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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

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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NewsMakers

Study shows potential dangers of sweeteners

At a concentration equivalent to two cans of diet soft drink, all three artificial sweeteners significantly increased the adhesion of both E. coli and E. faecalis to intestinal Caco-2 cells, and differentially increased the formation of biofilms.

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New research has discovered that common artificial sweeteners can cause previously healthy gut bacteria to become diseased and invade the gut wall, potentially leading to serious health issues.

The study, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, is the first to show the pathogenic effects of some of the most widely used artificial sweeteners – saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame – on two types of gut bacteria, E. coli (Escherichia coli) and E. faecalis (Enterococcus faecalis).

Previous studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can change the number and type of bacteria in the gut, but this new molecular research, led by academics from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), has demonstrated that sweeteners can also make the bacteria pathogenic. It found that these pathogenic bacteria can attach themselves to, invade, and kill Caco-2 cells, which are epithelial cells that line the wall of the intestine.

It is known that bacteria such as E. faecalis which cross the intestinal wall can enter the blood stream and congregate in the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, causing a number of infections including septicaemia.

This new study discovered that at a concentration equivalent to two cans of diet soft drink, all three artificial sweeteners significantly increased the adhesion of both E. coli and E. faecalis to intestinal Caco-2 cells, and differentially increased the formation of biofilms.

Bacteria growing in biofilms are less sensitive to antimicrobial resistance treatment and are more likely to secrete toxins and express virulence factors, which are molecules that can cause disease.

Additionally, all three sweeteners caused the pathogenic gut bacteria to invade Caco-2 cells found in the wall of the intestine, with the exception of saccharin which had no significant effect on E. coli invasion.

Senior author of the paper Dr Havovi Chichger, Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “There is a lot of concern about the consumption of artificial sweeteners, with some studies showing that sweeteners can affect the layer of bacteria which support the gut, known as the gut microbiota.

“Our study is the first to show that some of the sweeteners most commonly found in food and drink – saccharin, sucralose and aspartame – can make normal and ‘healthy’ gut bacteria become pathogenic. These pathogenic changes include greater formation of biofilms and increased adhesion and invasion of bacteria into human gut cells.

“These changes could lead to our own gut bacteria invading and causing damage to our intestine, which can be linked to infection, sepsis and multiple-organ failure.

“We know that overconsumption of sugar is a major factor in the development of conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Therefore, it is important that we increase our knowledge of sweeteners versus sugars in the diet to better understand the impact on our health.”

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7 Ways to snack smarter

The key is taking a smart approach to snacking and making small shifts toward healthier choices. Consider these simple strategies to help you get started.

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Photo by @swell from Unsplash.com

Eating a balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner each day is an important part of maintaining a healthy diet, but what you eat between mealtimes can have just as much of an impact.

Eating a snack or two between traditional meals helps curb hunger and prevents overeating at mealtimes, provides an energy boost and can also help bridge nutrient gaps in your diet when you choose the right foods. On the other hand, consuming foods of little nutritional value out of boredom or habit can lead to eating too much and adding extra pounds to your waistline.

The key is taking a smart approach to snacking and making small shifts toward healthier choices. Consider these simple strategies to help you get started from the snacking experts at Fresh Cravings.

1. Snack Mindfully

It’s easy to overeat and overlook fullness cues when snacking in front of the TV or at a desk. Instead, treat snack time like you would a small meal and take a few minutes to eat in a designated area with limited distractions. Avoid eating out of boredom or stress and choose whole foods like fruits and vegetables or air-popped popcorn over processed chips, baked goods or candy.

2. Plan Ahead

Snacks can be a significant portion of many people’s daily caloric intake, so it’s important to include snacks when planning out your meals for the day or week. Include fruits, vegetables and proteins in your snack schedule and avoid refined starches and sugar, which are typically found in prepackaged and processed snacks. Planning and preparing snacks ahead of time can help you bypass those quick, unhealthy options and save money in the process, as well.

