Category: Community.

Engage in more meaningful conversations

The back and forth between a business and customer on social media can sometimes feel like the old school method of passing notes in a classroom. Do you like our new spring clothing line? Check yes or no. If you like it, please share it with Susie in the next row. Of course, it’s important to get likes and shares on social media, but savvy business owners might want to seek something more than a classroom crush.

To build a lasting relationship with a customer you need to engage in more meaningful conversations. In dating terms, you need to put a ring on it. Take the time to engage with your audience on social media. Pay attention to what they need, when they need it, and why.

Here are a few tips to move your social media engagement to the next level:

Create polls to obtain information from customers
Rank their favorite product.
Rank the various ways they use the product.
Vote for the time of day/year they use the product most.
Rank why they use the product – give three options and an open comment box.

Run contests to learn how customers interact with your product

and provide a discount or valuable item to the winner.
Most creative or best photo/video of customers using the product.
The best success story of how a service helped them.
Most loyal or longest-standing customer.

Research your ambassadors

All businesses will have loyal customers who consistently like, share, and comment on your platforms. So, thank them for sharing, give them a head’s up on sales and offer advice on making the most of the product. Then, take a few minutes to look at their personal pages to get more of a feel for their lifestyle, needs, and friends.

Be responsive

If someone sends a message or posts a comment, respond as fast as possible. Because many customers view social media the same as an in-person encounter, treat social interactions in the same way.

Ask questions

Pose open-ended questions about your product or service on social accounts. What do you like best about our business? What do we not offer that you would use?

These tips will have you well on your way to walking down the social aisle with customers. Still, you should be ready for those members of the congregation who just can’t seem to hold their peace. View negative comments as opportunities rather than irritants to be ignored. Everyone sees the negative comments and a lot may ride on how and if you choose to react.

Steps to keep the peace:

1. Thank them for the comment, acknowledge the issue, and apologize.
2. Ask what you can do to make it right.
3. Offer what you can to make it right, plus a little extra.
4. If you cannot make it right, tell them how you will work to make it better in the future.

However, there may be cases when a courteous approach isn’t effective. For those situations, a general statement acknowledging the issue and an offer to resolve it offline with an email or phone call may be a good compromise.

Finally, like any relationship, staying engaged takes time and effort and a willingness to learn from the good and bad comments.

As a business owner, it seems like media love from any platform comes with a price tag.

If only you could become the media’s valentine. Wouldn’t it be nice if they pursued you for something other than a monthly advertising invoice? Or maybe you have dreamed of a reporter showing up at your storefront with a bouquet of free air time to spotlight your business.

Be Prepared
That dream date can happen if you are prepared with the right content at the right time. Content is the heart of every story, blog, and social media post. Reporters need quick access to experts, facts, statistics, trends, and testimonials to tell stories that are meaningful to audiences.

Your expertise, industry knowledge and experience could be the perfect match for a reporter on any given day, but you have to get in the dating game to start building the relationship.

Here are a few ways to get your business noticed by the media:

Create an expert profile

Example:
Amy Smith, owner, Smith Heating and Air Conditioning (Phone, email, web, social contacts)
Ten year’s experience in residential and industrial HVAC systems
Expert in electrical safety, home energy efficiency and indoor air quality

Connect with local journalists

Identify a few journalists in your area who report on topics related to your industry and send them your expert profile through multiple channels. (Social media, email, hand-written note, phone call)

Create content

Use facts and figures about your business and create brief, but meaningful tip sheets or infographics. Focus on ways to help the public save time or money, prepare for the future or avoid a crisis as it relates to your product or service. Periodically share your tips with media contacts. Use social hashtags and tag reporters. Example: 3 Ways to Save Money on Energy Costs #energysavings @nbcreporter

Look for trends and national stories

Find out what is trending on Twitter, look at what others are talking about in your own social media feeds and track stories in the national news. Connect your expertise with those topics and ask the media to consider you for an interview to share how the topic may impact your community, customers or industry.

Be ready and responsive

Journalists have very tight timelines. If a reporter calls for an interview, that interview may need to take place on the spot, or scheduled in one to two hours. If you ask for time to prepare, you may miss your opportunity. By having topics and tips ready you can quickly accept the request. Reporters will remember your responsiveness and likely reach out to you again, which will help build your reputation as a thought-leader in the industry.

It Takes Time
It takes time and effort to get noticed by the media or build media love, but creating connections and content could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship with no price tags attached.

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Our workbook gives you the opportunity to work ON your business allowing you to leverage your time and make you more profitable. Over two years in the making, this well thought out manual will provide you with tools to grow your business — and it’s not complicated. You’ll find worksheets that add to the information in each chapter. We recommend doing the lessons in order, and doing each step in order because one lesson builds on the next.

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Here is a solution to stop the decline of newspapers nationwide.

• Make every newspaper the same size.
• Make all ads the same sizes.
• Use inches and not “column inches.”
• Make it simple to buy an ad – have a human answer the phone.
• Make sure the ad prints well.
• Make sure the invoice is correct.
• MOST IMPORTANT: Cover the news in your community. You’re not a national or world news source. Your a community news source. Be just that, and do it well.

We would still have community newspapers that thrive.

