Turn your Shopify e-commerce site into a powerful operational tool.

What types of information can your Shopify e-commerce site consume via APIs exchange from your trading partner?

Basically, everything that you would need to do to continue to do business with your distributor will be available is available via the API’s and information on those like an invoicing credit order information quote information pricing availability.

  1. Order Summit – that’s pretty straightforward. The ability to push an order from the distributor
  2. Order information – Status of the Order the details of what order has in it.
  3. Pricing and availability call – asking for updated live updates on pricing and availability, the ability to
  4. Request quote information – So let’s say a quote is in the Distributor’s system and you want to get the details of that quote you can request it the
  5. Ability to create a quote -available in the API’s. The information concerning Freight costs, I should say
  6. Invoice information – invoice information they can pull into an ERP system.

For more information about how to set up your Shopify site and the APIs to turn your site into a powerful operational tool, contact Tim Fahey at info@dirigoagency.com

Follow me on Facebook at http://facebook.com/DirigoAgency

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4 Steps to Game Plan Your Brand

When you Game Plan Your Brand you are on your way to a successful outcome.

If you began your road trip by hopping in the car and start driving, who knows where you’ll end up. Although this may be a great adventure, you might waste time getting to your destination. Likewise, if you’re building a business or starting a new project you need to map out your plan from beginning to the end. As Alice in Wonderland learned, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

As a business owner, creative or marketing professional, you need to spend a little time to map out your target audience, brand message, most effective vehicles, define the goals for each tactic ‚ and how exactly you’re going to get there.

That’s why you need to “game plan your brand.” Follow a clearly laid out path from where you are — to where you need to go.

You can easily break this path up into different phases.

How does this apply to small businesses?

First, you need to know what problem you want to solve: Getting to your destination in the least amount of time while avoiding getting lost.

For your organization, that goal should be to organize yourself first before launching into countless hours of tactics without the right goals and strategy.

You can break up the process into multiple phases. These are your checkpoints. This is how you make sure you’re on the right path as your moving forward without getting lost or forgetting important details.

The first step is to understand what problem you want to solve and set a goal that will drastically improve business. Next, evaluate your marketing assets and evaluate what parts need fixing or what is missing in the communications process.

Third, interview your key stakeholders on their understanding of your problem you are trying to solve. They are your greatest resource and the ones you will get the most insights. There are a number of ways to do this analysis. For example, develop a SWOT analysis of your business. (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats).

Fourth, go all in on defining the communication strategy and tactics that fit your brand. Develop a value proposition. The key is to define your position based on the target segment you intend to win over. With this approach, you separate yourself as the market alternative from the competition with a unique differentiation that belongs to you to bring the buying decisions your way.

Your intent is to get it down to two short sentences. Note how the two references competitors, the marketing alternative and the product alternative, help the listener’s mind triangulate to find the new position.

Follow this template (generally, this is an internal message):

For: (target customers – beachhead segment only)
Who are dissatisfied with: (the current market alternative)
Our product: (new product category)
That provides: (key problem-solving capability)
Unlike: (the product alternative)
We have assembled: (key whole product features for your specific application)

When satisfied, write a customer-facing messaging that reflects your value proposition.

If you are a local business owner, creative, or a local marketing agency, this may be the most important starting point for building or restoring your customer journey.

Published by Timothy Fahey; Timothy Fahey is branding and design professional, designer, professor, blogger, videographer and owner of Dirigo Agency Inc., a company focused on helping business owners use branding, design, and content to market their business. He has worked in the agency business since 1986 and served both local and global brands. His passion is to collaborate with others to create content more strategically so they get the recognition and results they desire through content marketing efforts. Member of the Rockville Chamber of Commerce.

A Game Plan Your Brand strategy builds your customer journey.

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Top 5 Predictions for SMBs in 2018


Predictions for the New Year are as common as eggnog and holiday parties in December. With so many voices and opinions from bloggers, experts and others, it’s easy to become overwhelmed—especially if you are a small or medium-sized business looking for the best opportunities for 2018.

In this blog, we sift through the noise and provide a few business and buyer trend predictions that we believe are relevant and most likely to have an impact on SMBs in 2018.

