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Jeff Nicholson standing in front of lockers covered with promotional stickers

Jeff Nicholson, owner of Freely Creative, Inc. attempts to write weekly about stickers... news, design tips, resources, common questions and small business marketing.



Archive for the ‘Websticker News / Updates’ Category

What Does Your Business Believe In?

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Someone just sent me a Ted Video that led me to reflect on what I do and what I believe about what I do. On first glance someone might say that our company, Websticker.com “sells custom stickers”. Luckily, I think we do much more than that. Here’s a quick list of things I believe regarding my business. I’m sure there are more but I think this covers the core reasons why I do what I do:

• I believe in individual freedom of speech, creativity and art.

• I believe in the power of stickers to express those messages and art, encourage discussion, promote, and build identity.

• I believe if you have something to say; a message worth consideration, art that should to be seen, a product or service that should to be tried… it should be presented in a strong, creative visual way and in a form that lasts as long as possible.

• I believe in quality and value… not in up-selling. What works best for a customer is what works best for me regardless of price or profit.

• I believe in my staff and the benefits of personal interaction. Just because something can be automated doesn’t mean it should be. Interaction builds trust and also maximizes effectiveness, power and value of the final custom product.

At Websticker our slogan is “when you want your name to stick”. Hopefully, that reflects what we believe – our company is not about just selling sticker, it is about helping people promote and spread their messages, products, art and brands with the best valued, sticky marketing medium available.

Watch this TedEd Video and then think about what you believe about your business and why it exists. Do you communicate those beliefs as strongly as you can? Does your mission statement accurately depict why you do what you do? How about a quick review – what do you believe?

Ben & Jerry's bumper sticker - if it's not fun why do it?

 

 

What Makes An Ideal Website?

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one of the first versions of the Websticker.com website selling custom stickers

Our site in 1997

Returning visitors may notice there have been some major changes to our Websticker.com website. This is the first phase in a more major update. A website is always a work in progress. There is no such thing as a perfect website – just a website that is always evolving and attempting to optimize a visitors experience.

I think there are three main goals an “ideal” website should strive for when a visitor stops by (lands) on your site.

Step 1 – Communicate what you do, what you sell, who you are. Obviously, when someone comes in the door of your business you want them to know what you do, but, also what type of business you are running. Cheesy? High End? Personal? Generic? What is your identity? It’s that first impression that let’s them know they are either in the right place, or they are gone, bouncing right out of your site.

 Step 2 – Confirm to visitor that you have what they are looking for – the information, the product, the experience. People visit for a specific reason – can you fulfill their needs? That is the important question for you as well as the visitor and it should be answered soon after they arrive.

 Step 3 – Make it obvious what the visitor should do next. Where should they click for further info, for questions, for prices, for ordering? The next step in the process should be obvious and easy.

These steps may sound simple and obvious, but with growing amounts of information and multiple products it becomes something that always needs to be reviewed, tested and updated. In this current update for Websticker.com we eliminated pages completely, reduced the amount of links, pull down menus, options and clutter on each page, and updated information to reflect new or changing sticker production options.

Yes, we hope to improve our rankings in the search engines, but the main motivation is for a better, smoother visitor experience. Hopefully these new changes to our site better communicate who we are, where to find specific sticker information or sticker products, and what to do or where to go next to fulfill individual custom sticker needs. I’d love your feedback. But, keep in mind the next site update is just around the corner.

 

By Jeff Nicholson

Crowd Sourced Fundraising? Mixed Results For Sticker Car

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We have a car that we are completely covering with individual stickers. It is an art project, a promotional vehicle (literally) and it’s a lot of fun. I thought it was a good fit for crowd sourced fundraising to raise awareness of the car and raise some funds to get the car finished and out on the road promoting stickers, supporters and some great local causes.

Our initial effort went into setting up a Kickstarter campaign. A fun sticker art car driving around Vermont seemed like a perfect fit with their “platform for creative projects”. We came up with some great “rewards” – fun sticker packs, a chance to be part of the project with art or stickers on the car, postcards from the road and “signed” posters. We were quite excited… until they denied the project on the basis that it “did not meet guidelines”. I reread the guidelines and couldn’t see a problem so appealed the decision. This was the response from Kickstarter; “We took a look at the project after your message, however the project you submitted does not meet our Project Guidelines and it can no longer be submitted to Kickstarter”.

