Drive Sales By Making Your Location A Destination

This post was written by Paul Williams, marketing expert and founder of Idea Sandbox and the do-it-yourself local store marketing website LSMGuide. When you think of a destination, what comes to mind? Probably a vacation spot. A place worth going out of the way to get to. A place worth planning to go. A place… Read more »

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Drive Sales By Making Your Location A DestinationThis post was written by Paul Williams, marketing expert and founder of Idea Sandbox and the do-it-yourself local store marketing website LSMGuide.

When you think of a destination, what comes to mind? Probably a vacation spot. A place worth going out of the way to get to. A place worth planning to go. A place you’ll brag about going to.

“We’re taking the kids to Florence this summer.”

When you return, you’ll brag about the visit to friends, family, and co-workers. And, you’ll show-off your pictures on Facebook and Twitter.

Wouldn’t it be great to have your business have these qualities? To be worth going out of the way for? Worth the wait? Where the experience is so out of the ordinary, people take pictures and tell their friends?

It is possible. You’ve been to restaurants and stores like that yourself.

So, what does it take to be a destination?

There are two situations…

  1. Either you’re perceived as the first, the best or the only in what you offer. Customers already go out of their way to come to you. Or,
  2. You’ve got to make yourself the first, best, or only.

First, Best, Only

The first bakery to serve a cronut? The best home theater store in the area? The only authentic Korean restaurant in town?

If you are the first, best, or only – good for you – now you need to promote that specialty to drive people to your location and transform that traffic into sales.

More than likely, you’re like most of us. Not the first, or only… And, while you may think you’re the best, your customers do not necessarily perceived you that way.

So, for us, we need to do programming and host regularly scheduled events that help us stand out. (And ultimately, help you become the first, best or only).

Destination Events & Programming

There are at least seven different types of programming you can host, and countless events. Every day offers an excuse for hosting events, programming, or other fun ways to entice customers to your location. Consider…

Special Days & Holidays – If not traditional celebrations like Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, First Day of Spring and Thanksgiving, consider that nearly every day of the week, and every month of the year has some special occasion. In June alone we have…

  • Iced Tea Month,
  • National Doughnut Day (3rd),
  • Strawberry Shortcake Day (14th),
  • World Gin Day (15th),
  • The First Day of Summer (21),
  • and more…

Use dates like these to promote and host fun in-store events. Visit the Marketing Holidays Calendar for more ideas.

Insider Events – Host invite-only special events. Use your eNewsletter and hand-delivered invitations to build awareness. Everyone loves to be treated as a VIP and receive exclusive offers.

Educational Events – Offer classes related to your products that help customers gain expertise. Wine tasting, knife skills class, dress for success, building a home theater, how to make a latte at home. Share your expertise and help customers become experts.

Games & Contests – Host trivia nights. Invest in a few Wii Game Consoles and host virtual leagues – bowling, darts, etc. Have fun prizes and have teams compete weekly. Buy a bunch of classic board games – the ones best for groups to play. Have your staff keep them happy with drinks and munchies!

Arts & Culture Events – Host in-store music, author readings, or bring in a table magician to wonder and delight your customers. Use your wall to exhibit the work of local artists. Do this and, each time you change out the artwork, you can host an Art Opening, which is an excuse to bring people in and sample your new products and offerings.

Charity & Giving – Find a local group or charity in need that matches with your brand, and partner with them on a long-term basis. Host in-store events and events around the community.

Groups & Clubs – If you’ve got the space, allow local groups and clubs to reserve space in your location. If you don’t rent it to them, create special offers for your products and services while they’re there. Give them special access to what you do.

Transform Traffic

Terrific, now you have events to host at your location. But, getting people to the entrance and into your shop is only half the job. The second part is transforming that traffic to something meaningful.

And, it is important to add, it may not be transforming directly to sales…

Prior to making the sale, you may need first to build trust and reduce perceived risk. So we recommend:

Trial: Sample and Demonstration - Auto dealers sell cars through a test drive. Homes are bought via house tours. The expensive brand of pasta sauce flew off the shelf when they sampled at the grocery store. Letting customers try before they buy reduces perceived risk. Even sampling a low-priced item, like a seasonal flavored latte, often needs sampling because people don’t want their day to start on the wrong foot with a cup of coffee they may not like. Sampling, and allowing customers to test products, allows them understand – without the risk – that they do like the product. Sampling and demos lead to increased purchase rates.

