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Chelsie Hall

Learning from the greatest examples of business success

By | General Business | No Comments

As I was making the 11 hour drive back from my holiday vacation, I had plenty of time to daydream about my new year’s goals for Hall or Nothing Designs. My head was in a lot of different places, because…well, anything is possible, right? As we ate our sandwiches at Jimmy John’s, one of the many signs caught my eye. It was labeled “Warren Buffet’s 10 Rules for Success”. It was like the sign was speaking to me.

With an estimated fortune of $73 billion, Warren Buffett is one of the richest men in the entire world. Here are some of Warren Buffett’s money-making secrets — and how they could work for you.

  1. Reinvest Your Profits: When you first make money in the stock market, you may be tempted to spend it. Don’t. Instead, reinvest the profits. Warren Buffett learned this early on. In high school, he and a pal bought a pinball machine to put in a barbershop. With the money they earned, they bought more machines until they had eight in different shops. When the friends sold the venture, Warren Buffett used the proceeds to buy stocks and to start another small business. By age 26, he’d amassed $174,000 — or $1.4 million in today’s money. Even a small sum can turn into great wealth.
  2. Be Willing To Be Different: Don’t base your decisions upon what everyone is saying or doing. When Warren Buffett began managing money in 1956 with $100,000 cobbled together from a handful of investors, he was dubbed an oddball. He worked in Omaha, not Wall Street, and he refused to tell his parents where he was putting their money. People predicted that he’d fail, but when he closed his partnership 14 years later, it was worth more than $100 million. Instead of following the crowd, he looked for undervalued investments and ended up vastly beating the market average every single year. To Warren Buffett, the average is just that — what everybody else is doing. to be above average, you need to measure yourself by what he calls the Inner Scorecard, judging yourself by your own standards and not the world’s.
  3. Never Suck Your Thumb: Gather in advance any information you need to make a decision, and ask a friend or relative to make sure that you stick to a deadline. Warren Buffett prides himself on swiftly making up his mind and acting on it. He calls any unnecessary sitting and thinking “thumb sucking.” When people offer him a business or an investment, he says, “I won’t talk unless they bring me a price.” He gives them an answer on the spot.
  4. Spell Out The Deal Before You Start: Your bargaining leverage is always greatest before you begin a job — that’s when you have something to offer that the other party wants. Warren Buffett learned this lesson the hard way as a kid, when his grandfather Ernest hired him and a friend to dig out the family grocery store after a blizzard. The boys spent five hours shoveling until they could barely straighten their frozen hands. Afterward, his grandfather gave the pair less than 90 cents to split. Warren Buffett was horrified that he performed such backbreaking work only to earn pennies an hour. Always nail down the specifics of a deal in advance — even with your friends and relatives.
  5. Watch Small Expenses: Warren Buffett invests in businesses run by managers who obsess over the tiniest costs. He one acquired a company whose owner counted the sheets in rolls of 500-sheet toilet paper to see if he was being cheated (he was). He also admired a friend who painted only on the side of his office building that faced the road. Exercising vigilance over every expense can make your profits — and your paycheck — go much further.
  6. Limit What You Borrow: Living on credit cards and loans won’t make you rich. Warren Buffett has never borrowed a significant amount — not to invest, not for a mortgage. He has gotten many heart-rendering letters from people who thought their borrowing was manageable but became overwhelmed by debt. His advice: Negotiate with creditors to pay what you can. Then, when you’re debt-free, work on saving some money that you can use to invest.
  7. Be Persistent: With tenacity and ingenuity, you can win against a more established competitor. Warren Buffett acquired the Nebraska Furniture Mart in 1983 because he liked the way its founder, Rose Blumkin, did business. A Russian immigrant, she built the mart from a pawnshop into the largest furniture store in North America. Her strategy was to undersell the big shots, and she was a merciless negotiator. To Warren Buffett, Rose embodied the unwavering courage that makes a winner out of an underdog.
  8. Know When To Quit: Once, when Warren Buffett was a teen, he went to the racetrack. He bet on a race and lost. To recoup his funds, he bet on another race. He lost again, leaving him with close to nothing. He felt sick — he had squandered nearly a week’s earnings. Warren Buffett never repeated that mistake. Know when to walk away from a loss, and don’t let anxiety fool you into trying again.
  9. Assess The Risk: In 1995, the employer of Warren Buffett’s son, Howie, was accused by the FBI of price-fixing. Warren Buffett advised Howie to imagine the worst-and-bast-case scenarios if he stayed with the company. His son quickly realized that the risks of staying far outweighed any potential gains, and he quit the next day. Asking yourself “and then what?” can help you see all of the possible consequences when you’re struggling to make a decision — and can guide you to the smartest choice.
  10. Know What Success Really Means: Despite his wealth, Warren Buffett does not measure success by dollars. In 2006, he pledged to give away almost his entire fortune to charities, primarily the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He’s adamant about not funding monuments to himself — no Warren Buffett buildings or halls. “I know people who have a lot of money,” he says, “and they get testimonial dinners and hospital wings named after them. But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them. When you get to my age, you’ll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you, actually do love you. That’s the ultimate test of how you’ve lived your life.”
Stop Spam Comments in WordPress Blog

