Innovative Small Business Uses Drone Technology

Innovative Business Uses Drone Technology To Service Customers.

Technology and Small Business.

This legitimately blew our minds! We had heard about Amazon delivering via drone, but to witness such a concept in action – and for a small business no less!

The clip above shows the basics behind it. This ice fishing resort takes the call from the customers out on the frozen lake. The fisherman give him their coordinates, he punches them in and then loads up the case of beer on the drone. The drone then delivers the beer to the door of their shack.

Out of the box and incredible really. It begs the question of all of us: “Are we harnessing today’s tech to our advantage? and if not, how can we?”.

We aren’t saying that a drone is the right fit for everyone (and we would be interested to know the upfront and long-term maintenance costs) but this clip does demonstrate the potential behind tech, innovation and imagination.

Tech is moving more quickly than ever how can we use it to our benefit?

Titanfall: Marketing Like A Boss.

titanfall-marketing

Titanfall Does Marketing Right.

Here have some sweet guerrilla marketing courtesy of Titanfall.

I imagine this is guaranteed to grab attention (which is exactly what marketing should do!).

Apparently this monumental piece was built to replicate the actual size of the mechs in-game, which is also very cool.

Now if only they had a couple of guy parkouring around it…

Titanfall.

Titanfall for those who don’t know, is one of the most highly anticipated releases of this year. It was developed by several of the same minds that worked on the original Call of Duty Modern Warfare series. They parted ways with their previous software company “Infinity Ward” and began anew under Respawn Entertainment.

Published by Electronic Arts as an exclusive for Microsoft, Titanfall has drawn enormous attention from the gaming community. It breaks several current traditions for games of this genre, including keeping play to 6 vs 6, burn cards and of course adding in the ability to “parkour” or free-run around the maps.

From a marketing standpoint the Respawn / EA crew has done just about everything right:

1. They included open-ended Beta trials which engaged the gaming community (2 million players in 1 week!) and increased excitement to a near fever pitch (I know because I played!).

2. They maintained a clear strong presence at all of the big game conferences. This included winning “over 60 awards at its E3 2013 reveal, including a record-breaking six E3 Critics Awards, and Best of Show from several media outlets. (It also won official awards at Gamescom and the Tokyo Game Show)”.

3. They pushed for a strong online presence through web design, advertising and maintaining conversations on various forums.

4. They went hard to the paint on their print advertising, including ads in many mainstream magazines.

5. Then they developed this great guerrilla marketing campaign.

QUICK EDIT: We just came across this addition to their guerrilla marketing: Respawn had Titanfall pilots wandering the streets in the UK

Titanfall

Perhaps the biggest feather in their cap however has been the level of trust that they have developed with the gaming community. There has been a great deal of politics behind the scenes, including the reasons for their departure from Infinity Ward (Activision fired Infinity Ward co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella in March 2010 for “breaches of contract and insubordination”. Their departure resulted in a series of lawsuits and a staff exodus. Later that year, West and Zampella founded a game development company, Respawn Entertainment, with many of the former Infinity Ward staff). Respawn already had a lot of gamer confidence for what they brought to the CoD franchise. Now with the release of their first big game, they have increased trust through their community engagement, their policies and their innovation.

Many have touted the developers as “for the gamers”, innovating and creating the next new style of shooter much in the same way they did with the original Modern Warfare. Many reviewers predict Titanfall to be the next step for the first-person shooter genre. This in stark contrast to many of the current first-person shooters which have been condemned as cliché and churned out copies of previous games.

We're not sure if this ad placement was intentional... but it was hilarious!

We’re not sure if this ad placement was intentional… but it was hilarious!

What can we learn from all of this?

Respawn paid attention to what gamers wanted, they also stayed true to their vision and created the game that THEY wanted. The result has been an innovative new addition to the gaming community, one that very well may affect future games in the genre.

Takeaway 1: “They were innovative.” and “they paid attention to what [their customers] wanted”. They developed a product that would generate excitement and would sell.

Takeaway 2: They marketed hard, but they also marketed smart. They went to where their customers were. Advertising online on key sites, in specific media and magazines and through forums dedicated to their marketplace.

Takeaway 3: They engaged their market. The involved the players in Beta testing (which saw 2 million players!), they created open-ended discussion through online forums and they took part in trade shows that included interviews and one on one dialogue.

