Moving Forward

Moving Forward

Shadowbend Studios wants to remind everyone to take a deep breath! When we pull together we can accomplish amazing things!

Moving Forward

Always looking at ways to help our clients, help them moving forward, we are currently offering 50% off our Professional Business Strategy Consultation*  until April 15th.

Let us help you evaluate your marketing strategies based on ‘Shelter in Place’ scenarios and develop new strategies to guide you through business service options that you may not have thought about.

If you are worried about reduced traffic, loss of clients or closings with ‘Shelter in Place’ orders throughout the Bay Area counties and the country, you are not alone!

People are panicked about lost business and lost wages during this very stressful time.

Before you close your doors or shutter your windows let Shadowbend Studios help you with options for:

1. Evaluating your marketing strategies based on ‘Shelter in Place’ scenarios.
2. Developing strategies for moving forward.
3. Learn about engagement and resiliency during crisis.
4. The importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and website upgrades.
5. Service options for businesses of all kinds.

Our consultation is tailored for your particular business and will help you to develop resiliency and customer engagement through new ad campaigns, social media strategies and the importance of website upgrades and search engine optimization. Moving forward, we do amazing things together!

We will all get through this together.

Whoever you are and wherever you are, Sandy and I just want to wish for your safety and your contentment and peace. This is a very frightening time for all of us but, we take a certain amount of comfort in the fact that we are all in this together. We are blessed to be able to work from home, so please rest assured that we are here to help you in any way we can during this time of uncertainty.

Moving forward, we gently remind you to remain grateful for what you have and to hold those you care about closely (metaphorically speaking, of course).

Take care,
Skip & Sandy

* We are offering 50% off our one (1) hour Professional Business Strategy Consultation (normally $75) through April 15th.

For more from the Studio, check out Shadowbend Studios Blog Page

The Best Free Online Courses for Marketing

The Best Free Online Courses for Marketing

Online Web MarketingLearning new skills can be both time-consuming and challenging. With new technology emerging at breakneck speeds, there’s a palpable pressure to continuously up your skills!

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

That’s never been truer than it is today. According to Josh Kaufman, international bestselling author of The Personal MBA, it takes 20 hours to go from knowing nothing about a particular subject to being pretty good at it. Of course, if you want to become an expert that takes even longer!

Podcasts and blogs are a great starting point for exploring a particular topic. But online marketing courses will provide you with the time and space you need to go deep and truly master this new skill. And most courses are made up of on-demand videos and exercises that you can progress through at your own pace.

Below,Shadowbend Studios has gathered some of the best free online marketing courses. They cover the main skills you’ll need to advance in today’s rapidly changing workplace. Continued learning will help you become an expert in whatever subject you feel can best help you succeed.

Just click on one of the following topics below to jump straight to courses that will help you market your business:

Now is a perfect time to take advantage of free online classes to help grow your business today!


For more Monday Morning Marketing, check out Shadowbend Studios Blog Page

Sources: HubSpot and Coursera

Image by muneebfarman from Pixabay

My Inspirations And Motivators (a.k.a what keeps me going!)

My Inspirations And Motivators (a.k.a what keeps me going!)

My posts this week have centered on workflow, focus and organization.  I’d like to end the week by give you an idea of the types of things that inspire and motivate me.  Not only as a business owner but also as a Father and human being.

I find a lot of inspiration in my daily Buddhist practice with it’s emphasis on mediation, gratitude and compassion.  My exposure to Buddhism since 2013 has been a major calming and focusing factor in my life.  The philosophy of impermanence (nothing lasts forever) has been a huge tool to help me through difficult times and come out on the other end better than I was when I started.
Also, while I’m not a voracious consumer of inspirational memes and videos, I have come across several that I have saved and regularly watch and share with my kids.

Gratitude

This is the video I have watched and shared with my family more often than any other.  It has a simple, wonderful, powerful message.  Gratitude.

