Five Things We’ve Learned Along Our Journey

Every business venture involves a journey, and ours is no exception! Here are five important lessons we’ve learned along our journey at Ashley & Malone:

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1. Nothing is ever 100%. Whether it’s finances, a client proposal or a logo that a client fell in love with, we’re always prepared for changes in our business. We might have a whole year where every client pays on time and then boom….three clients are late in a single month. While this isn’t an ideal scenario, we always have a backup plan. This consists of savings, hiring well and only when we need it and living a “somewhat” modest home life. We never want to overextend ourselves so that our business (i.e. our livelihood!) can’t function.

2. Design with purpose. This is something we have explored deeply as we’ve gotten more experience under our belts. It’s not always about what looks pretty, it’s about how it functions, the meaning behind the design and how clients perceive it. This was actually one of the reasons for our last rebrand. People always told us how fun and pretty our brand was, and to me that just wasn’t enough. We wanted to communicate more about our business than just the aesthetic part.

3. Adapt. We’re continually changing our business, always for the better. Our ultimate goal is an exceptional client experience. So, with that in mind, collecting thoughtful feedback from our clients is of the utmost importance. We sit down after EACH client’s project and review what went well, what could have been done better and what comments the client had about our process. As an example, a client may have been confused about how they launch their website or about printing prices….it’s these little things that we adjust along the way to ensure the client is always receiving flawless communication.

4. Ignore your competitors. This one is such a weird subject. From a business perspective, you have to know who your competitors are – it’s just smart. From a solopreneur standpoint, being constantly aware of your competitors is entirely draining – emotionally and creatively. I’ll admit when we first opened Ashley & Malone, almost three years ago, we didn’t have too many competitors. Since then the online design world has grown drastically, and it’s easy to get sucked into what others are doing. I personally find this especially exhausting on Pinterest, with the never-ending stream of everyone’s brand boards and styled mockups. So I just don’t follow anyone! Instead, I get my design-nerd fix by browsing websites like Dribble or Behance, reading magazines and working on my craft through drawing on paper.

5. Do what works best for you. Running a business is hard stuff, and it’s SO easy to see what others are doing online. How they book clients, how many they book and how long they spend with each one. So  you find yourself thinking, “I can do that too – if it works for them, it should work for me.” Well guess what, it might not. Everyone’s process, business and clients are completely different. Over the years we’ve evolved our own intake process, payment schedules and timelines to meet our needs and best serve our clients. No one knows your business better than you, so make sure your processes suit you perfectly.

With all these lessons learned, we’ve become more streamlined in our business and more in love with our work than ever! If you’re planning a brand overhaul next year or are planning to launch something new, we’d love to work with you – please reach out if you’d like to chat about how we can help!

5 Questions You Need To Ask Yourself About Brand Photography

Anyone who’s worked with me knows I’m a passionate advocate for using professional, on-brand imagery in your marketing. The photos you use – from your portfolio to your headshots to your Instagram – provide a unique opportunity to connect with your dream clients and to create a cohesive, beautiful brand experience.

In our agency, we’ve made a point of prioritizing professional photography, and the investment has more than paid for itself. Not only are we consistently reinforcing the Ashley & Malone brand in a visual sense, we’re also demonstrating that we’re professionals ourselves, and we take our work seriously. Like everything in business, a successful brand is created with purpose and planning, and gorgeous images are the perfect way to reinforce our own!

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It goes without saying that professional photography is the best way to showcase your work and build trust among your prospective clients. To take it a step further, here are five things to look for when selecting professional images for your marketing:

  1. Do the images complement your brand? Take a look at our Instagram. (No, really; I’ll wait!) I’ll bet you could tell right away the kinds of colors, as well as the general subject matter, that resonate with us. That’s not happenstance – we’ve curated every image we use, from social media to our own website, to be brand-centric. You can do the same when you select your images with the intention of supporting your brand.
  2. Is your work being showcased to its best effect? Wedding planners will likely want impeccable quality, on-site photos that document their most memorable events . Other creatives may select stunning, styled stock photography that can be customized to include their latest designs or product launches. Whatever platform you use to show off your talent, make sure it’s doing justice to your wonderful work!
  3. Does your personality shine through? Your brand should incorporate your personality, your style, personality, and the things you love – and so should your imagery! If visitors to your website or social media accounts can’t get a sense of who you are by looking through your photos, what’s the point? The goal is for someone to look at one of your images and, without knowing the source, immediately identify it with you and your brand.
  4. Do the images reflect a mix of authenticity and aspiration? As much as your photos should be a genuine representation of you, they also should pique viewers’ interest and make them swoon! Especially in stylish fields like weddings and events, fashion, and – yes – branding, images should really pop and leave people wanting more.
  5. Are your viewers inspired? Inspiration can mean a lot of things. Maybe they’ll be inspired to hire your company, or share your social media posts, or engage in a dialogue. The point is that you’re calling them to action, simply by choosing the right images for your marketing.

If you’re ready for a brand makeover, complete with a gorgeous, image-focused responsive website, we’d love to chat!

5 Ways to Convert More Website Visitors (and Connect With More Clients!)

We all know how important it is to have a beautifully branded website; however, motivating people to actually reach out to you is another thing entirely. Over the past week, I’ve been doing some research on wedding business blogs, and have encountered some top “don’ts” when it comes to website design and usability.

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Here are five tips to make sure your website visitors connect with your brand, and connect with you! To some, these changes might seem daunting, but I promise they’re relatively simple changes that can make a big difference in your site’s performance and your business’ success.

  1. Use social media icons, and place them prominently. This is a must! Couples want to see that you’re active on social media, and should be able to find your icons easily, either at the top of your website or in the footer. (Also, make sure you have a presence on the main networks: Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest are absolutely a must for wedding businesses!)
  2. Include your photo. A new visitor to your website wants to know who you are. This goes way beyond seeing your “rap sheet” and reviews. Give them something to connect with by featuring a friendly, authentic photo of yourself on your About page. Don’t be shy!
  3. Show off your testimonials. I love sprinkling testimonials throughout a website. This allows visitors to read firsthand the experience that other couples had working with you, which in turn helps them envision having that great experience themselves. It also helps to build credibility and trust.
  4. Feature quality images. Make sure your galleries include high-quality images, with the proper resolution to display on retina screens. Nothing ruins a stunning image more than a pixilated experience! There are some great responsive and retina plugins for WordPress websites to make the process even easier.
  5. Link to your email. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard from our website development clients that they weren’t receiving contact form inquiries on their old site. Guess what? They weren’t alone. It’s a known problem that contact forms are often caught by spam filters, and some hosting sites block these kinds of messages altogether. To help mitigate this problem, make sure you provide a general email address on your website so clients can contact you directly if they don’t hear from you after submitting your form.

So there you have it – five easy ways to make your website more functional, and you more accessible, for better results.