Designing Your Whole Package

Designing Your Whole Package

Do you know that there are generally five FDA requirements necessary for food labels but a whopping 23 OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) requirements for cannaboid edibles?

To me, that seems outrageous.

But it’s true and that’s why packaging is so damn important to get right. Otherwise, it can look like a monstrosity.

Good packaging design creates memories, has personality, and captures the imagination.

This was according to Keith Svihovec of Keel Creative in PDX, at a recent event called Designing the Whole Package held at the Lucky Labrador Brew Pub on Hawthorne. The event was part of a series sponsored by The Caputo Group and ORCA (Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association).

But back to design.

Svihovec talked about the design process for his client, chocolatier Todd Shangold of Crop Circle Chocolate. The chocolatier makes medical truffles and just hit the shelves two months ago.

Given all the regulations, the goal is to “take this information and make it [the design] more appealing,” said Svihovec.

For Svihovec, the design process is comprised of a number of elements: OLCC requirements, product story, brand story, competitor analysis, consumer audience and trends, and point of sale limitations, requirements, and opportunities. Since budtenders are the main point of sale for edibles, educating people who are doing the selling is key.

Here are some trends Svihovec pointed out from a BDS Analytics survey:

Consumer trends include:

  • A shift from flower toward higher price point concentrates, edibles and pre-roll joints.
  • Those participants who consumed cannabis in the past six months are more likely to be engaged in physical activity on a once a week basis or greater, than people who don’t use cannabis.

And then there are the design trends:

  • Custom structures
  • Printing techniques
  • Texture
  • Conceptual illustration
  • Puns & humor
  • Pairings
  • Small brands: provocative stories
  • Human touch

And when it comes to working with a designer or agency, Svihovec has some suggestions:

  • Know your brand
  • Know your goals
  • Know your audience
  • Know your budget (remember, budget is more than just money; it’s time, energy and money).

“Stay in your zone of genius and let the agency be part of your team as a collaborative effort,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more.

Dear White People (Who are Coming into Consciousness)

Dear White People (Who are Coming into Consciousness)

I don’t care about his affect so much as his decisions.

Though I do think he’s deplorable.

I question the choices he makes for the administration.

Not really into elevating or even helping anyone outside of their own kind.

Who are taking a wrecking ball to everything.

Should this elite crew really be running the United States?

I don’t think so, but maybe you do.

Sometimes you are surprised to who a person really shows themselves to be.

Sometimes you can make use for it, sometimes you can’t.

We are being pulled to either side

And it makes sense

Senseless things are happening daily, by the minute

Mostly to the most vulnerable people we have

And 45 sits by and strokes the fire

Adds to the load,

When he has so much power to change this direction

To extend a hand.

Step into dignity, man.

Breathe in the toxic air you are blowing

Tune into the people who are not your own, who are not feeding your ego, who don’t have personal, political or corporate agendas.

Stand up for the masses who believe in equality for everyone.

Stand up for where we have evolved as a nation.

It’s by no means perfect but it makes room for more

Maybe you will bring the country together because we are so clear in where we need to fight

Relationships will break up, business partners will divorce, people will avoid each other

Aside from the head-on violence and destruction coming from every direction.

Some are feeling it much harder and we need to take notice.

We need to protect our own.

If it doesn’t touch you, you are steeped in privilege

If you need help with understanding and dismantling that let me know

I’m actively working on it

Basically, all white people should be actively working on it

We have a lot of listening to do from our friends and family who are people of color, living in this society.

Reparations are due.

So, no I don’t care about his affect. Though I find him visually unappealing,

I care about the energetic arrows he is putting out in the world.

I care about his toxic energy, his violent tendencies with his decision-making and wordsmithing. I care about his enforcing of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy,

As bell hooks coined long ago.

I care about blatant disrespect for the presidency and any legacy Obama created.

I care about resisting his presence in our lives and his demands. I care about not holding back on talking to friends and colleagues and acquaintances and family members about what is fucked up about what is happening in this country.

I care about standing in my own dignity.

And it only starts there.

