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Building Something Out of Nothing

Could you build a more effective advertising campaign by doing less?

Absolutely. According to a 2006 report studying white space in ads (pdf from the Journal of Consumer Research), having less information in an advertisement is actually preferable.

The study looks at the messages that experienced advertisers think are conveyed by white space in ads, and finds that these messages include prestige, confidence, and stability.
It also investigates the effect that ad size and white space have on brand perception for consumers. For the consumers surveyed, more white space equals a greater perception of brand quality and company leadership.

Think about this study the next time you’re placing a magazine, newspaper, or even yellow page ad. Can more “nothing” lead to something?

(And if you follow the above link to this report, it’s okay to skip past the introductory section to page five, where survey results are given.)

Source: Get to the Point – Customer Behavior 

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Business Web Site of the Week – City-Data.com

How well do you know the town where you live or do business? Think you have a pretty good feel for the place? Well, the Web site City-Data.com should come with a guarantee that you’ll learn something new about it. Because you will – I guarantee it.

Enter a county, city, or zip code – or browse by state – to find pages and pages of information on U.S. places. Included are statistics on everything from age and income to ancestral heritage; from population change due to commuting to crime rates; from most common occupation to climate trends.

The page just keeps scrolling, and the mind reels about where all this information comes from. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t make that clear. Because of this, please do attempt to verify any City Data you plan to use.

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Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure

Besides having maybe the best title ever (Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure), this annual report from the Department of Defense highlights actual cases of federal employees running rampant with taxpayer resources. Intended as a training tool, these cases are organized by area of offense, and include coverage of:

Abuse of Position
Bribery
Credit Card Abuse
Gift Violations
Travel Violations
and many more.

Besides the rage these violations may provoke in honest taxpayers, what else can be gained from this report? Perhaps, if you’ve got employees or an HR department, these examples could be used as a basis to build internal policies, or reiterate those already in place.

For more guidance on writing employee policy handbooks or operations manuals, visit the Biz Info Library’s section on HR Administration.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that the Library also hosts a very valuable resource for companies interested in doing the RIGHT things, the Hill Center for Ethical Business Leadership.  The Center exists to help businesses prosper through a strategic commitment to ethics and social responsibility.  They offer a range of both free and fee-based services and resources.  Check out the Hill Center online, or contact Hill Center director Charles Weinstein [cweinstein at jjhill.org]  for information

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You’d better start thinking about an avatar, grumpy

You know Second Life, that site you scoffed at the other day? Well, Forrester says that “within five years, the 3-D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today.” That’s Second Life, and other tools like it.

The report also says that you’ve “practically got to be a gamer to use most of these tools,” so this change isn’t happening tomorrow. And you can imagine what a time-sink these sites can be without focus.

Overworked businesspeople need not get on the Second Life bandwagon this week, but you might start thinking about it for next week. Could you hold meetings online? Training sessions? Product tests? Keep it in the back of your mind…
(Source: Read Write Web)

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Economic Research for the Rest of Us: Issues in the News

Economic issues affect business in many ways – from the production line to the retail floor – but economics can be an intimidating subject to research, especially for those of us without MBAs or mathematical minds.

So how can we easily learn more about the push and pull of economics and how it influences business? Enter the good people at the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, who bring us the very non-threatening Liber8 Economic Information Newsletter. (Actually that title sounds a little threatening, doesn’t it? Well, stay with me.)

This newsletter highlights an issue either playing big on the economy or getting big play in the media, and begins by summarizing it in a one-page article. The second page of the newsletter then gives free online citations to learn more about the particular issue discussed, directly from credible sources.

That’s it, just two pages. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

The January issue covers “Big Box Retail and Its Impact on Local Communities” and discusses the positive and negative economic effects of large retailers in small towns. After reading the summary you can visit provided links to published studies from academic and trade institutions, economic reports via the Census Bureau, and an interactive site from PBS.

Previous issues include:
 Economic Globalization
U.S. Personal Savings Rate
Subprime Mortgage Lending

Keep an eye on this site as coverage grows month-to-month. Maybe we can figure out this economics thing after all.

(thanks, Wendy)

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Business Web Site of the Week – Business Performance Dashboard

Benchmarking – or the comparison of one performance to the overall average performance – happens all around us. Sprinters have stop-watches. Police officers have radar guns. And businesspeople have the Business Performance Dashboard.

The Business Performance Dashboard, a new tool from Entrepreneur.com, can help you compare your business to the average business in your industry and of your size and age. This can help you pinpoint areas in need of improvement and those of excellence. The tool focuses largely on sales issues, and includes sales-per-employee statistics, sales by business age, and more.

So how does your business measure up? The Business Performance Dashboard is a fine first step in answering that question.

