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)

Finding Business Tips in the Movies

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If life imitates art, what can the small business entrepreneur learn from a Hollywood movie? Jacek Grebski, Co-founder and Partner of SWARM, Digital Agency selected 18 movies for an article in Entrepreneur on line that he thought had something to say to this issue.

18 MoviesNot all are what you would think of as “business” movies. Erin Brockovich (above), 12 Angry Men, Merchant of Venice, and Lord of War are far from that model. But Grebski cleverly pulls out of one movie or another aspects such as creative problem solving, crisis management, negotiation techniques, building customer loyalty, creativity and innovation, perseverance, and business vision.

Check out the article. Do you agree or not? Do you have any suggestions of your own for movies that gave you some guidance or direction as you set out as an entrepreneur?

( 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)

Describe Customer Engagement in One Word

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Challenge presented. Challenge Accepted. A fellow social media entrepreneur put the question to me: Describe Customer engagement in one word. I thought for a few minutes.

More.

Not a social buzz word. Neither a marketing nor small biz lingo-laden insider techie phrase.

Just “more.”

Do more for the customer. Give more to the customer. And the customer will do more for you.

Cust engagementWas that a “good answer” as they say on Family Feud? (I thought I saw Richard Dawson and Steve Harvey each giving me a thumb’s up!)

And after a short search, I found validation on no less a biz site than Yahoo’s Aabaco Small Business Service, and an article by Sally Lee.

(Smallbiztrends.com described AaBaco as: “a service that offers small business owners custom websites, hosting, domains, eCommerce help, and business email plans. So, instead of helping you find businesses on the Web, Aabaco helps you get your small business on it.”)

Author Sally Lee’s opening paragraph in 5 Tips for Building Your Customer Engagement Strategy puts in perfect perspective what customer engagement is:

‘It’s getting customers to spend more time with your company and to feel more of a connection with and more value from you. In return, more engaged customers last longer, are more loyal and spend more money.This leaves you more time to focus more on making your customers happy and providing products and services they want and need, and spending less time on securing new customers.”

She gets it. Yahoo Business gets it. More, more, more.

Does your small business get it? The more you focus on customer engagement, the more you will profit from it.

( 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)

Pokemon Go – How To Lure in Customers to Your Small Biz

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Hula Hoops, pet rocks, Cabbage Patch Kids. Fads come & go. Even the big ones. But Pokemon Go has the added element crucial to your small business that none of the rest had: exterior exploration. The others were played by oneself, in a room or backyard. Pokemon Go takes the player away from home, usually with a partner, walking down the street and past your business.

This gives an entire new meaning to “foot traffic!”

Pokemon Go pixAnd that makes it more than a game. It’s a dynamic marketing opportunity for your Main Street USA brick & mortar store.

Walter Chen just days ago wrote a solid tutorial on the INC website (Pokemon Go Is Driving Insane Amounts of Sales at Small, Local Businesses. Here’s How It Works) as to understanding, and therefore controlling the madness that is Pokemon Go— with the end result being the conversion of Poke-chasers walking past your store into paying customers walking into your business.

In detail he first describes the game, so even non-player Baby Boomer owners on down to Millennial owners with no interest in Pokemon can grasp the parameters within which players operate. This is important to determine how players can be enticed (manipulated?) to alter their “programming” of chasing Pokemon exclusively and instead take a break to purchase your products or services.

Among his recommendations are:

Find Out if Your Business Is a Gym or PokeStop

First move should be to determine if you already are a PokeStop or Gym. These attract foot traffic without any effort: “Players flock to them for rewards and to battle other players- and they can be leveraged for massive sales if you know how,” states Chen.

Sit Back, Throw Down a Lure, and Enjoy the Show

What’s a lure? It is the key to increasing the rate of Pokemon generation for a half hour in the area around the PokeStop. Very important to stopping the foot traffic at your door while players wait for Pokemon to come to them. For example a local biz owner revealed “I own a pizzeria that’s a PokeStop and I literally did this all day. I had a ton of kids and adults (mostly adults) come in for a slice of pizza and a drink until the lure ran out.”

Capitalize on Your Business Being Near a Pokemon Gym

If you are neither a PokeStop nor Gym (where captured creatures do battle against other players’ creatures) then let people know through outside signs and mobile social media that you have related specials, giveaways, etc. You may not know when a group of French tourists or Vegans are coming down the street, but you will know that foot-tired, thirsty Poke players are nearby.

Or, Go Where the Pokemon Are

Chin discusses more points, including delegating to one of your staff the duty of tracking where Pokemon are being heavily found in your community and then devising a way to get your business there (for example if a local park is a hot spot, can you get a food booth or truck out there on a Saturday or Sunday if your small biz is a restaurant or bar?)

As I said, Chen’s article is a thorough primer for the uninitiated to learn and capitalize on a hot fad that may not be leading customers into your store, but at least past your door.

Chin advises “With Pokemon Go, businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to create strong emotional bonds with new customers, and for very little money.”

Gotta Catch ‘Em All? The challenges and opportunities for customer engagement await you.

(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)