Four Benefits of Using a Brand Style Guide

A brand style guide is a set of principles or rules that govern what your brand looks, sounds, and feels like. If your brand were a person, the style guide would describe its personality. Your logo, fonts, colors, writing voice, and photography style all work together to define your brand.

If you don’t have a style guide for your brand, here’s why you should get one.

Build brand recognition

When your newspaper ads, direct mail postcards, and website all look similar, people will begin to recognize you. Well-established national brands do this well, and you can easily identify a brand when you drive by their stores. Everything these big brands do follows a pattern, and that’s why you know the brand when you see it.

If you create a wildly different newspaper ad every month, no one will be able to tell right away that it’s your ad. Readers will have to work harder than necessary to figure out what the ad is for, and they might tune out before they connect the dots. When you use a style guide, everything you create is consistent and easily recognizable, so people will know your brand when they see it.

It’s easier to produce new materials

Following a brand style guide also makes it easier to make new ads, business cards, or brochures. When you or your designers know which colors, fonts, and photos to use, assembling marketing pieces is much more streamlined. You don’t have to start from scratch every time you begin a new project. This will save you time (and money, if you pay designers by the hour), and you’ll be more likely to get a product that looks good the first time.

More efficient and effective advertising

This goes back to brand recognition. You can create a billboard, TV commercial, and print ad that all follow your style guide. When people see two or more of those similar ads, they will feel like they’re seeing the ad all over the place. This leads to better results and helps stretch marketing dollars.

A style guide can save you money

Stock photos, images, and other design elements have to be purchased or created, and the costs can add up quickly. Using a different theme and designing new ads every time you change your message will really eat into your budget. But if you have a folder of brand-appropriate images and design elements, your designers can easily update ad layouts with new messages. You get quicker turnaround on new ads, lower costs, and a consistent look all at once.

Keep in mind that sometimes a new campaign will require a photo shoot. So don’t limit yourself to just a handful of photos over the lifetime of your business.

Field Group is experienced at creating and implementing brand style guides. Give us a call if your brand needs a style makeover!

How to Increase Your Website’s SEO in Six Simple Steps

First of all, what is SEO and why would you want it? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It basically determines where your website turns up when people search for your business category. Most people will only click on the first few links in search results before they make a purchase decision. If your business involves housebreaking ostriches, you’ll want your website to be at the top of the list when people search for “my pet ostrich won’t stop peeing on my shoes.” So how do you get there?

This ostrich has major SEO
“My pee does not smell good.”

Warning: This is a long one, so hang in there. I would say “I guarantee it will be worth the read,” but that requires a bunch of fine print and I’m not sure if I’m even legally allowed to say that.

Search Engine Indexing

When someone does a search for something online, they aren’t actually searching the entire internet. You’re actually searching the search engine’s “index” of the internet—this is why searches only take milliseconds rather than hours.

You’ll want your website to be included in this index. Search engines will automatically add new sites, but you can help jumpstart the process.

  • Google: Just copy and paste your website URL into the box.
  • Bing (and Yahoo!): Copy and paste the URL, then click Add.
Social Media Presence

Google and other search engines like to see websites that are linked to social media sites. Sometimes just creating these pages and linking your site is enough, but a few of them require regular posting as well.

  • Facebook and Twitter
    • Make sure a link to your website is included in the About section of your business profile. Post updates at least twice a week to make search engines happy.
  • YouTube, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Foursquare
    • Just creating an account on these sites for your business with a link to your site is enough. You don’t need to post anything to gain an SEO boost.
Multi-Screen Compatibility

Internet searchers use a wide variety of devices: computers, tablets, and phones with all different screen sizes. Make sure your website is able to function and look great on any device. Use Google’s mobile-friendly test here. You’ll also want to test the load time of your site to make sure smartphone users with slow data aren’t waiting forever.

These ostriches don't have SEO
Another ostrich photo to break up the tension.
Local Business Presence

You can add free listings for your business to most search engines. Make sure everything is perfectly consistent on every site, or you’ll get knocked down on SEO. For example, “123 N 1st St” is not the same as “123 North 1st Street.” Pick one style and use it on every site.

