August 29, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Why did I become a graphic designer?

Wow, that seems like a simple question.  I could give you the simple answer… I enjoy it, I’m fairly good at it, and it pays the bills.  But, I want to give the complete answer.  A behind-the-scenes look as to why I went into graphic design and why I started my business.

The Beginning

It started 19 years ago. I was working a full-time job at an interior design firm as the office administrator.  No, real excitement there.  I made sure the office had supplies, answered the phone and did the bookkeeping. What was going on in the other side of the office was fascinating, but with a degree in history, a husband and two children, I wasn’t heading back to college to become a certified interior designer. Besides, I was more intrigued with the software than making an office or medical center look great.

I hunted around the web looking for more information about the software and what else could be done with it and found a new online school (yep, they existed way back in 1999) that was offering certificate programs in graphic design & multimedia. Signing up for both programs, I excitedly waited for my software to come in the mail.  I remember the first time I opened Photoshop & was amazed and overwhelmed by just the interface.  Looking at my husband and I ask, “Just what have I gotten myself into?”  He just laughed and told me that I asked for it, so I needed to get busy learning.

That is exactly what I did.  Each program was expected to take 6 months.  I finished them both in three, and I loved it.  I had just scratched the surface and was busy trying to find more things to learn.  Now, at this time graphics was only one of my artistic pursuits.  I was painting, doing glass etching, sewing (I can make a mean dress – as long as it’s not for me), and graphics.  I wanted to do something artistic but couldn’t settle into what I wanted that to be.

At the time I had no idea just how integral my decision to sign up for those classes was going to be to our lives.

Life Changes

In 2001, roughly two years later, I was let go during a restructuring.  life-altering like everyone was restructuring as it was just after 9-11 and the market was experiencing a major flux.  I was also 6 months pregnant, so was the easier choice to let go, as this was my third child and my return to work was questionable.

At this point I was more wrapped up with having a new baby and taking care of the two I had to spend too much time of design, but I still read a book here or there & did projects for friends and family.   When the baby was two I went back to work full time for a magazine/mortgage broker (don’t ask) as a graphic designer/receptionist. During my time with this organization, we discovered our youngest has a genetic issue. 

Finding out your three-year-old has a genetic issue is definitely a life-altering moment in your life.  Going through the behaviors for his condition (Smith Magenis Syndrome) I read about the prevalence to put things under their finger & toenails. Leaving straight pins laying around didn't seem to be a great idea with that particular propensity. That took sewing right out of my list of creative endeavors. I pretty much limit it to repairs now – mostly of things he’s ripped up.

Smith-Magenis Syndrome (SMS) info-graphic

His behavioral issues took painting and glass etching off the table too.  Paint is messy, and I didn’t need him throwing my paints around the house. Although, he did give daddy a wonderful backrub one day until my husband realized our little guy was using my red paints to finger-paint his back.  As for glass etching, well a Dremel and glass... need I say more?

This left me with graphics.  No dangerous or messy materials, yet I could still get my “hands” dirty.  No need for a large area for supplies or materials.  Nothing to keep little hands off of or out of, other than the computer – but that’s a whole different story.

So here I was with a special need 3-year-old son, a 7-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. And a firm commitment to pursuing graphic design. I had also had enough of the dubious behavior of my mortgage brokerage bosses & gave my notice.

New adventures

I started off 2006 by being hired on full time at a temp position with a transportation asset company, as a graphic designer in their business development department.  Here I took hold of my interest in design and started reading everything I could find, pushed the organization forward to using layout software (Adobe Creative Suite) for proposal development.  After the organization acquired new owners, I pushed again to become the design POC for the organizations North American business enterprises. I was in this position until the organization outsourced all of their designers in 2012.

At the time of the layoff I was working on my Master of Fine Arts in Media Design, which I completed in May of 2013.  As frustrating as being laid off was at the time, it was again that design showed me the way. Two months after I was laid off, my youngest was expelled from school.  The public school acknowledged that they were unable to provide sufficient services within the school to educate him appropriately. So, I ended up with him home, generally within three feet of me for four months until we were able to go through the process of getting him into a special needs school.  During this time, I officially hung out my shingle and in 2013 opened Alice Pettey Branding & Strategic Design, LLC.

My why?

So again, why did I become a graphic designer?  It has provided me the creative outlet that I need while minimizing possible dangers, allowed me to be there to care for my children – with the completely non-business approved schedules required, enabled me to continuously learn new and exciting things which I have been able to translate into new techniques and skills for my clients, opened the door to help others with their own struggles in business and beyond, and yes, I enjoy it, am fairly good at it & it pays the bills.

If I sound like someone you'd like to work with I can be contacted at
804-464-3925 or by email.

August 19, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Customer Profile and Journey

There is a lot of talk about customer profiles or customer personas nowadays.  You may wonder what the real purpose of these endeavors are.  After all, if you’re in business you know who your customer is right?

Customer Profile

Well, not necessarily.  The purpose of these types of activities is multifaceted.  One, you may think you know who your customer is, but maybe having difficulty connecting with them.  A customer profile can help you to look more in depth as to who your customers are.  What their demographics and psychographics are, beyond that they have purchased your product.  It looks for answers to the question of why did they purchase? Where are they getting their information about your company and products from?  How are you engaging them?  You may want to say that you know your customers, but do you really?  You may be targeting one group but have found a purchasing base somewhere totally unexpected.  For you to be able to better market and engage with your desired target, or this secondary audience, you need to understand exactly who they are.

Customer profile worksheet

Two, you may not know who your buyers are, or your product/service may not have been rolled out yet so going through a customer profile exercise will allow you to develop the desired target audience so that you can focus your marketing and outreach campaigns. Moving forward with a direction and focus will allow you to quickly see if your marketing endeavors are producing the desired results.  If you don’t have a clear focus you can end up spending time and money trying to reach everyone and never making the connection with the people who would purchase from you.