We all have our own way of interrupting moments, where someone says something questionable and someone needs to say something.

Say it.

If you hear something, say something.

If it strikes you as inappropriate or confusing, say something

Get clarification

Make them explain what they mean.

It can be scary at first but it does get easier.

Just do it.

And feel better for it.

Your silence is dangerous.

FreshBooks Live Comes to PDX (a Recap)

FreshBooks Live Comes to PDX (a Recap)

“Brand loyalty is shrinking.”

“Everything you are doing should be memorable or creating experiences.”

“Eight six percent of all word of mouth happens in the real world. Real world is where the stuff happens. Do something in the real world and put it on social media, instead of putting it on social media and hoping it takes off.”

These are the words of Saul Colt (@saulcolt), otherwise known as The Best Marketer in North America and the Smartest Guy in the World. Don’t believe me? Go to his website.

His schtick in speaking to a crowd is unabashed and it works. We know it’s a schtick, because he does it for the laughs. He says he’s allowed one inappropriate comment per talk but he probably pushes the edge on that. He has a lot of experience working with brands as a consultant and forcing drumming up new ideas that are so beyond what the competition is doing. How does he do this? Acting on the belief that little ideas can be as dramatic and meaningful as the big ideas, and by using a secret sauce (more on that later) when it comes to making a really great experience.

I’m quoting Saul from the recent #imakealiving event put on by FreshBooks Live. They are traveling the country, hanging out with small business owners every month, providing them treats and some cool swag, and talking about what makes them tick. I am a FreshBooks user currently and though I almost broke up with them for 17Hats because I am looking for more automation in my workflow (how’s that for jargon) I’m still in the game with good ‘ol FB cause it’s so damn easy and reliable.

So, when I was invited to come to the event in Portland, OF COURSE, I had to go. Held at The Cleaners at Ace Hotel, I was psyched to meet a local bookkeeper/accountant immediately upon entering. (Side note: I cannot escape the accountant/CPA types wherever I go). We shared the same penchant for more activism and equity in the accounting world, hot pink nails and we even had a slight variation of the same business card from Moo. So. Good.

We weren’t there to just hear Saul, though he did get a chunk of time at the end to share some of his creative ideas for inspiration. There was a panel! I’m always up for a good panel. The panelists were:

Lindsay Wolff Logsdon, Head of the Brand Culture Strategy practice at Liquid Agency.

Meghan Sinnott, Brand Manager at Nutcase Helmets.

Reggie Wideman: a consultant for the Salesforce Customer Success Platform.

Rick Turoczy, a staple in the Portland startup community for more than 20 years and founder and editor of the blog, Silicon Florist.

Nathan McKee, an artist and illustrator who is inspired by comics, sports, music and other elements of popular culture.

Full disclosure: I realized halfway through the panel that I should be taking notes on what was being said, so this doesn’t represent the entire discussion, but will hopefully give you a few nuggets to take home with you.

On imposter syndrome:

Lindsay: “Everybody experiences this. If you don’t you are so self-deluded you are out of touch with your own talents. Ask for someone’s opinion.”

Rick: “I’m old enough where I found a comfortable spot. I do deal with entrepreneurs who are deeply suffering and are over-compensating. Every founder is lying to everyone in their lives. Nobody knows what they are doing. Every overnight success is 10-15 years in the making.”

Nathan: “As a creative, anything that I do, I think I can do better.”

Meghan: “My partner is coaching me to think like a mediocre white man. What would he do?”

Saul: “Faking it until you make it is more about tricking yourself until your mind and body catches up.” (Basically, it’s not about other people)

Other choice gems that I caught, you should check the #imakealiving if you want to see more:

Lindsay: “People stay at a company to solve a problem and then move on.” (Otherwise known as a “tour of duty”). “Life priorities change over time.”

Nathan: “I’d be doing this anyway (making art).” The fact that people are interested in it and I’m getting paid for it is crazy.”

Reggie: “Focus on what you’re good at and what makes you happy, then find a way to use that in your industry.”

Saul: “The contractor’s dilemma: I’m hired to be the smartest person in the room but the moment you tell the people who are signing the checks they are wrong, they don’t want you there.”

