And the Winner is …

For the past eight years, PDRA has had the privilege of awarding one lucky student with a $5,000 scholarship. Established by PDRA’s Board of Directors as a component of the Retailer to Retailer Initiative, the scholarship honors a deserving student nominated by a PDRA member in good standing.

Earlier this month, PDRA unveiled Nathan James Koerperich as this year’s winner at the 2016 National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. James was nominated by Jim and Merita Koerperich, owners of J & M Paint & Decorating in Garden City, Kansas.

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PDRA Executive Vice President Dan Simon, and the 2016 Scholarship winner, Nathan James Koerperich

Congratulations Nathan!

For more information about the PDRA Scholarship Program click here, call 1-800-737-0107 (ext. 113), or email tina@pdra.org.

5 Keys to Penning the Perfect Social Media Bio

In last week’s blog post we stressed the importance for small businesses to stand out online and offered seven ways to immediately improve your social media marketing. This week we’ll hone in on one of those strategies – perfecting your social media bio.

As Hootsuite puts it, “Your social media bio is like a business card: a quick, pithy way to show your new audience what you’re all about.” But in addition to telling people what you’re all about, that single paragraph below your profile picture is a great way to show off some of your brand’s personality. Effective copy can also grow your social media following and (hopefully) convert viewers into new customers.

So instead of treating you social media bio as an afterthought, invest some time and effort (and perhaps even some money) and use it as an opportunity to put your best foot forward. Here are five tips to get you started.

Set the tone. One of the most difficult – and most important – elements of your social media bio is tone. In a few short paragraphs, you must align with your company’s branding and relate to your target audience, all while getting to the point of who you are and what you do in an engaging way. And while you certainly don’t want to come across 051616 TwitterBioas amateur, you don’t want to be boring either. So don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t be afraid to write in a conversational or witty tone. Striking a balance between professional and approachable is the key to attracting – and intriguing – an audience.

Shorter is better. Regardless of the social media channel, your bio should be clear and concise. Even on Twitter, where you only have a 160 characters to tell people what you’re all about, don’t feel forced to use them all. You likely have an “About” page on your website to go into more detail, so use your bio strictly to introduce yourself and attract potential customers. To get the most mileage out of your limited word count, avoid buzzwords and clichés; instead use strong action verbs and fresh language. It’s easy to tell people you’re creative; showing them will go a lot further.

Get to the point. Much like a news story, social media bios should cover all of the relevant details in as few words as possible. It may take a bit of editing and creativity, but find a way to tell your audience who you are, where you’re located, what you do, why you do what you do and (to a lesser extent) how you do it. Just because bios are brief doesn’t mean they should be vague. Don’t be general when you can be specific, and always include your value proposition. After all, if you have nothingThe phrase Words Have Power  on a Blackboard to offer why would someone waste their time?

Key in on keywords. The language you use in your social media bio is not only important to your audience, but to Internet search engines as well. A good description of who you are, where you’re located and what you do will allow more people to come across your bio online. Without being repetitive, aim to show off your expertise to your specific audience and (again) always be as specific as possible.

Stand out. In addition to telling people what you’re all about, you want to show them you’re different from your competitors. What is one thing that people would be interested to know about your business? What is one of your company’s major milestones or accomplishments? In a way, social media bios are like magazine ads or newspaper headlines; they give viewers a split second to decide whether to stop and investigate or to move on. Make the choice easy for them by grabbing their attention and showing of your uniqueness. And, of course, feel free to update your bio from time to time. While you shouldn’t revise it on a weekly basis, checking it every quarter is a good rule of thumb.

Seven Ways to Immediately Improve Your Social Media Marketing

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

It’s a helpful mantra for small business owners in general, but it’s especially true when it comes to social media. With the emergence of apps, smartphones and mobile marketing, simply existing on social media is no longer enough. Whether you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, Snapchat or all of the above, it takes more than a random post or an occasional update to stand out from the crowd.

If you want to step up your social media game without spending too much time and money, here are some quick and easy ways to reach – and grow – your audience.