  1. Optimizing Business Processes. SMBs across industries are looking at new ways to optimize business processes, provide premier experiences, target and acquire customers and grow their business. A vast array of new approaches, such as machine learning and AI applications, can be used to create relevant and personalized experiences for customers.
  2. Security Top Spend—Respondents to a special report, Tech Budgets 2018: A CXO’s Guide by Tech Pro Research, reported that their companies will prioritize spending on security, hardware and cloud services in 2018. Within IT departments, a premium is being placed on security spending. Fifty-three percent of respondents said security will be a top priority in the 2018 budget.
  3. SMBs Really Embrace High-Tech. IDC forecasts that small and medium-sized businesses are going to spend $668 billion on IT products and services in 2020 as compared to $564 billion last year, outpacing the growth of the overall IT market. Keeping up with the changes in technology is essential for SMBs; keep an eye out for new opportunities; your competitors are!
  4. Multicultural Millennials—Untapped Potential. A recent study by Nielsen reveals that there are 75 million Millennials living in the U.S. and that 42 percent of them are multicultural: of African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic heritage. These young people are highly educated and extremely influential—inspiring new trends in culture, food and technology—among their peers, their children and parents. In fact, according to Nielsen, multicultural Millennials spend more than $65 billion each year, influencing potentially $1 trillion in consumer spending. SMBs owners who make an effort to cultivate and earn their business will have a competitive advantage and be well-positioned to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.
  5. Freelancers Lead Gig Revolution. Entrepreneurs like dentists and lawyers tend to have an established business identity. Freelancers, by contrast, usually work out of their homes, have a need for great technology, and, in some cases, have less financial stability. However, like real estate agents, these nomadic workers can work from anywhere, anytime because of their own flexibility. There are now 55 million freelancers in the U.S., according to 2016 Freelancing in America survey—which is one-third of the American workforce. SMBs that come up with competitive solutions for their unique business needs will have access to a very large section of the American workforce.

These are just a few business and buyer trend predictions to keep an eye out for in 2018. Opportunities, as well as challenges, are ahead for SMBs in the coming year. Cisco—with a newly enhanced portfolio of products for SMBs, is uniquely positioned to provide businesses with high-performance solutions that don’t break the bank. To learn more, visit cisco.com/go/smb.

Read, 8 new trends in Social Media for SMBs in 2018

Top 5 Predictions for SMBs in 2018 Read More »

Effects of New Tax Laws on SMBs

On Dec. 22, 2017, President Trump signed a $1.5 trillion rewrite of the tax code into law—the most sweeping tax overhaul in more than 30 years. Now, the real fun begins. What exactly does this mean for small-and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) going forward?

In this blog, we identify a few of the most relevant and promising benefits and opportunities that will most likely impact SMBs, starting in the calendar year 2018 through 2025.

SMBs are optimistic about business growth in 2018 and beyond—and with good reason.

Thanks to the new tax code, there is a potential for SMBs to take home more in profit—some reports say that one-third of what you used to pay in taxes is now profit.

So, what could this mean? Well, it likely means more spending and more cash flow. Let’s look at how SMBs may want to spend their “newly found” money.

Your Company Entity Makes a Difference

First, you should review and understand your structure, because businesses tax laws are complex and taxed in different ways.

Corporations and their investors are subject to two layers of taxation. First, a corporate rate of profits is paid directly by the company. For the fiscal year ending in 2017 and before, the top rate is 38.9 percent, which is the highest corporate tax rate among major economies, when combined with average state and local taxes. Then, when the business pays returns to its investors, they pay tax on the money they’ve earned when they file on April 15. That income — dividends and capital gains — is taxed at a top rate of 23.8 percent.

Starting in the fiscal year 2018, businesses incorporated as C-corporations get taxed on their profits — reduced from a high of 38.9 percent to 21 percent.

By contrast, pass-through businesses pay tax just once. These are small and large partnerships, proprietorships and companies with fewer than 100 shareholders known as S corporations and Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs), and they include the freelancers and small merchants, but also the National Football League and Fiat-Chrysler. They aren’t subjected to any separate business tax but pay on their individual income tax when the money dispersed by the business is passed through to its owners or shareholders. The individual income tax rate depends on what bracket someone is in, but the highest is 39.6 percent. While pass-through income will continue to be taxed at ordinary income tax rates, many small business owners will be eligible to deduct 20% of their “qualified business income” (QBI) non-investment income starting in 2018.   In other words, some pass-through entities will only be taxed on 80% of their pass-through income.