If You Want to Change the World, Start Off by Making Your Bed

A truly wonderful video about the power of perseverance, focus, taking things one step at a time and making sure to start by doing the “little things”.

How To Let Your Light Shine Bright!

As motivating speeches go, it doesn’t get much better than this!!  Bring a pair of shades 🙂  I smile EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I see this.

One Life – Act Like It!

Everything that has happened has happened.  No more dwelling, no more complaining.  Go out and execute!.

I hope these strike a cord with you.  Feel free to leave a comment on what you thought of them or if you have other things and inspire and motivate you that you’d like to share.

Take care,
Skip & Sandy

Simple Tips For Avoiding Workflow Chaos

Simple Tips For Avoiding Workflow Chaos

It’s Monday morning.  You’ve had a restful weekend and you are in your office with your favorite morning beverage and ready to get started pumping out some creative work.  Right in the middle of things a client contacts you with a technical problem they are having with their website.  You let them know you’ll look into it and then one of your favorite clients calls and wants to talk to you about some new ideas they have for their business.  After that call you get back to sorting out the technical issue and then remember you have a webinar to attend in an hour that you signed up for.  All the while you are thinking about the bills you have this week that you need to cover.  Your head is swirling with all the things you need to do and then, 8 hours later you have not done anything you originally planned for the day!

Sound familiar?  Happens to me all the time.

As well as being a web developer and designer, I have also been a practicing Buddhist for the past 7 years.  One of the things that my practice has taught me is the importance of routine.  It is critical for creative types like myself to have a routine and stick with it whenever possible because it is so easy to become overwhelmed with all of the elements that are part of running any type of creative business.  I came into my entrepreneurship with a background in art and design and have had to learn the business side of things as I go.  Part of this is making lists, keeping calendars and taking lots of notes.  I have two paper calendars, one Google calendar and three white boards in my office with all manner of work flow lists and charts.  I have found that the only way to keep myself focused on what I’m doing is to always follow a routine.  It keeps me focused because I know that I start from number 1 and go from there no matter what else happens (save for obvious emergencies)

The days where I can successfully follow my routine ALWAYS make me feel better and more accomplished at the end of the work day.  So, as a (hopefully) helpful example, here is the routine I follow during the day:

Let’s take a look:

1.  Meditate / Inversion table – Every morning I spend 10 minutes or so in meditation.  It’s a wonderful way to set your intention and focus for the upcoming work day.  After that I spend a few minutes stretching our on my inversion table because it just feels great and is so good for my body!
2.  Shower – Because a clean body is a great way to start the day.
3.  Cat Box – Yea it may sound stupid but have you ever been near a litter box that has been neglected for a few days??
4.  Breakfast – This is actually very important because it can so easily be overlooked.  Feed your mind and body and you will be able to be more productive!
5. Check, Sort, Answer All Emails – If you are like me you have dozens (or hundreds) of emails to go through every day.  Like a cat litter box, if they are not tended to every day they pile up and get stinky!
6.  Emergencies – It happens.  Clients call with something that needs to be done “immediately”, web servers go down temporarily and need to be looked at, client’s emails can be on the fritz.  These things happen and they almost always need to be tended to immediately.
7.  My Blogging, Social Media Postings, Etc. – This could be one of the most important things on my list because its not “billable” and so it can get easily pushed aside.  However, business development and promotion is vital to bringing in new projects and so it needs to be part of your regular routine.
8.  SEO/SMM Client Work – This is the time I spend daily working on the SEO and SMM campaigns for my existing clients.  SEO/SMM are ongoing projects that need to be worked on regularly to provide positive results for my clients.
9.  Cold Calls – You have to make calls and contact people in order to get new work and clients.  Spend a little time every day doing this and you will be amazed at the results you get.  You don’t have to get new clients every day but if you are persistent and build up relationships with perspective clients then, when they are ready to pull the trigger, you’ll be the first person they call.
10.  Existing Client Work – This is the bulk of my day.  Working on projects for my existing clients who are under contract with me.
11.  New Client Work – This is the second largest portion of my day.  Setting up new client projects:  New website hosting accounts, new WordPress installations, gathering creative discovery information etc.

