3-MINUTE BRANDING - The Kickass Business Podcast

This podcast is for entrepreneurs who are up for unconventional thinking and looking for creative tips to grow their business. Each episode offers quick tips on branding, creative design, packaging, marketing, advertising, web, digital and more - for Small and Medium Businesses.

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6 ways to go clutter-free and improve your focus

Let's look at one common problem, which you may not be aware of, but one that may very well be affecting your focus and productivity!

Look at your work table. It can accumulate a lot of things and become messy in no time. Typical culprits include all kinds of stationery, knick knacks, photographs, sample products, clock, bottles, coasters, chargers, wires and countless other items!

The problem here is that each of these elements in your field of vision is actually fighting to get a bit of your attention – making it harder to focus on your task at hand. Hence the need to declutter!

Several studies have indicated that working in a minimalist, decluttered environment is beneficial to your ability to focus, thus making you more productive. So how do you go about decluttering? Where do you begin?

Here are 6 tips to declutter your workspace:

1. Keep only the things that you really need. Remove everything else from your desk!
2. Use desk organizers or storage boxes to organise various items. Or use the table drawers if you have them. Place your most frequently used items in the top drawer.
3. Documents, printouts and mails are the fastest to build up. File them away, recycle or trash immediately. Go paperless as much as possible.
4. Organize your cables. Route them neatly behind or under your desk, or simply go wireless if possible!
5. Keep only one item of sentimental value for motivation. More than that might compromise more desk space than necessary.
6. Wipe your desk clean every day. When you do that, you’ll realize how many things you have to lift or move to wipe. That will tell you how much more you need to declutter!

So there you have it. A clean and tidy workspace eliminates distraction and lets you focus on your task better!

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8 ways to improve your business website

Let's explore business websites. If you haven't refreshed yours in a while, today is a good day to get started! Here are 8 tips to enhance your business website and make it work for you in this digital-first age.

1. Display your brand identity or logo right on top and bottom of ever page. Take professional help to redesign or refresh your logo. It makes a strong first impression about you and your business!
2. Keep your home page simple and clutter-free. Ensure it loads fast.
3. Communicate in simple sentences – who you are, what you do, what problem do you solve, how do you do it, and, how do we benefit?
4. Write engaging copy; short sentences; easy to read. Nobody has the patience today to read long paragraphs!
5. Have a clear Call to Action – To contact you, download a case study, sign-up or subscribe, register, watch something, take a survey, learn more, view products, compare features, etc.
6. Keep your navigation simple. Single page scroll is easy and intuitive. Avoid drop-down navigation menus and too many additional pages.
7. Make it easy for visitors to contact you. Provide the details upfront. Don’t force people to fill up a form. You might actually end up losing your prospects.
8. Finally, ensure your website is mobile responsive. This is extremely important. Check whether it displays properly on tabs and mobiles.

There's more, but we've listed the critical ones for you. A website is your most important marketing tool today. Most people look at company websites first before making a call or purchase. A website that looks attractive and is easy to use helps establish a feeling of professionalism and confidence in the business.

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When to shut down a business

Let's talk about something no entrepreneur likes to discuss openly but am sure, has found himself or herself at the crossroads – perhaps on more than one occasion. Should I shut down the business? Should I hang on for a few more months? When is it time to shut down?

But before I go further, let me make this clear – shutting down a business does NOT mean you are a loser. In fact, you have only gained more in terms of learning and valuable experience by treading the path of entrepreneurship.

However, if you've hit a wall and are doubting the success of your business, here are a few signs you may want to look out for…

- This one is the most difficult – You think business is okay, you’re getting work, but still you are not really making money. And it's the same story year after year. You’re just hanging on to the hope that things would improve. Not making a steady profit is a huge red flag!
- Customers are churning fast and are not staying long-term. You are ending up spending more to acquire customers – and that's not sustainable.
- The market has changed; your product or service is no longer relevant.
- You are far more in love with your idea or product than your customers. Many businesses fail because they are trying to offer something that no one really wants.
- You've tried making all sorts of tweaks to your product, service, or changes to the business model, but nothing is working.
- And finally, you are not enjoying it anymore.

