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Starbucks Marketing Plan

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Contents

Executive Summary…………………………………………………………………………………………………..3 

Market Summary………………………………………………………………………………………………………3

     Target Markets………………………………………………………………………………………………………….3

        Market Demographics………………………………………………………………………………………………..3

Geographic……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….3

Demographics……………………………………………………………………………………………………………4

Market Needs……………………………………………………………………………………………………………4

Selection…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..4

Accessibility………………………………………………………………………………………………………………4

Customer Service……………………………………………………………………………………………………….4

Competitive Pricing…………………………………………………………………………………………………….4

Market Forecast…………………………………………………………………………………………………………4

PEST Analysis…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..5

Market Growth………………………………………………………………………………………………………….5

SWOT Analysis…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..5

  1. 1.      Strengths………………………………………………………………………………………………………..5
  2. 2.      Clusters company units……………………………………………………………………………………..5
  3. 3.      Weaknesses…………………………………………………………………………………………………….6
  4. 4.      Opportunities………………………………………………………………………………………………….7
  5. 5.      Threats…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..8

Competition………………………………………………………………………………………………………………8

            Services (Company)……………………………………………………………………………………………………9

Keys to Success (Company)………………………………………………………………………………………….9

   Critical Issues…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..10

Marketing Strategy…………………………………………………………………………………………………..11

  1. 1.      Starbucks Mission Statement (Company)……………………………………………………………11
  2. 2.      Environmental Mission Statement (Company)…………………………………………………….11
  3. 3.      Marketing Objectives………………………………………………………………………………………12
  4. 4.      other points of importance to Starbucks…………………………………………………………….12
  5. 5.      Financial Objectives ……………………………………………………………………………………….12
  6. 6.      Target Marketing……………………………………………………………………………………………12
  7. 7.      Store Expansion Strategy…………………………………………………………………………………13
  8. 8.      Positioning…………………………………………………………………………………………………….14
  9. 9.      Marketing Mix……………………………………………………………………………………………….16
  10. 10.  Controls………………………………………………………………………………………………………..19

Marketing Organizations……………………………………………………………………………………………20

Recommendations for Improvement…………………………………………………………………………………….21

References………………………………………………………………………………………………………………22

Appendix………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..23

Executive Summary

What was once a small coffee shop opened by Gerald Baldwin, Gordon Bowker, and Ziev Siegl in 1971, Starbucks Coffee Company has grown into the number one specialty coffee retailer. With over 10,000 coffee shops in more than 30 countries, of which 4,200 are licensed and franchised and 6,000 are owned, the company’s main objective is to establish Starbucks as the “most recognized and respected brand in the world,” (Moon) .

Currently, Starbucks is relying on retail expansion, product innovation, and service innovation to achieve a long-term goal once set by current chairman Howard Schultz:

 “The idea was to create a chain of coffeehouses that would becomeAmerica’s “third place.” At the time, most Americans had two places in their lives – home and work. But I believed that people needed another place, a place where they could go to relax and enjoy others, or just be by themselves. I envisioned a place that would be separate from home or work, a place that would mean different things to different people,” (Moon).

By working toward this goal, Starbucks wants to open new stores in both new and existing markets, expand their product development process, and cater to customers ‘needs to eventually improve their financial position and dominate market share.

     Market Summary

  • Target Markets

 In the early stages of development for Starbucks, Schultz identified their target market as “affluent, well-educated, white-collar patrons (skewed female) between the ages of 25 and 44,”     (Moon).

Over time, market research teams have recognized the new target market as “younger, less well-educated, and in a lower income bracket than their more established customers,” (Moon).

  • Market Demographics
  • Geographic’s (Moon)

Data from 2002 showed that in the Southeast there was only one store for every 110,000 people. whereas in the Pacific Northwest. There was one store for every 20,000 people. Hence, the company was far from reaching existing markets.

 International plans showed Starbucks was operating in over 30Company-owned stores in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Thailand. Also, 900 licensed stores were operating in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.

 

 

 

 

  • Demographics

 

  • Young, affluent, tech-savvy customers (Hoovers) a 1999 estimate showed that 70% of customers were internet users, and today the estimate has exceeded 90% (Hoovers).
  • Moms with strollers (Hoovers)
  • People combining work and a coffee break (Hoovers)
  • The most frequent customer’s average 18 visits per month, whereas the typical customer visits five times per month (Moon).
  • Market Needs

Starbucks wants to create an experience for their customers that combine their on-the-go schedule, as well as a place to relax. Senior vice president of administration in North America Christine Day explains that, “people come here for the coffee, but ambience is what makes them want to stay,”

  • Selection

Starbucks menu contains brewed coffee, espresso traditions and favourites, cold beverages, coffee alternatives, frappuccinos, and the sale of whole beans.

  • Accessibility

Starbucks operates over 10,000 retail stores. Most of the 4,200 franchised stores are located in shopping malls and airports. Starbucks coffee brands are also marketed through grocery stores in the form of beans and even ice cream flavours.

  • Customer Service

Starbucks employees are referred to as “partners.” As of 2002, Starbucks employed 60,000 partners worldwide, 50,000 of those in the United States. From the beginning when Howard Schultz took

Over Starbucks, he believed, “Partner satisfaction leads to customer satisfaction,” (Moon).

  • Competitive Pricing

Starbucks brand coffee sold in grocery stores are similar to these prices found in the cafes.

  • Market Forecast (Moon)

Over the next few years, an estimate for the U.S. retail coffee market expects specialty coffee to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 9%-10%.

  • Starbucks was also estimated in 2002 to grow at a CAGR of about 20% top-line revenue growth.
  • As of 2002, coffee consumption had risen with more than half of the population (about 109 million people) drinking coffee every day, and an additional 52 million drinking coffee on occasion.
  •  PEST Analysis
  • Political Influences
    • Relationships between coffee producing nations and US
    • State & Local government controls
    • Economic Influences
      • Constant demand for food and beverages
      • Changes in disposable income could influence purchase levels
      • Social Influences
        • Consumer preferences could shift from coffee to other beverages
      • Technological Influences
        • Use of technology can  improve operational efficiencies
  • Market Growth
  • Reports show in 2002, the number of specialty coffee drinkers has become the market’s biggest growth.
  • An estimated one-third of all U.S. coffee consumption takes place outside of the home and in places such as offices, restaurants, and coffee shops (Moon).

SWOT Analysis

  • Strengths
  • The company is good at taking advantage of opportunities.
  • Starbucks is very profitable and has a strong financial base, therefore allowing the company to undertake new business ventures.
  • Revenue increased to $5294.2 million in 2004, a 29.9% increase from 2003 (Data Monitor)
  • Profits increased to $610 million in 2004, a 43.7% increase from 2003.
  • Net earnings increased 46% (SWOT).
  • The company is internationally recognized and has a global presence.
  • Their reputation is one of fine products and services.

