Developing Your Small Business Marketing Plan

Along with your business plan, your small business marketing plans is only of the most important long-term plans you’ll make for your small business. Some small business owners choose to ignore that advice, instead preferring to fly by the seat of their pants, so to speak, to “wing it.” While some of those small business owners are successful, they’re not nearly as successful as they could be had they laid out a well-defined small business marketing plan.Small business marketing strategy step 1: Know your marketThe first step in developing a successful small business marketing strategy is to make sure that you have a really solid handle on your target market. Ask yourself: Who are my customers? Once you’ve identified who they are, ask yourself: What are my customers’ problems? What are their dreams and aspirations? The surest way to answer those questions, of course, is to ask your customers themselves. Even if you can’t afford to hire a small business marketing firm that will conduct focus group tests for you, you can do your own simple survey by hitting the streets and talking to those people you plan to sell to (and make contacts at the same time!). You’d be surprised how powerful that simple task is yet how few businesses do it.Small business marketing strategy step 2: Know yourselfThe second step in developing your small business marketing strategy is to get to know yourself (your business), once you’ve gotten to know your customers. Ask yourself: What does my business do? How is my business different than my competitors’? How does my business help solve my customers’ problems or help them achieve their dreams? Answering these questions will help you to define your unique selling proposition – those aspects that set you apart from your competitors.That unique selling proposition should become your brand – your business’s identity. Your brand is what will pervade all of your marketing materials and what your customers will use to identify you. The importance of diligently developing your brand as part of a successful small business marketing strategy can’t be overstated.Small business marketing strategy step 3: Analyze your competitors’ small business marketing strategiesOnce you’ve developed your brand – that unique identity that tells your customers who you are and how you’re different – you can begin thinking about how you’re going to actually market your business. First, look at your competitors’ small business marketing strategies. Are there obvious gaps that you could fill (and thereby stand out among the competition)? For example, if you see that none of your competitors have websites, you could stand out with a small business marketing strategy online.Wherever you market your business, it must be where your customers are. For example, small business marketing online will be a waste if none of your potential customers use the Internet. Likewise, you may think that writing a monthly column in your local newspaper would be a great way to advertise your services and establish yourself as an expert; but if none of your potential customers read that paper, that small business marketing strategy will fail.At this point, your small business marketing strategy will not only be defined by where your customers are and what your competitors are doing, but it will also depend on your small business marketing budget. A full-page spread in a national magazine may be the best way to reach your target audience, but if you can’t afford to shell out tens of thousands of dollars, it’s not the small business marketing strategy for you.Wherever your small business marketing plan takes you, the careful development of your small business marketing strategy – by knowing your market, knowing your business, and analyzing your competitors’ strategies – will be a critical determinant of your long-term business success.

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How Art Can Improve Your Well Being

How taking art lessons can improve your well beingArt has been around for thousands of years; each culture has a rich artistic history and presents its own style onto the world. Hundreds of years ago art was at the center of attention with famous artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci creating beautiful works of art. As the world evolved and an increase on technological advancement took place, art has been put on the back burner in most school curriculums in favour of more tangible skills such as science and engineering. As much as those subjects are important, art plays an even more important role in our lives and a person should always strive to integrate some form of art into their lives because it has many mental, physical and emotional benefits. In this article I will outline 3 important ways art improves your well-beingArt helps you express yourself in a creative way. It is something that is unique to you and cannot be replicated by anyone. In our increasingly interconnected fast paced world, art offers an escape that is only known to you. During the art creation process you learn how to think with a vision and train your brain to create this vision step by step. A piece of art does not come together over night, the artist must first visualize his painting, sketch it out with pencil, add in details with pencil and then finally take a brush and put the finishing touches on it. By creating more art repeatedly you learn to harness this thinking process and apply it to other aspects of your life. For example becoming an entrepreneur would require the same sort of skill set because you would first have to have a vision and then take the necessary logical steps to bring your vision to life in the business world.Another great benefit to an arts education is that it is rich in cultural diversity. Each culture has its own unique art perspective and style. For example Picasso used the art style of cubism while Leonardo used the Renaissance art style. Since art is a celebration of creativity and uniqueness, no right or wrong answers exist. Although this may be frowned upon by academics it actually creates benefits for those who take art. Combining all these different perspectives of art and celebrating them together helps a person appreciate different cultural values, respect alternative points of view and appreciate not only art but also people who are from different cultures and share traditions that are different from ours.The Last benefit of an arts education is the fact that is stimulates creativity and lays the building blocks to successful learning. Art can be expanded to not only painting but also drawing, singing and dancing. Each of these activities involves a key sense such as vision, sound and feeling. When children engage in art they develop each sense to its full potential. Therefore when children begin an arts education at an early age and continue doing it for years they are laying a solid foundation for successful learning because they are stimulating and fine tuning the senses to their full potential.Overall an arts education has many benefits such as self-expression that can harness key critical thinking and vision skills that are successful for running a business. It helps you appreciate different forms of art and different cultures and traditions that create it. Lastly by exercising your senses it sets up a great foundation for successful learning in other subjects.