So, that was that – a door slammed in our face. A bit disappointing after the effort put in – to not get any indication of what the problem was. It felt like the opposite of customer service – a statement that I wasn’t good enough for the Community and they didn’t owe me any explanation as to why or how I could perhaps change my guideline-breaking-ways and become worthy.

We had done the planning and the work so it made sense to check out alternative fundraising options. IndieGoGo had a similar looking platform and seemed less restrictive, so we packed our bags, edited our video, switched our “rewards” to “perks” and set up shop at IndieGoGo (click here to check out StickerMobile Campaign). We were instantly welcomed, approved and off and running.

Reviewing the final results of our Campaign I obviously can’t compare IndieGoGo to Kickstarter as I have nothing to compare other than my initial perceptions in setting up the campaign. I’d put IndieGoGo in the win column for customer service and transparency. I can also make some general observations about on line crowd sourced fundraising platforms based on my experience at IndieGoGo.

We did not reach our fundraising goal at IndieGoGo but they do (unlike Kickstarter) allow you to keep any funds raised (with a higher percentage paid to them). Here are a few of my thoughts based on my experience with running our campaign.

Be reasonable with your fundraising expectations and read all of the tips provided by the platform.

Don’t expect any marketing or exposure help from the platform – Sure, there are unique projects that will rise to the top and get some exposure, but in general, there are thousands of projects and you will be buried in the mix. You will need to rely on your own family, friends and business contacts to support the project and spread the word.

Keep your project as focused and simple as possible – Even when you are communicating to friends and family they need to understand the benefits (to themselves and you) quickly and easily.

Make the rewards or perks you offer of equal or greater value than the funds you are asking for – Show that this is about the art and the project not making money.

So, our experience using crowd sourced funding was mixed for the StickerMobile. We made some mistakes but it also helped us move forward with a project that will be good for our company and community in the long run. The campaign may be over but we now have some funds to build a better  Sticker Mobile website and continue the fun and promotional possibilities for years to come. We’ve introduced a lot of people to the sticker car and now have a bit of momentum to keep it rolling.

 

By Jeff Nicholson

Behind The Scene At Websticker.com – Kristen’s Review

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Hello sticker enthusiasts, sticker lovers, and sticker needers!  My name is Kristen, and I’m a 28-year-old extrovert that has not been able to settle down in one place, well, ever.  A little background ->   As a kid I spent a lot of time back and forth between mom and dad, New Jersey to St. Louis and back.  Once I hit college, I was a free spirited artist in Philadelphia who loved spontaneous trips to where ever the money in my pocket would take me.  I spent time with so many different kinds of people and kept an open mind about life in general.  I graduated with a degree in Graphic Design and no desire to grow up just yet.  I spend the next 5 years hopping to different locations all over the country; Vermont, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont again, Teton Valley, Idaho, and surprisingly enough, Vermont…again (do you see the trend here?)

On my most recent move to Vermont, I reached a point in my life (I’m almost 30, I better be reaching that point) where I finally felt like I wanted to settle down.  I wanted to get a good full time job and finally have a place to call home again.  I came across an ad in the newspaper for this sticker company looking for a customer service and quoting manager.  First of all, I LOVE stickers, second, I love people.  Customer service comes second nature to me.  Needless to say, I e-mailed over my resume and the next day was called to schedule an interview.  From what I understand, there was some tough competition, but I was offered the job!  (Awesome, right?!)