Speaking of Saul, what’s makes a really great experience?

1.  Make people laugh.

2.  Make people think.

3.  Create genuine emotions.

Good ideas hit two out of three.

And remember, you gotta have sizzle and substance when trying to reach people. Sizzle by itself doesn’t sustain.

One last thing: “If you don’t feel like competing on another person’s terms, just change the rules.”

Are you Ready for Your Firm to be Seen?

Are you Ready for Your Firm to be Seen?

If you’re a small to midsized accounting firm trying to build up your client base around your geographic or niche area, you need to be paying attention to your search engine optimization (SEO).

Which means, you must pay attention to your website.

You already know that your website is the online version of your firm shingle. You already know that there is a need for your services (accounting, tax, advisory, etc.) in your area. The clients are out there. Referrals are great; but what about another way to generate leads?

This is where SEO come in.

When you add in blogging with well-designed SEO optimized images, it’s the perfect strategy for the firm who is focused on expanding its presence, both online and in its geographic area, building out a specific practice area and developing thought leadership in your market.

SEO best practices are changing all the time. And it can get confusing. I caught up with Amna Shamim, SEO specialist and founder of Legal Green Marketing to talk shop. Shamim works with small and medium size cannabusinesses who are looking to come up first among the ranks of Google. Can the same strategies be used for accounting firms? Yes. Especially those firms who identify themselves as cannabis CPAs.

LG: You have a three-part process when you work with your SEO clients. Can you tell us about that?

AS: Yes, the roadmap to a well-optimized and high-ranking site is in three steps. The first is your site analysis, which is assesses your current site status. This includes your authority numbers, some sites with which you share keyword competition and up to 10 keywords you are currently ranking for and where. The second part is implementing your on-site recommendations, which digs into the top areas to target to improve your on-site SEO.  This can be a range of things.  Some examples might be: optimizing your meta-descriptions, rewriting your copy to be more Google-friendly, optimizing your images, etc. And third is your off-site strategy, a way to raise your authority numbers (and with them your Google ranking) and to drive traffic to your site. Depending on what part one looks like, this could be press releases, guest posting, building your presence on social media etc. I also do regular broken link and spam link checks as part of this on-going service to ensure all links are good and driving traffic/SEO juice.

LG: For the off-site part of the process, you only work with clients for six months or longer. Why is that?

AS: This is an on-going process that takes time. I require my clients to sign up for a six-month contract. This is because a white-hat SEO strategy generally takes 18 months to fully take hold and about three to six months to see any progress. Anything faster requires shady methods that Google could notice and punish the site for by deindexing it.  Deindexed sites are impossibly hard to get back into Google (there are people who do nothing but help deindexed sites get reindexed…there are no guarantees…for lots of money.) If you’re trying to rank for a really tough keyword (“lawyer nyc” for example) it takes longer and can cost six figures/year.  Really. Usually there is some improvement to report within six months so although the client may not be where they want, they’re at least seeing progress.  In a non-competitive market (“breast implants reading pa” for example), it’s often possible to get on page 1 within 6 months and then the focus is getting to the top.  

LG: Part of the off-site process requires building up your online presence. Blogging is a great way to do this. For many firms, coming up with four blog posts a month can be challenging. How often should a firm or company publish new blog posts?

AS: As they say, more is better.  I recommend at least 4 blog posts/month but have allowed clients to sign up for as little as 2 blog posts/month with the written understanding that their SEO rankings could take much longer to improve. Fresh content is very important to Google so if we’re only publishing twice a month, we’ll still see results but slower. Increasing the length of the blog posts can help mitigate some of impact of fewer blog posts/each month.

LG: What do you say to people who know they need their website to be more optimized but don’t know where to begin?

AS: I feel like SEO for most people is like taxes. You know it’s important and you need to do them right so you don’t get penalized. However, learning how to do them correctly while getting the most return is really time-intensive and scary and takes away from actually building your business. I pay an accountant and most people who are serious about their ROI also pay a SEO person, whether that’s in-house or a consultant.