Arcade Fun

November 2, 2016

An arcade often refers to an entertainment establishment or an area within an amusement park that houses different coin-operated machines and video games. It is a popular hangout for many teenagers and young adults alike. However, there are still a number of adults who still enjoy a game or two when visiting arcades. The different types of arcade games include video games, pinball machines, shooting galleries, ball toss games, crane machines, dance and music games, and simulated games, among many others. Most, if not all, arcade games are coin, token or magnetic card operated, and you can get a prize immediately or collect tickets or points for redemption of various items depending on the number of tickets or points.Arcade and video games’ origins can be traced back in early 20th century and grew in popularity in the 1970s with machines built mostly by Japanese companies such as Atari. However, coin operated games can actually be traced back as early as 350 BC during the time of Alexander the Great. According to one story, there was a man who presented Alexander the Great a game that once you placed a coin in it, the players would be able to bring balls up and down to disappear in several holes as controlled by the players. The winner could get twice what was given as a bet. Another coin operated machine used as a game of chance and to win some money was a slot machine invented by a jester in 1108. It was described similarly to the slot machines we know today – put in a coin, operate the level and get a chance to double your money.

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Subsequently, other coin operated games were invented and introduced to the public with intention of providing entertainment and multiple chances of winning more than they betted. The rise in producing different kinds and types of coin operated machines for entertainment started around the late 1800s but reached its highest peak, including other arcade and video games, in early 2000. However, from 2004 until pretty much today, there was a decline in arcade games with the rise in popularity of portable video game gadgets such as Play Station and PSP, Xbox, Wii, PCs, and even mobile phones, among many others.Nevertheless, arcades in different parts of the country still have considerable following especially as part of amusement parks and inside shopping malls. Young kids and teenagers can still be seen hanging out in arcades to meet friends and to compete with others who have the same interest on playing arcade and video games. Nowadays, the most popular arcade and video games include Sega’s Extreme Hunting 2 Tournament (video kit), JVL’s Retro (countertop), Raw Thrills-Betson’s Fast & Furious (video dedicated), Raw Thrills-Betson’s Fast & Furious Super Bikes (video simulators), Stern Pinball’s Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean (pinball game), Skee-Ball’s Skee-Ball Too! (alley bowlers), Skee-Ball’s Super Shot (sports games), Rainbow’s Rainbow (cranes & rotaries), Betson’s Sponge Bob Jellyfish (children’s games), ICE’s Deal or No Deal (novelty games), Family Fun Co.’s Football Fortune (coin drop), Benchmark’s Wheel Deal (coin drop), Andamiro’s Hammer (bopping/stomping games), and LAI Games’ Stacker (prize vendors), among many others.

A to Z Guide to Wedding Planning!

September 29, 2016

A is for Atmosphere
Setting the scene for the perfect wedding can be a daunting task and with wedding trends changing rapidly over time, it can mean decision making is hard. Often the best place to start is by thinking about the formality of the event and how you would like your guests to feel on your wedding day! Whether you choose a relaxed garden wedding with subtle coloring and natural tones or a themed wedding at a wild venue with bold wedding colors and outlandish wedding decorations, whichever way you go it is the wedding atmosphere that you create that will generate the most memories!

B is for Bachelorette Party & Bridal Shower
Second to choosing your bridesmaids, this is often the next stage in the planning of your pre-wedding activities! This is the event, other than the wedding itself, that the girls look forward to most! Renowned as the tamer of the two, a bridal shower is a gift-giving party held for a bride-to-be in anticipation of her wedding, it is a time for the females in your life to get to know each other and to share advice before your big day.The Bachelorette Party also known as a hens night, hens party or hens do on the other hand is deemed “an evening of debauchery,” a girls night out in honor of the bride-to-be in the style that is common to that social circle. This is when the bridesmaids take control, organising silly outfits for the bride, dares and games along with gifts for the girls including name tags, fun drinking straws along with personalised bachelorette koozies for a unique gift idea!

C is for Ceremony
Ultimately your ceremony, the moment where two people are united in marriage, is the reason you are planning this special day. The way that you choose to perform your ceremony and the wedding reception that follows are often linked in formality and theme and the options are endless.For the ceremony you will have to give some thought to the location, a church or temple, beach, garden or formal venue often this is driven by the choice for a civil or religious ceremony. Most ceremonies have a similar structure, with your vows, readings and music making a personal service.

D is for Destination Wedding
More and more couples are escaping the traditional big celebration wedding in favor of a smaller more intimate ceremony in an exotic location. Whether your destination wedding is overseas or interstate it can still take a lot of organization, not only for the couple and the wedding day itself but in making it fabulous for the guests that have gone that extra mile to share in your special day!

E is for Engagement
Congratulations on your Engagement, let the fun begin. Start with your engagement announcements, maybe a notice in the newspaper to inform the community or an item that you can send in the mail to let your friends and family know the good news! If you are moving fast you could even add your wedding save the date to your engagement announcement to help with your planning budget.Some couples will choose to have an engagement party, an opportunity to celebrate with family and friends and for future guests to get to know each other before the big day. Engagement party favors are often handed out to the guests as a thank you for attending, such as candy treats or custom beer koozies to take home as a memento.

F is for Favors
Wedding favors also known as bonbonniere are small gifts given as a gesture of thanks to guests from the bride and groom. Wedding favor ideas have become a major part of wedding planning, with modern gift trends including: CDs with the favorite music of the bride and groom, candy jars, picture frames and wedding koozies. Gifts may also be personalized with the couple’s names, initials or wedding date and even an individual guest name to create a gift and place card.

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If you choose wedding Koozies as your wedding favors then it is a great idea to start browsing the designs a few weeks before you need them to be delivered. There is an extensive range of designs available to help you create the perfect match to your wedding color scheme, theme and more. Please read a previous article to help with your design; Personalized Wedding Favors on a Budget – Inspiration for Wedding Koozies to Wow Your Guests!

G is for Gift
A wedding present is a gift taken by a guest to congratulate the couple on their marriage. There is usually some etiquette when it comes to gift giving, some couples may choose to take the hard work out of this for their guests and have a gift registry with a wish list to choose from. Others may have a wishing well, this is where guests can anonymously drop cards and monetary gifts into a box known as a wishing well to help the couple on their way to starting a new life together.

H is for Honeymoon
A honeymoon is the traditional holiday taken by newlyweds to celebrate their marriage in seclusion. Jetting off to somewhere exotic and romantic is not uncommon although the holiday should be something of choice that suits the couple’s outlook and interests. For couples on a budget a destination wedding can be a great way to spread the cost making the addition of a few days for a honeymoon easy.

I is for Invitations
Wedding invitations are a great way to set the scene for your guests. As a follow on from your wedding announcement or save the dates, your wedding invitations can be fun or formal but should be informative and hold an RSVP date so that you can keep to a deadline in your wedding planning.In modern times the way an invitation arrives is becoming more and more imaginative, you might choose a link to an online wedding website where guests can respond electronically or include a link to a video message. Items sent in the mail can also be creative and unique such as origami style folded gifts, printing a message on a balloon that can only be read once blown up or sending custom wedding koozies for your guests to enjoy at home and on bring on the day!