I hope that giving you a glimpse into my day to day routine has inspired you or given you something to try out.  Please feel free to leave a comment on what YOU do to organize your work day!

Take care,
Skip and Sandy

P.S. Thank you to my good friend and tremendously talented artist Rose Adare for the sticker on my white board.  I really enjoy having little affirmations around me to remind me to be grateful and practice compassion and kindness.  If you are interested, her art can be seen on her site at https://www.roseadare.com/

 

 

Shadowbend Studios’ Traditional Annual Holiday “Gift” :)

Shadowbend Studios’ Traditional Annual Holiday “Gift” :)

Hello friends of the studio!
Well, it’s that time again!  This has been an annual holiday tradition for the past 12 years and those of you who have followed my blog posts and social media posts know what’s coming.  For those of you who may be new to my postings… I’ll apologize ahead of time 🙂  I have a quirky, whimsical and somewhat dark sense of humor at times.  It helps with creativity and design but, as I mentioned in the original post 12 years ago…

“This is one of those things that defines a person’s character to others. 🙂  Either you “get” the humor or you will come away, head askew with a “tsk tsk” look on your face, wondering where my parents went wrong.

And so, without further ado, here is Shadowbend Studios’ annual holiday “gift”…

Please feel free to let us know how you like the video in the comments section!  And, don’t hold it against us, we’re just made that way 🙂

Take care and happy holidays!
Skip & Sandy

Monday Morning Marketing – Must Have SEO Plugins For Your WordPress Website

Monday Morning Marketing – Must Have SEO Plugins For Your WordPress Website

Online Web MarketingSearch engines and search engine results are a major source of traffic for your website.  Search engine optimization (SEO) is the best strategy for positive, effective search engine results!  One of the best things you can do to start you search engine optimization campaign is to install plugins on your site to help you with on-site optimization.  It may come as no surprise that there is no shortage of SEO and SMM plugins available, however here at Shadowbend Studios we have been using a handful of the industry leading offerings to great effect and would like to share them with you!

Yoast SEO
If you have only one plugin on your site, this should be the one.  From Yoast’s website:

“Since 2008 Yoast SEO has helped millions of websites worldwide to rank higher in search engines. This WordPress SEO plugin helps you with your search engine optimization. Are you not entirely convinced? Yoast SEO is the favorite WordPress SEO plugin of millions of users worldwide!  As Yoast’s mission is SEO for Everyone, the plugin’s users range from the bakery around the corner to some of the most popular sites on the planet.”

Yoast SEO is easy to use, intuitive and very very effective!

Download Yoast SEO

Schema – All In One Schema Rich Snippets
In my opinion, this is a fantastic and terribly underrated plugin!  Snippets are the portion of a website that Google displays in search engine results.  Under normal conditions, Google just takes a slice of text from the top portion of a web page and displays it.  With Schema – All In One Schema Rich Snippets YOU create and control the text that is displayed.  The plugin also works well with Yoast SEO for a great one-two SEO punch!

Download Schema – All In One Schema Rich Snippets

As I said, there are many more but these two are the heavy hitters that no WordPress website should be without.  If you’d like more information, more recommendations or you’d like help installing and configuring these plugins on your site, contact Shadowbend Studios today!

Take care,
Skip & Sandy

Shadowbend Studios Is Feeling Festive!

Shadowbend Studios Is Feeling Festive!

Hello there friends of Shadowbend Studios!  It’s a cozy winter weekday afternoon here at the studio, so while I’m sipping my peppermint coffee I thought I’d show you some photos of our decorations!  The winter holidays are our favorites here at Shadowbend and we tend to go all out!

Do you decorate your business?  And if so, show us some photos in the comments section!

