Design like a Pro!

Are you a small business owner trying to build your digital marketing strategy?

How you present your brand is just as important as what you say and where you say it.

Have you ever come across a website with clashing colours, difficult to read the text, or distracting images? How did it make you feel about the company who put the site together?

Online platforms are largely visual mediums, and your brand’s credibility can be helped – or hurt – by how well you take advantage of this fact.

Creating compelling images for your social media posts or consistent design themes across your newsletters and blog (for example) will present your business as a professional and detail-oriented outfit, helping build trust.

Making your own designs 

If you have some experience with design or more time than a budget for marketing, it is worth it to build your familiarity with online design tools.

We recommend Canva (we use it ourselves!) for ease of use and budget-friendly options. 

If you are trying to decide whether you need the free or premium version of Canva, check out our article discussing the benefits of each here.

Why we like it

We like Canva because it helps you avoid making common design mistakes like using low-quality images, poor proportions, or discordant styles, colours, or fonts. 

If you already have a logo, you can use this tool to get your brand colours and save those in Canva so they’ll be readily available every time you make a new design.

Canva also has dozens of templates that let you simply drag-and-drop your text and images in – it doesn’t get much easier than that!

Even the free version of Canva will give you access to a large library of professional photography to take your designs to the next level.

This can feel a bit overwhelming at first, but keep it simple – use the templates and don’t try to create anything too complicated and you will have some great designs in no time. There are also plenty of articles and other resources available online to learn more about designing on Canva.

Outsourcing your designs

Of course, not everyone has an eye for design or the patience to create their own designs. If this is the case for you, it is probably worth it to set aside a small budget to contract out your design work.

If you are just getting started: you can hire a graphic designer on platforms like Fiverr or Upwork to help you create a logo and decide on your brand’s colour scheme, fonts, and style tone. You will then use this style guide for all of your future designs.

If you already have a style guide for your brand: finding a contractor is even easier – just send over your details and what you want the designer to create (e.g. flyers for an upcoming event, a banner and posts for your Facebook page, a template for your newsletter).

Tips on hiring freelance designers:

  • Read reviews and look at ratings
  • Saving a few dollars up front may cost you more in the long run if you need to re-do something
  • Communicate your expectations clearly and in as much detail as possible upfront

And that’s everything you need to take your brand’s image to the next level – substance AND style!

Need some help getting started? We offer Canva tutorials! Contact us here for next steps.

Attract New Clients with Events


Events should play a role in most marketing strategies for small businesses. Hosting an event is a great way to get your name out there and establish your credibility on a specific topic.

Events can be anything from free online information-sharing sessions to paid in-person workshops – whichever suits your business best.

How do small businesses successfully use events to drive sales?

The key to getting the most out of an event is to make sure that the amount of time and energy you put in to the planning pays off in the outcome. You can do this by:

  1. Delivering value to your target audience so they want to do business with you; and
  2. Minimising time (and headaches!) spent on event-planning logistics.

Let’s break this down in more detail.

How can you deliver value to your target audience?

    1. Be clear on your purpose (what you want to achieve – for youself and your attendees): Establish the purpose of your event. Have you noticed that many of your existing customers have similar questions on how to use one of your products and might appreciate training? Are you looking to build your name recognition in a new industry or area? Think about what your ideal outcome would be (e.g. gain new clients, build existing customer loyalty) AND what attendees will get out of the event.
    2. Objectives. Make sure you set some SMART objectives. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely objectives come in really handy when you are reviewing the success of your event.
    3. Define your scope: This is where we consider our who, what, when, where and how. Making sure you have a great run sheet organised will help you not only with your list of resources, but also – consider what kind of budget you will need to run your event.  


  • Plan your event: Settle on a date, time, and location, leaving yourself at least a month to prepare. Create an invitation for your event and circulate it to your target audience.
  • Deliver! Prepare your presentation well in advance, be prepared to answer questions, and show up with a smile.


What is the best way for small businesses to market their events?

If you’re a small business owner, you don’t have time to spend hours on planning an event and worrying about poor turnout. Make sure you get the most out of your efforts by streamlining your event planning and marketing your event widely to get a good turn out.

We recommend using Eventbrite to create and manage your events. Eventbrite is an online event-planning site that will let you create a page for your event, register attendees, and even sell tickets.

