The endless pursuit of ‘What’s Next?’

As a business, BloodLines Creative is continually in new business mode. Even with my existing client base, I’m always seeking new ways to help build their business, knowing full well that if I can help them expand their market share or drive more customers to their website or Facebook page or directly to their store it will ultimately generate more business for BloodLines.

So I’m always on the lookout for new ways to deliver messaging, new techniques for grabbing attention, new avenues for targeting potential customers, new ways to reach people in unexpected ways. One must remain forever curious.

With BloodLines Art, I face a similar challenge. I do paintings very similar to the way I read books – once I start one, I don’t even consider what’s next until I put my name on the painting. When I do finish, I begin searching for ideas.

Rene Magritte said that the most difficult part for any artist is deciding what to paint.

I agree with that dilemma.

So with my work by day and my art by night, I continually face the challenge of, “What’s next?”

Work has been strong this year. One project seems to lead to another and when one client goes dormant or isn’t currently in need of marketing support, it seems another one comes along. I have been very fortunate.

I have also been quite pleased with my painting progression this year. My techniques are improving and I feel as if I’m getting better at what I do and finding my own unique style.

Every business faces that “What’s next?” quandary.

The key is to never stop learning. Never stop exploring. And always be open to possibilities as well as opportunities.

If you do that, the opportunities will find you.

Being responsive

Visit BloodLines Creative on whatever device you have and hopefully you'll enjoy the experience.

Visit BloodLines Creative on whatever device you have and hopefully you’ll enjoy the experience.

Yes, it took a while.

But BloodLinesCreative.com is finally a responsive website.

So whether you visit on an iPad, your phone, a tablet or on a mac or pc, the site now adapts to the confines of the device.

Yes, it should have been done some time ago. And yes, the site could use a refresh of new work that’s been done over the past year or so. That will come. In fact, the site still isn’t 100% fully functional – my broadcast reel still doesn’t play on mobile devices – but that should be addressed in the next week or so.

I have fallen victim to what so many other advertising and marketing communications companies deal with all the time – it’s tough to manage your own marketing when you’re busy helping with the needs of the clients you serve.

It’s been a busy start to the year. But in order to keep that momentum going, I need to ratchet up my own marketing efforts – and before I began that endeavor, I needed to get the website fully functional no matter how it was viewed.

So I guess I need to wait a few more days until we get the broadcast section remedied for mobile viewing.

In the meantime, feel free to visit the rest of the website – http://bloodlinescreative.com

I welcome any feedback!

BloodLines Creative provides advertising and marketing communications support to a variety of consumer, B2B, non-profit and government-related clients. No project is too big, no budget is too small. If you’re looking for big idea thinking, you’ve come to the right place.

 

2016 and beyond for BloodLines Creative and BloodLines Art

So on this last day of 2016, I take a few moments to look back on the year and try to project what lies ahead for 2017.

Business wise, it was a good year. Not a great year. But a good year. I worked with a variety of new clients, lost an established one and still maintain ties with a long-time relationship which is very rewarding.

Though not a paying ciient, the invite that I created for our SLUH 40th Year Reunion was great fun and so was the Reunion weekend.

Though not a paying ciient, the invite that I created for our SLUH 40th Year Reunion was great fun and so was the Reunion weekend.

I created a number of videos, helped re-vamp one client’s website and we’ll soon be launching a new branding effort for another one. I began blogging for one client, worked on some PPC ads and I’m in the midst of working on a new TV and radio campaign as well. (Sorry for not naming client names – I only do that when I have permission and for this particular piece, I’m not even bothering to ask.)

On the art side of things, I was happy with the progress I’ve made as a painter. I created 11 paintings in 2016 – I don’t exactly churn them out, but I do stay at it and I continue to try and improve my brushwork, executing a variety of ideas that come from all places but always seem to circle back to Magritte in one way or another.