It’s clearly important to carefully choose your company structure; so make sure you do your homework and adopt the one that makes the most sense for your business.

Now, let’s assume you are a business owner incorporated under one of these structures. How would you spend your increase in profits?

In a recent Wall Street Journal/Vistage survey, nearly 40 percent of CEOs and owners of SMBs said they would use it to increase investment. Here’s how others plan to use their tax savings:

  • 24 percent said they would take more profits
  • 14 percent said they would expand into new areas
  • 8 percent said they would boost wages
  • 15 percent described various other preferred activities

Where would SMBs spend their money? 

Let’s assume you agree with the nearly 40 percent of CEOs and business owners who plan to invest. How would spend your money?

Thrive Analytics, a digital marketing research and customer engagement strategy consulting firm, released its latest Local Pulse Report™, which reveals insights into SMBs trends. It recommends that the vast majority of owners should invest in their business, expand it, and grow it for the future. According to the Local Pulse Report, SMB will invest more in software/technology services, which includes the following:

  • 21 percent — customer relationship management tools
  • 20 percent — lead generations services
  • 17 percent — reputation monitoring tools
  • 17 percent — online scheduling tools

A high-performance network is critical to good application performance, and Cisco can help ensure your employees, partners, and customers have the best experience.

What about you? What are you planning to focus on in 2018? Let us know.

With a select portfolio for SMBs, Cisco is uniquely positioned to provide businesses with high-performance solutions that don’t break the bank. To learn more, click here.

Effects of New Tax Laws on SMBs

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Cisco’s Fanless Catalyst 2960-L Switch for Unleashed SMB Performance

May 29, 2018 – 8 Comments

Making an investment in IT is more critical today than ever before for a small- to medium-size business. With so many open-air business settings and anywhere, any location workspace bring technology up close and personal. Cisco’s insight into saving space and reducing noise makes everyone—from librarians to your coworkers—happier than ever. We live in a connected world of phones, laptops, and tablets in our hands, and we’re surrounded by our technology of whiteboards, routers, wireless access points, and switches that connect multiple devices on the same network within a building or campus. A switch is necessary because it enables connected devices to share information and talk to each other.

Cisco’s Catalyst 2960-L fanless switch.

Why does a feature like fanless matter? Fanless means quiet and compact. Compact because the use of fans requires airspace and airflow. A fanless switch can be put in smaller spaces that wouldn’t normally work. A typical network switch is a bit noisy. Some networks range from a hum to what is best described as “helicopter-like whirling. That can be distracting in offices, retail, hospitality or clinics where noise can be an issue.” Being fanless opens up options for smaller organizations to create a robust network in smaller spaces than before.

The Cisco Catalyst 2960-L has been designed for just an environment. The Cisco Catalyst 2960-L Series switch isn’t just any fanless switch: it’s the industry’s first 24-port and 48 port 1 Gbps, POE, fanless switch.

Reliable, Secure and Intuitive

The Cisco Catalyst 2960-L includes a host of reliability and security features that come with Cisco IOS. And the Cisco Catalyst 2960-L is preloaded with Cisco Configuration Professional for Catalyst (CCPC) built-in. CCPC provides users with an easy-to-use and intuitive graphical interface to configure, manage and monitor a standalone, stack or cluster of Cisco Catalyst switches.

Key features that solve problems for SMBs:

  • Quiet and cool operations — You won’t even know it’s there
  • Small form factor — Great for mounting in confined spaces to be inconspicuous for hospitality, cruise ships, healthcare or retail locations.
  • Perpetual PoE — Power over Ethernet for all connected devices avoids unnecessary power cabling to connect to the switch.
  • Automatic switch recovery — No touch recovery. You can also configure automatic recovery on the switch to recover from the error-disabled state after the specified period of time.
  • Bluetooth connectivity — You can access the Command-Line Interface (CLI) through Bluetooth connectivity by pairing the switch to a computer.
  • Cost-effective connectivity — Ideal for branch offices, wired workspaces and infrastructure networks; conventionally wired workspaces with PC, phones and printers; building infrastructure networks to connect physical security, sensors and control systems; and any application requiring fast Ethernet connectivity and a low total cost of ownership.
  • Enhanced limited lifetime hardware warranty — Next-business-day delivery of replacement hardware where available and 90 days of 8×5 Cisco Technical Assistance Center.
  • Built-in web-based GUI: Catalyst 2960-L supports a day-zero GUI called Cisco Configuration Professional for Catalyst (CCPC) to help with easy deployment of the switch without the need for a CLI.
    — Simple provisioning
    — Easy-to-use diagnostics
    — Performance at-a-glance dashboard

With these features, we believe our small business customers can affordably expand their IT reach.

