The Power of Brand Storytelling and 24 Other Lessons to Grow Your Business

Bizapalooza StageMagCloud is excited to be part of the first virtual small business “rock festival”, Bizapalooza!  It’s a free 3-day on-line conference July 16-18 where business experts share their strategies, secrets and power tools that will take your small business as high as you want to rock it.

On Tuesday July 16 at 5 p.m. EST, I’ll be representing the MagCloud team and discussing the power of tapping into your brand story.  MagCloud publications are all about telling great stories through words and images in print and digital, so it’s a subject near and dear to our hearts. We’ll dive into how small and medium businesses can take a lesson from leading media companies to build brand awareness and create deeper customer engagements . I’ll also share how to cost-effectively develop a multi-channel content strategy that takes your brand story across print, digital and social channels to drive more sales and leads.

To register for Bizapaloooza or find out more about the conference click here: http://bit.ly/18BpHgn.

Follow us at on Twitter (@MagCloud) and join the conversation during the webinar using hashtag #MagCloudSMB. Join us!

Until then, check out some of these teaser lessons from the rest of the presenters:

  • Jon Ferrara– CEO of Nimble – Transform your shallow social media connections into thriving business opportunities.
  • David Fishof – Founder of Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp- Don’t let your fears get in the way of your success.
  • Donna Cravotta – CEO of Social Sage PR– A great media list is worth thousands of dollars (she’s going to give you one)
  • Brenda Horton – Co-Creator of ActionPlanr – Take the time to focus, plan and eliminate overwhelm.
  • Susan Payton –  President, Egg Marketing –  Press releases have SEO super powers.
  • Steve Wilkinghoff – Author of Found Money – First decide your financial outcome, then design a business that delivers.
  • Adam Byrnes – International Director of Freelancer.com – Freelancers will grow your business.
  • Jim Kukral – Speaker and Award Winning blogger – You can make more money and leverage your brand by self-publishing.
  • Tim O’Connor – CEO of Marcademy.com – If your online marketing expert or agency doesn’t follow these rules — ditch them.
  • Chaitra Vedullapalli – CMO of Meylah – 63% of small businesses aren’t online!
  • Sabrina Parsons –  CEO of Palo Alto Software – Your financials tell a story –that you write.
  • Erik Koto – CEO of QuestionPro – Run a survey, do nothing, make more money.  Really, there’s a study that proves it.
  • Deborah Kagan – Sensual Lifestyle Specialist – Mo Mojo = Mo Money = Mo Fun. Mo Life.  You get the picture.
  • Melinda Emerson – Smallbizlady – Talk to people on Twitter, do it every day grow your followers and influence.
  • Share Ross – Bassist for Vixen and Founder of Video Rock Star University – Stop being scared of video – and start attracting more clients and customers.
  • Shawn Pfunder – Godaddy – There’s no good reason for a bad web site.
  • Mariano Andres Garcia – Design matters even though content is king.
  • Bridget Weston Pollack – Marketing Director, SCORE – You can get million dollar consulting and experience — for FREE – why aren’t you?
  • Anita Campbell – Small Business Trends – Blogging is easier than you think.
  • Tina Forsyth – There is more to automating your systems and process than using technology.
  • Matthew Goldfarb – Corporate Renegade –  Stand for something – get more clients and customers who will pay you more for who you are.
  • Aseem Badshah – Founder & CEO of Socedo – Social media can actually make you money.
  • Anum Hussain – Hubspot – Inbound marketing is the science of turning web site visitors into prospects and prospects into customers.  Hubspots power marketer, Anum Hussain takes you through the basics and gets you headed on the pathway to profitable customers.

Lots of great speakers on tap so I hope you’ll join the conversation.

For the full agenda and to register visit the Bizapaloooza website.

If you do attend we would love to hear about your experience and favorite sessions in the comments section below.

5 Ways to Boost Your Small Business this Summer

Business growth red graphic relaunched with a trampolineIt’s National Small Business week! While summer can be seen as a time to unwind, take vacation and spend more time with family, it’s also prime time for businesses to re-focus and refresh their company’s strategy and/or marketing plan. Here are 5 ways you can give your small business a little boost this summer.