This painting was probably my favorite one that I created in 2016. It will be one of more than 30 on display at a solo show coming up in March.

This painting was probably my favorite one that I created in 2016. It will be one of more than 30 on display at a solo show coming up in March.

I began to more actively market my art this year as well. I now have two websites devoted to my art: http://bloodlinesart.com and http://tom-blood.pixels.com

The first site looks nice but has basically been useless due to a lack of promotion on my part. The second site enables you to take your art and have it show up in the form of pillows, tote bags, iPhone covers, coffee mugs, greeting cards and a variety of ways to order prints. That site continues to draw about 25-50 visitors a day and I’m approaching more than 8000 views since I started it back in July. The sales effort though has been somewhat disappointing – I’ve made enough to pay for the site but that’s about it.

Nuts and Bolts - one of my 'stick' paintings looks really cool in the form of a pillow and I've sold a few of them in 2016.

Nuts and Bolts – one of my ‘stick’ paintings looks really cool in the form of a pillow and I’ve sold a few of them in 2016.

There are more than a million works of art on the website. So I’m not overly surprised that my work isn’t selling like gangbusters. I don’t do art for a living. I do it for fun. I do it because I can. And I will continue to try and get better with each painting.

Prospects for 2017 look solid for both BloodLines Creative and BloodLines Art. Currently, I have a number of projects already in the books, some that will be on-going thru the Spring. I’m hoping to have my website fully optimized by the end of January and then I’ll begin more aggressive new business pursuits.

I hope to ramp up my blogging efforts in 2017 and have them be more focused on advertising and art. I dropped off the blogosphere and I’ve lost a lot of regular readers. Hopefully, I can earn them back.

I’m going to be ramping up for my first solo art show since 1994 over the next two months. It’s going to be at 1900 Park – Creative Space and Gallery. It’s both an art gallery and a music venue which will be awesome as I’ll have more than 30 works on display throughout the month of March. Opening night is going to be on Friday, March 3 and feature the music of Tom Blood, Jr.

More on that will be coming.

1900 Park will be the site of my first solo art show since 1994. Opening night will be on Friday, March 3rd.

1900 Park will be the site of my first solo art show since 1994. Opening night will be on Friday, March 3rd.

I have learned in this business that you never know what’s around the corner. You do your best, try your hardest, be honest with the people you work with and have fun in the process and generally, good things will happen. I have been blessed to work with so many gifted individuals through the years. I continue to learn and explore new ways to market – but bottom line, whether you’re doing a website or online ads or developing a trade show booth, you still need big ideas to stand out, get noticed and acted upon.

I’ve still got a lot of those.

Happy New Year and I’ll see you on the other side of 2017.

 

All in a day’s work – augmented reality, vehicle signage and video script writing

I don’t often post about the work I’ve been doing for BloodLines Creative – which is probably bad for business. Yet I’ve been so busy doing things, including continuing to paint in the evening hours, that I just haven’t found the time – or the energy to tout some of the recent projects I’ve been involved in.

That’s okay because business continues to roll along – never at the volume that I would prefer which would be 40+ billable hours a week – but at the end of each workday, I often wonder where did the time go.

These past few weeks I’ve been working on a new business pitch and part of our proposal involved using augmented reality. In case you’re wondering, Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.

In case you’d like to see it in action, here’s a little demo you can view – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaO5tXzj58U

I won’t go into the actual applications that we were proposing but suffice it to say, it has the potential to be pretty cool – if we actually get the business.

I’ve also been involved in creating new vehicle graphics for an electrical contractor we’ve been working with via The Epstein Group. Recently, we got the opportunity to see some of the new graphics put into place on a variety of vehicles in their fleet – vans, bucket trucks, pickups and even a trailer where we wrapped the entire vehicle in graphics.

What’s really exciting is this is part of a comprehensive re-branding effort that will include a new website, print and collateral materials along with new videos.

