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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Rick Sciullo

March 21, 2012

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Categories: Graphic Design

If you know what the title of this blog means, you may be as obsessed with keyboard shortcuts as I am. Saving time with keyboard shortcuts is a must these days – especially when working in the Adobe Creative Suite. Not only does it make my work more efficient, it often eliminates some of the monotony of time-consuming tasks.

I don’t spend time fumbling around in the menu trying to fit content proportionally in InDesign (Option+Shift+Command+E). I quickly release a compound path in Illustrator (Option+Shift+Command+8). And I even use a shortcut to quickly access the keyboard shortcuts menu in Photoshop (Option+Shift+Command+K), which allows me to create my own custom keyboard shortcuts. Virtually every tool and function has a keyboard shortcut, so get out there and explore!

Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Option+Shift+Drag to duplicate artwork constrained vertically or horizontally (InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop)
  2. Option+Shift+Command+P to package all of your hard work into one folder (InDesign)
  3. Command+2 to lock an object (Illustrator)
  4. Command+D to select the “Don’t Save” button (InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop)
  5. Option+Command+Spacebar to zoom out (InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop)

Bonus: Most images I receive are in RGB, and if I need it for print, I can quickly convert it to CMYK by using a custom shortcut in Photoshop (Option+Shift+Command+C).

Quest Fore

March 20, 2012

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Categories: News

Pittsburgh, PA – This month, Ken Cuccinelli – owner, chairman and CEO of Quest Fore, Inc. – was featured in Smart Business Magazine. The article, “Ken Cuccinelli is taking Quest Fore Inc. to the next level,” outlines the importance of developing, analyzing, and maintaining a strategic plan to achieve both internal goals and successfully serve clients and/or customers.

Cuccinelli purchased Quest Fore in 1999. Having been a former client of the Pittsburgh-based marketing firm, he knew the value of Quest Fore’s people and the quality of work they produced. “What they needed was better processes and financial controls,” he mentions in the article, and his first step toward achieving this was to implement long-term strategic initiatives.

Much of the article focuses on Cuiccinelli’s approach to success: (1) Develop a strategy; (2) Measure your plan; (3) Know your value. He stresses the importance of creating a big-picture strategic plan and remaining committed to the assessment of that plan. And since his purchase of the company in 1999, his strategy, although regularly evolving, is working: Quest Fore continues to grow both internally and with respect to their client list.

The article appears in the magazine’s March 2012 edition as well as online in the “Inside Smart Business” feature. Smart Business is a national network of magazines focusing on providing high-quality content, insight, advice and strategy to help executives of middle-market and large companies grow. Smart Business Pittsburgh reaches thousands of regional professionals each month.

You can view the original article here: Smart Business Magazine

Ken Cuccinelli

March 7, 2012

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Categories: Business

Many of our clients ask us, "How can we make sure that our strategies are successful?" The famous quote from a Fortune 500 CEO states, "Strategies most often fail because they aren’t executed well." Virtually any business strategy can be successful if properly implemented. That means one can see two successful companies operating in a competitive market against each other, both having been successful relative to their other competitors. This is because they are implementing a very focused and precise strategy that is directed to the market segment that they are targeting.

There are three decision areas that are critical to successful strategy execution: marketing strategy, strategic behavior and marketing organization. We believe that once senior management commits to a business strategy, the execution of that strategy depends on making the appropriate marketing decisions.

(Please note: The following analysis reflects the compilation of a number of sources, papers and conversations I’ve been a part of over the years.)

Choosing Strategies

There are four fundamental business strategies that each organization must choose from and then stick with.

Pioneer: The Pioneer’s primary goal is to identify and exploit new product and market opportunities by offering innovative products or by reviewing the markets from a different perspective.

Fast Followers: The Fast Followers imitate Pioneer’s successful product and market development efforts while maintaining a core of traditional products and customers. Fast Followers don’t have the first mover advantage of the Pioneers and thus must improve on the Pioneer’s offering. Followers can be as successful as early entrants if they’re committed to learning from the customers about their experience with the Pioneer’s offerings, and if they carefully follow the Pioneer’s strategic moves.

