Jul 23, 2014

Pittsburgh in 2020: What Will Change?

Flying cars and giant glass buildings. Hover boards and talking houses. Scenes of unimaginable 2000s technology invaded the big screen in the twentieth century. Although we have not yet entered such an advanced society and it is not likely we will do so by the year 2020, the Pittsburgh Business Times has some theories about what may happen to the Steel City in the next six years.
            It’s no secret that retail has collapsed within the golden triangle. In an area that once housed multiple department stores, only Macy’s still exists and it is slipping through the cracks. With the increasing difficulty of traveling from the suburbs to downtown, retailers have suffered the loss in customers. As more retailers close up shop, the less incentive there is for city workers to stay downtown. The solution according to the article is to increase the amount of rentable space and bring more residents into the city. Retailers will then see the market potential and take advantage of it. Considering there is such a small number of retailers downtown, this could offer numerous opportunities for small businesses. There are a significant number of residential projects taking place around the city and they can all be viewed on the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s website: http://www.ura.org/working_with_us/projects.php.
With the rapid redevelopment of the Golden Triangle, some are saying the city’s growth will eventually spill into surrounding areas, most notably the Strip District. Since it is flat and boasts a large amount of open land, it will most likely be developed into an extension of the Pittsburgh skyline. Instead of the Golden Triangle, the potential new skyline has been coined the “Golden Ladle.” The area that once held the Mellon Arena is also set to be redeveloped into residential buildings. There are also numerous residential development projects taking place in the South Side. Some are worried that redevelopment will lead to a significant rise in the cost of living in downtown Pittsburgh. The average cost of rent for an apartment downtown is now over $900 per month. However, even at this price, many people, especially young, are moving into the city.
There is also the issue of transportation. The Port Authority bus routes have been reduced in the past few years and the Light Rail Transit only travels through the South Hills. However, now that the Port Authority is stabilized, there will most likely be no more route cuts. According to the Pittsburgh Business Times article, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald expects a more efficient transportation system for bike riders as well preliminary work on expanding the Light Rail Transit service. The most likely advancement will be the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system currently under consideration. It offers limited stops and faster transportation between downtown and Oakland. The easier it is to travel in and around the city, the more likely retailers are to open and experience success.
Although we can only hope for the revitalization of residential and retail downtown, the future looks promising. Flying cars or not, exploring the heart of Pittsburgh with its green space, waterfronts and rich history will continue to delight Pittsburghers for years to come.

Jul 16, 2014

5 Blogs Entrepreneurs Should Follow

  Created and run by Derek Halpern, this blog is concerned with how business owners can increase consumer traffic and become more interactive. It focuses on the psychological aspects that trigger people to buy products. The realm of social media can be overwhelming considering the ever increasing tools businesses can use to expand their reach and track their audience. This website gives readers tips on what websites attract certain audiences and how to get the best results. While its focus is on marketing for small business owners and entrepreneurs, this website offers advice on an abundance of topics from branding to business writing. Although most small business owners are not writing campaigns for Google, writing copy is an important strength to have as it translates into creative writing for blogs, social media and other promotional content. This blog focuses on teaching readers how to make their writing more appealing as well as succinct. Online activity grows with each coming year, especially among the Millennial Generation. This blog encourages entrepreneurs to take advantage of this by building online communities through websites and blogs.

Jul 9, 2014

Create a Conversation: 3 Word of Mouth Marketing Tips

As you get ready to enjoy a new episode of your favorite TV show, you are bombarded with commercials that try in every way imaginable to get people to buy products. And although you may remember, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” for the rest of your life, you may never have State Farm Insurance because you know the often exaggerated promises are coming directly from the State Farm Marketing team. On the other hand, if you’re talking to a co-worker about what type of insurance they have and they attest to State Farm’s customer service claims, you will be more likely to consider it. From this idea comes the birth of word of mouth (WOM) marketing. The purpose of WOM marketing is to encourage people to talk about your brand and/or its products. To understand the power this can have, take the cable show turned phenomenon, Breaking Bad, as an example. AMC introduced this show in 2008 with ratings so low the show could have been cancelled. Due to the quality of the show, it grew rapidly in popularity with little paid promotion. If you are starting a business and lack a large marketing budget, consider the following word of mouth tactics to get the right people talking about your business:
1.      Target Opinion Leaders: The people that spread information to various target audiences are known as opinion leaders. They can be bloggers, journalists, trendsetters or anybody else that your target consumers look to for information. With the increasing popularity of social media, it is easy to look at Twitter and Facebook for opinion leaders. You may want to look further and surf the net for popular websites and blogs your target customers interact with. For example, if your business is a car detailing shop you can begin to interact with bloggers on autogeek.com. Share the techniques you use and what products you swear by. It takes time to build relationships with opinion leaders and it is important NOT to bombard them with self-promotion. Instead develop a dialogue that eventually evolves into a trustworthy mutual relationship. The purpose of WOM advertising is to offset the skepticism that consumers often feel with paid advertising. The readers must feel as though they are learning about the brand without being pressured to buy its products. Another way to find opinion leaders is to encourage interaction on your social media accounts. Those who are the most interactive are going to be significant ambassadors to your brand.
2.      Generate Buzz: Find out what is unique about your product and get people talking about it. For example, unlike most doughnut shops, Krispy Kreme serves its doughnuts right out of the oven. In order to further involve customers, they developed an app that lets people know when each batch of fresh doughnuts is ready. That way customers can enjoy the product and stay connected to the brand. There are countless success stories where companies have generated unpaid publicity by doing something unexpected and unprecedented to benefit their customers. To continue with the auto detailing business example, there are countless ways to generate buzz for your business. You can take one of your top of the line cars to a summer car cruise and let people know who you are. Create a demonstration, pass out flyers, stage a car theft (just kidding), etc.
3.      Build Your Social Media Presence: Be your own opinion leader. Post relevant information and articles about your industry. Give people information they care about and share industry insights. For an auto detailer or even a restaurant, post demonstration videos on YouTube and link them to other accounts. Post tips, recipes, favorite products, etc. As you gain a social media presence, make sure your followers know who you are and what you do.
4.      Be Honest: A WOM relationship is built on trust. Your audience trusts that you are not giving them a sales pitch and therefore are more likely to listen to you and interact with you. If your audience thinks they are being lied to or manipulated then your word is no more powerful than a commercial or print flyer.
According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends or family more than paid advertising. The increase in online connectedness has given small businesses a powerful and cost efficient alternative to traditional advertising. Take advantage of it.