Create Insiders: Newsletter Sign-Up - Offering a newsletter, sent monthly by email is a great way to get potential customers to know you better and keep existing customers engaged. Create a way for your customers to sign-up in your location. A simple page printed with “Name” and “eMail” will do the trick. By signing up, customers are giving you permission to communicate with them. In every message to your customers find a way to provide value to them. I don’t mean a coupon or sales offer. Give them what they want to know. If you sell stereo equipment, keep them on top of the latest trends. If you are a bakery, give tips to hosting great kid’s or office parties. Sure, let them know you have a special offer on stereos or cupcakes, but make your sales message a second priority over helping customers feel good about themselves.

Make The Sale

Everything mentioned so far leads to “making the sale.” The important thing to remember is that the “sale” is the end result of doing the right things for your potential customers. Creating meaningful, relevant reasons for them to visit you.

On a final note, of course, any event needs to be supported by awareness-building tools. Make sure customers, and potential customers, know when you’ve got fun programming. (But that’s the topic for another article!)

By implementing these ideas, your location will become a place worth going out of the way for. A place worth planning to go. A place your customers will brag about – to their friends and via social media!

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The Importance of a Professional Headshot

Your headshot says a lot about you. Do you look like a confident person? Do you take care in your appearance? Do you seem like a professional? These are all questions that hiring departments may think of or clients may wonder when choosing you. Whether they are looking at your LinkedIn profile or choosing your services based on the quality of your business card it may have more to do with your headshot than you might think.

Stand Tall No one sees confidence in a person that slouches. Stand up tall when having your headshot taken so that your posture is expert. If this is difficult for you, try squaring your hips and lifting your chest. Then imagine a string pulling you up like a balloon lifting you into the air. Nothing says confidence like good posture.

Smile Like You Mean It Some of the best headshots come from your natural radiant smile. Like the kind of smile where you just laughed. So fake it. Laugh and you will find your natural smile comes shines through.

Color Palettes for Your Skin, Hair and Eyes I love power colors for those in leadership roles, or those seeking leadership roles. Reds can come off as very attention grabbing and classic. Oranges however, depending on the skin tone could be very off putting. When choosing your palette look at a variety of options and hold the colors up to your face. To they make you look washed out or on the contrary do they draw attention to your eyes and make them pop? You want to find out what your color palate is first and then create your look from there. Do you look best in vibrant colors or earth tones. If you are uncertain which color palette best suits you, bring a few options to your session and go over them with your photographer.

Professional Headshots

Simple is Best Again, play up the textures and add in a necklace, some earrings or a nice watch but make sure you are remembering “simple”. You can really over do it with loud patterns like stripes or circular patterns on your shirt or blazer. For those of you that wear makeup, this is a time for the lipstick and mascara. Clean makeup is best as well. Leave the glitter and shimmer at home and opt for matte colors that accentuate your natural look.

High Resolution vs. Web Resolution If you want to print your headshot for promotional purposes make sure you get a release to do so as well as high resolution images. Likewise, if you would like to use your headshot online you will want a web resolution image. Make sure you are clear with your photographer to ensure that you get the images that you want at their best quality for the purposes that you intend them.

Your Photographer Can Make You Lose Weight Instantly Before you get too excited, understand that your photographer is not going to accompany you the the gym or prescribe you a cleanse for days leading up to your session. But, your photographer does know some tricks of the trade that can make you appear more thinned out. For example, say that you have been blessed with not one but two chins, we can remove that for you. And I am not talking post processing so much as when we take your headshot we can manipulate your profile to remove your double chin and overall bring the viewer into the image. A good photographer can photograph you in a way that makes the observer look for a few seconds longer at your headshot.

And sometime those extra seconds, that make you stand at the forefront of all the other applicants, make all the difference.