Well, it might feel like you are admitting defeat, but what you are really doing is taking the first step to cut your losses, look ahead and start afresh to work on something far more productive with your time and money.

Sometimes NOT quitting at the right time can lead one to bad debts and extreme emotional stress – and both are not worth it. If a business is not making money it's better to as Kevin O'Leary says – "take it behind the barn and shoot it!" and move on.

Here's wishing you good luck in every endeavour.

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Common myths around digital marketing

Let's bust some common myths about digital marketing. At Kickass Design, we get a lot of questions from clients and prospects who are often confused and lost when it comes to digital marketing.

Here's a list of five common myths we've compiled:

1. An attractive website is the most important aspect of digital marketing. Well, it isn't. You must ensure that your website is not only visually appealing, but also contains engaging content, which is regularly updated.

2. Good traffic is the only measure of success for digital marketing. More traffic does not necessarily mean more conversion. You must attract the right kind of visitors.

3. Digital marketing can bring in quick results. Well, you cannot expect overnight success. Digital marketing efforts take time to be effective.

4. Target everyone to be more effective. It's the other way around. You need to clearly understand your target customer profile and engage with them smartly.

5. It's all about the number of clicks and likes. Well, these are fake goals. Attracting quality leads is what matters.

In today's competitive landscape with brands trying to woo every prospect, it has become a virtual war to get eyeballs, clicks and taps, along with ever-decreasing attention span. To move ahead, you might want to consider hiring an agency that can put essential facts first and give honest and practical suggestions relevant to your business.

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10 things I learnt about business - from my dog!

In this episode, I'm going to talk about something different. When you're looking to adopt some best practices for your business, you never know where the next source of inspiration might come from. It could be from a mentor, another entrepreneur or a business leader you look up to, or – your pet. Yes, you heard that right! We can indeed learn a thing or two about business from our pets!

So here are the 10 business lessons I learnt from my dogs Caeser and eeVee.

1. Adapt and make the most of any situation. Familiarize with your operating environment as quickly as possible.
2. Appreciate the basics of communication – convey things in a way others will understand, not always the way you want to say.
3. Don't expect results overnight. Stay focused, work hard and be patient.
4. Forcing things won't work. Instead, try making it a rewarding experience for everyone!
5. You can't be in control of every situation. When you find yourself in an unforeseen circumstance, bring out your innate resourcefulness to manage the situation.
6. Be consistent and persistent. Go after your prospects or even your toughest customers and win them over with your soft persistence!
7. Get over negativity quickly. Don’t bear grudges. Get over any setbacks and move on!
8. Rest and recharge. In between being busy, learn to take quick breaks, naps or even a simple stretch!
9. Don't be scared of a bigger dog coming at you. Stand your ground!
10. Finally, have some fun! Between work and more work, eat, drink, stretch, run and play!

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Top 5 questions to ask a potential creative agency

Let's explore how to select the right creative agency for your business.

Let's say, you're looking for a creative partner. You are practically stumped by the number of agencies out there and are wondering how to go about choosing one. All their portfolios look good, the case studies on their site are beyond impressive, and the testimonials look pretty solid! How do you know which is the agency for you?

Here's a handy list of questions that you can ask during your initial conversations with creative agencies. While this may not be a complete list, it will certainly help you figure out if you’re on the right track! Let’s go!