Simply create an account and a new event. Eventbrite will walk you through a form to fill-in the particulars for your event (which you should already know from the steps above!). 

We recommend taking a little extra time to fill in some information about yourself or your business in an organizer page.

It is also worth it to include an eye-catching event cover photo, which you can create easily in Canva. For more information on what Canva can offer and its pricing check out our article on Canva the $Debate here.

After your event page is looking great, Eventbrite will give you a link which you can share with your target audience. We recommend sending an invitation to your business’s database at least 4 times during the month leading up to the event. We also recommend sharing the link across all of your social media channels.

So how does it measure up?

Eventbrite offers easy integration with Xero, Mailchimp, and Facebook accounts, among others – easy as!

Eventbrite charges 2.5% of the ticket price for each registration, plus $0.99 per ticket. If you use Eventbrite’s payment gateway (recommended), the platform will take another 3.5% of the ticket price. 

If you are using Eventbrite to host a FREE event there is no charge to use the platform.

If you get a little stuck you can always ask for a little support. We run training programs or can help with your event administration. Just contact us here. 

So what are you waiting for? Get event-ing!

Where to start with Websites

We typically recommend that every business, no matter how new or how small, set up a website.

At a minimum, a website helps you drive sales by establishing credibility as a professional operation and providing basic information about the services/products you offer.

It can also serve as a hub for original content that establishes you and your business as an expert in your industry, host customer testimonials, and process sales directly (e-commerce) among dozens of other functions.

Building a website can seem daunting, especially for business owners who have neither the budget nor technical expertise to build a custom website from scratch. This is where a website builder or a  CMS can save the day!

What is a CMS?

A CMS, or content management system, is software that allows users without programming knowledge to create, edit, and publish web content, such as text or multimedia elements, collectively via a graphical user interface.

In other words, a CMS takes care of the grunt work of getting your website set up and lets you focus on populating your site with great content. 

What is a website builder?

Website builders are often even simpler than CMSs, although they typically offer less functionality. These sites are often drag-and-drop and a great option if you just want to get up a barebones page with your basic information.

Both website builders and CMSs are popular solutions for many small businesses, and there are options to suit every budget and level of comfort with programming.

We thought it might be helpful to walk through some of the pros and cons of the best website builders and CMSs for small businesses:


Website Builder

Pros Cons



We recommend this one.

  • Massive popularity means there are tons of online resources (guides, forum posts etc.)
  • Started out as a blogging platform and still one of the best for blogs
  • One of the best options for services businesses
  • 50,000 extensions available = tons of flexibility on what the site can do
  • Many free design templates with options for customization
  • “Five-minute installation” wizard
  • Search engine friendly URLs
  • Publishing tools for mobile
  • Endless possible extensions, templates, and customization mean the learning curve can be rough
  • No dedicated support team; only online guides and a forum
  • You must install an eCommerce plugin if creating an online store – if this is your site’s primary function, Shopify might be a better option


  • Great for hosting blogs and services businesses
  • Around 8,000 extensions available
  • Some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) support
  • Open-source platform
  • Community support through forums
  • Slightly more complex than WordPress

(CMS) We recommend this one if you are looking at doing an online store.

  • Dedicated to e-commerce, so excellent functionality for online stores
  • Pretty flexible on design
  • Excellent tutorials available so you can learn quickly
  • If you’re a services business or have no interest in selling online, this is not a good fit
  • Blogging comes secondary, if you are primarily interested in creating content and selling a few things on the side this is not your best bet


  • Open-source
  • Slim basic installation with more than 36,000 extension modules
  • Focus on social publishing and community projects
  • More than 1100 distributions as a complete solution for typical applications
  • Very flexible, modular layout
  • Very Old School!
  • Steep learning curve
  • Best for those with some knowledge of web development

(CMS/Website Builder)

  • Great pre-packaged design options
  • Easy to set up, no coding skills needed at all: drag-and-drop
  • Previews changes as you make them
  • More difficult to use than other website builders, such as Wix
  • Doesn’t have all the functionality of other CMSs

(Website Builder)

  • Consistently voted one of the easiest to use website builders
  • Aimed at non-technical users
  • Limited access to more complex features
  • Users have less control overall, it is more difficult to customize templates
  • Doesn’t have all the functionality of a CMS

For reference, here is a breakdown of the market share of the 10 most popular CMSs:


WordPress by a landslide! (We host our site on WordPress as well).