Summary.

Yup it looks like an awesome game and the marketing follow suit. That’s about all we have so enjoy some of the fan-made content and quotes regarding the game. This should give you an idea of the fervor that has been generated:

“I used to love BF4. Even with all of its glitches. I just tried to play and I found the game so dang slow. Nothing matches the adrenaline rush from rodeo-ing titans and finishing them off. This kinda blows for me as i am premium, but oh well. Guess ill have to stick to AC4 until Titanfall drops. xoxo gossip gurrrrl”

“It’s just COD with mechs? [Nope] Well, one single word sets it apart. Fun.”

“I’m done with Titanfall!   ….I’ll be back after I grab some food. This game is awesome! I love capping me some flags!”

Oh Titanfall... why can't I quit you?

Oh Titanfall… why can’t I quit you?

Meme created by a Reddit user titled: "going from Titanfall to Battlefield 4"

Meme created by a Reddit user titled: “going from Titanfall to Battlefield 4″

Dubbed the "Call of Duty Killer". Some say the original development team for CoD are the only ones who can end the endless churning of CoD games.

Dubbed the “Call of Duty Killer”. Some say the original development team for CoD are the only ones who can end the endless churning out of CoD games.

Transition-Marketing-Services

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.

The Top Six Small Business Owner Concerns

Recently Yodle released a report on the top list of worries for small business owners. The report was titled the First Annual Small Business Sentiment Survey and run last quarter of 2013, meaning the data was taken from owners as they prepared for the new year. Yodle drew samples for 306 Small Business Owners from throughout the U.S.

Here is a breakdown of the sampling (for more in-depth detail, please visit Yodle’s official report).

Small-Business-Marketing

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

As you can see the samples were taken from a reasonably wide variety of owners. Most were the sole proprietors of the business and the largest number of respondents had only 1-5 employees. What was surprising was the age demographic for those polled, with over 70% over the age of 50.

Despite some common concerns, most small business owners polled seemed to be genuinely happy with their careers:

“More than nine in 10 of respondents (91%) are happy that they became SMB owners including over half (55%) who are “extremely happy.”  A majority of SMB owners (59%) also shared that they would likely not consider selling their business over the next few years, indicating optimism and satisfaction.” – Yodle.com

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

On top of that, over 50% reported being satisfied with their work to personal life balance:

“52% of SMB owners work 40 hours or less and almost three in four (72%) take at least two weeks of vacation per year.  More than one in four (27%) SMB owners actually take four or more weeks of vacation per year.  However, almost four in 10 (39%) SMB owners work 41-60 hours per week and almost one in 10 (9%) work over 60 hours a week.  Additionally, just 11% of small business owners don’t take any vacation.”

However it wasn’t all positive and many owners reported growing concerns related to both personal and professional strain.

The Top Six Small Business Owner Concerns.

Based on 306 Respondents

Based on 306 Respondents

Each of the concerns listed above is very real and entirely valid to the small business community. Let’s look at each one independently for a moment.

1. Finding New Customers.

It makes sense that this would top the list. For any business to succeed and to grow, they need to increase their clientele. For many small businesses the question is just “how to do that?”. The obvious “boxed” answer is through marketing and advertising, but with so many options out there, how do they know which is best and how do they maximize the bang for their buck?

There are as many different options as there are businesses. Specific business types can profit from specific marketing tools. However there are a few tools in the marketing tool box that apply for every business, regardless of industry and market.

  • Websites: First are foremost. Every business needs a website. This is in-arguable. Everything is online and that is where the bulk of consumers find thins now.
  • Social Media: It creates dialogue. It generates exposure. It breeds loyalty. It builds brands. Oh and it’s free.
  • Signage / Outdoor Advertising: This can range from sandwich boards to vehicle decals, billboards to bumper stickers.
  • Radio: An often overlooked avenue, local radio is still very much a player in the advertising world.
  • Trade Shows: Great place to network, to pass on literature and to establish yourself as a professional voice within your industry.
  • Email: E-marketing can get a bad wrap (often for good reason). However establishing lines of communication with current customs or leads via email newsletters or other materials, can generate sales and customer loyalty.
  • Printed Advertising: (including brochures, sales catalogs, posters, business cards etc.). Print advertising is, and will remain a leading tool for small business marketing. It is everywhere you look. Consumers still use and rely on it for much of their info. It is a necessary component for a well-rounded marketing strategy.

