Category Archives: ideas and inspiration

You Down With USP? Know Your Business’s “Unique Selling Proposition”

What is a USP in business / marketing? Your business, products, and services, are unique. Yes, there might be a bunch of other companies doing something similar, but YOU make your business unique.

If you ask a customer if they want to buy what you’re selling, how do you get them to jump up and shout, “yeah, you know me!” 

The answer lies in your business’s “USP,” but what exactly is a USP? Here’s an explanation with some lyrical assistance from 90’s rap group, Naughty By Nature.

What is a USP?

“(USP), how can I explain it, I’ll take it frame by frame it, to have ya’ll jumping, shouting, saying it…” 

This is where USP, or Unique Selling Proposition, comes in. USP is what you, the seller, gives as the reason that your product or service is better than the competition.

It’s the heart of your brand, and what makes you special. Otherwise, you’re just a commodity; like one of those generic cans of beans that people ignore at the supermarket.

So, what makes YOUR business different? What do you have that’s unique and special? Once you determine the answers to these questions, you have your USP.

If this is a new concept for you, take a look at some successful and well-loved brands.

What does Netflix have that Microsoft doesn’t. Why does Google kill Yahoo? Why do people wait in line at Starbucks when there’s an empty little coffee place across the street? Even though everyone hates taxes, why do they flock to buy TurboTax in April?  

Analyze their marketing and branding for what they are really saying to the customer. You have to look deeper than the product and into what they SAY they are selling. It’s about more than the goods or work done, and about how these businesses set themselves apart from the rest.

down usp unique selling proposal

Ironically, Naughty By Nature had a pretty good USP! (and a bat)

Choose one of “The Four P’s”

“Exciting isn’t it, a special kinda’ business…”

The four P’s of marketing are: Price, Product, Promotion, Place. When crafting your USP, use one of these four areas to center your idea around.

Is your price unique enough to market? Does your product have qualities that shame the competition? Determining which “P” to use is up to you and where your brainstorming takes you. Make sure this USP shines through in every marketing effort, and even your business cards.

Creating & Defining Your USP

“How many brothers out there know just what I’m gettin’ at?”

Remember why you’re in business. Why did you create your product?  Why did you set out to provide the services you do?

Imagine the enthusiasm you had when you first described the idea for your business to a friend. That’s exciting, and that’s your USP.

The good news is that you must be doing something right if you have customers, so why did they choose you over a competitor?

It could be your customer service, because you make every customer feel valued. It could be the  unique location of your store, or where you sell your products. There are things that mark your business as unique and discovering them is the key to a great USP.

tobacco company branding

Most cigarette companies have USP’s to die for

“Now when you do it, do it well and make sure that it counts…”

Besides having an exceptional business and a USP, you also have to effectively market it. Take cigarettes for example. Unless you live under a rock in Siberia, you know how awful they are for you.

They will literally kill you, and it even says so on the packaging, yet people still buy them. New smokers are added to the ranks everyday, and most of them are quite passionate about a single brand.

How are these companies able to get past the plethora of negative advertising?  Tobacco companies have well-defined USP’s, and a little help from highly-addictive chemicals. They also know how and exactly who to effectively market their products to.

Hopefully your product or business isn’t hazardous to anyone’s health, so it should be easier for you to define and market your USP.

So, Is your business down with USP?

“Now don’t be shocked, cause if you’re down I want your hands up high…”

Imagine yourself as the customer. Why would you look at a whole shelf of competitors and choose your brand?

What makes you worth more than the “generic” equivalent?

By taking the time to truly step back and see each part of your business with an unbiased eye, you’ll be on the right track to a develop and market your unique selling proposition.

So, are YOU down with USP!? (Yeah, you know me!)

*Lyrics from “O.P.P.” – Naughty By Nature

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product shots business cards vistaprint

Business Cards Tip: Selling Something? Use Product Shots!

Using product shots on your business cards: Do you sell unique products or have an Etsy store? If so, consider using high-quality, professional-looking product shots on your Vistaprint business cards.

Here’s are a couple inspiring examples of business cards that feature photos of actual products:

business cards with product shots vistaprint

High-quality product shots on business cards

vistaprint promoThere are hundreds of design templates and design ideas out there for business cards because there are so many uses for them in every industry imaginable.

They are a great little marketing tool, and you can get business cards for pennies each, especially when you use a coupon for vistaprint.com.

If you sell actual products, consider featuring product shots on your business cards. Make sure that the photos are high-resolution and really sharp. If you have a friend who is an amateur or professional photographer, ask her for help, and maybe pay her in wine! 

product shots on business cards vistaprint

  • Vistaprint business cards: 500 for $10! – Click to view today’s promotion

Product shots can really communicate your style and brand better than type or stock photography, and as they say, “a picture tells a thousand words.”