                 Almost 9,000 cafes in almost 40 countries (SWOT)

  • Widespread brand recognition, which in turn becomes brand Preference, and ideally eventually brand loyalty.
  • Strong customer base
  • Clusters company units
  • Expands business with the continuing growth of the coffee market, especially in areas where the company is already well established, and groups stores in an area, therefore able to dominate the region.
  • Leads to considerable financial reward without suffering from cannibalism (Data Monitor).
  • Focus on opening stores that have convenient access for pedestrian and drivers
  • Helps the company capture an increasing share of the coffee market
  • Weaknesses
  • Reliance on beverage innovation
  • Vulnerable to the possibility that their innovation may falter over time
  • Company growth is mostly driven by beverage innovation.
  • If U.S. store growth decreases, stock is lowered in value.
  • Diminishing return from beverage innovation would have an adverse effect (Data Monitor).
  • More than 75% of the company’s stores are in the USA (Data Monitor).
  • May need to look for an assortment of countries in which to open more shops in order to spread business risk
  • 85% of revenue is from its domestic US market (Data Monitor).

               

v  Has high international brand recognition and should look to generate a greater proportion of revenue from outside the USA

v  Would suffer greatly if U.S. stores underperformed because of economic conditions or increased levels of competition

  • Dependent on the retail of coffee, this could make them slow to diversify into other divisions if the need should arise.
  • Employee efficiency is poor.
  • § Lower revenue per employee ($71,544—fiscal 2004) compared to the

    Industry average ($110,841) (Data Monitor)

  • Lower income per employee ($5,294) compared to the industry average ($9,500) (Data Monitor).
  • Lower Return on Equity than peers
  • Company’s 5 year average ROE (13.65%) have been lower than the

Industry average (15.09%)  (Data Monitor).

  • Need to effectively manage its finances to ensure that returns are at par of higher than industry average.
  • Problems in some international operations
  • Problems of expansion: A number of openings are failing to be

 Successful.

  • Japanese operations: The Company has experienced some same-stores sluggishness.
  • Closures of stores in Israel and Tel Aviv: Hurts growth prospects in the region
  • Opportunities
  • In 2004, created a CD-burning service where customers can create their own music CD
  • Opportunities for revenue growth by expanding its global operations

          

  • New markets for coffee are beginning to emerge; for example, in Indian and the Pacific Rim (SWOT).
  • Targeting 15,000 international stores in the next few years

v  Expansion potential questionable in Brazil, India, and Russia

v  China could be one of the largest markets, and therefore the company will focus on Beijing and Shanghai.

  • Large urban population
  • Rising economy
  • Increase in coffee consumption
  • Co-branding with other manufacturers of food and drinks and brand franchising to manufacturers of other goods and services
  • Creates loyalty for Starbucks brand
  • Recently signed agreement with Jim Beam Brands to develop and market a Starbucks-branded coffee liqueur drink (Data Monitor), which has strong revenue potential because:

v  Liqueurs represent $4-5 billion opportunity (Data Monitor).

v  Liqueurs with coffee represent a considerable segment of the Liqueur market.

v  There is a significant overlap between consumers of liqueurs and consumers loyal to the Starbucks brand (Data Monitor).

  • Growth in coffee markets: Starbucks has a market share of over 40% of the special coffee market (Data Monitor). Therefore growth in this category would result in considerable opportunities for further growth and expansion in the near future.
  • Threats
  • Coffee may not stay in favour with customers, and another type of beverage or leisure activity could replace it.
  • Rises in the costs of dairy products could affect the company’s margins.
  • Competition
  • Competitive coffee shops
  • Copy cat brands
  • Restaurants
  • Street carts
  • Competition could enter the market at any time.
  • The U.S. specialty coffee market continues to grow, and an

            Increasing number of firms is looking to enter.

  • At any time, a company with greater financial, marketing, and

Operating resources could enter the market and compete                                  directly with Starbucks.

  • Volatile nature of the coffee market
  • Multiple factors, including weather, political, and economic conditions for example, can potentially negatively affect the company’s business.
  • Green coffee prices may be affected due to agreements establishing export quotas or restricting global coffee supplies.
  • Slowing U.S. retail sales
  • Domestic retail accounts for about 75% of the company’s revenue growth and an even greater proportion of profit growth (Data Monitor).
  • If current U.S. store growth continues, saturation levels within the

North American division may be reached within five years. Before

                                  Reaching this point, US retail sales growth will slow significantly

                                 (Data Monitor)

  • Competition
  • Competition comes in several forms:

v  Independent/Local coffee shops

v  Social and inclusive

v  Diverse and intellectual

v  Artsy and funky, typically cozy and very welcoming

v  Liberal and free-spirited

v  Lingering encouraged

v  Particularly appealing to younger coffee house customers

v  Wide variety of beverages/food

v  Appeals to the non-traditional crowd

v  Franchise/Large Companies

  • Generally well-recognized names (McDonald’s, Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc.)
  • More convenient and accessible
  • Easy access in and out
  • Appeals to the more mainstream coffee drinkers
  • Services (Company)
  • Starbucks purchases roasts of the highest quality of whole bean coffees.
  • Fresh and rich brewed Italian espresso
  • Offers pastries and other appetizing confections
  • Sells coffee-related accessories (mugs, coffee makers, cups, espresso, etc.)
  • Expanded sales into supermarkets of whole bean coffee
    • Introduction the widely popular drink, Frappuccinos, to the public
    • Strives for satisfied customers and a welcoming environment
    • Works to have highest standards of excellence in way of business
    • Offers newspapers and other reading material, popular music, and Internet

 access (provided by T-Mobile)

  • Keys to Success (Company)
    • Rapidly expand retail operations
    • Growth in its specialty sales and other operations
    • Selectively pursue opportunities to leverage the Starbucks brand through the

introduction of new products

  • Continue to be widely available and welcoming
  • Maintain reputation for having specialty and gourmet coffee
  • Make customers feel welcome with friendly service
  • Critical Issues (Moon)
    •  Must increase customer satisfaction through improvements to service
    •   Friendlier and more attentive staff
    •  Faster and more efficient service
    •  Increase in personal treatment (remember customer’s name and order)
    •  More knowledgeable staff
    •  Better overall service
    •  Offer better prices/incentive programs

v  Free cups after “x” number of visits

v  Reduction of price

v  Offer promotions, sales to increase customer satisfaction

  • OTHER

v   Offer better quality and variety of products

v   Improve atmosphere (friendly, welcoming)

v   Reaching out to community through involvement and awareness

v   More stores and convenient locations

  • Other critical issues Starbucks is criticized for and must be aware of are:

v  Clustering

v  Driving out independents

v   Loss of diversity

v   Its policy toward farming communities in developing countries

v   Fair trade

v   Many of these issues are vital for Starbucks to improve their

v  Customers’ satisfaction (Simmons).

    Critical Issues

                                              

Marketing Strategy

  • Starbucks Mission Statement (Company)

“Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while     maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow.

The following six guiding principles will help us measure the appropriateness of our decisions:

  • Provide a great work environment and treat each other with respect and dignity.
  • Embrace diversity as an essential component in the way we do business.
  • Apply the highest standards of excellence to the purchasing, roasting, and delivery of our fresh coffee o Develop enthusiastically satisfied customers all of the time.
  • Contribute positively to our communities and our environment.
  • Recognize that profitability is essential to our future success.”
  • Environmental Mission Statement (Company)

“Starbucks is committed to a role of environmental leadership in all facets of our business.

