It’s Time to Pull Out all the Stops…

Festive Red Car
Behind the Scenes

With just mere weeks to go, it’s time to pull out all the stops for your holiday products. Behind the scenes, large retailers are sending out offers, telling you- ‘Our Stylist Recommends’, reminding you of this season’s color combinations and offering their Loyal Customers – ‘Secret Sales’. Using their wonderful words to draw shoppers in. No matter what size or type your business is- you can use those same well worded and well timed techniques. If they seem ho-hum, remember they’ve stood the test of time. Marketers do it because it works!’

shades of winter whites and graysRight now, shades of Winter Whites and Gray are easy on the eyes, it’s cozy and frankly folks love it. This year, soft comfort, natural materials and the classics are high on shoppers’ lists. Buyers also love seeing how shades of One Color can help the shop their closer while adding or accessorizing with just a few things. We all know this year will be different. It’s time to make the adjustments.

It’s a fact that humans respond to lists- Update your Gift Guides to 5, 10 or 15 Things ‘We are Loving Right Now.’ 5 Hostess Gifts, 10 items you need this winter, 15 things for the folks who have ‘everything’. As a business person, it will be helpful for you to zero in on your most profitable products or services, then pull out all the stops to offer those products, now. Offer a ‘Our Top Picks’ guide. Changing up your gift guides isn’t a gimmick- it’s a helpful tool when shoppers are feeling overwhelmed.

shades of redHelp your customers budget by offering ‘Under $50, Under $20’ for stocking stuffers. This will not only help them- it will also help you sell slow stock- in fact, slow stock is where you need to discount your items – Now! Make your offering delectable- if you’re talking about Shades of Red clothing- show a berry pie- perhaps even offer a recipe alongside.

shades of green and mercury glassWe all love Shades of Green, show them how beautiful green looks with gray mercury glass. A new combination is always welcome- looks fresh and new too! And while you’re pulling out all the stops- don’t forget a bit of whimsy, an easy truffle recipe for ‘Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’ found in Camellia’s Christmas Sweets… or a festive Red Car.

'not a creature was stirring...'Brighten their day and lift the spirits too! This is the time to pull out all the stops and make your products the merriest they can be! All the best, I know you can do this!

Love y’all, Brenda

And a Big PS…don’t forget reminders for when the last date for Standard Shipping is and when the last date for Guaranteed Delivery before Christmas! Don’t miss the last sleigh! Your customers will love you for it!Festive Red Car

The Little Black Dress of Marketing…

A thank you note is the ‘Little Black Dress’ of the marketing world. Every one needs one and you can personalize it anyway you want to and it will always look good! There are so many ways to say ‘Thank You’ to your customers – I’ve chosen 8 of my favorites!

  1. Find a way to personalize- maybe it’s a hand painted touch, a bookmark, a snippet of evergreen or a package of seeds… depending on your business, the options are practically endless.
  2. As a way to say thank you- offer free or reduced shipping on an item purchased after the New Year.
  3. A Gift for You. I know this may seem humdrum- yet when used a $10 off your next purchase, this is a powerful sales tool and keeps the momentum going into the next few months. And, by the way- A ‘$ amount off’ is far better than a discount that every one’s offering! Other ‘gifts’ you may offer is a consultation, a small swatch of a cleaning cloth or even samples of other products you carry.
  4. That old standby Free Gift Wrapping has been around for a reason- it works! For everyone it means far more than you realize. Wrapping can be fancy or all natural- just make sure it’s unique, even unexpected.
  5. If you sell any types of containers or coffee mugs, you’d be surprised how delightful a little gift tucked inside is- even cello wrapped coffee beans, a tea bag, a cute baked cookie. For garden centers, adding a bit of moss or a few pine cones in a container is low cost, yet is festive and welcome. It’s the little touches that say- Thank You!
  6. There’s something so charming about an unexpected blank seasonal card or gift tag tucked in, even a length of twine or ribbon is a welcome sight and guess what? You can use up extras because these little touches don’t have to match every time!
  7. If you work as a team in your business, it takes no time at all- snap a photo and print it out on card stock- Put a little bit of the personal in and folks love it. When I worked in retail I always had preprinted cards- I signed my name and a Thank You for companies I worked for- large and small. I’ve even been known to scrawl ‘Thank you!’ on the receipt!
  8. And here’s a great thing- sit down, write a stack of generic Thank You notes, then as each item sells, personalize it before packaging, then insert- especially for Loyal Customers! *I have received several packages in the last few months- from large companies and small boutiques, several of them had either pre-printed or handwritten thank you notes in them. Do what the best product based companies are doing and you can’t go wrong.

I’ll say it again, a Thank You Note is the Little Black Dress of Marketing. You can coordinate it anyway you choose and it’s always right!  Please remember, these days folks are looking for a more personal shopping experience- give them one from start to finish! And while I’m at it- thank you all for stopping by so often, it means the world to me!

Love y’all, Brenda

7 Easy Marketing Tips…

I took some time recently to jot down some easy marketing ideas. As we’ve reset the clock- the holiday season begins. I’ve had several small businesses have asked- ‘What will success look like in 2020?’