Refresh your marketing collateral

Need marketing collateral but don’t have budget to hire a designer? With the wealth of free templates for flyers and brochures today, small business owners can create marketing material without having to enlist the help of agencies and freelancers.

Get creative with your summer sales

As many businesses hold sales throughout the summer, stand out by trying new things with your sales promotions. Get creative and think of how you can take giveaways and discounts to the next level (without breaking the bank). Instead of holding a typical giveaway or discount, you can surprise potential customers on social media with freebies or discounts. You never know, they may turn into loyal customers and big brand advocates!

Monitor trends

When was the last time you monitored current trends? With a smaller bandwidth, small businesses often focus more on day-to-day operations during the year, that typically makes following trends and issues that impact overall business strategies a second priority. Take advantage of longer summer days to catch up on current events and industry trends that may impact your business. It may transform or inform your business goals and strategy.

Network, network, network

With a high number of conferences, webinars, speaking and network events, summer is prime time to take advantage of networking opportunities. Meet with potential business partners and people who can provide new information to help you improve your business. Keep your company at the forefront of peoples’ minds by giving them engaging company brochures or eye-catching one-pagers.

Plan ahead, re-evaluate, set forth

Take advantage of summer business lulls to work on long-term business planning including re-evaluating your company’s strategy, goals and objectives. Are they still in-line with current trends and customer needs? Identify what’s working and what’s not to re-focus your business strategy so that you can gain an edge in your industry. After you have an idea of what your small business needs to stay ahead, set forth! Summer is the best time to make sure your company is on track to meet its goals for the rest of the year.

What else can SMB’s do to boost business this summer? Share your ideas with us in the comments section below!

Q&A with Cory Ann Ellis of SD Wedding Style

Q-and-A-Series-header-ACELLIS

When Cory Ann Ellis moved from California to the Midwest to study Physical Education in college, she never imagined that she’d one day have a booming photography business in South Dakota and her name on the masthead of two magazines.

Her first headlong dive into publishing, SD Wedding Style, is focused on wedding information and ideas for couples with both an annual print publication and a regular blog-site.

  What lead you from photography to publishing?

Cory Ann Ellis It was really a natural progression. While I love magazines, I am a horrible writer but I found my images are a wonderful visual compliment writing and so it just made sense to create a publication where there wasn’t one previously. The on-demand printing made it possible for us to bring SD Wedding Style to life without looking for financial backers to help with the cost of printing.

There are many magazines to choose from for wedding inspiration–the greats like Martha Stewart and Real Simple–but my partner Leah (a graphic designer and wedding coordinator) and I had never seen a single South Dakota wedding or vendor featured. Therefore it was time to create one and showcase all of the great options couples have right here.

My partner on Wholesome Magazine came to me to pick my brain on launching her idea of a South Dakota-based food magazine. Shayla is a wonderful journalist, talented graphic design and amazing cook. It made sense to join her in the endeavor and now our first issue is due out in Sept 2013 and it will be a bimonthly publication. I’m excited for it’s release, although my waistline is a little less excited–you know I have to try all the foods I photograph…

  What sorts of publications do you publish?

CA With MagCloud I print for AC Ellis, SD Wedding Style, Wholesome Magazine and The Cake Lady. I use MagCloud to print magazine publications as well as collateral material and lookbooks for multiple businesses. SDWS uses MagCloud for both our print and digital distribution and media materials. Wholesome uses MagCloud for our collateral materials. With AC Ellis I use MagCloud for everything I can. My product catalog, proof magazines, client handbook, rate guide, vendor magazines, lookbooks and more. For home projects I like to use it for image catalogs of all the images I want to reference without going to the computer.

The many publications of ACEllis

  How did you get started publishing through MagCloud?

CA A friend originally told me about MagCloud and I immediately was excited about the idea of short run magazines.

  How has your business evolved with on-demand publishing?