For more information about the Cisco Catalyst 2960-L, please visit cisco.com/go/2960l.

read, Why is the New Cisco ISR 1000 Important for Small and Medium-sized Businesses?

Cisco’s Fanless Catalyst 2960-L Switch for Unleashed SMB Performance Read More »

IT Decision Making Made Easy: Introducing the Cisco SMB Product Selector

March 26, 2018 

As an SMB owner, you know the stress that comes with being the key decision maker—from financing the business to hiring the right staff, to purchasing the best systems for your business so you can obtain a competitive advantage in the market and drive productivity. This is especially true when it comes to buying IT networking gear. The biggest challenge is often selecting the best equipment—at the best price and performance—that fits your business needs. You have to narrow your choice of product evaluations from dozens of vendors and dozens of products. Not only is this a timely and expensive task (time is money, especially for SMBs), it is nearly impossible to do if you don’t have a lot of IT experience. The good news is that now, thanks to Cisco, you have a tool that can help you make your decision in just a few easy steps.

Despite challenges, SMBs find choosing technology for their business “exciting.”

A survey by Business Journals reveals that 96 percent of key personnel for SMBs make both hardware and software purchasing decisions for their company. And they do their homework—reading reviews and case studies, talking with friends and respected sources, and looking at demos—before declaring, “I have my short list.” It’s obvious that despite the challenges, many SMBs owners find choosing the right technology for their business “exciting.”

Yet, enthusiasm aside, how do you make the right decision for your company? Everyone knows one size does not fit all small businesses.

Buyers are 67 percent through the buying process before they engage with a vendor.

This is a significant statistic—67 percent, nearly 70 percent, of the purchase process is decided before the buyer talks to sales. As mentioned above, the buyer has done his or her homework—and is often very engaged and enthusiastic about the project. Yet, wouldn’t it be comforting, not to mention best practice and savvy decision making, to know that your decision is backed by years of professional IT experience in SMBs? You can have that added assurance with the Cisco SMB Product Selector Tool. 

The Selector Tool is just the beginning.

Cisco ranks as the most highly respected premiere IT networking brands for enterprises worldwide with about a 70 percent market share. Yet, many SMBs perceive Cisco to be mostly an Enterprise company. Why?

Some SMBs believe Cisco’s product solutions are too complex and expensive to fit their budgets.

Cisco conducted extensive research to better understand the needs of SMBs and their overall perceptions about Cisco and its products. We learned that many SMBs consider Cisco’s product solutions too complex to make a decision about their small business needs. They want simplicity and affordability, not complexity. It is a perception problem that Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins has promised to “work to mask the complexity from its customers.”

Since the research findings, Cisco has been aggressively rolling out products to meet the growing needs of SMBs, which will spend $668 billion on IT products and services in 2020, according to IDC. Cisco recently launched multiple products aimed at strengthening its SMB portfolio.

Cisco is a one-stop-shop for SMBs.

To enable SMBs to quickly and effectively choose quality Cisco products and solutions for their business at an affordable price, Cisco launched the Cisco Product Selector Tool. Now, SMBs are one-minute away from choosing products that can narrow down their choices—in just eight clicks. You can find the technical solution that fits your specific business needs using this tool—it takes away the confusion and complexity of finding the right fit for your business needs. Try the Cisco Product Selector Tool for yourself right now and see how easy it is to find the best technology for your business.

Next Steps for SMBs

Cisco is already working on a Phase 2 Cisco Selector Tool that will include even more products and features.

About Cisco

Cisco offers affordable small business solutions that are just right for your business. Find everything you need for your growing business: Switching, wireless, routing, management, security, collaboration, and computing.

I believe this is a real game-changer showing how the Cisco Product Selector Tool is making IT decisions easy for SMBs — giving enterprise quality and security at affordable prices. I would love to know about your experience with the Selector Tool. Give me a shout!

read, Cisco Fanless Catalyst 2960-L Switch for Unleashing SMB Performance

IT Decision Making Made Easy: Introducing the Cisco SMB Product Selector Read More »

Why is the New Cisco ISR 1000 Important for Small and Medium-sized Businesses?