Question 1: Will you spend time understanding me and my customer?
Design thinking is not something that only Google or Apple does. It's important that the agency you select spends time in understanding your customer, their motivation, needs, and desires, before they create solutions for you. During your conversation with them, do you see signs of empathy? Do they question the status quo? Do they accept your assumptions at face value, or do they try to look at your needs through multiple perspectives? Do you see agility and flexibility? Do you see an agency that says ‘Yes, boss, whatever you say!’ or are they genuinely interested in finding result-oriented solutions? Do you see an openness to change? Do not get stuck with a rigid solution provider who does everything sequentially. Find a consultative partner who will put your customer’s needs and be responsive.

Question 2: What are your expectations from me as a client?
Nobody else knows your company as much as you do. A creative agency will need to know about your organization, values, mission, unique selling points, and a whole lot of information to ensure they give you deliverables that align to your journey. Make it clear to the prospective agency that you're available to provide answers and that they need to be upfront about the things they need from you!

Question 3: What is your process of completing my project?
An experienced agency will have a process that benefits all stakeholders. Request them to walk you through the stages of a project, key milestones, what you will get at each milestone, and the expectations from you at every stage. As always, watch out for signs of rigidity and run if you see a slow, archaic, sequential process with no room for agility or flexibility.

Question 4: What are the measurable benefits your clients have had by working with you?
Yes, agreed that it's difficult to quantify the success of a logo redesign, but there are projects that have measurable benefits, such as increased traffic to a redesigned website or increased open rate for an innovative direct mail campaign. In your conversation, try to find out if there are case studies they have with measurable benefits. Result orientation is critical for your success.

Question 5: At the end of the project, what will I own?
Okay, there are no ifs and buts here. Walk away from any agency that says they will own brand assets, such as photographs, artwork, coding, and so on. You must have a contract that ensures you have ownership of all the project assets including source files. Mature agencies will offer this upfront.

So here's the bottom line. It's alright to take time and figure out which agency is the best for you! When you find the right creative partner, there’s a ton of benefits your organization can gain, starting from increased brand awareness right up to measurable business benefits! Stay the course and find an empathetic, result-oriented, transparent, bold agency that will work magic for you.

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Are long-term business goals relevant anymore?

Considering how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life and business practically overnight, you might think – does it even make sense to do long-term business planning? Shouldn’t you instead, focus on becoming agile and be ever-ready to adapt and change course? Wouldn’t that give you the edge?

Several companies are struggling with planning. How do you plan when you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow? Businesses have got so used to stability, consistency, and fairly predictable planning cycles.

Some reports suggest that we are already seeing a gradual trend in reducing planning cycles. In some cases it is as short as 2 to 3 months! That’s being really agile!

So do we need long-term plans? I guess we need clear ideas, but they are only trend-setting and broad outlines. Planning does have value, but in the current business environment, responding to change is even more valuable. Agile and responsive decision-making under fast-changing business conditions is the key.

So how do you achieve your objectives and build resilience, while being agile?

Reconfigure your business and operating models in tune with changing realities. Constantly look for better ways to operate.
For example, if you are in manufacturing, you may leverage your production facility to explore new product lines.
If you are in retail, you may look at new ways to reach customers who can’t visit your physical location.
Similarly, if you are into services, explore various digital channels to extend your services remotely and scale up!

Your objective may remain the same, but don’t hesitate to reimagine the path to get there.

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Who wins the packaging design war – Form, Functionality, or Aesthetics?

At Kickass Design, we work on branding, label and packaging design assignments for all categories of products, for brands of all sizes – from start-ups to the well-established. The discussions around packaging design for every project ultimately revolve around form, functionality, and aesthetics.

But first things first. A good packaging design must fulfil these five functions:

1. Branding and design aesthetics including fonts, imagery, layout, see-through provision, etc.
2. Information about the product such as nutritional information for food products, list of ingredients, directions for use, compatibility and other mandatory details
3. Physical protection from external factors such as shock, vibration and compression and protection of the packaging itself from factors such as water and dust
4. Security features such as tamper-resistant seals to prevent pilferage and gain trust of consumers
5. Form and shape including convenience in terms of carrying, storing, using and recycling

Now, let's look at the interplay between form, functionality and aesthetics. Packaging design is both – art and science. Today, the psychology of packaging design has become a top concern for marketers, as evidence show that visual aesthetics play a major role in a product's success.

