Toolbox Studios Takeaways from 2020

Year In Review

Just like everyone else, March 2020 changed our work environment, processes, and strategies. Early on at Toolbox Studios, we focused on how to market, sell, and lead through the crisis—not become a victim of it.

Our positive mindset helped us do amazing work for our clients—including an 80% response rate at the height of lockdown (listen to webinar below). We worked smarter than ever before and learned a lot about our strengths and abilities. Our three biggest internal takeaways for success-in-2020 were communication, problem-solving, and agility.


It’s important to know that we really love sitting around our big conference table and working on our individual projects… together. It’s part of our culture and a throwback to our early days when we had our one-room office. Cece jokes, “Why have I given you offices if you’re all going to be in the conference room?”

We work very collaboratively, constantly bouncing ideas off each other, and triple-checking strategic plans, implementation, and deadlines. The sudden shift away from the big conference table and away from each other felt extremely quiet and very un-Toolbox-like.

Our #1 takeaway was finding a way to communicate and maintain our healthy collaborative spirit. Daily meetings became our lifeline to our work, our clients, and most importantly to each other. We even started a book club and are currently working through the most recent release of David Meerman Scott’s “New Rules of Marketing and PR”.

Problem Solving

How do you help a client reach their target audience if that target isn’t going to an office? What if that client doesn’t have a well-established digital presence? If COVID-19 taught us nothing else—in marketing terms—it was the critical need for digital capabilities.

We found creative solutions around direct mail and delivery obstacles. We optimized websites to improve ranking. We strategized Google Ad and paid social campaigns. We developed and implemented social media strategies, promos, contests, and giveaways.

Our #2 takeaway was to keep collaborating. Our clients had problems, and we overcame them through collaborative creative problem-solving.


All that hard work in Q42019, and Q12020 to develop marketing strategies for Q2, 3, 4 went out the window. Our clients had to pivot, and we had to help them stay relevant in the midst of cultural shifts in politics, social justice, and health safety issues.

We moved to an OGSM (Objectives, Goals, Strategies, and Measures) model to help our clients track the effectiveness of marketing plans. This gave us the immediate facts needed to make adjustments as necessary.

Our #3 takeaway was to stay agile, informed, and quick to act. It became our new mode of operation.

If You Are Looking for Help

Our CEO, Cece Smith led a webinar on “Opti-Channel Marketing” for executives in the Print Industry. Hosted by our strategic partner MindFire, Inc., it showcases one of our recent marketing strategies that garnered an 80% response rate. There’s also a great Q/A session at the end. We encourage you to give it a listen and give us a call. We are here to help.





Surviving a Website Redesign

Toolbox Studios lifestyle

Do us a favor, Google this: how often should a company redesign their website?

That’s right. The answer is every 2-3 years.

If you are the person in charge of your company’s website, fear not! At Toolbox Studios, we are somewhere in the process of redesigning 5-10 websites at any given time. We have the people, expertise, and processes in place to step you through it. And we understand the pain points.

We just redesigned our own website.

What was our pain point? Time. We found ourselves too busy with client projects to focus on ourselves. It’s a common problem, so we addressed it head-on with our own process—which is the same process we implement with all our clients.

  1. Determine if you need a new website. Ours was 3-4 years old, and we needed to showcase our work in a fresh way.
  2. Set a timeline. We gave ourselves a launch goal, set weekly meetings, made them a priority, and kept each other accountable. We had to treat ourselves like a client.
  3. We evaluated our brand, researched the competition, and set goals and objectives for our new website.
  4. Create a sitemap.  This is really about deciding what kind of information to convey. We intentionally wanted to explain our services and also showcase them in real life case studies
  5. Develop content that fits the goals of the sitemap.
  6. Develop the design based on the content for each page, while conveying our personality.
  7. Attain assets. This includes developing the look/feel needed for photos and writing the scripts for videos.
  8. Build the website on a staging site.
  9. Optimize everything: pages, graphics, load times, content, meta-tags, snippets, redirects, backlinks, internal links, canonical tag, XML sitemap, robots.txt file, language, page titles, etc.
  10. It’s important to understand that steps 5-9 are all happening at the same time. As page content is approved, design starts; when design is approved, development starts; as it comes together, we have a better understanding of the assets needed—and photo and video shoots occur. And finally, everything is optimized, and security certifications implemented.
  11. Take time to test the site for Quality Assurance and User Experience and tweak as necessary.
  12. Launch (!!)
  13. Train the team responsible for updating the site.
  14. Keep it going. We evaluate metrics and write fresh content through our blog and social media.
Website Timeline
Toolbox Studios Sitemap

Questions you need to ask yourself

Before you embark on a website redesign project, ask these questions:

Why do you need a redesign?

Please don’t say, “because we don’t like our current design.” The reasons for updating your site should include:

  • Security (you need an SSL certificate)
  • Incorporating technology (if your site isn’t mobile responsive, you need to contact us ASAP, because Google no longer even recognizes you.)
  • User experience
  • Traffic, page ranking, and conversion performance
  • Up-to-code with Google requirements
  • It isn’t optimized, takes too long to load, no domain authority, etc.

Remember, your website isn’t for you. It’s for your potential customers. Keep them foremost in mind and the process will go a lot smoother.

