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Make marketing work for you

Strategies to grow your small business.

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Many small business owners see their grand opening as the culmination of a lifelong dream of owning their own business. Indeed, it’s an important milestone, but it’s really just the beginning of a journey to build a brand that can attract and keep customers coming in the door.

Marketing is essential to the success of any business. It’s the way to tell people what products and services you offer, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to tell your business’s story and convey why someone should choose to buy from you rather than a competitor.

Start with a plan

Just as you likely used a business plan to get your company off the ground, you’ll need a marketing plan to guide you in promoting your business. A marketing plan should include an analysis of your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It should also define your target audiences with as much detail as possible.

With this information, you can begin devising the strategies and tactics that will best answer the challenges and opportunities your business is likely to encounter. The scale of your plan will depend on the scope of your business and the resources you have available, but you should include a wide range of activities, from advertising and printed materials to events and social media. It’s also a good idea to build metrics into your plan, so you can assess how your ideas perform and make adjustments over time. Also remember to include a timeline to hold yourself accountable for executing the plan.

Define perceptions

Whether your business is brand new or you’re new to the idea of purposefully marketing your business, it’s important to know how you want people to perceive your brand and your company. Some of that information may be spelled out in your business plan, but for the purposes of marketing, it may be necessary to take it a step or two further to really tell your brand’s story. What do you want people to know? How should they feel when they interact with your company? Is there a reason your offering is superior to the alternatives? Ensure your marketing materials answer these types of questions clearly and concisely.

Make materials meaningful

For many small businesses, printed materials are the first impression customers and prospects have of your business. Printed materials can be any number of items, including direct mailers, business cards, newsletters, flyers, banners, posters and more.

Having professional, well-designed print items sends an important message about your business and your commitment to quality. Regardless of the format, all marketing materials should reflect your brand story. That is, the visual and linguistic ways you convey your brand.

Nearly all small business owners (90 percent) use printed materials in some aspect of their business, according to a survey conducted by The UPS Store. While marketing is the most common purpose, overall, small business owners use printed materials for a variety of other reasons such as internal documents, client documents and billing. Even those more functional pieces should consistently reflect your brand, the same as your external marketing materials.

Small business owners are often short on time and resources, but relying on a partner for print services can make things easier.

Marketing Solutions that Work

Try exploring these six print strategies that can help tell your small business brand story:

1. Flyers

Every store should have a grand opening, and a flyer is a great way to tell the community your business is ready to launch. Once your business is underway, you can promote specials and create brand awareness using updated flyers in the same style.

2. Business cards

Whether you are walking into a networking event or going about your daily routine, the right business card is a must to deliver a strong representation for your brand. In fact, a survey conducted by The UPS Store found that 70 percent of small business owners use business cards to market their businesses. Contact information is essential, but so is a quality design that lends credibility to your business.

3. Brochures

When you need more space to tell your story, brochures offer a low-pressure method to make a long-form pitch to customers. Having a sales associate promote your capabilities can be intimidating. Conversely, brochures provide you with an opportunity to show customers what your brand offers in a low-pressure way with full color and detail in a format they can carry out and refer to later.

4. Promotional Products

Promotional products can be fun, inexpensive ways to reach your customers. With branded items like T-shirts, bags, mugs or keychains, you can provide a functional product to your customer and raise brand awareness.

5. Postcards

With so many digital ad options available, today’s consumers receive less traditional mail, and that’s an opportunity to make your brand stand out. Postcards are a compact and cost-efficient way to announce a new product, the opening of a new location, a holiday sale or another important notice. Even if the recipient doesn’t immediately take action on the promotional message, postcards are also a good way to keep your brand in front of consumers and remind them of the products or services you can offer.

6. Presentations

A well-put together presentation can leave a lasting impression by adding impact and value to the information being shared. Presentations help reinforce your message and brand while keeping important information in one place for current and potential clients.

For more information, visit The UPS Store..

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NewsMakers

5 Tips when buying life insurance for the first time

A knowledgeable and professional insurance agent can offer trusted guidance when it comes to finding the right life insurance protection at the right price.

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Photo by Vlad Deep from Unsplash.com

Major life changes like getting married, starting a family or buying a house are often when people start thinking about buying life insurance. Now, more than ever, people are more concerned with their financial security. Buying a life policy can be a process that sounds intimidating or confusing – but it’s also very important.