Speaking of new videos, I’ve written a number of them recently. One for a construction company, another for a new product launch along with a series of internal award videos recognizing the collective efforts of groups or individuals.

No, I’m not naming names or showing the work as some of the projects are confidential in nature or haven’t been approved for public release.

But the work has been both fun and rewarding. And I continue to learn new things and new tactics to utilize in the ever-changing world of advertising and marketing communications.

Regardless of the tactic, they still take smart, strategic thinking in order to stand out, get noticed and acted upon.

Big Ideas Start Here.

BloodLines Creative provides Big Idea Thinking to a wide variety of consumer, B2B and government-related and not-for-profit accounts. The work we do ranges from individual projects to full-scale advertising and marketing communications across all media. If you’re looking for something out-of-the-ordinary, then resist the ordinary. Give us a call at 314.973.9197 today.

The balancing act of the creative entrepreneur

I painted this a few months ago. Little did I know that it was a self-portrait.

I painted this a few months ago. Little did I know I was creating a self-portrait.

I knew the day I resumed BloodLines Creative on a full-time basis that my life was about to face some dramatic changes.

The workday routine would no longer be routine. Business hours would be expanded, beginning earlier and ending later.

I am a creative entrepreneur and I need to be creative about how I go about being an entrepreneur.

There are so many things to do and it’s so easy to get swept away – one minute, you’re focused on researching the competition for a new client where you still need to learn more about the market they’re in and what exactly they’re selling so you can be more targeted with the messaging you’re trying to create. The next thing you know, you’re scanning your emails and end up clicking on any of a multitude of links and blogs and white papers you receive in your efforts to stay on top of industry trends. Suddenly, you’re reading something you had no intention of reading mere seconds beforehand and you realize you’re off the path again.

Get back to the task at hand.

What was the task at hand? After all, there are twenty things you want to accomplish in the day.

But I’ve come to find that if you try and accomplish twenty things, odds are good you may not accomplish anything at all.

So at the end of each day, I make a list. The list can contain no more than five items and they have to be actual doable items. I create a larger, weekly list as well that contains bigger picture items as well as follow ups. I even have a one-month and six-month list of objectives I want to accomplish. Sometimes, an item from the daily list ends up on the next day’s list. And the day after that. But if it’s still on the list after three days, you’ve got a problem – either the item is too big to be done and you need to scale it back so you can actually accomplish something or perhaps you really don’t need to do it in the first place.

I have failed at several tasks so far. Most of them have been signing up for free trial periods. I had a free, 20-day trial of HubSpot and I was really determined to learn more about it.

I couldn’t find the time. (So now it made it on to my long-term list.)

I had spoken to one of my new client contacts about the need for a dashboard so I investigated and found a great source called Klipfolio. I signed up for their free trial and even sat in on their initial overview webinar. I had to quit the webinar because of a conference call that had to take place during the last half-hour. Then my free trial expired. I still want to learn more about Klipfolio because it’s a great way to manage all of your communications activities. Another item for the long-term list.

The good news is that business has been great so far.

BloodLines Creative is off to a rollicking start. But I know how hard it is to keep that momentum going.

I know the importance of giving every assignment your absolute best effort and the importance of building working relationships with your clients and your fellow creative partners that are based on trust and on the simple premise that the product you deliver will generate the results you say it will.

That’s easier said than done.

And that’s the balancing act that you have to walk every day.

Today, writing a blog post was the last thing on my list.

Consider it now crossed off.

 

 

What’s the real key to keywords?

One of John Caples most famous ads.

One of John Caples most famous ads.

Is the copywriter an endangered species?

Do people still value a well-crafted headline that stops you in your tracks, grabs your attention and pulls you into the rest of the story?

Is it possible these days to get someone to read past the third sentence of anything?

I hope so, because this is the fourth sentence.

Originally, this post was going to be titled, “At a loss for words?” The premise was simple. If you were stuck with any creative challenge that needed some big idea thinking backed by some well-crafted, on target messaging, I had a very strong recommendation for you. Me.