Why can a single device be so important for small and medium businesses (SMBs)? How can it run normal day-to-day operations—such as phones, printers, computers, and WiFi?

For SMBs, Cisco’s 1000 Series Integrated Services Routers (ISR 1000) provides an affordable solution for switching, routing, and wireless all in one device.

Plus, today’s operations are more complex—going way beyond the basics. SMBs have little-to-no-IT resources, time, energy or skills to handle this new normal of business practices. For those who are interested in how it works, watch this 2-minute video:

SMBs, like all businesses, need secure, simple and affordable IT options that will protect their critical business intellectual property, block or guard against risky practices, set policies and offer backup connectivity—all while having the ability to connect every device within any point in the network.

Having the right device to run day-to-day operations can transform your SMB.

Let’s imagine you are a small business that deals with the public in retail, finance, education or other commercial firms. You want your customers to be able to use the Wi-Fi guest access without any threat of them viewing financial, identity, health or other private records. “The last thing a clinic wants is for the network to be hacked and for patients’ records to be exposed. You want to provide guest access which is independent of the clinic’s network. In technical terms, it’s called network segmentation, which is simple to do with an ISR 1000.” says Shankar Ramachandran, Product Line Manager for Cisco Integrated Services Routers.”

Companies need fast, secure and reliable connectivity. “Driving employee engagement has been at the forefront of effective management for decades, but now more than ever, it is central to employee attraction and retention,” writes one Forbes reporter in a recent article.

Four reasons to consider the all-in-one ISR 1000

Cisco’s versatile 1000 Series Integrated Services Router is like a small office or branch office-in-a-box for your business, school, clinic or retail location. Here are the top four reasons why:

  1. All-in-one solution — Routing, wireless and switching are combined in a single device with Cisco’s trusted IOS® XE software. Internet access, comprehensive security, and management are combined in a single, high-performance device. Plus, with pay-as-you-grow performance licensing you can avoid unnecessary hardware upgrades and save on CapEx.
  2. Advanced wired and wireless access  All of your devices connected to the network with advanced connectivity options like 4G LTE, DSL, copper and fiber Ethernet. Plus, ISR 1000s have a built-in wireless access point that includes integrated wireless controller capability, so you have the fastest way to wirelessly connect an entire network or office site, quickly, easily and affordably. With Cisco’s Mobility Express you can support up to 100 Cisco APs and 2,000 connected client devices on a single Wi-Fi network.
  3. Enterprise-class security — With integrated security features like IP Security, high-performance VPN’s and Encrypted Traffic Analytics, the ISR 1000 is always on, always open to protect your desktops, tablets and mobile devices and content from malware and ransomware. In addition, Cisco Umbrella™ is a cloud security platform that provides the first line of defense against threats on the Internet wherever users go, blocking malicious attacks and DDOS attacks before a connection is ever established. It will even help identify where the next attack will emerge.
  4. Cisco Software-Defined WAN Evolution — With Cisco SD-WAN you can define policies and prioritize traffic all from one management console. Zero-touch deployment across the WAN means you can deploy, manage, operate and secure your network quickly and easily, so you can get back to your business.


Small business customers want simple, affordable and reliable IT, so they can provide secure guest networks, optimize applications for their employees and focus on growing their business.  With a single box that includes routing, switching, and wireless, as well as security and management, the ISR 1000 provides a perfect solution. “We believe our small business customers can now affordably have all the power to run their operations in a single device, which saves critical time and money”, says Shankar Ramachandran.

Read, IT Decision Making Made Easy: Introducing the Cisco SMB Product Selector

Why is the New Cisco ISR 1000 Important for Small and Medium-sized Businesses? Read More »

5 Tips to Creating a New Product Name

Not surprisingly, developing a product name is usually done by committee. Some people think the brand name is too childish but love the product. Others want to name things with acronyms, Not all products and offerings need a new name. Too many of your company product names will lead to confusion about our offerings, which undermines the integrity of the brand.

A new name is only necessary when introducing a new, unique product or family of offerings. If a product or service is an enhancement, feature, component or accessory of an existing product, use the current name of that product.

1. Although each situation is unique, answering “yes” to the following questions indicates that a new name should be created:

    • Is this a new family of products and services?
    • Is this an individual product which provides an unusually strong point of differentiation from the competition — and does not fit into a current family of offerings?
  • Is the offering backed by significant marketing support and commitment to long-term growth and development?