So here I am, two full months in, and LOVING it!  I work with some of the friendliest, most laid back people I have ever met.  Not to mention the love of stickers that we have in common.  In this short amount of time, I feel as though I have been welcomed into this family with open arms.  What a tight knit group of people to work with.  We have our ringleader, Jeff, handling everything from our awesome StickerMobile project, to rebuilding the website, to you name it and he can do it.  Then we have Chris (ringleader number 2) who is such a caring, friendly person.  She handles orders, re-orders, quotes, and whatever else is passed her way.  John, who happens to be Chris’ husband, who also has great taste in music (his Pandora almost always plays classic rock hits…which is awesome); is one of the designers here at Websticker.  He’s also our in house I.T. guy and has an answer for just about every question I’ve had about my computer.  He’s working on rebuilding our website and he puts together some of the videos that you see on websticker.com as well.  Every once in a while, our sense of humor is on the exact same sentence of the exact same page.  So cool.  Brian is our head sticker designer here.   He’s your regular, laid back, Phish loving, yoga practicing, sticker loving, super friendly guy.  He always gives a heads up on easier and better ways to get tasks done, and is really understanding about any situation with stickers.  He’s the “go-to” guy for most of my questions.

I can’t understand why somebody WOULDN’T want this company to produce their stickers.  I feel like we are the most thorough and helpful group.  If you ever have a question, we will explain the answer until it makes perfect sense to you.  If you ever have a problem with your stickers, we 100% guarantee them and will take care of it.  If you don’t have a high quality file or a rough design for your sticker, we can help you out with the design process, and most of the time, it’s free!

I think my favorite part of the job so far is being able to see the sticker designs first (you guys are so creative)!  That, and being able to see some of the designs go through the process and become an actual sticker.  I’m so proud to be a part of the process and to see the outcome.  Driving around town and seeing a sticker that you had a part in making is AWESOME!

I think its safe to say, I’m more then happy to settle down and finally be able to call Vermont, “Home”.

This is definitely on the top end of my list of coolest jobs ever.  So go ahead, give me a call or drop me an e-mail!  I’d be happy to give you a quote on any sticker you’d like to have made!  Give us a buzz and say hi!  Ask how the weather is in Stowe, Vermont today (I have a window seat, I’ll be able to tell you first hand)!  I can’t wait to hear from ya!

 

By Kristen Condit

Are You On The Sticker Mobile?

Plenty of room for more custom stickers!

When you print over 16 million custom stickers (at Websticker.com) a year there are bound to be a few cool stickers lying around. I like to use choice stickers to cover stuff – I’ve got a sticker tie, sticker hat, sticker vanity in the bathroom, sticker scooter helmet, sticker collage on my wall, sticker suitcase, etc. But a fully covered sticker car is my ultimate dream. We’re getting there with the Sticker Mobile.

 

Charity, Stickers and Ice Cream

I wrote recently about our efforts at Websticker.com to help good causes with free custom stickers each month. Another great Vermont company that knows a lot about giving back to the community is Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. One of their factories is right down the road from our Stowe office and recently they stopped by local businesses to help raise money for the local Senior Class. They were dishing out the ice cream while we were dishing out the stickers (managed a few placements on the B&J Truck) and visiting our neighbors on a beautiful Vermont afternoon. Stickers and ice cream go well together – hopefully we’ll meet again soon for business… or pleasure. As the bumper sticker on the back of the truck says; “Question Business as Usual”.


Free Custom Stickers For Non Profits and Worthy Causes

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"It goes beyond extensive knowledge of custom promotional stickers. Websticker has a genuine, generous service-based attitude that truly helps clients market more effectively and succeed"Many years ago we set up a program at Websticker.com to do a free custom sticker printing job each month to a worthy organization or non profit. This charity program, which we call the “Sticking With You Program”, has been very successful and supplied over fifty organizations with hundreds of thousands of custom printed stickers. The only problem… picking just one worthy cause each month – there are so many great projects worthy of our help and for which stickers can raise awareness and raise money.

Over the last few years we’ve helped raise awareness and money with stickers for Cancer organizations, school groups, fire departments, farms, animal shelters, groups fighting poverty… fighting hunger and so many more (review a full list here). Because we limit the free sticker production offer to one per month we inevitable end up offering further substantial discounts to many other causes. Whether custom promotional stickers are free, discounted, or at our regular prices we firmly believe that custom stickers and magnets are the best ways to fundraise and maximize exposure.