Antispam Bee: An Effective Alternative to Akismet

By | Websites | No Comments

For many years Akismet has been the built-in anti-spam solution for WordPress. The plugin is — besides Matt Mullenweg’s Hello Dolly — the only one bundled together with every WordPress install. But is it really the best solution to fight against spam? Let me introduce you to Antispam Bee, a powerful alternative to Akismet.

Ever since the invention of email there have been spam messages. It’s estimated that around 99% of all emails nowadays are spam. And ever since the invention of blog comments there has been comment spam. To prevent these types of comments, Matt Mullenweg and his team at Automattic launched Akismet (“Automattic Kismet”) in 2005.

The Most Successful Plugin Ever

The service filters link spam from blog comments by combining information about spam captured on all participating blogs, and then using those spam rules to block future spam.

Akismet WordPress Plugin Logo

Akismet is the most successful WordPress plugin to date.

To date, Akismet has kept 200 billion pieces of spam off the web, that’s an average of about 7.5 million per hour.

Because Akismet comes pre-installed with WordPress and the service is free for personal blogs, there is a huge user base behind the service. No wonder the plugin has been downloaded over 25 million times. And with every new blog they get better at what they’re doing.

Akismet’s Disadvantages

I wouldn’t be writing this post if there weren’t some bad things about Akismet as well.

First and foremost, there’s almost an obligation to use Akismet. Being bundled with WordPress means that new users don’t even look for another anti-spam solution. Perhaps most don’t even know that there are alternatives out there. Also, the tight integration with Jetpack forces you into Automattic’s huge ecosystem.

Second, there are many privacy concerns about Akismet. Each comment that is written on your blog gets sent to some third-party servers to check against spam. You have no control about what data is being sent and you can’t disable that because the service obviously wouldn’t work without it.

In Germany it is even forbidden by law to send the commenter’s data (including his IP address) over sea without letting them know.

Here Comes The Bee

Over the years there have been many alternatives to Akismet. Whether you’re looking for similar services, CAPTCHAs or some JavaScript hacks — there’s probably a plugin for that.

Antispam Bee WordPress Plugin

The Antispam Bee fights against spam comments without any concerns.

Antispam Bee is one of the biggest Akismet competitors in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory, with almost 1 million downloads so far. In my opinion it’s also the most powerful alternative as the freely available plugin uses many different techniques to identify spam messages. For example:

  • Marking BB Code as spam
  • Usage of local and external spam databases
  • Block comments written in other languages
  • Ignore trackbacks/pingbacks
  • Block visitors from specific countries
  • Logging spammers for usage with Fail2Ban
  • Mixing some comment form input fields to trick out bots

The plugin author, Sergej Müller, is German, and because of the strict privacy laws he knows how important this topic is. That’s why the plugin doesn’t store anything on other servers and calling external spam databases can be disabled in the options.

