Seamless integration of technology is part and parcel of 2017 market trends

Playing with an interactive light display.

Marketing Trends for 2017 – There is always a flurry of activity from marketing and PR firms at this time of year. The event put on by the Alexandria Small Business Development Center is always well attended, and this year is no different. Maurisa Potts, Fouder & CEO of Spotted MP, talking about 2017 market trends, discussed the increasing importance of interactive and visual content; digital as in media being the unstated but nevertheless operative word. Commenting in Forbes on similar trends, AJ Agrawal listed seventeen trends for 2017, twelve of which were likewise to do with digital content. The impact of technology has of course been growing every year, leading me to wonder if/when it will finally peak. Not, it would appear, anytime soon as almost all of the topics in Pott’s presentation, i.e., Interactive Content, Visual Content, Influencer Marketing, Virtual Reality, Mobile Video, Live Broadcasts, Short Form Content, Mobile First, Personalization, and Native Content, presumed digital content.

Shopping in Walmart

Data Driven Marketing – That said, it may be that the saturation point is approaching, as Potts also talked about the necessity for “Data Driven Marketing” and Lee Peterson of WD Partners talking about digital integration in VMSD Forecast for 2017 pointed out that when surveyed, for 3 years in a row the digital device most wanted by customers was BOPIS, the ability to buy online and pick up in the store. If, it would seem, last year’s omnichannel marketing was about integrating the message into the larger stream, then this year is about flushing out the individual retailers best path to success. A bike shop owner might, in 2016, have been compelled to have a presence in every possible outlet, i.e, blogs, competitions, associations, civic events, publications, website, e-commerce, indeed anything having to do with bikes or bicycling. In 2017 this bike shop owner might look closely at the data accumulated from past marketing activities and then focus on what has worked, even if the answer is unexpected. For example Kathleen Jordan writing for VMSD tells us, ” Retailers must develop new ways to reach their audience and find new sources to expand their consumer base… it must be recognized that online is not always the answer.” Did you notice she called them an audience rather than customers or shoppers.

Microsoft Surface at Hard Rock Cafe, Hollywood

Integrated Shopping Experience – Considering that almost 92 percent of all retail sales are still being transacted in physical environments and further that many online retailers end up with physical stores, I am lead to inquire, what does all this say to those of us involved with the bricks and mortar part of retail, presuming of course that it is not going away? Clearly, creating a shopping experience is still important. Eric Feigenbaum subtitled his article in VMSD, “…Retail’s divining rod no longer moves at p-o-s, but rather at p-o-e – point of experience.”

Prioritize – From my perspective, after many years working in retail design, the answer must be about priorities. The seamless integration of technology is part and parcel of the all important shopping experience and it can only be accomplished by assimilating a clients carefully worked out digital marketing plan into a store design by partnering with the technical experts. The devices of digital marketing are, after all, physical elements and as such work better when addressed in “pre” as apposed to post design.

Virtual Book at “Librovision”

If there is any doubt that this is an often neglected fact, just look around at piles of wire shoved under cabinets, dangling from display cases, hap hazardously placed equipment closets, and my personal favorite, the back side of monitors at POS stations. Certainly newer wireless technologies are available but there are always performance issues to consider, many requiring additional equipment in other areas. Most clients have enough understanding of Building mechanical systems like HVAC and plumbing to expect and allow for their accommodation, but somehow the lexicon of electronic equipment has remained a mystery, not a little, I should add, because it is in a constant state of flux. Ryan Ruud, founder and CEO of Lake One, writing for “Smart Insights” identifies Random Acts Of Technology (RAT) as marketing flops resulting from the application of technology without strategy. I would argue that this applies, as well, to the physical store design whenever non integrated electronics are treated as project add ons – and okay, I liked the buzzword too!

Bring in an Expert – Finally, I would advise any retailer aiming in 2017 for “…effective in-store digital retail experiences” to introduce a suitable technology consultant into the schematic stage of a project and then keep him or her involved up through and even after store opening. Sometimes independent and small retailers assume that these services are beyond their reach. On the contrary, I have found that most electronic designers are also providers and as such their services are often included when they supply and install equipment. It is money well spent, almost – but not quite – as good as that spent on the Architect.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Never Lower Your Price

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In a nutshell: If you want to make money, you must value your services or products. And, that means you should never lower your price; merely offer less for less. When your customer wants something at a lesser price, reduce your offering to match the price, and don’t lower the price for a greater-valued service or product. In doing so, your value stays consistent, you will attract the right customers (and conversely, repel the wrong customers) for you, and you will make more profit over the long-term. Never Lower Your Price - Web and Beyond Blog