2. Affording Employee Healthcare & Benefits.

More of an issue in the United States where this poll took place (and in light of the Affordable Care Act). This is still a very real concern for Canadian business owners. I have spoken with many owners who struggle to understand and properly facilitate these items. It can range from not understanding the proper deductions and methods to simply not knowing whether or not they have to offer them.

Understanding your obligations to your workers and how best to facilitate them is a necessary step to building a strong team of employees – and a strong team of employees is a necessary step towards business success.

Small Business owners can profit greatly by hiring a knowledgeable accountant with experience in these areas. Of course there are online resources as well to assist in understanding the processes. The Canadian Government provides several pages on their site relating to small business including:

That said, we do also recommend speaking with an accountant to ensure you fully understand business obligations.

3. Keeping Current Customers.

Customer loyalty is a tough one and directly relates to competition. Why should customers be loyal to your business? Why should they choose you over the guy across the road or the big box stores? What will breed loyalty?

There are a slew of different answers and some will vary based on the type of business:

  • Price point: Are you being beat on it? Can they get the same or a similar item for less somewhere near by?
  • Service: Are your providing it? Are you the best? Can you be better?
  • Engagement: Do you know your customers? Are you on a friendly basis? Do you engage them and make them feel special? Do they want to come back?
  • Loyalty Rewards: Do you offer a benefit for them staying loyal? A punch card or a discount? Extra service?

There are many ways to win your customers hearts, but you have to make the effort. Woo them. Treat them like a hot first date that you want to see again. Treat em right (more on “wooing” customers here).

4. Paying Business Bills.

Of course this is directly related to income, which is reliant on sales, which is reliant on customers, which goes back to 1. and 3.

Paying bills is on everyone’s mind but no one more so then the small business owner. Lease (or rent) payments, utility bills, telephone, internet, wages, stock, delivery…. it seems like a nearly non-stop flow of money leaving the coffers.

Knowing how to manage your expenses verses your income is crucial. It is about far more than keeping up to utilities. Small business owners need to plan and prepare at all times. Learning how to maintain and balance a budget on a ever-changing income is not easy (and does require a certain level of “sticking ones neck out”).

The small business owner must be continually considering:

  • Next Months Inventory: Do you have enough? what will be a big item next month? how many should you stock? how much can you afford?
  • Existing Inventory: What of the old items? Do you discount them? hold onto them? liquidate them? how much have you invested into them? will you sell them at a loss?
  • Necessary Expenditures VS Non-necessary: Gas bill and rent are important but do you need someone cleaning in the evening? Do you need that land line or is a cell phone good enough?
  • How Many Employees: Goes back to #2 understanding all of the expenditures related to having employees. Do you hire one? two? one and a half?
  • Planning In Advance: Last month you bought a new til but sales dropped this month and oops rent and utilities took it all. Now how will you pay for this months inventory?
  • The Unexpected: It happens. Water main breaks, laptop goes down, delivery van needs a new transmission, swarm of amazon moths eat your inventory. What then?

5. Hiring Good Employees.

Your employees can make or break your business. Consider the Pizza Hut manager who was recently caught on security tape urinating into the main sink in the kitchen. He obviously lost his job, but not before the video went viral online and did damage to the brand.

Your employees can work for you or against you. They can drive customer loyalty up… or into the ground. It is fair to say this is a real concern for small business owners. Hiring good employees is a challenge and when doing so one needs to consider:

  • Wages: Are they in line with what others are offering? are they fair? why or why not?
  • Benefits: Are you in a position to offer benefits or other bonuses to employees (discounts on products, flexible work schedule etc).
  • Getting The Word Out: How are you letting them know that you are hiring? Where are you putting the word out to? Who is seeing the job offer?
  • What Are You Looking For: And what type of people do you expect to apply?
  • What Is Your Business Rep: How is your business perceived in the community? Do people want to work for you?
  • Do You Know How To Hire: You may not immediately know what the tell tale signs are for a good or bad employee, learn how to filter them out.
  • Don’t Rush: Are you in a hurry to hire? How badly do you need someone? Is it worth hiring that guy with that insisted on wearing rubber gloves throughout the interview? Know when to say no.

We cover more on Employer / Employee relations in a post here.