CA In my photography business MagCloud has allowed me a new means to put my images in print. In the age of digital too often images do not leave the computer. Heirloom quality albums and many lab produced products are incredibly expensive and aren’t ideal for quick distribution and lots of handling/updating. My images are in more hands thanks to MagCloud and that means more exposure, bookings, and income. The number of my referrals turned to bookings has increased since I’ve used MagCloud to print materials specific to the venues and coordinators I wanted to work with. This year about 42% of my weddings are based on these referrals versus about 10% the previous year.

  What software do you use to design your publications? Do you have any special tricks to make it easier or well designed?

CA I use Adobe InDesign® for all of my design work. When I found layers it opened up a whole new world.

  What tips do you have for someone new to self-publishing?

AC ELLIS Photography Product Catalog

CA For someone new to self-publishing I have three main tips.

1. Research.

In order to produce a great product you need to research all aspects of the business. While this may be a creative outlet or a small project there are certain legal steps to take for your business. For example if you are going to sell advertising or the publication itself, things like obtaining sales tax licensing and filing, business registration, EIN number, etc.

2. Protect.

Your work is worth something and you should protect it. Either submit the entire publication or all of your images and text to the copyright office. While your work is copyrighted the moment you create it, registration allows for the recovery of damages in the event it is illegally copied. You can also trademark your name and logo. Not only federally, but in your state. Business names can also typically be registered in your state. Get your ISSN number so that your publication is searchable and citable. Lastly, put a copyright disclosure in your masthead or somewhere in your publication.

3. Partner.

You may be good at one skill like writing, but not design, editing, photography, or business operations. Find other professionals to round out your team. Either as partners in an LLC/Corp or as paid professionals and sub-contractors. A great team will make for a great publication.

  What are your business resolutions for 2013?Farmer's Market Calendar

CA I’m not a resolution gal, but I am a huge goal and list maker. And since I’m also into SMART goals I typically have a list of about 70-100 items designed to help me achieve about 10 main goals. This year’s largest undertaking is a complete business re-branding. Lots of fun and work.

  Are there any blogs or publications that you use for business advice or guidance? Which ones?

CA Surprisingly I do not read many business blogs, but I do follow some great people on twitter and love to read their posts and links. A few are Whitney Johnson @johnsonwhitney, Lucas Marcus @lucymarcus, and Oliver Blanchard @thebrandbuilder. I do always recommend small business owners read the book E Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber.

SMB Business Tips from Guest Blogger Merritt Design

Today’s post is from designer and MagCloud publisher Jennifer Koskinen, owner of Merritt Design.

smbtipsWith a desire to start the year with a positive outlook, Sandy Puc just began a great discussion thread on LinkedIn asking people to think about the Top 10 things they believe contribute to a successful photography studio.

I love taking the first week of January to revisit goals for my photography business, and so was inspired to take a moment to reflect on my overall strategies for success. In no particular order, here are my Top 10 (ok 12) things I have observed over the years which motivate me every day.  Some I live with confidence.  Others I am still working to make wholly mine. What would YOU add?

1. THE CLIENT EXPERIENCE

Make booking, scheduling, delivering, and of course, shooting the photo session a memorable and fun experience. Inspire referral business through existing clients.

2. SMILE

Yes, you. Genuinely. Smile!! On the job … and at the proverbial coffee shop (can’t even count how many clients I’ve earned with this philosophy).

3. INSPIRATION / EDUCATION

Keep reading, networking, attending seminars and workshops, stay abreast of current trends, and try new things based on what inspires you.

4. GOALS / LISTS

Keep business and personal deadlines, and self-impose deadlines for non client driven ones. If you keep pushing back a deadline, ask yourself if the item should really be on the list (if so: do it! If not, remove it or put it on a separate back-burner list).

5. MARKETING

Schedule regular activity and think outside the box to market yourself creatively (in print, in person and via social media) Your website should reflect your personality. And especially when you’re starting out, don’t show every photo, show only your BEST photos!

6. COMFORT ZONE

Push it! Often! Shoot new material.  I love to use my phone camera to shoot personal projects even on days when I’m not shooting for clients.