J is for Jewellery
Wedding jewellery can be simple and sophisticated or bold and colorful. This is a very personal choice that that bride will make when choosing her wedding dress and bridal party attire.Sometimes traditional jewellery will be passed down the generations within a family, bridal accessories can include earrings, bracelets, tiaras and hair combs to name a few.

K is for Kiss
“You may now kiss the bride”… the words that the groom has been waiting for all day! Many couples will have a discussion prior to the wedding about the kiss, some even finding this the moment that makes them most nervous! Questions like, how long should it be? Should it be a full-on smooch? Or just a peck? What is the etiquette in wedding kisses? The answer to which is that there is not really an etiquette, just show each other how happy you are to be making this promise to each other and show this off to your guests, just bear in mind that you might be in front of your parents, grandparents and young children.

L is for Love
LOVE. An intense feeling of deep affection and the reason you have been ploughing all of your time into planning the ultimate wedding celebration. Say no more.

M is for is for Music
One big question for your wedding reception, DJ or Band? Often the answer to which is dependent on budget, formality of your event and location. There is also the decision of which music you should be walking down the aisle to, creating an amazing playlist that will get your guests on their feet and of course the first dance! Here are our choices for a first dance song;Top 5 First Dance Wedding Songs

Make You Feel My Love – Adele

You Are The Best Thing – Ray LaMontagne

Kiss Me – Ed Sheeran

The Way You Look Tonight РMichael Bublé

Better Together – Jack Johnson

N is for New
If you are following tradition in the sense of the rhyme “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” then this is your something NEW! You can include your wedding dress as your something new if it is made to order, or perhaps one of your bridal accessories or a fancy new pair of shoes. Let’s face it when it comes to your wedding there will be a whole heap of items that you can consider using to tick this box!

O is for Outdoor Wedding Venue
Weddings are often planned for the perfect weather, the most popular seasons for a wedding are spring and summer so that you can have great light for your wedding photographs and that you have the best chance of enjoying sunny spells outdoors with your guests over welcome drinks.Your outdoor wedding venue might be in a national park, flower garden, winery or a beautiful beach, whichever you choose for your outdoor wedding be sure to have a wet weather plan on hand, just in case!

P is for Photographer
Wedding photography for a lot of couples is a big box to tick. It is lovely to be able to capture your big day and all of that hard work into images that you can cherish for years to come. Choosing a photographer can be a daunting task, be sure to ask around for recommendations, view portfolios of previous work and get to know your photographer so that they learn to capture what is important to you. Looking at your photographs together as a family is a beautiful way to connect after the event, each image will tell its own story and each story will be a memory captured for life!

Q is for Quiz
The Mr & Mrs Quiz, the ultimate quiz that any bachelorette should have to complete on their ‘last night of freedom’..! It is a fun way for the maid of honor to connect with and get to know the groom before the event. She will prepare a series of questions that the groom will answer, things can of course get a little cheeky depending on the formality of the bridal shower or bachelorette party, the bride will then need to see how many answers she can match to the groom’s responses, often followed by a forfeit for every wrong answer.

R is for Reception
Wedding reception, this is the fun part, after you have nervously said your vows in front of your family and friends you can relax with food, drinks and dancing at your wedding reception. Wedding reception ideas include a formal sit-down meal, cocktail reception or a casual beach BBQ. You can usually leave this up to your wedding planner or venue to organise, that way you can enjoy the celebration and spending time with your guests.

S is for Save the Dates & Stationery
Your wedding announcement and first item of wedding stationery is your Save the Date! An ideal gift used for long engagements this is designed to be sent out to your guests well in advance of the formal invitation, once you have your date set you can mail these out so that your guests can save the date in their diary. Some popular methods of sending a save the date include; postcards, calendars, tickets, magnets, custom beer koozies and more.

T is for Table Plan
T is also for troublesome, often considered one of the most controversial parts of the wedding planning process, the dreaded table plan! Great aunt Joan cannot be near second cousin John and really you’d like to sit with your pals rather than follow the traditional top table style with your parents… at the end of the day this is your wedding and as a couple you should be able to choose a seating plan to suit your wedding formality and your guests.

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U is for Ushers
An usher, also known as a groomsman is normally a friend of the groom that has been recruited to direct guests at the ceremony, and generally be available to the bride and groom for assistance throughout the whole wedding event. The ushers would generally be dressed in the same wedding attire as the groom and best man and would feature in the formal wedding photographs alongside the bridesmaids.

V is for Vows
The exchange of wedding vows is an important part of your wedding ceremony. It can be a very romantic moment and often the perfect place to express your feelings for each other. Vows can be modern or traditional, led by a minister or celebrant, written for you or by you and can be tailored to your individual personalities.

W is for Wedding Dress
Almost every girls wedding dream begins with the dress! There are so many gorgeous styles available and all designed to suit different shapes and sizes… you can find the perfect wedding dress style amongst these… Ball gown, mermaid, A-line, Sheath. Strapless, V-neck, halter-neck, one-shoulder, illusion and more!Once you have found the perfect style, you can start to create a unique look through the color and density of the material, heavier fabrics such as brocade and jacquard or lighter materials like silk and chiffon, traditionally a wedding dress would be predominantly white or ivory in color, but these days anything goes!

X is for X -rated (entertainment at bachelor party)
Although it is not necessarily the way every groom will spend their last night of ‘freedom’, the bachelor party, as portrayed in the movie The Hangover, certainly has a reputation for being a night or indeed a weekend of debauchery! Some will go all out with a weekend in Vegas, but generally the party vibe will include trendy bars, nightclubs and, most importantly, strip clubs!Much like the bachelorette party, this is where the best man and other members of the bridal party will shine with ideas, organising embarrassing outfits for the groom, along with drinking games and dares! Gifts for the guys might include matching t-shirts, shot glasses, beer horns or custom beer koozies personalised for each of the guys!

Y is for Years
The number of years spent together, number of years engaged and then number of years married. Once your wedding day becomes a wonderful memory you have the many years of wedding anniversaries to look forward to and to celebrate. Each anniversary that passes will have a symbolic gift that is presented, there is both a traditional and modern gift here is the traditional list;

1st Paper

2nd Cotton

3rd Leather

4th Fruit/Flowers

5th Wood

10th Tin/Aluminium

15th Crystal

20th China

25th Silver

30th Pearl

35th Coral

40th Ruby

45th Sapphire

50th Gold

60th Diamond

Z is for Zero Regrets
In a perfect world, every bride and groom would have the perfect wedding with absolutely no mishaps. However, this is not the perfect world and every turn makes for a new story! Our only advice is to enjoy every minute of your special day, spend as much time with each guest as you possibly, and have zero regrets!

