The Business Women's Group
  1. High Tech = High Touch

    March 19, 2012

    Lani Basa

    This phrase has been around for a while. I’ve heard it used in context with new technology or IT firms selling software to “non-techies”.

    There is no doubt we are a high tech world. As mentioned earlier – screens will become a way of life. Customers will find the info the need to justify their purchase or how they feel about it or the company.

    Because of technology though – we are in danger of creating “non personal” interactions, “virtual” everything, paperless, text versus calling… While all good and desired – there is also a desire for experiences, for the tactile, for the physical, for the “real deal” – be that a person, an object or live experience.

    A term called the “Retail Safari” has been identified. It speaks to the idea that customers expect to feel or experience something they can’t get online when they are in a physical space.  This might be a compelling spectacle, exclusive products, ability to test and feel things or learn how to use the product.

    Here are some things that are happening in this area:

    • Objectifying Objects – “motivational objects” that accompany digital property to increase perceived value:
      -Boxed Sets with special containers -
      -Postcards on the Run “a real keepsake they can hold close to their heart, put up on the fridge or display at work.”
    • Personal Creations – digital tools that enable the creation of physical things: custom Converse, iPhone cases, earphones, cars.
    • Melding of Tech & Touch
      -Hai Di Lao a hot pot chain in China where you can share your meal with family or friends on screen.
      -Apple – select your laptop and features online – show up in store to pick it up and get a lesson how to use with at the Genius Bar.
      -A fully online shopping store – Jewelmint “selects” jewelry recommendations for you, lets you keep a virtual “jewelry box” online of what you own or your favorites and sends their jewelry in little “velvet like” bags in boxes.

    So consider how to deliver that “High Touch” experience no matter your business model. How do you ensure that interactions with you, your company, your web presence has a “personal touch”?

  2. ReCommerce

    Lani Basa

    Novel brand buy-backs, exchange schemes, online platforms and mobile marketplaces offer smart and convenient options for consumers keen to ‘trade in to trade up’, alleviate financial strains, or quell environmental concerns.

    These ideas are also affecting consumers’ initial purchase decisions. Consumers are factoring an item’s resale value into the cost of ownership for an ever-wider range of purchases.

    Here are a few things that are driving this “recommerce” mind set:

    • nextism – a driver of this trend – it’s about consumers craving new and exciting experiences promised by the “next” (new, improved…) – iPhone 5 anyone?
    • statusphere – the “considered consumer” – where it’s smart to get cash or discounts for old or (un)used items, or to dispose of things responsibly – Herberger’s Goodwill Sale where you receive a 20% off coupon for each item of gently used clothing is a great example.
    • excusumption – still cash-strapped or making do with less – consumers are looking to spend less and still enjoy as many experiences and purchases as possible – trade-in programs like Best Buy offering trade-ins for the newest version of electronics or online valuation services for products you currently own.
    • ecocycology – recycling on steroids – this is where brands take back all of their products and recycle them responsibly and innovatively.  Patagonia’s Common Threads initiative is where the company takes back items bought from them that have reached the end of it’s life and recycle it back into new fiber or fabric.

    So what does this mean for you?

    • If you have a product or a service – now is the time to think about promoting long term value of an item/service which will help with a higher price point.
    • Help a customer realize a value in a past purchase (coupons, trade-ins…).
    • Use your expertise to help in valuation and reselling.

    Keep in mind, with today’s consumer – value is still top of mind even as we start to come out of the economic times we have been in.

  3. Screen Culture & Infolust

    Lani Basa

    This is maybe less of a trend and more of a medium through which everything will be available. It ties tightly to the Reputations are Exposed trend.

    How many have seen the YouTube video of the 1 year old who is growing up with screens? The mother writes at the end – “For my 1 year old daughter, a magazine is an iPad that does not work.”

    Consumers will care less about the screen and more about what’s being accessed through them. This opens up opportunities to inform, engage and motivate consumers as never before.
    It’s important because of “Infolust” – an insatiable desire for the most relevant information.

    Consumers are lusting after detailed information on where to get the best of the best, the cheapest of the cheapest, the first of the first, the healthiest of the healthiest, the coolest of the coolest, or on how to become the smartest of the smartest. Instant information gratification is upon us. You know about infolust – you’ve done it – googled that person, pulled up a handbag review, or checked prices.

