Autumn Salad

Autumn Salad


1 large head Romaine, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 firm red Delicious apples, cored and cut into 1” chunks
1 cup broken pecan halves, toasted
½ to ¾ cup crumbled blue cheese
Combine above ingredients into large salad bowl.

1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup white wine vinegar


Beat above until thickened, season with kosher salt and ground white pepper. Toss with dressing and refrigerate for about one hour, serve cold. It’s great with pork or a simple pasta dish.

Promotional items can help get their attention

Promotional items can help get their attention

Collectively, these items make up a $20B (with a B) industry and are used by most businesses in America. They have some distinct advantages over some other marketing vehicles:

1. Low cost per impression (CPI) compared to TV, magazine ads, radio, and others. That’s because you generally control how many are given out, who they’re given to, and when.

2. They stay in prospects’ hands longer—up to 9 months or more for some categories of items. Compare that to an email solicitation that’s easily deleted or can quickly drop below the fold, never to be seen again. We humans just seem to engage in the tangible for longer periods. See the chart for the staying power of most popular items.

3. Higher response rates–when included as “lumpy mail” in a bubble pack or box. If you’re like me, I always open such items thinking they’re something of value. So the open rates for this sort of campaign are typically much higher than for a flat letter or an email. Even the best emails are opened only about 30% of the time.




So Many Products to Choose From

With such a diversity of items, you can use your creativity to build a campaign that captivates your audience.  Here are just a few product ideas and a theme to build around:

a.    Custom logo mug:  “Care to discuss your needs over a cup of coffee?”
b.    Packet of seeds: “Are you ready to start growing again?”
c.    Instant cooling towel: “Need our help?  No sweat.”
d.    Custom matchbox:  “Things are heating up!  Check out our specials.”
e.    Tape ruler:  “Our competition just can’t measure up.”
f.     Tin of cookies:  “Happy Holidays from us to you!”

Promotional products, when used effectively, can grab your customers’ or prospects’ attention like no other marketing vehicle. Please give us a call if you’d like to hear more ideas to help you connect with your target audience.  Or, visit our website to browse our world full of products. (Prices are only representative.)

10 Key Factors for Effective Web Design

10 Key Factors for Effective Web Design

  1. Understand the Objective – What is the primary goal for your website? We want to understand the business outcomes you’re expecting before we begin. Simply having a website is no longer enough.
  2. Ease of Navigation – We’ll lay out a clear, intuitive path for the user so they can get the answers to their questions quickly, hopefully within 2 or 3 clicks. Both the user and Google value clearly defined site architecture.
  3. Meta Titles, Descriptions, & Headlines – These are among the most critical components of any website. We ensure these are properly written to help Google locate your site above your competitor’s.
  4. Content Is King – Visitors are coming to your site for answers. The quality and depth of your content plays a vital role in converting visitors into customers, and positively impacts your search engine rankings.
  5. Keywords & Key Phrases – Striking the right balance of keywords and their synonyms helps Google determine whether your website is relevant to someone’s web search. We analyze appropriate keywords and inject them into every page.
  6. Appealing Design – Of course your website should be attractive.  But using a lot of fancy bells and whistles can also slow down your pages from loading.  We lean towards practical, clean design.
  7. Site Loading Time – Google scores your webpage performance from 0 to 100. A score in the high 70s or higher is desirable. Decreasing page loading times can have a positive effect in visitor bounce rates and lead to higher conversions.  
  8. Inbound Links – Link building is critical. The more quality links you build, the more Google deems your site relevant, and of value.
  9. Clear Calls-To-Action – A clear call-to-action can motivate the visitor to respond in a way you hope for, such as opting into a newsletter, purchasing a product, or contacting you.
  10. Contact Information – We ensure your contact information is clearly visible using a combination of page location, font size, and color.  We also set your phone number as clickable on mobile devices.  No need for them to retype your phone number.
10 things to consider

Unpaid Intern or Paid Trainee?

Unpaid Intern or Paid Trainee?

We are considering recruiting several college students for summer internships. Do we have to pay them?