How to Choose a Martial Arts School – 10 Steps Guaranteed to Save You Time and Money

October 7, 2016

What are the most important things to look for when comparing martial arts schools?
What are the tell tale signs of a quality school that you can spot immediately?
What are the best questions to ask, and how do you know if they can really deliver?
What part of a contract can you negotiate?These are just some of the important questions you need to know how to answer before shopping around for a martial arts school.A commitment to martial arts is an investment in time and money, so knowing exactly what to look for in a school, and knowing what questions to ask, will give you the clarity and confidence to make a smart choice.A bad choice in a martial arts school can be an expensive lesson, so use this guide to educate yourself.There is a huge variety of martial arts schools out there. Facilities range from expensive health-club-like facilities to open space warehouses. Martial arts schools aren’t regulated to insure quality of instruction or business practice. There is no official governing body and no universal grading standard in martial arts. Almost anyone can open a school and appear to be an expert.What do you look for beyond price, amenities and convenient schedules? While most people first consider price and the facility, there are more important factors that you need to consider first!These 10 steps show you how to make the best decision in choosing a martial arts school:Objective
Instructors
Class Dynamic
Student Results
Curriculum
Style
Facility
Service
Price/Fees
Instinct1. OBJECTIVE:Before you start looking into martial arts schools, determine your true goals for martial arts practice. To get the most out of your training, clearly identify your real goals and the specific benefits you want to have.Ultimately, you just want to feel good about yourself and feel super confident, right?However, this is usually not enough of a specific emotional motivator for consistent practice.The majority of people who start martial arts rarely make it past a few months of consistent practice. It’s not just a lack of motivation. Not having clear goals is usually why people don’t follow through in practice.To determine what you really want from training, start by narrowing down what you wish to focus on.The focus of your practice can be broken down into several areas. There’s no right or wrong – it comes down to personal preference.For starters, you can number these in order of importance.Physical Fitness as the main goal, with martial arts aptitude as a secondary benefit.
Purely Combative Focus, with fitness and personal growth as added benefits
Creative and Artistic Expression, aesthetics, beauty and WOW Factor
Competitive Focus, sports aspects such as one on one competition
Mental and Emotional Growth, catalyst for self-discovery and spiritual growth, cultural and philosophical interestsAsk yourself clarifying “Why” questions, so you can identify what you’re really going for.This is the first step in filtering the selection of schools to choose from. Once you’ve identified your goals for martial arts practice and understand why they are your goals, you’re ready to search for a school.2. INSTRUCTORS:An instructor plays the key role in how you will achieve your goals.Finding a good instructor is more important than choosing a style, and is probably the biggest factor in your decision to join a school. It’s nice to have impressive amenities and expensive equipment, but ultimately a martial arts school is only as good as it’s instructors.Being a black belt doesn’t qualify someone to teach!A competent instructor is knowledgeable, experienced, and has the ability to effectively pass on his craft.
A good instructor possesses leadership and communication skills.
A great instructor will also display sincere empathy, showing a genuine interest in helping you achieve your goals, bringing out your individual strengths.Look for other attributes that increase an instructor’s ability to add value to your training:Proven competitive track record, such as World Champion Titles
A degree in an area such as psychology, sports medicine, kinesiology or related fields
Military, law enforcement, or security experience
Involvement in a credible martial arts organization
Extensive knowledge of a culture or philosophy that you’re interested inAlthough an instructor’s experience and background provides some credibility, don’t be overly impressed with awards and certificates.Their mindset and level of experience will be apparent through subtleties in character and by their actions.Quality instructors are sincerely interested in helping You and won’t feel the need to boast about their own credentials or prove themselves. Instead of boosting their own egos, high-level instructors are very attentive on coaching you to achieve your goals.You can often measure an instructor more accurately by their students’ results and satisfaction than by credentials alone. The students themselves may be the greatest indication of the quality of instruction.Just like a good business is constantly researching and developing, high-level instructors research and develop methodologies in order to continually improve. A lifetime training in martial arts isn’t enough to reach human potential!A high level instructor portrays noble characteristics of a role model and leader.Confident instructors welcome feedback and respond to your questions with patience and insight. They are usually very humble, and rarely speak negatively about any other school or style.Also, find out if the school’s head instructor is actively teaching. Some schools have classes primarily taught by an assistant or senior students, while the head instructor only makes an occasional appearance.While assistant instructors may be totally capable of teaching, watch out for schools that “sell” you on the instructor but have someone else teaching.3. CLASS DYNAMIC:Make sure you know how to evaluate a school in two parts, the content and the context.The context of a martial arts school is made up of the training methods and environment. What kind of setting is the school providing?A supportive learning environment is crucial to maximize the assimilation and retention of material. The context of training can be more important than the content, (or material), intended to be learned.Look for context such as:The collective mood or energy of the instructors and students
The class dynamic – structure and flow
How the amenities and equipment are used
The training methodologies
How the ranking system is structured
The quality of serviceOne of the best ways to evaluate a school is to watch or participate in a class.You can watch videos, visit a website and read all about the credentials and features of a school. However, you can only get a true feel by “test driving” the actual group classes. Many schools offer free consultations or introductory private lessons.If a school allows you to watch, or better yet, participate in a class without obligation it speaks highly of their confidence and transparency.