I don’t think any other sticker printing company is as focused on giving back. And it’s not just about our Sticking With You Program, we offer personal service, consulting and design to every client that comes our way. We’ve built Websticker.com’s success on exceptional customer service and repeat business. The economy will always fluctuate and search engine rankings go up and down but helping people get the most powerfully designed and cost effective sticker product to meet their specific needs is our top priority. Our success allows us to offer free printing and discounts to whoever we can.

This month we are helping raise awareness of Vermont’s endangered Brown Bats, supporting Camp Ta-Kum-Ta and raising awareness of their move to a new location, and raising awareness about human trafficking and offering help numbers to potential victims. That is just a sample of the many worthy causes we hear from each month that we hope to support with custom stickers. If you believe stickers can help your organization raise awareness and money, by all means contact us and let us know the details of your possible sticker campaign. I hope we can be of help – We’d love to put the power of stickers to work for you.

 

By Jeff Nicholson

Thoughts On PR – It’s Not About Me, It’s About Stickers

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Jeff Nicholson, owner of Websticker.com admires hi tie made from custom stickers they have designed and printedI was interviewed for a “Think Quick” feature in the Innovate Section of the Burlington Free Press. I guess all press is good press, right? Well, it could be better… here are some quick thoughts and lessons learned from that recent PR about Freely Creative, Inc. – The Sticker Company.

• First of all I was reminded not to try and get press on my own. This interview would not have happened without help. It takes time, money and connections, and a good PR firm is always going to be able to better focus those efforts. We’ve been very pleased with PMG in Burlington, VT. They understand PR – we understand stickers.

• If given the questions for an interview in advance, by all means, write out all the answers in advance. Any thing that can be done to direct and control the final written piece should be taken advantage of. Any information you can submit in writing is always going to improve accuracy and better reflect your identity and goals. If that doesn’t look like how the publication usually operates, it never hurts to ask if questions and answers can be done in writing.

• Always remember why you are doing the interview in the first place. In my case it should not have been about me at all, but about our custom sticker business and the new on line sticker community and sticker design contest we started this year and for which we are trying to raise awareness.

• If there is no way to review interview questions and write answers in advance there is still a need to limit verbal responses and not get caught up over-spewing or riffing off topic. Remember, the more notes the writer has to sort through, the greater chance that points can be confused, misquoted, or focus on the wrong core theme.

• Make sure the most important questions have been asked. If they aren’t on a list of questions, ask if they can be added. In the case of the Free Press, Think Quick interview the most important question of all was missing; “What does your business do?”. That was the point of getting PR in the first place and I would think the main question on a readers mind to put the other questions and answers in context.

• If the interview or article is to be published on line make sure there will be links to your website(s) or to further information. What good is press about a web based business with no easy way to go and take a look, make contact or get more information?

In summary, have a list of key points and questions you would like to answer outlined before the interview, answer anything you can in writing, and make sure you communicate how you can be reached or your website found. Determine in advance why you are doing the interview and keep all your answers focused around that theme.

So, I might not have nailed my first sit down with the Free Press or effectively educated the public on the business of stickers and their strength as a promotional tool or works for art and social change. But, in business, we live, we learn and we find the best help we can. No promotional effort is ever going to be perfect but we’ve got to keep trying, testing, learning and moving forward.

For the record, Websticker.com is a company focused on custom stickers and printing of promotional stickers, labels, and decals. Our focus has always been on customer service and getting businesses, non-profits and individuals into the best quality, custom sticker product to meet their needs – with the strongest possible layout/design and at the best price available.

If you need any further info about stickers in general  please don’t hesitate to call me.

 

By Jeff Nicholson

 

 

I’m no salesperson… or am I?

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Cold calling? Don’t want to do it. Travel? Trade shows?… No thanks. Follow up calls? sales person graphic with red circle and line through it Networking?… Not really my style. Let’s face it – I am not a salesman. But wait a minute… I am part of a successful, growing business and in order for that to happen “sales” obviously must be made.

“It must be your staff”, you may say. If there are functions of your business for which you are not strong, hire people that fill those, right?. That makes sense, but again, we appear to have an organization with no sales people at all – no cold calls, no pounding the pavement, no up selling, no commissions, no prodding people to “act now!”.