For those of you that would like a little more information:
All newspapers are different sizes. This means advertisers must alter each ad to fit each newspaper. This is a lot of work and makes buying and placing newspaper ads really troublesome and time consuming. Then newspapers have their own sizing system called “column inches” – NO ONE knows what a column inch equals because it’s different with each newspaper. So that’s why I suggest standard newspaper sizes and ad sizes. An advertiser (who is the newspaper’s main source of income) can then place an ad easily in New York or New London, MO. The same ad would fit in all newspapers.

Hire people that know what they are selling. Hire people that understand print quality and will work to get good quality. The print quality and sales quality has dropped off dramatically. I frequently cannot get someone to answer the phone when I want to place a buy or have a quick question before turning in an order. Then when I do place a buy, I have orders lost and ads not run. To top it off, the billing in most of the regional papers is terrible. We need to double check everything to ensure it’s accurate. Sometimes a newspaper will run an ad all month when we wanted it to run once. Too frequently we have to call and ask for our invoice.

The newspaper industry is killing itself with poor service, poor print quality and poor content. 

The last suggestion is the most important. Content must be derived from the community the newspaper resides in. Skip the national and world news. Focus on what is going on in your community – and not just events that have occurred – but what is coming up too. Look for and report real news.

My suggestions are simple. Fairly simple to enact and would save small newspapers.

By Sally Poole

In fourth grade we lived in Holly Park, which is part of the Seattle Housing Authority. We just called it “the projects.” Mom, a high school drop out, was recently divorced with four kids. We were really poor and didn’t mind at all – except we had to eat powdered milk on the commodity oatmeal we had for breakfast every morning. At Holly Park, we had tons of other kids to play with and learned all kinds of new things.

One of our neighbors and my best friend was Tonya. Tonya’s mom would iron her hair in the morning to straighten it. My sister and I would beg her to iron our hair too. We liked it because it made our hair warm. She’d just laugh at us and iron our straight hair too.

Tonya’s brother, Mike was older than us and he was a complete mystery. He would bounce his basketball all the time and tell us frequently, “I’m gonna be a pro.” We had NO IDEA what on earth he was talking about. We tried to find out what a pro was. We even asked adults, but out of context, they had no idea what we were talking about either. You have to remember this was in the 1960’s. Professional sports had not yet become the big business it is today – well, not that we were aware of anyway.

Years later I realized Mike wanted to be a pro basketball player, make good money and have respect.

I started thinking that maybe we should encourage all of our young kids to become a pro. Professionals at something – anything! It would encourage them to work hard on their dream career, practice, maybe go to college or a trade school that they hadn’t considered before. To shoot a little higher (pardon the basketball pun) for a larger goal.

I had no idea what I would do with my life when I was in fourth grade, but I’m proud that I became a pro in my field. I hope Mike became a pro too. I wish all of our kids could grow up to be pros, earn the money they want and get the respect they’ve dreamed of.

We Shape Society

“All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.” – Bill Bernbach

“Books are better than television, the internet, or the computer for educating and maintaining freedom. Books matter because they state ideas and then attempt to thoroughly prove them. They have an advantage precisely because they slow down the process, allowing the reader to internalize, respond, react and transform. The ideas in books matter because time is taken to establish truth, and because the reader must take the time to consider each idea and either accept it or, if he rejects it, to think through sound reasons for doing so. A nation of people who write and read is a nation with the attention span to earn an education and free society if they choose.”
― Oliver DeMille

The Huffington Post reported that a US Postal Service survey shows mail at an all time low.

Take heart. This is the perfect opportunity every business has been looking for. Write a note to your customer. Your small note (that you can send for a mere 46¢) will make an impact because no one receives letters anymore.

The post office reports that an average home received ONE personal letter roughly every seven weeks. That is absolutely amazing. But I have to admit, I opened my mail last night and threw away 90%. Most of it was junk and form letters. People don’t consider a letter “junk.” Especially if you have something nice to say or share – and you write it by hand. People keep letters because they leave a lasting impact that you can read again and again. it’s like sharing a little piece of yourself and your life.

Go write a note to someone you care about. Consider writing a thank you note to a customer and make a difference in your business.

The old model of focusing on industry and large business to bring jobs and build our economy is no longer working. We have a new model, but no one is paying attention to it and Northeast Missouri’s growth is being retarded. We could and should be doing better.

Traditionally all economic development in this region has been focused on industry and larger businesses. Because of this, much of what is being done is “top secret” and cannot be discussed. How many large businesses have been brought to Northeast Missouri in the last several years? The answer is none. That’s because our focus is wrong.

A more successful focus would be on small business growth and development. Small business is the foundation of our community and our country. Small businesses when properly attended to, can grow and develop into larger businesses that hire more people. Small business is easier to attract and easier to grow.

Owning a business of your own is part of the American Dream. Colleges and Universities are focusing more on entrepreneurship because of documented need throughout the country. Let’s be proactive and try something different – something that works.

The Provenance Project brought many artists/business people to this region. It’s been proven that a simple invitation is a powerful force. Artists are buying buildings, homes, and building their businesses, with no help from the city, county or economic development. Just think how much better each business could be if there was some place or someone they could go to and get information about incentives, training, incubators, loans and tax credits.

It’s time to refocus. To pay attention to the companies that have chosen to be in this region, to help them grow, and to encourage more small businesses start ups in Northeast Missouri.

Finally, I am also advocating for a more transparent process. If you’ve been to any chamber meetings you’ll have found that all economic development is “top secret” and can’t be discussed. Economic development affects every person in Northeast Missouri and our region deserves better accountability.