In some cases, individuals working for an employer in a training capacity do not qualify as “employees” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and therefore do not have to be paid. Their activities and work completed during the internship will determine their employment status. The following criteria are used to determine if the trainees or students are employees within the meaning of the FLSA. ALL of these criteria must be met in order to establish the internship as unpaid.


  1. The training, even though it includes actual work done at the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school. The learning experience encompasses a sequence of activities that build upon one another, increase in complexity, promote mastery of basic skills and are coordinated with education provided via the school-based learning component.
  2. The training is for the benefit of the trainees or students.
  3. The trainees or students do not displace regular employees. The placement of trainees or students does not result in the employer not hiring an employee it would otherwise hire and does not result in an employee working fewer hours than he or she would otherwise work.
  4. The employer receives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees or students and, on occasion, may have operations impeded. Any productive work that the trainee performs would be offset by the burden to the employer from the training and supervision provided.
  5. The trainees or students are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period. This does not preclude employers from offering a position at the end of the training program.
  6. The employer and the trainees or students understand that the trainees or students are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

Source: The Employers Association

Cilantro Hummus

Cilantro Hummus

A tangy and easy alternative to the traditional tahini dip.

½ cup cilantro leaves

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 15-oz can rinsed and drained Great Northern Beans

1 Tbl lime juice

1 Tbl lemon juice

2 Tbl olive oil

cilantro hummus


Chop the cilantro and garlic together in food processor.  Add beans, juice, oil, salt and white pepper.  Puree until creamy.  If necessary, add water, a tablespoon at a time.

Transfer to bowl, cover, and chill.  Serve as a dip with raw veggies or crackers.  It’s also great as a sandwich spread for wraps!


Garden Wrap

Spread a thin layer of cilantro hummus on a spinach or veggie tortilla.  Add fresh spinach and roasted red peppers; sprinkle with balsamic vinegar.  Roll the wrap tightly and then cut in half.  Substitute any roasted veggie, deli turkey or roast beef, or chopped fresh cucumbers.

Egg Scramble With Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Mint

Egg Scramble With Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Mint

10 large eggs

1 large tomato, seeded, chopped into ½” chunksscrambled-eggs-with-fresh-herbs_web

¼ cup coarsely crumbled goat cheese

¼ cup finely chopped green onions

¼ cup chopped fresh mint

1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground white pepper

3 Tablespoon butter

2 shallots, chopped

Whisk eggs in large bowl until well blended.  Add tomato, goat cheese, green onions, chopped mint, salt, and pepper; whisk to blend.  Melt 1Tbl butter in a 12” nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add shallots; sauté 3 minutes.  Add remaining 2 Tablespoons butter to melt in skillet.  Add egg mixture; cook 2 minutes before stirring.  Using large non-metal spoon, gently stir and turn over portions of the egg mixture until cooked through but soft, about 4 minutes.

Divide among 4 to 6 plates.  Garnish with mint sprigs and serve with thick slices of toasted buttered bread and strawberry jam.  Add a freshly cut peony or some other cut flower from your garden!

Employers Beware OSHA Issued 55% More Citations For Violations Of Top Ten Cited Standards

Employers Beware OSHA Issued 55% More Citations For Violations Of Top Ten Cited Standards

While the list of the ten most cited violations for FY 2013 was little changed from FY 2012, there was a significant change in the number of gross violations for the standards on the list, increasing from 29,179 to 45,238 or 55%. This clearly demonstrates that OSHA enforcement efforts have continued to rise at a significant rate.