   We fulfil this mission by a commitment to:

  • Understanding of environmental issues and sharing information with our partners.
  • Developing innovative and flexible solutions to bring about change.
  • Striving to buy, sell, and use environmentally friendly products.
  • Recognizing that fiscal responsibility is essential to our environmental future.
  • Instilling environmental responsibility as a corporate value.
  • Measuring and monitoring our progress for each project.
  • Encouraging all partners to share in our mission.”
  • Other points of importance to Starbucks:
    • “Building customer loyalty around cappuccinos, lattes, and other fancy beverages,” (Overshot).
    • Want to create a sense of community
    • Want to create a memorable experience for a customer that inspires the customer to return often, as well as to tell a friend
    • Striving to become the most recognized and respected brand in the world
    • Putting people before products (Company)
    • What a Starbucks store should be: “An authentic coffee experience that conveyed the artistry of espresso making, a place to think and imagine, a spot where people could gather and talk over a great cup of coffee, a comforting refuge that provided a sense of community, a third place for people to congregate beyond work or the home, a place that welcomed people and rewarded them for coming, and a layout that could accommodate both fast service and quiet moments” (Thompson).
  • Marketing Objectives
  • To create a Starbucks experience that makes people come for the coffee, stay for the ambience and environment, and return for the connection
  • To build an image separate from smaller coffee chains
  • To clearly communicate the values and commitments of the Starbucks business to their customers, instead of only growth plans publicized in the media
  • Financial Objectives
    • Have each store reach a $20,000 weekly sales level
    • Open new stores with lower store-opening costs (about $315,000 per store on average).
    • Target Marketing
      • Based on a sample of Starbucks’ 2002 customer base, the attitudes toward the brand were:
  • The chart shows that the new customers have a poorer attitude toward Starbucks in every category than the existing customers.
  • The new customer type that needs attention is:

v   45% female, 55% male

v   Average age of 36

v   37% have a college degree

v   Average income is $65,000

v   Drink an average of 15 cups of coffee per week

  • Store Expansion Strategy
    • Target areas with favourable demographic profiles, as well as areas that can be serviced and supported by the company’s operations infrastructure.
  • For each targeted area, select a large city to serve as a focal point.

v  Goal of each focal city: Open 20 or more stores in that city in the first two years.

v  Once stores cover the city, open additional stores in smaller, surrounding areas in the region.

  • With this plan, the company had only closed 2 of the 1,500 sites it had opened between 1992 and 1997.
  • Stores must be custom-designed.

v   The company does not buy freestanding structures, and therefore each store is a different shape and size.

v  Most stores range in size from 1,000 to 1,500 square feet.

  • Most stores are located in high-trafficked, high-visibility areas, such as:

v  Office buildings

v   Downtown and suburban retail centres

v  Airport terminals

v   University campuses

v  Busy neighbourhood shopping areas convenient to pedestrian traffic

  • International expansion

v  As of 2004, the company operated over 300 company-owned stores in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Thailand, as well as 900 licensed stores in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.

v  Goal: Have 15,000 international stores

  • Other things to consider:

v  Kiosks

v  Drive-through windows

  • Positioning
  • Store Ambience

v   Goal: To make customers want to linger

v   Social Appeal—Offer a sense of community, a           place where people can come together

v   Physical layout

  • Seating areas to encourage lounging
  •  Appear upscale yet inviting

v  Aromas

  •  Smoking is banned in all stores
  •  Employees are asked to refrain from wearing perfumes or colognes, and prepared foods are kept covered so customers would only smell coffee aromas.

v  Sounds

  • Play soothing CDs that are also for sale
  •  Often offer live music
  • Customer Service

v  The company sees a direct link between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

v  The company believes that employee satisfaction leads to customer satisfaction (Moon).

  •  Voted onto Fortune‘s Top 100 Places to Work
  •  Employee satisfaction remains consistently around 80-90%.
  •  Turnover rate is 70%, one of the lowest in the industry
  •  Focuses on manager stability in order to decrease employee turnover, but also to help recognize regular customers and provide personalized services

v  Employees are trained to connect with customers and focus on “customer intimacy.”

  • Greet customers with a smile.
  • Enthusiastically welcome customers into the store.
  •  Establish eye contact.
  •  Try to remember customers’ names and orders if they are frequent customers.

v  “Just Say Yes” policy, in order to keep the customer happy, which may go beyond store rules

  • Example: Always compensate dissatisfied customers with a Starbucks coupon entitling them to a free drink
  • Example: Give a customer a free refill if he/she spills their drink.
  • Advertising—The Company spends very little on advertising and depends on word-of-mouth promotion.
  • Involvement in the Community

v  Contributing positively to surrounding communities is one of Starbucks’ guiding principles in the company’s mission statement.

v   Howard Schultz had the plan to “build a company with soul (Student).

v   Starbucks has been the largest corporate contributor in North America to CARE, a worldwide relief and development organization to help Third World countries where Starbucks purchases its coffee supplies.

v   The company has an Environmental Committee that looks for ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle waste, as well as contribute to local community environmental efforts.

v   The company donated almost $200,000 to literacy improvement efforts (Student).

v  Starbucks has many community building programs to “contribute positively to the communities where our partners (employees) and customers live, work, and play” (Corporate).

v  “As part of Starbucks ongoing commitment to share the comfort of coffee during times of crisis, the company continues to demonstrate our support of the men and women serving in the U.S. military overseas” (Company).

v  The Starbucks Foundation (Company)

  • Established in 1997 by Howard Schultz
  •  Inspired by Schultz’s childhood experiences and those of other inner city children
  •  Dedicated to creating hope, discovery, and opportunity in the communities of Starbucks
  • Marketing Mix
  • Marketing Research
  • Schultz wanted to use research in order for Starbucks to challenge the status quo, be more innovative and take bigger risks.
  • Examples of questions he asked were :

v   What could Starbucks do to make its stores an even more elegant “third place” that welcomed, rewarded, and surprised customers?

v   What new products and new experiences could the company provide that would uniquely belong to or be associated with Starbucks?

v   What could coffee be – besides being hot or liquid?

v  How could Starbucks reach people who were not coffee drinkers?

v   What strategic paths should Starbucks pursue to achieve its objective of becoming the most recognized and respected brand of coffee in the world?

  • At the retail stores, a pamphlet is available for customers to share their thoughts about their Starbucks experience.
  • Starbucks uses “Customer Snapshots,” similar to mystery shoppers, to evaluate partner performance in the retail stores (Moon).

v  The four basic service evaluations include:

  • Service – Did the register partner verbally greet the customer? Did the partners make eye contact with the customer? Say thank you?
  • Cleanliness – Was the store clean? The counters? The tables? The restrooms?
  • Product Quality – Was the order filled accurately? Was the temperature of the drink within range? Was the beverage properly presented?
  • Speed of Service – How long did the customer have to wait? The company’s goal was to serve a customer within three minutes, from back-of-the-line to drink-in-hand.

 Customer Snapshot Scores (North American Stores)

  • Product

 Starbucks product-mix expanded from 30 varieties of whole bean coffees to eco-friendly cappuccino, coffee makers, and other Starbuck paraphernalia. Its product offerings have also expanded beyond pastries and coffee to oatmeal, smoothes, and wraps to keep up with the competition and satisfy more customer needs.