 

You can reach me at:

(202) 681-9848

[email protected]

http://www.shotinthedarkphoto.com/

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Restaurant Week Brings New Customers and Grows Business

Alexandria’s Winter Restaurant Week is getting ready to kick off. From January 23 – February 1, 2015, restaurants will be offering dinner for two for $35 or a three-course dinner for $35. This year, for the first time, several restaurants are also offering lunch specials, too. As consumers, it’s clear why we all love restaurant week… Read more »

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Restaurant WeekAlexandria’s Winter Restaurant Week is getting ready to kick off. From January 23 – February 1, 2015, restaurants will be offering dinner for two for $35 or a three-course dinner for $35. This year, for the first time, several restaurants are also offering lunch specials, too. As consumers, it’s clear why we all love restaurant week and the value it provides. From the small business perspective, though, what’s the value in participating in an event like restaurant week?

Restaurant Week brings new customers to restaurants. In 2014, OpenTable did a study of winter restaurant weeks nationwide. The study uncovered that 73% of diners during restaurant week choose a restaurant they have never been to before. Even better, 88% of diners said that they were likely to return to the restaurant at which they dined during restaurant week. This is a great way for businesses to grow their customer base and build brand loyalty. Additionally, OpenTable discovered that 91% of diners were likely to recommend the restaurant they went to for restaurant week, so businesses are not only capturing the initial business that is generated during restaurant week itself but also follow-on business that results from word-of-mouth advertising.

Restaurant Week provides free advertising for participating businesses. While restaurants must be members of the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association (ACVA) to participate in Alexandria’s Winter Restaurant Week, there are no additional costs for participating. In addition to aggregating menus and promoting the event on their own website, social media, and blog, ACVA also advertises Restaurant Week through digital display ads in local and regional papers, other digital advertising, such as Google AdWords and Facebook ads, and in local print newspapers. Last year, digital advertising efforts made more than 500,000 impressions, and print advertising reached a newspaper circulation of 91,000. There are also posters, bill inserts, and brochures at participating restaurants and at the Alexandria Visitors Center. Each individual restaurant would never have the resources to promote their own restaurant to this regional audience, but by participating in an event that is widely promoted and published, restaurants benefit from a wider reach of advertising.

Restaurant Week allows restaurants to highlight new offerings or changes in the menu. Restaurants can feature any items on their Restaurant Week menu, allowing each the opportunity to highlight new entrees, desserts, or other offerings. For example, Artfully Chocolate Bistro and Wine Bar opened their location in Carlyle, and owner Nelson says that Restaurant Week “is a good way to promote the new emphasis we have on meal service.” For new restaurants, Restaurant Week allows them to showcase their menu. Several new restaurants are participating in Alexandria’s Winter Restaurant Week and are getting their menus out to a broad audience.

A small amount of work on the restaurant’s part can yield great rewards during Restaurant Week. If you would like more information on how to participate in the next Alexandria Restaurant Week, please contact Meredith Sasser at 703-652-5365 or e-mail her at [email protected]. For those of you who are not in the restaurant business, we hope you will consider taking advantage of this opportunity to support local small businesses and enjoy a wonderful meal at an Alexandria restaurant. Happy dining!

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Marketing Trends for 2015

On January 13, Maurisa Potts presented a workshop on Marketing Trends for 2015. This workshop focused on the top marketing trends that small businesses need to be aware of and gave ideas on what to do to take advantage of these trends. While some of the trends were familiar to many small business owners, such… Read more »

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On January 13, Maurisa Potts presented a workshop on Marketing Trends for 2015. This workshop focused on the top marketing trends that small businesses need to be aware of and gave ideas on what to do to take advantage of these trends. While some of the trends were familiar to many small business owners, such as the need to be mobile friendly and the importance of marketing to millennials, new trends have emerged for 2015 as well. These include an increased focus on personalization in a digital world and using emotion to strengthen your brand engagement.

While we would love it if all of our small businesses could focus on every one of these top trends, we know business owners have limited time and resources to dedicate to marketing. After the presentation, Maurisa sat down with us and shared her thoughts on the two most important things that small business owners should focus on this year:

Here are the two trends that Maurisa recommends that small businesses focus on for 2015:

  1. Don’t be afraid to test. Test new ideas and new initiatives, even if it’s a small demographic that you want to try to test a marketing effort to see if it has results. This year will be known as the year of the test, where people will try to think outside the box and be a little more creative in how they attract certain audiences, customers, and new clientele.
  2. Focus on bite-sized content in which you employ the less is more approach in trying to engage consumers and potential customers to your business. Invest more in photos, illustrations, and videos to get your message across. Tighten up what you’re trying to say. Unfortunately, the average attention span of individuals is seven seconds, so you have seven seconds to get what you want across from a marketing standpoint.

