Local Advertising’s Evolution and Why You Should Work With a Boutique Agency

Back in the day, the YellowPages was where it was at. If you could get noticed in the book, you were sure to get customers calling. When I was doing consulting, I spent a lot of time with the sales team at directory companies. I heard stories about how small business owners would line-up outside the YP office, waiting to get their ad in the book. Picture black Friday at a Walmart and that is what they claim it was like. I believe them too, a lot of these guys are driving BMW and Lexus’ around town as a result of the commissions they’ve made in that era. They’ve paid off houses and student loans from the run they had. From what I understand, working for a directory service like the YellowPages felt similar to what working at Facebook or Google feels like today. The business came to you and you were basically an order taker; and a well compensated one at that.

But then everything changed. It was gradual too, so it snuck-up on people and caught them off-guard. The Internet started to gain traction and small business marketing budgets starting to diversify and allocate a portion for online advertising opportunities. They still spent a good deal with “the book”, mostly because the web was still a nascent marketing channel and the opportunities were limited. So YP sales people kept taking orders and continued to make money; granted a little less but still a good income. So, although everyone knew the web was gaining a little, they remained calm. Directories rolled out a few new features to help YP ads stand out. They released a website to increase advertising opportunities and tried to evolve. They just did it so slowly.

Eventually, small business owners started getting calls from SEO companies and PPC experts. They learned about new technology and advertising platforms. They learned how to optimize a website. Long story short, they learned new techniques for marketing online and started to invest more into it. Unfortunately, many of these so-called SEO and PPC experts were simply wannabe entrepreneurs that wanted to capitalize on the opportunity. They all had a great pitch but very few of them could back it up. So they took the SMB’s money and did their best. Sometimes with less than spectacular results.

Despite all of the noise and fakes that were popping up there were some legit companies that knew what they were doing. Many of them were local agencies that had morphed into digital marketing firms, leveraging real advertising and brand capabilities to deliver digital marketing solutions. This was a great era for the local small business because they had access to a real agency and the talent and big picture thinking that comes with that; and since most agencies were just getting their own feet with digital, they were pricing themselves in an affordable way and giving the SMB a great value for the money spent. But again things transitioned and bigger brands came knocking. The traditional clients that the agencies worked with starting needing more and more digital work done. The demand made it difficult for agencies to manage both small and large projects and a decision was made to focus on the big billers. So a lot of agencies abandoned main street and went back to focusing on larger clients and projects.

The next era of evolution was the era where smaller agencies start popping everywhere. Entrepreneurs who worked at the large agencies recognized an opportunity to start a boutique agency that would serve the SMB market. They priced themselves a little lower, applied the same agency thinking and process and started to get to work. This was also the era when web services went big-box and companies like GoDaddy, Web.com and SitePoint started to grow. They got into the web design business, SEO game and provided marketing solutions of all kinds to small business owners. These options continued to grow and grow. Soon, we had too many and that is kind of where we are today. With all of the choices, a lot of small business owners feel paralyzed.

I completely understand too. It seems like everyone wants the SMB dollar but few are providing any real value. You’ve got your freelancers, boutique agencies, big-box web companies, YP sales rep and a bunch of local experts that all claim to increase your bottom line. But who do you trust? I can’t say I have the answer either. I’ve seen situations where a big-box is the right choice; then I’ve seen situations where the freelancer works great. For some, working with a smaller, boutique agency is the way to go. At the end of the day though I still think it comes down to a gut-check.

Because the tactics and techniques that all of these companies will use to market an SMB are fairly universal, we can assume that they won’t change much. What will change is the approach to getting them done. Most companies will provide all the essential tactics to get a campaign going, linkbuilding, web design, SEO, social etc… all fairly ubiquitous in terms of use. But the way they go about servicing and reporting results is where the rubber meets the road.

Service is the differentiator in a digital world. It’s also where a lot of big-box companies drop the ball. Unfortunately, freelancers seem to struggle with this too. In my experience it is the boutique local agency that does the best job. The team of 5-10 smart minds that left the big corporate marketing world to start a small business for themselves. These are the people that know what you are going through as an SMB. These are the people with real skin in the game. They have a reputation to maintain and a business to grow and that can’t happen without them growing yours. So, my advice is to steer clear of the freelancers, big-box service companies and inflated agencies. Find a local firm that you can meet in person and get to know.