The company has also been constantly introducing new products, such as “Instant via Ready” and “Full Leaf Tazo Tea Lattes” and “Tazo Tea Infusions”. The Instant via Ready is an instant coffee that the company claims is indistinguishable from its regular brewed coffee (Jargon). Full Leaf Tazo Tea Lattes and Tazo Tea Infusions are the company’s new tea offerings through which it hopes to attract tea drinkers (Edwards). The company also offers Starbucks coffee and cappuccino makers for consumers who wish to replace their existing home coffee makers.

  • Price

Starbucks products are priced higher due to perceived upscale image attached to its brand. The company also began to offer $1 bottomless 8 oz. cup of coffee, with unlimited refills that cost approximately 50 cents less than any other Starbucks products. The company is also implementing “value strategies” that would emphasize more on inexpensive coffee products rather being perceived as unaffordable to price-skittish consumers. For example, the company introduced $3.95 “breakfast pairings,” including popular breakfast items paired with a coffee, and highlights $2 brewed coffees instead of the more expensive specialty drinks (Jennings).

  • Place

 As stated earlier, Starbucks can be found in any neighbourhood where there is a perceived high traffic for its stores. Starbucks outlets can also be found in-store of various large chains including Barnes & Noble and Target. Their locations are extremely conducive for individuals that are on the go and for those who enjoy reading or listening to music. Starbucks has also been recently testing “stealth outlets”, where the store is named after the street it is located on. The new stores attempt to “localize” Starbucks stores with no Starbucks logo on any of the products being offered there, and instead have the specific street address as the brand name (Allison).

  • Promotion

Starbucks has implemented numerous promotions to reach its target markets. Promotions are listed as follows:
• One of the promotions that Starbucks has used is the Starbucks Card. Starbucks Card is an initiative that offers customers the opportunity to promote company’s products through a referral system. When a customer purchases a gift card, it not only shows brand loyalty, but it also provides the company with free advertising, and brings in new customers. Starbucks also provides a card for corporate sales, which are used for extrinsic rewards to show employee appreciation for a job well done, or a gift to client or a vendor. 
• Coffee services delivered to offices without coffee size restrictions.
• Appealing to a diverse customer base by offering international teas and coffees to accommodate those customers that want a taste from home or for locals that enjoy tea.
• Using philanthropy as a means for promotion – Starbucks contributes to several non-profit organizations as a way to improve brand image and awareness in local communities.

  • Controls
  • Problems and Solutions
  • In 2002, our fellow associates, including Christine Day, recognized that customer service needed to be improved upon, and one idea to conquer this problem was to invest $40 million annually in 4,500 stores.
  • By adding almost $9,000 to each store, this would allow an additional 20 hours of labour per week.
  • Day said, “The idea is to improve speed-of-service and thereby increase customer satisfaction.”
  • According to a survey of customers, 65% believed fast service was a key attribute to their satisfaction.
  • In the past when we thought of adding more labour hours to our retail stores, we decided against it due to the struggling economy, especially since labour was already our biggest expense.  
  • Another option instead of increasing labour hours is to increase the efficiency of the partners that we currently employ. We removed the no value- added tasks, simplified the production process, and manipulated the store layout to take better advantage of store space.
  • Additionally, we installed an automatic espresso machine that was faster, reduced waste, and improved consistency while still fulfilling our customer’s needs. We want to continually implement the use of these machines in more of our stores.
  • Furthermore, we want to add more drive-thru lanes to our stores. In doing so, we can still serve our customers who want a taste of Starbucks on-the go.
  • Marketing Organizations
  • Although we have been considered one of the world’s most effective marketing organizations, we lack a strategic marketing group (Moon).
  • Instead, we have smaller divisions (Moon):

v  Market research group – gathered and analyzed market data

v  Category group – developed new products and managed the menu

v Marketing group – developed quarterly promotional plans

  • However, we need to find a way to get these divisions to collaborate so information about market and customer trends is not overlooked like it has been in the past and we can make better decisions about driving our business in the future.
  • In 1995, a “Stores of the Future” project team was formed (Student).

v  Their goal was to come up with the next generation of Starbucks stores to be debuted in 1996.

v  Schultz communicated with the team and envisioned the retail stores to look and feel like, “an authentic coffee experience that conveyed the artistry of espresso making, a place to think and imagine, a spot where people could gather and talk over a great cup of coffee, a comforting refuge that provided a sense of community, a third place for people to congregate beyond work or the home, a place that welcomed people and rewarded them for coming, and a layout that could accommodate both fast service and quiet moments.”

v  The team researched the art and literature of coffee throughout the ages, studied coffee-growing and coffee-making techniques, and looked at how our retail stores have already evolved in terms of design, logos, colours, and mood.

v  The team decided upon four store layout designs:

  • A store for each stage of coffee making: growing, roasting, brewing, and aroma.
  • Each store had its own colour combinations, lighting scheme, and component materials.
  • Also, the stores adapted to the environment, whether the store was downtown or on a college campus, for example.
  • Recommendations For Improvement
  • Revamp the employee reward system
  • Tighten focus on creating the “Third
      Place” environment
  • Focus profitability measures on profitable
      sales, not just reduction in staffing

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“SWOT Analysis Starbucks.” 2006. Marketing Teacher Ltd. 3 Dec. 2006

. Received by 5may, 2010

<http://blogs.indews.com/marketing/starbucks_marketing_case_analy.php>

<http://google.com/> Received by 5may, 2010

“starbucks Information'<http://news.starbucks.com/> Received by 5may, 2010

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MARKETING POST MORTEM: The Engagement Crisis and the Search for Empathy

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2016 was a year of crisis in Marketing. We put a record number of things ‘out there’ in the form of posts and tweets, ads and articles, banners and blogs. We used the best headlines and some of the most intriguing visuals we could find. So why didn’t we “engage” more? Why didn’t more consumers participate in our brand? Why didn’t our content translate into leads?

Well, apparently ‘the news’ was not the only thing that was “fake” last year. Marketing content also took a turn toward the fallacious. How many misleading claims can you pack into a tinyURL? How much ‘Sponsored Content’ has to fill the bottom of a page before you question everything you read above it? How much ‘Native Advertising’ does it take for an online publication to lose its credibility?

“But Wait There’s More” seemed a bit less dastardly when we could hash it out with a human being on the other end of the phone line. But when we fall for digital bait, we clamp down on a cyber hook that tethers us to every retargeting ad in our waterway. The truth is marketing has become more about luring and catching than about informing and educating. We seem more focused on data logging than customer interaction. We seem more passionate about Business Intelligence than intelligent business.

Just a few years back a Marketing professional could tell you all about their customer — not necessarily the blogs they read or the searches they keyed but what they wanted and needed. They could not only tell you where they lived but how they lived. So where has John Smith gone? Has he been reduced to the prevailing smiling emoticon? Is he a bounce rate on an interactive dashboard? Is he the top of a blue chart, the bottom of a red graph, or the far reaches of an orange heat map? Is he the negative correlation of a scatter plot?