We hope you will take advantage of these trends to boost your marketing in 2015.

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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Small Business

We’re all used to the practice of making resolutions at the start of the year about things that we wish to do in our personal lives, whether it is losing a few extra pounds, finishing a degree or obtaining additional training or education, working out on a regular basis, or spending more quality time with family… Read more »

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5 New Years Resolutions for Your Small BusinessWe’re all used to the practice of making resolutions at the start of the year about things that we wish to do in our personal lives, whether it is losing a few extra pounds, finishing a degree or obtaining additional training or education, working out on a regular basis, or spending more quality time with family and friends. Unfortunately, by the end of January many of these resolutions have been swallowed up by the everyday events of our lives, and we find ourselves feeling guilty and frustrated.

This time of year is also important for making resolutions for your small business. To avoid the failure and frustration that often accompanies personal resolutions, these should be simple, specific, and actionable to increase the chances of success. A few suggestions for small business owners are:

  1. Update Your Business Plan. Whether you started with a formal business plan or ideas on the back of a napkin, this is a good time to dust off your original plan and see how your vision worked in the real world. Has your small business worked out as planned? Are there things that you know now that you wish you would have known when you started? Where do you see your business being this time next year? What do you have to do to accomplish that? It may be as simple as taking the time to really think about these issues and write down your thoughts to spur on your business’ growth in 2015. The Business Planning Guide on the Alexandria SBDC’s website can be an effective tool to use to update your plan
  2. Understand Your Business Finances. You pay the bills, and you, or your accountant or bookkeeper, files the taxes, but do you really understand the financial position of your business? Many small business owners are passionate and very knowledgeable in their area of business, but often less so when it comes to financial operations. Make 2015 the year that you look at the numbers and really understand what they mean. This may involve an “educational session” with your accountant, a financial discussion with SBDC Business Analyst Jack Parker, or registration for one of the many classes in the area on finances, accounting, Quickbooks, etc. By monitoring your finances on a monthly basis, or at least quarterly, you will know how you are doing and be able to make informed projections of your cash requirements for the year.
  3. Update Your Website. This probably does not involve starting from scratch with a whole new site (the Alexandria SBDC did that last year – a lot of work, but worth it!). How new is the material on your site?  If the last time you added new content was 2012, you have some refreshing to do! Is it time to add a blog, or just to add new content, videos or photos? If your site is not interesting enough for you to go to it on a regular basis, why should anyone else? Make sure that it reflects what you want your business to present to the world. Remember that Alexandria City businesses can schedule a session with the SBDC to review your site and get suggestions from the experts.
  4. Try Something New with Social Media. Are you overwhelmed by social media and how much time you think it will take from “doing your business”? Wherever you are in the social media spectrum, from active participant to total novice, you can resolve to take yourself up a level. Do not try to do it all at once – that is a sure recipe for failure and frustration. Figure out which social media platform would be the best one for you to explore for your industry and work on mastering that one in 2015. Alexandria SBDC social media consultant Ray Sidney-Smith has published a book, Social Local Mobile Success: Small Business Marketing Strategy Explained.  It is available as an e-book or in paperback from the major online outlets and is a great source of information for small business owners who want to “up their game” in this area. Treat yourself to a copy for the new year, follow through on one platform, and see how the increased visibility helps your business.
  5. Measure The Impact of Your Decisions. While you are understanding your finances, updating your website and increasing your social media presence, it is important to see how this increased activity brings change to your business. Decide which metrics are most important to you, then make a plan on how to measure and analyze that information. Make sure that you have Google Analytics installed on your website and synced with your social media. Understand your sales cycle by looking at your financial reports and knowing which periods of the year are busy and which need a boost. While this may not be the most interesting or exciting thing that you do for your business in 2015, it may be the most important. Having good data is the first step to making good decisions.

It is your business – empower yourself to take control of it in 2015!

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Holiday Shopping Kicks Off With More Than Just Black Friday!