3. Make Healthy Snacking Easy

Keeping fruit, vegetables and other accessible nutritious ingredients in the refrigerator or pantry increases the chances you’ll reach for a better-for-you option when a snack craving strikes. Having staple ingredients on hand that can be paired with vegetables or whole-grain crackers like Fresh Cravings Hummus makes it easy to create healthy snacks. Made with high-quality ingredients like smooth Chilean extra-virgin olive oil, savory tahini, which is known to be a source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and non-GMO chickpeas, the line is available in Classic Hummus, Roasted Red Pepper and Roasted Garlic varieties and can be found in 100% recyclable packaging in the produce aisle of your local grocery store.

“Look for options that are filling and nutrient-dense,” said Mia Syn, MS, RDN, a dietitian who has helped millions learn healthier, sustainable eating habits. “My preference is Fresh Cravings Hummus because it’s a great example with whole-food ingredients like tahini, Chilean extra-virgin olive oil and non-GMO chickpeas, offering a balanced mix of filling fiber, plant-based protein and good fats.”

4. Combine Nutrient Groups

Each time you reach for a snack, try to include two or more macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates). For example, choosing foods containing protein like low-fat cheese or nuts and pairing them with carbohydrates (whole-grain crackers, grapes) can create balanced, filling snacks. Carbohydrates help provide both your body and mind with energy while protein-rich foods break down more slowly, helping you feel full longer. Other ideas include celery and peanut butter or fruit and Greek yogurt, which are easy ways to get more low-calorie, high-fiber produce into your diet.

5. Pay Attention to Portion Sizes

Snacks are meant to help ward off hunger between meals, not be substitutes for meals entirely. While measuring out snacks isn’t usually necessary, having an awareness of appropriate portion sizes can be helpful. If buying or cooking in bulk, divide snacks into smaller containers when meal planning to make it convenient to simply grab an appropriate size snack and continue your day.

6. Pack Snacks to Go

Having grab-and-go snacks packed while out running errands, working or completing everyday tasks can help keep you on track when hunger strikes. Packing items that don’t require refrigeration like trail mix, whole-grain crackers or granola bars can keep you from stopping at a convenience store or picking an unhealthy option from a vending machine. Preparing snacks at home also gives you more control over the ingredients you’re eating to ensure you’re sticking to an eating plan that’s better for your overall health.

7. Set a Good Example

Parents can influence children’s snack habits by consuming healthy snacks themselves. An option like sliced veggies paired with the rich flavors of chickpeas and creaminess of tahini found in hummus can be a perfect match to both satisfy hunger in a delicious way and build better-for-you habits. Snack time is also an opportunity to let kids learn about healthy eating by participating in choosing and preparing snacks. Cutting fruits and vegetables or turning foods into crafts are easy ways to get little ones involved in the process.

“For families challenged with integrating more veggies into their diets, hummus is also a kid-friendly flavor enhancer that packs beneficial nutrition instead of the saturated fats and sugar often found in many traditional dressings and condiments,” Syn said.

Find more ideas to satisfy snack cravings at freshcravings.com.

Photo by Lloyd Dirks from Unsplash.com

Smart Snack Ideas

Between work, school, extracurricular activities and family functions, it may seem like there’s no time to eat healthy when your family is seemingly always on the go. However, finding the proper fuel is even more important when you’re trying to balance a hectic schedule, which is where snacks can play an important role between meals.

Consider these nutritious snack options that can help satisfy a variety of cravings without taking up too much of that valuable time.

Crunchy Munchies

  • Apples or pears
  • Carrot and celery sticks
  • Cucumber or bell pepper slices
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Brown rice cakes
  • Nuts and seeds

Low-Sugar Sips

  • Plain or sparkling water (add fruit or herbs for extra flavor)
  • Unsweetened tea or coffee
  • 100% vegetable or fruit juices with no added sugars

Satisfying Noshes

  • Sliced vegetables with Fresh Cravings Classic, Roasted Red Pepper or Roasted Garlic Hummus
  • Fruit and vegetable smoothies
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