Yes, automation as gotten the best of us, but it is actually far deeper than that. We have lost our empathy. Empathy is that innate ability that marketers have always had that helps them understand the motivation of others. It is that ‘fellow feeling,’ the kinship of circumstance and the mutuality of existence that those who sell for a living have understood for generations. It is the heart of a prospect.

While we operate on the World Wide Web, the reader is not a form of prey to be chased into some sticky trap. While we may auto-schedule our electronic outreach, the recipient is by no means programmed or required to read a single headline. While algorithms may sequence online search preferences, the end-user is not an automaton with fully quantifiable behavior. In a world where everything is predictive — John Smith is refreshingly random.

In order to relate to him, we must still prove that we know him and care about him. In short, our marketing campaigns must have purpose. Without it, they are the driverless cars of the internet. Our content must reflect those truths that matter to our reader. We must be correspondents, columnists and human reporters. We must be journalists — Murrow or Cronkite sitting at a ‘hot mic’ under bright lights telling the world’s stories in plain speak.

There’s no doubt that technology has transformed marketing into an analytic discipline of ratios, metrics and modeling but for the moment – and perhaps just a moment — the reader has been unchanged. We must still enchant them. We must still captivate them. We must still appeal to them via the primal whispers of core experience. We must tell good stories.

All those years ago Edward R. Murrow perhaps said it best, “The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.”

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Why content marketing is important?

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Every time I am at a digital marketing conference, people usually come up to me and ask Why content marketing is important and content marketing solutions.

“Why is content marketing so important to any business growth? I mean I am already paying loads of amount in traditional advertising. And in fact I have a good reputation among my customers, so is there any necessity for this content marketing?”

And I just have one answer to all those people who have similar question like this:

“YES!! Content marketing is the most important marketing strategy for your business nay its will be the bloodline for your business growth in the coming year and also foreseeable future”

And here is the most logical explanation as to why content is called the king of marketing.In present days around 75% of people go through the content and rank in search engines content plays a important role in todays digital marketing.

Back in those days when there was no internet or media in general, the only strategy any business had followed was to shout out that you exist through any traditional marketing medium and yes people would flock to your business to purchase. But, the scenarios have changed from neanderthals to swaggers of today (mental note, it’s a metaphor :P)

So, what I mean to say is advertising has seen many revolutions and the competition in today’s date is at its peak, as there are 1000’s of startups starting every day with every entrepreneur set out to make their own mark.

As content marketing helps you to generate leads for your business and cost saving for your business everything in today’s marketing leaning on online marketing service and by content marketing you keep on building trust with your customer. As we all know content marketing is present and future marketing strategy of all the business.Well, we know content engage the customer to be present on all the platform as well as if your selling a product content pursues customer to buy the product indirectly it acts like an increasing lead machine.Content marketing is a form of marketing focused on creating, publishing and distributing content for a targeted audience online and by the way all major giants like microsoft, google, facebook all use the content marketing as a strategy.

And what are the outcomes of all this competition:

1. Decreased pricing

2. Increased advertising budget

3. liquidating old business’s which did not cope up with the present marketing scenario.

And more…

But there was one thing that gave an opportunity to even a small start up to snatch the most potential client from its age-old business entities, that was helpful content.

Want to know how? Let me ask you a simple question, When you want to buy something, what is the 1st thing that you do?

I will assume u said research, which in true in most of the cases. At the time of your research if there are series of blogs or articles that will guide you step by step to your decision-making process and provide you with all the information required to make that specific purchase and at the end of all this tell you that they also sell the same product and they would love if you made the purchase with them.

Now that’s what differentiates you from your competition, personalisation and trust building which will be accomplished by content marketing to an optimum level.

So bottom line, don’t just exist for your customers, help them and grow on them and build a trust with your customers for a successful reign of your business and content marketing is your ride for this journey.

So, yes once again CONTENT MARKETING is very important to any business.

And now after going through this article if you are planning to start with content marketing, Kudos!

In the initial stage there will be few hurdles but, don’t you worry about that, there are 100s of blogs which will guide you and we are always here to help you set up your content marketing strategy.

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3 Distinct Advantages of Online Branding

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Online branding is a very smart business decision for anybody looking to establish a long-term business on the internet. In fact business branding should be considered a standard component of any online marketing strategy. If done properly it will dramatically increase the effectiveness of any marketing message you send out.

Establishing a brand online is done through repeated association with a product type, niche, image or even a set of experiences that leaves a positive impression on consumers.

Here are 3 hard to ignore benefits you can expect to receive by implementing effective branding strategies for your internet business.

Builds Trust

The more ‘exposure’ you give yourself or business maintaining a consistent affiliation with a particular theme, niche or product line the more of an ‘authority’ you become. As your image as an authoritative figure grows so does the trust people tend to put into what it is you say or suggest. This gives more ‘weight’ to any marketing message you do send out. All of this goes with the assumption that the information you present is accurate, informative and/or helpful in some way to readers.

Builds Credibility

Enough can not be said about building credibility on the internet since this can make the difference between business success and failure. Any branding strategies you use to develop your ‘reputation’ much reflect integrity, accuracy and leave people with a positive feeling. The key here is maintaining a level of integrity which will greatly boost any credible image you are trying to establish.

Increases Marketing Effectiveness

Once you have developed a credible and trustworthy reputation you have basically ‘arrived’ as an internet marketer! Having people regard you as such now makes your promotional efforts all the more easier and effective. This now gets people to ‘act’ on your messages leading them to actually take the necessary or required actions you want them to take.

Remember however that once you achieve this level of trust and credibility you must continue to work on maintaining the image you have! This is only as gift and is one that can quickly dissolve if you ignore the importance of it.

Online branding is done by repeatedly associating your business with a product type, niche, experience or image that leaves a lasting and positive impression with people. Actually business branding such as this should be considered a standard part of your online marketing strategy. Done correctly branding strategies that establish positive images in the minds of consumers only serve to increase the effectiveness of your marketing message. Of course this in turn means more sales and greater profits which is the intent of any online business. The 3 benefits your business stands to experience if properly branded online are reviewed above. These points only give further testimony as to why this strategy needs to be included in your online tool chest especially if long-term success is what you want.

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Confessions From a Former Get Rich Quick Internet Marketing Junkie

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It is not easy admitting that I was a former get-rich quick internet marketing junkie. But the truth of the matter is that for five, long years I wasted thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours all in vain searching for that elusive pot of gold that I thought was awaiting me at the end of the rainbow.

I would like to share with you the results of all of my internet marketing efforts:

  • Compounded frustration
  • I lost thousands of dollars of hard-earned money
  • I ended up lying to my wife, which prior to my internet marketing addiction, would never have occurred to me in a million years!
  • I seriously damaged our marital bond of trust and faith not only by lying but by cheating (not sexually) on my wife as well. What do I mean? I opened up a private bank account; took out a private credit card, opened a private postal box. I could not believe to what depths of deception I was prepared to do so that I could feed my delusions about succeeding with internet marketing.

In short, I came as close as possible to a point of no return where I could have lost literally everything meaningful in my life – my wife and children – everything that I cherished most in life.

I just would like to say that I am not a person sitting on the fringe in society. The truth of the matter is that I consider myself a normal, educated, middle class person. I have a college degree. I am an English high school teacher by profession.