“Create different levels of service. Some people only buy the most expensive item. Avoid losing sales: offer a stripped down version of your product or service.” ~Beth Silver (in “107 Ways to Leverage Your Small Business Through Marketing & Public Relations”)

Small Business owners early on in their business’ lives find themselves with a particular dilemma. When you are starting your business you consider that any new customer is good for business! So, when they negotiate you down a third of your billable rate or 40% off your retail pricing, you accept with gleeful resignation. You have hopes that business will be different once you have a steady stream of customers. Why? After you have all these customers, you’ll have the bargaining power to raise your rates and really start to turn a profit, right? Sadly, this logic doesn’t hold muster for several reasons: you eat away at your passion by not valuing your most important asset (i.e., you), you attract the wrong customers which develops bigger problems down the road, and you create more financial problems than you solve by operating unprofitably early on in the business.

Consistent Value Is Getting Paid What You’re Worth; Ergo, Never Lower Your Price

Starting a Small Business is no joke, eh? It’s long hours, stressful, energy-consuming, and it can also be genuinely rewarding when you focus on your passion and skills, or your desire to overcome a challenge. You started your business to provide for your family, build a product or service that you can sell with the business and turn a profit, give back to your community, to fill in a gap for your retirement needs, or whatever other reason you had. In order to get up every day and do this, you need to be providing value to your customers but your motivation won’t stay very high if you’re not getting paid what you’re worth. I always tell my clients to price themselves so they are motivated to do the work. Who wants to get subpar work from you because you don’t feel like doing the work for the pay you’re receiving? This does a disservice to your new customers and to you.

The Ones Who Matter Won’t Mind and Those Who Mind Aren’t Worth the Worry

There’s a trick I learned in my teens. You take your 10 closest friends and add up their salaries, then divide by 10; this usually works out to be your salary. It’s remarkable how this works within a small margin of error for most people who earnestly do it. You are similar to the company you keep. And, that means that when you bring in customers who are all discount seekers and not best-value-seeking customers, you build up referrals to other discount seekers. Over the months and years, your business’ value gets eroded as you accumulate customers willing to keep driving down your price, not valuing you, and telling their friends and colleagues that they too can get low prices out of you. This hardly sounds like the best value for your time and effort.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems…Uhm, No. Less Problems, Mo’ Money

For many years, I ran a commodity business. I was constantly pressured to lower prices and deliver the same great service. There were market and regulatory forces in play here that were beyond our control and so I grinned and beared it. Learn from my early mistakes in the business. Don’t lower your price unreasonably to save your business as it won’t actually save your business. I see this often now in coaching and consulting Small Business owners in this downward spiral, before I set them straight. Here’s what happens:
  1. You lose your passion and start cutting corners.
  2. You start to lose your best-paying customers who start to see the lower quality of your work.
  3. The decrease in good business makes you desperate to (a) bring in more underpaying and delinquent paying customers, and (b) not paying yourself and your own bills.
This cycle of lowering prices leads to lost passion, lost productivity, and lost good customers. The gains unfortunately are in greater customer service complaints, attracting worse customers, and more pressure on you to take on anything that comes your way. You’re worth every dollar you’re reasonably charging, so don’t let others tell you otherwise. You should get paid well to do your best work, and nothing less. And, you should work with good people who will refer you to good people, especially those that will pay their bills on time. Anything short of this and your business fundamentals are lacking. So, if you’re currently thinking of starting a business, or if you’re currently struggling, I hope this compels you to never lower your price.

Google Keep, Voice Search, and Voice Typing in Google Docs – What’s New at Google

Periodically, I will be writing a What’s New at Google post here to update you about new updates to the Google ecosystem that affects you as a Small Business owner. These can be warnings as well as the many frequent enhancements

This is just the beginning! Click the title of this article to read the full text. Enjoy! And, comment. And, share. 😉

Periodically, I will be writing a What’s New at Google post here to update you about new updates to the Google ecosystem that affects you as a Small Business owner. These can be warnings as well as the many frequent enhancements

This is just the beginning! Click the title of this article to read the full text. Enjoy! And, comment. And, share. 😉

Caring for your Equipment in the Cold

Steph & Eric_DC_023 Steph & Eric_DC_024 Steph & Eric_DC_025 Steph & Eric_DC_030 Steph & Eric_DC_031 Steph & Eric_DC_033Currently I have been sequestered to my room. I have a box of tissues, a quart of oj and have digested almost an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy. Tis the season for colds and with the change in weather also comes a change in how you should handle your camera equipment in cold conditions.