But, here’s my thought; perhaps active “selling” is just a part of what may make a good salesperson. Knowing the product, believing in the product, wanting to help all customers as much as possible – this is the other side of selling where as long as there are existing customers and a few new prospects coming in the door, outstanding customer service and high quality products can take care of necessary sales goals.

At Websticker.com we have a great, tried and true staff and there is NOT much thought put into “selling” people. What keeps us interested, motivated and the company profitable is actively “helping” people. Yes, we still need to put money and efforts into marketing, attracting new clients and communicating with existing clients, but, we let our service and products ‘seal the deal’, not a sales person. To me (and I think my whole staff), it’s about serving, not selling.

This isn’t to say selling and sales don’t have their place and there are certainly exceptional and effective sales people. We just seem to do alright without traditional salespeople and have a small business where justifying another salary would  require more added sales than we necessarily want to inject into our systems. We like being small. We like spending time working personally with each customer. We like where we live and work. We believe in and have fun with the sticker products we design and sell.

Can we sell more and sell better? Sure, there’s always room for improvement. But, perhaps, for right now me and my staff are the perfect salespeople for meeting our company goals and, more importantly, meeting the sticker, decal and label needs of our existing clients and some of the people that find us on-line or hear about us from other happy customers.

 

By Jeff Nicholson

State Of The Sticker, 2012 – from Jeff Nicholson

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Jeff Nicholson, owner of Websticker.comI started the year with a trip to the PPAI Show, the big Promotional Products Tradeshow for distributors, and followed that with a trip to several of the largest sticker production factories in the U.S. I jotted down a few thoughts about our sticker focused business and the state of the sticker world as I traveled.
I was reminded at the PPAI Show in Las Vegas that “stickers” really are a different animal from other promotional products.  Most promotional products are used to make an impression on one recipient. Pens, mugs, gift baskets of food, luggage, etc. are items meant to make an impression and be held onto by the individual user. Stickers and labels on the other hand are used as signs and labeling, to “brand” unbranded items and to be stuck in places that make impressions and encourage word-of-mouth to thousands of viewers/users.
Most changes and improvements in the sticker realm involve digital printing. The quality and vividness of outdoor, digitally printed sticker and decals has made huge strides in the last few years. This progress affects the quality and options in regard to short runs, variable data work, and full color (4CP) printing on outdoor quality stickers and decals.
In 2012 there are many more options for custom stickers – more printing methods and more businesses hanging out their “custom sticker” shingle. So, it is more important than ever for buyers to communicate with suppliers what their stickers are being used for and how long they need to last. While outdoor digital printing has come a long way it still doesn’t compare with the quality and long-term durability of screen printing. “Digital printing” is also a fairly ambiguous term covering everything from label sheets run through your desktop printer to the latest industrial, top of the line presses being used by a select few factories. Getting sticker samples, comparing prices, factoring in future needs and being well informed is more important than ever.
At Websticker.com we are refocusing our efforts on customer service and quality this year. With all the options available to businesses and consumers looking for “custom stickers” I believe it is more important than ever to communicate more information and personally consult with our clients to assure the best sticker/decal/label product for their needs at the best possible price. We may no longer be at the top of the search engines for certain keywords but we do still have an exceptional customer service team, vast knowledge base of designing, producing and marketing with stickers, and the very best production resources available in the U.S.
I’ve taken a close look at the “latest and greatest” printing methods, and though they may be the best options on some sticker projects, often the high quality of older tried and true methods are still superior. The same can be said, I think, of websites and businesses selling stickers – just because there are more options to automate connections and the buying process with clients does not mean this is an improvement on getting customers exactly what they need at the best price. Old school customer service can go a long way. And that, in fact, is how Websticker continues to grow despite a poor economy and increased competition.
Promotional stickers themselves are a marketing medium that is “old school” but still tried and true. There may be nifty new technologies to stay in front of, connect and communicate with prospects but a basic bumper sticker was social media before there was “social media”. Promotional stickers are “posted” by fans, build identity, and start conversations – sound familiar?
I’ll be discussing maximizing the promotional power of your stickers, new digital printing options, and thoughts on stickers as “social media” in future blog posts, but till then… “When you want your name to stick”,  I hope we can be of help.
By Jeff Nicholson