With Halloween almost here, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday aren’t far behind. For small retailers, that means it’s time to gear up for your holiday marketing moves. Like last year’s, this is a short holiday shopping season (just 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas, compared to the more typical 31), so you’ll want to make the most of it. Here are some steps you can take to make your shop stand out from the crowd. Plan Ahead Planning ahead will give you an edge, enable you to budget better and ensure you don’t miss important dates. This year: Thanksgiving falls on November 27 Black Friday on November 28 Small Business Saturday on November 29 Cyber Monday on December 1. Create a marketing calendar working back from these and other key dates, breaking down the actions you’ll need to take to meet deadlines. For instance, if you want to send a direct mail piece to arrive before Thanksgiving, when do you need to design and submit the ad? Use Holiday Cards to Put Your Business Top-of-Mind Send early holiday cards (such as a Thanksgiving card) to give thanks for your loyal customers’ support all year long. Better yet, invite them to a special event or sale, and sweeten the pot with a discount or free gift offer. Help Shoppers Out Prepare to provide great customer service with little touches like free gift wrap or a gift-wrapping station, a personal shopper to help customers select gifts, or displays with pre-wrapped gifts for certain recipients such as “teacher gifts,” “gifts for Mom” or “baby gifts.” Hold Events at Your Store Choose an event that’s festive for the season, but also relates to your store, such as an author signing or reading at a bookstore, a musical performance of holiday songs at a CD store or a cookie-decorating demonstration at a gourmet food store. Events attract crowds and spur spending. Sell Gift Cards or Use Them as Promotional Items In 2013, gift cards were the number-one gift shoppers planned to buy, according to a Nielsen survey . Vantiv and eCard Systems are two companies that offer gift cards for small retailers; you can also see if your bank offers gift card options. Gift cards aren’t only for gifts; consider doing a “give one, get one” promotion where customers buy a $100 gift card or $100 worth of merchandise and get a $25 gift card for themselves. Appeal to Shoppers’ Selfish Sides With many Americans still watching their wallets, lots of shoppers wait for holiday sales to treat themselves to things they want or need. Window signage or ads promoting two-for-one; buy one, get one half off; or outright encouraging customers to treat themselves are very effective during the holidays. Show Some Sense (The Five Senses, That Is) Engage customers’ senses with colorful decorations, festive holiday music, seasonal scents like pine or cinnamon, and refreshments to keep shoppers from dropping. Music or scents that waft outside your store can attract foot traffic. Buddy Up Turn your business neighbors into marketing partners by creating promotions, contests and special events together. For example, hold a “12 Days of Christmas” giveaway where 12 retailers in your shopping center each give away a prize a day for 12 days. (Be sure to check into what your local business association is planning, too.) Take Part in Small Business Saturday Last year, 71 percent of U.S. consumers said they were aware of Small Business Saturday, and nearly half (46 percent) actively supported it by shopping at a local small business. The result: $5.7 billion in sales. Visit the website to get marketing tools, collateral and ideas for making the most of Small Business Saturday . Holiday Shop Photo via Shutterstock The post 9 Holiday Marketing Tips to Make Your Retail Store Stand Out appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Innovation is an essential ingredient to the growth and success of China’s economy. The use of methods such as Systematic Inventive Thinking will accelerate that growth. But where should China focus its innovation efforts? Continue reading →

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Sponsored Post You probably already know that surveys can be beneficial to your business. But did you know that there are different types of surveys you can use to gather useful data? The type of survey you need will depend on the type of data your business wants to collect and from whom. Below are several your business can use to feed business strategy and direction. Different Types of Surveys Specific Topic Survey You’ll use this type of survey when you want to collect information about a singular component of your business. For instance, if you are exploring the possibility of adding a new product to your line, you could ask customers what they think of some of its features. Or if you’ve noticed an increased amount of customer complaints, you could run a survey only about customer service to find out if there are any underlying issues. These surveys should be short and super-focused. Decide what it is you really need to know about this single aspect of your business and get to the point as quickly as possible. You can send the survey out to some of your existing customers or to the target market of your potential offering, depending on the objective of the survey. Periodic Satisfaction Survey Even if your business isn’t considering adding a new