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The class dynamic is the best demonstration of the instructor’s martial arts aptitude and ability to teach. It reveals how the students interact with each other and the instructor. It’s also the perfect opportunity to see how their curriculum is implemented into training.Consider the size of the classes and how that may effect your training. The make up and flow of the classes will either help your learning experience or hurt it.Look for the following:Is there a significant age difference among students that may restrict your practice?
Is there a significant difference in the students’ experiences or physical abilities?
How formal or informal are the classes? And, how does that effect your practice?
How much supportive individual attention do the students receive?
Is there anything about the facility that’ll hinder your practice? such as cleanliness, stale air, too cold or hot, distracting noises, etc.Many beginners prefer large classes. It can be easier to follow along with the examples of many other students. There’s also less intimidation as the collective group dynamic can conceal individual insecurities and lessons the pressure to keep up.On the flip side, there is a key benefit to smaller classes that’s important to consider. There is more opportunity to receive personal attention from instructors that can greatly accelerate your learning curve.Again, instructors are the backbone of a martial arts school. The instructor consciously, or unconsciously, dictates the energy of the entire class.Here are some other things to look for:Does the instructor facilitate class with control and safety? (Notice if the students are enjoying themselves or seem uncomfortable and hesitant).
Is the instructor passionate and actively teaching or seemingly going through the motions and mechanically calling out commands?
Do the students seem inspired?A martial arts school provides the setting of a controlled environment where you’ll train to overcome future or potential challenges. In order to maximize results, good schools teach in a context that anticipates and matches the actual environment of those future and potential challenges.The classes must simulate the intended environment and must provide the necessary emotional stress in order to engrain instinctual trained responses.For example:If you’re seeking a combative style for self-defense, look for schools that safely facilitate reality based, high-stress scenario exercises.
If you’re training to fight in a ring or cage, look for a school that teaches you how to maneuver in the confines of a ring/cage under the same guidelines of the competition.
If you’re goal is to perform in tournaments, look for a school that can facilitate your training in a loud, distracting environment with large mirrors and an audience.
If your goal is to have fun getting in shape, look for classes that use good training equipment, have high energy, exciting exercises and a social atmospherePay attention to the flow of the class and notice how much of the class time is instructional. Some schools implement a lot of conditioning drills while others teach with a lot of verbal explanations. Notice if they have a lot of unnecessary “filler time”.It’s also a good idea to inquire about the school’s ranking system. Most traditional schools use some modification of a belt system, but what’s required to earn each belt can vary drastically from school to school.Is there a clear standard for aptitude and execution of techniques at each level? Or are the requirements based on time and the amount of classes taken?Many schools test for promotions after a set number of classes. This gives the perception of building capable intermediate and advanced students, which can be an important aspect of a school’s perceived value. Not to mention, belt promotions are a crucial source of income for some schools.Remember that there’s no official governing body in martial arts, so belt levels may not be valid outside of that school or organization.4. STUDENT RESULTS:The students provide tremendous insight as to the quality of instruction. You can often tell more about a school by the students’ results than anything else.The students are the products of the school’s training system and methodologies. If the advanced students don’t model your martial arts goals go find another school!When observing the students, pay attention to the ratio of beginner to advanced students. It’s a good sign if there are a lot of intermediate and advanced students. That means the school is able to retain their students, and usually equates to student satisfaction.Just as you probably don’t want to eat at a restaurant that’s always empty, be cautious of a school with a few students. What’s considered a small student base? Depending on the size of the facility and how long they’ve been in business, classes that have less than 10 students is a pretty strong sign that there’s something lacking in the school.Consider the characteristics and personalities of the students as well. It’s important that you are comfortable with your classmates cause you may be spending a lot of time with them.Are they the types of people you’d like to be around and train with?
Would you feel comfortable and safe training with them?
Are the students supportive of one another or are they highly competitive and trying to outdo each other?The student dynamic may also reveal how the instructor instills leadership and other life skills that you may wish to develop. Watch how the advanced students handle both challenges and successes.Take the initiative to speak to some of the students. Getting insight from existing students can make all the difference in your decision to join.5. CURRICULUM:Remember that a martial arts school can be evaluated in two parts, content and context. The curriculum and style of a school make up the content.Whether they call themselves a martial arts school, studio, academy, gym, or dojo, they are still businesses. They will promote themselves in creative ways to gain an edge over the competition. You can expect them to entice you with price incentives, boast their credentials, amenities and equipment, or make claims to get you results in the shortest amount of time possible.Don’t allow marketing tactics to distract you from determining if the school can actually support your training goals.Whatever a school claims to provide in your martial arts training, their students, classes and curriculum will give you a good indication of the school’s quality and true emphasis.The martial arts curriculum, (content), is made up of the techniques and material you will be learning at a school.The focus of your training must be supported by the curriculum and training methods.There are key points to look for in determining the quality of a curriculum. Begin by identifying the school’s emphasis. Take into consideration that when there is more focus on one aspect of martial arts, other areas are compromised to some degree.Forms and jump spinning kicks in the curriculum? You’ve most likely found a school with an artistic or traditional focus that may participate in tournaments. If this is what you’re after, the curriculum should consist of aesthetic techniques that have dynamic kicks and beautiful forms with and without weapons.
Are the techniques based on kickboxing and wrestling? A lot of sparring and no weapons in the curriculum? This is probably a school that focuses on one-on-one sport competition. Schools that build towards competition usually emphasize physical conditioning to reach peak performance.Although physical fitness may not be the primary goal in many styles, fitness is generally a by-product of training. You get in shape by default in martial arts practice.The majority of schools have a curriculum designed to provide a general overall perspective on fitness, sport competition and self-defense. For most people who are just beginning martial arts, a school’s curriculum and interpretation of martial concepts should be comprehensive enough to support you through many years of practice. If this is the case, start to look into other components of the school like their class dynamic.For those who have martial arts experience, or seeking a specific area of focus, determine if the school’s curriculum actually supports the emphasis you’re looking for.It’s not uncommon for a school’s true emphasis to be different from how they market themselves. Take note of the techniques in their curriculum and their applications.For example, let’s say your primary reason for martial arts training is purely for self-defense on the streets. You visit a school that claims to be proficient in teaching self-defense. Yet, they teach fixed stances and forms and only implement weapons training in advanced levels.This is a big red flag! This doesn’t mean it’s not a good school. It only reveals that their true emphasis is not truly combative.70% of assaults on the street involve some sort of weapon and over 90% of attacks go to the ground. Any school that claims to teach true self-defense while neglecting weapons training and ground fighting is just plain negligent.You should seek elsewhere if this is your focus. Modern combative styles will implement training in weapons and ground fighting right from the beginning.Training methods also implement high stress scenario drills with multiple attackers. You won’t find fancy acrobatics in the curriculum.Remember the old adage, “A jack of all trades is master of none.” Be cautious of a school that claims to deliver health and fitness AND teach you culture and philosophy AND turn you into a professional fighter AND prepare you for the streets AND promise personal or spiritual growth.6. STYLE:Martial arts can be compared to a huge tree with many branches or styles. All “styles” are based on the mechanics of the human body. Every style has strengths and weaknesses as they each focus on different aspects of the arts.The true measure of a martial art lies in the practitioner, not the style.Having a general understanding of the different types of styles and their focus will help you in achieving your goals. In martial arts there are hard styles and soft styles.Hard Styles focus on striking techniques where the body is used as a weapon for attacking and defending – force against force. Much of the training is external, based on physical conditioning for strength and agility.
Soft Styles focus on redirection and physical manipulation through leverage and positioning – using an opponent’s force against him. There is often more focus on internal training, training of the mind as well as developing the body’s sensitivity to energy.
Blended Styles incorporate concepts from both hard and soft styles in a complimentary method, flowing and transitioning from hard to soft and vice versa.Depending on the area of focus, each style differs in philosophy and training methods. Applications obviously differ as well.Among styles the emphasis of training will primarily focus on one of the following areas:Artistic Expression – Schools with an artistic focus emphasize creative physical expression – the “art” aspect of “martial arts”. Artistic styles implement forms or choreographed techniques in training. They typically have more aesthetic beauty, as movements are fluid and graceful like a gymnast or dancer.Tradition – Traditional styles are rooted with Eastern culture and philosophy. Traditional schools implement both external and internal training for the development of the mind-body-spirit relationship. With this emphasis, martial arts practice serves as lessons for life skills. Practice may also encompass elements of spiritualism.Competition – Competitive styles generally focus on the sports aspect of martial arts. Competitions can range by category including weight class, level of experience, geographic region and specific style. The emphasis is on winning recognition such as rankings, awards, and trophies that is based on a fixed set of rules.Combat – Combative styles focus on street defense or military application, including law enforcement. It’s the “martial” part of “martial arts”. The emphasis is on practical application over aesthetic form or physical conditioning. Training includes weapons and reality based scenario exercises.Fitness – Schools that focus on fitness use martial arts as a catalyst for holistic health. Classes usually consist of fun, energetic physical exercises based on martial arts techniques. Classes will typically implement a broad and general combination of styles and areas of focus.There are also Modern Styles, which are evolved blended styles that are the result of further researched and developed methodologies. Their focus can be artistic, competitive, combative, or emphasize physical fitness.While it may be a good idea to blend styles, it can be counter productive to combine your area of focus. Be clear on which area you wish to predominantly focus on.Again, there’s no right or wrong style. It’s a matter of personal goals and preference.7. FACILITY:The first thing to consider is the school’s location in relation to your home or workplace.Creating a new habit can be challenging, so convenience plays a big role in supporting consistency. You may be commuting several times a week for training, so make sure the facility is close enough so it doesn’t become an excuse for you not to go.Martial arts schools come in many forms. They can be part of a franchise, belong to an organization, or be a one man show run by a single instructor. They may resemble a fitness gym, yoga studio, gymnasium or warehouse.Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and don’t judge a martial arts school by it’s facility.Although you can’t measure the quality of a school by the facility alone, it does reveal a lot about the owners mindset, aptitude, emphasis of the style and curriculum, as well as the school’s level of professionalism.The degree of cleanliness may reflect the standard of service. You can get a good idea of the school’s style and emphasis by the school’s design.A school should have the amenities and equipment that support the context of it’s curriculum, such as a cage or ring for MMA or kickboxing, proper mats for Jiu Jitsu, etc.Consider what the school puts money into and determine if it actually adds value to your training.Also notice the subtle details of the facility that may effect on your training. Does the air stink? Does the lighting or colors of the facility effect your energy and mood? How’s the parking? Is it noisy?Remember, expensive equipment, and other luxuries equals higher tuition fees. Be aware of the costs of extra rooms and large offices that don’t directly add value to your training.With a good instructor and some basic equipment you can practice anywhere!8.SERVICE:Some schools have great sales and marketing techniques to get you to join. But, it’s the quality of ongoing customer service that really counts.

