Know When Your Business Needs IT Consulting Services

Businesses must ensure that only the latest technologies and software are deployed at the workplace, in order to provide quality solutions to their clients, and to be ahead of the competition. With the ever-changing technological trends in the industry, businesses find it cumbersome to adopt these technologies. Instead they can hand the entire function over to a sound IT consulting services company – who in turn will tap into their global pool of highly skilled IT professionals, who have the advantage of working in various IT environments, and have extensive experience across sectors. By providing assistance to business, IT consulting services providers free up existing resources; ensure IT transitions are smooth and problem-free; optimise key business processes; identify areas that benefit with further cost saving; build competitive advantage through IT; reduce IT complexities; provide IT strategy consultancy services, IT project management services and provide specialised programme management solutions – all of which, help the organisation achieve significant business efficiencies and cost benefits.

Choosing to work with an IT firm definitely boosts a company’s overall efficiency, which in turn decreases costs. Firms tend to look for a flexible and bespoke solution to address the client’s IT needs, thereby delivering solutions that are in tandem with the client’s goals.

The advantages listed above necessitate hiring an IT company. But how will a business know that it needs IT consultancy services?

A business may function with its existing IT architecture without knowing the benefits of such services. In order to discern the need for IT consulting services, businesses must first understand the details of their services. According to Wikipedia, ‘IT consulting is a field that focuses on advising businesses on how best to use IT to meet their business objectives. In addition to providing advice, IT consultancies often estimate, manage, implement, deploy, and administer IT systems on businesses’ behalf, known as Outsourcing’. IT consulting services firms thereby help businesses strategise and evaluate their IT functions as a whole and take the necessary steps to implement and/or deploy and then administer effective and robust IT systems in place. Businesses can seek the services of an IT firm when:

  1. IT investments regularly overshoot the set budget. Fast-paced technologies and trends warrant proper planning. When making strategic use of the allocated budget seems difficult, seeking the advice of IT consultancy services providers is imperative.
  2. A business decides to relocate or reduce staff.
  3. Projects regularly miss deadlines. Lack of specialists, complex projects and shoestring budgets lead to inefficient project management. A sound IT consulting services company designs bespoke, safe and cost-effective solutions, either full time or part time.
  4. Challenges of globalization, technical and regulatory changes arise. Business and technology management when integrated help the business survive, and therefore IT strategy consultancy is important.
  5. Programmes and projects eat into the budget. A business needs specialised programme management solutions to achieve significant cost savings. A robust IT services company provides either the co-sourcing or the outsourcing model to help businesses remain ahead of the competition, by providing tailored solutions.
  6. There is a need to change networks or when the need to shift to a new IT architecture arises.
  7. The company is in need of a robust disaster recovery plan.
  8. There are no data storage systems in place.

Availing the services of the right IT consulting services company may be a challenge. A business must choose a provider before the problems stated above get worse – and must choose a provider who is able to set in place a sound IT system in place. Therefore, a business must choose a provider who provides flexible solutions. Businesses must also remember that though they think they are able to fix small issues, the reality is that these issues must be treated at the root, and they can be properly tackled only with strategic IT solutions – only provided by an effective IT consulting services company.

A Craft Industry Analysis

The Craft and Hobby Association in 2011, released results of research into the U.S. Craft and Hobby Industry. You may be surprised to learn that the craft and hobbyist’s contribution towards this industries net worth is approximately $29 billion, double the $14 billion first reported by Craft Organization Directors Association (CODA) in 2001. A surprising figure to emerge from this research (even to us avid craft enthusiasts) is that over half of U.S. households acknowledged engaging in a craft activity at least once per year.

When we unpack that $29 billion net worth figure we get a clearer picture of who it is that loves their hobby. Woodworking was the front runners in the top 10 craft sectors by spend, coming in at $3.32 billion with 16.8 million individuals engaging in this activity. I myself have some lovely bookends purchased at a local Sunday market that have clearly been lovingly produced by one such woodworker.

Since the internet revolution every industry engages in analytics and who wouldn’t want to have a picture of their client base so savvy marketing campaigns can bring a little more of that dollar value into the business. And what an impressive dollar value it is. The artists among us, thought to be 21.1 million households, spent $2.6 billion on our passion. The jewelry making and beading craft accounted for $2.3 billion with 14.7 million people crafting earrings, necklaces, bracelets and broaches etc. Over 18 million households engaged in Scrapbooking and other paper crafts spending $3.3 billion preserving family memories and turning photos into family heirlooms. The crocheting hobby injected $1.062 billion into the industry via 17.4 million strong crochet fans. That’s a lot of towels getting topped.