So, if I have almost everything that I could possibly want in life – family and material comforts (car, house, etc.), so what happened to me? Perhaps a mid-life crisis? Mental breakdown?

There was something very attractive and exciting about having my own home-based online business. I never could see myself forever being a teacher. I wanted to make extra income, like most of us to make ends meet by the end of the month, and perhaps to have something extra so in order to do more things together with the family. So, literally, like a bouncing ball, I went from one home business opportunity to another after another, hoping that this time I would strike it rich. But rather then striking it rich, I simply STRUCK OUT!

My advice to you is the following and please take notice, because these are the words coming from a former internet marketing junkie who has been there and done it!

· Stay away, like your life depended on it, from All Get-Rich Quick schemes! Do not let the temptation of making $5000 or 10,000 dollars a month delude you into believing that by investing (I call this throwing your hard earned cash down the toilet) $50, $100, $500, $1000 dollars or more in some program that makes promises from A-Z, that you will be making money in no time flat, just remember this – The person who has just taken your hard-earned money is probably laughing his head off all the way to the bank.

· There is no such thing as making quick or easy money on the internet! If you will, think of internet marketing, in the negative sense, just like a slot machine in Las Vegas, nothing more and nothing less!

If this article will save at least one person from falling into the endless pit of becoming an internet junkie, like myself, then I will have the comfort of knowing that I have fulfilled at least one of many of my missions in my life.

Fortunately, and thank God, there is a happy ending to this story. After realizing what is really important to me in life, I destroyed my credit card, cancelled my bank account, closed my postal box and began to rebuild the trust (that I had betrayed) in my relationship with my wife.

The million dollar question that you might be asking yourself now is this: So, has he given up entirely the possibility of ever doing internet marketing? My honest answer to you is, no. However, I will leave you with something to think about. If I had only followed my instincts at the very beginning of exploring ways to perhaps make money on the internet and not been greedy, as well as thinking to myself that I know better, I could have truly followed one of my passions in life and created something truly of value not only for myself but for the benefit of others as well. Not to mention, that I could have been happier and wealthier as well.

It took me five, long and very difficult years in my life to discover what was always in front of my nose but I was just too blind to see.

If you are curious to know what I am talking about, I will not beat around the bush. Simply have a look at my signature below. All the best.

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Social Media Marketing through Facebook

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If you want to make the most of social media marketing today, you better sign up with Facebook. According to a recent report from the Orlando Business Journal, Facebook has far outpaced its competitors in the first quarter of 2009, garnering 78 percent of US social network participants against MySpace’s 42 percent, LinkedIn’s 17 percent and Twitter’s 10 percent.

Worldwide, Facebook was reported to have 307.1 million unique visitors in May 2009 while MySpace had less than half with a mere 123.2 million unique visitors. According to Facebook, its members are sending each other one billion chat messages each day.

As early as 2008, a study done by Internet Retailer and Vovici showed that most online retailers in the US chose to use Facebook as a social media network to help boost sales. A separate study done by Rosetta among the top 100 US online retailers showed that 59% had set up a Facebook fan page. Among these retailers were Best Buy, Kohl’s, Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us.

In order to make the most of your company’s Facebook fan page, though, you should familiarize yourself thoroughly with social media marketing as a whole, and with the way Facebook itself works in particular. It would be wholly counterproductive to make an online faux pas and earn ill will. Each social media network has its own temperament, after all, and its own set of rules and online etiquette. Members and users also have certain expectations from other members and users.

Perhaps it would be best for a company not to risk experimentation by assigning this task to a newbie. Learn from the mistake of the New York Times whose new social media editor had no extensive knowledge of Twitter before diving in. As a result, her repost meant to point other Tweeter users to an online article ended up taking them to Ebay instead. Do not make the same mistake in Facebook or you will get a lot of negative comments instead of the favorable ones you need. It would be best to leave the task of handling your company’s social media marketing efforts to the experts.

Social media marketing is one of the services offered by Web Dot Com Website Development Philippines, Inc. as a full service web site developer and a web hosting provider with domain name registration services. Web Dot Com recognizes that social media marketing, along with search engine optimization and search engine marketing, is now a necessity in the online marketplace. Having a good website with good landing pages are no longer enough.

As an expert in online applications and solutions, as well as business process outsourcing (BPO) services, Web Dot Com has been trusted by clients from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Korea, the British Virgin Islands and the Philippines for the past ten years. Indeed, many companies have proven that outsourcing web development and other business processes is profitable.

From its base in Manila, the Web Dot Com employs expert programmers and developers highly skilled in php, mysql, JavaScript and other tools and languages in order to provide low cost advanced web site development packages including advanced interactive database driven web site development, advanced portal development, heavy web based programming, web application development, content management systems, website design, graphic design and multimedia components including flash animation development, e-commerce site solutions including a shopping cart using osCommerce, website maintenance and support, and internet marketing.

Web Dot Com Website Development Philippines, Inc. is your One Stop Shop Internet and Contact Center Solutions Vendor for the Global Market. Make it your social media marketing partner, as well.

Web Dot Com Website Development Philippines, Inc.
Address:
2nd Floor, BT&T Center
#20 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave., Libis (C-5),
Quezon City, 1110 Philippines
E-mail: info@webdc.com.ph
Telephone numbers: (632) 634-4625; (632) 635-6104

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Mortgage Marketing To Realtors: Get 10 Realtors in 30 Days

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Mortgage marketing to realtors can be an easy and enjoyable process. Having a steady flow of referrals from real estate agents is a great way to insure the continued growth of your business.

But how do you develop a network of quality, low maintenance realtor referral partners? Good question. Below you will find the answer.

Are you ready to get started? Here are step by step easy to follow instructions given in an outline format to help you develop 10 realtor referral relationships in the next 30 days.

I. Finding Real Estate Agents

Option 1: Escrow Officers

1) Select 5 huge title companies in different parts of town.

2) Use the top escrow officer at these companies for a transaction.

3) Wow your client and have the escrow officer complete your customer satisfaction survey at close so the title officer can see what a great job you do for your clients.

You can download a sample customer satisfaction survey by visiting:

[http://www.mortgage-leads-generator.com/a/survey.htm]

4) Immediately after the transaction funds, send the title officers at all 5 offices a gift and tell them how much you appreciated their top notch service during the transaction.

5) Exactly one week after the title officers receive your thank you gift, go see each of them face to face and ask them for referrals to top realtors. Ask for referrals to real estate agents that are easy to work with and do at least 2 transactions a month (or however many transactions you would like).

Option 2: Top Producer List

Ask your title officer for a list of the top producing real estate agents in your area. This list will enable you to target real estate agents who are actually doing business.

II. Approaching Real Estate Agents

Option 1: Approach Letter

1) Send a letter to one or two real estate agents per day. Be sure to stay organized. Use software or some other method to keep track of who needs a follow up call each day.

2) Send your letter in an unusual way so it gets noticed – like a Fed Ex overnight package for example. Everyone opens overnight packages with great anticipation.

Here is the delivery method I used. I learned it from Todd Duncan and it worked well:

Wrap your approach letter around a Pay Day candy bar, use a gold ribbon to keep the letter attached to the candy bar, then send your letter / candy bar to realtors in a tube.

