Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Get Ready for the Big 14 Day Countdown to Valentine's Day!

There is no long lead up to Valentine's Day sales, most people buy last minute, usually less than a week before the 14th! So what can you do leading up to Valentine's' Day to promote sales?

1. When posting on Social Media, think about the headings you use. Try something a little catchy like: 
  • Need some help this Valentine’s? 5 perfect gift ideas for her/him
  • ❤️ 5 perfect Valentine’s gift ideas for her/him (all under £30) ❤️ - the heart emoji will attract more attention!
  • “Valentine’s Day treats for you and yours."
  • "Bring a little Smiley Love this Valentine's Day."
or how about using a Valentine's quote
  • “Where there is love, there is life.” – Mahatma Ghandi, Civil Rights Lead
  • "They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything." - Bil Keane
Next, make sure the content of your post is appealing enough to drive customers to your store, web-shop, or to start a conversion.
2. Run a Valentine's Day poll or ask a question. This will get your customers interacting on your Facebook or Instagram pages. You can run a different poll every day leading up to the 14th! Interaction is really important to grow your following and it's not a one-way street. Make sure to respond to any comments. Remember, every comment you get means someone took the time to stop, look at your post and share their thoughts. After all that, why wouldn’t you respond?
How do you celebrate Valentine's Day?
What would be your perfect Valentine's Day gift?
Which balloon reflects your Valentine's personality?

This is an idea that you could use to post on one of your social media channels - you are
welcome to use this example, just right click to save the image. Make sure that you either start a poll, or simply ask a question - "Which balloon reflects your Valentine's personality?" or whatever comment you think will get your followers talking.

3. Add romantic flair to your social media covers and profile images. Help your online audience get into the spirit of Valentine’s Day by updating your social media covers and profile images with a bit of romantic flair. Ideally the flair should still be visible when your profile image is resized, but be careful not to obscure your original branding too much – you still want your audience to be able to recognise it. Did you know that you can download some great Valentine's images from the Qualatex website! Click HERE for a direct link to the Organic Heart Decor article.

4. Hashtag it! Using seasonal hashtags and keywords is a simple way to expand your reach.

#bemine, #bemine2019 #bemyvalentine, #candyhearts, #galentinesday, #hugsandkisses, #secretadmirer, #SinglesDay, #sweetheart, #thatslove, #valentine, #valentines, #valentinesday2019, #whoneedsavalentine, #willyoubemyvalentine

5. Run a Valentine's competition - ask people to post their funniest Valentine's Day stories. Once again this will create interaction on your social media channels and create something fun for your followers to read and engage in - maybe get your followers to choose their favourite stories by counting the number of likes?

6. Offer a special promotion for early orders - you could offer a free gift-wrapped heart with every order made.

Here are just a few last minute ideas that should help with your Valentine's sales! 

Good luck!

Happy Valentine's Ballooning!

Follow me @suebowler

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

How to Avoid having your Instagram Account Disabled, or worse, Lost Forever!

Breaking the "rules" on social media is easier than you may realise!

Are you committing copyright infringement and don't realise that you are doing it?

Last year a ballooning friend of mine told me that her business Instagram account had been disabled before Christmas for violating Instagram Community Guidelines  - her account was never restored and she never found out why - but a cheeky little "Elf on the Shelf" had something to do with it! 

There are several things that you can do to cause your Instagram account to be disabled or worse, lost forever! 

Banned Instagram Hashtags

As we all know, hashtags get your posts noticed, but did you know that there are many banned Instagram hashtags! Some of the bans are permanent - others are temporary, usually when someone has reported content that may not meet Instagram's guidelines. These come and go so be careful when using hashtags that they are permissible to use at that time.

How do you know if the hashtags that you are using are okay to use?

  • In the search bar, type the hashtag you want to use.
  • If it does not appear in the search results, it usually mean that the hashtag is banned. The hashtag could be banned temporarily or indefinitely. This means that one day it might be blocked, another day it might be usable.
I've read several articles on this subject and was really surprised to see that words like #Valentinesday and #newyearsday were both listed as banned hashtags, so I checked and saw that they have both been re-instated. I suppose if someone posts something inappropriate and it's reported, that hashtag is temporarily disabled.