Crafting wreaths, historically a symbol of strength, and in Christianity a celebration of the festive season, made it into one of the top 10 favorite craft activities with 11.6 million engaging in this activity. This is not a once a year only at Christmas craft as wreaths are also used as wedding headdress in many different cultures. Incidentally, wedding crafts injected $803 million into the U.S. craft economy.

With speculation that the global financial crisis is responsible for providing this boost for the craft industry Hobby Lobby’s Eileen Liffick attributed an increase of people attending craft shops or online craft sites looking for ways to create craft for their families without spending a lot of money due to the current economic conditions. Ms Liffick says that “not only are people saving money, they’re making it. We have many people selling these items making extra money”.

What was previously a much loved hobby is now a means of saving the family money. “People are looking to create something special, something homemade. They want to help others save money, while making a little extra for themself”. The fabric department’s business has at least doubled in the last three years because of the economy with people trending back to earlier times, making homemade items for themselves, as a gift, or for a fun family activity. Industry concentration has increased over the five years to 2011, as large national retailers take market share from small independent operators.

Despite the impact of large scale business successful craft businesses are popping up everywhere seeking to share in the crafting industries net worth of $29 million. Crafting is a convenient work from home business and respected cottage industry. Approximately 81.2% of total craft industry operators in Canada are estimated to be businesses without paid-employees (non-employers) in 2011.

It’s now easier than ever to publicize your business and get recognition without spending a fortune doing so using a variety of free and low cost tools and resources from marketing on the internet to craft shows and everything in between.

Craft shows bring resources and new techniques to the end user providing an unequalled opportunity to present craft and hobby ideas and products and services to this cashed up audience. The hobby and craft association reported attendee registration at one particular craft show up 40%. In the “buyer” category alone registration was up 48% for this same show planned for 2012 in Anaheim.

Craft Pavilions showcase what’s new in crafts reaching craft and hobby enthusiasts far and wide. Stall holders sell products in a popular, vibrant market place that attracts tens of thousands over the course of the event. The bonus to the community is far reaching as these tens of thousands of attendees require accommodation and spend money on food and drinks in the vicinity of the event.

Peartree Solutions produced a report on the profile of the Canadian craft industry (2003) highlighting that Canadian craft, recognized internationally for its quality and distinctive character, was at the time considered to be a growing and vibrant collection of individual craft persons, studios, enterprises, media guilds, public and private galleries, retail and wholesale shows, and organizations. The industry in 2001 had generated $727 million in economic activity which including over $100 million in exports.

At the time of this research there were approximately 14,048 craft studios operating in Canada, where 22,597 people were employed. Ten per cent of those surveyed had craft revenues in excess of $120,000. The net craft income (or earnings) of full time craft professionals averaged $17,300 in 2001, while the top ten per cent earned net income of $49,000 or more.

Southern hemisphere crafters are every bit as enthusiastic about their hobby. Australia has less than one fifth of the population of U.S. however managed to spend an estimated $250 million on art and craft materials in 2009-2010. These figures are not a true representation of the Australian craft industry however as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) define a hobby as an activity that was undertaken only for oneself or for family or friends, that is, the output was not for general consumption. If the item produced was to sell, then this would be considered a work involvement and not measured in the hobby category. The ABS survey showed that in 2007 there were 2.1 million people aged 15 years and over in Australia who were involved in Art and craft as a hobby activity.

Craft exhibitions, craft festivals, craft shows are an unequalled opportunity for crafters and retailers alike to show case their wares. “Handarbeit & Hobby” Exhibition (Cologne, Germany) was held in 2009. Thought to be the largest European exhibition of manufacturers of the goods for needlework and creativity, the exhibition attracted more than 200 craft product companies. Many companies from Mexico, Japan, Australia, the USA and other countries saw the financial benefits of crossing the globe to present their products and shore up a slice of the lucrative European craft market.