Cost Leader: The Cost Leaders are usually late entrants that engage in aggressive efforts to protect their market from competitors. They typically achieve cost leadership through comparisons of their value chain costs with those of competitors. They seek efficiency in many areas of the value chain, enabling them to offer low prices.

Customer Centric: The Customer Centrics create customer value by offering high-quality products supported by good service at lower prices than Pioneers, yet at higher prices than either Fast Followers or Cost Leaders. This enables them to play the spread, create value for buyers and achieve superior performance.

Successful Strategies

Once you determine what the most appropriate strategy will be for your organization, you must figure out how to make it successful.

Pioneer: The most successful Pioneers employ an aggressive marketing strategy. They’re customer-innovation-oriented, they’re patient, and they have a decentralized marketing organization with a higher proportion of marketing specialists.

Pioneers use an aggressive marketing strategy because they target innovators and early adopters. Of all strategy types, Pioneers are the most proactive in their product and/or market development efforts. They monitor a wide range of market conditions, making them heavy users of marketing research. They target early adopters with innovative products, and so they must educate customers and stimulate demand through advertising. Because their products are often "new to the world," they must provide high levels of service to help customers understand these innovative products either before or after the sale. It is important for Pioneers to be able to charge premium prices to recoup their investment in these activities.

Fast Followers: The most successful Fast Followers bridge the chasm between early adopter markets and early majority markets through mass marketing strategy. Fast Followers are customer- and competitor-oriented, and have no consistent profile of marketing organization.

As Fast Followers are concerned both with developing new products and venturing into new markets while protecting a stable core of products and markets, they must pursue a relatively broad market with a relatively broad product line. Fast Followers are able to use less advertising than Pioneers, since Pioneers have already created the awareness of the product category. Fast Followers typically use intensive distribution strategy and relatively little promotion in charging lower prices, while Pioneers induce switching. Successful Fast Followers also monitor competitors to understand their successes and failures, and to identify competitors’ product market development plans so that they will not be starting from too far behind. Avis Rent-A-Car System has successfully enjoyed a competitor-oriented philosophy embodied in the slogan "We try harder" to become the world’s second largest car rental company. By portraying itself as a follower, Avis focuses the attention of its employees on providing superior service. The approach has a dual benefit of creating a unique position in the minds of consumers who came to see No. 2 Avis as both a close rival of Hertz and distinctly separated from the rest of the car rental pack.

Cost Leaders: The most successful Cost Leaders are marketing minimizers. They are internal cost-oriented, place lower emphasis on product innovation, and have decentralized marketing organization. Marketing minimizers reduce risk by waiting until the product concept is proven in the marketplace before introducing their version. They pursue their market with adequate quality, low prices, and an intensive distribution strategy. They generally have the most focused product line and use fewer specialist marketing personnel. Cost Leaders defend their market from competitors by benchmarking their value chain’s costs against those of competitors. They seek to reduce cost in primary activities, such as logistics, operations, analyst’s sales and marketing, and in support activities, such as procurement, R&D, and administrative functions. Continuous improvement in operation enables the business to realize improvement as it drives down the learning curve.

Of course, this does not mean these firms ignore innovation. Rather, it means that process innovation that improves production efficiency takes precedence over product innovation. It does not mean that Cost Leaders ignore customers; it means their customer relations have a somewhat different focus. Michael Dell says, "We have a relentless focus on our customers … once we learn directly from our customers what they need; we work closely with partners and vendors to build and ship relevant technologies at a low cost."

