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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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Natural therapy shows promise for dry-eye disease

Castor oil has been proposed as a natural product that could offer a safe, effective and easy-to-use alternative to existing therapies.

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Researchers at the University of Auckland are running a trial of castor oil as a potential safe and natural treatment for dry-eye disease following a successful pilot study.

While exact figures aren’t available for New Zealand, in Australia, it is estimated dry-eye disease affects around 58% of the population aged over 50. Advancing age, menopause, increased screen time, contact lens wear are just some of the risk factors for developing dry eye disease.

Blepharitis is the most common cause of dry-eye disease, accounting for more than 80 percent of cases. It is a chronic condition with no known cure.

“Currently, patients are left grappling with symptoms of dryness, grittiness and, in some cases, watery eyes that feel uncomfortable impacting on their quality of life and work productivity,” says doctoral candidate and lead clinical investigator Catherine Jennings.

Current treatments, such as antibacterials and anti-inflammatories, are generally unsuitable for long-term use, due to significant side-effects and potential for antimicrobial resistance.

“Often patients are left feeling helpless when attempting to manage a chronic condition,” Jennings says.

The current trial is of a product containing cold-pressed castor oil enhanced with mānuka and kanuka oils applied using a rollerball attached to a small glass bottle.

“The previous pilot study, conducted by our research team, was unique in its use of castor oil in such an application on the eyelids, with the product not known to be used anywhere else in the world for treating blepharitis,” says Jennings.

Castor oil comes from a flowering tropical or subtropical shrub from the species Riccinus communis. It has been used therapeutically for millenia, including more recently in eye cosmetics and eye makeup removers.

In the pilot study, 26 patients with blepharitis were treated with cold-pressed castor oil over four weeks. They had measurable improvements in symptoms, such as reduced redness of the lid margin, decreased thickening of the eyelid, and a decline in bacterial profusion, as well as reduced eyelash crusting.

Building on the success of the pilot study, the research team is now engaged in the more extensive double-blinded, randomised and placebo-controlled study. They are aiming to recruit 92 participants and generate robust scientific evidence for clinicians.

The ultimate goal is to sustainably improve quality of life for this large group of patients using a natural, safe and effective product, principal investigator Professor Jennifer Craig says.

“Castor oil has been proposed as a natural product that could offer a safe, effective and easy-to-use alternative to existing therapies,” Craig says.

“My hope is this study will produce evidence-based guidance for clinicians with regard to offering castor oil as a possible management option for patients suffering from blepharitis, so they continue to enjoy a great quality of life, read the books they love, be productive in their work environment and enjoy other visual hobbies.”

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For epilepsy, yoga may be good for your mind

People who did yoga were more than four times as likely to have more than a 50% reduction in their seizure frequency after six months than the people who did sham yoga.

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For people with epilepsy, doing yoga may help reduce feelings of stigma about the disease along with reducing seizure frequency and anxiety, according to new research published in the November 8, 2023, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“People with epilepsy often face stigma that can cause them to feel different than others due to their own health condition and that can have a significant impact on their quality of life,” said study author Manjari Tripathi, MD, DM, of All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. “This stigma can affect a person’s life in many ways including treatment, emergency department visits and poor mental health. Our study showed that doing yoga can alleviate the burden of epilepsy and improve the overall quality of life by reducing this perceived stigma.” 

For the study, researchers looked at people with epilepsy with an average age of 30 in India.

Researchers measured stigma based on participants’ answers to questions such as: “Do you feel other people discriminate against you?” “Do you feel you cannot contribute anything in society?” and “Do you feel different from other people?”

Researchers then identified 160 people who met the criteria for experiencing stigma. Participants had an average of one seizure per week and on average took at least two anti-seizure medications.

Researchers then randomly assigned participants to receive yoga therapy or sham yoga therapy. Yoga therapy included exercises in loosening muscles, breathing, meditation and positive affirmations. Sham yoga consisted of exercises that mimic the same yoga exercises, but participants were not given instructions on two key components of yoga believed to induce a relaxation response: slow and synchronized breathing, and attention to the body movements and sensations during practice.

Each group received seven supervised group sessions of 45 to 60 minutes over three months. Participants were also asked to practice sessions at home at least five times a week for 30 minutes. They tracked seizures and yoga sessions in a journal. After the three months of therapy, participants were followed for another three months.

Researchers found when compared to people who did sham yoga, people who did yoga were more likely to reduce their perceived stigma of the disease. People who did yoga had an average score of seven at the start of the study and an average score of four at the end of the study, while people who did sham yoga had an increase from an average score of six at the start of the study to an average score of seven at the end.

Researchers also found that people who did yoga were more than four times as likely to have more than a 50% reduction in their seizure frequency after six months than the people who did sham yoga.

In addition, people who did yoga were more than seven times more likely to no longer have seizures than those who did sham yoga.

There was also a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms for people who did yoga versus people who did not. They saw improvements in quality of life measures and mindfulness.

“These study findings elevate the need to consider alternative therapies and activities for people with epilepsy facing stigma,” said Tripathi. “Yoga may not only help reduce stigma, but also improve quality of life and mindfulness. Plus, yoga can be easily prerecorded and shared with patients online using minimal resources and costs.”

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Eating a vegan diet could reduce grocery bill 16%, saving over $500 a year – study

Total food costs decreased in the vegan group by 16%, or $1.51 per day, compared with no significant change in the control group. This decrease was mainly attributable to savings on meat, -$1.77 per day, and dairy, -$0.74 per day. Changes in purchases of other food groups (e.g., eggs and added fats) also contributed to the observed savings.

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Food costs decrease 16% on a low-fat vegan diet, a savings of more than $500 a year, compared to a diet that includes meat, dairy, and other animal products, according to a new analysis from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine published in JAMA Network Open.

“We knew that a vegan diet significantly reduces your risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity—and now we have proof that opting for beans instead of beef will also lead to significant savings on your grocery bill,” says study co-author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The research is an analysis of a Physicians Committee study in which participants were randomly assigned to a vegan group or control group. The vegan group was asked to follow a low-fat vegan diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, while the control group was requested to make no diet changes. Calorie intake and food costs were not limited for either group.

For the food cost assessment, the participants’ dietary records were linked to food price data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Thrifty Food Plan, 2021.

Total food costs decreased in the vegan group by 16%, or $1.51 per day, compared with no significant change in the control group. This decrease was mainly attributable to savings on meat, -$1.77 per day, and dairy, -$0.74 per day. Changes in purchases of other food groups (e.g., eggs and added fats) also contributed to the observed savings.

These savings outweighed the increased spending on vegetables, +$1.03 per day; fruits, +$0.40 per day; legumes, +$0.30 per day; whole grains, +$0.30 per day, and meat and dairy alternatives.

The findings support previous research showing that a plant-based diet provides more cost savings than one that includes animal products.

In addition to the cost savings, the study found that a low-fat vegan diet resulted in weight loss and improved body composition and insulin sensitivity in overweight adults.

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