Use it or lose it. While creating a profile for the “next big” social media network seemed like a no-brainer at the time, there are just SO many “next big” social media networksSocial Media Scribble 2. And while each platform serves a specific function, you can’t be everything to everyone – nor should you want to be. Carefully evaluate each of your social media channels, and ask whether they add value to your brand. In many cases, it’s better to delete an account than it is to keep it and neglect it.

Polish your copy. When’s the last time you updated your social media biographies? Brief as it may be, the blurb in your bio or “About” section is among the first things people will see when they pay you a visit. In addition to telling people what you’re all about and building your brand, your copy should be clear, concise and contain key words related to your industry. And although it should go without mentioning, double-check your spelling and grammar!

Look your best. It’s true what they say about first impressions. When a new visitor or potential customer comes across your brand for the first time, their decision to investigate you further is made in a matter of seconds. Given all the competition for eyeballs, it’s important to have high-quality and properly-sized profile images. Here’s the most recent cheat sheet for social media image sizes, courtesy of HubSpot.

Reduce. When it comes to social media content, quality trumps quantity every single time. Simply put, if your content is engaging, entertaining and/or informative, people will like it, share it and talk about it. If it’s not, they won’t. In addition to planning for future posts, go through some of your old ones and delete anything that’s dated, off-brand or irrelevant.

Research. You don’t need to be a marketing expert or a professional statistician make 050616 Research_Analyticssense of your social media analytics. Simply set out an objective (views, clicks, follows, shares, etc.) and determine which types of posts best meet those objectives. It may take some experimentation, but eventually you’ll begin seeing patterns and recognizing trends. Another great way to see what works and what doesn’t is to scope out a) the competition, and b) successful brands in other industries. While there is something to be said for innovation and creativity, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel with every social media post.

Recycle. With all of the traffic and real-time updates on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it’s easy for your audience to miss or overlook some of your posts. The beauty of social media marketing is that content can be used more than once. Don’t be afraid to re-share your most popular posts, and consider adapting successful content for your other platforms. When it comes to recycling, the benefit of attracting new followers far outweighs the risk of losing existing ones.

Reach out. Ask and you shall receive. Reaching out to your social media audience is a fast and easy – not to mention, free – way to get valuable feedback. Whether you want to glean information about your products, your service or your brand, there’s no better source than the people you serve. Posting a Facebook question or creating a Twitter poll only takes a few seconds, and will provide valuable insights for your future social media marketing.

5 Benefits of Customer Satisfaction Surveys

They may not be as common for independent retailers as they are for big-box retailers, but customer satisfaction surveys are a great way to improve your small business.

In addition to gathering valuable data directly from the people who pay your bills, surveys can create a stronger sense of community and provide insights you wouldn’t normally have access to. If used correctly, the feedback from surveys can also convert potential problems into opportunities for sales, retention and growth.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to connect with your customers, here are five benefits of satisfaction surveys.

Feedback. Chances are you’ve heard the mantra, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” When it comes to your small business, there are probably things you’re unaware of or take for granted. Surveys are a great way to step back, get honest opinions from your 042616 Quotecustomers and learn what you don’t know. But remember, quality is more important than quantity; if you want data you can use, it’s important to ask the right questions.

Communication. While newsletters and e-blasts are great ways to reach out and stay in touch, they are forms of one-way communication. Satisfaction surveys, on the other hand, provide your customers with an opportunity to respond. By showing your customers you value their feedback – and by then implementing that feedback – you also build a sense of community. Instead of seeing their trips to your store simply as cash-for-goods transactions, they will see them as positive customer experiences.

Retention. With positive customer experiences comes higher retention rates. Given the choice, many people prefer shopping where their voices are heard and their opinions are valued. By providing some type of reward for participating in surveys – whether it be discount coupons or entry in a draw – you can increase loyalty and retention rates even further.