But then I ran across an article on HubSpot about the value of keywords, particularly when it comes to headline writing. http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/common-keyword-data?utm_campaign=blog-rss-emails&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=19663780

I read through the article and it reminded me of John Caples and his tested, proven headline formulas that he published in his book, Tested Advertising Methods back in 1932. Back then, Mr. Caples came up with 35 rules to follow for headline writers. Those rules still work today – but anyone who strictly goes by the rules is doomed to mediocrity.

So now we get this modern day list featuring the most common keywords found in the top shared articles. It’s even broken down by where the keywords are appearing in different social media. What works for twitter, may not be right for Facebook or Pinterest or LinkedIn.

Amazing.

Not really. Nor is it really all that surprising to read that people sharing articles on, let’s say, Content Marketing react strongly to words like ‘Content’ or, ‘Marketing’. For science topics, we’re told to use words such as brain, smart, and future.

No wonder the role of the copywriter is being so devalued. When lists like these come out, it’s so easy to stoop to using keywords in your headline just so that the search engines can find you and your odds of being shared can increase exponentially.

So is it selling out when you include keywords like ‘keywords’ in your headline?

Yes, it is. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. After all, you are trying to get people to read what you’ve written. But the real key to using keywords is still creativity. It’s not if you use them, it’s how you use them.

And if you’re still reading this, congratulations. You made it past the fourth sentence.

If you’re at a loss for words for any of your advertising or marketing challenges, I’m here to help. To see some of my words in action, visit www.bloodlinescreative.com or wander amongst a few of my other blog posts and thanks in advance for reading.

 

 

Why BloodLines Creative is moving onward and upward

 

Over the past two years, I was the Creative Director of McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. We created some phenomenal work that won local, national, international as well as industry-specific awards. We raised the bar in the department, delivering a higher level of advertising and marketing communications. Many of the materials we developed for McCarthy’s annual Shareholders’ meeting received the highest marks in company history and it was both an honor and a pleasure to be a part of the McCarthy team that made it all happen.

But sometimes in large companies, the status quo gets rocked. So in a move that took me by complete surprise, I was told that the Corporate Communications department was being taken in a different direction and I, as well as my immediate boss, were let go.

So now I’m heading in a new direction as well.

Onward and upward.

Back when I began BloodLines Creative, the intent was to provide Big Idea Thinking to those that couldn’t afford to pay the full freight often associated with traditional agency models. By aligning and then working with a variety of individuals with a range of different skill sets – from designers, web developers, and social media experts to marketing strategists, media buyers, planners and other writers – I was able to provide marketing and communications expertise on an a la carte basis.

That’s still the model and already, it’s working.

In the coming months, you’ll begin to see a flurry of new activity with BloodLines Creative. New projects are in the works. New relationships are being developed. And new avenues are being explored in an effort to go beyond traditional marketing and advertising channels.

Our message is still the same: Big Ideas Start Here.

BloodLines Creative

And they do.

If you’re facing an advertising or marketing challenge, we can help you create success. Whatever the project, from something as simple as an invitation to a full-scale mass media launch, we’ll create messaging that is on target, on brand, gets noticed and acted upon and ultimately, delivers the results you seek.

If you’re one of the individuals with any of the skill sets listed above and are looking to leverage your own talents and partner with someone who is always open to new ideas, we should talk.

Either way, it’s time to get to work and do great things.

To learn more about the work we can do, visit www.bloodlinescreative.com

 

 

 

Pursuing other interests

Back when I worked at Kenrick Advertising, there seemed to be a revolving door of people coming and going and whenever one of them was sent packing, a memo would go out stating, “_______ has left the agency to pursue other interests.”

A few months ago, I issued myself a memo regarding BloodLines Creative.

I left to pursue other interests.

I am now the Creative Director of McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. – in fact, I’ve been in that position now for almost three months.

