6 Reasons Local Business Owners Should Blog

Business owners have a huge opportunity at their fingertips and that’s because social media and the internet has made it easier to have a direct relationship with the consumer. At no other time in history have business owners had the opportunity to directly communicate with their target clients and customers. While “blogging” is not the only way, it is a great way to communicate with your target audience.

The beauty of websites like Alexandriasmallbusiness.com is that it is an opportunity to put this specific area on the “Internet” map. There are many areas that have a very special or unique culture and when business owners blog about the areas it’s a great way to not only promote the area but also to promote your business in the area.

I used to have a column for the Lake-Ridge Occoquan, VA Patch called the “Entrepreneur’s Spotlight” where I used to interview and write about entrepreneurs located in Lake-Ridge and Occoquan, Virginia. I wrote about the local ice cream shop, the event planner, and a community of artists. What I found as I interviewed and connected with each business owner was that this small strip of local businesses (much like other areas across the world) has a collective spirt and a story that needed to be told. These posts were the catalyst for me to start CEO Blog Nation which includes DMV CEO–which covers entrepreneurship in DC, Maryland & Virginia. The beauty of these articles that I wrote for Patch was that it was a way to highlight the Occoquan, VA area and promote the local businesses there.

So, why is blogging important to the local business owner? With so many things to juggle and so little time, why should a business owner take the time to blog? At CEO Blog Nation, we often ask entrepreneurs how they use their blog for their business, so I highlighted some of the reasons we’ve published below:

Blog Post From Rescue a CEO (CEO Blog Nation)
Blog Post From Rescue a CEO (CEO Blog Nation) – www.rescue.ceoblognation.com
  1. It’s good for SEO – Blogging provides fresh content which can help you and your business to rank well on search engines. Even if you take the time to follow a great strategy which is to guest blog or repost your blog on sites like LinkedIn Pulse or Medium, it is still a good way to help you to be found on Google.
  2. It’s a unique way to tell your story – One of the common questions and concerns from business owners is that they don’t know what to write or blog about. Business owners can tell the behind the scenes of the their business or their shop. It could be anything from having spotlight interviews of employees or maybe a customer or client can guest post on your blog. These types of posts provide fresh content and information to your readers, but can make you a more trusted option that your customers are more likely to buy from.
  3. Answer potential questions – One of the pains as a business owners is getting “shopped.” This is when a potential client asks a bunch of questions and you provide all your great answers for “free” and they don’t actually buy from you. While that’s not always a bad thing, when time is scarce why not create blog posts with frequently asked questions that you can direct people to and can save yourself time. It’s a great way for you to tell a potential client that “someone asked a similar question so you decided to write a blog post that you can send to them to answer that question.” This is also a great way to solidify yourself as an expert. Here’s an example I had from a client that wanted to know how to name images for SEO.
  4. More leads and opportunitiesAccording to Hubspot, B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not. You will receive opportunities especially if you have a way to build your list or if you have a way for people to take action (see the bottom of this post).
  5. It helps to drive traffic to your site – If you have your blog integrated or built into your website or even if you just link to your website, it’s a great way to drive people back to your website. If you are providing quality content that is relevant to your target market, they will come to your blog and might sign up for your newsletter or connect with you on social media.
  6. It’s the future – Another interesting fact, which is evident in our every day human interaction–we aren’t speaking to each other as much in the “old way.” Now, interaction is taking place through FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Periscope or Groupme. That will only continue. By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human.

There are numerous reasons why business owners and entrepreneurs should start to blog. If you want to get started or want to find out how to get more out of your blog, check out my free business blogging course at CEO Blog Nation

The Value of Professional Proposal Support

The Value of Professional Proposal Support - Jackson Contract Solutions, LLCThe expectation that because your business is small, your proposal cannot compete with large experienced businesses is simply untrue!  Investing in professional proposal support can ensure that your proposal submission is compliant, complete, submitted on time and professional.  While no individual or organization can guarantee that your company will be awarded a contract with local, state or federal Government, investing in professional proposal support could absolutely be the difference between new or additional business for your company and a Dear John letter from the Government advising that you were not selected as the awardee.

Compliance, completion and timeliness are the top tier reasons proposals are rejected and/or not selected for contract award.  Let us explore compliance, completion and timeliness as they relate to the Request for Proposal process with the Government.

Compliance – When your proposal is compliant, this means that you have read the entire document including the technical, management, pricing and past performance information requested and you have responded accordingly to all requirements as the Government has asked.

Completion – A complete proposal includes compliance with the requirements, the cover letter, representations and certifications, table of contents, page count, margins, font size etc. The instructions have been followed and packaged as the Government requires.

Timely – A timely proposal is one that is received by the Government on or before the due date and prior to the set time.

Professional – A professional proposal is one that is free of typos, math mistakes and grammatical errors.

The right professional proposal support can ensure that these critical areas are addressed and requirements are met by developing a compliance matrix specific to the request for proposal. This document captures the requirements, who is internally responsible for writing and provides a crosswalk to show where each requirement is addressed within the response. The development of the proposal outline ensures a complete proposal as the items that are required for compliance, and the other areas that have to be addressed are all included.  The proposal schedule is developed to ensure that your final submission is ready to go with ample time for review and corrections and delivered to the Government prior to the actual due date.

If you are unfamiliar with a compliance matrix, proposal outline and a proposal schedule, these documents are used by large contractors for every request for proposal that they respond to. Hiring a consultant to assist with your proposal support gives your small business the same tools as large businesses. While the cost varies based on the level of service required, it is well worth the investment to propel your organization to the next level in the multibillion dollar business of Government Contracting.


