The traditional business card…often an after thought logo at the top, name and contact details underneath. Whilst there is nothing wrong with a business card that is clear and communicates (after all that is what it needs to do). Your business card leaves your client with a lasting reminder of you and your company, if it is bland it will simply get forgotten and thrown on the pile of similar looking bland cards or worse still straight in the bin. A business card as small as it is has the ability to reinforce your brand values and market your company continuing to do so long after it has left your hands.


Don’t skimp on print.

It is all too tempting to get what you think is the cheapest deal…ignore TV adverts that offer deals for large quantities at low prices with ready made templates allowing you to simply type in your details. You really do get what you pay for. Think quality and think design.

Don’t be afraid to be different.

Don’t under estimate the power a beautifully designed business card, get it right and the more likely you are to be remembered. Creating something which relates to your business is key and being clever and quirky will get you noticed.


As an agency we often get the opportunity to pitch for work. This can be an exciting process that involves a lot of time on our part in terms of planning, research, ideas generation and everything else that falls within our quoting process.

In fact we can spend days preparing for a pitch. This is all great when the contract comes in. When it doesn’t you have to face the harsh reality that you will never get paid for the work you have done. Sometimes that is fine, you just weren’t the right agency for the job, you can learn from the experience. You win some, you lose some.

The problem for us always comes when speculative designs are required. This can be dangerous territory. Being an agency that sells itself on bespoke and tailored design, research and planning are vital parts of our process. We often spend hours getting to know our clients, looking at their products/services, getting to know their employees and their clients/audience, finding out their values and visions all well before any design work starts. This time spent asking questions and gaining insight is somewhat necessary in order to fulfil a creative brief, and in truth you just can’t get that from a one page tender document or emailed brief.

So in creating speculative designs we run the risk of not delivering or misinterpreting the brief. This is dangerous and can result in not winning the client. It is common that once a potential client sees a visual design they could be mistaken in thinking that this is the final product, if something isn’t right this can completely turn them off.  It also doesn’t allow us to follow our creative processes. It is rather like designing a dress for someone without seeing them, not knowing their size, tastes or styles or even the ocassion they require the garment for. You may hit the jackpot and get it spot on, this is rare and and a massive stroke of luck. Surely design shouldn’t be about luck, but about knowledge, process and understanding.

We recently spent in excess of 4 days writing a proposal for a tender for a nature reserve. The project excited us and we were very much looking forward to the opportunity to work on this. One of the requirements of the tender was speculative visuals. We spent a number of hours researching and generating campaign ideas, our copywriter and illustrator were all involved too. Mindmaps, sketches, research, talking and looking and thinking of ideas, until we felt we had a great starting point to show how we would approach the branding and campaign. We submitted our painstakingly put together piece of work. 4 days, 5 people and 160 hours of man power.

3 weeks later we receive a short email stating we were unsuccessful. We called and asked for feedback and were told that our concept focused far too much on one idea and wasn’t the right direction.

Disappointment.  Nevertheless from our point of view a  piece of work we were very proud of, enjoyed working on and which now sits on our portfolio.

Recently we discovered the project had been completed, whilst the ideas and visuals were not identical they certainly beared resonance to the ideas we submitted

Another example. We produced some branding work, name generation and packaging concepts for a start up business in order for them to secure funding and investment to take a product to market. We agreed that if the product was successful in going into the production stage we would be the sole design agency and all work done to that date would be billable.

It turned out that wasn’t to be the case and in fact our initial brand and product packaging ideas would be taken to the manufacturer for their in house designers to work with, and we wouldn’t be paid.

A month or so later we find our work featuring on the website of the individual, with no accreditation or mention of our contribution*. They even took our ideas and found themselves on a well known BBC programme.

So that’s it, as a rule we now refuse to do speculative design work.

Not only does it not allow us to follow our important creative processes, but we can never be sure the pitching process is not just a process for scoping ‘free ideas’.

Costing and wasting our time, money and inspiration.

If you are thinking about asking for speculative designs are you really getting the best from your designer? You will be receiving something that is mainly a product of instinct and first response guess work. It may look good, great even, but is the concept and context there?

With real research, real planning and real collaboration your design outcome will be better.