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Technology in Retail Industry

‘Shopping’ the one word women go ga ga over is slowly losing its sheen. Today the whole experience of shopping is not all that enjoyable. From queuing in traffic to actually getting to the store to find a parking space and ultimately not finding the object of desire that you have wanted to possess, is quite disappointing. Thus in today’s competitive market retailers have realised that with the aid of modern technology they can enhance the experience received by customers more than ever before.Technology enormously drives today’s retail industry. It has transformed the sector into a high performance one, achieving its targets by catering to consumers. Retail stores have tried to revamp themselves with the help of technology especially in the U.S. and Europe in various ways. Retailers have adapted technology as a vital element of commerce.Technology has enabled retailers for greater transparency. Retailers have integrated technology with manufacturers and consumers via customer and sales data. It is easier for them now to track their supplies from their headquarters. Technology also helps to break the national and international barriers and connect with different customers and their demands.Philip Clarke Chief Executive of Tesco PLC said there has been a “tectonic shift” in the retail industry and has forced companies to adapt themselves to new age technologies.
“We are in the first downturn of the digital age,” he said at the World Retail Congress in London on September 9, 2012. “Digital technology gives us the opportunity for a warmer, more meaningful conversation with our customers, local communities, our colleagues and the suppliers we work with.”Retail giants like Wal-Mart have made a huge effort on social networking websites like Facebook that is targeted at making its stores prominent at a local level. It debuted Black Friday sales on the social networking websites.”Reaching an optimal state of technology utilization is a high bar for almost any business to reach,” said Tim Herbert, Vice President, Research, CompTIA, a non-profit association for the IT industry. “But the vast majority of retailers clearly want to improve their technology utilization. For some this will involve adoption of new technologies; for others, improving the use of what they have in place.”"Location-based technologies can give retailers the tools to incentivize in-store purchases, such as special discounts for in-store customers who check-in via an app,” he explained in a press release.
“Reliable wireless connectivity, robust security, quality end-points, data back-up and other IT basics cannot be overlooked by retailers anxious to add new capabilities,” he said.An estimated two-thirds of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) comes from retail consumption. To see the U.S. economy’s well-being, retail industry is a good indicator. According to the latest annual report from the U.S. Commerce Department, total retail sales in 2011 were $4.7 trillion, which represents an 8% increase over 2010 total retail sales (including food service and automotive).One of the well known voices of U.S. business, Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks said, “For all the promise of digital media to bring people together, I still believe that the most sincere, lasting powers of human connection come from looking directly into someone else’s eyes, with no screen in between.”But he also added “Information can’t be from the company to the consumer; it has to be a level playing field where consumers feel that they are opting in and that there is a sharing of information. Cracking the code involves understanding how to create an opportunity for people to feel a sense of pride, a sense of discovery that they want to share, with someone they care about.”Since 2011, attention of the retailers has shifted to mobile, with consumers buying out more smartphones and tablets and their desire to interact with retail consumers. This has now moved to be the indispensable device for most customers in U.S and in European countries. Retails began to address all things via mobile.Consumers have mobile apps on their smartphones and these offer loyalty points and coupon offer for “checking in” to a particular retail outlet. Mobile has become a favorite place or platform to shop for consumers in the U.S. Retailers are seeing a 4 percent increase in total e-commerce sales solely from smartphones and tablets, said and Forrester Research.Mobile payments have become the in-thing among both consumers and retailers. Mobile payment is referred to mobile money, mobile money transfer, and mobile wallet, generally refer to payment services operated under financial regulation and performed from or via a mobile device according to Wikipedia. It is basically an alternative payment method apart from cash, check or credit cards. Consumers can pay a wide range of services and goods using their mobiles – music, bus fare, train fare, tickets, books etc. The model for payment can be NFC (Near Field Communication), SMS based, Direct Mobile Billing and Mobile web payments (WAP). Globally, mobile payments might reach an excess of $600 billion by 2013 forecasted Juniper Research.Technology giants like Apple too have helped retail integrate better with newer technology. Apple came out with EasyPay payment system, an app that turns iPhone into an iWallet. The app uses the user’s credit card information from their iTunes account.Financial institutions and technology companies are investing millions of dollars in the development of mobile payment service. It is also dubbed digital or mobile wallets.
All large retailers in U.S. like Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, 7-Eleven and Sunoco have moved towards developing a mobile payment network service. Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), a joint company of more than a dozen retailers will compete with Google’s Wallet. This will be supported by mobile operators AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.Consumers now a faster and less cumbersome payment and retailers believe that building electronic systems that will help in mobile payment transaction will deepen customer loyalty.In August Starbucks announced it will be investing $25 million in a start-up company called Square Inc. using its technology for mobile payments in Starbucks outlets in U.S.”Can you imagine trying to pay with a phone at a (restaurant)? They need to be thinking about more than one (payment option),” said Denee Carrington, an analyst at Forrester.Online companies like PayPal and Amazon too have mobile payment options.
A study done by Javelin Strategy & Research recently said that mobile payment have broken the $20 million mark in 2012 and is expected to increase to $1 trillion by 2017.
“Mobile will define the movement to unify all channels of retail. It is poised to become a tipping point in the quest for a true omni-channel business – and will likely be a predictor of tomorrow’s winners,” said NRF Stores.In conclusion, the transformation of the retail industry from a single shop to a chain of stores with a worldwide customer base is mainly due to globalization and advanced information technology. And technology has helped them maintain control and be connected to the various outlets. Technology has helped customers be informed about the prices and to get their desired products and services in an easier and better way.

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