Content. Sharing your findings – either in store, online or both – is a great way to engage existing customers and attract new ones. Even negative feedback can be beneficial; honesty and transparency are valuable brand traits, and a commitment to constant 042616 SatisfactionSurveysimprovement helps build trust. The surveys themselves can also serve as content. For example, simply ask your Facebook audience, “What is one thing we could do to improve your customer experience?” Watch the responses roll in and use them to your advantage.

Growth. If you’re satisfied with the status quo and “business as usual,” customer satisfaction surveys are not for you. But if your entrepreneurial spirit still burns bright and you’re dedicated to evolving as a brand, they can help take your company culture to the next level. By reaching out, engaging your customers, gathering data, and then using that data to better their shopping experience, you’ll be sure to gain a following as committed to your business as you are.

5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Trade Show Experience

Here at the Paint & Decorating Retailers Association, we absolutely LOVE spring.

Yes, it’s a great time to get outside, tackle some paint projects, and explore the year’s hottest color trends. But even more importantly, the first week of May marks the return of the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas.

As Dan Simon, publisher of Paint & Decorating Retailer Magazine and executive vice president of PDRA, puts it: “The PDRA show at the NHS is the industry’s main event of the year … The show includes paint-store owners, industry manufacturers, buyers, buying groups, reps and distributors all from the paint industry. If you’re looking for new products, this is where you’ll find them.”

But as Jan Niehaus points out in the April issue of PDR Magazine, trade shows can be a big financial investment for small business owners. So instead of simply attending for the sake of attending, she says, it’s important to spend your limited time – and hard-earned dollars – wisely. Here are five tips to make the most of your trade show experience.

Plan ahead. Assuming you’ve already tested the waters and decided a particular trade show is worth attending, get to work laying out your strategy. With only a few days (at most), it’s important to study the agenda and prioritize. Simply showing up and hoping for the best will leave you overwhelmed and, ultimately, unproductive.Hand showing social networking concept made with white chalk on a blackboard Some things to consider before arriving are who you want to meet, what you want to learn, what you will bring (business cards, comfortable shoes, etc.) and who (if anyone) will go with you to represent your company.

Set goals. There’s no doubt that trade shows can be a great way to generate sales leads, scout the competition, explore new product trends and network with other industry professionals. But given your limited time, you can’t do everything. Whether it’s generating X amount of sales leads, obtaining a particular certification or boosting your social media following, come up with concrete and measurable objectives. Whatever the purpose of your visit, being intentional and deliberate will ensure much more value than trying to do too much.

Master your elevator pitch. As you’ll quickly realize, people at trade shows (whether it be presenters, exhibitors or potential customers) are extremely busy. They are also flooded with information. In the limited time you have with each new contact, it’s important to stand out. The best way to do this is with a memorable elevator pitch – who you are, what you do and what solution you offer. If you have a booth, props and unique displays can help; if not, personality always goes a long way. Think outside the box, and keep your pitch clear, concise and relevant. Important as it is to stand out, however, fight the urge to be everything to everybody; too broad a focus will only be a waste of time.

Get social. Now that you’ve mastered your elevator pitch, get busy and put it to work. You only have a few days, so make the most of them. In addition to meeting as many 041516 2014-NHS-Openingtarget contacts as possible, be sure to take advantage of social media. Apps like Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are great tools to not only promote yourself, but to engage with other trade show attendees. Just be sure to find a balance between digital and personal interaction, and cast your net as wide as possible. “Plan to attend as many seminars, presentations, receptions, happy-hour gatherings and tours as your schedule can accommodate,” recommends Niehaus.

Follow up. It may seem obvious, but planning ahead, setting goals, mastering your elevator pitch and networking are all pointless unless you follow up. Immediately upon returning from a trade show, reach out to all of your new contacts and fulfill your commitments. Even if someone didn’t seem like a good fit at the present time, a quick email or a social media connection could plant seeds that pay off down the road. This is also the best time to evaluate your goals, explore potential business strategies and gauge your ROI. Most importantly, take what you learned from your trade show experience – both the good and the bad – and apply it to the next one!

For more information about the 2016 National Hardware Show, visit the NHS website or check out the April issue of Paint & Decorating Retailer Magazine.