Top Ten Violations
Here are the top ten violations for FY 2013, including frequently cited areas:

  1. 1926.501 – Fall Protection: 8,739 citations, including failure to use guardrails, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems in residential construction, unprotected open sides and edges, improper roofing work and failure to cover holes.
  2. 1910.1200 – Hazard Communication: 6,556 citations including failure to maintain a written program, inadequate employee education and training, improper or no labels on containers, and failure to have readily accessible material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and/or safety data sheets (SDSs).
  3. osha-inspections-fail

  4. 1926.451 – Scaffolding: 5,724 citations including failure to provide safe access to scaffolding surfaces, lack of fall and/or falling object protection, and violation of foundation and guardrail requirements.
  5. 1910.134 – Respiratory Protection: 4,153 citations including lack of medical evaluations for employees required to wear respirators, no written respiratory protection program, managing situations when respirator is not required, improper respirator selection for hazards present, improper fit testing.
  6. 1910.305 – Electrical, Wiring Methods: 3,709 violations including problems with flexible cords and cables, conductors entering boxes or fittings, identification, splices and terminations, covers and canopies and temporary wiring.
  7. 1910.178 – Powered Industrial Trucks: 3,544 citations including safe operation, inadequate operator training and refresher training, taking the truck out of service when repairs are necessary, maintenance.
  8. 1926.1053 – Ladders: 3,524 citations including requirements for portable ladders used for accessing upper landing surfaces, use of the top ladder step, use of inappropriate ladder for a job, marking portable ladders with structural defects with tags noting them as defective and excessive loads on ladders.
  9. 1910.147 – Lockout/Tagout: 3,505 citations including poor or no energy control procedures, periodic inspections, inadequate worker training, and lockout or tagout device application.
  10. 1910.303 – Electrical, General Requirements: 2,932 citations, including installation and use of equipment, space around electric equipment, guarding of live parts, services, feeders and branch circuits, and examination of equipment.
  11. 1910.212 – Machine Guarding: 2,852 citations, including types of guarding, point of operation exposures, failure to properly anchor fixed machinery, and exposure to blades.

What’s Better: Email or Direct Mail for Your Marketing Campaign?

What’s Better: Email or Direct Mail for Your Marketing Campaign?

Actually, the better question is: which one is best for your situation?  The answer may be to use BOTH in an integrated marketing campaign. This allows you to stay top-of-mind with your customers while simultaneously nurturing prospects along the way to a purchase (often referred to as the sales funnel—a future blog topic!).  For example, a monthly email to your customers with news of a new service you’re launching or a seasonal promotion. Plus a postcard mailing to a list of prospects you want to go after, letting them know you exist (i.e. create awareness) and can help them.  Each method of communication has its advantages:

Email vs. Direct Mail

Email Direct Mail
Lower cost due to no postage Targeted lists readily available by geography,SIC codes, company revenues, etc
Measurable results/ROI tracking Print media are more engaging, more likely
to remain around.
Best with established relationships Best for approaching “strangers” when you don’t have their email address
BUT…purchased lists are expensive and unreliable. BUT…more expensive to execute
Inboxes are increasingly cluttered or blocked by firewalls; only 25-30% ever get opened


Email is best used in a drip campaign
to people you already know.

You are reading this blog article right now because you are a customer of ours or someone who’s interested in our services.  This is part of our ongoing monthly eNewsletter campaign. (Thanks for your interest!)  It works because we already have a relationship with you and, hence, we have your email address.  But we wouldn’t think about “blasting” this to people we don’t know from some list we purchase.  Those are too intrusive for our taste, and most would end up caught in spam folders or quickly deleted without opening.  Relying on email, we save money on printing, mailing services, and postage involved in traditional mailing.  You could make similar use of email to stay top-of-mind with your customers.

Direct Mail is best for prospecting
among people you don’t know.

In other situations, direct mail is preferred.  Let’s say you’ve captured all of Charlotte’s business, and now you’re set to open a new office in Fort Mill for your accounting or consulting business.  You’d like to target small businesses serviced from your new office.  You don’t really know who they all are and certainly don’t have their email addresses.  Sure, join those networking groups in Fort Mill, but that can take years to get noticed by the total audience you’re targeting. Direct mail to the rescue!  Now you can begin corresponding with strangers who might have interest in what you’re offering and eventually turn some into customers.

Marketing is about communication.  Thankfully, there are so many tools available to help you start a conversation. However, there is no silver bullet. The challenge is in choosing the right mix between email and direct mail and how you combine them with all other media options to achieve your goals and maximize your returns.  