2. A new name is generally not necessary if the offering:

    • Is it a product enhancement, product feature or product component of an existing product (for example, If we bundled a new add-on feature, we wouldn’t rename the plan?)
    • Is the product common in the industry (for example, wifi)
  • Is the product part of a short-term promotion (for example, a promotion that will run for a quarter or less) Is the product and upgrade or part of an existing family name.

3. When to use descriptive names:

    • Descriptive names are straightforward. They use common, easy-to-understand words to describe functions or benefits of the products or services.
  • Descriptive names may be preferred for most company offerings because they are highly communicative and require minimal advertising or communication to convey the message of the offering.

4. Below are situations where descriptive names should be used:

    • When the product or service is part of a standard industry category or offering in the marketplace (for example, wifi). When the product or service has a limited budget.
  • When the product or service is not backed by a long-term commitment. Examples: company® open house, company® grand opening, company® free promotion

5. When to use proprietary names

When a program or services is very innovative or is comprised of many different components, it may be too complex to use a descriptive name. When this is the case, a proprietary name can be developed.

Proprietary names are less communicative than descriptive names. These names may suggest meaning and benefits, but on their own, these names generally have little meaning to the customer without more information. Once understood, though, these names can be powerful, memorable and may be entitled to protection as intellectual property.

It’s imperative for proprietary names to undergo research testing to ensure they are appropriate for and meaningful to the target audience. Do not do this in-house. Proprietary names may be appropriate when the offering falls into two or more of the following categories:

    • A major new product category or company-wide offering.
    • Product or service family whose breadth or complexity requires an umbrella name to ensure clarity of communications.
  • Backed by a large multimedia marketing budget and a long-term commitment. Provides significant competitive differentiation. Examples: In 2012, Cisco Services Domain Ten(SM) Cisco Services’s Blueprint for Simplifying Data Center and Cloud Transformation; or Cisco Aironet®;  or Cisco Prime™

For more information and help with determined a product or company name, contact Tim Fahey at Dirigo Agency at info@dirigoagency.com.

When to use Trademarks in your brand name or logo

5 Tips to Creating a New Product Name Read More »

When to use Trademarks in your brand name or logo

How many times do we wonder when and how to trademark our company name? Here are some tips to use when using trademarks, service marks.

A trademark identifies the intellectual property to be distinct and proprietary. You should apply to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a registration to achieve maximum protection for proprietary names, but in some cases, it may not be necessary or beneficial.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark office https://www.uspto.gov/ will help you determine whether it is beneficial to pursue a trademark registration for a name. Please note names will require preliminary and possibly full trademark searches in order to ensure they don’t infringe on other trademarks regardless of whether we want to protect the trademark. Please allow adequate time for these searches.

Trademark rights can only be established through consistent, correct use. If the use of a trademark is discontinued for as few as three years or if the trademark is used indiscriminately or incorrectly or its licensees, you may lose its rights to the trademark. This jeopardizes the strength of your brand and its competitive position.

Best practices for using Trademarked names

  • Think of all trademarks are adjectives. For best business practices, do not use trademarks as nouns or verbs. Always use the complete product or service name.
  • The appropriate trademark attribution must be used at the first or most prominent mention of the product name.
  • Never alter a trademark, including abbreviating to an acronym, or translate a trademark into another language without working with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office or Dirigo Agency before making such a change.
  • Don’t use a trademark as a possessive or plural. Don’t use trademarks to coin new words or names. Don’t use trademarks to create a play on words.
  • Here are the definitions of how to use the Trademark symbols as notices

® Registered Trademark – This symbol should be used only after registration as a trademark has been granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. A registration mark (®) is used with a name for which a government authority has issued a trademark registration certificate. It is used with registered trademarks for goods AND services. It replaces the ™ or SM.

™ Unregistered Trademark – Indicates an unregistered trademark that describes goods.

Trademarks (™) include words, symbols, designs, slogans, vanity numbers, or musical tones or combinations used commercially to identify and distinguish the goods of one source from those of another. The ™ indicates that the trademark is not registered.