6. Competition.

Surprisingly number six in the list, competition directly impacts almost every other concern listed her. The competition can steal your customers, your sales even your employees! 

But remember you are someone else’s competition and it goes both ways.

Competition will always exist… at least until such a time as you have enough money to pull a Time-Warner / Comcast deal to basically eliminate the concept of competition altogether. For now however competition is real.

Your ability to out-maneuver the competition is crucial and it hinges on a great number of things. You’ll notice that this list is very similar (ok it is identical) to the list we have for #3 “Keeping Current Customers”. At the end of the day, keeping customers and facing down the competition are mostly the same thing.

  • Price point: Are you being beat on it? Can they get the same or a similar item for less somewhere near by?
  • Service: Are your providing it? Are you the best? Can you be better?
  • Engagement: Do you know your customers? Are you on a friendly basis? Do you engage them and make them feel special? Do they want to come back?
  • Loyalty Rewards: Do you offer a benefit for them staying loyal? A punch card or a discount? Extra service?

The edge you can get, is by knowing your competition. As Sun Tzu said “know your enemy and you will win 100 battles”. Understand what they offer, how they offer it and why. Reach out to those customers with better deals – with more value for their dollar – and with better service and they will give you their business.

It’s simple really. Give customers a reason to choose you. You will find it easier to do so if you know what others are offering them.

Transition-Marketing-Services

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.

Entrepreneurship: Little Things To Make You Stand Out

Jerky

Came across this on Reddit (Original Link Here). This guy started a jerky company (PDA Jerky)and in a simple move of pure genius, decided to make his company stand out with one simple little inclusion – A flossing stick.

I know I’ve been camping many times with a nice big bag of jerky. You spend the rest of the day sub-consciously picking at your teeth. This little addition is brilliant.

Amazing how a small thought can make such a big difference. This entrepreneur took a pretty basic business idea and made himself stand out. This is an example to follow no matter what your business model is. Take actions to make yourself stand out from the pack.

What do you think?

Selling A Book By Its Cover

A Book By Any Other Cover…

They say you cannot tell a book by its cover but do not ever doubt that you can sell a book by its cover.

You cannot judge a book by its cover. Evidently you can sell pile of them though.

You cannot judge a book by its cover. Evidently you can sell a pile of them though.

This screen shot depicts the overall sales of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice based on five different cover designs and spanning 20 years. This provides a clear look at the power behind design, marketing and understanding the current market.

Sales for this literary classic hit a small peak of sorts in 1995, but overall remained fairly low until 2009 when it surged in popularity netting more than double the sales in a single year.

Why? What happened in 2009?

The Great Pride & Prejudice Surge Of 2009

The Pride & Prejudice film was released in 2005. Which means that this probably did not factor largely in to the 2009 releases success. If anything one would have expected a surge in sales to occur within the next year.

Instead we see that four years later, in 2009, demand for this novel more than doubled within twelve months. What was it about 2009?

Every market surge has a history. There may be many contributing factors to a sudden sales onslaught but one can always trace the reasons. This can often be a complicated process and one may wind up with many dead ends before coming to a reliable conclusion as to the cause, but there is always a cause.

In the case this surge in 2009 it is not so complicated. Have a look at the cover that sold so well.  The cover couldn’t be the sole reason could it? Design doesn’t make that much of a difference right?

Wrong. It is all in the design. The 2009 release happened to coincide with another novel series which just happened to be gaining steam at the time. Perhaps you have heard of it. It involved an angst ridden teenage girl and her love affair with a vampire and a werewolf.

The Twilight Saga had recently become a huge hit. It had been hitting the theaters and was discussed everywhere.  Low and behold if we look at the cover design of the re-release of the Twilight series what do we see?

Okanagan-Marketing

Well now look at that. Something familiar about those colours and the overall feel isn’t there? What an odd coincidence…

Make no mistake. This was 100% intentional and from a marketing and sales standpoint, it was brilliant. The brains behind the 2009 publication of Pride & Prejudice knew their market. They knew the consumer zeitgeist. They knew what people were reading and they moved on it.

Does Pride & Prejudice share any similarities with Twilight? Well the lead character is a girl and Mr. Darcy is a bit of a wolf… but otherwise to lump these two into the same category would likely cause Mrs Austen to roll in her grave. Yet the design of the book managed to subtly do just that. The four books published in the Twilight series used three key colours and several basic design elements. This is obvious when comparing the four of them side by side as we do in the image above.