During this Life Insurance Awareness Month, Erie Insurance shares five points to discuss with your agent when buying life insurance for the first time.

  1. Understand who (or what) you are protecting. While anyone experiencing a significant life event like getting married or starting a family often recognizes the need for life insurance, others may not realize they could benefit from it as well. For instance, stay-at-home parents and student loan cosigners could have a definite need for life insurance.
  2. Only buy the life insurance plan you can afford. Many people are surprised at how much life insurance they really need to protect the people and things they love most – but they are also surprised at how affordable it can be. If you cannot find a policy that fits in your budget, it’s a mistake to forgo any coverage at all. Something is definitely better than nothing.
  3. Think through your beneficiaries. A life insurance beneficiary is the person or entity you name in your life policy to receive funds in the event of your passing. Your beneficiary can be a person, business, trust, charity or even your church. And you can have more than one. It’s important to make sure you think through who your beneficiaries are and if any proceeds meant to benefit a minor should be held in a trust.
  4. Buy from a financially sound company. You want the backing of a financially strong insurer if you or someone you love needs to call on the life insurance policy. A.M. Best, the largest and longest-established company devoted to issuing in-depth reports and financial strength ratings about insurance organizations, gave Erie Family Life Insurance Company a rating of A (Excellent).
  5. Consider current and future needs. Don’t just consider your current lifestyle, keep in mind your future needs and what those could include for your spouse, children or business (think college expenses, weddings, etc.). By taking in these considerations today, you’re investing in the security of your future. Life insurance is less expensive than most people think—and that’s especially true when you’re younger. 

A knowledgeable and professional insurance agent can offer trusted guidance when it comes to finding the right life insurance protection at the right price. Life insurance with Erie Family Life offers you the right coverage with flexible options, helping you to build a policy now that is adaptable later.

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NewsMakers

Online menus should put healthy food first

Women who see healthy food at the top of an online menu are 30 to 40 percent more likely to order it, a Flinders University study has found, with the authors saying menu placement could play a role in encouraging healthier eating.

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Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach from Unsplash.com

Women who see healthy food at the top of an online menu are 30 to 40 percent more likely to order it, a Flinders University study has found, with the authors saying menu placement could play a role in encouraging healthier eating.

Published in the journal Appetite and led by Flinders University PhD Candidate Indah Gynell, the team investigated where on a menu healthy items should be placed to best encourage people to choose them.

“Previous research has explored menu placement before, but the studies were inconsistent, with some finding placing food items at the top and bottom of a menu increased their popularity, while others suggested that the middle is best,” said Ms Gynell from Flinders’ College of Education, Psychology and Social Work.

“In our study we compared three locations on both printed and online menus, with online being an important addition in the age of food ordering platforms, such as UberEats and Menulog, especially during the pandemic.”

The researchers created menus containing eight unhealthy items and four healthy items, arranged in three rows of four on the physical printed menu and in one column of 12 on the digital menu. In one study, the physical menu was tested on 172 female participants, while in the second study, the digital menu was tested on 182 female participants.

Female participants were chosen as previous research has found that dieting behaviours – likely to impact menu choice – are consistently more prevalent in women.

Participants then chose an item from one of the experimental menus before completing a psychological test that identified their ‘dietary restraint status’; that is whether or not they were actively choosing to restrict their eating habits for the purpose of health or weight loss.

“We found that neither the order of food items, nor participants’ dietary restraint status, impacted whether or not healthy food was chosen in the physical menus,” says Ms Gynell.

“However, for the online menus, we found that participants who saw healthy items at the top of an online menu were 30-40% more likely to choose a healthy item than those who viewed them further down the menu.”

The authors say the finding is important because if added up over time, consistent healthy choices could result in general health benefits at a population level, highlighting why such an intervention could be worth implementing.

“Diet-related illnesses and disease are more common now than ever before, and with a rise in online food ordering it’s important we uncover cost-effective and simple public health initiatives,” says Ms Gynell.

“Changing the order of a menu, which doesn’t require the addition or removal of items, is unlikely to impact profits as consumers are guided towards healthier options without being discouraged from purchasing altogether.