There have been numerous behavioural, neural and psychological research studies around packaging design and interaction with consumers. It is now understood that a product’s design and presentation can be the determining factors for its success or failure in the marketplace (Berkowitz, 1987). A product’s packaging not only provides protection for its physical content, but also serves as an interface between the customer and the brand (Rod, 1990), conveying information that adds up to its perceived value, thus making it a powerful communication and branding tool.

Several studies indicate that aesthetically-designed packages trigger longer response times than standardized packaging, even favouring more expensive, unknown brands over popular brands!

Sounds interesting? There's so much to packaging design! We’ll talk about other aspects in a future episode.

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Innovating in times of crisis

Let's talk about innovation. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed life as we knew it. And the same is true for businesses. Some have had to shut down, some changed their delivery models, while others have tried to adapt within the various constraints thrown at them. With new patterns of consumer behaviour and preferences emerging constantly, every day is a new day!

However, there seems to be an unintended but clear silver lining appearing from this global turmoil. Entrepreneurs and organizations are becoming smarter and creative in identifying new opportunities, changing their processes and becoming flexible in their operations.

Let's take some real examples:

- A small-time retail store in rural India started taking orders and payments through a window and delivering products sliding through a large PVC pipe to ensure safety and physical distancing. Ingenious!
- Several departmental stores introduced one-way movement through the aisles, with floor markers.
- A leading footwear brand introduced an app where one can select a store, chat with the store manager, purchase items, and get them home delivered! Simple, but clever app!
- Another clothing retail is using video chat with sales persons who show various clothing items, explain details, help consumers purchase basis their specific requirement, and get them home delivered. An example of connecting with customers remotely, yet providing a personal touch to their shopping experience!
- We are also seeing numerous examples of ride share auto-rickshaws with basic yet effective physical partitions and provision of hand sanitizers for passenger safety! An example of simple DIY solution to win customer confidence!
- Another example of innovation comes from a leading bio-sciences firm that repurposed an existing drug to manage moderate to severe COVID-19 complications. This resulted in faster approvals from authorities, leading to faster implementation in the field to save lives! Novel thinking!
- A teacher in a small Indian town is using public loudspeakers to take classes for children in the neighbourhood who do not have access to online learning. Amazing!
- And in the technology space, we've seen a number of innovative solutions through apps, robotics, drones, thermal imaging, online interactive teaching-learning and many more.

It seems quite clear that crisis breeds innovation and opportunity. So how do you innovate? A good starting point would be to look out for trends and search for insights into customers' emerging needs. This outside-in approach to innovation works quite well. So take your idea scrap book and start sketching out your business ecosystem. Explore and question every part of the process and imagine every customer touchpoint to see if you can do some things differently.

Hope you found this topic inspiring. Let us know how you changed your business operations to respond to this crisis. Feel free to share examples of innovation you've come across. Write to us.

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How can small businesses adapt and thrive in an economic downturn

Let's explore a few practical tips for assessing business health, and list ways to quickly adapt to the changing environment. See which of these tips will be relevant to you, depending on the nature of your business.

Lets face it. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many small businesses and entrepreneurs are struggling to survive or are facing significant decline in sales and orders. This is true whether you own a gym, a restaurant, a manufacturing unit, or any business, across any sector. And it's no different whether you operate out of a physical building or are an online e-commerce company. Everyone seems to be struggling!