It’s been a great fit and I’m proud to be part of a company that will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2014 and keeps getting better with age.

So why the delay in the announcement?

At first, I was hesitant to spread the news that I had taken on this opportunity. And it definitely is a tremendous opportunity. McCarthy is one of the top ten builders in the United States. Our goal is to be the best builder in America and I can now use the word ‘our’ because I am a part of that team.

I have a lot to learn – not just about the building and construction industry but about how to better use technology to continue improving the communications process.

In the limited time I’ve been there, I’ve been involved in all new communications projects, most notably in the area of digital publishing. I’ve had the privilege of working with two super talented designers who amaze me daily. I’m back to writing and overseeing the development of posters, print ads, videos, invites, e-cards, logos and a wide array of other assignments. I’m no longer working on my own, I’m now part of a team that is more than 2,500 strong. Every day is different. Every day is a challenge.

And that’s the way it should be. So it’s way past time for me to start spreading the news. It’s time to update my LinkedIn profile, time to tell whoever might be interested that my allegiance is now pledged to McCarthy.

BloodLines Creative will continue – only now, it’s turned into a side operation – I’m no longer out there searching for new business opportunities. If a freelance job comes along, I’ll accept it, time permitting. But my focus is 100% on doing the best possible job every single day for McCarthy. I’m a builder now – a builder of the McCarthy brand.

This blog will continue and I’ll keep writing about a wide variety of topics – advertising, marketing, St. Louis, sports, and life in general. (Though not necessarily in that order.)

I’ve had almost 15,000 readers of some of the words I’ve written over the past two years. That seems like a lot, though in the grand scheme of things it’s not much at all.

But that’s okay. It continues to be a good exercise in writing each time I sit down to the keyboard.

So thanks for reading.

Blogging is one interest I will continue to pursue.

In praise of Constant Contact

I recently began email marketing BloodLines Creative on a limited basis via Constant Contact.

I know that if I really want to gain more exposure for the range of advertising and marketing communications services that BloodLines Creative can deliver, I need to push that message out to a larger audience.

I’ve had great success with a very targeted mailing piece featuring a bright red envelope with the message, “Careful. This package contains Blood samples.” Inside is a mini-portfolio/case history of some of the work I’ve done along with a customized letter in which I request a meeting to discuss the marketing or advertising challenges the recipient may be facing and how I can help.

But if I really want to grow my business, I need to expand beyond single mailing pieces and email marketing makes great sense. I get spammed all the time with emails and I know that my email messaging may just be adding to the pile so I’m trying to keep the messaging interesting, a bit playful and at least ask the recipient to learn a little more about me with links to my website, to the work featured in the email, this blog and my LinkedIn and twitter accounts. Here’s the most recent email I sent out a few days ago. http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Looking-for-better-results-with-your-communications-.html?soid=1112085120362&aid=9HTQXf7UFBs

I did all this with the help of Ed Madden and Barry Lee at E-Merge Interactive. (http://www.e-mergeinteractive.com) I can’t say enough about how much they have helped me on my interactive journeys. They were the ones who recommended I try Constant Contact so I did and set up a 60-day trial basis.

My original email list had about 250 names but the 60-day trial only lets you send out to 100 contacts. That’s okay. I figured if I didn’t get any angry rebukes or messages back, that I could move forward with the broader list once I actually became a subscriber.

What I didn’t expect was the personal attention that Constant Contact has lavished upon me from the moment I signed up.

A day after I signed up for the trial run, a customer rep called me and introduced herself. Her name is Karen Bennett. She lives in Colorado but was raised in England and her accent made her a bit difficult to understand at first. Karen told me she was here to help and answer any of my questions and blah, blah, blah. I largely ignored her first initial call. But then she called again, wondering why I hadn’t sent any emails yet and could she help me in any way to get things going. I assured her the problems were all on my end as I was trying to reduce the number of contacts and get things worked out with all the links.