Happy Holidays!
Skip & Sandy

Shadowbend Studios Christmas Web Design Contra Costa Graphic Designer Pleasant Hill Web Hosting Bay Area SEO Pleasant Hill Bay Area Social Media Marketing Web Designer Contra Costa Bay Area Web Development Shadowbend Studios ChristmasShadow

Monday Morning Marketing – Digital Marketing Tips

Monday Morning Marketing – Digital Marketing Tips

Online Web MarketingDigital Marketing, Online Marketing, Web Marketing.  There are so many phrases used to describe what essentially is utilizing the internet, social media, websites etc. to market you business and bring in new customers.  This is a huge field full of a massive amount of information and we will be covering different aspects in future posts.  Today however, let’s cover a handful of basic concepts that will get you started on the road to marketing your business online.

  1.  Really get to know your customers and potential customers.  With the internet and social media giving you so many ways to segment and specify your marketing tools, it really helps to know what drives your current and potential customers and clients.  What will make them stop and take a look at one of your ads or one of your blog / social media posts.
  2. Write engaging topics, not just hard sell.  This is SO VERY IMPORTANT!  I see failures around this tip all the time.  People are burned out on hard sell all the time.  Your potential new customers and clients want to get to know you.  They want a peek inside your business, your life, your interests etc.  As we have mentioned in previous posts, a good rule of thumb is to make your content about 10% – 20% selling and 80% – 90% engagement.  This doesn’t sharing what you had for breakfast with your audience but perhaps you visited an industry related event over the weekend or purchased a new piece of equipment for your business.  This may make for an interesting blog or social media post for your followers and they may also appreciate a look at the “personal” side of your office or studio!
  3. Make sure you include SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services into your campaign and understand that you should be in this for the long haul.  Any authentic, organic online marketing campaign will take time to bring you back sustainable results.  Search Engine Optimzation (SEO) is a fantastic, solid way to help bring your business and your website more visitors, which translates to more potential customers and clients.  SEO is a long term prospect and you need to know that going in.  Any company that claims they can guarantee you front page results on Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) in days or weeks is either using an unsustainable, artificial means to boost your presence or is just flat out lying to you.  SEO takes time, but it is very much worth it.
  4. Keep your brand consistent.  Sure you want to create eye catching ad campaigns with lots of engaging visuals, but make sure to keep your brand visible and consistence so that your viewers know immediately who the content is coming from.  We have all had those instances where we see a visually stunning ad campaign only to realize we have no idea who or what is being marketed!
  5. Don’t be afraid to try new things!  As I have told my clients, online marketing is different from designing and printing 10,000 direct mail pieces.  Once they are printed, that’s it!  With online marketing you can try something and if it doesn’t work, just adjust it and try again!

That should be a good jumping off place.  As always, if you have any questions or would like more information, just contact us at any time

Take care,
Skip & Sandy

Welcome Sandy Stafford To Shadowbend Studios!

Welcome Sandy Stafford To Shadowbend Studios!

A Perfect Balance…

Sandy Stafford Skip Sommer Shadowbend StudiosEquals in most things, Sandy and I collaborate on all of the projects we develop here at Shadowbend Studios. We share a perfect balance of strengths to form a great partnership for creating and problem solving.

My primary skill set lies in layout, architecture and coding (backend) and Sandy’s in visual and graphic design (frontend). We can (and usually do!) attack the same problem from opposite ends and come up with great solutions for any client issue.

Having worked in Office Management for years before going back to school for an Arts degree, Sandy is able to take over the day-to-day administrative office duties for Shadowbend Studios. Our clients will be seeing and hearing more and more of her in person and on the phone!  Ensuring daily office responsibilities are up to date will make it easier for me to concentrate on building new websites and serving all my clients needs.

A perfect balance!

Sandy studied Graphic Design, Art History and Dance in college. She also spent several years as President of the Board for the West Africa Cultural Arts Institute in Eugene Oregon.

Sandy has spent most of her life expressing herself through dance, creating custom jewelry (which can be seen on her awesome new site, Dancing Goddess Designs!), handmade artist books and more recently not-so-fine art.  She also loves refinishing furniture too.  Sandy is a true Renaissance Woman!

