innovation, creative

Innovation, an important aspect of any business.

If you’ve been in business for a number of years and have followed a particular process all this time, you’re probably wondering how one even begins innovating? In today’s digital age, business owners need to find new ways to tackle age-old problems, increase productivity, and stand out from the neverending competition. Whether it’s a new method, idea, or product that will help your business grow, innovation comes with a handful of benefits, including improved production capabilities, quality, and cost reduction. Unfortunately, innovation is A LOT simpler on paper.

To begin, first, think about areas in your business you can make more efficient and effective by employing faster or simpler working methods. What can you delegate to other employees or subcontract? What things can you eliminate? Are there any methods you can use today to begin increasing productivity? For instance, try conducting regular performance reviews to determine whether your employee’s techniques are producing the results you want.

Afterwards, encourage your workers to come up with ideas and share, share, share! Emphasize creativity and collaboration in your business’s day-to-day, as well as its future. Be transparent and update employees on the status of their ideas.

Since innovation is an ongoing process full of ups and downs, make it a part of your company’s culture. Recognize the fact that not every idea will work, and that’s ok. Move on from the inevitable failures, celebrate the eventual successes, and don’t forget to give credit where credit is due! And while you’re at it, try your customers. Ask them what they think of your product, as well as their experience shopping with you. Who knows, your customers just might have the missing piece of the puzzle.

Furthermore, try using creativity in your marketing. With your team, come up with ways you can stand out in your area and niche. Perhaps it’s rebranding or showcasing your work with a local nonprofit. Whatever it is, demonstrate what makes you guys unique.

As previously mentioned, with innovation comes improved production capabilities, quality, and cost reduction. By achieving economies of scale, improvements in production capacity can reduce your unit costs, while improvements in product quality can result in better meeting the needs of your customers.

Furthermore, innovation can result in a broader product range, a reduced carbon footprint, and in the case of an improved product that customers are willing to pay more for—increased value added.

With innovation, you can come up with better ways to design products, connect with consumers, market your business, and stand out from the competition. Whether you want to improve your product, better store your inventory, or ship faster, a new and improved solution is right under your nose. All you have to do is look.

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Billboards

Go Big or Go Home: The Power of Billboard Advertising

Defined as “a large outdoor board for displaying advertisements”, even in today’s digital age, billboards are still among the most powerful advertising channels around.

 

Whereas TV, radio, or online advertisements can be easily changed, blocked, or deleted, billboards give advertisers power over their ad space, including how and where their ads are being seen.

 

Designed to capture the attention of motorists and pedestrians, when placed strategically at carefully targeted locations, billboards make a cost-effective, flexible way to reach vast amounts of people over time.

With that being said, a billboard is only as powerful as the content featured on it. Since consumers see hundreds of ads a day, you need a message that’s clear, engaging, and will grab their attention and leave a lasting impression. A message that will stick out like a sore thumb, but in a good straight-to-the-point sort of way.

 

This requires establishing a solid branding strategy based on the following:

 

 

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Where can you find them?
  • What are you trying to say to them?

 

 

Furthermore, both concision and the use of striking visuals will aid in effectively communicating your message. Go with large, bold, easy-to-read text, contrasting colors, and get creative with your visuals. With innovations in technology, there’s no reason to go with a classic bulletin board when digital, three-dimensional, or even a scented billboard (!) exists to complement your branding.

 

Since billboards are a mass-market medium, quantity will also play a role in your strategy. Taking into consideration traffic, visibility, location, and size, every billboard of yours will eventually be given a Gross Rating Points (GRP) score based on its advertising impact. So if you have ten boards, your impact chances will be greater than if you had only one.

 

Billboards were made to complement your branding campaign. With six seconds being the average amount of time a commuter will have to read it, avoid complicated visuals and metaphors. Keep it clear and unambiguous, under 8 words, and include a call-to-action… and don’t forget to exercise your creative limits.

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Copywriter typewriter

Thinking About Hiring a Copywriter? Read This First!

Ever felt emotionally connected to an advertisement—as if it was speaking directly to you and you alone? How about a desire to click BUY or find out more?
If so, chances are you were reading the work of a seasoned professional known as a copywriter.