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Choosing a school that’s skilled in customer service will potentially save you from a lot of unnecessary headache. Poor customer service can ruin your martial arts experience at any level.Make sure that there are open lines of communication and that staff members are readily accessible to answer questions to your satisfaction.You may be with a school for many months or even years. Choose a school that cares enough to build a relationship with you.Know how to distinguish sales techniques from service.As mentioned, some schools are great at getting you in the door with attractive features and promotions. The question is, once you have signed up are you just another enrollment?A good comparison is the large franchised fitness gyms. Their amenities, equipment and low monthly fees are hard to pass up. However, once you join there’s virtually no service whatsoever. There are too many people who have gym memberships and don’t use them. They already have your financial commitment – a contract. Rest assured their service will pick up when it’s time for renewal. But is that service or just another sales technique?The level of transparency is the greatest measure of a school’s integrity. It’s a reflection of their standards of service.Does the school fully disclose all the costs involved in your training? Some schools have additional fees, like mandatory programs or association fees, that they don’t mention until you reach a certain point in your training.
When you have questions, do you get a clear answer right away or do you get an evasive response? The response you get is a good sign of what kind of service you can expect.
Many schools require you to sign a contract in order to take classes. Some schools offer a trial period where you can pay for a number of classes before you agree to a contract. A contract is simply a written agreement between you and the school, and it can always be negotiated. They should be willing to explain the details of the contract to your full understanding and agree to make any changes you feel are important, as long as it’s mutually beneficial.9. Price and Fees:How important is price to you? For many people, it’s the only real limiting factor.Since most people don’t know how to compare value to price, martial arts schools generally don’t advertise their prices – unless they’re promotional.Be honest. Before you read this guide, what’s one of the first thing you wanted to know about a martial arts school?Fees are usually priced by:Term period – specified time period with flexibility of the amount of classes taken, usually monthly or yearly
Number of classes – specified amount of classes taken
Combination of term and number of classes – usually a monthly fee based on the number of classes taken per week
Specific Programs – packaged programs such as Black Belt Clubs, Instructor Programs, Certification Programs, Seminars, etc.Tuition can range anywhere from $50 per month to $500 per month, depending on the school. Nowadays, the average tuition is about $150 per month for 2-3 classes per week.Tuition isn’t the only cost to consider. You will eventually be investing in training equipment, to some extent. Keep in mind that some styles require more equipment.While price is important, a common mistake is to compare price without comparing value.Consider the previous steps and the benefits before you focus on price. This way you can place some sort of dollar value on each component of a school and then shop around.Think of the convenience of schedule and location, the suitability of teaching style, class dynamic and level of instruction in relation to your personality and goals – can you put a price on that?With the knowledge you gained by reading this guide, you can make an educated choice in “how to invest” in your training instead of “being sold” a membership.Most schools require annual contracts. The contract should clearly explain the details of your membership. Generally, schools don’t offer any refunds on tuition.In most cases, a school will agree to make reasonable changes to the contract if you ask them.If you’re committed to your practice and have found a school following this guide, signing a contract is usually not an issue. However, knowing potential costs and understanding school policies will help you negotiate any changes, if necessary. What you’re really after is “peace of mind”, isn’t it?A contract should be mutually beneficial, so you want to insure that the contract also benefits you. This can mean discounted rates, as an example. A contract is also an incentive for you to get your money’s worth by coming to class regularly.Ask about:Price incentives for paying in full
Discounts for family members
Training equipment – and if they have to be purchased directly from the school
Belt testing fees
Any federation or association member fees
Cost for programs such as Black Belt Clubs and any other mandatory programs
Membership freezes in case of travel, injury, or maternity
Policy for relocation or moving
Fees for early cancellationIt’s also a good idea to ask whether the billing is managed directly by the school or if they use a billing company. Many schools use a billing company to help manage your tuition payments.If the school out-sources their billing, you will be dealing with the billing company for the payment of your tuition fees. The billing company will generally only contact you if you are late on your payment. If you ever have to deal with the billing company you can expect the type of service you get from a collection agency. They can also make negative reports on your credit.A high-quality school has the confidence to earn your business without requiring a contract. But they are rare. These schools are clear about their role. They focus on their core responsibility of providing quality instruction and guidance in your martial arts practice. Schools of this caliber don’t need to use creative sales and marketing techniques. Their business is built by their reputation, word-of-mouth.10. INSTINCT:Pay attention to your intuition when visiting a school. While going through the 10 steps outlined in this guide, you’ll instinctively know when you’ve found the right school.How long the school has been in business? Are they stable?
Are you confident in the instructor?
Do you like the instructor’s teaching style and personality?
Are the students friendly?
Did you have fun? Did you feel inspired?Ultimately, we make decisions based on our emotions and we justify them with logic. Your decision should be instant and definite. If you find yourself thinking too much or having to convince yourself, something is out of whack. Go back to step 1 or keep looking.

First Things for Small Business Event Marketing

August 31, 2016

In the beginning, we have an idea. The idea is an event where people can come together and trade, grow their network, and live outside of normal routines for just a few hours. The event is birthed and excitement builds quickly. Visions of a crowd smiling are everywhere.The beginning is a critical time. We are motivated and moved to make something happen. Without question, this is the time to put together a few major pieces that will make the event process move smoothly. If done quickly, it can make the event better or more realistic for the hosts. These items are 1) defining the objective of the event, 2) who is going to make it happen, the decision maker/lead of the event, 3) what is it going to take to be a great event?The objective of the event is often a large contributor to a few key ingredients. Objective defines what the event is supposed to do. It sets the foundation for the type of event it is to be, and lastly is the main guide towards the theme. Without an objective, the event may not get off the ground, rolling aimlessly towards a date without any real enthusiastic motivation behind it. Objective defines purpose. Purpose creates drive. The theme of the event puts a face to it, an image that will be memorable to prospects.Who is going to make the event happen? In a small business, it is either a hired event planner/marketer, an internal manager, or the owner. Each one has positives and negatives to lead the event to success. A person who can lead, is organized, creative, people oriented, resilient, and patient is the best person to lead the show. These qualities might not be all in one person, but can be had in a small team. Possibly everyone mentioned before is involved.