At the end of the day, the best CMS or website builder for your business depends on your unique needs and what you hope the website will do. We recommend that you take some time to explore the options and choose which one is best for you.

Once you’ve got your site up and running, check out our article on Cascading Content to learn how to populate it with content and drive traffic.

Cascading Content.


Efficient Digital Marketing Strategy

We know from the Four C’s of Marketing that your messaging should be consistent, coherent, complementary, and demonstrate continuity. 

If you aren’t familiar with the Four C’s or are just getting started with building your marketing strategy, we strongly recommend that you get started with this article.

We know from our examples that this means your customers are seeing messages which reinforce each other across your different channels. But where does this messaging come from?

Enter Cascading Content, a strategy to share relevant information with your target audience and keep them engaged. 

Let’s break this down:


  • Relevant information is content that is interesting, informative, entertaining, or otherwise brings value to your audience.
  • Target audience is a group of people that you know are interested in your business, industry, or area of expertise.
  • Engaged means actively reading, commenting on, or sharing your content.



Why is Cascading Content important?

Most people are facing information overload, especially from online advertisements. 

What we want to avoid is gaining subscribers who forget about your company after clicking “follow” or, worse, are so annoyed by your posts that they unsubscribe. 

To gain (and keep!) subscribers, it’s important to demonstrate that you have something to offer. Cascading Content moves beyond just sharing essential business information (e.g. hours of operation, sales, services offered) to 

Treat each new member of your audience as someone whose trust you need to actively nurture and whose support should be rewarded – just like you would treat a customer in person.

How does Cascading Content actually work?


  • Pick a topic and a medium: this should be a topic which is relevant to your business/audience and (most importantly!) something you know about. Choose a medium (article, video, presentation etc.) you’re comfortable with and get creating!*
  • Upload your content: if you have a website, create a new page and add your content. You could do this by adding a blog, for example, making sure you have at least 4 key points in your piece of content. If you don’t have your own website, you could upload the content directly onto your page on a third-party hosting site like Facebook, LinkedIn, or YouTube.
  • Share: this is where the Cascading happens! Using key parts of the content you have previously prepared, re-publish those key points in a different channel. You can even add extra info to support the message. For example, we could now make a post on cascading content, with a link to this blog!

Cascading content

It’s often a good idea to create a compelling image to accompany the link to your content to grab attention –we recommend using Canva. For more information on how to design images for social media and whether you might need to spring for the premium version.

Canva. The $ Debate.

Who doesn’t love a graphic design tool? Especially when it is so simple to use, and one that is going to make your organization stand out. Well, I introduce to you Canva, the graphic design tool that has been helping make my social media look beautiful since way back.

What is this Canva thing?

If you haven’t already heard of Canva you are going to be grateful you are hearing about it now. As mentioned, Canva is a graphic design tool that provides everything you need to create a killer design for your business or other purposes.

Canva gives you access to millions of photos, images, and fonts as well as pre-made templates to make things super simple. Because let’s be honest, we aren’t all natural born graphic designers, so the more help the better, right? I think yes! And may I add it also has pre-made measurements for Facebook posts, Instagram, cover pages etc.…. I know! No more are the days where you spend time creating graphics only for it to be half cut off in the uploading process.

What’s also great about Canva is it can be used for both web and print media, basically your one stop shop for graphics. AND you can have its basic version for FREE! Yes, Canva offers a paid and unpaid version, so depending on your needs there is an option for everyone.

So, what’s the difference between the paid version and the FREE version?

The main difference between the paid and unpaid version of Canva is the levels of customization and organization. For example, unpaid users have access to some free graphics, can save a personal colour choice or two, and you can have up to two separate folders to save your work in. You can get away with the free version if you are just doing very simple social media and basic design.

Due to the work I do, I personally prefer the premium version. It is only $12.95 per month and totally worth it. It allows you to choose more design templates, upload yours or multiple brand guides and you are able to create many folders to organize your designs.

The best way to know what version is right for you is to go have a look and check it out for yourself. Start off with the free version and if you need more out of it then you’ll know the premium version is right for you. But trust me, you won’t regret taking a look and testing it out. Why not give it a go.