One drawback of Antispam Bee — and the reason why it hasn’t even more downloads — is that its documentation is available in German only and support is limited. This may sound crazy, but if Müller would translate it he wouldn’t have time to handle all support requests. After all it’s a free plugin maintained by a single person. Don’t worry though, the plugin option descriptions are properly written in English. And if you like the plugin, you should consider donating a cup of coffee to the author.

Summary

While Akismet is a really powerful plugin that detects around 99.9% of spam comments, there are multiple reasons against using it at all.

If you want to use a solution that doesn’t save your visitor’s data on some foreign servers, Antispam Bee is your plugin of choice. It is free, robust and very reliable.

Wordpress Plugin Recommendations

My Top 10 WordPress Plugins

By | Websites | No Comments

I get a lot of questions about plugins. What are they? How do they work? Why doesn’t this one work? Which one will do [insert very specific action]? Since you are all quite interested in plugins, I thought I’d make a LIST of all my favourite plugins—because who doesn’t like lists! Here they are:

  1. Updraft Plus: in my humble opinion, the most important plugin you’ll ever install. Run scheduled full and database-only backups of your website, send it to your remote storage, migrate to a new server, and/or restore seamlessly. It’s awesome. And imperative.
  2. AntiSpam Bee: A little known FREE alternative to Akismet. You can read my reasons for going against the popular choice on this point, if you want to know the details.
  3. Sucuri: Best WordPress security software that I have found yet. One-click hardening, remote malware scanning, and email alerts, to name a few of the many spectacular features of this plugin. Worth every penny.
  4. WordPress SEO by Yoast: FREE! and awesome SEO plugin by Yoast. I super love this plugin and use it (and the previous three) on all my sites.
  5. Open external links in a new window: because you want to give folks valuable links to resources outside of your website, right? Sharing is caring but not at the expense of loosing fans.
  6. Google Analytics Dashboard: See a quick overview of your website statistics from your dashboard. How cool is that?
  7. Regenerate Thumbnails: for those times when you change your theme and/or media sizes. Totally takes care of your image size for you. Awesome!
  8. SeedProd Coming Soon Pro: Simply and beautifully put your site into maintenance mode while applying updates, etc, without loosing site conversions! Create custom branded and designed splash pages that connect to AWebber, MailChimp, etc while you work. Also plays nice with search engines (read: Google). Love it.
  9. nrelate Related Content: Keep your blog readers happily reading down the bunny trails of your site with this related content plugin. Oh, and it’s really pretty & clean, too.
  10. Opt-in skin: When you want your opt-in forms to work harder, split test designs with this plugin!

Whew! That’s my list and I’m sticking to it (well, at least for now until I find something else new and shiny…)!

Boost Holiday Sales with Email Marketing

FREE Webinar: Boost Holiday Sales with Email Marketing

By | Event | No Comments

The webinar will address these key questions:

  • When should I begin email marketing for the holidays? Am I too late to plan a great campaign?
  • What tools should I use? Can I send my emails from Outlook?
  • I’m not sure I can come up with multiple messages that will interest my customers?
  • What should my subject line say to ensure my email gets opened?
Register Now

Date: November 10, 2015

Time: 1:00 pm ET

Chelsie PricePresented by Chelsie Hall

Chelsie Hall is the owner of Hall or Nothing Designs. She has been creating and managing print and digital marketing for clients since 1999, when she started her career as an art director for the nations largest travel and hospitality advertising agency.

If you sign up and cannot attend, we’ll send you a link to view the slides and the full recording the day after the live broadcast.

Corporate Brand Identity

Beauty may only be skin deep, but branding must run deeper

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Company branding is the first thing potential customers see. Branding isn’t just the logo and company design elements. It is also the verbiage used in marketing materials. Branding is also reflected in the social media outlets you occupy and how you interact with your customers. Branding is a promise of the experience your customers will receive.