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The leader of the event will often use a committee or team to get all the work done. A small event can be done with one to three people. A large event could take a platoon of people who like to throw parties.The person who makes it all happen is a very important part of the event. Without someone to herd cats, be Keeper of the Event Plan, and be Event Therapist, the event might be lackluster. The event may fizzle or explode before the day of the show.An event planner/manager/marketer is a keystone for a great event. I have seen many small events do well with someone with basic skills. Being able to put details together by using a guide found online is very helpful. It keeps things on track. Time frames and tasks are often laid out together, making things much easier.The larger the event, the larger the skill set of the decision maker of the event. Experienced event planners and marketers can provide valuable consulting, if not be the main coordinator of the event.Defining what it is going to take to be a great event is an important answer to get. Three common factors of any event are time, money, and energy. Being able to balance the three and be able to achieve the objective is what makes a great event. (Obviously ‘great’ can be defined in many ways. If the objective is met, no money problems at hand, and no one was hurt, it was a good event.)There is only so much of any of time, money, and energy. The objective of the event, and the anticipated results of the event, will decide how much of each will occur. In relation to time, asking how long will it take to get everything done and promotions at their maximum appeal is what time is all about. Is this a big event that happens every year? Is this a test run for other events down the road? And other questions help plan when things occur, which is also a function of energy.The energy required to have a great event is defined by the objective, quantity of staffing for execution, and anticipated size of the event. How much one person can put into any event is limited. Larger events take more people. Simply put, the amount of energy that can be expended is directly related to the budget, or how much money is reasonable to make the event a success.Small businesses do not have bottomless accounts to throw large parties. An event being funded by small businesses has to see a payoff and be done within a reasonable budget. Spending too much money on staff, not enough on marketing, and more are weighted decisions that guide finding balance in the area of money.

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Looking at the objective, the amount of payoff can be calculated. Whether the event is a concert in the park or customer appreciation day at the store, cash flow can be discussed. If the event has a history, budgeting is easier. For a first time event, budgeting is difficult because cash flow can be estimated within ten percent at best. More often the margin error is larger. Expenses are the most determinable line items.Revenues from the event can be the day of the show only, like a concert. A one time event that generates money from merchandise, concessions, ticket sales and more. One day, and it is time for recovering.Revenues can be a long term objective related to brand awareness, like customer appreciation days every first Friday of the month. An ongoing event that is proven to attract a percentage of customers over a regular day is a good thing. If I know I can go to Smith Farm Supply and get a burger, I’ll likely stop by, eat, and get the things I need.When you hatch your idea, take the time to make immediate notes on how the event will occur. These notes will guide you. They will help you understand what you were thinking at the time. Too often have I lost those thoughts because they were not written down.Taking the time to pay attention to the initial parts of an event being planned will alleviate problems later.

7 Easy Steps to Conducting Your Marketing Research Plan!

September 9, 2016

Marketing research is a process used by businesses to collect, analyze, and interpret information used to make sound business decisions and successfully manage the business. In other words, it links the consumer to the marketer by providing information that can be used in making marketing decisions (i.e. B2C or B2B). This can not be implemented without the use of a MIS (Marketing Research System) to gather, sort, analyze, evaluate, and distribute needed, timely, and accurate information to marketing decision makers.Here are the steps to implementing a marketing research process.1. Ask yourself if there is a real need for marketing research. It’s not only the first step to take but a very critical one as well! Research takes a lot of time due to the overload of secondary information available on the Internet. It’s ideal to think that it takes months or even a year to completely finalize a marketing research agenda. The other factor you will need to consider is the cost of doing it, especially if you hire an agency to do it for you. What you want to compare is the value of the information vs the cost of the information. If the value of the information is worth the cost and time of doing it, then by all means, go for it buddy!If you’re still unsure, here’s a few quick guides to go by to determine that marketing research is not needed:a) The information is already available

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b) The timing is wrong to conduct marketing researchc) Funds are not available for marketing researchd) Costs outweigh the value of marketing research2. Define the problem. This is the most important step (assuming you’ve decided to do marketing research). If the problem is incorrectly defined, all else will become wasted effort! Keep in mind that the need to make a decision requires decision alternatives. If there are no alternatives, no decision is necessary. For example, let’s say your sales are down by 30%, therefore becoming a problem with your revenues. Your alternatives may be to see how well ads #2 does compared to ads #1 in terms of sales. Use secondary data sources to develop ideas further into the research.Here’s a powerful technique to use in order to pinpoint important problems and receive information all in one: create a focus group! Here’s why:a) it generates fresh ideasb) allow clients to observe their participantsc) understand a wide variety of issuesd) allow easy access to special respondent groups3. Establish objectives. Research objectives, when stated effectively, can provide the information needed to solve the problem you have from step 2. All of your objectives should be what you want to study in your market research and specific as possible.Here’s a quick checklist of what to include in each and every objective:a) specify from whom information is to be gatheredb) specify what information is neededc) specify the unit of measurement used to gather informationd) use the respondents’ reference to re-word the question4. Determine research design. There are 5 different designs you can choose from to get the information you need, such as descriptive, exploratory, causal, and diagnostic research. Descriptive research describe market variables. Exploratory research allows you to get information in an unstructured way. Causal studies is to try to reveal what factor(s) cause some event to happen. Diagnostic research focuses on the sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction.5. Choose method of assessing data. Secondary data is more easy to access than primary data, such as online surveys. However, if you are into the traditional way of doing data collection (i.e. telephone, mail, F-2-F), they all still have a place in marketing research. The questionnaire that you present to the respondents must be worded clearly and unbias.Here’s a few pointers you want to remember when creating the forms for your questionnaire:a) use nominal, ordinal, interval-Likert, interval-S-D, interval-Stapel, and ratio measurementsb) questions pertaining to each research objective (step 3)c) questions pertaining to attribute, attitude, or behavior

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d) have 1 open-ended question (I would definitely keep this at a minimum, if I were you)6. Determine sample plan and size. Your sample plan should describe how each sample element is to be drawn from the total population. The sample size tells how many elements of the population should be included in the sample. In other words, the purpose of the sample plan is to give you representativeness, while the sample size gives you accuracy!Here’s a small but important task to take to prevent or minimize nonsampling errors from occurring: validate your participants by re-contacting!7. Analyze and report the data. It’s always good to go back and run tests on the information you have to screen out errors that may occur. Once you have all that you need for the research (pie charts, bar graphs, statistics, survey, etc), you want to be sure to create a report of it. Carefully present the research report in a way that communicates the results clearly, yet accurately to the client.Remember marketing research is all about connecting the dots. The more information you know about your consumers, the more you bridge together with your consumers. The more closer you bridge together with your consumers, the more miles you create for long-term customer relationships. Go for it!