    When 8 out of 10 consumers research purchases online – over 1/2 buy in-store. Because of smartphones – some customers will even research while in the store and buy online while still there if the price is better! Information and knowledge give consumers power, control and certainty (or illusion of).

    So think about it – Can your customers find you? What can they find out about you? How do you share information about you and your company? Being able to answer these questions will help ensure you can inform, engage and hopefully motivate potential customers to work with you.

  4. Health Care Reform – Is Your Business Ready?

    Jill Bickford

    Adoption of consumer driven health plans, especially HSAs continues to be a leading trend.

    Shopping for alternative insurance carriers still paying off as underwriting competition will remain fierce until 2014.

    Premiums are projected to increase 40-70% for individuals and businesses.

    For companies with <50 employees – Small Employer Tax credits were made available thru the Affordable Care Act of 2011. Be sure to check into this.

    There are Federal Penalties as well as Federal subsidies for Individual and Businesses – talk to an expert to navigate through this!

  5. Interest Rate Limbo

    Jill Bickford

    Fed has stated they will likely hold rates down into late 2014.

    Bank deposit rates will remain low. Now is the time for a financial check up. Consider other non-bank products for a better rate of return. Healthy banks will pay similar to other banks – proceed with caution if a bank is paying above market rates.

    Re-fi your mortgage if you haven’t done so already. 30 yr 3.87%, 15 yr 3.15% as of 2-7-12.

    Know what your credit looks like and work to improve your credit score – re-fi once you do, rates will stay low for a while.

    Lock in long term loans at today’s low rates.

  6. Reputations Are Exposed – Social media can be your friend or your

    Myrna Marofsky

    Reputations more visible and vulnerable than every. Social media amplifies all.

    Reputation can be promoted or trashed in moments. As a result companies are pushing reputation management emphasis.  Think about all the Top 25 lists that are being featured.

    There are no secrets because of Social Media.  Irritators are amplified – think about what happened when Netflix changed its pricing packages.

    Reputations can also be trashed in a minute.

    One billion people are associated with a social media vehicle. Reputation measures will make visible those who are the best companies and products.

    There are new power brokers:

    • Blogs…Mommy Blogs, Travelocity (I’m one review away from being a Senior reviewer)
    • Apps that Find & Review Services – Yelp, Urbanspoon, Flixster
    • Product Reviews – Amazon, Yahoo

    One million company profiles on LinkedIn.  Place for people to find you and for employees to find you.  A place to verify that you are what you say.  It requires that you differentiate yourself in a way that is real.  That what you say is really what you do.

  7. Talent Economy – Small business can get the skills they need, without hiring

    Myrna Marofsky

    We can’t keep up on the knowledge we need and use – because it is evolving so quickly.

    What you need is access and connections to people who know more than you.

    Small businesses are now able to draw on low-cost skilled workers to extend their capabilities and grow faster. We can now call on freelance talent to generate ideas and content for us. and are both Temp providers that have already placed $1 billion of work.  They are USA based.  65 percent of Temp placement will grow in 2012. Two of the WPO companies I work with who do Temporary placement are flourishing.

    Consider the following:

    • Unpaid internships or paid internships are also a big part of this trend.
    • The “Mobile worker” works virtually.  Been in Caribou or Starbucks lately?  Again, the ability to be “connected” from anywhere, gives businesses access to any talent they need.
    • Many business cards are saying “Self-employed”.
    • This way of work, works with generational differences – those that don’t want to devote their lives and loyalty to an employer.
    • LinkedIn’s highest priority is to collect individual Profiles that are platforms to find the people you want.

    As a business owner you benefit from this trend because you don’t need to hire, you don’t necessarily need a desk or office for this individual and you pay for the work as you need it. Plus – it is getting easier and easier to find the talent you need, when you need it.

  8. Business Intelligence – Big data gets even bigger

    Myrna Marofsky

    What is Business Intelligence? Any data that will help you support and improve your business.

    Always had data but it was hard to collect and find–now it is abundant.