Keep Your Batteries Close If you are going to be outside for a long period of time between shoots or if you are in below freezing temperatures be sure to keep your camera batteries close to your body by placing them in an interior pocket. This will keep them from losing their charge.

Treat Your Camera Like a Baby You would not leave your baby in a car overnight but I have seen countless people put their camera or other technologies in the car overnight. Think of your camera as a living thing that is sensitive to extreme temperatures. If you leave it in the cold your battery will no doubt be dead but in extreme temperatures your screen could also crack as well.

Changing Lenses If it is snowing, avoid changing your lenses outdoors. The moisture could get inside of your lens or camera body. You also want to be careful changing your lenses indoors where it is warm when coming in from the extreme cold. I tend to leave my camera and lenses in their bag put them in the coldest part of the house until they regulate again.

Fogging Up Fog could occur on your lens if you take your camera from a warm house or car into the cold. And moisture could develop when you take it back into a warm place from the cold. To avoid this, you may wish to put the camera and lens in a sealed ziplock bag until the equipment has regulated to the new environment.

What to Wear Depending on the conditions, I would wear hiking boots with wool socks and layer, layer, layer. Try to avoid bulky coats and scarves that could catch on your equipment. Instead, tuck your scarf into your jacket or sweater and employ the use of fingerless gloves.

I will be on holiday for the next three weeks so I will look forward to writing to you all again in the new year.

 

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(202) 681-9848

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http://www.shotinthedarkphoto.com/

 

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Getting Ready for Business in the New Year

Start wherever you are and start small. -Rita Baily With each past year behind us with hopefully more good memories than not, business owners around the country usually spend this time of year looking forward to how to make the best

Start wherever you are and start small. -Rita Baily

Getting Ready for Business in the New YearWith each past year behind us with hopefully more good memories than not, business owners around the country usually spend this time of year looking forward to how to make the best of the upcoming year. Like with New Year’s resolutions, most plans never come to fruition. It reminds me sadly about how many business plans are started and not finished, nor ever looked at again even if they are. Considering the renewal of the calendar year, I think it’s an appropriate time to “kick the tires” and look at some often-overlooked areas of your business as we kick off this January. So, even if you haven’t looked at that business plan sitting in your desk drawer (which I also recommend that you do!), reviewing and acting on any of these business areas will improve your 2015 outlook. This is a natural time for getting ready for business in the new year.

Leadership & Professional Development

It never hurts to think about one’s own success to start. This is especially as important when you are the leader of your organization. When I started my first administrative position in a boutique law firm, I would never have thought one day I would running companies. However, I realized early on that my skills were depended upon by everyone in the firm. I was a leader as much of myself, as of the people who followed me when I was chosen to take the lead on a case. I learned quickly that I needed leadership and other professional skills that I wasn’t taught in school, and I needed them quickly!

There are so many more resources today at your fingertips thanks to the proliferation of edtech (i.e., educational technology, primarily here on the Web and Mobile). Here are a few resources you can use to build up your leadership skills:

Corporate Philanthropy & Community Service

The next phase of any great company new or veteran is learning to invest in their values as well as making a profit. It turns out that you get when you give; it’s a natural part of community building. There’s something almost mystical about how this works, but I assure you are wired to get more when you give than when you receive and this also works on the greater, business scale. Here are three ideas on how you can build some giving and volunteer opportunities for your business:

  1. Join Google One Today, a program that has you donate just one dollar a day, every day, to a charity doing something great for the world. Encourage your entire company’s staff (perhaps you can match or pay for the donations) to join Google One Today and share your giving experiences via your business Social Media networks.
  2. Think about creating a Corporate Philanthropy program, which is easier than you would think. A small community grant can mean the difference between a local organization making a great impact in your community (of course, tied to your business’ brand), or not being able to do it at all. In-kind volunteer support programs can even build up some organizations to a point where they can then become paying clients. There are many ideas and opportunities; click on the link above and get creative.
  3. You can additionally start a Community Volunteer program at your office, and require every staffer to give a certain percentage of his working month (say, 1.5 hours per calendar month, which is about 1% of 35-hour workweek). You can find many volunteer opportunities at Volunteer Match. It’s a marketplace for finding volunteers, and as its website says, “We bring good people & good causes together. Find a cause that lights you up. Get in touch with a nonprofit that needs you.” Why not bring this volunteering under one umbrella and coordinate the efforts with your company’s name at the forefront of benefiting your community. It’s the epitome of “doing well by doing good.”

