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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birmingham’s Malmaison Boutique Hotels

Boutique hotels can be an excellent way to experience your visit to any city, but this is particularly true for Birmingham. This elegant city should be experienced through the lens of luxury and polished beauty that epitomizes the culture and history of the city.

Of the many hotels Birmingham has to offer, the boutique hotels give visitors an exceptional experience. While most of us can’t feasibly visit these hotels with every visit, they can be a refreshing way for visitors to immerse themselves in an extraordinary lodging experience. This is especially the case for those looking to take a special vacation, a self-indulgent treat, or a relationship recharge.

The Malmaison, for instance, offers their guests much more than just another place to sleep. And don’t let the fact that it’s a chain put you off. Some of most excellent boutique hotels in Europe belong to chains. After all, hotels become chains because they consistently deliver exceptional service. Part of that ethos is the way in which many of these locations adapt their services to the taste, style, and culture of local life.

Like many boutique hotels Birmingham features, the Malmaison combines a full service gourmet brasserie with a local seasonal menu and an inviting lounge, all immersed in an ambience of unparalleled style and class. But what makes the Malmaison so unique among Birmingham hotels is its unique location in the Mailbox, one of the most stylish shopping districts in the UK. Housed in an old post office, the Malmaison combines the history and style of a B&B with the old fashioned full service grandeur of a luxury hotel.

Retail Gone Mobile! Why You Should Start a Mobile Boutique

If you are an entrepreneur looking to launch a retail business, but don’t have a tremendous amount of start-up capital to get it started, then a mobile boutique may be right for you. As we know, mobile businesses have been around for quite a while. Just think of the people who sold Tupper Ware, the women you see selling Mary Kay, the vendors you see at festivals, or the food trucks you see all over town. Also known as fashion trucks, mobile boutiques are popping up across the country. Popular in Los Angeles and New York, mobile boutiques are like food trucks but instead of selling food, they are selling clothing and accessories. Here are some reasons why I am starting a mobile boutique and why you should too.

Flexible Schedule

Like a lot of entrepreneurs starting out, it can be very difficult to leave your full-time job for a business venture that you are not even certain will make money. With a mobile boutique, you can have the shop on wheels work around your schedule. Having a stable income, even if it’s a little bit, definitely makes one feel a more at ease. In pursuing a venture like this, you could work part-time and open your boutique on the off days or if you work full-time during week days, you can open during weekends. If neither of these options work for you, you can always look into doing private events and parties in the evenings. The flexibility of the mobile boutiques are endless and should definitely be considered as a plus when making the decision to start one.

Low overhead costs

A traditional clothing boutique run out of a brick and mortar shop can have a lot of overhead. Once you take into account the rent, utilities, and other start-up essentials it can get quite expensive. Retail leases, in prime locations, can easily run $2,500 – $4,000 a month depending on where you live and for an entrepreneur just starting out this may not be practical. With a mobile boutique, you basically pay a one-time cost for your storefront and for the money you would pay in 9 months’ rent, you could have bought your boutique on wheels and be progressing towards a profit. Emily McCrary, owner of The Mobile Vintage Shop emphasizes the luxury of being mobile when she states “I own my trailer, I can go wherever I want, and my rent doesn’t increase.”

Gives the business a creative edge

Mobile boutiques are created out of former delivery trucks, RV’s, trailers, and buses. Most of these boutiques are covered with a customized, eye-catching vehicle wrap or paint job to entice customers and then once customers step inside they are not disappointed. Mobile shop owners not only create an appealing outside, but they also renovate these vehicles to look like actual shops on the inside. Owners create the ambiance by putting in flooring, lighting, shelving, sales counters and even fitting rooms, thus giving customers a very unique shopping experience. According to the Los Angeles Times, David Wolfe, creative director of the New York trend forecasting firm the Doneger Group, supports the unique appeal of fashion trucks by saying “Shoppers are exhausted by the traditional venues, the whole world is ‘over-retailed’ to beat the band. It’s not like the merchandise is any different, but the setting is unexpected, funky, weird and young.”

You can pick your location

In addition to being flexible with time, mobile boutiques are also flexible with location. Instead of waiting for the customer to come to you, you can just go to the customer. By having flexibility in location, you have the freedom to change your location if it’s not working out and resist having to be confined to one place. Plus by having the ability to visit multiple locations you build a broader clientele and following. This is important because if you do ever decide to open a brick and mortar shop in the future, you will already have customers that patronize your business.

So, with the flexibility, low overhead, the creative edge and open location a mobile boutique provides, you could get your mobile boutique off the ground and rolling in no time!