Blogs By Author

Sandy

1. Visualize Your Dream and Write it Down!
Putting your dream in writing is the first step to achieving it. The act of writing creates a commitment on your part, and helps you paint an even clearer picture of your future.

2. Invest in Your Identity
If you are looking to start up a new venture, don't skimp on the logo. Your logo is the first impression of your business (especially when all you have are business cards to hand out). If there is one thing to spend some money on, it's building your identity. And don't forget to choose a great company name!

3. Two Words: Royalty Free
Royalty free photography is a designer's dream come true. The images can be purchased quickly, at a reasonable rate, and can be used an unlimited number of times. This is an excellent way to build a beautiful, cohesive look to your brand.

4. Breaking Up is Hard to Do
Developing the ability to fire the "bad" clients can make the difference between a profitable year and a year with too many headaches. Sometimes the chemistry just isn't there, or you have grown apart. Either way, the relationship needs to come to an end - it's better for both parties involved.

5. Find Mentors Outside of your Industry
Some of the best mentors are those outside of your industry, with similar business philosophies and ethics as yourself. If you find someone who inspires and guides you, you've found a new mentor!

6. When All Else is Equal, Go with your Gut
Not sure what to do about a current situation? Listen for that voice inside that I call my gut. This natural instinct can help you make significant creative, business and hiring decisions.

7. Don't Underestimate the Power of Color
Color has the power to persuade, influence and engage a reader. Don't be afraid of color when working on your marketing materials. Thanks to digital printing, full color pieces have become more affordable than ever.

8. When Spec Work, Works
I personally hate spec work. But it worked once when we needed to show a client that we were capable of handling a project and we didn't have the specific experience in our existing client portfolio. If your company decides to hire a design firm based on spec work, make sure there is open communication with the design firms involved to increase their chances of pulling together a creative solution that works.

9. Creativity Takes Time
Designers have a saying...You can get creative work done cheap, quick or good -pick two. Be patient as the best creative ideas generally don't happen the first hour or two of brainstorming.

10. How to Get the Most Out of Your Design Firm
The best way to get the creative results you are looking for from your design team is to outline your marketing goals from the beginning so your designers can create a visual solution to your problem, not just a pretty picture.

This blog was posted by Sandy on June 13, 2004.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

Enthusiam. Make sure the web designer (or web design company) is enthusiastic about your project and wants to do it. This may seem odd now, but you'll know when you speak with a few designers, who is truly interested in your company and who is interested in your sale.

Design Experience. Confirm that the web designer has the experience that you are looking for by asking for URLS of previous work. A good web designer should have about 6 solid examples that he/she is proud of in multiple industries demonstrating a variety of design styles to suit each industry. Just because a web designer has 30+ websites doesn't mean they must be good, it may simply mean the web designer works a lot and produces template-type sites. 

Understand that there is no right answer when designing a website. The web designer you choose will create a website and base recommendations off of their experience. If you do not like their past work, they most likely are not a good fit for your company.

Questions. Be ready to discuss your website objectives and company goals. The most professional web designer will do more than make your site look good. The designer will need to be briefed on your current marketing strategy, how you are going to incorporate your new or newly designed website into that strategy, and how they can incorporate their design strategy into the big picture. If a web designer doesn't ask many questions, how will they be able to understand your company enough to visually differenciate your company from the marketplace?

Personality. The key to a successful relationship is mutual respect and good chemistry. Not egos, attitudes, nor technology jargon. If you like one another, you will work well together, be able to effectively communicate ideas, and have fun!

Marketing Savvy. Once the website is up and running, you have finished phase 1. Just because you have a website doesn't mean people will know how to find it. Depending on your need, there are plenty of marketing options for you to choose from. Having a savvy web designer will help make this a smooth process and the site will be already designed with marketing in mind.

This blog was posted by Sandy on June 13, 2004.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

We are so honored to be mentioned in B2B magazine today! I just wanted to share as it really demonstrates our company's passion for user centered design and usable web sites. Here's a little excerpt for those that don't have time to read the full article:

Another trend: Making the most of a user's time on the site, rather than focusing on increasing the amount of time spent on the site, said Sandy Marsico, principal of Sandstorm Design, a web design and usability firm. “You want to help them find what they want quickly and get on with their day. Businesspeople don't have any time to waste anymore.” “You want clear areas of content,” Marsico said. “There should be more conversation and less selling.”

This blog was posted by Sandy on September 13, 2010.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

Sandy
Sandstorm at Riverview Tavern

This morning we received a pre-recorded phone call from Com Ed letting us know that due to a severe problem and an emergency on their end, that we would be losing power from 12:30 pm - 2pm. Ug... In the middle of the work day without power. In a matter of a few hours, we were going to lose our voicemail, server, and computers. All business as we know it would have to stop for the hour and a half. What a perfect opportunity for a team event!