Pains & Gains

Third, having made a study of your customer you can now take it a set further and start to examine their pain points and look for ways that you can provide your customers with relief to these issues. (Strategyzer) As well as, how your product or service could provide them gains of some sort. Once you start to understand the motivations behind your consumer maybe you can develop value propositions that will show the benefits in terms of value that your product/service are providing. Customers are no longer purchasing solely based on price, they are looking for value, and experience, the ability to part of something larger. If you can make a connection to them on an emotional level, you have moved beyond the realm of price competition into value-based purchasing.

Customer Journey

Fourth, once you have determined who your customer/user is you can develop the desired user experience. This is the process of examining every step along their journey.  It starts with how they are introduced to your company, product or service.  Follow them to the when/why they make a purchase.  It extends through the post-purchase period where they are actively engaged with you. Do the products/services meet their expectations? Does the company stand behind what they provide? How do you handle complaints? How do you encourage happy customers to repurchase or to become ambassadors for you? Are you expressing the value of the product/service – not a price, but a value it time, experience, social connection?  Do you continue the engagement past the point of the sale, or do you abandon them once money has changed hand?  (Harvard Business Review)

August 5, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Provide A Consistent Customer Experience

Whether your business is big or small there are things that you can do to provide a consistent experience. Consistency will sets small businesses apart allowing you to offer the individuality and personalization that is expected from a small business and the comfort, predictability, and trust typically found with large organizations.

Consistency starts with the first interaction that a prospective client has with your organization. This first interaction is typically the Website. Here you set the tone for how all future interactions are going to be. Once you have set the stage you need to make sure that this tone carry's forward into all future interactions.

Don't deliver a product. Deliver an consistent customer experience. Handwriting on a napkin with a cup of tea

What can you do?

One of the keys to this experience is to make them as simple for the customer as possible. You need to ensure simplicity in your websites menu choices and call to actions. Try limiting your call to actions to one per page so visitors are not overwhelmed and know exactly what is expected of them at each stage of the process.

Now that you have set the stage, future interactions need to continue in the same manner. Keep the same tone regardless of what form that interaction takes, whether it's your emails, newsletters, or printed marketing materials.  Limit your call to actions to one per piece and make it clear as to what action that you want the reader to take. When a customer contacts you directly, by phone or email, they need to be experiencing the same tone.  Provide the same level of value that they have come to expect from the website, newsletter, email campaigns and print material. Social media needs to follow the same structure as well. Together this reinforces the organizations brand and builds trust.

Personal interaction needs to be consistent as well.  This is a bit harder to control, as we all know each person has their own personality, as well as good and bad days, that can affect an interaction.  Because of this, it is important that you provide scripting for how to answer the phone so that each customer is treated the same way… consistency builds trust.  Provide training on how to handle common client interactions.  This helps to ensure that no matter who the client is or who is working with them, they will have the same level of consistent customer service.

Why is this so important?

Customers have changed. They no longer are looking for just a "good" product.  It has now become the experience that they are looking for. Whether that is the feeling they have when they use the product, the feeling of being part of an exclusive "club" or "tribe", or the way you make them feel through each stage of the buying/user/ownership process.  These feelings are now what is leveraged when customers discuss the reputation or trust with a company. Positive feelings and trust are developed through consistency.  Consistency brings loyalty.  Loyalty brings revenue.

Additional Resources:

How to Create a Consistent Customer Experience (and Why You Should)

7 Steps to Delivering a Consistent Customer Experience

Why Consistency Matters in Customer Experience

July 27, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Looking for Some Marketing Campaign & Social Media Inspiration?

close-up of hands typing

If you are like me and ever get in a slump and just don't know what to do for your next marketing campaign or social media post, you may want to check out the National Day Calendar ( Now, I'll grant you the site is not the most exciting, but hey we're here for the information, the goods, so-to-speak — and that they have in abundance.

I'd bet you didn't know that today, July 27, 2018 is:

  • National Get Gnarly Day
  • National Scotch Day
  • National New Jersey Day
  • National Systems Administrator Appreciation Day
  • National Talk in an Elevator Day
  • National Crème Brulee Day

That this week is: National Moth Week (

Or that July is:

  • World Watercolor Month
  • National Anti-Boredom Month
  • National Baked Bean Month
  • National Cell Phone Courtesy Month
  • National Culinary Arts Month
  • National Grilling Month
  • National Horseradish Month
  • National Hot Dog Month
  • National Ice Cream Month
  • National Independent Retailer Month
  • National July Belongs to Blueberries Month
  • National Picnic Month
  • Unlucky Month for Weddings

Now, of course all of these won't work for your business, just like they won't for mine, but is sure is a great to know I can check in at the National Day Calendar website and pick out one or two "fun" and/or relevant holidays to build a campaign or post about.

April 21, 2016Comments are off for this post.

Branding: A Series – Research

Competitor Analysis


Research is a necessary part of the branding process.  Well, actually it’s just a good thing to do if you’re in business in general.  You need to take a look around and see where your stand amongst your competition.  What audience to they serve?  Is their marketing geared to the same target audience as yours? How have they positioned themselves in the market place?  What colors are they using?  What connection do these have with their / your target audience?  What size of your desired market do they currently serve?  These are just a few of the questions that you need to look at when you are in the research phase of branding your organization.

As you can see, most of these questions are round the target audience and market share – Not the visual aesthetic. Obviously, you’ll want your materials to be distinct and not mistaken for your competition, but understanding your place in the market is about much more than your logo or color selection.

Midlothian, VA 23112
Tel.: 804.464.3925
Fax: 804.729.3295

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