product and hasn’t identified any major customer service issues, you still can – and should – use surveys regularly. Your business should conduct basic surveys periodically to measure customer satisfaction . The actual frequency and length of your survey will depend on your type of business, your customer or client base, and how you want to use the results (immediate feedback versus making adjustments every few months). The purpose of these surveys is to regularly measure your customer satisfaction over time. You should ask your customers about their overall satisfaction with your company along with a few more specific aspects of your business, such as product value and customer service. Choose the aspects that you feel are most important to your business, or, if you have identified key objectives or key performance indicators, use those to direct your survey questions. With these results, you’ll be able to measure satisfaction over time by comparing with the results of past surveys. Point-of-Sale Satisfaction Survey You can also measure satisfaction in a more immediate sense. After a purchase or transaction, you can contact customers to find out how the experience went for them. To employ this survey type, you should contact the customer via email, phone or mail, depending on how they made their purchase. In most cases, you should do so within a few days to a week of when they received their order or completed the transaction. These surveys won’t necessarily focus on overall customer satisfaction like typical overall satisfaction surveys. Instead, questions should be more focused on the transaction experience. For example, you can ask how they would rate their experience overall, how satisfied they were with shipping time, and if they found your ordering process straightforward. Employee Survey Surveys don’t have to just focus on your customers. Your employees are an integral part of your business, so their voices need to be heard as well. Reach out to your employees to find out if they’re satisfied and if they have any suggestions to improve efficiency or morale. This type of survey should happen on a regular basis. With employee surveys, you should try to find out some specifics, like asking how effective their team’s communication system is. But also leave a space for them to add their own comments and suggestions for improvement. As with any type of survey, it’s important to review the information and act on it if necessary. Research from a recent Officevibe infographic reveals that four out of five employees believe their manager won’t act on any issues that come up in their surveys. If employees, and customers for that matter, don’t believe their input matters, they’re less likely to take your next survey. So decide what type of survey is likely to get you the most useful information, make plans to implement it and be sure to follow-up with responses and take action on necessary changes. If you want to engage with your shoppers in the moments before, during and after making a purchase in your store, register for this webinar, “ Hyperlocal Research Made Easy ” on Nov. 12th to learn how. – Click Here to Register – Knife Photo via Shutterstock The post Surveys: The Swiss Army Knife of Feedback appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Cultivating a wide professional network is great for business. However, the real key is keeping these relationships alive beyond the first meeting and connecting on LinkedIn. But how do you keep track of everyone in your network when you’re busy with your business? With this question in mind, we asked 10 entrepreneurs from YEC the following question: “What is one trick (or web tool) you have for maintaining your professional network online?” Here’s what YEC community members had to say: 1. Email Updates “I use email digests to keep up with my professional network. There are quite a few, such as  Bio Is Changed , that show you when your friends change their bios on Twitter or their LinkedIn Updates to see birthdays and new jobs. Those updates give you a good talking point to chat with your professional network.” ~  Ben Lang ,  Mapped In Israel 2. Email Tracking Software “Email tracking software such as  MSGTAG  helps you to know whether your emails have been read. Having this data helps you to keep your network from growing stale, and to know when to follow up.” ~  Andrew Schrage ,  Money Crashers Personal Finance 3. Humin “ Humin  is a great new app on your phone that allows you to organize your contacts as you should “humanly” remember them (by location, organization, university or interest). It links together and organizes your contacts automatically with your social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin), address book and email. This is great whenever I am visiting somewhere new; I have contacts wherever I go.” ~  Kenny Nguyen ,  Big Fish Presentations 4. LinkedIn “ LinkedIn  is a great way to network, manage your connections and keep up with various industries.” ~  Timothy Schmidt ,  WebsiteRescue 5. Newsle “ Newsle  is a great way to be notified of accomplishments and achievements by your contacts. And when you receive good news about someone, you can send them a nice note and that’s it. Don’t view this as an opportunity to leverage their accomplishment to see how it benefits you. Be genuine and strive to get your company’s name (positively) in the press as well.” ~  Adam Stillman ,  SparkReel 6. Highrise “Better known as a CRM, I use  Highrise  to label different contacts, track conversations and, at a glance, get a sense of who I need to reach out to and when. The best thing is that it doesn’t overwhelm my calendar, and allows me to think more strategically about reach-outs while allowing room for spontaneity.” ~  Firas Kittaneh ,  Amerisleep 7. Twitter Lists “Regardless of the platform you use to manage your social media feed, Twitter lists can save an incredible amount of time in keeping up with your network. A five minute scan of my private “Important People I Like” and “Online BFF” lists quickly tells me what’s happening with my connections and how I can help.” ~  Molly Mahar ,  Stratejoy 8. Buffer App “With the  Buffer app  you can schedule out messages far in advance. Heck, why not schedule out a year in advance? Take a couple days and plan out your next year. I personally do this for my family and it works like a charm. They all think I’m on top of it. I remember everyone’s birthdays and special events. The same applies to business. Schedule it out!” ~  John Rampton ,  Host 9. Scheduled Time to Connect “Dedicate 15-20 minutes a week to go through LinkedIn, Twitter and wherever else to send messages, connect with new peers, comment on posts and express interest in and see what others are doing. By scheduling a dedicated time you won’t have to check here and there throughout the week. Do it all at once so that you can focus on what you’re doing and avoid multi-tasking.” ~  Brooke Bergman ,  Allied Business Network Inc. 10. Contactually “I use  Contactually  to “bucket” my network by how often I want to connect with them. Contactually automatically sends you an email every day with X number of people you should reach out to that day (you can set how many people you want to connect with on a daily or weekly basis). They also have templates you can use to streamline your message.” ~  Mike Ambassador Bruny ,  Ambassador Bruny Dot Com Fingers Photo via Shutterstock The post 10 Ways to Keep Up With Your Professional Network Online appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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As is true of so many things in life, the big boys have it a whole lot easier than the rest of us. Fishing for backlinks in exchange for money can be risky (not to mention deeply unethical), but that didn’t stop Hotels.com, an Expedia property, from sending out spammy emails asking travel bloggers for precisely that. What Happened? Earlier this month, a number of influential travel bloggers received an email from an as-yet unnamed “SEO Manager” for Hotels.com’s Americas division. The poorly-written email was sent from a Hotels.com email address, and claimed that the SEO Manager had been reading the bloggers’ posts. The sender went on to ask if the recipients would be interested in some “brand promotion for our hotels.” So far, so good, right? Unfortunately (for Hotels.com), the phrasing of the email soon took a detour into black-hat territory. The sender, who until the end of the email had been asking for hotel reviews or “more neutral content, such as ‘Brought to you by Hotels.com,’” then gave the game away by explicitly asking how much the bloggers wanted to be paid for helping Hotels.com acquire backlinks: “If you agree with partnering with us on helping us acquire backlinks, I would like to discuss a package or how you wanted to compensated to perform this assignment.” Oh dear. What Was Hotels.com’s Response? Predictably, Hotels.com was quick to distance itself from the shady machinations of the SEO Manager. In a canned response shortly after the incident came to light, Hotels.com issued the following statement: “We work hard to adhere to the guidelines which search engines have put in place. The email is not aligned with our program and was the result of an internal misunderstanding that has been quickly identified and resolved.” Presumably, the “internal misunderstanding” was that this type of back-alley shenanigans should never have been made public – and the SEO Manager responsible has been fired. So What’s The Big Deal? Aside from being risky business, Hotels.com’s attempts to buy backlinks from bloggers highlights just how often large, well-known sites get away with underhanded tactics that would otherwise ruin small businesses trying to do the same thing. Not convinced? Let’s take a look at other questionable tactics being employed by Hotels.com. Thin Content and Link Farms Do a search for “Hotels.com” and you’ll see firsthand how the site leverages its size and power to game the system: Apparently, the Hotels.com domain has almost 36 million pages indexed in Google. Even an SEO novice could see that something’s up. There’s no possible way that Hotels.com could have that many legitimate pages on its site. (WordStream is quite large and we only have 14,000 indexed results.) So what’s the deal with all those pages? Well, Hotels.com is using computer-generated pages featuring thin content and link farms to game the algorithm. The site has a page for virtually every city/state/region/hotel name in the world: This massive content farm is supported by aggressive, automated internal linking to further boost rankings: Ads are injected to bulk up all this thin content and further monetize pageviews: What Does This Mean? A few final thoughts. Hotels.com is a paid-link supported content farm that just so happens to offer hotel bookings. The site is using virtually every trick in the book to boost its rankings. When it comes to dodgy SEO tactics, brands get away with murder. Major brands still purchase backlinks to game their search rankings, despite the risks. The practice is common knowledge among those in the know. And SEO is too important to sites like this for management to not know of these kinds of tactics.Google spam algorithms still have a long way to go towards cleaning up the SERPS. Republished by permission. Original here . Images: WordStream The post Busted: Hotels.com Caught Buying Links, Apology is Weak appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Since its launch, the iPad has completely changed the way kids learn. But not every learning experience has to be completely digital. That’s why tech startup Osmo created its innovative platform that combines digital technology with objects in the physical world. The objective is to help children learn. The platform works by placing the iPad on a vertical stand and attaching a small mirror in front of the device’s camera. The mirror allows the device to see downward. The view allows the iPad to capture images of children manipulating physical objects like letters ans shapes on a flat play area below. Osmo also provides a series of downloadable apps that recognize the objects and let children play games in which they try to reach the objective of spelling out words or choosing specific shapes. The games have theadvantage of being more tactile than mos digital learning environments. The company has raised $12 million in funding to aid in its growth. Accel Partners led the company’s first round of funding. Rich Wong, a partner at Accel who is joining Osmo’s board of directors told Venture Beat: “Osmo’s technology makes childhood education more personal, creative and engaging. We believe that the future of education will rely on intuitive innovation that amplifies learning through interactive online-to-offline experiences — Osmo is at the forefront of this movement. Osmo is a natural fit for parents and teachers because it adds a small but powerful layer of technology on top of a platform, the iPad, that children already know and love.” Like any groundbreaking business model, Osmo is re-imagining its market, in this case digital educational technology. Up until now that’s involved a pretty straight forward digital approach. Education from shapes to spelling to anything else has been limited to a digital world. Press this button to select shape A. Press this button to select shape B. But some children may need a more hands on approach. Osmo introduces an approach that won’t limit learners to a set of experiences totally confined to the digital world. The company returns the ability to feel and manipulate objects physically as part of the learning process. On the other hand, Osmo’s platform uses digital technology as an easy way to recognize and record the results of this play in a meaningful way. The company’s recent success gaining funding and its soon-to-be availability in U.S. and Canadian Apple stores shows this disruptive business model may be the next big innovation in learning technology. Image: Osmo The post Osmo Uses iPad to Teach Children About Letters And Shapes appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Did you know the biggest shopping weekend of the holidays is less than a month away? Don’t panic. Just take a deep breath. We’ve got you covered. Small Business Trends hosted the second in a series of Holiday Boot Camps designed to whip your business into shape for the holiday season. We’d like to thank our sponsors, the FedEx Office team, who joined yours truly, Small Business Trends CEO Anita Campbell ( @SmallBizTrends ), during the one hour Twitter chat. The event Oct. 28 drew a variety of participants and some great suggestions for the questions posed. Here’s a recap. What We Learned You may remember that in Part 1 of the Holiday Boot Camp chat series, we answered questions like, why is it important to start planning for the holiday season so early? This time around, we asked some more specific questions of small business owners and entrepreneurs. For example, what’s the number one thing small businesses can do to prepare for Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year? There were some cool giveaways too. You can follow the entire one hour chat at #SMBHolidayPrep or check out  our highlights below. Highlights Yes, it’s less than a month until Black Friday. But before you get overwhelmed, consider. A few simple steps can get you ready for the busy holiday shopping season. Here are some suggestions from the Small Business Trends community. Q1: Black Friday is in less than a month. What’s the number one thing I can do now to prepare? #SMBHolidayPrep — FedEx Office (@FedExOffice) October 29, 2014 A1: Pull out your marketing plan. Check inventory. Go over card and gift lists. #SMBHolidayPrep — Anita Campbell (@smallbiztrends) October 29, 2014   A1: Know your customers needs and interests. Do what ever you can to make buying from YOUR #SmallBiz easy and rewarding #smbholidayprep — Cathy Larkin PR (@CathyWebSavvyPR) October 29, 2014   A1: Make sure all processes in place to meet customers expectations – website performance, delivery dates, etc. #SMBholidayPrep — Brent Leary (@BrentLeary) October 29, 2014 Sales are a great way to bring in the shoppers. And, of course, Black Friday and holiday sales have become something of a tradition, especially in the retail world. Of course, sales also can mean making less per purchase on the items you choose to mark down. So what’s the secret to discounting enough to bring in shoppers but making enough that you don’t loose your shirt? @FedExOffice A2: have a holiday sale on items u know will get ppl in the door but leave some items reg price to make some $! #SMBholidayPrep — Taylor (@olivetulips) October 29, 2014 A2: Offer “friends and family” discounts that can be passed along to others #smbholidayprep — Staci Wood (@SannWood) October 29, 2014 A2. target well-to-do males. They will buy anything for spouses and children. @FedExOffice #SMBHolidayPrep — Charles McCool (@CharlesMcCool) October 29, 2014 A2 Make sure customers KNOW about sales in advance, social messages, enewsletters, store signage, blog posts, #smbholidayprep — Keeley Delgado (@Keeley_Delgado) October 29, 2014 Of course, as Keeley Delgado points out above, big sales during the holiday season won’t help, if customers don’t know about them. So, how do you make sure you’re connecting with your customer base and letting them know what you have to offer this holiday season? The community has some creative suggestions.   @FedExOffice A3 I tend to send my customers a vibrant, branded card or email to connect with them over the holidays. #SMBholidayPrep — Vibrains (@vibrains) October 29, 2014 a3 one great way to connect is via email marketing, maybe integrating holiday sales videos. That will be sure to engage. #SMBholidayPrep — Ti Roberts (@tiroberts) October 29, 2014 @FedExOffice A3: How about a handwritten snailmail letter to your VIP customers? #smbholidayprep — Martin Lindeskog (@Lyceum) October 29, 2014 A3: Don’t discount social media. It’s a great way to keep customers in the loop. #SMBholidayPrep — Shawn Hessinger (@Shawn_Hessinger) October 29, 2014 @smallbiztrends I get lot of referrals from including “gifts” with a business card in goodie bags @ chamber & charity events #SMBholidayprep — Geek Dad (@GeekDad248) October 29, 2014 Special events are one obvious way small businesses can draw attention to their brands during the holiday season. But how do you make sure these events work for your business in the way that you plan? Here are some ideas and suggestions. Q4: I’m thinking of implementing a special event to get visibility leading into the holidays. What should I know? #SMBHolidayPrep — FedEx Office (@FedExOffice) October 29, 2014 A4: Remember your goal is to make returning customers out of leads. Create an event that will draw people back again. #SMBholidayPrep — Jennifer C. (@JennyImpact) October 29, 2014 A4: Get a list of influencers to blog/post about your event and include giveaways with contests #SMBholidayPrep @FedExOffice — Holly Kolman (@mobileholly) October 29, 2014 A4: Use social outlets, blog, #emailmarketing & website to promote special events as well as signage & flyers #smbholidayprep @FedExOffice — UNIDEV (@Unidev) October 29, 2014 Disclosure: FedEx Office compensated me to participate as a small business expert during the FedEx Office Tweet Chat program. FedEx Office also provided gift cards given out during the chat. The ideas in this article are mine and not ideas or advice from FedEx Office. Christmas Concept Photo via Shutterstock The post Is Your Small Business Prepped and Ready for the Holidays? #SMBHolidayPrep appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Compression legwear can be important for patients suffering from bad circulation and blood clots. But just because a patient has to wear them, shouldn’t mean giving up a sense of style. When Kelsey Minarik suffered a blood clot on a flight at the tender age of 21, she didn’t realize the experience would bring about a positive outcome. But when her doctor suggested compression legwear to help in her recovery, Minarik saw an opportunity. Today Minarik is the founder of RejuvaHealth . The company makes fashion compression legwear that doesn’t only allow patients to improve circulation, it also allows them to look trendy as well. Read more about Minarik’s quest to create a therapeutic product that is also a fashion statement in this week’s Small Business Spotlight. What the Business Does: Sells fashion compression legwear. RejuvaHealth’s product line currently includes socks, knee-highs, thigh-highs, pantyhose and leggings. The garments come in various compression levels and styles. Business Niche: Offering fashion compression legwear. Since Minarik was so young when she started using compression gear, she really wanted garments that were stylish. But she couldn’t find them from any existing retailers. In addition, being a wearer of compression garments herself, Minarik says she has a unique approach to selling these items: “Founded and run by an actual compression wearer, a key component of the Rejuva brand is our ‘real talk’ approach to compression garments and their use.” How the Business Got Started: Minarik got the idea while being treated for a blood clot suffered when she was 21. Minarik’s doctor suggested she use compression legwear to help with her recovery. She loved how the garments worked, but she hated the