7. PRICING

Review cost of business and package pricing annually and always communicate clearly and confidently with clients (unless you happen to love negotiating — which I decidedly do NOT — printed materials with pricing menus help tremendously).

8. MONEY

Fall in love with the business side of what you do. This is still my biggest challenge. I had to finally design myself a beautiful system of spreadsheets because the available software systems were all too dry for me. May sound silly, but it works for me. Find what works for you.

9. CONTRACTS

Know and continually update your contracts to stay on top of constantly changing on-line world (especially if you work with digital files and licensing). Educate your clients about copyright laws, and gently educate clients that they are investing in your talent, creativity, instinct and vision, NOT paper and ink.

10. GRATITUDE

Be grateful for the fact that you get to do what you love for a living! Remind yourself of this simple and amazing fact when times are tough.

11. ACCEPT CHANGE

Don’t attach to old ways of doing things and don’t be afraid of learning new tricks. Let go of fear, take chances, dive in…

12. TAKE DANCE BREAKS

Often. Crazy ones. They are immeasurably good for the spirit. Not to mention sore, over-worked eyeballs.

And as part of my “outside the box marketing” I like to use MagCloud to show off my work in print and digital, as well as providing my clients with new ways to market their own businesses.

 

Learn more about Jennifer’s work on her website and see her collection of MagCloud publications on her publisher page.

Do you have your own Small Business tips?  Share them in the comments section below.

How MagCloud Publishers Leverage Instagram

Instagram on iPhoneVisual storytelling is nothing new in the realm of business. Content consumers love the power of an image portraying “1,000” words that leaves enough to the imagination while alluding to a larger point. To that end, MagCloud is running a #MagCloudHearts themed poster giveaway through Instagram.

But what makes Instagram an improvement over the time-tested and standardized visual element? To answer these questions, we continue our chat with Cory Ann Ellis and Trey Hill. This time, we’re shifting our focus from Pinterest to Instagram, and the best practices for leveraging the platform for publications and small business.

MagCloud: Are your businesses using Instagram for business purposes?

Cory Ann Ellis: Yes we are on Instagram (@coryannellis), and like Instagram for private use, it’s immediate and visual nature. It is free and clear of long posts, soapboxes and other negatives that can fill other social media platforms.

Trey Hill: My agency (@squarerootof9) specializes in image driven storytelling, and for most people, I am the agency. I’m an avid Instagrammer & use it to tell my story, which spans the professional, experimental and personal.

MagCloud: What’s your favorite element of Instagram, and why do you think it can help your publication?

Cory Ann Ellis: Instagram has the ability to show a steady stream of interesting content that can keep the reader’s attention between publication dates. With behind-the-scenes and feature teasers, viewers can get excited to pick up or download the next issue.

Trey Hill: It’s a craft that’s always been about contextualizing and sharing our world. Instagram, for me, has made it so the time between seeing and sharing is almost zero. In that way, I think it’s perfect. Used well, Instagram can help anyone craft an ongoing story that reveals who you are and what you’re about. Just because you’re on a mobile device doesn’t mean that you can’t take time to learn the craft of photography. The tools have changed, but the aesthetic that draws people to a photo – good composition, proper exposure and a unique point of view – will never change.

MagCloud: What are your top Instagram tips for publishers?

Cory Ann Ellis: Show images that are graphically interesting and fun. Go easy on the filters. Focus instead on the framing and lighting so that you don’t need to use filters to distort from poor photography. Yes it’s just a camera phone, but you can use it wisely. Try hinting at an upcoming article by showing a tiny detail or abstract from the set without showing full setups.

#panogramtastic
#panogramtastic

Trey Hill: I don’t think my tips for publishers would be any different than the tips I’d share with an individual. I am three-quarters of the way through a four-part series on my blog about mobile-photography. I think, more than anything, I’d point people there as a great place to start:

In Part Three, I talk about how to push the medium of Instagram by highlighting something I created called #panogramtastic. Basically, Instagram is all about the single square image. For a while, people have been using apps to add white to the background of their images so they can post circles, or more traditional photo crops. I thought, “What if you could take the constraints of the app and use them to create something interesting?” I began by using my profile’s grid view to merge a single panoramic image across three frames. They come out like what you see on the left.