‘Success, right now, is all about people. Take care of them, and they will take care of the business.’ Jon Juliano

That’s what this and every other holiday season is all about. Remember to take care of people. Your customers are overwhelmed and anxious, just like you are. If we can adjust our mindset from seller to a valuable advisor, one who can be trusted, then business will be easier all around. Let me rephrase that a bit- Move from being solely service or product based to a ‘resource based brand’. They’ll rely on you as a trusted resource. Here are a few of ideas I jotted down:

  • 1. Put together a Gift Guide.  In your gift guide, add things of various price points and add in a few things you don’t actually sell, yet would be good add-ons. Collaborate? It’s possible or just make a simple easy recommendation. A seller of Handmade Soap, might recommend adding Mineral Salts for a relaxing Bath. 
  • 2. Offer Ideas –  Be the ‘idea’ resource for your products. For example- how to extend the life of perishables- pink pumpkins?  *Refrigerate. Use through Thanksgiving for decor. Save the seeds, dry, put into little packets to add some ‘magic’ to a gardener’s gift!
  • 3. Offer Gift Certificates. Product based of course! Service based- exercise or dance? Whatever you do, off a good old fashioned gift certificate. *For instruction, perhaps add the perfect dancing shoes or a foot soak too! Gift Cards are always welcome.
  •  4. Folks will be hosting smaller events. Bakers? Suggest an easy breakfast, dinner rolls and dessert. One stop shop! *Pastry Gift Card? Smaller budget conscious events inspire DIY projects…If you’re the one who makes Gingerbread House parts- add a recipe for icing and decorations. Are you beginning to get the picture?
  • 5. For existing customers- keep in touch. In stress filled times, saying- ‘We’ll get through this. Thinking of you.’ May be all a person needs to hear. 
  • 6. Provide Value. Value and extra value which is really adding convenience. A length of twine, a ribbon, a small gift tage or an inexpensive surprise adds joy- it’s added value for them- and your business. 
  • 7.  The all important, Four B’s Be memorable. Be Consistent. Be Kind. Be Grateful- a thank you note tucked in goes a long way… 

So, there you have it- my 7 Easy Marketing Tips… now don’t go far because as a special edition for a special time… I’ll be sending out an extra post this week for 3 Tips for Product Based Businesses (I personally think there’s probably a way service based businesses can get involved too!’ So! Stay tuned…

Love y’all, Brenda 

Texture…

Texture. The roughness of peeling paint. The wrinkles, ridges and bumps of pumpkins, contrast with rough dry stems. The soft fur of a sleeping kitten on a nappy blanket- all are varied examples of how Texture, even on flat images bring life and interest to design. This is especially important when blogging or social media which is dependent on non-textured images.


Soft feathers in vibrant colors play against an ornate gilded mask. Even textured monochromatic barn board and straw nest with the smoothness of galvanized metal show the importance of how light and texture brings life and interest to an empty nest I found and captured in a photo years ago. That image is still one of my favorites, a happy accident for sure.
By contrast- the soft sand, sleek and slick colorful fishes are improved with rippled water and mossy planks, which without those contrasting textures, just wouldn’t be the same.


Add the texture of rough chopped pecans to almost anything and your recipes will have the unmistakable flavor and texture we crave in food. *Tip: Inexpensive paper sacks or burlap bags are wonderful as props*

Dark, spicy ‘Where the Sugarcane Grows’ Gingerbread…topped with roughly spread cream cheese frosting, served on smooth vintage plates is an example of how opposites attract… and really, those crumbs do add a bit of realistic textural charm…
Tell the story of how the sweet and spicy Classic Southern Jezebel Sauce… sprang from our twisted roots, bayous and swamps. The textures help you tell that crazy tale…trust me on that!

And yes, in Autumn we must have the color and texture of fallen leaves to signal the changing seasons.
Texture is all around us- it adds to the tactile experience of life. It’s the thing that makes an image come alive- the sensations we know and love in the world around us. Evoke the sense of touch- real or imagined, folks will love it.
After Light and Color- Texture is Number 3 of my 9 Principles of Design. Look for it, find it, add it to your images and then- watch Texture bring your image to life!
Love y’all, Brenda

Here’s an image of that ‘Where the Sugarcane Grows’ Gingerbread…

Seasonal Wreaths…

Seasonal Wreaths…circles, imperfect, yes! Shapes and form are basic and elemental. And often set the stage in good design. Wreaths add personality, even create  or convey meaning and mood. I enjoy making wreaths, especially with natural materials I’ve collected or grown myself.  Since we grow a type of grapes called muscadines- my wreaths usually start with a grapevine base. I’ve been known to wind up muscadine vines, leaves and all- left plain? I enjoy it just like that!

I’ve used pale green hydrangeas grown here- I’ll admit those were my pride and joy the first year they bloomed. I love the cotton wreath because the cotton came from a special garden established to honor Alabama native George Washington Carver. A former slave who taught farmers how to enrich soil depleted by cotton growth by alternating growing peanuts! And, yes he’s probably the Father of Peanut Butter and more! For sure, he was a pioneer in adding nitrogen back to poor soil. And his work was done at the famous Tuskegee Institute in part funded by Henry Ford himself.

I had a bumper crop of Oregano- the scent when wound up into a wreath is amazing- fresh or dried. Herbs make wonderful additions to wreaths. As wreaths dry, you never know the form or color they’ll take on. Pale papery blooms take on a beautiful hue. Magnolia leaves are stunning any time of year, especially during holidays from Thanksgiving to Christmas and beyond.

I made a wreath recently with ‘past their prime’ cuttings of hydrangeas, somehow it pleases me through the beauty of imperfections which will soften and become even more beautiful, I hope.

Shapes often have symbolic meanings. Take circles- there’s no beginning or end. Wreaths are timeless, seasonal- the shape and form feels complete, unified. Circular curves suggest softness and movement, especially when combined with the sharp edges of other forms. Like a door maybe?

Shape and form are basic, necessary elements of design- perfect or not, preferably not. Don’t wait until a wreath or anything else, for that matter, is perfect– just get started. Use Shapes and Forms in your designs. You’ll be glad you did!

Love y’all, Brenda

Here’s that Magnolia Wreath- one of my all time favorites!