This would be a great idea for a number of home-based businesses, or people who sell jewelry, apparel, accessories, or handmade goods. If you have an Etsy shop, these kinds of business cards might be really effective.

Put website and social media info on the back

social media info business cardsNot only are these business cards a good idea for networking and handing out in person, but you might even make sales just by leaving them around.

Anyone who sees beautiful or eye-catching products like these on business card might be inclined to pick one up and check out the website on their phone, or put a card in their pocket for later.

You can also consider printing matching products like vistaprint postcards or banners once you figure out the business card design.

If you sell your own products, you really need to invest time in social media getting fans, and updating them with new products and news.

Put a photo of your business cards on Instagram, and submit to Vistaprint!

Vistaprint highlights creative uses of their products every week, and they are seen by thousands of people. If you sell products nationally, this is a great way to get even more attention with the help of Vistaprint. That happens to be where I found these sample business cards, and I even checked out the website address on the back of the cards before featuring them on this site!

Skip Vistaprint’s cheapest options for business cards

Why go to the trouble of designing beautiful business cards only to print them on cheap paper like you’ll get with Vistaprint’s free business card promotion?

The quality of your business cards is a direct reflection of the quality of your products, so make sure you get sturdy, premium options, and consider upgrades like rounded corners, brilliant finishes, and premium cardstock.

*Want to actually feel the paper stock, and see the print-quality? You can request free samples from Vistaprint.

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Creative Business Word Cloud

7 Print Marketing Tips That Will Help You Crush It

7 Print Marketing Tips That Will Help You Crush It: Want to embark on a print marketing campaign? You made the right choice – and we’re here to make sure you absolutely kill it. Read on for get tips.

Are you a small business owner or campaign manager that wants to embark on a print marketing campaign, but you just don’t know where to start?

Is the idea of learning how to use Photoshop to make a brochure as appealing to you as a lobotomy?

Print marketing isn’t dead. It also isn’t even close to being obsolete. Print marketing is still a fantastic tool for improve your business and getting your name out there.

Print marketing isn’t as simple as one would think, however. It requires a bit of work (definitely more than a simple email campaign).

But it’s worth it. And we’re sharing all these awesome tips you need to help crush it with your campaign. Ready to dive in? Let’s do it.

print marketing tips

Seven Print Marketing Tips For Your Campaign

These tips will have you on your way to making the best print marketing plan ever.

  1. Tip: Keep The Design Professional

This is important. Design and visual appeal is everything for a print marketing campaign.

Think about it– have you ever received a flier taped to your door for a local restaurant with very unprofessional and visually unappealing design? It probably made you instinctively judge the establishment as cheap. Your credibility relies heavily on how you present your business in your marketing campaign.

Professional design does not mean costly design either. In fact, a professional designer can be less costly in the long run.

Finding a talented professional design is a fantastic choice for your small business print marketing campaign because their designs, due to their quality, won’t require constant redesigns.

A professional designer will work with you to figure out exactly what you want without sucking up your valuable time.

If you’re interested in finding professional help with printing companies and designers, there are many resources out there that can help.

small business marketing tips

2. Get Involved And Approach People

This may seem useless to some. Nothing makes you want to do a backflip into oncoming traffic like a guy making eye contact with an armful of flyers on the sidewalk coming towards you. Also, people notice well-designed posters!

Real talk– people don’t want to be bothered on the street. People also don’t like holding useless things. A lot of people don’t like reading useless things either.

However, you’re getting your marketing campaign into physical hands– that’s a big step. If you follow step one, then the visual appeal of your pamphlet or menu will get your potential customers interested after you’ve handed them the material.

When creating a handout material or business cards, try to avoid an obnoxious sales-driven pamphlet. Don’t go cheap or opt for those free business cards. This tends to be a turnoff and could lead to your flier being thrown in the nearest trashcan.

Provide useful informative content in your hand-given flyer that you would be interested in that leads back to your brand or business.

Try not to get discouraged if you’re rejected — some people are just in a hurry.

3. Tip: Brush Up On Print “Language”

If you’re reading this article, you’re likely a novice printer looking for some extra help.

Learning the language when it comes to print can make it much easier to clarify what you want. Don’t be afraid to ask your designer to walk you through weird designer terms that you don’t know–a good designer will be more than willing.