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Back to the Books

While it’s true that more business information can be found online now than ever before, it’s also true that hitting the books is not yet an obsolete strategy for business research.
Consider: if a publisher has collected information it sees as sufficiently valuable, that publisher will not give it all away for free on the Internet, but rather, print it between the covers of an old-fashioned book, and hope that someone will purchase it. Chumps that we are here at the Hill Library, that’s exactly what we’ll do, when we see resources that may be of use to the entrepreneurs and small business owners that are able to visit the library in person.
Here is just a sampling of the many books and journals we have added to our print collection over the past months, and we continue to add similar resources regularly. To see what we have for your research question, view the library catalog and search by a title, author, or subject keyword. If you can’t make it to the library in person, check with a library in your area to see if any of these titles are available, then read while you pretend you’re at the Hill Library. Or consider a HillSearch membership, which, among other benefits, would entitle you to up to 24 document deliveries (pages or articles or sections of print books) per year.
Food Industry

  • Functional ingredients
  • The food retailing industry speaks
  • Technomic top 500 chain restaurant report
  • The U.S. food marketing system: recent developments, 1997-2006

Healthcare / Pharmaceuticals

  • Directory of investor-owned community hospitals, hospital management companies & health systems, residential treatment facilities & centers, key management personnel
  • Assisted living & extended care facilities
  • HMO-PPO digest
  • Consumer healthcare
  • Supermarket pharmacy trends

Business Startup / How-to

  • Start your own clothing store and more: children’s, bridal, vintage, consignment
  • Start your own executive recruiting business
  • Start your own photography business: studio, freelance, gallery, events
  • The specialty shop: how to create your own unique and profitable retail business
  • From entrepreneur to infopreneur: make money with books, e-books, and other information products
  • Craft, Inc.: turn your creative hobby into a business
  • Financing business growth: proven strategies for women business owners from women business owners
  • Selling art without galleries: toward making a living from your art
  • Smart start-ups: how entrepreneurs and corporations can profit by starting online communities
  • Construction business management: what every construction contractor, builder & subcontractor needs to know

International

  • Doing business with India
  • Dancing with giants: China, India, and the global economy

Industry data

  • Leisure market research handbook
  • The state of the nation’s housing 2007
  • Used-book sales: a study of the behavior, structure, size and growth of the U.S. used-book market
  • U.S. – International travel and transportation trends: 2006 update
  • 2006 CHA attitude & usage study: craft industry

Industry journals

  • Bottled water reporter
  • Venue safety & security
  • Electronic news
  • The Nilson report

E-commerce

  • Selling online subscriptions summit 2007: transcript
  • The … e-commerce market research handbook

Marketing

  • Beyond buzz: the next generation of word-of-mouth marketing
  • Branding a store: how to build successful retail brands in a changing marketplace
  • Citizen marketers: when people are the message
  • Creating customer evangelists: how loyal customers become a volunteer sales force
  • Riches in niches: how to make it BIG in a small market
  • The art of digital branding

Misc. / Management

  • Retail store planning & design manual
  • The changing role of the COO: is the chief operating officer headed for transformation or extinction?
  • The right projects done right!: from business strategy to successful project implementation
  • Environmental sustainability: the power of green 
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Ready, Willing, and Enabled

What determines how effectively employees work?

Surely recruiting and hiring the right people in the first place is important. And compensation can play a role in employee motivation. But a new study from the Economist Intelligence Unit (called Ready, Willing and Enabled) finds that the most effective employees are those that feel enabled to do their jobs well.

Common sense, right? Well, if you think so, good for you and good for your business, because the study finds a direct positive correlation between the success of an organization and how enabled that organization’s employees feel.

To enable employees to do their jobs well, the following is required, according to the study:

-The autonomy sufficient to make the best decisions for the company
-Tools to do the best possible job
-Access to financial resources to buy these tools
-Enough people to handle the workload
-A collaborative working environment
-Performance incentives
-Clarity of policies and procedures

If you’ve got these, you’ve probably got enabled workers. And if you’ve got enabled workers, you’re probably flourishing.

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2008 Hot List – Best Businesses, Markets, Trends & Ideas

With this list, Entrepreneur magazine has “busted out the crystal ball to predict the hottest industries for the coming year.” Considering the examples of upscale frozen desserts, specialty lingerie, or household management for the rich, the focus is actually on some pretty specific sub-sub-sub-industry niches, but it’s an interesting compilation of possible trends.

Each area of potential growth is placed within a broader category (food & beverages, health, apparel, tech, seniors, kids, green, etc.), and each contains statistics and/or anecdotal examples that explain why the magazine feels these segments are the ones to watch.

Give the list a once-over. You may find something that lends support to your current business strategy. Or it may provide just the spark you need to take off with your entrepreneurial idea.

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Your Web Site Looks Old and Outdated

Or does it? When was the last time you checked?

In the spirit of new year resolutions (it’s not too late!), the Search Engine Land blog offers ten easy things you can do to make sure your Web site is current. None of them require a Web design team. None of them require a huge time commitment. All of them, however, will ensure that your site never looks old and outdated.

As long as you keep this list handy for next year, too.

The two items that most frustrate me about outdated Web sites are here – old staff listings and broken outbound links. What are your Web site pet peeves?

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

We are pleased to announce the completion of our elevator renovation at the James J. Hill Center. This project was financed in part with funds provided by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society and the F. R. Bigelow Foundation. It will greatly increase our ability to serve patrons with accessibility needs.

Please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit our brand new elevator!

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