Five Fresh Color Trends for Spring 2016

Spring. It’s a time for revival, rejuvenation and new beginnings. It’s also a popular time for home renovations.

But giving your property a facelift doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. One budget-friendly way to give your home a renewed sense of style and sophistication is a fresh coat of paint. Whether you want to tackle several rooms or a single accent wall, the right color can go a long way in modernizing your décor.

To get you started, here are five color trends to help set the tone in your home this spring.

Bold Blues. Blue is one of those colors that tends to go through cycles, but thanks to scintillating shades like American Anthem by PPG and Filoli Dark Iris by Valspar, it’s the perfect time to go for the plunge. Blue is a great option for not only interior spaces like 040816 ParadiseFound_PPGbedrooms, bathrooms and accent walls, but also plays nicely with natural greens outdoors.

Gorgeous greens. Speaking of greens, nothing says spring like pop of mint, emerald or olive. Elegant and versatile, greens go equally great with bold colors and natural earth shades. “With an earthy edge, it hints at nature while emitting a sturdy, shielding feel, echoing the popular urban militia-inspired look that is showing up on fashion runways,” says Valerie Jager, channel marketing manager for PPG Architectural Coatings. One go-to green is Paradise Found by PPG.

Simple whites. When it comes to new beginnings, no color symbolizes a clean slate quite like white. Common yet classic, it demands attention in any room and will never go out of style. “The color white is transcendent, powerful and polarizing,” says Ellen O’Neill, creative director with Benjamin Moore, which named Simply White as its 2016 Color of the Year.

Pale purples. While pinks are great for summer and purples work in winter, spring is the 040816 SpringLilac_BMperfect time to find the sweet spot in between. Shades like lilac, lavender and periwinkle can add an understated pop of color to any room without being overbearing. They work great by themselves, or combine them with cooler colors like blue or gray for a burst of warmth. A popular not-quite purple is Spring Lilac by Benjamin Moore.

Magnificent metallics. From platinum and pewter to copper and bronze, all that glitters is truly gold this spring. In addition to providing a touch of sophistication, a shimmering ceiling or gleaming window frame will cut through neutrals and liven up any color it is paired with. “It’s no longer about that simple, pared-down, devoid-of-embellishment Belgian look,” says O’Neill. “We’re seeing all of these colors that telegraph a trunk of riches.”

Five Spring Paint Projects to Spruce Up Your Property

As the winter snow melts away and the long-awaited spring season officially begins, it’s a fantastic time to add a fresh coat of paint to various areas of the home. Since spring is known as a time for new beginnings, you have the chance to embrace it as a clean slate and transform your home into one you’ll be proud of all year long.

Whether you’re a weekend DIYer or an experienced painter, here’s a list of five spring paint projects to spruce up your property.

Exterior. While painting the exterior of your home is one of the biggest home renovation projects on the list, it’s best to tackle it in the spring. With the mild temperatures and relatively predictable weather patterns, this season is the most optimal time to paint vinyl siding, wood or the entire surface of your home’s exterior. 040416 PaintingOutsideWhile you might need a few extra hands or a professional opinion before getting started, you’ll love the look of the finished product.

Garage. Since garage doors face full exposure to various elements throughout the year, a great way to update the look of your home is to give your garage a fresh coat of paint. Whether you choose a neutral tone or you brighten it up with a pop of color, it’s best to use a thick, mildew-resistant exterior paint for the best long-lasting results.

Doors. The front door is the first impression your home makes with neighbors, guests and potential buyers. If you want a quick way to increase your curb appeal, painting it with a good quality exterior product will make you fall in love with the look of your home in just a few hours. While most people opt for a neutral shade on doors, it may be a perfect opportunity to think outside the box and go for a color like orange, red, blue or green.

Flower Pots. One of the best things about spring is having the opportunity to liven up 040416 FlowerPotsyour lawn with gardens and fresh flowers. If you’re looking for a great way to spruce up your flower pots while getting the kids involved, painting them is the perfect weekend project. Whether you let them create special designs or keep the look neutral and clean, you’ll love the way freshly-painted flower pots add style, personality and eclectic charm to your home’s appeal.