Website Content = Organic SEO

The information on your website also needs to match what’s on the Local Business listings above. You’ll need to include your phone number and address on the homepage of your site, as well as a map and directions to your physical location. A Contact Us page and Privacy Policy page also need to be included on your site.

Keep it Fresh

Following these steps should be fairly easy, and they can potentially give you big gains in SEO. Of course, you will also need to keep your website fresh with regular new content, including blog posts, videos, and social media updates. SEO is really about providing the best information to answer internet searches—so your website needs to provide relevant information that’s useful to visitors.

ostrich with no SEO
Is this post about SEO or about ostriches?

If your website needs an SEO-makeover, give Field Group a call. We also might be able to help with your ostrich problem.

How to Find Out What Your Competitors are Doing

Do you know what your competitors are up to? Following your competitors can provide information about strategies that work and don’t work. This can save you money and help you produce more effective marketing.

Competitors Near and Far

Your competitors don’t necessarily need to be local. They might be in another town, state, or even country. Wherever they are located, you can learn from them.

In fact, the farther away your competitors are, the better. Businesses that aren’t in your market probably won’t notice or mind if you borrow from some of their ideas. That doesn’t mean you can blatantly copy ideas, but following their general trends isn’t a problem. For example, you might find a massage salon in another state that mails coupons to their customers. To get more customers at your salon, you can try mailing coupons, too.

The Proof is in the Frequency

Have you noticed other businesses using the same marketing strategies for years? That’s probably because that strategy works for them. Or maybe you’ve noticed them try something only once–they probably saw very little results, so you would be wise to not attempt it yourself.

What Aren’t They Doing?

You might be approached by a magazine or radio sales representative who claims that no one else in your business category is running ads with them. That would mean you won’t be competing for attention with other hardware stores, trampoline renters, or people who teach cats how to sing.

But then again, why aren’t other businesses advertising there? Wouldn’t they want to take advantage of this no-competition thing? Maybe no one else is advertising because it didn’t work for them. That can be a clue that you need to do research on who’s actually reading/listening to this medium. Make sure you’re investing your advertising dollars in something that will give you a decent return.

Don’t be a Copy Raccoon

If you see someone else doing something really smart or cool, remember to put your own unique spin on it before you implement it yourself. That’s what will make you stand out from others. This way, you’ll be able to showcase what makes you unique and build some brand loyalty at the same time.

How much does it cost to do your own marketing and advertising?

Many small businesses choose to do their own marketing and advertising, rather than hiring an agency. Taking this route seems like it would save a lot of money—but consider that every hour you spend on marketing is time you won’t be managing your business. So how much time are these businesses really saving?


Marketing and advertising can be kind of an addictive career, and a lot of marketers spend many years in the industry. Here at Field Group, we have over 60 years of combined marketing and advertising experience (that’s an English major’s math, so it’s probably actually higher than that).

Of course, you don’t need to have 60 years of marketing experience to be able to do it on your own. But all that time we’ve spent in the field means we’ve already learned what works and what doesn’t, so you don’t have to. That means you can expect a higher return on investment for your marketing dollars if you go through an agency than if you go it alone.


A lot of employees at a marketing agency will have various degrees: B.A.s in marketing/communications or technical degrees in design or art. Let’s assume the average agency has 10 employees—that means, collectively, they spent over 30 years in college!

Now, you probably don’t have time to go to 30 years worth of college right this minute. And, it’s no small feat to master a program like InDesign or learn how to wrangle media reps. While you can certainly have a go, it’s going to take some serious time and energy. And that might mean your business is getting less than 100% of you in the meantime.

Hiring your own employees

If you were to hire your own in-house marketing team, the costs would really add up. You would have to wade through resumes, schedule interviews, complete orientations and training, not to mention salaries and other benefits. For less than the cost of one full-time employee, you could hire an agency that has 10 or more employees with different skillsets (design, project management, media buying). Agencies only work when you need them, so you wouldn’t need to spend money on them when you don’t have campaigns or projects to work on.