Exit Strategy Planning

In the end, you cannot lead forever. While the science of rejuvenation is likely to see monumental progress in our lifetimes, endeavoring to possibly doubling some young generations’ lifespans, you will not live indefinitely. And, so you won’t be running your company that long either. Whether it’s by death, dissolution or deal, you will leave your company’s helm someday; why not decide how?

If you haven’t lately (or ever), now is a good time while you’re healthy and in positive spirits to call your trusts, estates and tax lawyer to work out details about how you want the disposition of your assets (including intellectual property) to be handled if you were to leave this life untimely. If you don’t have a legal adviser in an estate and tax advisory capacity, it’s best to find a specialist here at The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel; these are specifically-trained individuals to help you.

Of course, some of you hope that someday you will be able to sell your business for a billion dollars like Instagram or WhatsApp. Okay, perhaps something a bit more modest, say, a million dollars so that you can retire (if a million dollars is really enough to retire on nowadays). In this case, you might want to grab a copy of William Bumstead’s E4: Evaluating, Entering, Enhancing, & Exiting Privately Owned Businesses. A recommendation from my go-to exit strategy advisor and business broker, Lou Kastelic of Jordan-Crandus, E4 provides some valuable information on preparing your business for sale at any time during the phase of the company life cycle. Before or when you are ready to sell, I highly recommend touching base with Lou and seeing what your business’ value is and how to best position yourself in the marketplace.

 

Once you’ve made the first, small step in the direction of progress in any of these areas of business, you will feel like 2015 was already worth its weight in gold. What areas of business are most often not talked about and that you would like to make progress on in 2015? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

The Value of Local Small Business Partnerships

  • “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” — Henry Ford

Alexandria is home to countless diverse, dynamic and successful small businesses. This is the story of how two of small businesses partnered up and were able to create a unique professional development opportunity for many others.

by Reggie Holmes of Enthuse Creative and Beth Lawton of Canoe Media Services

We met at an Alexandria Small Business Development Center Small Business Roundtable in April 2014. The roundtable provides a monthly, facilitated topical forum that allows small business owners and leaders to gather and discuss a range of issues related to small businesses in the Alexandria area. It provides a free networking opportunity, as well.

Neither of us had attended an ASBDC roundtable event before, and we had no idea how valuable it would be or who we would meet.

Meeting for the first time ever at that roundtable was serendipitous. It turns out we lived in close proximity to each other on Alexandria’s west end, so we met at a local Starbucks and got to know each others’ businesses. Through our talk that day, we recognized the synergy of our industries and discussed how we could work together.

A desire we both had was to be recognized as thought leaders and resources in our respective industries. One way to do this is to provide workshops and presentations that add value to clients and the community. Doing a Lunch and Learn workshop had been on both of our minds, but having a partner at the ready pushed both of us forward quickly.

Our encounter at the ASBDC provided an opportunity for our organizations to connect and we were able to follow up on that with additional meetings, capitalizing on the opportunity to do together what we could not do independently — or at least not as easily or effectively or inexpensively. We needed to leverage each others’ knowledge, relationships and skill sets to make all the moving parts of the event come together smoothly. Important business connections would continue to play a huge role in getting the workshop from idea to reality.

As solopreneurs, finding partners to motivate you, bounce ideas off of and encourage you is critical to success. By motivating and relying on each other equally and focusing on each other’s strengths, we made huge progress in a short time with finding space and time, collaborating on marketing and outreach and preparing the presentation.

We were fortunate to have Jay Thomas from Alphagraphics print up marketing postcards for us — another person we met through ASBDC — and Mark Whitaker of Intelligent Office provided us with space and additional marketing support.

In the end, that room at Intelligent Office Alexandria was nearly filled to capacity. We had 17 small business owners and professionals attend, from several different industries and backgrounds, including real estate, consultants, finance and health services.

Some new relationships started in that room, too. Those have led to new collaborations and business opportunities for both of us, and the feeling of community in that room made us feel proud to be members of such a supportive business community in Alexandria.

It was in many ways a team effort, and a testament to the collaborative spirit of small businesses in this region. The Lunch and Learn was a very rewarding experience. One of the main lessons we learned is that working collaboratively and creatively, we strengthen the economy by strengthening small businesses in Alexandria and beyond. The workload was shared among many and so too was the benefit. The acronym TEAM, “Together Everyone Achieves More” is true in this case.

Owning It

Owning a small business is like starting a family but often I feel like a single parent with quintuplets.

