Small Biz Growth– With a Little Help from Friends in the Marketplace

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Small businesses in small towns across America are fighting for survival.

But, getting to know the people and small businesses of Wabash Indiana, winner of the Small Business Revolution’s Main Street $500,000 Makeover has been a heartwarming journey, filled with hope and promise when all players in the marketplace come together.

wabashcityFor this makeover, Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer at Deluxe, along with Shark Tank star Robert Herjavec, employed their marketing and business expertise to help six small businesses learn more about what it takes to compete in their local and regional markets.

What is additionally important is that you look at the website that accompanies this series. There is a breakdown of each store’s problems and solutions, complete with actionable advice that could be applied to your business. In other words: Free social media marketing advice!!!

The full details of the project are in my previous blog. Here are the eight episodes so you can binge watch. Do you see any similarities to you, your business, your neighborhood, or town? Learn from the Wabash journey; take from it what you can. Then make your story something worth sharing with others.

(Anthony M. Scialis is an experienced print & broadcast writer who coordinates blog, Twitter & Facebook social media content to create a focused & powerful customer engagement effort which will bridge the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

The Front Porch of Life- Living and Doing Business in Small Towns

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“Too often we forget about the 120-million Americans building their homes, their businesses, and their lives in small towns far from the limelight” — not my words but those of successful entrepreneur and Shark Tank investor Robert Herjavic reflecting on the plight of small towns and small businesses decaying away.

And that is unfortunate because statistics indicate more than 50% of the employed population works at a small business.

A nationwide contest was held among small towns to find the one that could best improve upon itself by the community.

Small towns like Wabash, Indiana.

And that is how the Small Business Revolution project and web series came to be, and I have the first episode here.

As explained and described on their website:

“Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer at Deluxe, along with Shark Tank star Robert Herjavec, employed their marketing and business expertise to help six small businesses learn more about what it takes to compete in their local and regional markets. The entire Wabash journey is captured in this eight-part web series. The opening episode provides a glimpse into the community, the businesses and the town leaders.”

Whether you are a small business in a small town such as Belfast ME where I have lived or in a big city like Boston where I have also resided, you will view the series seeing familiar problems, then hopefully say “aha there is a solution.”

( Anthony M. Scialis is an experienced print & broadcast writer who coordinates blog, Twitter & Facebook social media content to create a focused & powerful customer engagement effort which will bridge the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Growth of Women-Owned Biz Helps Community

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Women-owned businesses are vibrant, rooted in local communities — and expanding! According to the American City Business Journals (ACBJ), these operations are projected to account for nearly 40% of all U.S. businesses by 2017. What is fueling the rapid growth and what does it all mean for the local community?

The ACBJ surveyed a national sample of small and mid-size business owners. Their findings focused on 5 key areas:

  • differences between men and women-owned businesses
  • similarities between men and women-owned businesses
  • profile characteristics
  • motivations
  • work-ethic of women-owned businesses

You can download the full report here for full details.

For some additional insight, a “sister” publication, Bizwomen.com, went into the community to quiz professionals on their knowledge of women-owned businesses, which you can see in the following short video.

My key take away is that not only are their businesses growing in sales, but also in staffing. Three quarters of the survey response field indicated they were hiring new full time employees. And that is great news for the job market in local communities.

Also, women tended to be more highly engaged with the local community itself than the male respondents as you can see in this screen shot of the survey.

wmn-bizInteracting with other businesses, interacting with community events and projects all help to make the “local scene” a stronger one.

That filters back in terms of solid customer engagement to drive more sales. And that translates into continued growth, the need for staff expansion and the attraction of more customers to the over-all marketplace neighborhood.

( Anthony M. Scialis is an experienced print & broadcast writer who coordinates blog, Twitter & Facebook social media content to create a focused & powerful customer engagement effort which will bridge the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

How Your Small Biz Can Benefit from This Week’s National Hashtags

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Hashtags can be found on Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms. A social media strategist on your team would have suggested any number of crossover promotions to capitalize on these events to entice customers.