There is a great article A Complete List Of Banned Hashtags You Should Avoid In 2020, I recommend that you take a look.

Infringing the Copyright of other people or businesses - please read this as you could be easily infringing copyright or trademark laws.

Under Instagram’s Terms of Use and Community Guidelines, you can only post content to Instagram if it doesn’t violate the intellectual property rights of another party. The best way to help make sure that the content you post to Instagram doesn’t violate copyright law is to only post content that you’ve created yourself.

You might also be able to use someone else’s content on Instagram if you’ve gotten permission (for example, a license), or if your use is covered by fair use or some other exception to copyright. It’s generally a good idea to get permission before posting content, and to get that permission in writing.

The key words in the above statement are licenses and copyright. 

How many balloon artists regularly copy licensed characters without permission? This is where a balloon artist creates a character entirely out of balloons and does not used a licensed balloon such as the Mickey Mouse Bubble as shown below. I see it all the time on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest! Not only do they copy the licensed characters, they hashtag them too, which makes it really easy for the license owners to catch people using their license without the relevant permissions required.

It might bring an artist kudos to re-create famous character designs, but is it worth having your Instagram account disabled for posting those photos? 
Here is an article on Legal Use of the Disney Characters - by Marilyn Linblad

It's not just Disney, there are so many characters and other famous things that are heavily licensed and trademarked, such as the Olympics and anything Oscar related to name just a few... there are many!

Making designs like the Mickey Mouse design using licensed balloons does not break any licensing rules.

Making designs using licensed balloons is perfectly acceptable
and does not break any licensing rules. 

With so many balloon companies using vinyl cutters, we are seeing many licensed designs and fonts being copied, again this is breaking copyright and licensing rules.

If you are ever in doubt, simply search "is 'xxxx' protected by licenses or trademark laws" and it will give you all the relevant information.

Be warned, re-creating anything that is licensed or has a copyright can get you into trouble - posting it on social media and hash-tagging it simply flags it for all to see.

So let's go back to Elf on The Shelf - as I mentioned right at the beginning of this blog post, a ballooning friend of mine had their Instagram account disabled and is really struggling to get it back. 
They were informed that Instagram had removed a post for copyright infringement - this was a video that they had made showing their Elf On The Shelf stuffing balloons, the video had been hash-tagged "elfontheshelf". Thinking it was because they had used the hashtag, they continued their Elf on the Shelf marketing campaign by posting photographs of the elf being naughty each day, but this time without the hashtag, sadly after a few more posts their account was completely disabled, and it's really hard to find out why.

It's difficult to understand what's okay and what's not! The words "Elf on the Shelf" are trademarked and I suppose around Christmastime they are checking to see if it's being use appropriately. I saw so many Elf on the Shelf campaigns it's hard to know which of those were legal and which broke the rules. Or was my friend just one of the unlucky ones that got noticed?

Last week I noticed that a company had posted a photograph of mine (without permission) on their Instagram account to promote their business - which incidentally is not a balloon decor company! 

Here are the rules on this:

To repost someone else's Instagram post, you first have to obtain that person's permission to re-use their content. Then, you can use an external app such as Repost for Instagram, Instarepost, or DownloadGram.

The company that used my photo did neither, they did hashtag my name but that does not constitute as obtaining permission.

If someone has posted a photograph of yours that you took, you have to decide if you are unhappy that they are using one of your photos to promote their business, and to be honest it is probably best to contact them directly and ask them to remove the photograph, which in most cases they will. If they refuse, then you are well within your right to report them to Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest.

And there are even more reason why Instagram might block you!
  • Mass Following and Mass Liking
  • Excessively Frequent Publications
  • Images/Videos Violating Social Network Rules
  • User Complaints
  • Different IP addresses and Devices
Rather than going into more details regarding the above reasons, I will guide you to a great post 6 Reasons Why Instagram Blocks You. To-Do Actions if You Get Banned - by Julia Minnie who explain each of these really well.

To be completely honest I was unaware of many of the reasons for having an Instagram account disabled, and researching for this blog has really opened my eyes. When it comes to copyrights and trademark laws, I am always very careful, as it's so easy to break these rules. When in doubt always check!  For example did you know that you are not allowed to have an "Oscars" theme party but you can have a "Hollywood Nights Party" - even words are protected by copyright laws! 