When I first began my business in 2012 I filed out all of the correct paperwork. As it would seem, I did so in the most backwards order I could imagine. This was not by my poor planning as much as it was my overall lack of knowledge about the entire process, which between you and I is not incredibly obvious even after having gone through it. I do have to give credit where it is due and I owe a lot to the Small Business Development Center as I may not be where I am today without their guidance.

As a small business owner I have had to wear many hats and to keep my costs low I have had to wear all of those hats on my own.Meghan

The Photographer As a lead photographer I have enjoyed the ability to be as structured or organic as I like and have been able to be creative with on the spot changes due to weather, venue and wardrobe mishaps. I feel that this is my strongest role and one that I am constantly improving and honing. A big thanks to friend and fellow photographer Sam Dingley for my stunning headshots. That comes off like I am bragging about me, but I promise I am bragging about his photography skills.

The Website Designer In all fairness the bare bones of my website was originally created by a friend Kendall Totten Design who is an incredible developer but is now ran almost entirely by me. I try to check in with her once or twice a year to do an overall update to my site when I need assistance with code or say, I accidently delete a section of content. Oops. But other then that, all content, now comes from me in all of my glorious grammatical errors.

The Ad Executive I do my best to funnel all social media traffic back to my website but at this time do not use any paid advertisements to gain clients. My social media presence is crucial to my image so I do my best to keep my brand consistent. My logo was again created by a dear friend Mindy McPeak Illustration and my business cards and header by another Graphic Designer friend Danielle Webb who I think I traded the designs of for wine and cheese. Overall my business is driven by word of mouth. My clients return year after year and tell their friends about their experience with me and in turn become new clients.

The Attorney I cannot afford one at this time and so I am my own legal counsel. I have done my best to be upstanding and have tried to protect myself by using contracts and holding a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). I even keep my business bank account separate from my personal account. I figure there is no excuse for being careless so I might as well be prepared.

The Salesman I like to pride myself on my ability to sell. I used to sell for J.Crew and could sell corduroys and chino’s like it was my job. And at Cheesetique I used to sell cheese and wine like it was my job, because at one time it was my job. But now, I am in the business of selling myself. Gasp. And this is not easy for me. I believe I am an incredible artist and yet it takes everything in me, to sell me. It is not like I bathe in confidence but I do have to overcome myself sometimes and sell my experience, skill and artistry.

The Accountant I file my own taxes. I create my own budget. I try to keep my advertising costs and business expenses low. I pay sales tax in three states and currently for an LLC in one. I file everything on my own that I need to keep my business running and upstanding with the law.

The Balance I am a full time wife and mother and so it is essential that I maintain a balance with my work. I tend to work nights (editing) and weekends (photographing) when my partner can be with our little one. The lifestyle of a Wedding and Portrait Photographer lends itself well to my available schedule.

Starting Your Own Business? Ask for Help The Small Business Development Center of Alexandria was an excellent resource for me when I began my business and they helped to point me in the right direction and showed me where to file my LLC, Business License, Trade Name and Sales Tax. I also had to set up an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS and I would not have known this had it not been for their assistance. I also took advantage of their social media counseling which has proven to be priceless.

You can reach me at:

 

(202) 681-9848

[email protected]

http://www.shotinthedarkphoto.com/

 

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Del Ray Wedding Venders

Earlier this year I met with Katie Wannen, fellow Small Business Owner and Wedding Planner at The Plannery and we decided to start a group for wedding vendors in Del Ray. Over the Summer we collaborated on the logistics of the group and then after some interest from quite a few folks, a website was born. Del Ray Wedding Venders is a one stop shop Del Ray For Your Wedding Day!Print

I am so excited to open  this group up to all of you who may be looking to tie the knot and who may also have an interest in supporting predominately Small (Local) Businesses.

If you are looking for specialty wear for flower girls look no further than Darling Betty who offers handmade 1950’s fashions for little girls. For gifts, we feature truly life  who not only make their own skin care products but grow the ingredients and loofahs in their own backyard. It does not get much more local than that! And for invitations, the unique and truly talented duo at Sediment Press. See our other blog about their printing process here.

If you are looking for local vendors look no further. If you are a local vender and you want to join the group please contact us here.

A special thanks to Katie, the brainchild of this group and the creator of our beautiful new Del Ray Wedding Vendors website. And to graphic designer Maud Bentley of Maud Bentley Design the for beautiful creation of the DRWV logo.

I am Meghan Stewart, a photographer and small business owner of Shot In The Dark Photography.

You may reach me at:

(202) 681-9848

meghan@shotinthedarkphoto.com

http://www.shotinthedarkphoto.com/

 

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