Hashtag of the day: #NationalHotFudgeSundaeDay 7/25/16

  • Car Dealership? “We know it’s hot outside. But we’ve got some really cool deals on the lot and to make it worth your while, just for coming out and speaking with one of our experienced auto specialists, we’ll give you 2 coupons for a Hot Fudge Sundae today”

Hashtag of the day: #NationalBagelfestDay 7/26/16Bagel

  • Custom tire accessory store? “Bagels and tires have a lot in common. They are roundish. They come in several different styles. They can be purchased individually or in a group. And just as you can put anything on a bagel, you can put an assortment of covers on a tire. Check us out today and get a free bagel while they last.”

Hashtag of the day: #NationalScotchDay 7/27/16

  • Investment firm? “Today is National Scotch Day. Did you know that all Scotch whisky must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years? That is quite an investment of time & money. You can’t take it our early. Here at A & Z Investments we can advise you on short term investments with high yield…”

Hashtag of the day: #NationalChiliDogDay 7/28/16 (Last Thursday in July)

  • Dry Cleaner? “Today is National Chili Dog Day and someone in the office will push the idea to celebrate— at the office. But as careful as you try to be, somehow when lunch is over, there may well be stains on you shirt, pants, blouse or skirt. Not to worry. Bring in the tell-tale stain today or tomorrow and we’ll give you a 10% discount on cleaning.”

Hashtag of the day: #NationalLipstickDay 7/29/16lipstick1

  • Hairdresser? “Ladies we know that just as there is a lipstick shade to address our every mood, there is also a hairstyle to present our mood. In honor of National Lipstick Day, bring in a receipt for a lipstick you purchased this week, and we will give you 10% off a …”

Information is a commodity that is bought & sold — but it is also a tool that you can use to benefit your business. In skilled hands, information will make today a better business day for you & your customers.

( Anthony M. Scialis is an experienced print & broadcast writer who coordinates blog, Twitter & Facebook social media content to create a focused & powerful customer engagement effort which will bridge the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Your Blog Intro Paragraph, Setting the Correct Hook

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Introductory paragraphs are fishing trips ripe for disaster; launch yourself using the wrong hooks and lures, and you’ll lose all the fish before you get to the end paragraph.

reelingAn early blog of mine covered this topic and I thought it was time to repeat it for those of you small business owners who are piloting your own blog along the internet waters.

Noted social media influencer Jeff Bullas had recently outlined several literary devices to enhance the enticement and engagement levels of a blog’s first paragraph. I, in turn, shared insights on three of them, based upon my own over 30 years of experience as a print & broadcast writer.

Why not start with a question?

  • I’ve found asking a question to be among the most intriguing openings. By posing a question right away, you drive readers to start thinking; you challenge them to come up with an answer, an answer that lies beneath the waves of paragraphs to come.

Just the facts ma’am

  • On the other hand, years of writing experience have led me to accept statistics and percentages as the most difficult hook, because if done improperly you turn off readers and they swim away. (Bullas dressed this up by suggesting you attribute the facts to a person, thus making the numbers come alive).

To “quote or not to quote”

  • I’ve used quotes as teaser openers in my blogs, articles and columns many times over the years. Find something catchy that your interviewee recounted or advised that relates to your topic in such a way to set the mood, while at the same time “giving away” the sense of what story you are about to tell.

Metaphor.

  • This is an additional option I would suggest; in fact I employed it to kick off this blog. It is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

This option, as do all the others mentioned, set the readers off into a thinking mode, anxious to read on.

And that is the goal of the first paragraph, isn’t it?

(Anthony M. Scialis is a social media strategist focusing on blogging & tweeting as a two-step customer service effort in bridging the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Be On Fleek, Or Millennials Will Dipset On Your Small Biz

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What? Each generation has its slang, from the 1920s (on the level, on the lam) to the 40s (take a powder, pass the buck) to the 60s (far out, bummed out) to the current 2010s. What is so important about a sub culture’s internal interactions is that social media NOW communicates it back out to the Small Business owner and in a 2.0 society where customers CAN and DO speak directly to retailers, you need to understand what Millennials are saying and feeling.