Prize money from craft competitions can be quite lucrative for the hobbyist. A winner of an award for embroidery in 2009 beat the pool of 24 finalists from 24 countries selected from 330 applicants to take home $10 000. Craft enthusiasts can compete with the best by entering craft competitions. A European quilting championship has been held annually, since competition commenced in 2002. Masters and designers of ceramics and porcelain from Canada, Russia, Spain and other countries were among the last biennale visitors to the British Ceramic biennale festival in 2009. A mosaic technique summit was organized by the Society of the American Mosaic Artists and coincided with 10th anniversary of this Society.

In a news release issued on April 14 2011, CHA Member Northridge Publishing (PROVO, Utah) announced the launch of a new craft industry trade publication “Creative Retailer,” The publication aims to provide retailers the very best in industry information and product awareness and canvas a wide variety of topics, provide project ideas and discuss solutions for common retail problems for craft retailers. The craft industry hopes that the introduction of a new trade publication is a signal that the industry has a positive future for retailers and craft enthusiast alike.

As former partners of Scrapbook Premier, Inc. and Scrapbook Business Magazine, Torrie and Kevin of Northridge Publishing will provide leading-edge programs and media support that will strengthen business practices for both vendor, manufacturers and retailers. Brian Kunz, founder and president of Northridge Publishing stated ‘”they are striving to expand the industry by building greater awareness to their many subscribers” (hundreds of new readers every month).

Craft industry statistics clearly show that with over half of U.S. households engaging in a craft activity, many, many people experience that unequaled feeling of satisfaction that comes from creating something beautiful. Nothing is as self-soothing as those stolen hours immersed in the craft you adore.

Benefits of Free Classified Ads

Of late there has been a much debate on relevance and usefulness of Free Classified Ads from the business perspective. Free classified ads are a sort of boon for small businesses who cannot afford to pump up large bucks into other forms of paid advertising.

Hands down, a classified ad is the cheapest way to spread the word about your company in order to connect with your potential audience. On the whole, below are some general benefits of using classified sites for advertising.

So, are they really useful? Yes, they are useful. But there is a catch; it depends on your requirement.

Time and Money:

While you can post your ad for free in many sites, the cost to access the popular classifieds sites which attract traffic is not costly too; in fact, it is nothing in comparison to the ROI it entails. Moreover, posting an ad is a simple process that doesn’t demand a lot of time. A simple ad copy is all you need.

Simple and Easy:

While other forms of internet marketing techniques demand a dedicated time and effort, classifieds posting is as simple and easy it can be. Preparing an ad and posting it could be a manual job,but there are sites which automates this process for you; Some of them even help you in preparing a better ad copy specific to each type of posting.

Reachability:

Targeting a good number of sites carefully selected depending on the context of the service, an online business can enjoy a tremendous reachability through classifieds. True that you need a good quality of sites to achieve that, as we have discussed before, access to such sites is cheap too.

High Return on investment:

Not only because it is very affordable but also due to its inherent nature of getting the word out a quality pace, Classified ads offer one of highest return on investment among other internet marketing strategies.

As we have said at the start of this post, though Classified ads seem like the best choice among all its counterparts, but it depends on the requirement of the user. While each method has its own set of positives and negatives and is suitable for particular type of strategy,we can say that Classified ads are the safest possible option to get a considerable exposure.

Most people who visit a classified site are search of the services, so as a service provider it is the best place to feature your advert. All you have to do is choose a good site that attract a lot of traffic and write an attractive ad copy.

Marketing to Senior Citizens – Health and Fitness, the Growing Trend Amongst Seniors

Today seniors can’t afford not to get moving! With all the hype around nutrition and exercise the aging population is well aware of the benefit of an active lifestyle.

Most seniors of the 55 plus group are keen to reap the rewards of healthy aging through a variety of activities. They are not newcomers to the gym so to speak. Most have kept active with some form of physical activity throughout their lives, whether it is hardcore workouts in the gym or a congenial round of golf on a summer’s afternoon. Women of this age group have also managed years of multi-tasking, most having juggled full time careers, while raising families and still found time to fit in some form of exercise. These women became well acquainted with aerobics, step classes, strength training and power walking. Also, stress relievers such as yoga and pilates were embraced to combat tension and fatigue. In many cases these activities were their salvation of an overly busy lifestyle.

It is only natural then, that these baby boomers are looking to continue their active lifestyle into retirement. Quite possibly, with the time constraints lifted at this stage in life, it leaves them to focus more sharply on their health and wellness.