Keep your Instagram and other social media accounts safe by not inadvertently breaking any rules.

Happy Ballooning!

Follow me - #suebowler

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Have you Considered Joining or Starting a Ballooning Networking Group?

Working on your own can be tough and a little lonely sometimes. Many balloon artists, like myself, are sole traders - a one man band without the support of a team to work with. Dealing with day-to-day problems and issues can seem daunting or the thought of getting asked to work on a big job fills you with terror rather than excitement! Does this sound familiar?

Fortunately, we have the power of the internet and can easily connect with other balloon artists around the world through Facebook groups, Instagram, and other social media channels, but there is nothing quite like networking and meeting like-minded people that have the same interests and passions as you face to face.

Working together with Amanda Armstrong, CBA, Cheryl Skoric, CBA, and Matt Cerre, CBA, building the fabulous Pioneer 100 Anniversary party decor.


Networking is one of the best ways to build great relationships with other balloon artists. Meeting up at training sessions, events, and conventions is probably one of the most important reasons for attending. It's not just about making friends, it's about building relationships with other balloon professionals who can help each other with advice and support when it is needed or can physically help when a job proves to be too big!

Have you considered joining or starting a network group? 

Meeting up at training courses is great, but sadly they are not always that frequent. So why not see if there are any ballooning networking groups already set up that you are able to join or if not, start your own. If you have started to build a group of friends within the industry, why not suggest that you form a networking group. You don't have to meet physically, although it's always a good idea to try and find opportunities to get together, you can easily "meet" using an app such as Google Hangouts.

Working together as a team with other balloon professionals.

So how does a networking group work?

  • Firstly, I would recommend not to make your group too big. You want to be able to allow everyone the opportunity to get involved and participate. 
  • Meet on a regular fixed date - like the first Monday in the month. Choose a time that suits everyone and when business is usually quiet and people have time to talk.
  • Network with those who are not in conflict or competition with you or each other - a successful group needs to be able to share ideas, advice and support and not feel threatened.
  • Know what you want to talk about - have an agenda or discussion outline. It's important to ask group members each month if they have any specific topics that they want to discuss in advance. You will need a group moderator to set up the meeting and to steer the conversations, especially if there are time constraints and a busy agenda. 
  • Limit your meetings to a manageable length, if they take too long people will start to lose interest and get side-tracked.
Team work makes the dream work! 

What are the benefits of a networking group?
  • Allows the opportunity to exchange fresh ideas! We are very much a trend-led industry, it's good to know and share what's hot and what's not! Coming up with new marketing ideas is never easy, knowing what's working for others can really boost another person's confidence to have a go themselves.
  • Allows you to help others.  A problem shared is a problem halved, or so the saying goes! Working as a group can help to answer questions, bounce ideas off each other, resolve problems together, or already have the knowledge or experience to share.
  • Share and opens the door to new opportunities. How many of us lack the confidence to take on a "big job" or have never had the experience working on a large balloon installation? Or it might be that it's you that has the big job and need good team members to work with you. Being part of a network group can give you greater opportunities to work as part of a team. It might be working for one of the group members or an opportunity that one of your members has introduced you to. Working as part of a team has many benefits - it's a fabulous learning opportunity, as well as stimulating and rewarding plus it's very social, which is something that most of us lack when working alone.
  • Allows you to express an opinion. Unlike your friends and family, a professional network is there to share opinions about the industry and exchange information. This is a great opportunity to discuss industry related matters that you have been thinking about or that may have had an impact on your business.
  • Expands your support network. You may only meet up once a month, but knowing that you have a group of friends that you can always turn to when you're feeling fed up, in need of advice, or a few friendly words is worth so much! 

Working together to build a sculpture at a convention with a network of ballooning friends from the same country is great way to build a networking group and wonderful friendships.

Happy Networking! 


Monday, January 7, 2019

2019 Valentine's Day Sales Strategy

If you would like to learn how to create this fabulous
organic style "Puffed Heart" design, check out the
NEW "Simply Organic" course being taught by
Sue Bowler in the UK and Europe this year! 

Do you have a sales strategy? Do you know what a sales strategy is? It's simple really, a sales strategy is a plan by a business or individual on how to go about selling products and services and increasing profits.