Owning a Clothing Store – Starting a Profitable Boutique Business

Owning a clothing store requires the ability to see and notice certain trends that are enveloping the market. For example, if baggie pants is the norm, in order to increase sales, one much stock a variety of such to keep up with the norms. However, a clothing store is not just a clothing store. From a business point of view, there are many other things that will need to be considered in order to make this clothing store a success. Lets take a look at some of these items from a business standpoint and explore what and how they pertain to the business in general.

Clothing is simply just the inventory. And, it is the inventory that can make or break a business. But, it is not the only thing that has the ability to do this. There are many other things that can turn a potential customer off. These could include the smell of the shop in general, or the hired help giving the impression that they really do not care about the customer. It could be too hard to maneuver around the store due to over inventory, or the lack of the ability to return items that can make the difference. These are all things that a potential owner would want to consider. Think of it as if you were a shopper and consider some of the things that you personally like or dislike. Then, simply apply them to your store. Keep in mind, that you will certainly be you own worst critic and this in turn will create a better overall shopping experience for all your potential customers.

From tops to bottoms to shoes to outerwear, it all should be a basic part of a clothing store. However, there is the opportunity to specialize in retro wear also. This seems to be the coming trend and may just become the next latest and greatest thing. Therefore, you, as the owner must be ready to move at a moments notice in order to keep up with the trends. Trade publications can certainly assist in this, and a trip to the local mall certainly would not hurt. While at the mall, take note of what the younger crowd is wearing and apply it to you basic inventory. Before you know it, you may become the hottest place on the strip and a place where people will find the latest fads. This will keep the inventory rolling out and the money rolling in.

But, owning a clothing store will also bring added responsibilities. This is where a person will most definitely need to have the ability to wear many different hats. It is very hard work creating and maintaining a business. However, when it comes to successfully running a business, it is not entirely all about the numbers, it will require a trend spotting eye too.

Business Plans Examples – A Great Help In Starting Your Own Business Plan

Starting a business, whether online or offline is not exactly easy. There are so many things to think of and so many things to do. You have to have enough resources, a good venue, a market to capture and enough workforce to start with. And as if you need more, you also have to worry about licenses, complicated paper works and other permits. To someone who is a novice in all these things, it makes starting a business quite a scary thought. But that scary thought is something that can be subdued by writing a business plan. This plan puts everything to order like your company profile, objectives, long and short – term goals. However note that writing this plan is also not easy. You have to do research and you have to put your thought in to it. You have to follow a certain format that will put everything in perspective. Luckily enough, you can find business plans examples or even templates if you just know where to look.

So where should you start looking you ask?

There are two places where you can find business plans examples. One is in the Internet and two – in books.

The Internet is a good source because you can find business plans that will tailor fit any industry that you may want to get into – be it a food business, boutique or service – based venture. With samples in the Internet, you can also find plans of thriving businesses. And to someone who is just starting out, checking out plans of successful businesses can greatly help with goal formation. Another plus is that, you can also find free templates that can have you get started as soon as possible.

Then again, if you want to do things the old way, you can always get back to business books to find the samples and the guidance you need. To some people, this works better because the classical business perspective can always give a modern entrepreneur something to learn.

Now that you know where to look – here are some reminders before you get started with your business plan.

1. Start off with one clear goal. Know exactly where you and your business are going. It will also be best for you to plot time frames as they are always good because it keeps you going no matter what.

2. It is always wiser to start small because when you have a small business, the possibility of expansion is quite fast. On the other hand, if it turned out that your venture is not that successful, you have lesser things to lose.

3. Focus on one product and capture one specific market first. If you want to put up a bakery, then start with a bakery, do not try to make a restaurant happen with that. This is important because trying to do so much will just thwart you off your goal.

4. Finally, try to enjoy every moment of it. That is the only thing that can fight off any exhaustion and frustration that you might feel while running your own business.

Those are general reminders that you can keep in mind while you start working on your business plan. Again, if at any point of writing, you get to have a mental block, you can always browse on some available business plans examples for your reference.