Interior. If there was ever a perfect season to give your walls a fresh coat of paint, it’s definitely springtime. Whether you’re looking to brighten up the kitchen, living room, bathroom or bedroom, spending a few hours with a painting project can take years off the look of a room and has the power to transform it into something refreshing and vibrant. With the warmer weather, it’s also possible to pop open the windows and enjoy the fresh springtime air!

5 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Small Business

The fresh spring season is known for a lot of things: the official beginning of longer and warmer days, the essence of new beginnings, fresh buds and blooms and the ever-popular spring cleaning.

While it’s a smart idea to remove the dust, dirt and clutter from your home during this time, it’s also highly beneficial to give your small business a thorough spring cleaning. These 5 tips will help you erase the winter blues and spring forward into a new productive and successful season for your business.

Freshen Up Your Website. Take some time going through each page of your website and remove dead links and content that doesn’t represent your current brand. Make a solid plan to add fresh, new content and add your latest customer testimonials with the current date. And if your website has had the same template or layout for the past two years, tidy it up with a refreshing and eye-catching new look. Hire a graphic designer to revamp your webpage or – if you’re tech-savvy and have the time – use one of the free templates available from your host.

Manage Your Goals. Spring is a popular time for home makeovers and renovations – and the perfect time to set new goals. Take some time to reflect on your success of the previous season and evaluate your marketing and sales strategies: What worked and what 032816 ManageYourGoalsdidn’t? Did you meet your goals? What can be improved to ensure that this season is better than the last? If you’re not satisfied, regroup and rethink your approach.

Excite Your Employees. As a business owner, you may feel like you’re the one doing all the work when it comes to ensuring the success of your business. However, if you’ve hired the right employees and take the time to them feel like a team, you’d be surprised how hard they will work for you. Organize a meeting and get your employees excited about the new season. Share the details on new products, brands, business goals, upcoming sales and exciting promotions.

Clean Your Workspace. Yes, this time we mean really clean it.032816 CleanYourWorkspace Go through your desk and recycle loose paper, printouts, documents or anything that you no longer need. Dust your shelves, clean your windows, wipe your computer screen and give surfaces a good, thorough scrub. By the time your clean sweep is complete, your business and workspace should feel tidy, fresh and ready for all customers that are sure to come through your doors.

Spring Break. Just because you’re a business owner doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a much-needed spring vacation! Whether you take a couple weeks off or you simply turn on your “Out of the Office” auto-replies for a few days while lounging at home, your business will only boom when you’re booming. Since spring cleaning is about refreshing and reviving, rest time is the perfect plan to do just that.

 

5 Types of Content to Engage Customers Online

There was a time (not too long ago), when monthly marketing budgets were spent exclusively on interruption advertising. Big box stores and independent retailers alike believed that the best (and in some cases, the only) way to reach potential customers was by throwing information in their faces. From television and radio spots to newspaper and magazine ads, the primary goal was to cut through the clutter and just get noticed.

Thanks in large part to the emergence of social media and mobile marketing, interruption advertising is dead. In a society with unlimited access and countless options, quality content has never been more important. Unless it is entertaining, informative, engaging, or all three, it will surely be ignored.

But simply creating – or curating – quality content is not enough. Much like advertising and other forms of marketing, timing, tone and understanding your audience are key. If you truly want to reach customers in today’s world of digital overdose, here are five content ideas to not only grab their attention – but to hold it.

Blogs. Whether you write weekly, monthly or whenever you can, Untitled-1there are countless ways for independent retailers to engage customers with a blog. From product reviews to employee profiles to industry news to how-to tutorials, the options are endless. And although blogging takes more time and creativity than a simple social media post, the work will undoubtedly pay off. And if you just can’t find the time (or don’t have a writing bone in your body), you could always pass it off to an employee or a freelancer. According to ThinkCreative, small businesses that write blog posts get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that don’t. Convinced yet?