What do you want to accomplish with your website?

Please don’t say, “more sales.”  Let’s just all make the assumption that you want more sales. Your website can accomplish a whole lot more:

  • Give industry insights, customer value, and make you a thought-leader
  • Arm you with metrics that can inform decision-making
  • Reflect your personality, culture, and tell your story
  • Become a lead generator for your business development team
  • … all of which can result in more sales

Toolbox Studios is offering a FREE analysis of your website, and a downloadable Website Toolkit that gives you specific and actionable items on these key components: Content, Design & UX, Lead Generation, SEO, and Web Security. 

Shout Out

We want to personally thank our wonderful photographer, Josh Huskin, who shot our portraits and lifestyle shots. Thanks for capturing the true spirit of Toolbox Studios!

And our go-to video guy, Ken Ashe, for your wonderful spirit and tremendous talent. You make us look and sound better than we actually do! Thanks for putting up with us for so many years!

If Toolbox Studios is privileged to do your website redesign, we will definitely encourage you to work with Josh and Ken for your photo and video needs.

We’ve Got This

toolbox team on zoom

As much as we would love a good “April Fool’s” joke right now, the reality of the last few weeks just makes us thankful to reach April! Our entire team is now working from home. We’re spending a lot of time on video calls (nobody wants to turn on the camera and this photo will probably never happen again). We’re rocking our Office 365 with Outlook, Calendar, Teams, Sharepoint—huge shout-out to our IT Provider SandTech Solutions for all the great training and peace-of-mind security. (If you are a small business owner, check them out—we created their brand and built their website.)  And we’re doing all the things our leaders are calling us to do: washing our hands, maintaining social distance, and taking precautions with our senior citizens.

We’re also working harder than ever.

Our team hasn’t missed a beat. We’re designing, writing, developing, and building websites. We’re creating brands through graphics, taglines, colors, fonts, and messaging. We’re helping our advertising clients do business — delivering qualified leads. We’re virtually meeting with new and prospective clients — and are encouraged by the positive “let’s move forward” attitude. We’ve all been thrust into this transformative situation, and those who adapt will thrive.

We are adapting, and we are thriving.

Toolbox Studios is in our 25th year. We’ve re-invented ourselves more than once. We’ve taken those deep breaths and made those hard decisions.

If you are re-thinking your business model, assessing your website, reviewing your brand and messaging, struggling to get critical information out to your customers, employees, and communities — we can assist you in making that pivot.  We’re here to help.

Stay safe,
Cece Smith, Owner

Work With Clients to Produce the Best Ideas.

pantone books

I recently sat down with one of the Toolbox designers to talk about his time spent working in the industry.  He explained to me that for him, design is art with strategy and purpose.  It is about expressing what the client’s company is trying to say, but in way that speaks more to their consumers.

Toolbox has worked with a variety of companies offering a wide variety different products and services. Thanks to this experience and service, Toolbox is able offer its clients a one-stop shop and be a single source for all their marketing needs.

From time to time,  a clients has no idea which direction their brand needs to go.  That’s why it is crucial to build a good relationship with the client, find out what they want, and read between the lines.  Transparency and collaboration are very important in making the client feel comfortable with the concepts being created.  Let the client know what and why you’re doing something and allow them to get a clear idea on the project.  Collaboration lets the designer and the client work with together and gives the designer inspiration of what needs to be said and how to say it.  When that’s established, it’s time for the designer to tune into the client’s thoughts and desires and turn them into compelling messages that resonate with the right audience

The key to creating a design concept that clients appreciate and approve requires several steps.  Collaboration is key, you can’t sell them on an idea if they don’t know or why you’re pursuing a particular creative path.  Listen closely,  but also try to discover information and directions that may not have been considered. Always try to see into the client and then work to come up with creative that is unexpected, yet manages to be on target.  Ultimately, it’s up to the client. And they’ve been known to say no to the best of concepts.  It doesn’t mean you failed, it simply means you should rethink, redo, and never stop trying.


google partner logo

Toolbox Studios is now a Google Partner Marketing and Branding Firm.

At Toolbox, we’re always searching for ways we can learn more and get the training needed to help our clients succeed in their marketing efforts.

We’re extremely proud to say we have recently earned our Google Partner badge. You may have seen the badge displayed on other websites before, but weren’t sure what it actually signified. So we have compiled some truths and myths to help illustrate why it’s a good idea to do business with a certified Google Partner agency.


  • The Google Partner badge shows that we’ve demonstrated advanced knowledge in Google AdWords advertising products that help us improve your campaign and deliver results.
  • We’ve been trained and certified by Google to help businesses grow online. (we’ve studied and we’ve passed the tests).
  • We get access to exclusive trainings, industry research and product updates that help us help you.


  • We have inside information that gives us and advantage to manage campaigns.
  • We have access to the secret sauce (psst! There is no secret sauce).
  • Google endorses our services.
  • We get to play golf with Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

OK. Let’s be honest. Earning a Google Partner badge is not like winning a Gold Lion at Cannes. But becoming a Google Partner is pretty big deal to us – and our clients. Especially those who could benefit from a highly targeted Google AdWords campaign.

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