Traveling With Electronic and Electrical Appliances

September 21, 2016

Whether they’re traveling for business or for leisure, every international guest that stays at a hotel or a bed-and-breakfast inn brings along an electronic or electrical appliance to use during the trip. Almost always there’s a mobile phone or smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop in their luggage. Most laptops or phones have dual-voltage capability and only need corresponding travel adapter plugs that fit into the sockets of the country they’re visiting. The following information should help travelers choose the right adaptor plugs to bring along in their trip.About Electronic and Electrical AppliancesThough both categories of appliances run on electricity, electronic appliances often need transformers with specific outputs, such as a power converter that accepts an input of 110 to 120 volts and only outputs 220 volts. Appliances with electronic circuits or chips, such as clock radios, battery chargers, and computers, should be used for short periods of time, preferably less than three hours. Plugging in these electronic appliances for long might cause overheating and lead to fires.

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Meanwhile, electrical appliances that provide simple heating functions, such as a flat-iron, water heater, or hair dryer, must be used with a converter or transformer with the corresponding wattage for no more than an hour at a time. The sockets available in bathrooms of hotels and inns in European countries maybe labeled as 220 to 240 volts AC, but these were designed for use with low-wattage appliances such as shavers and electric toothbrushes that need around five to ten watts. They’re not fit for use with a hair dryer, a travel iron, or a phone charger for long hours.Identifying Dual-Voltage Appliances and WattageIf you want to know whether your appliance is dual-voltage, simply check its package for a 120/240 label or look at its plug for any embossed electrical information. These appliances won’t need a converter or power transformer. However, you may still need to find their wattage. When only the voltage and amperage are given, the formula to find the wattage of an appliance simply multiplies the volts with the amps. For instance, 120V multiplied by 0.5A equals 60W, which means an appliance that needs 120 volts at 0.5 amps should run at 60 watts of electricity.Travel Adapter Plugs and Power Output StandardsMost homes and businesses in the United States, Canada and Mexico use 100 to 120 volts of power with around 60 Gigahertz of alternating currents. The rest of the world outputs 200 to 250 volts at around 50 Gigahertz of alternating currents per cycle. Most travel adapter plugs used in North and South America have two parallel flat prongs for the non-earthed types while the earthed type has a grounding pin below.

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In some countries in Europe, the plugs must have two rounded pins parallel to each other. Grounded types have a third pin or flat prong below the pair. Great Britain, in particular, uses a double-rounded pin plug with a flat prong for grounding. In France and Belgium, their plugs have grounding clips instead along with the two-pronged structure. In Australia, the prongs were arranged in a V-shape set at an angle to each other.

Should You Employ In House Telemarketers or Use an Outbound Telemarketing Agency?

September 16, 2016

Even for larger companies with dedicated sales teams this is a valid question: should you use your own telemarketers or turn to a specialist outbound telemarketing agency?For many companies, there are three compelling reasons to outsource your telemarketing:1) Focus2) Capabilities3) CostThis article examines these three reasons and suggests why, in many cases, it makes more sense to use the services of an external telemarketing agency for business-to-business telemarketing campaigns.1) FocusFirstly, a strong reason for using an external telemarketing company is that they will focus on the task of generating leads for your business. Many companies, when using an internal resource, will hand this over to either an admin person or expect telemarketing to be done as an extension of their role.But, let’s be honest about what really happens in most businesses: they find something else to do.Unlike an external company, which employs people to make outbound telemarketing calls day-in, day-out, your employees have other duties to perform. And, believe me, they will find anything else to do rather than telemarketing. The same goes for if you choose to hire your own people “just to cold call”. After a few months, I guarantee, they will be doing something (anything) else rather than telemarketing.

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Using a telemarketing agency means that you have a resource focused on telemarketing for your business and you ensure a continual effort to generate leads, not the reluctant, ad-hoc approach you will get form your own people.2) CapabilitiesHand-in-hand with the issue of focus is that of capabilities. By outsourcing telemarketing you will access people who are far better at telemarketing that your own people. Even if you have dedicated sales people they often won’t match a seasoned telemarketer when it comes to making outbound calls.External telemarketing agencies also bring capabilities around data acquisition, segmentation, key message and “pitch” development which your own people will lack.Think about it; a good telemarketer will pitch around 100 prospects in a week. Given that the best telemarketers have been in the game for at least 10 years, that’s over 50,000 pitches. That’s a level of telemarketing experience you will never get it from an in-house employee.3) CostFinally, another reason for many companies to consider using a telemarketing agency is cost.When comparing using your people, or even yourself as the owner of a small business, against the cost of a telemarketing company, the costs are pretty compelling.Telemarketing agencies charge, on average around ¬£250 per day for a telemarketer. That’s attractive even when you compare it against the cost of your sales people. But when you consider the cost of them not being in front of prospects and actually closing, the cost justification stacks up in favour of outsourcing.

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When comparing an external telemarketing company against an admin person making “a few cold calls” the costs need a little more study but they still make sense. Usually, the best approach is to consider two factors: a) the cost per lead and b) the opportunity cost.When looking at the former, external telemarketing agencies, which are always more efficient, typically wins. In addition, when you think about the opportunity cost of not getting new leads into your pipeline and the resulting lost new business growth, it’s usually obvious that using a telemarketing company is the best investment.So, in summary, when thinking about whether to use your own people or external telemarketers, consider the total picture of how much focused your own people will be, how good they will be, and what is the real return on their costs.We believe that, taking all these elements into account, an outbound telemarketing agency is the most attractive route for many businesses.

Direct Marketing – Brand Identity Guru Tips

September 28, 2016

If your company doesn’t have a direct marketing program in place, a direct marketing agency can create one for you. A direct marketing company provides small to very large customizable ranges of business-to-business and business-to-consumer direct marketing options sure to fit your needs. From database creation and maintenance to data analysis and creative program execution, a direct marketing company can take any existing direct marketing program, or a lack of one, and develop a highly efficient direct sales machine for your company.A good direct marketing company employs experts in each aspect of direct marketing who have proven time and time again they have what it takes to create a successful direct mail campaign and turn your existing unorganized data into a powerful computer-readable customer database.The goal of any successful direct marketing program is ultimately a positive effect on your bottom line. Good direct marketing programs are proven performers that will give you an edge over your competition. The direct marketing expertise and capabilities that a good direct marketing company offers will turn your direct marketing expenditures into successful investments.

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Look for a company that has years of target market research experience ready to work for you. They will uncover who your best customers are and develop a direct marketing campaign that will get them to respond.They should know how to impact behavior, get results and form the basis for long-term relationships with your customers and prospects.Direct marketing abilities should include:- Direct response advertising- Customer relation’s management- Data management services and data analysis- Media planning, media buying and complete direct marketing campaign managementSeven HUGE Tips to Direct Marketing that gets resultsSuccessful direct marketing takes planning and strategic thought…1. Know your goal: What do you want your direct marketing to accomplish? What kind of impression do you wish to leave? Do you wish to inform your prospects about your product or just make them aware? Recently, Brand Identity Guru was asked by a client to expand its direct marketing efforts, so we created a direct marketing piece to showcase our client’s most attractive points. That direct marketing piece now accounts for 30 percent of the client’s new business.2. Research: Don’t just have a list. Learn something about your customers so you can speak to them better. Discover their hot buttons, so you can push them.3. Plan properly: The best direct marketing campaigns work along with PR, traditional advertising, brand strategy and efforts by your sales force. Ultimately, each piece is part of a larger total company campaign and should work together.4. Be relevant: Direct marketing efforts should offer something your clients might want to buy.