“This means it’s more likely to be accepted by food purveyors and, despite being a somewhat simple solution, has the potential to shape real-world healthy eating interventions.”

The effect of item placement on snack food choices from physical and online menus by Indah Gynell, Eva Kemps, Ivanka Prichard and Marika Tiggemann is published in the journal Appetite.

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NewsMakers

Serving larger portions of veggies may increase young kids’ veggie consumption

The researchers found that while the larger portions of vegetables were associated with greater intake, the addition of butter and salt was not. The children also reported liking both versions — seasoned and unseasoned — about the same. About 76% of kids rated the vegetables as “yummy” or “just ok.”

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Photo by Nadine Primeau from Unsplash.com

It can be difficult to get young kids to eat enough vegetables, but a new Penn State study found that simply adding more veggies to their plates resulted in children consuming more vegetables at the meal.

The researchers found that when they doubled the amount of corn and broccoli served at a meal — from 60 to 120 grams — the children ate 68% more of the veggies, or an additional 21 grams. Seasoning the vegetables with butter and salt, however, did not affect consumption.

The daily recommended amount of vegetables for kids is about 1.5 cups a day, according to the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans as set by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

“The increase we observed is equal to about one third of a serving or 12% of the daily recommended intake for young children,” said Hanim Diktas, graduate student in nutritional sciences. “Using this strategy may be useful to parents, caregivers and teachers who are trying to encourage kids to eat the recommended amount of vegetables throughout the day.”

Barbara Rolls, Helen A. Guthrie Chair and director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior at Penn State, said the findings — recently published in the journal Appetite — support the MyPlate guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which recommends meals high in fruits and vegetables.

“It’s important to serve your kids a lot of vegetables, but it’s also important to serve them ones they like because they have to compete with the other foods on the plate,” Rolls said. “Parents can ease into this by gradually exposing kids to new vegetables, cooking them in a way their child enjoys, and experimenting with different flavors and seasonings as you familiarize them.”

According to the researchers, the majority of children in the U.S. don’t eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables, which could possibly be explained by children having a low preference for them. And while serving larger portions has been found to increase the amount of food children eat — called the “portion size effect” — kids tend to eat smaller amounts of vegetables in response to bigger portions compared to other foods.

For this study, the researchers were curious if increasing just the amount of vegetables while keeping the portions of other foods the same would help increase veggie consumption in kids. They also wanted to experiment with whether adding light butter and salt to the vegetables would increase their palatability and also affect consumption.

For the study, the researchers recruited 67 children between the ages of three and five. Once a week for four weeks, the participants were served lunch with one of four different preparations of vegetables: a regular-sized serving of plain corn and broccoli, a regular-sized serving with added butter and salt, a doubled serving of plain corn and broccoli, and a doubled serving with added butter and salt.

During each meal, the vegetables were served alongside fish sticks, rice, applesauce and milk. Foods were weighed before and after the meal to measure consumption.

“We chose foods that were generally well-liked but also not the kids’ favorite foods,” Rolls said. “If you offer vegetables alongside, say, chicken nuggets you might be disappointed. Food pairings are something you need to be conscious of, because how palpable the vegetables are compared to the other foods on the plate is going to affect the response to portion size. You need to make sure your vegetables taste pretty good compared to the other foods.”

After analyzing the results, the researchers found that while the larger portions of vegetables were associated with greater intake, the addition of butter and salt was not. The children also reported liking both versions — seasoned and unseasoned — about the same. About 76% of kids rated the vegetables as “yummy” or “just ok.”

“We were surprised that the butter and salt weren’t needed to improve intake, but the vegetables we served were corn and broccoli, which may have been already familiar to and well-liked by the kids,” Diktas said. “So for less familiar vegetables, it’s possible some extra flavoring might help to increase intake.”

Diktas said that while serving larger portions may increase vegetable consumption, it also has the potential to increase waste if kids don’t eat all of the food that is served.

“We’re working on additional research that looks into substituting vegetables for other food instead of just adding more vegetables,” Diktas said. “In the future, we may be able to give recommendations about portion size and substituting vegetables for other foods, so we can both limit waste and promote veggie intake in children.”

Liane Roe, research nutritionist; Kathleen Keller, associate professor of nutritional sciences; and Christine Sanchez, lab manager at the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior, also participated in this work.

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