Our resident social media expert and blogger extraordinaire Ray Sidney-Smith discusses the importance of having a cohesive marketing campaign for the holiday season. For nearly the last decade, here in the United States, the biggest shopping day of the year has been the day after Thanksgiving. We all know it as Black Friday. However, for the savvy business owner especially… Read more »

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Our resident social media expert and blogger extraordinaire Ray Sidney-Smith discusses the importance of having a cohesive marketing campaign for the holiday season.

For nearly the last decade, here in the United States, the biggest shopping day of the year has been the day after Thanksgiving. We all know it as Black Friday. However, for the savvy business owner especially here in Alexandria Virginia, we have several other retail business opportunities available than just Black Friday.

While the Friday after Thanksgiving is still the most important retail shopping day of the year, Small Business retail shops, and even service-based businesses that can benefit during the 4th quarter holiday season shopping, should plan to create a cohesive marketing campaign for more than just Black Friday. The Saturday after Thanksgiving was dubbed Small Business Saturday as an American Express program back in 2010, according to their website to “help businesses with their most pressing need — getting more customers.” For the first time the National Retail Federation inquired about holiday shoppers taking advantage of Small Business Saturday, and according to their recent press release (“140 Million Holiday Shoppers Likely to Take Advantage of Thanksgiving Weekend Deals in Stores and Online, According to NRF”), “nearly three-quarters (72.7%) [of the 140 million shoppers this weekend] say they will or may specifically shop for Small Business Saturday.” That’s an astonishing testament to the power of Small Business Saturday and the Small Business Movement that American Express has mounted on all our behalf.

Included in the holiday shopping weekend festivities is the not-as-famous-but-just-as-important Cyber Monday. While it’s an unfortunate statistic that more than 60% of small businesses still lack a website, Cyber Monday stands to top 2.29 billion dollars in online sales as it did in 2013. Are you taking advantage of that piece of the retail marketing holiday pie? If not, perhaps you should make an appointment to talk to a counselor over at Alexandria Small Business Development Center, to get you on track to making that website happen in 2015. Online and mobile commerce stand to be a growing and potentially the largest part of retail trade in the coming years. Not that brick-and-mortar should ever go away, but for those stores that cannot hold unlimited inventory or stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, online and mobile commerce help you capture that revenue while you spend time with your family, or better yet, sleep!

Additionally, there is a growing counter-consumerism movement happening with the advent of Buy Nothing Day (which is the same day as Black Friday) and Giving Tuesday.

Buy Nothing Day is your opportunity to join forces with the Shop Small movement and encourage people, as the American Independent Business Alliance has promoted, to buy less disposable and more “green/environmentally-friendly” products, more durable goods and locally sourced and made products. Also, as I said earlier, if you provide a service that can benefit from the holiday shopping season, this is your time to jump in. For example, if you have a business such as a beauty salon or yoga studio, this is your time to help holiday shoppers “buy nothing” by buying gift certificate packages for their loved ones of your services. Promote buying of local, independent business gift cards instead of from large corporate ones. Beware that Buy Nothing Day has promoted protests, sit-ins, “zombie walks” and other public events in shopping malls and downtown areas, so train your staff on how to manage in the unlikely event it happens near you, but from reports they have never caused a problem for businesses (and generally sound like informative and non-confrontational events) so it’s best to be respectful and continue on with business as usual.

On the other hand, Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving which started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, provides your business a great opportunity to show that you support for your local community. “The goal of #GivingTuesday is to encourage people everywhere including retailers, charities, online organizations, community centers, individuals and families to come together with one common purpose,” says Charity Navigator, “—to help others and incentivize ways to give more, give smarter, and celebrate the great American spirit of generosity through charitable contributions and volunteerism.” How can your business incorporate giving into your holiday marketing campaign? It can be as simple as a clothing or food drive, coordinating a volunteer outing for your staff at Carpenter’s Shelter, or other creative ways to give back.

Altogether, Black Friday, Buy Nothing Day, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday combined give you an amazing retail marketing platform on which to make your Q4 a profitable and enjoyable buying season for your Small Business and your local community. And, don’t forget to take advantage of the Social Media media storm that is happening around the hashtags #shopsmall, #blackfriday, #cybermonday and #givingtuesday over the next few days and into next week.

As always, we are here to help with startup to veteran to growth businesses, and we’re no-cost! Let us know how we can help, and we hope you have a great holiday season!

This blog was originally posted on AlexandriaSmallBusiness.com on 11/27/14. 

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