This letter delivery technique is sure to get noticed.

For a sample approach letter to use when mortgage marketing to realtors visit:

[http://www.mortgage-leads-generator.com/a/realtor.htm]

Here are some important elements to include in your approach letter:

* Offer a unique selling proposition (USP) that can help their business

* Tell them a little about yourself.

* Also, tell them you will be calling in 2 days to schedule a face to face meeting. At the meeting you will explain your USP and how it can improve their business.

Option 2: Office Managers and Realtor Associations

1) Contact real estate offices and ask to speak with the manager. Explain to the manager that you are a top producing Mortgage Planner. You are currently offering complementary seminars to a limited number of real estate offices.

Here are a few seminar ideas:

* How realtors can use 1% mortgage loans to increase their business

* How to get more leads from your real estate website

* Anything you can think of that would benefit the realtors at the office.

2) Offer to give the short talk during their next sales meeting.

3) Offer to bring lunch.

4) During your talk offer the realtors a valuable tool, gift or information that can only be obtained by giving you their business card. When you send the gift include an approach letter explaining you will be contacting them for a face to face meeting to discuss a USP that can increase their business.

You can also use this technique with local realtor associations. Offer to give your talk to the entire association. Just be sure the topic and information you discuss is truly useful.

Give these ideas a try. They really work! You’ll be amazed at how fast your mortgage referral business will grow.

By the way, if you are the shy type and do not want to conduct seminars or face to face realtor meetings, you can always hire someone or bring on a partner to do this stuff for you.

Please feel free to reprint this article as long as the resource box is left intact and all links are hyperlinked.

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Restaurant Kitchen Design: The Best Of The Best

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If you’ve decided to try your hand at the ever competitive restaurant industry, you’ll need the expertise of one of the leading providers of top of the line Restaurant Kitchen Design in the business: Garners Food Service Equipment. Not only is the company one of the most innovative as pertains to their expansive lines of kitchen equipment, it’s also a pioneer in kitchen design. Providing its clients with consultations and concepts, Garners ensures optimal design and success for any fledgling business.

Garners Food Service Equipment prides itself on offering its clients the best in catering design that’s both time and budget efficient. The company always provides its customers the best in conceptualisation and equipment, so rest assured that no matter what your culinary needs, styles, or customer type, you’ll be given the absolute finest in kitchen accommodations.

Garners offers expertise in a wide range of kitchen sizes and shapes –from restaurant kitchens to Central Production Units (CPUS), garden centres to multi complex sports stadia, Garners is a master of creating some of the most unique and customer conscious designs. Their Restaurant Kitchen Design options are a wide range of options that are sure to fit any culinary sanctum. Whether you own a humble diner or a five star masterpiece, Garners is sure to be able to conceptualise the best design to blend your vision to your customers’ expectations.

Garners’ brilliant team of designers is completely professional and incredibly open-minded. With a level of expertise that surpasses some of the most heralded in the business, Garners is sure to be able to create and develop any catering design concept. The company’s Commercial Catering Design Consultants are ingenious in their abilities to make manifest the desires and ideas of their clients. The company also offers an unparalleled level of professionalism with every client with which it works, providing a liaison that meets with the restaurant owner(s) at all times throughout the designing stages. What’s more impressive is Garners’ ability to work with the client and within the client’s required budget to create a culinary environment that can truly contend with the giants of the restaurant industry.

Garners is firmly dedicated to ensuring that its clients get their desired outcome. With only the customer’s happiness in mind, Garners goes the extra mile to ensure that every design and operational objective is achieved. Always looking to innovate (never duplicate), Garners makes use of the state of the art Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. CAD offers some of the most ingenuous technology to ensure that your catering business has the best design: server designs, computer imagery and 3D artists’ visuals, interior design and sample boards, and layouts and evaluations for Commercial Refrigeration and Commercial Kitchens.

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Making Headway With PSD To HTML Conversion

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Having a website is a precious asset for business owners. The website exemplifies the characteristics of a business and projects the business objectives to the public. In order to be viable and successful, the website needs to be seen by the most number of people over the Internet.

There should be good exposure of its website. One of the most ideal option and good SEO prerogative is the PSD to XHTML CSS or the PSD to HTML conversion.

When there is good and adequate traffic a website is expected to derive more income and become successful in its objectives. Google, for instance, has its own methodologies and derivatives wherein it ranks different websites based on given keywords. PSD to XHTML CSS and PSD to HTML conversions play crucial roles in upgrading the website through its SEO ranking and placement.

This formatting can very well aid in increasing the amount of traffic generated by different websites. Regardless of whether the conversion is PSD to XHTML CSS or PSD to HTML, it is necessary to have the page formatting in proper perspective. The use and facility of automatic implements for coding are made by web designers in a lot of instances and this makes work easier for them.

But this usually ends up with less than ideal results. It is evident from researches and studies that arranging a website is better and easier than using the more expensive modern SEO methods in generating traffic. In order to get the most exposure, most of the web designers resort to formatting websites as a practical recourse.

It is important to note that formatting should be done in an effective way. There should be no excessive use of texts and unnecessary formats like pictures, flashes, and other implements. The accessibility of a website is impaired with the use of implements other than the usual text format. There are also certain search engine spiders which can access HTML coding.

It is important therefore to have the websites coded in a neat and orderly fashion and this is here the PSD to XHTML CSS and the PSD to HTML conversions come into play. This would necessitate a higher ranking of the website as recognized by the different search engines. There is also the necessity of having compliance with the W3C standard and compatibility with the cross browser.

Because of the length of time for loading files, websites should avoid having large images in its cache. The website should be so designed as to make loading fast and convenient. The code should always include the use of meta tags.

The meta tags are important in relating the objectives of the website and gives a clearer outlook to the website. There are of course various ways of making the PSD to HTML formatting. The conversion must be done manually without the use of any automation tools in generating the code.

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Does Your Pool Cue Matter? The Truth About Modern High Technology Pool Cues

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I started playing pool at the young age of 7 years old, during the winters growing up in northern Maine when the temperature reached 50 below zero and it was too cold to ski. The rec room at Loring AFB had a couple of pool tables, and as a very athletic kid I had a natural curiosity about the game, and after watching a few games I was invited by one of the airmen to play a game with him. He showed me how to hold the cue stick and make a bridge, and got me a little wooden box to stand on so I could reach the table. It didn’t take long for me to become addicted to the game, and soon invited my friends to play. We spent many a cold winter day inside that rec room, playing for hours, making up our own rules and games, and eventually even betting nickel candy bars on the outcome. Yeah, we were big spenders!

When summer hit, we put the cues away and played baseball all day long. My dream, since I was 5 and saw the Dodgers play in Los Angeles several times before my dad was transferred to Loring, was to be a pro baseball player, and I eventually got a baseball scholarship to college in Texas, where my dad retired in 1966. Through the years, every spare hour not spent practicing baseball was spent in a pool hall, and after my baseball career ended with a torn pitching shoulder, pool became my number 1 interest. I won my first tournament when I was 17, at a bar that my sister worked at, and won a cue stick as first prize. I was thrilled beyond belief, until I screwed the stick together and rolled it across the table. To my horror, it rolled like a corkscrew, being so warped as to be unplayable! Back to playing with a bar stick!

