Thursday, December 4, 2014

Roving Pittsburgher Report - Its Not About Keeping Up with the Jones's, It Is About Utilizing Technology to Grow Your Business: 9th Annual PA Business Technology Conference Nov. 13th 2014

Its Not About Keeping Up with the Jones's, It Is About Utilizing Technology to Grow Your Business
Review of the 9th Annual PA Business Technology Conference Nov. 13th 2014

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  Nov. 15, 2014

You can watch or read a news story almost daily about a new successful company with a new cool idea that they are bringing to fruition with new and innovative technologies almost daily. And as an aspiring entrepreneur one could hear these stories and say oh the stars just aligned for that new company but how can I get my idea off the ground like that? And how will I ever afford to? How can I keep up with the Jone's company when I am struggling with the current technology to even get in the race? Well the Duquesne University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has the just the right resources to help any company get up and running. On Friday November 13th, 2014 they hosted the 9th Annual PA Business Technology Conference to connect entrepreneurs with technology resources to make their business more competitive, efficient, and accessible.

The conference started with a breakfast and opening remarks from SBDC Director Mary T. McKinney, Ph.D.  She shared about her recent trips to the White House to discuss the Small Business Administration's upcoming initiatives. Then she introduced the opening panel speakers. Sue McMurdy of Endeavor Management started the discussion and day off with a very key point, that it is crucial to make sure that your company's IT efforts and endeavors are truly in sync with your overall business strategy. Doing technology stuff for the sake of having new or whatever reason can be in vain and have a negative impact not only on your bottom line, but effectiveness and efficiency operations too. Companies today depend so much on technology throughout their businesses, her advice was to make sure the use and implementation in your company is getting the thought and planning it is due. Jay Markey of Green Seven Technologies provided a great follow-up with the importance of then protecting all of your digital information and the resources available to do so. His advice was not to put all your digital eggs in one basket; Redundancy when it comes to data storage is like an insurance policy. Indigo Raffel of CCI rounded out the opening discussion with ideas to reduce your business's carbon footprint and the advantages of running a green company.

The conference continued with 3 break-out sessions. Attendees could choose from several workshops on e-commerce, social media, e-mail strategies, marketing with technology, software, and search engine optimization. The first one I went to was "How to Build, Manage & Promote Your Own Do-It-Yourself Website" by Joe Polk of Thirteen Ball. There he covered the all of the basic nuts and bolts of how to actually get a website up and running, including going through many of the the service providers and platforms. His personal insight was very helpful as to which companies to use for what and discerning when you need to consult professionals for advanced website design or coding.

The second session I went to was "Compel and Sell: Content and Calls to Action That Get Results" by Dan Droz of Droz and Associates. He had a very engaging and inspiring presentation that gave attendees a very structured and practical understanding about marketing strategies to implement and the motivations that should be behind them. Sometimes people can think of marketing as superfluous, but Droz made it clear that if everything you do in marketing and business development is done with purpose and leads your customers down a planned path, that path will lead to sales and a repeat customer relationship, which only means more sales. A key component of building relationships with customers is through communication, thus as Droz put it, that makes getting peoples emails like the holy grail. This perfectly teed up my last session choice.

The third session I attended was High-Impact Email Marketing: Best Practices & Winning Strategies by Autumn Edminston of the Edminston Group and Stephen Wayhart of Brandmill. Autumn shared great information about the timing strategies of emailing and automating the process. She is an authorized consultant for Constant Contact, one of the leading companies in email automation services, and showed its advantages of database management, customer segmentation, and analytics. Stephen continued with email content quality and layout. A key caution point he made was to not make emails overly complicated. These days most people are viewing emails on their smart phones, which are obviously smaller than an entire computer screen, and if an email is not well organized and scroll-able it will simply get trashed.

Dr. Anind Dey
Director of Human Compute
Interaction Institute of CMU
Probably most exciting of all was the the keynote speaker Anind Dey Ph.D., Director of the Human Computer Interaction Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. His talk on "Novel Ways You will be Connecting to Our World in the next Five to Ten Years Through Mobile Devices, Gaming and Computers" was packed full of wicked cool ideas of the future that are being developed right here in Pittsburgh, right now. One of the numerous examples of ideas he shared was an on-body computing interface being developed by one of his colleagues at CMU.   Now, as someone who is not in any hard technology industry, the idea of even thinking up some of the things he shared is mind blowing.  But his take away was an important one. In the times we live in, you don't have to be an expert, top to bottom, or even engineer everything yourself if you have an idea. Truly, an idea is all you need to be the next top innovator, because there are boundless and numerous resources to bring your idea to reality.

No conference would be complete without great networking opportunities. The trade show in the afternoon was a great time to check out local technology services and products available to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Many vendors featured great opportunities exclusive to conference attendees. I made several business contacts at this conference and got a lot of great ideas about different products and services to benefit my business and clients.

Upcoming SBDC Events:
First Step: Business Start-up Essentials
Dec. 4, 2014  |  9:30 AM - 12 PM  |  798 Turnpike St, Beaver, PA

Pacific Alliance Exports Event
Dec. 11, 2014  |  9:30 AM - 12 PM  |  Duquesne University, Rockwell Hall Room 505

First Step: Business Start-up Essentials
Dec. 11, 2014  |  1:30 - 4:30 PM  |  Duquesne University, Rockwell Hall

Entrepreneur's Growth Conference 2014
May 15, 2015  |  8:30 AM - 4:30 PM  |  Duquesne University

For More Information Contact:
Duquesne University
Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
108 Rockwell Hall 600 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15282-0103
(412) 396-6233  |
Twitter: @DUSBDC  |  Facebook: Duquesne University SBDC

Written By:  Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2014

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