    Now easy access to it. Ipad, computing where large files and big research can happen.  Now more than a list of statistics, but visual displays in pretty easy to use applications.

    The proliferation of data advances in technologies are pushing the pace of innovation and process improvement.  Those who use data effectively are shifting their lens on the data from what happened to what can happen.  They are the ones who will flourish.

    Today you can get data that can  answer most every question, monitor every trend, find qualified leads for business development, and keep an eye on your competitors. Think about how many surveys you have been asked to complete from every type of business.

    Think about how our easy access to customer metrics, vendor performance, and your own companies performance impacts your decisions.

    Uses for this abundance of data:

    • Reporting – objective is to create a reoccurring standard.  What are your customers saying, buying, requesting.
    • Dashboards look and strategize.  Performance indicators-i.e. projections.    Relies on interpretation…based on experience.  Many business owners have dashboards they have created that they look at every day.
    • Analysis – forecasts and trends to develop new insights.
    • Analytics - Provides data for “What if” scenarios

    So what is the data that you have available and how are you using it? Better yet, what data do you have that you are not using?

  9. Trends & Your Business

    Myrna Marofsky

    Trends are profitable for business.

    To be effective, you need to go beyond the trends of your industry to a broad understanding of what the future suggests.
    Daniel Burrus in his book Flash Foresight, with a subtitle How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible, makes the case for looking at trends to strategize and visualize the future for you and your business. He talks about “hard trends”  Those that are measurable tangible and fully predictable.   For example, many would argue that Housing predicted the economic downturn long before we took action.


    “soft trends” which is something that might happen based on intangible evidence.  VHS would not be around.  Blockbuster’s is out. Kodak-out of photos and into printing.

    Then there are “Gee Whiz Golly” trends….Things my grandson says. Some may be correct.  101 year old Aunt Edith may have said “Gee Whiz Golly” about the airplane, or smartphone.

    Both hard trends and soft trends are critical for business owners to be in touch with.

    It’s good to start with certainty, but as we know there is much we can only anticipate with a good deal of data and a large dose of intuition.

    Women, typically started their businesses on a gut notion that their idea was solid. Usually women’s businesses are started with intuition and “hope.”  As the business realities and challenging decisions hit home, women realize they need to take a hard look at what is happening around them.

    In the following posts, we will share some of the trends we see from our perspective, then we will have you share one or two trends from your perspective.

    As you read, Think  How does this impact ME?  MY Business.

  10. 10 Key Trends for 2012

    February 10, 2012

    At our recent Open Circle Event, Myrna Marofsky (Founder of The BWC), Jill Bickford (Executive VP/Brand Director of Bremer Bank) and Lani Basa (Executive Director of The BWC) shared 10 trends that they believed were important for women business owners to  think about for 2012.

    Here are the 10 Key Trends that were shared:

    1.   Business Intelligence- Big data gets even bigger.
    2.   Talent Economy-Small business can get the skills they need, without hiring.
    3.   Reputations Are Exposed-Social media can be your friend or your irritator.
    4.   Interest Rate Limbo
    5.   Women and the recession – how are we faring?
    6.   Health care reform – is your business ready?
    7.   Screen Culture & Infolust
    8.   ReCommerce
    - ecocycology
    - excusumption
    - nextism
    - statusphere
    9.   High Tech = High Touch
    10. The Election of 2012 – Who knows?

    We also heard from attendees what trends were important to them and their business. Here are a few:

    Renita Van Dusen of Affina Design spoke to marketing to women and what is changing and not!
    Peggy Paul of She Taxi knows that as women get busier and move into higher positions – balance and wellness  become even more important in their lives.
    Sasha Westin of fabuliss discussed how she is communicating to her customers through social media – for example, more Pinterest less Twitter.

    As always – our Open Circle brought great women together for great conversation over wonderful food and wine!

    We’ll share more around each of our 10 trends in the coming  posts – so stay tuned!!
CONGRATULATIONS to our own Myrna Marofsky! Minnesota Business Magazine named Myrna a member of the The (Real) Power 50 - recognizing her as someone that makes things happen. Something we already knew! : )
BWC made my business better this year! Thank you! ~Lori L. Jacobwith - Master Storyteller, Fundraising Trainer & Coach