frumpy, orthopedic appearance. She couldn’t find any stylish options out there. So she set out to make her own. After a couple years of research and development, RejuvaHealth was born. Biggest Win: Partnering with Dr. Comfort. Earlier this year, RejuvaHealth entered into a co-branding partnership with therapeutic footwear provider Dr. Comfort. The new Rejuva by Dr. Comfort line just launched this month. The partnership is offering opportunities for RejuvaHealth to scale more quickly and expand into different markets. Biggest Risk: Attempting to partner with QVC. Though the company’s partnership with Dr. Comfort has worked out favorably, not all of its partnerships have done as well. RejuvaHealth attempted to work with QVC for some product airings. But to do so, they had to supply approximately $70,000 worth of product to the shopping network, knowing they’d only get paid if they sold that product. Though it didn’t work out as expected, Minarik says it was a learning experience for the company: “Regrettably, for multiple reasons, the airings didn’t go as planned and we were left to re-accept and work through the portion of inventory, which wasn’t purchased. Though the retail relationship with QVC didn’t work out, the end result was improved product.” Lesson Learned: Choose staff carefully. Minarik says: “In a small business with only a few team members, one wrong link can have wide-spreading consequences. Not only can it yield lost time, money, and mistakes, it can also wreak havoc on the internal work environment.” Nickname: Sunny Badger. A reference to the famous Honey Badger YouTube sensation, Minarik’s friends and colleagues have taken to calling her “Sunny Badger” because of her happy-go-lucky attitude. Her sunny outlook is apparent in the way she pursues leads and other business opportunities as well. * * * * * Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program. Images:RejuvaHealth The post Spotlight: RejuvaHealth Gives Compression Legwear a Sense of Style appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Virtually everything the government does these days, from drivers’ licenses to voter registration to retirement benefits, requires a robust technological platform that must overcome challenges specific to the public sector. Now, a team of technologists thinks they may have a solution. Continue reading →

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Lots of small businesses use televisions in their premises: gyms, sports bars, restaurants — to name some.  But what business owners may not realize is that using consumer televisions for commercial purposes may void or reduce the warranty. And if you decide to use a TV or monitor to run an in-house presentation, say in your lobby, it can be cumbersome and expensive. You may need to commission an expensive video or multimedia presentation. Or if you choose to create it yourself, such as with PowerPoint, the result may look less visually appealing than you’d hoped. And what about signs and displays in your business? Have you ever wished for something more dynamic and exciting? Recently we ran across an impressive solution for small businesses that solves those kinds of issues. It’s called the Samsung SMART Signage TV . Think of it as “TV and digital signage in a box.” I saw it in action at the recent Small Business Summit in New York (pictured in the booth below). Overall, it’s an impressive package that gives small businesses the kind of flexibility and options for signage and television previously available to larger buyers (such as hotels, hospitals or retail chains). Michael O’Halloran, marketing manager with Samsung, who was at the Summit, told me that this is a solution Samsung designed specifically for small businesses. “Digital signage has been around for years,” he said. “But up to now it’s been for large companies. The difference is that we’ve created the first ‘television and digital signage package in a box’ that’s easy enough for even the smallest business to install and use.”   Samsung SMART Signage TV Features The Samsung SMART Signage TV is designed specifically for small businesses. With it you can offer regular television programming to your patrons, of course. It is a fully functioning high-definition TV.  It comes in two sizes: 40-inch and 48-inch. But the real beauty of this system is the digital sign platform that is included at no extra charge. You can create and display bright, eye-catching digital signs in your premises. It includes a free software package called MagicInfo Express ( see video demonstration ), that comes with over 200 sign templates. After a short learning curve, it takes just minutes to create dynamic signs with text and images. You can have static signs or make the sign images move, alternate, fly in or fade out. There are many animation options to catch a customer’s eye. You can also schedule signage for different times of day. For instance, a restaurant could change a menu sign for breakfast, lunch and dinner automatically. You don’t need to be a designer to use the software. Just upload your logo and photographs. Then you follow the instructions to insert them into the pre-made templates.  You update the software from a laptop or desktop computer, or from a mobile device. Once satisfied with your design, you can load the content wirelessly to the television set from your computer or mobile device. This means, if you have signs at multiple locations, you can update them remotely.  