Valentine's Day is a super big event in the ballooning world and one that you cannot afford to miss out on! In 2017, Brits spent a whopping £1.5 Billion celebrating Valentine's Day which was a massive increase from 2016 when we spent a mere £908m. In the US it is predicted that 19.6 Billion will be spent this year!

Valentines decor by Sue Bowler & Nicci Rene
Valentine's opportunities come in many different guise  This decor was created for a Valentine's product launch for an on-line retail company.
Decor by Sue Bowler, CBA, and Nicci Rene.

Valentine's Sales Strategy

1. Define your target market - who are you trying to sell to?
  • Businesses using the Valentine's season to promote their products. For this you may need to think outside of the box, some will be obvious, but others not so. 
    • Restaurants - to decorate a restaurant to make it look special during their Valentine's dinner service.
    • Hotels - this could be before Valentine's to promote that they are offering a Valentine's event, and also to decorate the restaurant and other rooms being used.
    • Shops and Shopping Malls- for window and counter displays - check out my blog post "Valentine's Shopping mall decor with Romana Kolenc, CBA, of Baloni Romana in Šoštanj, Slovenia."
    • Night clubs and other party venues.
    • Car and furniture show rooms - maybe not an obvious target, but this is a great opportunity for these types of businesses to bring a big splash of colour and the Valentine's vibe into their stores! 
  • Retail Sales - this is your obvious target market!
    Valentines Balloon Decor by Romana Kolenc
    Fabulous Shopping Mall Decor by Romana Kolenc, CBA

2. How do you reach your target markets?  Now you have defined who your target market is, you need to be able to reach out to them. Some will be local businesses within your community and you may have done work with them before. Others you may be connected to through LinkedIn or community and networking groups that you are a member of. Some you will need to cold call. If you are not confident enough to walk through a door without an appointment, you could create a professional looking postcard using an app such as www.canva.com and follow-up afterward with a phone call - it's important to remember to follow up! If you have never used Canva before check out this fabulous tutorial by Zoe Adam-Jones - Good Design Matters for your Business.
Zoe created this fabulous example postcard using Canva - Zoe says "when promoting b2b we want to focus on how we can help them stand out, increase customer engagement, and in turn increase sales... what better way than with balloon decor given that it is one of the biggest trends on social media right now." 

To download the organic heart image that Zoe has used for this postcard click HERE
or follow this link: https://us.qualatex.com/en-us/news/organic-heart-decor/

3. Plan your social media campaign to target different groups of customers. Your Facebook page will be directed at your regular clients, whereas you can use your Instagram account to target businesses and clients alike to give you a further reach. 

4. What are you going to sell? It's important that you plan what you are going to sell. You can start by checking to see what you have left over from last year, though it's good to rotate your stock, especially latex balloons. Also be sure to feature current trends - check out all the new and exciting Valentine's balloons in the Qualatex Valentine's catalogue.

Plan your designs - choose maybe five or six different display styles that you are going to sell. Make sure that you have a good variety of pricing points and themes, not everyone wants balloons that say "I love you" or a red balloon!

5. Order your stock early! As the saying goes "you must speculate to accumulate." This proverb says little to help people in search of a sensible long-term investment strategy, but it does suggest something important about one of the basic principles of investing; the relationship between risk and reward. If you don't have the stock, then you cannot sell it. 

6. Plan your window and other store displays, remember what you show you will sell, so make sure that you put your most profitable designs on display - most profitable does not necessarily mean most expensive. Do a job cost form for each of the designs you are planning to make, and check your profitability! If you struggle to cost your designs check out these past blog posts, both are really helpful.
How Much Would You Charge For This Design
How Much Should I Charge For That

7. Make selling fun! If you have a sales team, set targets and incentives for each staff member - make sure that targets are measurable, create a sales record sheet so that staff can easily record sales of specific designs as they sell them. Make sure that you reward the winners - make the prize meaningful, like the opportunity to leave work early!

It might seem a lot of work and effort but a good sales strategy will:

Help you acquire new customers
Help you expand/strengthen existing relationships with customers
Help you sell more products and services 

A sales strategy is something you should work towards all year, but if it's new to you then Valentine's is the perfect opportunity to start!

Happy Ballooning!