Customer Centrics: The most successful Customer Centrics target narrow segments where they can develop closer relationships with customers and provide high-quality innovative products to those customers. However, they engage only in a moderate amount of systematic marketing research and do not typically charge prices as high as those of Pioneers. The distribution strategy is generally selective, and they use advertising moderately. Unlike their low-cost counterparts, Customer Centrics acquire and retain customers through attention to superior service, product quality or image. The most successful Customer Centric firms place a heavy emphasis on understanding customers. Successful Customer Centrics provide an outstanding service and/or high-quality products to a select set of customers who value and are willing to pay for both. Because services are ultimately delivered by customer contact personnel, it is imperative that these people are able to make decisions regarding customer relations without having to check with higher-level managers on every decision. Consequently, the best service-oriented firms decentralize organizations so that the front-line employees have substantial discretion. However, a set of formal policies and rules is important in Customer Centric firms to guide frontline marketers on how to react to and address potential customer relations issues.

Conclusion

Achieving a competitive advantage is the foundation for superior financial and marketing performance. The most important task for executives and managers is to match market-related decisions to your business strategy. Will following the ideas outlined here ensure success? The short answer is no! The slightly longer answer is that it will greatly enhance the probability of business success.

See our PDF on Marketing Strategies for Success

Dan Sommer

March 1, 2012

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Categories: Business, Graphic Design

Typography

OK…I admit it…I’ve dreaded writing this Blog. I guess I’m not really a Social Media guy. After spending all day writing and responding to emails, the last thing I really want to do when I get home is sit in front of a laptop, smartphone, iPad or Kindle and Tweet, Facebook, Email or Blog (Maybe I’m just getting old because obviously I’m in the minority). Besides, what could I possibly write about that hasn’t already been written and posted across the internet in some strange way, shape or form already!?

As I pondered this question on my drive to and from work over the past week or so, I finally thought of a topic I could touch upon – Typography. Ironic, you say? Why would I choose to write about type when I just said that the last thing I want to do is come home after work and type? Such is my paradox I guess.

In actuality, it’s not the words or the act of typing words that I want to touch upon, but the letterforms that create those words. I read somewhere in one of my old design books that the letterform is the basic building block of written communications. A simple statement, yes, but so true (I wish I wrote it, but I didn’t). With easy access to any font known to man available to all of us, typography can easily become devalued, misunderstood, misused or just plain taken for granted by folks in this modern digital culture that we live in. There was a time not so long ago that typesetting was a unique craft and discipline unto itself, controlled by art directors and designers who were well versed in the discipline and carried out by typesetters who set type to the designers exact specifications.

Fast forward to 1984, a young man by the name of Steve Jobs introduces the Apple Macintosh Computer, and within its capabilities, the pull-down menu offering a selection of typefaces. Not since Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the letterpress around 1455 has a technological advancement had such a profound impact on the graphic arts. The key difference between these two milestones is that not everybody owned a letterpress. Jobs brought typesetting to the masses.

Jobs learned his appreciation of typography as an art form when he took a calligraphy class at Reed College in Portland, Ore., after dropping out of school formerly and sitting in on classes informally. In his 2005 commencement speech to graduates at Stanford University, Jobs said, "I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating."

Unfortunately, other than graphic designers or art enthusiasts, most people who have access to type (ie. everyone with a Mac or PC) have not had the exposure to typography that Steve Jobs had. Yet, they have a wide variety of fonts at their disposal, along with all sorts of software that allows them to stretch, twist, extrude, distort, colorize, squash or do anything else they can think of to letterforms that have been so meticulously crafted by some of the greatest type designers in history. Admit it, we’ve all seen our share of bad PowerPoint slides, web pages and unreadable brochures and wondered, "Why are these so ugly and hard to read?"

Like music and color, typography has the power to communicate and evoke an emotional response from people. It can be soft and delicate, or it can be loud and bold. It can be formal or whimsical, masculine or feminine, etc.

My point to all this is simple, from a business and marketing perspective, it’s important to realize the importance of typography as part of the mix in your overall image and tone that you wish to communicate for your company or product. Understanding and using typography appropriately, from size, to spacing, to font family (ie, Oldstyle, Transitional, Modern, etc,) is what designers are trained to do. Trust them and arm them with a solid creative brief and vision for your company or product and its visual image should end up on target. Now, as far as what the word or words actually say? Ask the copywriter.