Hired to capture your attention and describe the benefits of just about any product or service with persuasive sincerity, a copywriter’s job is to get you to buy or, at the very least, join the mailing list.

From the ads in our morning paper to the billboards we glance at on our way to work to the last page we visited on Amazon, everywhere we go there’s text competing for our attention.

Therefore, if you want your brand to stand out in today’s fast-paced digital world, you must do as the Romans do, and get yourself a copywriter.

Afterall, if 61% of internet users around the globe use search engines to help make informed purchasing decisions, your website may very well be the only chance you have with your target market. So strive for quality copy that will enhance your brand’s image and build familiarity, emotional resonance, and a call for action.

Plus, as discussed in our previous post, your website’s content matters. Not only does it play a vital role in how you’re being perceived by visitors, but by optimizing your posts and pages for long-tail keywords and search engine visibility, copywriting can improve your site’s rankings on Google as well.

With content flowing in all day, all the time, it’s difficult to stand out in today’s digital age. Therefore, drawing visitors to your brand, positioning your company as an industry expert, and closing the deal, takes a copywriter who will work with you to develop a unique voice for your brand, and leave your visitors with an impression unlike any other.

 

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Content

Content is King! Don’t believe us? Click here!

When it comes to your brand, your website’s content plays a major role in how you’re being perceived by visitors.

 

A beautiful looking site is only great if people can find it, and your site’s content is king when it comes to achieving search engine success.

 

Why?

 

Because your website is likely the starting point for you and your next customer. Therefore, your website should not only include information about your offerings, past work or clients, and customer service reachability, but also your industry knowledge and expertise.

 

As Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team once said: “Try to make a site that is so fantastic you become an authority in your niche.” Or in other words, become an expert in your market.

 

The higher your content quality, the greater the chance of readership. And when you have people reading your company blog on a regular basis, who do you think they’re going to call when they’re in the market for your product or service?

 

Furthermore, your marketing material plays an important role in improving your site’s search engine ranking. Gone are the days of stuffing your page with as many popular keywords and high authority backlinks as possible. Today, Google takes into consideration a website’s bounce rate, page depth, as well as the duration of the page session. Therefore, your ability to engage visitors with fresh ongoing content, such as weekly blog posts like this one, will result in better rankings and higher search traffic.

 

In addition, your brand’s image narrated by the marketing material and content you display. This is why having the highest quality content is so important. When content is combined with a professional-looking website. The content you post gives visitors an impression of your company and brand, protects your site from a high bounce rate, and also convinces visitors why they should choose you over the competition.

 

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Printer Printing

Digital or Offset Printing: What’s Your Next Project?

At AngelStar Digital, we are often asked: “What is the difference between Offset and Digital printing?” In this post we’ll be covering the advantages and disadvantages of each method, so you can decide which route to take for your next print job.

 

Offset Printing is the process where ink from a plate (usually made from aluminum) is transferred onto a rubber sheet and is then rolled onto a sheet of paper or vinyl.

 

Digital uses large-format and/or high-volume laser or inkjet printers to transfer digital-based images directly onto your chosen media.

 

Depending on the number of prints you need and whether your project requires personalization, both Offset and Digital can be useful to you under different circumstances.

 

With Digital Printing, comes the power to print what you need, when you need it, and the ability to correct errors, such as a spelling mistake or low-resolution image, without disrupting production. The downside here is that Digital printing uses toner and a combination of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (CMYK) dots to create the colors. Since some colors are more difficult to mimic than others, the finished product can often vary from the original file.

 

On the other hand, Offset Printing offers high printing quality, with greater detail and color reproduction. Plus, the more you print, the cheaper it will cost you per unit. That being said since Offset Printing uses plates, every print job has to be made into a plate, and the press has to be individually set up for each job. This process is costly and adds an upfront expense to any job regardless of quantity.

While Offset Printing is a great way to produce professional prints of the highest quality, many businesses or individuals prefer Digital for its ease and flexibility.

 

Afterall, rather than having to “Stop the press” and clean up and redo the plates, you can simply revise your file and voila! You’re ready to go!