A huge opportunity exists for gyms and programming facilities to cater to this senior market. The number of seniors is set to skyrocket in the next five to ten years and if gym operators are to jump ahead of this curve, they should set their marketing sights on appealing to and attracting this demographic.

How to go about this? What are seniors looking for when it comes to staying fit? Firstly it is important to see a visual image that they can relate to. Marketing success is all about seeing yourself in the picture, being that person who is strong, fit and beaming with energy. If a beautiful twenty something image is smiling back, then age becomes a handicap in the mind of the senior, derailing their good intentions, making them feel like they can’t compete. The perfect image that will empower the market they are trying to impress is an attractive fit senior pursuing the exercise of his or her choice. An ad such as this will pop with the 55 plus market, creating a role model with whom they can immediately identify and connect. Seniors like everyone else need to be able to put themselves into that ad campaign and honestly believe that it could be them looking out. This puts the wheels in motion for a positive mindset and a “can-do” attitude.

Seniors are only as old as they feel. Once again we come back to the mind-set, which is a very powerful tool. Boomers today are constantly fighting the aging stereotype that has depicted seniors in the past. Seniors in their sixties often look, act and feel ten to fifteen years younger than their actual age. Advertising should play up to this pretense which promotes this healthy reversal known as “turning back the clock”.

Another means of promoting fitness is to educate the senior who wants to get moving and who wants information as to how this will benefit them and enhance their life. They need to know the positives, what they can expect, and can look forward to as a result of embarking on the fitness journey that the marketer proposes. The campaign needs to encompass every aspect of their life, proving that properly presented, seniors will understand that an opportunity to change is being offered which will impact and alter their lifestyle. It’s within their reach, all that remains to be done, is to get out there, set realistic goals with realistic time frames and make it happen.

This brings us to another point. Marketers should focus on the enhancement of senior life overall, as a result of engaging in exercise and activities, rather than the promise that, if you join up you will achieve this enviable body or snag that hot date. The quality of life and the heightened enjoyment of everyday activities which seniors can have as a result of exercise need to be highlighted.

Marketing programs should also contain testimonials and feedback from actual seniors delighted with their progress and accomplishments, similar to that of “before and after stories of weight loss”. Seniors want to hear how it has enhanced and changed other people, who are just like themselves. They want to hear the successes, for example, how exercise lowered blood pressure, how strength training enabled other seniors to do more, how medication was reduced, how endurance was stretched. It all gives the feeling that anything is possible, if they can do it, then I can as well. It sends a message and an incentive to become a joiner.

Seniors often prefer to sample a program on a trial basis to see if it’s going to be the right fit for them. Offering special programs geared to this group is smart when limiting them to one or two classes. Fitness activities can be offered at many different types of senior living facilities. Places such as retirement communities and nursing homes already recognize the need and benefits of fitness and nutritional programs. Approaching these senior residences is an effective strategy of marketing to large groups of seniors. There are also many senior assisted living residences that do not have organized fitness classes or programs in place yet, but they will soon. Visit these places and offer a free class or program, if these programs are successful you will know that this appeals to seniors and if the need is strong enough to continue. This will help to target the senior market, zeroing in on what works and what doesn’t.

Marketers of fitness need to alter their sales approach to seniors. This age group is not impulsive and will appreciate a thorough, softer sell approach. Seniors need and want information and prefer patience. This in turn builds trust, instilling confidence in the senior contemplating buying a membership. It basically reaffirms that they are doing the right thing in taking this first step to join.

Seniors as consumers hold certain expectations that need to be met for fulfillment. As part of the packaging of the programming, seniors also need and crave socialization and to be part of the group. They need leadership, to have an instructor to safely guide them through the program, with an eye to protecting them from injury and awareness of ailments like arthritis and osteoporosis in the participants. They look for convenience, with minimal stairs and easy entry, or even better brought to their home. Lastly they want value and attention, to feel like they are progressing and that their state of well being is something that is noted.

As with any market, the sales approach needs to be geared to their age defined needs and preferences. In the year 2010 and in the coming years the greying of the boomers market will keep growing by leaps and bounds. There will be an even greater emphasis on slowing the effects of aging and possibly the reversal through movement and exercise. This, the marketers realize is what it’s all about at any age. Seniors, like everyone else, want to maintain a high quality of life and that definitely includes exercise to make it happen.