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Canva: the best thing to happen to non-graphic designers since ever

Canva is the newest design tool to hit the market, and looks to be any professionals’ leg up in the competitive market, as it can set anyone apart either via presentation or business card. Genius!

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Canva – design tool loaded with tons of pre-designed elements

Do you remember the first time you used PowerPoint and were amazed by all of the creative themes it came loaded with, or the colors, or layouts? Do you remember that invincible feeling that you could go into any situation armed with a sexy presentation and knock the socks off of anyone? Well maybe you weren’t as nerdy as I was in my childhood, but you get the point – once upon a time, PowerPoint was the most creative and powerful suite of tools around, but business professionals adopted it and pillaged the potential awesomeness and turned presentation time into an hour of animated clip art that makes you want to stab yourself in the eyeballs.

Enter Canva, the newest design tool that has given me the same butterflies in my stomach as PowerPoint did 20 years ago, and after reading this, you’ll rush over to Facebook and ask if anyone you know has an invite to share with you since it is currently invitation-only and each new user is given five invitations to share.

UPDATE: Canva has provided AGBeat readers with a VIP pass to Canva so you can jump the waiting list!

First, watch this quick video below, and then I’ll tell you why it doesn’t do the tool justice.

Why Canva is awesome and I love it

First, I should note that I don’t know anyone at Canva, and hadn’t heard about the tool until recently (and yes, I begged for an invitation just like you will).

When you get into Canva for the first time, you’ll be able to create any of the following:

  • Documents (A4)
  • Presentations
  • Blog graphics
  • Facebook cover photos
  • Social media graphics
  • Cards
  • Photo collages
  • Posters
  • Invitations
  • Business cards

Each of these types of creations comes with tons of free templates, and while I usually hate templates because they reek of 1993 PowerPoint presentations, these templates are extremely modern, beautiful, and clearly designed by actual designers.

Once you’ve chosen what you’re going to create, you can select a layout (template), add some text in the pre-designed spots or on your own, change the background, and even upload pictures or have it pull from your existing Facebook photos (hence the benefit of logging in your first time with Facebook). If you want people to collaborate with you, even that is an option!

It’s loaded with a bajillion high-quality photos and images – there are plenty of free elements, but if you want a giant lion or a paisley background, you might shell out a dollar, which we believe to be pretty dang inexpensive (although we’d prefer a “here, take my $9.99 per month and give it all to me for free” model). But hey, they’ve got to keep the lights on!

Then, when you’re done, you can download your new image or share it on social networks right from Canva. Genius! The video is beautiful, but nothing beats tinkering with Canva yourself. Nothing.

Real life example

So after I stopped drooling, I challenged myself to make a quick graphic for an event we host in Austin every month. In 60 seconds, no joke, 60 seconds, I created the following:

bashh

It basically did all of the work for me – I just typed in a couple of words, changed the background color, and added a ribbon and the URL. Easy as pie.

The designs are all gorgeous, so easy to use, and a must-have for any professional who is ever going to have to put together a presentation, graphic, or otherwise. Really, truly, this is the most exciting thing to happen to non-graphic designers, and actual designers can use the tool without throwing up!

Quick photo tour:

So right now, I’m going to challenge myself to make a gorgeous Facebook cover photo in under 60 seconds, let’s see if I can do it (click any image to enlarge and get inspired):

canva-step-1

canva-step-2

canva-step-3

canva-step-4

canva-step-5

canva-step-6

It worked! Although I changed my mind during the process, you can see that the design elements are all drag and drop, and it even helps you with guides to keep everything centered. And now, if I wanted to use Ron Burgundy as my Facebook cover photo, I can – it’s even customized with a stupid catch phrase.

So go check out Canva and show us in the comments what you have created!

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Don Reedy

    October 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Inviting. Pleasing it would be. 🙂

  2. Brady Pevehouse

    October 21, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    I requested my username, verified my email, and immediately got an invite directly from the website!

  3. JoeLoomer

    October 22, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Holy Crap! Check out their pintrest page too – requested my user name, but didn’t get what Brady got – hopefully I will soon!

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  4. Brady Pevehouse

    October 22, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Darn “Chief”, when I get lucky I hope it is for winning the lotto…
    instead I simply get the Canva invite..
    I just sent one at you.. It is interesting and worth some looking at and trying out, the thing the article doesn’t tell you is, …. you do still need some creativity. The right tools only get you so far and while this has quite a few, it doesn’t come with a personal designer who can snap 3 times and it’s done.

  5. Lani Rosales

    October 22, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Hey friends, if you check out the update in the story, there’s a VIP link you can share with friends so they can bypass the waiting line!

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Business Marketing

The secret to crafting consistently high-converting emails?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Email may seem too old to be effective but surprisingly it’s not, so how can you get the most out of your email marketing? Try these tips.