MagCloud: How best can publishers promote their publication using Instagram?

Cory Ann Ellis: I think one of the best ways is to use the hashtags to create contests or followings for a specific feature or event. For example, if you create a hashtag and promote the most recent publication by saying, “Where do you read your xyz magazine? – show us through Instagram. Hashtag your photo #xyzmagread.” Then you have a steady stream of everyone reading your magazine in different places and parts of the world. These can be fed into your websites, blogs and even shared on Facebook. This is a great way to show that others are enjoying your publication and they might also.

Trey Hill: One of my clients is the Dallas Stars, an NHL hockey team. One of the initiatives we’ve done for the past five seasons is inviting the fans behind the curtain. I think Instagram is perfectly suited to show people the raw, unpolished parts of who you are. Fans love it because they feel like they are part of the team. For a publication, I would say, use Instagram to show people things they wouldn’t otherwise see – an image that didn’t make the final edit, but is still evocative – a layout sketch or anything from the process. Just because it’s not “for real” don’t let that mean you don’t treat it with respect. Make sure you take time to art direct the frame or fuss over the treatment you put on the image. It may not be part of the publication, but every Instagram becomes part of your story.

———-

We’d like to give both Cory and Trey a special shout-out and thank you for showing us some of the magician’s tricks, so to speak.

Do you too have insight into how Instagram improves the story-telling strategies for your business? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to join the #MagCloudHearts Instagram poster giveaway!

Powerful Publishing Tools for Professors

Over the last week we talked about using MagCloud in education, as a powerful tool for teachers, and a great asset for students who want to present their work professionally. Today we are moving forward with the same theme to discuss how professors can use MagCloud in higher education.

Whether you teach at a major university, a local community college or a continued education course, print materials for classes are always a concern as far as budget, turnaround-time and quality. MagCloud can help you with all of those challenges, providing beautiful printing, easy-to-use digital distribution options and no-minimum print runs to help you publish content for your students in a timely, affordable and more sustainable fashion. Let’s take a look at a few solutions for professors:

Syllabi

The syllabus is traditionally handed to students as a printed document on the first day of class. For distance education courses, the syllabus can be posted online or even better, mailed to students. By publishing your syllabus through MagCloud, you make it easy for your students and yourself. You can order a bulk of them to hand out in class, direct your students to download a digital version to their PC, tablet device, or our free iPad app, or you can use our ship-to-group feature to drop ship a copy to each of your students on a mailing list.

Easy Re-prints:

There’s always at least one student who loses their syllabus, so when they come to you for help, MagCloud gives you an easy place to direct them–your own unique page–where they can choose whether they want to get a digital version or order a new printed copy that will be delivered right to them, requiring very little effort on your part.

Handouts/Flyers

Throughout the semester/quarter there are regularly occasions to distribute supplemental handouts and flyers. Handouts are a great way to provide support material like graphs, tables, or diagrams, or even slide notes to compliment PowerPoint presentations.

You can use handouts for specific project assignments, recruiting students to join the club you advise, or supplements to the lesson plan. No matter what the purpose, MagCloud is a great asset for printing any number of flyers or handouts. There’s no need to run to the print shop, as you can easily place an order online and have them delivered straight to your office in as little as 3 days.

Other Handout Ideas:

  • lesson outlines
  • supply and reading lists
  • activity guides
  • supplementary materials like graphs and statistics
  • lab assignments
  • study guides
  • slide notes for presentations

Course Readers

Course readers provide professors with the ability to customize specific texts for their classes. The material may include chapters from books, articles from magazines/newspapers, website print-outs, cases, or their own work. As a professor, you know that pulling this content together in a way that is compelling for the students is challenging. Standard black and white photo-copies can be tough to read, and photographs, illustrations and art suffer from poor print quality. MagCloud let’s you deviate from these long-antiquated types of course readers by making it possible for you to offer them as both full-color prints and in various digital formats.