 

For everyday projects, go Digital. It’s easily customizable to the job. It’s affordable. And with variable data capability, printing 20 Christmas cards for 20 different families is easy.

However, if your next project calls for 500 identical brochures, go Offset for a more efficient, cost-effective, and high-quality solution.

 

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Vehicle Wrap installed and designed by AngelStar Digital

Why you should advertise with a vehicle wrap.

A nice vehicle wrap can be the difference that makes a difference in your branding and marketing campaign.

 

Whereas traditional forms of advertising, such as billboards, print, TV, and radio, involve recurring costs, time, and placement restrictions, a colorful vehicle wrap is both cost-effective and makes for a wonderful first impression.

 

Described as a billboard on wheels, a vehicle wrap is a digitally printed advertisement made from heavy-duty vinyl that is professionally installed on your car, van, or truck, thus allowing you to market on-the-go.

 

Depending on your location, how often your vehicle is on the road, and how far you travel, a wrapped vehicle can potentially reach tens of thousands of people per month—all at a fraction of the cost of a traditional billboard. Commuters will see it while you’re driving down the street, speeding down the highway, or waiting at the stoplight. Pedestrians will see it as they cross the street. People will even see it when you’re parked and out running errands. The more places you go, the more exposure you gain.

 

On top of helping you stand out wherever you go, a professionally wrapped vehicle projects the image that you’re a well established and trusted business and is a great way to reach the people in your local community.

 

Best of all, unlike TV, radio, or print, which often take a rather aggressive approach in getting the consumer’s attention, vehicle wraps are subtle. They blend into our day-to-day environment and transform traffic jams into advertising opportunities.

 

For a safe and proven way to expand your market reach and stretch your advertising budget, vehicle wraps provide your brand with the kind of exposure most advertising solutions can only dream of. They provide up to five years of the on-the-go exposure your brand deserves, can protect your vehicle from road debris, and can even be removed without damaging your beloved paint job.

 

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People participating in the solution interview to solve a problem.

The Lean Startup: Solution Interview

After conducting Problem Interviews and validating that your problem or need exists, it’s time to move on to the Solution Interview.

Once you got both your problem and segment down, you need to figure out whether customers are actually willing to pay for your product.

Since building features into your product costs time, money, and energy, a solution interview will help you identify the features your customers actually want. Just like the Problem Interview, this interview follows the same build-measure-learn-cycle and should be repeated until you validate your assumptions.  

 

Build

The Solution Interview begins with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), an elevator message, and an interview form.

Typically in the form of a mock-up, drawing, or landing page, the Minimum Viable Product describes your product features in the simplest of terms, taking far less energy, time, and money than a prototype.

Once you have your Minimum Viable Product, create an Elevator Message that describes how your solution will serve your segment. Include the following:

  1. For (target customer segment)
  2. Who (state the problem they have)
  3. The (product name) is a (product category)
  4. That (statement of key benefit)
  5. Unlike (primary competitive alternative)
  6. Our solution (describe your idea and how it’s different from the competition)

Afterwards, prepare the Solution Interview form. List the three features you believe your segments will benefit from. The purpose here is to test your BMC’s value proposition as a means to validate that customers are willing to pay for your solution.

 

Measure

Similar to last week’s Problem Interview, measuring involves clearly defining your goal, and the pass/fail criteria for the features to be validated. For instance, customers will rank the features in order of importance, and state whether the solution is a  “must-have”, “nice-to-have”, or “don’t have”. Also state a pass or fail criteria for your proposed revenue stream. This can be based on the number of people that agree with your suggested price or sign a pre-order sheet.

Afterwards, you will present your elevator message to at least 10 potential customers (the more the better), and then test your pricing to see whether interviewees would be willing to pay for your product.

 

Learn

After completing the interviews, add up the results to analyze the data and determine which features were validated or invalidated. Compare your results with your previous expectations and use the pass or fail criteria you defined earlier as a baseline to decide upon feature validation.

Once organized, gather your team, take the interview notes out and reread them, then update your hypothesis with what you learned from your interviews. If you decide you need more data, continue to conduct additional interviews and pivot until you validate.