*By the way, we had informed this particular client that we hold the copyright to these designs and they are not to be used or reproduced in any way especially after how things transpired. 

Trade shows, exhibitions, show case events are all a great way to promote your business and put your brand in front of a captive audience. It’s a great way to extend your professional networks and meet potential new customers.

With lots going on at these shows it can get harder and harder to make an impact. We recently took a stand at the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Networking Event where we got to put ourselves in front of nearly 200 delegates – not otherwise easy to get in front of that many people in one day, unless you have a hoard of telemarketers bashing the phones.

Being a team of graphic designers we had the resources to design an exhibition stand that certainly got us noticed. We had lots of people commenting as it really had pull and it was a “sticky feature” ~ in other words people stuck around to ask lots of questions about it.

Other exhibitors came around to chat with us and a common question that they asked, bearing in mind they have already spent money on their exhibition stand designs and pop-ups etc, was “how can we make our exhibition stand more interesting without spending any money?”

So I thought I’d write a blog to share some ideas if you’re planning to do an exhibition some time in the near future.

1)    It may sound really simple or obvious but why not splash out a few quid on some flowers or a lovely plant. It’s amazing what a little greenery can do!

2)    Schedule some product demonstrations at specific times or intervals, this way you can draw a crowd and talk to more people at one time.

3)    A business card draw is a great way to collect valuable data but make sure your prize is something interesting that will have talk-ability. It doesn’t have to be related to your product / service. No one can resist a great competition!

4)    Having some tasty treats and nibbles are a sure crowd pleaser ~ a little bowl of sweets maybe, it doesn’t have to be a banquet! But could you imagine handing out snow cones in cups with your logo on them?

5)    Fancy dressing up? If you have a theme why not get your team in fancy dress? It’s guaranteed to get a second look and shows just how much effort you’ve put into the event.

Make sure you have plenty of marketing literature, brochures, leaflets etc to hand out and that you’ve thought about the message you want to get across.

After the event, it’s imperative that you have a follow-up strategy or all your time, effort and investment will not show you a return. We recommend an email marketing campaign to thank everyone for visiting your exhibition stand and directing them to your website.

Where you’ve had a particularly detailed conversation ensure that you do what you say if you’ve promised to take any action after the show. Don’t forget to use LinkedIn as one way to follow up after the event.

If you’d like to discuss your exhibition stand design or marketing collateral please don’t hesitate to call us on 0121 773 6257 and get some our ideas from our creative graphic designers.


None of us are perfect and especially being a business owner there are lots of things on a daily basis vying for your attention. Regardless, there are some common marketing mistakes to be aware of – do any of these sound familiar?

No Up-sell

If you sell more to each client, you’ll increase your turnover. This is often overlooked but it really is that simple. Ensure that you have the right presentation of the complimentary products / services ready to go. If you don’t’ then you can always consider a strategic partnership.

Have you ever been to Pizza Express for a meal? Have you ever noticed what happens when you order? You’re always asked if you’d like a side salad or garlic bread. This is a tad sales focused so if you want to increase the life-time value of your clients then think of ways to up-service! (I recently purchased a house and our friendly, professional conveyancers sent us a little pressie for our new home. Isn’t that simple (and inexpensive) but effective?)

No follow-up

There are some industries more guilty of this than others but doesn’t it drive you up the walls when you make an enquiry and no-one gets back to you. Taking this point a little further, a follow up isn’t one phone call or one email, you have to be persistent. (It might take between 5 to 8 times for your potential customer to touch your brand before they buy, can you build that into your customer journey?)

Making an impression

The right impression. Lots of businesses fall into the trap of making the first sale too difficult. You have to be able to incentivise first-time customers through pricing strategies or discount structures. (Remember, the lifetime value of the customer maybe worth the smaller margin up front).

No clear USP

We’ve all heard this one before, old isn’t it? Maybe but brands don’t always make it clear why customers should buy from you. Humanise your brand, communicate your values and make the “what’s in it for me” very clear!

You could try a guarantee – they’re very effective. Do you remember Pizza Hut’s “30 minutes or free” promise?