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Email marketing

Email marketing might seem archaic in comparison to modern mediums like social media, blogging, and podcasting; however, it actually remains one of the highest converting options marketers and small businesses have at their disposal.

But Why Email?

Hopefully you believe in email as an effective marketing channel, but in case you have doubts, let’s hit the reset button. Here’s why email marketing is worth investing in:

  • Email is one of the few marketing channels that you have total control over. Unlike a social media audience, which can disappear if the platform decides you violate their terms, you own your email list.
  • Email is considered very personal. When someone gives you access to their inbox, they’re telling you that you can send them messages.
  • From a pure analytics perspective, email gives you the ability to track behaviors, study what works, and get familiar with the techniques that don’t.
  • The ROI of email marketing is incredibly high. It can deliver as much as $44 in value for every $1 spent.

5 Tips for High-Converting Emails

If you’ve been using email, but haven’t gotten the results you’d like to, it’s probably because you’re using it ineffectively.

Here are a few very practical tips for high-converting emails that generate results:

  1. Write Better Subject LinesThink about email marketing from the side of the recipient. (Considering that you probably receive hundreds of emails per week, this isn’t hard to do.) What’s going to make you engage with an email? It’s the subject line, right?

    If you’re going to focus a large portion of your time and energy on one element of email marketing, subject lines should be it.

    The best subject lines are the ones that convey a sense of urgency or curiosity, present an offer, personalize to the recipient, are relevant and timely, feature name recognition, or reference cool stories.

  2. Nail the IntroNever take for granted the fact that someone will open your email, and read to the second paragraph. Some will – but most will scan the first couple of lines, and then make a decision on how to proceed.

    It’s critically important that you get the intro right. You have maybe five seconds to hook people in, and get them excited. This is not a time to slowly build up. Give your best stuff away first!

  3. Use VideoEmail might be personal, but individual emails aren’t necessarily viewed as special. That’s because people get so many of them on a daily basis.

    According to Blue Water Marketing, “The average person receives more than 84 emails each day! So how do you separate your emails from everyone else? Embed videos in your emails can increase your conversion rates by over 21 percent!”

    This speaks to a larger trend of making emails visually stimulating. The more you use compelling visuals, the more engaging and memorable the content will be.

  4. Keep Eyes MovingThe goal is to keep people engaging with your email content throughout. While it’ll inevitably happen with a certain percentage of recipients, you want to prevent people from dropping off as they read.

    One of the best ways to keep sustained engagement is to keep eyes effortlessly moving down the page with short and succinct copy.

    One-liners, small paragraphs, and lots of spacing signal a degree of approachability and simplicity. Use this style as much as you can.

  5. Don’t Ask Too MuchIt can be difficult to convey everything you want to say in a single email, but it’s important that you stay as focused as possible – particularly when it comes to CTAs and requests.

    Always stick to one CTA per email. Never ask multiple questions or present different offers. (It’ll just overwhelm and confuse.) You can present the same CTA in multiple places – like at the beginning, middle, and end of the email – but it needs to be the same call. That’s how you keep people focused and on-task.

Give Your Email Marketing Strategy a Makeover

Most businesses have some sort of email lists. Few businesses leverage these lists as well as they should. Hopefully this article has provided you with some practical and actionable tips that can be used to boost engagement and produce more conversions. Give them a try and see what sticks.

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Business Marketing

What entreprenuers can learn about branding from trendy startups

(BUSINESS MARKETING) What’s the secret of focused startup branding, and how can you apply it to large enterprises?

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A set of wine from Craft Hugo, showing off pleasing branding in labels.

Think of your favorite brand. Is it the product they offer or the branding that you love? Exactly – brand ethos reigns supreme, especially with those trendy, aesthetically-pleasing startups (I never thought Glossier had good makeup, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t visit their website once or twice a month).

So let’s break it down.

Co-founder of Red Antler – a company that assists startups in creating successful branding – Emily Heyward believes in a few branding truths.

Firstly, you have to make sure not to market your brand as a single product or experience. Doing so, she says, will pigeonhole you and thus truncate your ability to expand and offer new products and services (she gives MailChimp, known almost exclusively for email marketing, as an example).

What Heyward does say to do is instead market an idea. For example, the brand Casper (one of Antler’s clients) markets itself as a sleep company instead of a mattress company. By doing this, they kept the door open to eventually offer other products, like pillows and bedding.

Heyward states that this “power of focus” is a way to survive – with countless other startups offering the same product or service, you have to position your company as offering something beyond the product. Provide a problem your customer didn’t know they had and offer an innovative solution through your product.

Ever used Slack, the app-based messenger? There were other messengers out there, so focus of Slack’s branding is that regular messaging is boring and that their app makes it more fun. And customers eat it up.