 

Similar to the Problem Interview, the Solution Interview is designed to help you test your solutions, rank, eliminate or add new features, test some pricing and eventually get an actual customer order. Once you have successfully validated your assumptions with these two experiments, you will have a clear understanding of your customer and will have successfully achieved problem-solution fit.  

You will know whether your proposed solution gives customers the kind of value that they’re willing to pay for.

You will know which features of your value proposition provide the most value (benefit), and will have invalidated certain features that you once believed customers want. And you will have saved yourself a lot of time, money and energy.

 

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Looking to start your own business? Contact us today for a free consultation!

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References:

Foster, P., & Giacomassi, R. (2015). Test Your Business Idea (1st ed.). Galeton, PA: The Business Therapist.

Ries, E. (2011). The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. New York: Crown Business.

The problem interview

The Lean Startup: Problem Interview

After listing your customer segment and value proposition assumptions on your Business Model Canvas, your next step is to test them by conducting a Problem Interview. 

Eric Ries’ build-measure-learn cycle takes a systematic approach to testing your business model.

By assessing customer segments on your BMC, the Problem Interview will help you validate any assumptions about your segments, as well existing problems, need, or wants.  

Following the build-measure-learn-cycle, the tasks that make up the Problem Interview should be repeated until you validate or invalidate your assumptions.  

Build

The Build stage of the cycle involves creating a story and a problem interview form. The story should include the reasons why you came up with your product, as well as the three problems you believe your segments face. You will then tell your story during your problem interview with the identified customer segment, and then rank the three problems according to the following:

  1. The problem is painful and there is a need for a solution  
  2. The problem exists but is more discomforting than painful
  3. The customer is unaware or they don’t have the problem  

Measure

Once you got your story and Problem Interview form, define your test criteria and start interviewing. Begin by defining your goal, as well as the pass/fail criteria for the problem to be validated. For instance, customers will rank the problems in order of importance, and state whether the solution is a  “must-have”, “nice-to-have”, or “don’t have”. Afterwards, conduct at least 10 interviews with a partner, and take notes… lots of notes!  

Learn

Following the interviews, add up the results, analyze the data, and determine whether your assumptions have passed or failed your criteria. Once organized, reread the interview notes, and update your hypothesis based on these findings.

If you validate that your problem or need exists, persevere. But, if customers don’t have the assumed problem, then it’s time to consider scrapping your idea completely or pivoting.  

Pivoting involves revising your assumptions about your customer segment and their problems. If you discover a problem or unmet need that is more painful to the customer, adjust the problem for the same segment. This is called a Customer Need Pivot and will result in significant changes to your business model.

Keep in mind, that the number of interviews you conduct is variable. Therefore, talking to a larger sample of consumers will result in a better understanding of your assumptions. If you feel you need more data, continue interviewing and pivot until you validate those assumptions of yours.

 

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Have a question? Here is our contact form!

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References:

Foster, P., & Giacomassi, R. (2015). Test Your Business Idea (1st ed.). Galeton, PA: The Business Therapist.

Ries, E. (2011). The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. New York: Crown Business.

People representing customer segments walking on a busy street

The Lean Startup: Customer Segments & Value

The problem-solution fit is obtained between the two most critical building blocks of the BMC: Customer Segments and Value Proposition. Customer segments are the people with the problem you are looking to solve, while your value proposition is the solution to their problem.  

 

According to Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits, authors of The Lean Entrepreneur, Customer Segments are made up of “A defined group of people who share the same problem or passion and speak the same language.” Often, a common mistake is to define your customer segment too broadly. For instance, let’s say you want to serve people who take a lot of photos and videos. Within this segment, there are photographers, teenagers, graphic designers, parents, etc. Therefore, it’s better to narrow this group down to common circumstances, such as parents with child ages 5 and under who live in metropolitan areas.

 

Your ability to understand the customer’s problem is directly related to the number of resources wasted. When defining a customer problem, many startups will begin with a solution idea first and then look for a problem that fits it. This approach is dangerous because it can blind you from understanding your customer’s actual problem. If your target customers really have the problems you propose, chances are they are already dealing with it somehow. Therefore, identifying the existing solution to the proposed customer problem will help you determine whether there’s a need to begin with.  