Marketing agencies will have built up a lot of relationships over the years: with media reps, in the community, etc. These relationships give them resources to get better media attention with press releases, lower rates on TV and radio spots, and better pricing on printed items like brochures and flyers. These savings can be passed on to clients, saving you money compared to what you would spend if you did it yourself.

How much time and money are you really saving?

Kudos to you if you choose to do your own marketing—it’s a big and important task. Make sure you consider how much time you actually spend on marketing, and remember that all of that time takes away your ability to run your business and do what you truly enjoy. You should weigh the cost of hiring an outside marketing agency against the quality product and ideas an agency can produce. Then you’ll be able to make an informed decision whether or not doing your own marketing is truly effective and affordable for your business.

Editorial Calendars and Why You Need One Right Now

Social media is hard—you have to be on your game and post regularly to keep your audience interested. But who has time to post every day or even every week? What do you even post if you do have time? An editorial calendar can make this daunting task into a… not-so-daunting task.

There are plenty of calendar templates for Word or Excel, or you can use an online calendar like Google Calendar. Whichever method you choose, try to plan out your social media posts at least a few weeks in advance. This will take pressure off you when it comes time to actually do the posting, because you’ll have material already prepared that you can just copy and paste.

Creating the calendar will not only help build your brand, but it will also help build awareness about your business. It’s an easy and free advertising method that also gives your audience a platform where they can freely express their love for your business by liking your posts. And if they really really love the content, then they will share the post and advertise for you.

Here are some topics and suggestions for posts you can start planning in your editorial calendar right away.

Trending Trendy Trends

Most social media platforms have weekly “themes” that you can piggyback on. You’ve probably seen your Facebook friends post Throwback Thursday pictures, and there are plenty of other topics for specific days—Manic Monday, Tie Tuesday, and Fedora Friday are some of our favorites.

These themes provide easy material for social media posts. For Tie Tuesday, all you have to do is post a picture of people in your office wearing ties (the goofier the better). Just make sure to add a #tietuesday to the post.

Plan these themed posts so that you do a different day each week. Maybe one week is Wednesday Wisdom (an image with an inspirational quote), and the next week is #Caturday (everyone who matters loves funny pictures of cats on a Saturday… or any day really).

Remind Followers to Remember

Does your business have scheduled annual events or sales? Use social media to remind them and build up hype. Start weekly reminders for your upcoming fundraiser event at least a month before the event, and bump up those reminders to a couple of times a week as the event gets closer.

A coupon or special sale is very social-media-worthy. If your followers care about saving money (why would you want them to follow you if they don’t?), share your 25% off coupon and remind them that it expires soon. Or post about one of the cool items or services that are on special this month only.

Savings and specials can provide weeks of posts that will really engage your audience, so plan posting about them in advance.

Holidays, Celebrations, and Awareness Months

There are plenty of nationally recognized months, weeks, and days. Search through lists of these to see which ones align with your business. For example, August is about Water Conservation, so if you sell high-efficiency dishwashers or showerheads, you can plan sales and social media posts to feature those.

Holidays are also an easy source of posts. Most people will “like” a post with a cool graphic wishing them a Happy Fourth of July or a Merry Christmas.


Hopefully you now have some ideas for social media posts and can start planning your editorial calendar. Creating the calendar can be a bit of work upfront, but it will make your life much easier in the long run, and your social media will be more effective. Having a planned purpose makes you look fresh and timely to your audience, which is what social media is all about.

Standing Out

Do you really need to be super special? Well, dry cleaners, gas stations, and car washes don’t usually need signs the size of Godzilla to attract customers. But, let’s face it—most businesses need to make a real name for themselves, to be a head above the rest.

Blending in might as well be a death sentence. Ok, that’s a little extreme, but let’s not diminish the importance of standing out.

Ways to Stand Out

Be the first. Sure, this is easier said than done. But, anticipating needs and being the first to meet them speaks volumes and makes your business the “go to.” Take a good hard look at your target. If you think you’re hitting the mark pretty well, that’s great. Now take a good hard look just outside of your target and think of ways you might expand.