Customers first

Think like your customers, be your customers and put them first. This has a multitude of meanings it’s important for you to figure out what this means specifically to you. We talk about creating a buying persona ~ if you understand who you are talking to, you can talk to them more effectively.

Are you tackling business development for your business? We have a download that can take you through creating a business development plan for your business, go to business fluidity to find out more.

Business Fluidity

A strap line (or slogan to our friends across the pond) often accompanies a logo or marketing communications to help differentiate your brand or draw attention to certain areas of your business.

We are creatures of language and words can be long-lasting and powerful as discussed in our earlier blog. So how can you develop a strap-line for your business?

1) Keep it snappy

Your strap line should never be longer than a sentence, if it’s too long it’ll get messy and won’t be very memorable. Nike “Just Do It”.

2) Be yourself, nothing more

It’s quite exciting creating a stapline and if creativity gets the best of you, you might get carried away. Big yourself up but stay honest and avoid things like “the best… ” or “market leaders” and “award winning”. This kind of thing is quite generic in any case, it’s not fun or memorable and if you’re seen to blow your trumpet a bit too loud you can turn off some of your customers.

3) Communicate your value or commitment statement

You might have a wide variety of products or services so it’s hard to be specific about one thing. You will still need to have a differentiator, maybe something based around customer service, a guarantee or brand values.

4) Highlight product benefit

If you do something different in your process or there’s something special about your product that gives you an advantage over the competition, use it. “It doesn’t loose suction” – sound familiar?

What straplines strike a cord with you, why? Does your company have a strapline, what is it?

Share your thoughts and comments using the comments below.


Is your company website guilty of over-loading the home page and making your visitors think? Is that home page about as welcoming as a door mat? Maybe that’s a bit harsh but our creative website designers are sharing some of the gruesome sins of website design….

1) Designing first…

When starting a new website design project, it’s ever so tempting to open the paint box and get cracking. We say plan first. The client, project manager and website designer should have a chat before designing to plan what information has to be on the page, the goal of the page and so on. The web designer can then get creative and design the beautiful elements and site around that key information.

What really matters is ensuring that the navigation is intuitive and clear. Well organised content makes for an effective web page and website design.

2) The almighty fold.

Many home page designs are cluttered and overwhelming as we try to communicate everything to everyone and it all has to be “above the fold”. Ideally you want to tell visitors in a glimpse who you are and what you do. Nothing more. And we promise… people do scroll! Give your home page space to breathe and create a hierarchy of information. Forget the fold!

3) Going overboard with flashy stuff.

We hope we can confidently say that gone are the days of Flash… In it’s place we have mobile and tablet friendly ways of ensuring we ‘create a little movement’ on the home page using jQuery to make sliders or images fading in and out. The rule here is to ask 1) does this add value and 2) is it overboard?

For user experience, load times are important so you don’t want it to take too long for a page to load.

4) Be yourself.

These days it’s all about brand story and building relationships, forget the hard sell and remember that people do look at the ‘about’ page. Make it personal and be yourself, include team members and if you can – videos talking about what you do and why you do it! The products and services pages are important too, we’re not denying that but the old saying goes people buy from people and that’s just as true online! Do you know that we get more traffic to our about page than our portfolio page!

5) Remember who you’re talking to.

Sounds obvious right? But in fact it’s really easy to design your website and navigation around ‘what you do’ – the services, products and often we get caught up in how internally we categorise things. Do your users follow the same train of thought? Step back for a moment, build a buying persona of someone who is going to visit your website. Then map out how they got there, what they are looking for, what they will do next and what you want them to do when they leave. This kind of ‘user-journey’ mapping can really help to put your user at the heart of your website design.

Planning a new website or upgrades to your current website?

Here are some other articles which might be of use! If you have any queries please feel free to contact our web design team in Birmingham.



Are you interested in incorporating online to your marketing strategy?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a small business owner or marketing manager and just getting started with online marketing, the marketing team at Sixth Story in Birmingham have put together a step-by-step diy guide to setting up an online marketing plan for your business.

From establishing keyword strategy to leveraging social media, we introduce some practical marketing techniques to get you on your way.

We hope you find this information useful and look forward to hearing the results you’ve achieved. If you have any queries or would like to bounce some ideas around please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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