The demographic that Twilight was marketed to had, had their eyes trained – trained to look for this specific colour combination and style, thus any other book with similar traits would automatically grab their eye. What is more, the design team behind the 2009 version of Pride and Prejudice increased its book size to match the size which Twilight was published in. The result was a book that looked, for all intents and purposes, like it belonged to the Twilight series – one that could sit beside them and not look out-of-place.

Customers would be looking through the shelves of books and their eyes would automatically flicker what they knew and recognized. Perhaps some of them even thought this was a fifth edition to the series.

This is the essence and foundation behind branding and that is exactly what went on. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series was branded with a very obvious aesthetic look. 2009’s Pride and Prejudice printing simply hopped on that band wagon and rode its coattails to success.

Design & Sales.

All too often there appears to be an underlying disrespect for solid design work. Few people – especially in the small business market place – realize the increase in sales that good design will get them. Instead the see the price tag that comes along with it and they balk at it. They cut corners, call in favours, hire rookies or try to do it themselves with all the “free online tools”. The result is shoddy and unprofessional design.

Graphic and Web design needs to be rooted in technical and artistic ability as well and an understanding of what is working in the industry today.

As we see in the example above, knowing the market and understanding design trends play a huge role in design success.

It is simple and it is truth. Good graphic design increases sales. Good design is worth the price. 

Transition-Marketing-Services

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.

Facebook Ad’s For Small Business

Facebook Ads: Not really worth the money.

Facebook Ads: Not really worth the money.

Chances are if you are a small business owner, you have taken your business to Facebook… and why not? It is free, it is online and it has over 1.11 billion registered users (more than the population of Canada).

And chances are, if you are on Facebook with your business, you have either used, or contemplated using the “Facebook Ads” tool, their built-in targeted advertising tool. The question is, how effective was this advertising option. The tools are simple to use, they can be set to target specific ages, demographics and geographic regions and you only pay for the # of “Likes” you get. Seems like a good deal right?

We recently came across some startling information about the Facebook Ads option. Information that may change the way you look at it as a resource. Veritasium recently published this short, engaging and highly informative video that takes a close and scrutinizing look at Facebook Ads and the legitimacy of what they claim to do.

We at Transition Marketing have run similar tests on the Facebook Advertising options and come to similar if not identical conclusions. Facebook Ad’s are probably not the best fit for small business owners. Why? YOU MUST View Veritasium‘s video:

As you can see, it is not necessarily that Facebook is intentionally “screwing” its users. Rather it is that the system behind Facebook Ads is broken and Facebook seems to either be oblivious, or blatantly ignoring the issues at hand. The crime here is that they are publicizing their ads as a profitable option for businesses on Facebook and many of these businesses are small time owners like you and I who cannot afford to waste even a single advertising dollar.

We actually really like Mark Zuckerberg, his companies advertising options just aren't very good.

We actually really like Mark Zuckerberg, his companies advertising options just aren’t very good.

The way we see it? Facebook Ads are presently a dead-end proposition – specifically for small business owners who net zero profit from the audience they tend to gain. If you are a small business on Facebook and are looking to increase your audience, don’t risk what advertising budget you have. We recommend alternative tools and options:

Facebook Contests: Run monthly or even weekly contests that include draws once you reach a certain # of “Likes”. For instance, draw for your next prize at 200 “Likes” This encourages your current audience to get others on board in order to facilitate the next draw. (Be sure to familiarize yourself with the Facebook Terms & Conditions for contests).
In Store Advertising: Make sure the customers coming through your actual place of business know that you are on Facebook. Post it up on your signage, have a decal on you window and put a link on your website. You want to engage consumers at every turn so help them find you.
Encourage “Shares”: In a recent post we described how asking your audience to “Like” and “Share” your posts is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. When you post something on your page do not be afraid to ask your audience to spread the word.

There are many other tools for increasing your audience on Social Media. It is our professional opinion however that the Facebook Ads tool requires a great deal of further tweaking before it becomes the tool that small businesses turn to.

What about you? What have your experiences been with Facebook Ads? Good? Bad? Ugly? Comment here and share your story!

Okanagan Small Business Marketing

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.