So what do you do while the going is getting tougher. Here's a to-do list we put together:

- First, it's really important to stay calm. Take stock and logically consider all your options.
- Follow global and regional news, pay attention to changing business trends, consumer behaviour, preferences and demand patterns. You might get some insights to tweak your business model, or modify your current offering, or might even get a completely new business idea!
- On the financial side, the most important thing is to focus on your cash flow. Check where your cash is being held up.
- Stay on top of your receivables. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up actively on overdue bills.
- Tweak your credit policy. Maybe you could ask for down payment, shorten the payment period or extend credit only to select customers.
- In case you have any debt, try negotiating with your financier to see if you can restructure it or increase the term.
- On the operations side, look for ways to cut recurring costs such as office supplies, rent etc. Don’t jump into reducing head count just yet! Also, explore other financing options such as government stimulus programs, if applicable.
- Adopt digital platforms to carry out many of your regular functions. Check out various cloud-based software platforms that are available. Enable online payments. Or use any of the popular digital wallets, and so on. You’ll need to quickly change the way you work.
- Depending on the nature of your business, maybe you should put off plans for expansion. Focus on improving what you are already good at currently.
- Explore outsourcing of certain tasks.
- And finally, focus on retaining your customer base. Look for ways to improve their experience and satisfaction. Maintain regular communication. Could be through email, WhatsApp or even a phone call. Keep them updated on status, discuss areas of change, improvement, ideas, suggestions, feedback… whatever. They will appreciate it.

Hope you found this checklist useful for your business. Let us know what worked for you.

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Should you spend on marketing when sales are down?

Let's explore the issue of rationalising budgets in times of economic uncertainty. Say, your business is going through tough times. Sales are falling, cash is burning, and you know you have to soon cut down your spends.

So where would you start? Most often, marketing is the first function to bear the brunt. Why? Perhaps, because a majority of businesses see marketing as a pure cost. They see it as the ‘soft’ or ‘easy’ side of sales!

But, think about this… try selling when nobody knows who you are, what you do, or why your products or services are better than that of others. See what I'm getting at? Marketing creates trusted brands. In tough times, consumers will turn to products they trust.

A number of studies published over several years including during recessions, have clearly found that when times are tough, marketing is actually more important than before, not less. It’s an investment that creates trust in your brand. And trust leads to sales.

Let's explore how:

- Marketing drives long-term revenue. Think of it as the cost of acquiring and maintaining your customer base, or cost of generating revenue. Why would you cut back on that?
- Marketing during a recession is more effective. How? When other companies cut down their spends, the space becomes less cluttered, advertising costs go down, and your audience will more likely absorb your message and remember you!
- Marketing builds relationships and creates customer loyalty. When you consistently engage with your audience, they will remember you when they are ready to make a purchase!

However, if you must cut down your marketing budget, cut it strategically. Do not make sweeping cuts across the board. Review and eliminate underperforming efforts. Retain and repurpose content and messages that you find is resonating well with your customers.

Remember, your engagements with your customers, and revenue in the coming weeks and months depend on your marketing choices right now. Conserving cash is necessary, but investing in marketing drives sales and brings in money. The bottom line? Marketing is about investment, not accounting. So don’t think of your marketing as a non-essential overhead; that could be a costly mistake.

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Which social media platform is best for my business?

This episode of Kickass Radio answers a query sent in by one of our podcast subscribers who runs an engineering firm. The question is – Is it absolutely necessary for my business to be on social media? Should I be present on all platforms? Which ones will be the most relevant for my business? Well, get all your answers in today’s show!

When evaluating social media platforms, you must consider:
- whether it is a right fit for your business and brand,
- whether it supports the type of content you create, and,
- most importantly, whether your target audience is using that social media site.

For example, if you want to reach out to other businesses, owners, decision-makers, and professionals, share content and connect on a professional level, LinkedIn would be your ideal platform.
If your business involves frequent dissemination of information and new content, Twitter could be ideal for you.
If you are targeting a young demography, Instagram would be your best bet.
If you want to gather followers by sharing visually-rich and innovative content, you could explore Pinterest.
If you are into multimedia, video-based reviews, instruction or similar content, or into music and entertainment, YouTube would be your go-to place. It is also picked up well by leading search engines.
For everything else, covering the widest demography, Facebook is the largest and perhaps most popular social network.