Benefits of using MagCloud for your Course Readers:

  • free storage of the digital master in PDF format
  • no cost to you or your department– it’s free to publish, you/your students only pay when ordering print or marked-up digital files
  • publishing is immediate, so your course pack is available to students as soon as you click “publish”
  • it’s easy to make your content available to your students in print and digital formats
  • easily place orders for direct delivery to the department or use our ship-to-group feature to distribute to a mailing list
  • full-color, full-bleed printing makes it possible to showcase art, photography and imagery beautifully–no more grainy black and white images
  • easily direct students from all of your classes to collections for their course–you can sort publications by subject or class, and make it easy for your students to access all of your printed course materials in one place

Lab Manuals

If you have authored your own lab manual, you simply need to upload your document as a PDF file for publishing. You can choose whether to order the manual to distribute in class, or if you want to make it available for students to purchase themselves. MagCloud will produce high quality books up to 384 pages from your PDF that can be made available for print, digital download, or on iPad in the free MagCloud App.

Student & Alumni Newsletters & Magazines

We know that being a professor means that you do a lot more than teach classes, so whether it’s for your Mock Trial Team or Journalism Faculty, publishing a newsletter through MagCloud will definitely help your community’s message stand out from the crowd.

Along with community newsletters, a number of educators are using MagCloud to publish the student magazines that they advise. MagCloud’s on-demand printing options mean that you don’t have to sacrifice print quality for a smaller budget or even a small readership. Whether your students are putting together a publication for their program of a couple hundred, or even for their class of 30, you can be confident that all publications are printed in full color with a full bleed on HP Indigo digital presses. These commercial presses have been calibrated to provide a high quality output of all your content, from crisp text to brilliant graphics. Our professional service features make it possible for your students to turn out a publication you can all be proud of.

Example Publications:

A Note About Using Copyrighted Work:

Federal copyright laws protect all original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium. When using material that has been written, recorded, or designed by someone else, it is important to make sure that you are not violating copyright law by improperly using intellectual property belonging to someone else. While some items are public domain, most course readers are not considered “fair use” of published works and copyright owners retain all rights to grant or deny permission to use. In other words, do your homework before you print someone else’s content.

Are you an educator using MagCloud? Share in the comments section how you’ve used MagCloud for your needs.

MagCloud Goes to the Head of the Class

MagCloud has been a friend of teachers, trainers and curriculum designers for some time.

Offering an easy way to bring lesson plans to life and engage students, MagCloud is being used as an educational tool both in and out of the classroom.

 

 

 

 

Curriculum Resource Planning and Teacher’s Aids

A number of educators and researchers are using MagCloud to share curriculum ideas and best practices. Whether using our Standard product to create a best practices magazine or simply a short curriculum synopsis with our Pamphlet product, MagCloud makes it easy for teachers to collaborate on current curriculum initiatives.

Example Publications:

Class Projects

Self-publishing provides students with a creative way to showcase their understanding of a topic, their personal perspectives and their own artistic work.  Publications like Bulldog Press and FIT have allowed high school and college students to express themselves and demonstrate their evolving skills.

Example Publications:

Workbooks, Study Guides, Training Materials and More

Teachers, instructors and trainers have used MagCloud to print field guides, camp workbooks, how-to guides, study-guides, training manuals, and educational workbooks to complement a variety of educational needs. In some cases these are printed ahead of time for use during a workshop or class, while other times they are simply made available online for attendees to purchase as supplementary or stand-alone training materials or as samples for other teachers.

Example Publications:

The Lorax Storytelling Tool

MagCloud has also developed a Storybook tool for creating custom books using templates, characters and backgrounds from the movie The Lorax. Used in conjunction with Scholastic’s custom Lorax curriculum, students can write a story that describes one creative new idea for how they, their family, or their community could live more sustainably.

Share in the comments section how you’ve used MagCloud for your teaching needs or read about some additional ideas from Jim Vanides, a member of the HP Office of Global Social Innovation.