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5. Be conscious of details: Find the name of your primary contacts, and make sure you spell them right in the items you send to them. Even the best direct marketing piece is useless in the trash.6. Be consistent: Use a series of pieces that speak to your customer’s needs. Don’t know what they are? Ask. Usually, December is not a good time because mailboxes are already overcrowded. Brand Identity Guru suggests waiting until February or another month.7. Follow up: If you don’t follow up, the results of your direct marketing efforts could crash to a halt. Initiate a conversation with people on your list. A phone call a week or two after your mailing is a great idea.Direct marketing is a powerful tool to capture your prospects’ attention and orders. If your direct marketing includes an attractive offer, imagine what the results will be. Throw in a brand-centric foundation and you have a direct marketing effort even more powerful than the sum of its parts.

Importance of Branding for E-Commerce Businesses

October 11, 2016

E-commerce businesses are becoming a reliable way to buy products online. Branding plays a direct role in improving chances of e-commerce business success. An increasing number of global customers are switching to e-commerce sites to purchase everything from groceries to apparel, and electronics to lifestyle products. The e-commerce industry has completely transformed the way in which consumers around the world access products and services. It has suddenly brought a world of options to the fingertips of end users. The future seems bright for the e-commerce industry, with major players branching out into newer product categories frequently (thus setting the standards for smaller brands).For e-commerce businesses, things are going well enough, but the competition is also fierce. New e-commerce brands are launching every day and persistently trying to get a foothold online. When it comes to branding, e-commerce companies are leaving no stone unturned. In this scenario, it is vital that you build and implement a high quality branding strategy for your e-commerce business.Branding Strategies For E-Commerce BusinessesBy having a result-oriented, effective branding plan for your e-commerce business, you can stand out amongst your competitors. To achieve that, you must determine what makes your e-commerce business a unique player in the industry. Are you offering high quality products at the best available rates? Do you organize regular discounts and offers for your customers? Are you adding new product categories to meet more customer demands? What are the factors that would convince customers to choose your brand against others? E-commerce business owners must strive to highlight the unique selling points of their brand. Only then can an e-commerce brand be boldly promoted to larger audiences.

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As an e-commerce brand, you have to be at the forefront when it comes to attracting product vendors as well as consumers to your e-store. Vendors would be interested in using your marketplace, if it has a strong brand that keeps providing value to customers. The number of sellers and customers you bring in to your network depends on the strength of your e-commerce brand, and how well it delivers on its promises. If you are intelligent in your branding, and consistent in your service quality, your e-commerce brand can achieve considerable success.E-commerce branding, like all branding, is influencing the perception of your brand and its services, in the eyes of the customer. Effective e-commerce branding will make marketing easier, retain more customers, drive up loyalty, and create better potential value for steady, long-term success.The way you must approach an e-commerce branding strategy is by highlighting some key points. With branding, you must uphold your business’s core mission, the problems you aim to solve for your customers, standards that it adheres to, and proof of the quality of services you provide. What are the factors involved in business branding and their importance?E-Commerce Branding – Methods and Importance1. Your Brand Image – A stellar, uniquely identifiable brand image helps customers attach value to your e-commerce brand’s personality. This includes various things such as logos, banners, taglines, marketing captions, social content etc., which should always represent your brand the best. This is quite important if you want to create value for potential customers and convert them into loyal customers. A good brand image goes a long way in retaining customers, by continually generating interest for your e-commerce brand’s offerings.2. Customer Satisfaction – Customers are everything, when it comes to e-commerce or any other type of business. You can actually enhance customer experiences and drive up satisfaction (and loyalties). This is a big part of establishing your e-commerce brand. Put your best foot forward while marketing, deliver on your promises you make, and provide unmatched service and support to enhance your brand’s potential value. Remember that satisfied existing customers can and will bring in newer customers to your e-commerce business. Maintain your integrity and keep reinventing to bolster your brand’s chances of business success.3. Find Your Unique Selling Proposition – As an e-commerce business owner you must determine the USP of your brand. This will help you brand and promote it better to larger groups of potential customers. Think about what sets you apart from dozens of competitors vying for true e-commerce glory. Is it your service quality or support? Is it the trust of your customers and your track record? Do you provide innovative offers, discounts and promotions on special occasions? Do you house the widest variety of rare products? You must determine why customers would choose your e-commerce site. What extra value can you offer to your potential customers that convince them to use your platform again and again? Find your USP and use it to strengthen your brand.

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4. Utilize All Channels – Technological advances in the past decade demand that your e-commerce business maximizes its presence on all social, web-based and mobile platforms. More and more potential customers buy and sell through handheld devices, and almost all of them are on social websites. All your competitors are doing it, and so should you. It will help you make your brand easily accessible to larger audiences, which in turn will bring more conversions and significantly better revenues. Social and mobile should be the front and center of your branding strategy.E-commerce sites can benefit from the above mentioned branding strategies. By using the concepts provide here, you can establish your e-commerce brand and take your business to the next level.

Why Personal Finance Software Is Important

October 4, 2016

Why personal finance software is important These days, technology has really revolutionized people’s way of life, including their financial life. Back in the day, most people used a pen and paper to document their earnings, spending, and finances.What is personal finance software?Home finance software refers to a financial tool that enables you to prepare a budget, track your expenses, and check your overall finances. These days, there is no valid reason why you should be disorganized and mired in debt because there are many good personal finance programs that you can use to keep track of your money, plan your future, and completely control your finances. If you have a PC or laptop, you are lucky because you can easily find good home finance software at little cost. Application programmers have now catered for the high demand for these applications as they now come with all sorts of functions and capabilities that can save your money, time and effort.

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AnalysisYou can now analyze your finances unaided. However, this kind of analysis can be much easier if you have some accounting background. Finance software will analyze your important financial details. Details such as your monthly expenses will stick out. Many personal finance applications also allow personalization. If there is one particular aspect you want to know about your finances, you can simply create a specialized analysis. Many personal finance programs can also give you a monthly analysis-an excellent way to see how you actually spend your money on a monthly basis.Budget creationWe all know the importance of a personal budget. But creating a real budget that you’ll stick to is easier said than done. You can find a personal finance application that creates a realistic budget for you. Simply enter your basic information into the software and quickly create a simple budget.Checkbook balances and bill paymentsSometimes you’ll fail to pay bills on time. When it happens, interest rates are more than likely to shoot up. Fortunately, you can avoid this mistake once and for all. Look for a personal finance application that’ll remind you when to pay your bills. Likewise, you can accomplish balancing your checkbook by just ticking a box. Sum up any amounts withdrawn from your account and check carefully anything that seems suspicious. Once you have everything on record, it becomes much easier to know how your finances are faring.

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Trust yourself and no one elseWhen it comes to finances, it is best to keep track of all you have carefully. You may trust your finances with your financial adviser, but it is still important to know where every cent is at, always. With a personal finance application, your money will never be far away from you. Whether you are paying bills, balancing your checkbook, tracking your paycheck, or creating a personal budget, you should not live without personal finance software.