In her younger days, she worked as a sailmaker and proudly sailed across the Pacific Ocean with two crew mates during Hurricane Iniki and lived to tell about it.

Sandy and I are looking forward to celebrating the upcoming 15 year business anniversary of Shadowbend Studios and taking our company in to 2020 stronger and more creative than ever!

Contact Shadowbend Studios today and let’s discuss the ways we can help bring your business to the World Wide Web!

Take care,
Skip and Sandy

Monday Morning Marketing – Are Email Newsletters Still Relevant?

Monday Morning Marketing – Are Email Newsletters Still Relevant?

Well the short answer is yes, absolutely!  Email newsletters are one of the easiest marketing tools to use, however they can be one of the toughest to do correctly.

Let’s begin with a short definition so we are all on the same page regarding what we are talking about.  An email newsletter is used to inform people who subscribe to it about announcements, new products & services and promotions (some promotions can be specific to newsletter subscribers only).

Email newsletters are very effective tools for keeping subscribers “in the know”, offering specific deals, promotions etc. and keeping your brand name fresh in people’s minds.  I have had more than one client mention that they chose to work with me because I was persistent (in a good way!) and kept in touch with them until they were ready to pull the trigger on their project.

Here are some quick tips to help you navigate the world of email marketing more effectively.

  1.  Choose a focus for your newsletter.  For example, my fiance’ Sandy has a jewelry design business called Dancing Goddess Designs.  Her newsletters typically focus on either a specific type of jewelry or specific sets for special occasions, holidays, seasons etc.  Try to focus on one aspect of your business in each newsletter or, better yet, most email newsletter providers will let you segment your contacts into different subject specific lists so that you can target specific newsletters to specific audiences.  Also, keep in mind that your newsletter content should be approximately 80-90% educational (to engage your audience) and 10-20% promotional (hard selling).  People will get turned off quickly if all you do is send out emails trying to get people to buy things.
  2. Your subject lines are a valuable tool!  Receiving an email with the subject line “Our Email Newsletter” is not really going to entice anyone to open it.  On the other hand, a subject line that reads “5 Sure Fire Tips To Grow Your Social Media Audience” is a much more effective and immediate call to action.  Don’t be afraid to keep your subject lines fresh and exciting and don’t fall into the trap of assuming people will open every email just because the subscribed to you.
  3. Prioritize your CTAs!  (bet that got your attention!).  A CTA is a “Call To Action” and it’s nothing more then asking your readers to do something specific:  “Click Here Now!”, “Read Our Reviews”, “Purchase Today!” etc.  Now odds are you are going to have multiple CTAs on any given newsletter, but you would do well to pick one of them and give it priority over the rest.  Pick the CTA you want most people to act on and put it high up on the page, bold, colorful and attention getting.   Make SURE everyone who opens that email sees it first!  Sure they may see the other CTAs as well but you want to make sure as many people as possible act on the primary.  This focuses people’s attention and keeps them from seeing a list of equally weighted CTAs which may turn them off by presenting too many at a time.
  4. Minimal is GOOD.  Oh did it take me awhile to learn this!  As a creative, I want things to be eye catching, colorful, over-the-top, FABULOUS!!!  In the world of email newsletters however, restraint is king!  Keep your designs simple but effective.  Keep your content to blurbs and excerpts with external links to “read the full story” if necessary.  People have to wade through mountains of emails every day and they are going to want their information to be presented in neat, digestible, easy to navigate chunks.  Small portion enticement is far more effective than a full course meal WITH dessert! (how did I get off on a food tangent there??)

There are, of course, many other tips, tricks and strategies that can be leveraged when thinking about email newsletters.  This however, is a great place to start.

As always, if you have any questions about what you’ve read in our blog posts, please feel free to contact us so we can discuss it with you and find out how Shadowbend Studios can be of service!

Take care,
Skip & Sandy