Honesty

Be truthful in the representation of your company. If you are a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, you don’t want your customers expecting candle lit tables. The truth will always come out and disappointment is always the result of a dishonest front. Brands need to know that, when presented with honesty, consumers become loyal enthusiasts.

Social Media

We increasingly allocate our money and ‘likes’ in ways that promote the type of world we want to live in. We live in a consumer democracy where every dollar is a vote. If you want to win some votes, you have to be in the race. Being an active part of the online community is paramount to brand awareness.

Your Brand Voice

It is not just what a company does, but who it is that makes it a brand. The tone of voice should express the brand’s personality and set of values. It’s about the people that make up the brand – the things that drive them, their loves and hates, and what they want to share with the world. Your customers want to do business with people–people they can relate to.

Platform

You should align your brand with your target market. Choose media platforms that make sense for your target demographic. Does a technology blog make sense for you or should you be partnering with your local farmers market. Choose your partners and plan your media platforms wisely. Sometimes where you say it is as important as what you say.

Consistency

Focus on your long-term branding efforts to keep your business consistent. This consistency will solidify your brand message and trustworthiness with your customers. These loyal customers will be your brand advocates for years to come.

Jack Daniels Label

Fonts and Whiskey: These are a few of my favorite things

By | Fonts | No Comments

Those who know me, know that I don’t drink often, but when I do, whiskey is my go-to drink. My love for the mellow taste of Jack Daniel’s Sour Mash Whiskey is only amplified since Hall or Nothing Designs has relocated to East Tennessee.

In my perpetual search for unique fonts, I stumbled across a project brief that combines my appreciation for the Tennessee whiskey and my affection for beautifully crafted typography.

Arnold Worldwide, the agency of record for Jack Daniel’s Distillery, has developed the three lettering styles on the famous 1904 Black Label into complete fonts.


Jasper font
Top and center is the Jasper font, based on the familiar Jack Daniel’s logo lettering (and bearing Jack Daniel’s given first name).


Lynchburg font
The real visual centerpiece is the refined yet approachable Lynchburg Script, based on the Tennessee lettering in the label.


motlow
Rounding out the set is the solid, industrious typeface named for Lem Motlow, the nephew of Jack Daniel who managed and later inherited the Distillery.


Now the challenge will be to locate the fonts for download, but I imagine the agency is going to keep these iconic brand elements locked up tight.

Mobile Purchase

Mobile Matters More than Ever

By | Mobile | No Comments

The “mobile first” revolution is in full swing. If you are a marketer who isn’t considering putting a large chunk of your budget to reach your mobile customers, you might want to check out these numbers:

What do the mobile stats mean for your marketing

The number of people using mobile devices worldwide is skyrocketing. This means that you now have more flexibility in reaching your end user. For companies that collect and track customer usage, you’ll enjoy an increase in the amount of location-based data for use in focused marketing efforts. With targeting messaging, mobile is sure to become your customers preferred method of communication.

For companies looking to increase your mobile sales, mobile users are beginning to trust this channel and many have begun to prefer this buying platform. Tracking is imperative to learning more about your customers, gaining more messaging opportunities, and providing a richer buying experience for your customers.

So put your marketing dollars where your customers are. Mobile matters!

Plastic Business Cards

Impactful and Durable: Plastic Business Cards

By | Printing | No Comments

We love plastic business cards at Hall or Nothing Designs. When you hand your prospect a semi-translucent frosted plastic business cards, you set yourself up for a successful relationship right from the start. The substantial feel of the plastic, coupled with the modern design aesthetic of using clear or frosted plastic gives your customers the impression that you have high standards, and therefore must offer a quality product or service.