Check out resources that can walk you through the language, too. Learning before you schedule a consultation with a designer can make expressing yourself much quicker and clearer.

print marketing cheap

4. Tip: Learn The Basics Of Graphic Design

Even if you’re opting to rely on a pro to do the design work, it wouldn’t hurt to get a solid idea of what graphic design seeks to do in print marketing.

While it takes years and a good education to learn everything about graphic design, these facts can at least make you a little more well-rounded:

  • Keep the design simple and don’t assault viewers’ eyes with too much stimulation.
    Break up text and don’t use too much of it– you’re creating a pamphlet, not an instruction manual!
  • Use headers, dividers, and other sectioning tools to lead the eye where you want it to.
  • Use charts, graphs, and other visually stimulating informative tools rather than tables.
  • Use white space. It is more aesthetically pleasing and makes your print look much more inviting to read.
  • Caption your photos. Readers want to know what they’re looking at and a caption can be very inviting.

There are a number of great sites to design your own small business marketing materials like Vistaprint, and they always have coupons available, even for Canadian customers! A number of them offer free sample kits so you know what to expect before placing an order.

5. Tip: Ask For Testimonials for Your Small Business

Are you an already established business with some regular happy customers? Ask them for written testimonials and reviews to include in your print campaign.

Be sure to pick out your most satisfied customers, of course. Don’t use that firmly passive aggressive Yelp review from Susan for this one.

Use phrases like “What are other people saying about My Business?” and “Here’s what our happy customers have to say!” to draw attention to the testimonials.

Don’t fabricate these, either. Nobody likes a liar, and quite frankly, the average chimpanzee can spot a fake review with all of its weird enthusiasm and keywording from a mile away.

6. Idea: Focus on your audience

Pretty obvious, right? It’s really important to keep your target audience in mind when creating any kind of marketing campaign, not just print.

Brainstorming is the most in-depth you can get when fleshing out exactly who your customers are and what they want, but it also doesn’t hurt to make fairly minimal observations of your target audience.

For example, say you are a hip artsy coffee bar near a large college campus. Your audience is young college students that enjoy art and are likely art students.

Your design should reflect this, as should the content you provide in your print marketing campaign. For this demographic and business, you should keep the design of the pamphlet on the avant-garde or minimalist side. The content you include should be discount coupons for students or hours for your happy hour.

online press release

7. Idea: Press Releases Are Very Useful for Small Business!

A press release is an official statement that is issued to newspapers, websites, and other publications of interest that provide information on a particular thing.

When you release a new product or promotion, create a press release to send to local publications that may find interest in it.

If you can provide your business data in this press release that can prove a trend in your specific industry, industry publications will be very interested in it and will write about your business. There are a number of good press release / news release sites out there like PRWeb and prnewswire.com.

Start Printing!

Print marketing truly is far from dead. With these handy tips, you’ll crush your print marketing campaign and reel in those customers!

Do you have a print marketing tip or coupon to share that could help out a small business looking to start their own campaign? We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a note in the comments!

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inkjet or laser printer

Inkjet vs Laser Printers: Which One Is Right for You?

Inkjet or Laser Printer? There are a plethora of printers on the market for home-use, but which one is right for you? The easy answer is this: If you print mostly black and white text, go with a laser printer for speed and savings on the cost of ink. If you print out graphics, you’ll want an inkjet printer.

Having said that, here are some considerations before you finalize that all-important decision:

Should You Buy an Inkjet or Laser Printer? (Video)

When I think of a printer for home use, I instantly think of inkjet printers. They’ve become kind of the “Renaissance man” of your home office. After all, they can print out emails, address labels, stickers, t-shirt transfers, or even photo-quality prints from your digital photos.

As if that’s not enough, many of the “all in one printers” throw in scanner, printer, and fax machine capability.

Inkjet or Laser Printer?

So inkjet printer must be right for me then? Maybe; consider the following before buying:

  • If you primarily print text, then a laser printer might be best for you. Laser printers are best for handling black and white text, (like emails, Word docs, and your taxes) and they are faster and less expensive. I know someone who prints out almost every email he gets for his records, and he must save hundreds of dollars a year by having a laser printer for this task. They can also handle address labels, which is nice around the holidays, or for bulk business mailings.
  • If you print a decent amount of photos, graphics, or color text, then an inkjet printer is best. I recommend not going with a color laser printer, as the costs of ink are significantly higher than black and white laser printers. Color laser printers use four toner cartridges, which can make the cost of ink even more than an inkjet
  • Don’t try to print photos with a laser printer. The quality will be marginal, and they aren’t meant for printing on glossy, or special photo paper. They also might not be able to print on sizes of paper other than 8.5 x 11

Do You Print Graphics or Photos?