So we sent the first email to my 100 contacts and it was opened by 42 of them and we had 15 click throughs on the links which is a very good number and only one person opted out.

That seemed pretty good to me so we sent out a second one this week and though the amount of people who opened went slightly down as well as the click throughs, they’re still good numbers and I can also see who opened the first and the second and maybe, just maybe, they might think of BloodLines Creative as a strong source of creative support for their particular needs.

Then Karen called me again. That was three calls from Constant Contact asking if they could help. This time, I was all ears. Karen told me about how I could link the emails to my Facebook, LinkedIn and twitter accounts. I didn’t know that I could but I did and suddenly, that email had a lot more exposure.

She also told me how I could create my own QR code to put on all those accounts that would take them to my Constant Contact emails and how I could create follow buttons as well. All things I still need to do – but all things I didn’t know I could do until Karen told me so.

This is what customer service is all about.

This is how you get customers who aren’t even paying customers yet to blog about what a great job the company is by having service reps who really want to help their customers grow.

They know that if their customers experience success, they’ll grow right along with them.

Same premise as what I’m doing.

I’m ready to grow. And I’m ready to help.

What can I do for you?

 

 

 

 

A one-year “best of” from the BloodLines Creative blog

It was a year ago today that I made my first BloodLines Creative blog post. http://bloodlinescreative.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/

If, by chance, you click on that link you’ll notice the original WordPress format of the blog. Since that time, there have been 170 additional BloodLines Creative posts garnering more than 12,000 views.

My original intent was to focus on the world of advertising and marketing communications and on occasion, offer my thoughts on the rest of the world, particularly focusing on St. Louis.

Looking back at all my posts, I’ve done just that – though I seem to focus on whatever happens to be on my mind at the time and that’s not always advertising or marketing communications-related.

BloodLines Creative number one viewed post

I looked at the number of views for all of these posts. The number one post was, “My Return to the St. Louis City-County debate”.

My return to the St. Louis city-county debate

That’s a topic that still gets people going – and for good reason. Even though it makes all the economic sense in the world to combine St. Louis city with St. Louis county, it will probably never happen due to the existing political structure and the mistaken belief that the county will have to absorb all the problems of the city.

In memory of …

It’s interesting that two of the higher ranked posts I’ve had were tributes – one was for Chip MacDonald, one of my college buddies who I lost track of once I got married. http://www.bloodlinescreative.com/wordpress/in-memory-of-chip/

The other was for Steve Puckett, a tremendously gifted writer who consistently produced great work throughout the ’90s and on into the new millenium. http://www.bloodlinescreative.com/wordpress/steve-puckett-rocked-the-boat/

Tales from my Kenrick Advertising days

Many of the readers of this blog know me from my days at Kenrick Advertising. I featured several posts re-telling memorable stories and promise to add a few more from time to time. These were two of my favorites. The first detailed a memorable morning featuring Warren Wiethaupt:  http://www.bloodlinescreative.com/wordpress/the-day-warren-broke-into-work/

Steve Unger, (stevethewordguy@aol.com) who has a much better memory than I do, told me I got a few of the details wrong and perhaps I did. But the gist of the story is still there. My other favorite involves a pair of shoes that have followed me around throughout my career. This post also takes you back to my old look but it contains a nice picture of the bronzed topsiders with the built-in storyline. http://bloodlinescreative.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/the-story-behind-my-writers-shoes-2/

My urge to action

I could go on but know I’ve probably already exceeded the norm for amount of words in a post before readers begin bailing.

So thanks for viewing and if you like what you’ve read, please become a follower.

I hope you enjoy the words I bring you. I’ve always tried to take that same approach to advertising – create something that captures your attention and delivers a selling message in a unique and memorable way.

Should you or anyone you know be in search of some Big Idea Thinking for your business, organization or event you have coming up, here’s where you can find me – www.bloodlinescreative.com

Now, on to Year Two …