Don’t limit your creativity to just business cards. Plastic cards would make great general membership cards, loyalty or rewards cards, or discount cards . We could design a blank area on the card for you to be able to write a customers name using a permanent marker or sharpie. We could even print a scannable bar code to apply a discount at checkout—a great way to track your customers! You could even use these cards as clothing hangtags, employee badges, tickets to an event, or tags for a gift basket.

Printing on plastic is popular for the following reasons:

  • Stand out from the crowd. Not many of your competitors will have a plastic business card, so you’ll immediately stand out.
  • Water-proof. If you own a pool cleaning service or other water-related industry, you may benefit from the water-proof nature of plastic.
  • Durable. Plastic business cards can stand up to abuse, a quality that might demonstrate the rugged personality of a construction company, or it’s durability might be necessary for the element explosure at a restaurant.
  • High-tech. Plastic has a high-tech feel that would serve a software or communications company well.
AkuaFoil Business Card

Akuafoil Versus Cold-Foil Printing

By | Printing | No Comments

For some time now cold-foil printing has been the go to process when you want to dazzle clients with your printed collateral. With cold-foil printing, the printing process uses a standard printing plate to apply an adhesive to the substrate. The adhesive is then used to transfer foil onto the substrate. Finally, a CMYK full color process is used over the foil to create a shiny foil finish with the color of your choice. While this process is still very much a reliable one for long-run print jobs, a new process, called Akuafoil, has risen to the top for shorter runs. While the file set up for Akuafoil printing is much like that for cold foil printing there are a few fundamental differences that separate the two different processes.

Akuafoil provides the same elegant foil finish as cold-foil printing. However, Akuafoil utilizes a different printing process than traditional cold-foil printing. With Akuafoil, a layer of silver ink is applied under regular colors, resulting in glimmering metallic accents on your printed pieces. Like cold-foil, Akuafoil uses CMYK colors, offering you the chance to brand your business cards, post cards, brochures and so on with a variety of hues. Akuafoil even offers gradients in any CMYK color.

Akuafoil printing is simple and affordable for short-run print jobs. Hall or Nothing Designs is proud to offer Akuafoil printing as well as cold-foil printing for larger jobs. Contact us today to get a quote and brighten up your image among customers with luminous Akuafoil printing.

Oxford Comma

The Oxford Comma: Either way, be consistant

By | Copywriting | No Comments

I was trained by very passionate proofreaders in my early agency days to love the Oxford Comma (also known as the Serial Comma or Harvard Comma). Because of this and several real-life scenarios that made the case for the Oxford Comma, Hall or Nothing Designs pitches its tent in the “Pro” camp. Do you know what camp your brand is in? You should. Here’s some examples that will help you decide where you want to pitch your tent. Then be consistent with its application.

The argument in favor:

The Oxford comma is common in many non-English languages of Latin descent, like Spanish, Italian, Greek, and French, to name a few. The Oxford Comma eliminates ambiguity. The most popularly illustrated example shows how the same sentence can be interpreted with clarity or hilarity:
With: “We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.”  I’m sure JFK and Stalin will enjoy the entertainment.
Without: “We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin.”  JFK and Stalin apparently have night jobs.

The argument against:

The Oxford Comma was eliminated by the Associated Press in an effort to save precious column space in publishing, a decision based solely on brevity, not clarity. The problem with the above example is that the serial comma could just as easily cause an undesired interpretation:
With: “We invited the stripper, JFK, and Stalin.” Stalin is going to see JFK take off his clothes.
Without: “We invited the stripper, JFK and Stalin.” Three people were invited to the party.

Rephrasing is preferable

In any case, these rare problems can be easily resolved with rephrasing:
With: “We invited JFK, Stalin, and the strippers.”
Without: “We invited JFK, Stalin and the strippers.”

Related items in a list

The Oxford Comma is most useful in presenting complicated lists.
“I have packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tuna salad sandwiches, and a trail mix containing peanuts, raisins, and m&ms for our picnic.”

The following infographic might help you decide which style you want your brand to follow:

The Oxford Comma