Videos. Since the emergence of Youtube, video marketing has come a long way. Whether they’re long and informative or short and to the point, videos are a great way to inform, engage and entertain a generation who grew up glued to screens. As stated in this article, 64% of marketers anticipate video content to be a main category in their strategies as time goes on. But if you’re not a videographer, don’t worry – even simple, unpolished videos will help satisfy your consumer’s thirst for fast information.

Photos. From new products to store renovations to behind-the-scenes shots of you and your team, visual imagery is a great way to catch the collective eye of your online 031816 VideoContentaudience. Whether you post the photos on Facebook, Instagram or even your blog posts, photos help create a connection with your audience and reinforce their decision to shop at your store. Photos are also easily shared and compatible with countless apps and social media channels. Just keep in mind that while it’s great to share this type of media, it’s best to keep the photos professional and noteworthy.

Contests. Contests and giveaways do an excellent job of answering a customer’s most basic question and concern: What’s in it for me? Whether you offer up a new product, a service or a gift card, online contests are a great way to get people excited and spread the word about your brand. Perhaps the best thing about contests is that they not only reward your existing customers, but can help attract new ones; according to this article by HubSpot, contest campaigns acquire an average of a 34% audience increase!

Conversation. The best way to engage with consumers is to simply generate some conversation. Given the open platforms provided by social media, one of the best ways to do that is by asking questions (and answering them). People are full of opinions, and some will jump at any opportunity to make their voice heard. Not only will reaching out to your audience make them feel connected to your business, but it has the hidden benefit of serving as research; if you treat your audience like a focus group and ask specific questions about products or services, you can tap in to the desires of your customer base – any marketer’s dream!

 

5 Ways to Increase Employee Productivity

In past blog posts, we’ve stressed the importance of efficiency in the workplace and provided advice on becoming a more productive small business owner (here and here).

This week, we’re here to remind you that you’re not alone. Just as a company’s success is dependent on its leader, a leader’s success is dependent on his or her staff. But a strong team doesn’t happen by accident. In your position at the top of the totem pole, you are directly responsible for creating your company culture and setting the tone in your store.

Here are five ways to help your staff help you.

Delegation. When it comes to running your own business, it can sometimes be hard to take a hands-off approach. But if you want a productive team beside (not below!) you, 031116 Productivityyour employees need to know you trust them. The double benefit of delegating tasks to your staff is that it will lighten your own work load while empowering your employees. When delegating tasks be sure to set firm deadlines, provide as many resources as possible and keep communication lines open.

Accountability. As with most independent retailers, you probably have a relatively small staff whom you work closely with on a day-to-day basis. But as friendly as you may be with your employees, you need to set boundaries. When a worker is slacking or under-performing, don’t be afraid to take them aside and discuss your concerns. To get the best results, meet in private, remind them it is a professional issue instead of a personal one, and explain why it’s problem (not just that it is one). Again, open communication is key.

Incentive. Chances are, your employees are qualified for their positions. And given the niche nature of the paint and decorating industry, chances are they didn’t apply simply for a paycheck. So if you’re finding one of your staff members’ performances to be inefficient or unproductive, it may stem from a lack of motivation. To reignite their passion and boost their personal investment in your business, here are five simple and unique perks to keep employees motivated.

Appreciation. While the days of Christmas turkeys may be gone for corporations and small businesses alike, there are countless ways to remind your employees how much you appreciate them. We all know how nice it is to feel valued, and we all know the power of 031116 EmployeeAppreciationpositive reinforcement. When it comes to encouraging productivity in the workplace, nothing beats a little praise, a pleasant gesture or a random act of kindness. In addition to increased autonomy and worthwhile incentives, here are five simple but often-overlooked ways to show your staff how much you truly appreciate them.

Lead by example. One of the best ways to ensure productivity among your team is to build a workplace culture that promotes it. We are all products of our environment, after all. Among the values you should practice daily are honesty, efficiency, transparency, optimism and – you guessed it – open communication. If you manage to build a community atmosphere that rewards hard work and celebrates success, the productivity will be sure to follow.

 

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