Get Really Good. This seems obvious, but making sure you’re the best at what you do is paramount. Train your staff, research current happenings in your market, and get serious about quality control. From stellar customer service to really knowing your stuff, putting some extra effort into your business is going to make you better and better. Customers notice these things.

Have a Great Brand. You can read this blog post about branding. Basically, we’re talking about your name, logo, colors, typeface, and signage. It’s got to be sharp. It’s got to say “you.” It has to be consistent. Think of the Nike swoosh. That’s what we mean. Establishing a strong brand is important because it personifies your business. Suddenly, your business is somebody. It’s recognizable. It speaks to your audience with its style. Consider your brand the stylish megaphone of your business. It announces your presence. Make sure your brand is saying what you want.

Go the Extra Mile. We’re talking about those extras that make your business memorable and make it a luxury. Look at what your competitors are doing and do more. This could be a fancy chocolate left with the check at your restaurant, or different interesting music in the bathroom. It might mean complimentary beverages at your boutique. How about offering better pictures and descriptions on your website? Once, I had my leftovers at a restaurant wrapped in tin foil that looked like a tall, sleek, devil-may-care cat. I mean, that’s pretty great. It doesn’t have to be very expensive, just think of small ways to make your business an experience.

Be Savvy with your Advertising Avenues

 You’ll need to market your business in a way that makes sense for reaching your target audience in order to stand out. So, if you have a super niche customer like say, seniors interested in clay classes, it’s not going to make sense to use a billboard to advertise. But, what if you’re a hotel? Go crazy with the billboards! What we mean is, be smart about how you spend your advertising dollars so that you can get your business right to the ear of your dream customers. Read more about that here.

For more pro tips, give us a call. Helping you stand out is our business.


Data and Tracking Results

Do you track results of your marketing efforts? One of the most important aspects of marketing is narrowing down what works and doesn’t work. Analyzing data and coming up with conclusions might seem difficult, but it’s extremely worthwhile.

Establish Baselines

Before you begin tracking results, you need to know what your baseline is. You should know who your customers are, which products or services sell the most, and which type of customers buy what. Without this data, you won’t know what’s working or not.

For example, let’s say your most popular product is a bedazzled leaf blower (the Leaf-Be-Gone Jewelicious), and it sells very well with women over 40. (We’ll assume you don’t know this fact because you haven’t established a baseline.) You might create a direct mail postcard with a sale on these snazzy leaf blowers and send this to women around town.

The results of the direct mail were great! You sold 10 leaf blowers in one weekend, all to a bunch of women! One older woman even bought two!

What you don’t know is that, on average, you sell nine leaf blowers every weekend. This means (and I’m sorry to tell you) you spent a decent chunk of money to sell one more leaf blower than you would normally have sold. If you knew what your baseline was, you wouldn’t have targeted women with the direct mail; see, women are already buying your bedazzled leaf blowers. You need to turn your focus to men to widen your target market because men would represent new customers, and more Leaf-Be-Gone Jewelicious sales!

Online Data

With all of the advertising tools available online, you can easily get overwhelmed by reports. Conversions are the most important data to track online. Getting clicks on your online ads is great; but if those clickers never spend money with you, the ads aren’t working.

You need to be very aware of what online ads you’re running and whom you’re targeting. Your ads for polkadot socks that target both men and women might only bring in female customers. If that’s the case, you can get much more value from your online budget by only targeting only women with those ads.

Listening to walk-in customers can also help direct your online advertising. Customers might tell you they didn’t know you sold a certain product or service. That’s a great clue to create online ads promoting that product or service.

The Tip of the Data Iceberg

There’s plenty more you can do with data, and coming up with creative solutions based on insights will make your business stand out from the competition. If you’re overwhelmed with data and reports, give Field Group a call.

Why Can’t We be (Mobile) Friends?