So depending on the nature of your business, the type of content you create and the audience you want to reach, it's okay to focus on more than one social media platform too!

Social media is an excellent tool for building brand awareness, finding new leads, generating website traffic, engaging with your audience and gaining insights, and even improving your customer service!

So there you go! Make the most of your online presence and stay on top of your customers minds.

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How to get comfortable with video conferences.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world to stay indoors. Most businesses and entrepreneurs have been quick to adapt to the new ways of working remotely where conference calls have become the central communication lifeline.

However, not everyone is comfortable, confident or quick to adapt to this changed scenario.

Have a fear of conference calls? Get nervous or anxious? Read on… about how to master online business meetings.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when joining video calls:

- First, get familiar with the basic features of the app – how to mute, unmute, turn off, turn on the video camera, how to view the other participants, and locate the chat or recording options if you need them. It’s not that difficult.
- Secondly, depending on the nature of the call, it’s your choice whether you want to be seen on the video or not. You can simply turn off your camera if you don’t want others to see you.
- Now this one can be tricky! When starting video calls, some applications turn on your camera by default. Well, that might sometime result in an awkward or embarrassing moment! So ensure you turn off the camera right at the beginning.
- If you are not sure about the app, you may want to stick a masking tape or a sticky note to cover your camera.
- However, if you do want to be on the video, be dressed appropriately!
- Ensure there is proper lighting. You must be facing the source of light – be it a window or an indoor light.
- Place your phone or laptop at a height the same level as your face. Never look down into the camera. Others will see a distorted face from that angle.
- Ensure you have a fairly clean background with no one else in the frame!
- Try to keep things quiet in your room. Reduce distractions as much as possible.
- When you join the call, identify yourself and greet the others on the call.
- Mute your line when you are not speaking. This will greatly enhance call clarity!
- Finally, ensure you start on time, stay focused on the agenda, and end on time.

So there you go! These guidelines are pretty easy to follow! Go ahead with confidence, and get on with business!

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Is a good-looking logo really important for business?

Let's explore the importance of a logo and how it adds value to a business.

Think about this – when somebody hands you a business card, or let’s say, you visit a website, what’s the first thing that you notice. It's the logo that catches your attention, right? And depending on how awesome or awful the logo is, you create a certain perception in your mind about the particular business. Right?

Well, that's how important a logo is!! A good logo creates a professional impression and trust in the minds of your consumers. It conveys a message of assurance and quality.

Okay. So how does a good logo help?

- A good logo helps create a unique identity for your company.
- A good logo grabs attention and makes a strong first impression.
- It forms the foundation for your brand.
- It attracts customers and makes it easy for them to recognize your brand.
- And, last but not least, today consumers expect to see a logo!

If you don't have a logo, or one that is not professionally done, then you are missing an opportunity to make your business stick in the minds of your audience.

Get a good logo done by a professional. It's a worthy investment. Contact us if you would want us to design one for you!

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How to get a good first impression, online?

I'm often asked by small business owners, how to improve their business presence on the web. So lets get started and see how to get a good first impression, online!

As the world moves towards working remotely, your first digital impression will determine business success going forward. Here are four tips to get you started.

1. Go for professional branding. Your logo, colours, fonts and overall content presentation speaks a lot about you!
2. Make your website mobile-friendly. More prospects and customers today are using mobile phones to search for and access businesses.
3. Revamp your marketing materials. Update your content and presentation in the context of changing business environment.
4. Get active on professional networks. It's great to be seen where it matters! Depending on the nature of your business, choose a social or professional networking platform where you can engage with your prospects or customers.

So there you go! Upgrade your online presence. It's what the world is moving towards. You should too!

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3-MINUTE BRANDING - The Kickass Business Podcast

3-MINUTE BRANDING
The Kickass Business Podcast

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