For the next 20 years, I hustled pool where ever I was working at the time. I drilled oil wells all over the country, and made as much money hustling the roughnecks after their shift as I did from my salary. As a mud engineer, I was responsible for checking many different rigs daily, and got to know, and play against, hundreds of different pool players each year. Moving around the country to different areas on a yearly basis, I was able to keep under the radar and remain a relative unknown, so it was never any trouble to get a money game going. I don’t think I ever met a roughneck who didn’t play pool, and most of them had a pretty high opinion of their game. That usually changed when it came time to pay up!

In 1989 I met the Alexander brothers on a golf course in Dallas. Nick, a lawyer, had founded Clicks Billiards many years before, and now had a total of 20 pool halls from Phoenix to Florida, with his original pool hall right there in Dallas at Abrams Rd. and Northwest Highway. Greg, his brother, was the General Manager, and responsible for hiring managers for all 20 of their pool halls. By this time I had retired from the oil business, and made my living on the golf course and pool halls every day. Greg and Nick were both members of Sleepy Hollow Country Club in south Dallas, where I hustled golf every day. Greg was a 3 handicap, and after I had played with him 3 or 4 days a week for several months ( and took quite a bit of money from him), he asked me if I played pool. Heh heh heh. “A little bit”, I said, and he took me that night to the original Clicks Billiards, to try to win a little of his money back.

After he paid up the hundred I beat him out of that night, he offered me a job, as assistant manager of the original Clicks. He knew I had never bar tended before, but assured me I would pick it up quickly, and would fit right in with the pool players who made up their core customer base. Was he ever right! I took to it like a duck to water, and ended up meeting most of the best pool players in Dallas, and some of the best in the country. Clicks had several exhibitions, including one by Grady Matthews, and one by Ewa Mataya, the Striking Viking. Clicks was also where I met CJ Wiley, the road player who won the ESPN Ultimate Nine Ball Challenge in 1995 or 96. There were many, many top notch professional players at Clicks, with many a $1,000 game of one pocket going on day and night, with lots of major Dallas bookies bankrolling a lot of the action, and sweaters on the rail by the dozens, just watching…or praying, lol.

CJ rolled into Clicks in 1990, and proceeded to terrorize the local pros. He was an instant legend, steamrolling every major player in town. Guys who scared the dickens out of me would not even touch CJ when he offered them the 5 and out. His rep grew, and his ranking did too, eventually reaching #4 or 5 in the world of Pool. Working there, I became fast friends with CJ, and when he opened up his own room in Dallas, CJ’s Billiard Palace, I eventually quit Clicks and went over to manage CJ’s place. When he opened up, 90% of the action, and pro players, went with him. He had 12 Gold Crowns, as opposed to the 4 at Clicks, a kitchen, and was open 24 hours. The action never stopped.

So what, you ask, does all this have to do with the title topic? I bought my first cue, a Thomas Wayne model, in 91, and while it was beautiful, with lots of gorgeous inlays, and very responsive, it really did nothing to improve my game. I played with it for 3 years until it was stolen, and I loved the cue, but I could play just as well with a bar cue, providing it was the right weight and had a good tip. I spent 700 dollars for the cue, but I really didn’t need to. It did not give me any advantage over a house cue.

I had a severe back injury in 1994, that made me quit playing golf and pool. I didn’t want to risk an operation, and it wasn’t until 2008 that I got some non-narcotic medication from the V.A. that let me bend over the table again without excruciating pain. By this time, Predator Cues had come out with a 10 piece shaft that was hollow at the tip, significantly reducing cue ball deflection at impact…or so they claimed. Having been away from the game for 14 years, I had read little about these cues, and was intrigued, to say the least.

For those of you reading this who don’t know what cue ball deflection is, here it is in a nut shell: When a cue ball is struck to either side of the vertical axis…the center line….the cue ball will deflect, or “squirt” in the opposite direction. So if you hit the cue ball using right ‘english’…hitting the cue ball right of the vertical center line…the cue ball will deflect to the left, and vice versa.. The amount of deflection varies, depending on speed of the stroke, the distance from the center line (or tip offset) the cue ball is struck, and the mass of the tip. In other words, the more english you apply, the harder the stroke, and the bigger the mass of the tip…..these factors will all increase the amount of deflection, or squirt. This squirt must be compensated for when aiming, or you will miss the shot quite often.

This is where the Predator technology comes into play. With a small hollow space at the end of the tip, the reduced mass drastically reduced the amount of deflection by allowing the cue ball to push the shaft out of the way at impact, instead of the shaft pushing the cue ball out of the way. The 314 shaft became very popular immediately with professionals, and the Z shaft reduced deflection even more by reducing the tip size from 12.75mm to 11.75mm. A shorter ferrule also helped reduce mass, and therefore reduce deflection even more. Independent testing has the Z² shaft and the 314² shaft from Predator as being the #1 and #2 shafts in the world in causing the least amount of deflection. Predator cues and shafts are used by over half of the top 40 professionals, 3 of the top 5 women professionals, and over 35,000 players worldwide, according to the Predator web site. These professionals are not paid to play these cues. They play them because their living depends on their playing ability, which is enhanced with this high-tech equipment.

Since Predator led the way in the mid 90’s, many companies have now joined the technology revolution. Lucasi Hybrid Cues offers the Zero Flex Point shaft on all their hybrid models. This shaft has technology similar to the Predator shafts to drastically reduce deflection. They offer these shafts with many joint types to fit most cues made today. World Champion Thorsten Hohmann from Germany now plays Lucasi Hybrid.

The OB-1 and OB-2 shafts also offer low deflection technology, and John Schmidt recently changed to the OB cue. He said he ran over 400 balls playing straight pool, the second day he used the OB shaft.

I had to try out one of these cues myself, and I must say: I love the new high-tech pool cues. I play with a Predator 5K3, and despite not having played in 14 years, my game has ascended to a level way higher than I ever played before. The reduced deflection makes the hard shots using english much simpler, by reducing the amount of compensation for squirt.

In summation, the advance of technology has shortened the learning curve for beginning and intermediate players by reducing cue ball deflection, and requiring much less compensation for the squirt effect. And the pros, who make their living with a cue? Nearly all of them play a low-deflection shaft of some kind. Why wouldn’t they? If they don’t, their competitors (who all do) will take the money.

While Predator remains the benchmark for low deflection, they are also not cheap. The retail price for a Z² shaft is nearly $300, but the new Lucasi Hybrid Cues, with similar technology (and also new grip technology to reduce impact vibration) are a good lower priced alternative. For less than the price of a Predator Z² shaft alone, your can get an outstanding Lucasi Hybrid [http://www.poolsharkcues.com/product_info.php?cPath=6&products_id=78/] that has advanced low-deflection technology and plays fantastically well. If a World Champion like Thorsten Hohmann is playing a Lucasi Hybrid, you KNOW it is an outstanding cue.

So think long and hard when purchasing a new cue stick. If you don’t use a cue with modern low-deflection technology, chances are your opponent will be. Everything else being equal, a modern low-deflection cue, or an older cue with a new low-deflection shaft, is going to win the vast majority of the time. Greatly improved accuracy will make it so.

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