SarekOr as Ambassador Sarek comments in a Star Trek movie “one cannot answer easily if you don’t understand the question.”

To that end, I discovered an informative post from of all places Inc.com. John Brandon presents a Millennial mini-lexicon of value to small business owners who may be scanning social platforms looking for any mention of their company’s products or services.

  • On fleek
  • Used originally in an Instagram post about eyebrows (yes, the origin stories for these terms tend to be as weird as the terms themselves), being “on fleek” means to be on point. In a business context, it means something was well executed and is worthy of acknowledgment.

So, this is good in reference to your small biz.

  • Dipset
  • I was confused when I heard this one on social media. It means to bail on something–to leave because something is lame. You might “dipset” from a meeting if the topic is boring. If you use this one, let me know if people understand you.

So, this is not good in reference to your small biz.

There are 15 in all. Check out the article for the entire group.

According to a Pew Research Center posting in April 2016 “Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, according to population estimates released this month by the U.S. Census Bureau. Millennials, whom we define as those ages 18-34 in 2015, now number 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 51-69).”

If you were thinking Millennials were just teens glued to their cell phones, stop. They are businessmen and businesswomen. They are moms and dads. And they are your customers. At least they might be if you understand them.

(Anthony M. Scialis is a social media strategist focusing on blogging & tweeting as a two-step customer service effort in bridging the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Why Your Small Business Needs Blogs— And Me

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BlogsB2C companies which feature blogs on their websites generate 88% more leads per month than those that do not. This is according to HubSpot, the world’s leading inbound marketing and sales platform. Let that settle in. Businesses which generate blogs about interesting things (along with their services or products) generate 88% more leads per month than competitors that don’t.

Well-thought-out, well-written blogs work because storytelling is a powerful way to attract readers, share information, open the lines of communication to foster engagement, build understanding of potential customer needs and convert these followers into loyal brand ambassadors.

More people looking at your store shelves. More people walking into your restaurant or bar. More potential income.

When I saw that 88% statistic I had a flashback to this line from Independence Day:

10 Years Social(Copyright © 1996 by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

Over the years, I’ve worked in print & broadcast media. People do not buy newspapers for the ads. They buy for the news. People do not listen to radio for the ads. They listen for the music.

In other words, people seek out something that will emotionally engage them.

And I have been saying for years that people are not on social media for the ads. They are there to share and engage, because they want to be emotionally connected. Repeatedly telling them what special you have for today is a disconnect— they may come in, but they are just as likely not to come back. You may have made a sale, but you didn’t convert them into loyal customers and certainly not created an emotional connection to recruit them as ambassadors for your business.

Granted, you want to keep using Twitter as a way of driving people to your website and Facebook pages. Equally so, you need to keep pace with competitors in the Facebook auction space for ads.

But, once you have funneled prospects to your website, then what? A few seconds of looking at ads or a contest. Maybe you hook them, maybe you don’t.

Consider generating two or three blogs a week to balance out your Facebook and Twitter self promotions. Give followers a reason to check back to your website several times a week. Provide some insight on how you do something. Recall a funny incident. Promote a survey. Give some free tips. Comment about something going on in the community.

Convinced, but you don’t have the time to write blogs? You don’t have the editorial skills to cultivate content? That’s where writers (such as myself— full disclosure) can assist you. Prices being charged on various websites range from as little as $5 for a simple blog up to and beyond $1000 for a complex blog.

As a veteran community writer, I’m on the more affordable side of that price bar. If you’re interested let’s talk. Let me help you SHARE information, so you can ENGAGE your readers, UNDERSTAND their needs and CONVERT them into customers.

It’s not about you anymore. It’s about them.

(Anthony M. Scialis is a social media strategist focusing on blogging & tweeting as a two-step customer service effort in bridging the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)