SM Unregistered Service Mark – Indicates an unregistered service mark that describes services. Service marks (SM) include any word, symbol, design, slogan, vanity number or musical tones or combinations thereof used commercially in the sale or advertising of services to identify and distinguish services of one source from those of another. The SM designation indicates that the service mark is not registered.

Effects of New Tax Laws on SMBs

When to use Trademarks in your brand name or logo Read More »

8 New Trends in Social Media for SMBs in 2018

In 2018, social media is poised to create even more disruption as a number of new technological advancements go mainstream, and as Facebook and Instagram are leading the charge on social media platforms.

Here are the top 8 social media trends to help you as marketers in 2018.

1. Influencer marketing is improving new business engagement

Over 90 percent of marketers who employ an influencer marketing strategy believe it is successful. Companies like North Face, Hubspot and Rolex use social media–based influencer marketing strategies to connect with new audiences and improve engagement with existing audiences.

In 2017, we saw that brands that opted for traditional advertising strategies struggled to connect to social media users. In 2018, it is likely that more brands will embrace influencer marketing as a way to connect with audiences who tend to ignore traditional strategies.

2. Instagram Stories is the master story teller

Over 200 million people use Instagram Stories each month, which is over 50 million more than those who use Snapchat — and Instagram Stories is just one year old! At this rate, nearly half of all Instagram users will be using Stories by the end of 2018. This means that brands interested in connecting with Instagram users must take the time to master Instagram Stories.

3. Augmented reality is entering the room

At the first-ever event hosted in the Steve Jobs Theater, Apple announced the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X. Both devices incorporate a new chip that allows the phones to provide users with extraordinary augmented reality experiences. While augmented reality will have its initial impact on mobile gaming, it is likely that social media platforms will find ways to incorporate the new technology as well, and according to Facebook, includes dropping in product placement.

4. The New Generation Zers are 22 years old and have increased buying power

A recent study conducted by Goldman Sachs concluded that Generation Z was more valuable to most organizations than millennials. Today, the oldest Gen Zers are 22 years old. They are just beginning to enter the labor force and will have increased buying power for some time.

Brands will begin to recognize this and will shift their social media strategies accordingly. Expect great investment in platforms loved by Gen Zers like Snapchat and Instagram.

5. Messaging platforms are hot

Over 2.5 billion people use messaging platforms globally, and yet brands are still primarily focused on connecting with consumers on pure social networks. In 2018, expect brands to invest more time and money in connecting with consumers on messaging platforms. Artificial intelligence, voice assistants and chatbots will enable brands to offer personalized shopping experiences on messaging platforms like Messenger, WhatsApp and Kik.

6. Live streaming 2.0 is more powerful now

What was once a novel gimmick has become a mainstream part of social media. Today, brands big and small have started using live streaming to capture the attention of followers. In 2018, more brands will begin to realize the power of live streaming and will incorporate it into their monthly content plans.

GORUCK, a backpack manufacturer and the organizer of extreme endurance events, is one example of a medium-sized brand that has grown its reach by live streaming compelling content on Facebook. Thousands of followers tuned in to watch 48-hour coverage of a recent endurance race.

7. Facebook Spaces taking VR mainstream

Facebook isn’t just interested in live video streaming; they’ve been working on a project called Spaces that is designed to allow friends to connect in VR. Given that Facebook owns Oculus, a virtual reality hardware and software company, it is no surprise that the social media giant is developing a platform to make use of this new technology.

Facebook is poised to scale Spaces in 2018. When they do, it is likely that it will be the first successful VR social media product at scale.

8. Facebook coming out 2018 with their version of digital hangouts

Houseparty is a video hangout platform used by over one million people each day. It is primarily used by Gen Zers as a way to hang out with friends digitally. The platform is so successful that Facebook is reportedly investigating ways to create a similar functionality within their platform.

We have already seen video become increasingly important on social media, and live video group hangouts are a natural next iteration of this trend. It is conceivable that in 2018, Facebook will announce a similar product to Houseparty that will win over users, just as Instagram’s introduction of Stories did.


A number of new social media trends that will impact users and brands alike are accelerating. It is likely that video streaming and virtual reality will go mainstream. Additionally, brands will turn to newer social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat as Gen Zers increasingly spend their time there.

With the announcement of the new iPhones, augmented reality has a chance to become a part of social media in ways that were unimaginable only a few years ago.

Lastly, Twitter and Facebook will most likely adjust their policies to protect their brands from political criticism and to provide users with better online experiences.

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