On the bright side: At least they let us know in advance and we were able to shut down our machines and our data so there wasn't any danger in corrupt files or fried machines. And this will force us to take a leisurely lunch break and relax as many of us tend to work straight through the day.

So off we went, after shutting down the office, we piled into a few cars and had a GREAT lunch at Riverview Tavern on Damen. Complete with a toast to Com Ed for reminding us that when you can turn a curve ball into a home run. What could have been a stressful, annoying and frustrating afternoon became a memory of fun, laughter and much needed play time. I'm so sorry for those that missed it because they were out of the office today. Thanks Com Ed! Cheers. :)

This blog was posted by Sandy on September 1, 2010.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy
Medicare Application

After months of collaboration, health care education, Medicare explanation, web application development, voice over talent selection and a bit of instructional design, we are proud to announce the launch of an interactive health care web application to help users understand Medicare health care coverage options from a large insurance company. After going through the application, I feel confident I can help my parents through the Medicare process and explain the difference between A, B, D, gap and advantage. If you can't, and you know someone who is around 65 years old, you should send them to check it out. (There's closed captioning as well as the ability to increase the type, too.)

This blog was posted by Sandy on August 18, 2010.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

Sandy
Chicago marketing firms quote chosen from 5000 submissions

Congratulations Sandstorm! We submitted an inspirational quote for the 2011 Woman's Advantage Calendar and from over 5,000 submissions, our marketing firm's quote (and internal company philosophy) was chosen. Woo hoo!

Our inspirational quote will appear on our own calendar page (September 22) with our company name and  url. What a great way to increase our visibility and get a little free publicity. I love PR and marketing, and I love to win. This is such an honor. And a fun way to share a little insight about our marketing firm and the people who work here.

So you might be wondering, what was our winning quote and inspiration: "To become an exceptional leader, take the time to help others achieve their dreams" The extra special part - I found out today, on my birthday.

This blog was posted by Sandy on July 21, 2010.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

Sandy
Growing web design firm adds Technology and Usability Director

Welcome Michael Hartman, Technology and Usability Director - We are so thrilled to have Michael join us and lead our technology and usability team! In addition to being a Drupal powerhouse, he's a stellar project manager and usability expert. And he's got your back - he's a black belt in Tae Kwon Do!

Welcome Michael. We are so looking forward to working with you.

This blog was posted by Sandy on June 21, 2010.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

Sandy

Back in January we had the good fortune of being featured in the Chicago Tribune about our forecast for growth. The article talked about "good omens" and somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking that if this goes to print (which it did) then we have to have a good year because I publicly made the claim (or the prediction).

What I am most thrilled about is that so many companies are hiring this year - big and small agencies, corporations, associations, etc. This is good for the marketing and advertising industry, and even better for the Chicago people, for my friends, and my family. When companies hire, we all win - and putting together a job offer is my most favorite thing to do. In the interactive space, there is so much going on right now that when we call Creative Circle for some help, the position we are looking to fill is always in "high demand."

So what are we looking for? Great interactive account managers, web developers, UX designers, and we're still on the lookout for that right marketing copywriter. Write us an interesting email and send us your best work (via URL please, no attachments), and we'd love to hear from you.

This blog was posted by Sandy on May 14, 2010.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

I love taking tests. Sounds weird, I know, but I love learning, and tests are a quick way for me to discover what I don't know and immediately pinpoints an area or two that I can improve on. And I found a website SEO tool that tests your website and gives you a grade. Sandstorm Design got 99/100!

When it comes to SEO and marketing your website, the high level concepts don't often change (write strong original content, continue to add to that content, attract quality links, etc). What does change are all the new things you can do to increase your odds that people will come back to your website and promote your content, which in turn drives more traffic. Of all the website SEO tools, I like Website Grader. (and no, they didn't pay for that link).

When I find a tool I like, I share it. And what I like most is that Website Grader put together in a very organized fashion what they look for in the analysis, what you can do to improve your website, and if you want more help, where to go. And it's free.

This blog was posted by Sandy on March 5, 2010.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

Sandy

Zak recently emailed me an article about why bronze medalists are happier than those who win silver, with a small note that read "reminded me of you". I didn't even have to read the article to know what he meant. I hate the B+, the second place, the silver, the most defeating words from a potential client, "We really struggled with this decision, the two companies we narrowed down to were so great..." you know the rest. You get the B+, the 89%, the race through your head if there was anything else you could have done, had a stronger pitch, shown more expertise, presented a more cohesive plan, a better demo, etc.

For years we have been working on going for the gold, striving to make that emotional connection, and helping our clients do the same. Strategic marketing and strong branding can't necessarily help silver medalists, but it can help companies who are tired of hearing from their sales team that a competitor just won their business, again. With strong positioning, a consistent brand, and a strategic message, marketing can bring a brand to life, clearly demonstrate added value, and in the end, be that one "gut" feeling that makes your company win the gold (over and over again). Ready to start training for that gold medal?

This blog was posted by Sandy on February 24, 2010.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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