Is your website mobile-friendly? If you don’t know the answer to this question, you may be missing out on a lot of potential customers. Don’t worry, Google has a solution! Check out their mobile-friendly tool. All you have to do is paste in the URL of your website, and Google will take care of the rest.

Did you get a lot of big red X’s when you used the mobile-friendly tool? This can present problems for a lot of reasons. According to Google (and let’s face it, they know pretty much everything at this point), over half of all internet searches are done on mobile1. That means people are looking for products and services on their phones. If they go to your site and can’t use it easily, they will probably leave and never come back.

On the other hand, Google will favor you in their search algorithm if your website scores highly. That means is that you will show up higher in search results when people search for goods or services that relate to your business.

If your website didn’t score well on the mobile-friendly scale, don’t worry. Field Group can help turn your site and mobile into best friends forever.

mobile friends


How the World Sees Your Business

Your entire marketing budget could be going to waste if you don’t have proper signage at your business’ physical location. You might design an awe-inspiring website, newspaper ads, and direct mail, but if the logo on your sign doesn’t match the logo on all those other pieces, people will be confused when they try to find your store. They might even get lost and drive circles around you.

It’s super important to have good signage. This is your first real impression; this is the test where your customers see what your business is really all about (rather than just what those crazy marketing people tell them in ads).

According to a study by FedEx Office1 over half of the responders said they would not enter a business with a poorly made sign. This means you can spend a lot of money on newspaper, radio, and online ads, but if people show up to your physical location they might turn around and leave because your sign scares them.

So what makes a good sign you ask? Start with your logo, but only if it’s clear, easy to read, and tells what you do. If your logo won’t work, just include your business name in clear lettering. Unless you’re Apple Inc., your sign should also include what you do. Here’s an easy peasy example:

Field Group

Advertising and Marketing

This is a good sign

If you have a mascot character or something similar that you have used in other marketing (say, a banana that dances in all of your TV spots), you might add them to the sign (but consider switching out the dancing banana to something less… dancing banana-y). Only do this if the mascot has been used before and will continue to be used in the future. Think Geico gecko.

Don’t add flowers or other random graphics (unless you’re a flower shop) because those just take away from the meaning of the sign. Avoid handwritten signs on cheap material. It’s worth the investment to buy a quality sign that will last you for years to come.

If you’re paralyzed by sign options or don’t know how to start the design, give us a call. We’re happy to point you in the right direction.

Looking for a sign

Posted by Jonathan


Celebrities and the Power of Branding

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Kim Kardashian completely gave up social media? Or if Oprah started endorsing cheesy potato chip snacks as the next super health food? Can you imagine Donald Trump changing his hairstyle?

No. You can’t. Because these celebrities have created brands for themselves, and they stick to them. People who follow celebrities know exactly what they’re like: how they act, things they enjoy, which products they use or endorse. If celebrities go outside their brand, people have a hard time adjusting, and longtime fans might not be fans any more.

Take Katy Perry for example. She used to be a Christian singer, so you can bet her fans at the time were not pleased when she kissed a girl and liked it. A similar situation happened when Taylor Swift switched from country to pop; it took quite a bit of convincing for pop fans to come around to the fact that this country girl was singing in their genre.

The reason these celebrities garner so much attention is because they know how to create a brand and stay faithful to it. If their brand weren’t consistent, they wouldn’t be able to get any traction with the public. Bands don’t release albums with 12 different songs in 12 wildly different genres—an album like that would not connect with very many people or sell very well.

Your business is kind of like a celebrity, and it needs to be branded consistently in the same manner. If you use a different logo on your building from what you use in your newspaper ads, people won’t know what to look for when they come see you. If your brand has been historically funny and quirky, it’s going to be hard to pull off a heart-felt commentary in your TV commercial that resonates with your core audience.

In order to get your business up to celebrity status, you’ve got to create a brand and stick to it. If you don’t want to get your hands all dirty and sticky, Field Group can help you out, so give us a call.

These aren't sticky notes. We just have really sticky hands at FG.
These aren’t sticky notes. We just have really sticky hands at FG.

Posted by Jonathan.