Grammar Queen’s grammar quiz

Our Grammar Queen (Ellen) has Some Words of Advice.

abcOMG, texting has ruined our written word!  As a traditionalist and Catholic school attendee, this abuse just grates on me, especially when I find myself making the same mistakes!  In the section below are ten common mistakes.  (One is repeated.)  See if you can spot and correct them, and then check your answers.

The Fictitious Story of the New Neighbors

Because my neighbors across the street had moved away, I was anxious to meet the new occupants.  There moving van arrived along with the minivan, four kids, 2 dogs, and a cat.  All spilled immediately and noisily from the car and directly across the street into my yard, where the larger mutt deposited it’s first gift.  I wondered if I should bring it back over. 

That was three months ago, and I’m glad I’d opted against re-gifting.  The new neighbors and us are becoming good friends, and because they installed invisible fencing, the dog’s gifts are less and less.  I believe these new neighbors might become the best yet!

#1. Because vs. Since:  because implies a cause (easy to remember); since implies time has passed.  Why?  Because I said so!  Since I moved to Charlotte, I’ve grown to love the heat.

#2. Anxious vs. Eager:  anxious goes along with worried dread; eager implies happy anticipation.  Because the doctor’s unsmiling face was pale, I was anxious about the test results.  I’m so eager to leave on vacation!

#3. There vs. Their:  there tells location; Their implies possession.  Who owns the convertible outside?  It’s theirs, the couple at the counter.

#4. 2 vs. Twoten and under, spell it out; 11 and more use numbers. However, if the paragraph has a mix of numbers, use the numerical form to be consistent.

#5. It’s vs. Its:  it’s means it is; its shows possession.  It’s raining, and I left the window open, so the rain made its way to the floor inside.

#6. Bring vs. Take:  bring things towards you; take them away from you.  My neighbor brought me tomatoes from the produce stand, so I’m going to take her caprese salad.

#7. Never end a sentence with a preposition:  in this case, “take it back to their yard.”

#8. Us vs. We:  we is the subject of a sentence; us is the object.  For clarity, try rearranging the sentence, i.e. we are becoming good friends; not us are becoming…

#9. Less vs. Fewer:  use fewer when the items can be counted; use less when you can’t count, i.e. less cake versus fewer pieces of cake.

#10. Might vs. May:  may implies a strong possibility; might implies far more uncertainty.  If the weather channel says we have a 90% chance of rain, you’d say we may have rain and we might have sunshine.

Darn, All the Good Domain Names are Taken!

Darn, All the Good Domain Names are Taken!

choosing-domain-nameIt turns out that ICANN (the domain name police) have been working on some new domain extensions beyond the pervasive “.com.”   Late in 3013, as many as 1000 new extensions were approved for sale, including .gallery, .plumbing, and .careers.  It’s early, but I think this could catch on in a way some others (e.g. .biz) have not.  Peter Thrush, chairman of ICANN’s board of directors, said after last fall’s vote: “Today’s decision will usher in a new internet age. We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration.”

Here’s how your company might benefit:

  1. From a branding standpoint, a new domain extension could help position your company in the eyes of your prospects as being a serious contender for their dollars.
  2. It could also shorten and simplify your domain name, making it easier for people to remember.
  3. Using a gTLD might help with SEO, landing you higher in search results.  Google and other search engines are always working to provide the most relevant results for whatever you’re searching for.  If you’re a plumber, wouldn’t you think a name with .plumbing attached would be relevant for someone searching for a plumber?  That said, I’ll caution you that the jury is still out as to how Google will react to all this.  It’s good content and lots of it that Google says they value most in their search results display.
  4. If your website is already established, you could consider buying one of these new gTLDs anyway and have it point to your existing domain name.  Most are inexpensive to buy—think of it as insurance while you wait and see how things evolve.

I recently purchased one for my company: (currently inactive).  Maybe this will cut down on the occasional person in search of a nail salon to help with their “image.”   You can see a partial list by visiting