to say. Don’t make it harder for them by obscuring your message with a complex design.
Today’s marketing world is ruled by content and it’s more important than ever that your site allows your meaningful messages to come through. Making use of a clean web design is one important way savvy businesses build and keep loyal customers.

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5 Rules of Grammar Never to Ignore on Your Website

At one of our Friday evening happy hours in Spot Color’s living room, a few Spot friends got to talking about my recent post of 5 Rules of Grammar You Can Ignore on Your Website and it sparked a conversation about some grammatical errors that drive us absolutely mad. With that in mind, I bring you 5 Rules of Grammar Never to Ignore on Your Website. Sometimes you just have to shake your head and say, “No.”

1) The correct use of Your and You’re.

Don’t you just want to slap your forehead when you hear this? It’s a simple mistake to make if you’re writing quickly and multitasking, but nothing tells your readers I did not bother to proofread this text quite like this mix up. Say it with me, you’re skilled in your writing. And remember to think about this when using there, their, and they’re.

2) Make sure the words you are using are, well, actual words.

Adding extra syllables: I’m not sure where this comes from, but I’m sure you’ve all cringed at least once if you’ve ever heard someone say “conversate” or “irregardless.” Bottom line, if you’re unsure about a word you want to use, look it up. Better yet, always edit any text that will appear on your website in a program that uses spell check. Just for fun, here are some other examples of words commonly used that shouldn’t be. Some of these won’t even trip your spell check because they’ve become inundated in common speech, so use your best judgment when it comes to diction:

CORRECT INCORRECT
Undoubtedly Undoubtably
Exploitative Exploitive
First Firstly
Administer Administrate
Comment Commentate
Thaw Unthaw
Estimate Guesstimate

 

3) The correct past tense and past participles.

Ah, I know these sound like the parts of an English textbook to collect drool, but they are actually important, especially when misused. We’ve all heard and (gasp!) read some of these horrors: brung or boughten. I know you’re all too smart to do this, but even the best of us forget the rule about using past tense and past perfect tense sometimes. So remember, I swam across the ocean just as I have swum across the lake. I drank this juice just as I have drunk other juices.

4) Don’t use unnecessary hyperbole.

I don’t want to exaggerate, but it kills me when people say “over exaggerate.” It’s already exaggerated; you don’t need the “over.” This also goes for adding the unnecessary “super” everywhere.

grammar

5) The proper use of affect vs. effect.

I see this more commonly in the past tense, but it’s easy to mix these two up. Just remember, affect is the verb and the effect is the result of that verb.


The most important thing to remember is that spell check is your friend. It’s also helpful if you can have someone else read and edit your writing before it goes up on your website. What are some of your grammar pet peeves? Let us know in the comments section.

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3 Questions to Ask Yourself When Selecting Photography for Your Website

Our clients often ask us about graphics and photos for their website. Should they use stock imagery? Hire a professional photographer? The answer depends on a few different factors. Let’s take a quick look at three of the most important questions to ask yourself when selecting photography for your website project.

1. How quickly do you need the images?

The turnaround for getting stock images can be very quick, depending on how much time you spend searching and deciding on the images you want. There are many stock imagery websites out there, and it doesn’t take long to set up a free account, search for images in their database using keywords, purchase the image, and then immediately download the image to your computer.

Hiring a local, professional photographer takes a little more time for planning and execution. Depending on the photographer’s schedule, you can most likely get a photo shoot scheduled within 1-2 weeks and have access to the final images within a week after that.

2. How important is it to be unique from your competition and accurately reflect your specific people, locations, events, equipment, etc.?

Digital Marketing Agency Portland
Stereotypical stock images can make it difficult for you to communicate unique value propositions because your website ends up looking like everyone else’s.

It can be a real challenge for companies, both for-profit and non-profit, to find stock images that feature the specific qualities that make them so unique. We’ve all seen the stereotypical stock image of the business team with big smiles and freshly whitened teeth just a few too many times.

Let’s quickly summarize the two types of stock imagery:
Rights-Managed & Royalty-Free.

With Rights-Managed images, the photographer is paid a royalty and there are limits set for the dates and number of times the image can be used. This does increase the uniqueness of your image in the market, but does require a much higher budget.

With Royalty-Free images, you can always spend extra time searching for those that don’t have a “stock image” look, or spend extra money on more stylized images from special collections, but remember that anyone who purchases a Royalty-Free image is free to use the image unlimited times for many different purposes. This means your website is probably not the only one out there with that same image (does that friendly-looking lady with the headset really work at all of those different companies?).

Another important factor to consider before purchasing stock images is the size / proportion of the image and where the image will be used. You may have found the perfect stock image for your website: it’s a standard horizontal shot of a family playing together on the beach. But what if the image is going to be used on your website’s horizontal banner, which is extremely wide and not very tall? After cropping the family image to fit in the wide banner, the only visible part would be the kids heads, while all that’s seen of the mom and dad are arms and shoulders – not exactly the look you were going for. 

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When you hire a professional photographer, you’re paying for their technical expertise and creativity, which means you can work with them to customize the specific content, colors, layout, etc. A good photographer will be able to capture the mood and passion behind your company, and work with you to creatively highlight your products or services. When you discuss your needs with your photographer, be sure to talk about where your images will be used, and any specific sizing and placement that would work best.

3. What is your budget?

Digital Marketing Agency Portland
A good photographer knows how to collaborate with you so your company’s personality is seen through your photos.

Your budget often dictates which options are open to you. Royalty-Free stock images are attractive to small businesses that are on a limited budget and are willing to accept the downside that their images are not unique and may be used by others. Many businesses will use stock photography until hiring a professional photographer is in their budget.

Every business that desires to use custom photography should, at the very least, check out the galleries of a few local photographers and get some estimates. Many small businesses are surprised when they find out how affordable a small custom photo package with a 1-hr photo session and 10-20 photos can be. Many times it is in the same ballpark as a similar quantity of unique stock photos. Professional photographers can also provide business portraits, store photos, and product photography.

Summary
Whether you choose stock photos or professional photos, be sure you use images that target your specific audience and complement your content. High quality photography can play a big role in your marketing campaigns and draw positive attention to your business. At Spot Color, we can help you choose the best stock images, or we can set up a custom photo shoot with you and your team.

We’d love to sit down with you and offer you a free consultation to discuss your website and your business goals – contact us today and let’s talk!

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