So, if it comes down to whether or not you print photos or graphics, most people are going to choose an inkjet printer for their home. So, you’ll probably want to decide whether you need an all-in-one inkjet printer so that you can copy, scan, or even fax. Consider this:

  • When one component of these printers breaks, you’ll have to replace the whole thing. In our throw-away society, nobody repairs inkjet printers
  • The cost of replacement ink is high. If you bought a printer for $99 with a coupon, then that ink manufacturer has you on the hook for future ink purchases, which you’ll have trouble finding a coupon for. Recent tests from Consumer Reports confirm that many inkjet printers use less than half of the ink in the inkjet cartridges! (Canon had one of the worst ones tested!) Initially it looks like you save money by printing your own photos at home, but if you only print sporadically, much of that printer ink is being wasted in the “maintenance” mode of the printer.
  • Consider an inkjet printer that has 4 separate tanks for each color of ink. (CMYK) Over time this will save you money, as when one color runs out, you aren’t replacing the entire “color” inkjet cartridge.
  • Don’t buy less than 20-pound (weight) paper with your inkjet printer, or it may lead to paper jams. (Not as fun as strawberry, or other varieties of jam)

Big Print Job? Maybe Outsource the Job

TipConsider a discount online printing company to handle some of your color printing. Regardless of which printer type you go with, consider having your custom printing done by a discount printing company online.

It actually may be more expensive for you to print photos, invitations, and business cards at home, and you may not get the professional quality that you are looking for.

*If you have a Staples nearby, maybe they can print what you need?

Photo services like Shutterfly and Snapfish can bang out beautiful 4×6″ prints for as little as a 10 cents each now, while a sheet of the same photo paper will run about 25 cents. (add cost of ink, too!) They also offer weekly coupons, saving you money and even free shipping on many orders. You can also find coupons for sites like Vistaprint and Tiny Prints here.

TipConsider “name brand compatible ink” instead of what they call, “OEM,” or genuine name brand ink or toner. You can save up to about a third of the cost of printer ink when you go with the generic version. On top of that discount, you can also use a coupon or promo code for sites like 123inkjets, ClickInks.com, and 4inkjets.com for an extra discount.

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wpa propaganda poster design idea

Printing Banners & Posters? Ideas & Inspiration from WPA Designs of WWII

Need to get attention with signage for your event or small business? Take inspiration from the bold, simple, and eye-catching designs of WPA posters from WWII.

Need an incentive? Click below for at least a 20% discount on custom-printed banners, posters, and signs at Vistaprint.com:


The Posters of the WPA: Simple & Effective Signage Ideas

wpa poster design brush teeth

WPA – Hygiene Poster

It’s amazing how these WPA posters, like the government propaganda posters of the same era, can convey a strong message with only a few words and a single image.

A number of them will even ask the viewer a question to hook them. “Are YOU helping?” Maybe you can do the same to potential customers. (Who wants a TACO?!)

Whether you are printing a banner for a trade show, advertising a grand opening, or printing a poster to advertise an art show, I think you can take inspiration from the poster designs of the WPA:

About The Works Progress (WPA) Administration Posters

From 1936 until 1943 the WPA commissioned about 2000 different posters to publicize events, community activities, and health & education programs in 17 states. This government program to support the arts created a massive amount of bold, creative, and effective signage which can still inspire our own marketing efforts today.

wpa poster design foreign trade zone

Tip: Printing Effective Signage & Posters? Keep It Simple, Like the WPA

“Oh twice as much ain’t twice as good,
And can’t sustain like one half could” – Gravity, John Mayer

So, you probably have a lot to say to potential customers, and you want to make sure you include it all when printing a sign, poster, or banner? Actually, you’re better off keeping it simple. Don’t waste your time creating wordy signage like this:

banner printing ideas bad

Marketing FAIL! Ineffective banners. You lost me 20 words ago. Yawn!

Think fewer words and images. If you’re banner looks like a page ripped from an encyclopedia, (What’s that? Ok, I’m old!) people will walk right by it and it will get lost in all the noise and visual stimulation that surrounds us on every street.

Effective & Cheap Signage: Custom Printed Banners, Posters, & Signs

Another tip and bit of inspiration: these WPA posters, like most of the propaganda of the era including Russian Constructivist posters, were done with few resources and technology on a tight budget. If you don’t have the services of a professional designer, or skill as an illustrator, you can still appreciate the effectiveness and simplicity of these designs, and rethink your own signage layout to better command attention.

So, don’t think that you have to break the bank, especially with new printing processes, to get effective custom signage for yourself or your small business. Of course, we recommend Vistaprint, but you can find brilliant cheap printing from several other online printing companies like Shutterfly.

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