Or you can upload via a USB device and plug it into the TV. You do not need to be a technician to set up the system. The media player is built in to the television.  So there’s no messing around trying to get a separate media player to “play nice” with the TV. You don’t have to jerry rig solutions such as running cables from a monitor to a dedicated laptop hidden nearby. Samsung televisions are good quality and look attractive. The Smart Signage TV has a sleek gloss-black finish. These televisions are designed to take heavy business use — 16 hours per day, 7 days a week. They each have an 16:9 LED Backlit LCD display. They are Energy Star rated for energy efficiency. The signage TV is in use in New York’s Tompkins Square Bagels , where owner Christopher Pugliese points out that he’s using the sign to open up new sales opportunities. “We have massive lines of 20-somethings who work all over New York City. And I don’t think any of them realize that we could cater their office breakfast or meeting,” he said. “We felt that the digital display would be really helpful with getting that message across.” Pros Everything you need for one installation is included in the box: television, TV stand, wall mount hardware, and software and templates to design the signs. The TV sets can be displayed in portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) mode — either on the wall or as a tabletop set. Vertical signs are especially good for clothing stores that may want to show a fully dressed model. Horizontal signs have the added benefit of being to display a television program right alongside a sign message, on a split screen. For example, a sports bar could display a televised football game, alongside a sign with the day’s drink specials. Digital signage is bright, modern looking, and faster to change than printed signs. Each Smart Signage TV comes with a 36-month warranty for parts and labor. This warranty covers commercial use of the TV. It includes onsite service. Samsung has a dedicated support line for commercial users. MSRP pricing is $749 for the 40-inch and $999 for the 48-inch. You might be tempted to think, ‘I can buy cheaper TVs at my local big box store.’ But remember the added value you are getting in the form of (1) signage software, (2)  Samsung quality, (3) ease of managing your signage, and (4) commercial warranty and onsite service. You can purchase directly from Samsung, or from retailers such as Costco, Amazon and Sam’s Club. Leasing options may also be available to spread out the cost in monthly payments. Cons I saw a live demonstration, including how to use the software, at a conference. It presented very well (see Tompkins Square Bagels examples pictured).  It appears as easy to use as the description. There were no negatives that I could see. My only reservation is that I haven’t used the Smart Signage TV for any length of time. So I can’t speak to installing it or using it over time.  (Read:  what you need to know about business TV .) However, I am a user of Samsung televisions in general. If the quality of these is similar to what I have used, you will be well satisfied with the looks, reliability and display.  While there may be sharper displays on the market, the SMART Signage TV is an improvement over what I see many small businesses using today. Who Samsung SMART Signage TV Is Best For SMART Signage TV is ideal for small businesses that want to attract customer attention through bright, eye-catching digital signs for interior spaces. This includes retail shops, spas, salons, restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques and bars. It’s perfect to call out visually-appealing offerings or sales promotions, so you can sell more products or services. For those of you already offering business TV programming to patrons, it opens up new cross-selling opportunities.  For example, a dentist’s office can provide TV in the waiting room. On a split screen the dentist could inform patients about optional services such as invisible braces or tooth whitening. It’s also a good choice for offices that have television and/or in-house presentations in their lobbies. Examples include consulting businesses and technology companies that receive visitors regularly. Samsung SMART Signage TV is great for do-it-yourself owners and managers who want the flexibility to change signage regularly. Who it’s not for: if you use business television but have no plans to ever use the signage, you may not get full value at the $749 and $999 price points. Small businesses that want to serve customers better AND increase sales should check out Samsung’s SMART Signage TV  for its: easy turnkey solution combining both advertising and television; TV programming on a beautiful HD television set; the kind of professional-looking digital signs that large companies have; the ability for do-it-yourselfers to change digital signage quickly at no added cost, without getting a designer involved; onsite warranty coverage backed by a multibillion-dollar global company; at a small-business price. Image credits: Samsung; Small Business Trends The post Samsung SMART Signage TV: Digital Signs and TV for Small Businesses appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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