How can this logic apply to mid-to-large enterprises? How can you focus on one specific thing?

Again, placing emphasis on brand over products is essential – what is it about what you offer that makes your customers’ lives better? It’s more cerebral than material. You’re selling a better life.

Another thing to remember is that customers are intrigued by the idea of new experiences, even if the product or service being offered is itself not new. Try not to use dated language that’s colored by a customers’ preexisting feelings. Instead, find an exciting alternative – chat solutions are desperately trying move away from the word “chat”, which can bring to mind an annoying, tedious process, even though that is in fact what they offer.

Broadening the idea of focused brand ethos to a large company can be difficult. By following these tips and tricks from startups, your company can develop a successful brand ethos that extends beyond your best product or service.

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Business Marketing

The rise of influencer marketing and its effect on digital marketing

(BUSINESS MARKETING) More businesses are planning to invest a larger part of their marketing budgets on more relatable, branded content and influencer marketing.

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Influencer speaking to camera for marketing segment.

The digital age has created more savvy consumers, and the barrage of advertising on top of the plenitude of content online can be a lot. Many consumers have learned to hide ads or they simply scroll past them to their content of choice. Most business owners know that digital marketing is a crucial part of any ad strategy, and branded content and influencer marketing continues to grow in the market, because consumers see that it’s different from traditional advertising.

Hardly anything stayed the same in 2020, and traditional advertising also has shifted. Advertiser Perceptions reported on the trend for 2021, based on a survey from late 2020.

“More than half of advertisers using paid branded content and influencers say doing so is more critical than it was a year ago. Throughout the second half of 2020, 32% increased spending on branded content and 25% spent more to back influencers. They’re now putting 20% of their digital budgets into the complementary practices, which is more than they put into any other digital channel (paid search is 14%, display 13%, paid social 12%, digital video 12%).”

The benefits of branded and influencer content are that you are speaking to the consumer where they already are, when you choose an influencer. The people who follow their accounts are more likely to trust that the influencer would only share something they like or use themselves. The best matches are when the influencer marketing fits nicely into the kind of content, the voice, and any specialties they already deal with.

The word “influencer” as well as the concept rubs some people the wrong way. Marketers see the value, though, as influencer marketing can be effective if done well, and the cost to hire them is often less than a traditional ad campaign. If I want to know about food in a city, I’ll follow the hashtags until I find a local food blogger or micro-influencer whose style I like. Then I’ll seek out those restaurants when I visit. Sure, some of the meals are comped, but the truth is that food bloggers and influencers like to share their food recommendations. I have been influenced this way more than once, and not only for food. I am not alone in this, either, which is why it’s an important part of a marketing strategy.

In influencer marketing, the content creator is then given free rein to create within their own style, voice, and persona. They need to connect with their audience in an authentic, familiar way without creating a dissonance for their followers between their public page(s) and the brand. The level of trust is fairly high with influencer marketing, and many influencers realize that promoting something crappy or something outside of their area of expertise or recognition hurts everyone involved.

The power of storytelling comes into play here, as with all good advertising. Branded content is specifically all about the story, often the story of the business’s philosophy or some lifestyle aspect that goes with the brand’s vibe–or is so off that it goes viral. Some branded campaigns join into or build off of conversations already happening in the wider world. The purpose is to have people engage with the brand, with the content, build awareness, encourage conversations, sharing, comments, all with the long term goal of fostering a positive image of the brand so that down the line, they will become consumers.

Think of 2004 Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, based on a study showing that around 2% of women saw themselves as beautiful. The widely studied, award-winning campaign featured women of all backgrounds and body types, without airbrushing and Photoshopping them into a narrow vision of “beauty.” While some people hated it, many loved it and applauded the brand for treading into traditionally uncharted waters. Among haters, fans, and people who weren’t sure what to think, the Dove Real Beauty branded content campaign generated conversations. The campaign also encouraged women to feel good about themselves and lift up other women. One could argue that the campaign you could argue that the Real Beauty campaign was a forerunner to the currently popular body positivity movement, which started gaining traction around 2012. Dove increased sales by at least $1.5 billion in the first ten years the branded content campaign ran.

The goal of branded content is to raise awareness of the brand, but the path from point A (creating the content) to point B (brand awareness, ultimately leading to better sales) is not a straight line. Brands are paying attention to grabbing attention, aka building brand awareness via more upper funnel marketing than lower funnel.

One thing that marketers are looking for now, however, is almost eliminating the funnel. With the mind-boggling increase in e-commerce since the beginning of the pandemic, clickable sales capability becomes important in any kind of marketing, including influencer and branded content. It pays to listen to customers, to find an influencer who meshes with your brand’s purpose, and to create thoughtful branded content that isn’t out of line with your core product or service.

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