Constance Jackson is the owner of Jackson Contract Solutions, LLC. Constance has more than 20 years’ experience working with small and large Federal Government Contractors, and Federal Agencies providing proposal management, contract management, training and acquisition planning.

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.

Is Facebook Really Implementing a Dislike Button?

Since the early days of social networking services becoming a place for businesses to engage in marketing to past, current and potential customers, there has been a debate over how to respond appropriately to users’ content and comments. That conversation

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

Since the early days of social networking services becoming a place for businesses to engage in marketing to past, current and potential customers, there has been a debate over how to respond appropriately to users’ content and comments. That conversation

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

Retail Architect: billboards store design

Retail architect are always looking at design features that can make a store stand out, or differentiate, from its neighbors in the mall scape, leading to a design idea that I may, or may not, have mentioned previously; namely mall storefronts are being treated like billboards. Compare, for example, the type of merchandising that is going on in the Aldo store with that of the Buy Paris Collection below. On a practical level this may not be a very fair comparison as Aldo has rallied all of its substantial store planning resources around supporting and marketing their brand, while the shop in the Paris airport is marketing multiple brands, probably with considerably less resources. That said, this discussion is academic and I am using the contrast between the two shops to demonstrate a design technique.

Clearly, Aldo has used every inch of wall space to deliver a marketing message about their product. It is a message being delivered to virtually every potential shopper with a view of the store no matter where that shopper happens to be located. The desire to accomplish this is nothing new. The installation of billboard size images on every available inch of visible wall, on the other hand, is a fairly new trend. I expect it is only a matter of time before the message, actually creeps onto the ceiling, and I am sure examples of exactly this can easily be found.

By comparison, the Buy Paris Collection casts its marketing net into a much smaller visual pond simply by dint of scale. Certainly good design practice is employed. The high contrast between the white illuminated sign on the black background along with the brightly colored banner are attention grabbing features. The interior signage, illuminated graphics and nicely displayed merchandise all follow the store planning rules, leading me to ask; is one of these techniques more effective that the other?

The question is one of relevance. The retail environment, always competitive, is ever more so now. Pressured on one side by online competition and the other by indirect competitors for the attention of the same customer base, retailers are feeling compelled to enter the context of entertainment shopping. It is a fluid environment where relevance is everything.

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.

Retail Architect: pattern, color and scale that delivers a marketing message

BBW store
I took this photo of a new Bath & Body Works store in a recently renovated local mall because the project is instructive on several levels. First there is no doubt about who the retailer is. The name is perfectly highlighted on the front of the main entry fixture, again above the wall display, and of course on the storefront sign, there but not shown. Some landlords try to limit the number of times a retailer can repeat their logos in the line of vision. As a Retail Architect, I find that, recently, this practice has been giving way in favor of more flexible design guidelines, possibly in response to tighter retail markets. Either way, repetition is good for the brand.

This project is about more that the name though. It is about delivering a marketing message, which is done here by the clever incorporation of text into the very context of the store. Let’s consider the context first. The checked wall covering is extremely busy and could have, in a different application, gone totally wrong. It is working here because the high contrast both attracts attention and supports the message in terms of scale. In fact, it functions as a connection between the blocks of small merchandise and the actual text messages which are all offset in large solid color fields. These solid color blocks show up as more that just backdrops for signage. They are used in the back of displays, as plain color coded markers used to define categories of merchandise, and even as fat text turned into color blocked display fixtures. The result is interesting and completely readable.

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.

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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Holiday Print Gift Ideas

Portrait, Photographer, Northern Virginia, Del RayI am a photographer so of course I have a LOT of photos of my family. That is not to say I have a lot of photos of my family hanging in my home for all to see. So I was thinking I would remedy this with a few holiday gifts this season. Take a look at the gifts below that you could give to your loved ones this year.Family Photography Montgomery_005 Quirk-Hofman_060_e Wed_265

Prints. Prints. Prints. I am a huge fan of Pinterest and love photo collages! Maybe take photos from this past years family photo session and cluster them in your living room. You can create one large canvas,  two to three prints framed together or even cluster a bunch of smaller frames. Have a commonality like “all black and white images” or “all red frames.” This will not only draw attention to the photos but create some beautiful wall art in the process.

Personalize It Go to a craft stores to get some ideas. I like to take photos of my friends kids throughout the year and give them ornaments with photos of their own kids or for my parents, photos of their grandchild. You can also make mouse pads, mugs and calendars at most online printers. My girlfriend made me a photo mug a few years back of my now husband and me and I was so touched by her thoughtfulness. It is now a mug I cherish.

Create a Photo Book Did you travel to Italy on your honeymoon a few years back and still have no photos to show for it? Take some time to assemble a book online and personalize it to your partner. I am a huge fan of photo books, because otherwise your photos are just A.) Sitting on an SD card. B.) Floating around on social media or C.) Taking up space on your external hard drive. Show them off in a beautiful album.

Where to Print There are so many printers out there so really you will have to find one that works for you. In the past I have had really great luck with Costco but I also had my monitor calibrated to their printer. I also started getting photo books through My Publisher and although their quality was better than my experiences with Snapfish or Shutterfly I was overall unimpressed by their lack of customer service. If you want superior quality with archival inks and materials I highly recommend MPix Pro. If you are not a professional you could try MPix, as it is the Old Navy to the Banana Republic.

Holiday Deadline Try to get your online print orders in during the first two weeks of December or better yet before that. Every company has a different cut off date for their products and often albums, prints and canvases will all have different cut off dates. So if you need something in time for the holiday, try to plan ahead as much as possible.

You can reach me at:

 

(202) 681-9848

[email protected]

http://www.shotinthedarkphoto.com/

 

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Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Google+