 

So how do know you’re dealing with a real customer problem? Simple. If a pain point is significant enough that the customer is aware of its existence and is willing to pay to solve it, then you have yourself a problem. You might have an amazing Idea, but if it doesn’t address a problem that consumers are willing to spend money to solve, then you don’t have a viable business. Which brings us to Value Proposition.

 

Customers buy not based on price, but rather perceived value. This perceived value may be in the form of fast service, quality, design, or customer service. However, if customers see little difference between you and your competitors, then chances are they will be buying based on price. Therefore, it is critical to find your product’s value proposition by defining your features and benefits.

 

As you develop your product’s Unique Value Proposition, it is important to recognize the difference between features and benefits. Features are what you will be including into your product, such as an airbag in a car; while benefits are what your customer will get from the feature, such as safety in an accident. Customers are more interested in benefits rather than features. Therefore, describing the benefits rather than the features is critical to your future marketing efforts.  

 

Before proceeding with your actual product, first validate your customers’ problems, as well as your proposed solution. This ability to validate the problem-solution fit will save you both time and money. As you document your Value Proposition, always keep in mind of the benefits behind each feature. Afterall, it’s only when these features and benefits provide your segment with the value that they’re willing to pay for, that you’re on the right track.    

 

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References:

Foster, P., & Giacomassi, R. (2015). Test Your Business Idea (1st ed.). Galeton, PA: The Business Therapist.

Ries, E. (2011). The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. New York: Crown Business.

People discussing the problem solution fit

The Lean Startup: Problem-Solution Fit

As mentioned in our last post, the Lean Startup approach invests your resources into a product that customers want. As entrepreneur Ash Maurya puts it in his book Running Lean, “Before investing months or years of effort towards building a product, the first step is determining if this product is something worth doing.” Or in other words, make sure you achieve Problem-Solution Fit first.

Since startups risk investing in unprofitable products, the aim is to validate the problem by testing your model’s components.

Following your business idea, the components that makeup and fit your model are uncertain. As a result, it’s way too risky to assume that you know your business model without validating it first.

Traditionally with new ventures, startups will create a business plan that identifies future objectives and strategies for achieving them. The problem with business plans is that they presume your model to be certain and are execution-oriented. Therefore, you’ll likely find yourself investing in an idea even before knowing its Problem-Solution Fit.

Besides failing to recognize the uncertainties startups face, business plans were originally designed for large corporations. Luckily, for those of you who aren’t fluent in business speak, there’s a tool called the Business Model Canvas (BMC).

Since its release in 2010, the BMC has helped countless startups around the world identify their customer’s needs and wants. The BMC is a visual chart with sections that correlate with different components of your business model, such as your value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances.

So how does it work?

Simple. Write down your assumptions or hypotheses on a number of multicolored sticky notes and paste them in each of the nine sections. Or if you prefer to keep things digital, download your very own template and just type everything in. Regardless of your preferred format, the BMC makes validating or invalidating your assumptions and hypotheses easy. Plus, on top of its visual and dynamic appeal, the BMC uses common language so that your marketing, finance, and engineering teams can communicate effortlessly.

As discussed earlier, in the early and uncertain stage of a startup, understanding the problem is absolutely crucial. Of the nine sections on the BMC, the most critical is initially your customer segment and value proposition. Therefore, if you can identify the people with the problem you are looking to solve, as well as the solution to their problem, then you have identified the Problem-Solution Fit. Even more important, you would have likely debunked a number of business model assumptions, and saved yourself a lot of time, money, and heartache.

To begin plotting and testing your research and assumptions, check out Strategyzer’s Business Model Canvas today!

 

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Looking to start your own business? Contact us today for a free consultation!

www.angelstardigital.com/contact-angelstar-digital/

 

References:

Foster, P., & Giacomassi, R. (2015). Test Your Business Idea (1st ed.). Galeton, PA: The Business Therapist.

Ries, E. (2011). The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. New York: Crown Business.