Marketing with Videos

Pam Schallhorn, University of Illinois Extension, recently shared a video from Alton, Illinois. the video is a great example of how, without a lot of dollars, businesses and communities can effectively use videos in their marketing.

Videos continue to grow in popularity and use. Two trends in the use of videos make them attractive for marketing. The first trend is that short is great.  This video is around three minutes.

The second trend is that you don’t need a lot of fancy gear, a simple camera or even your smartphone can do the job. Plus you don’t need to do a lot, if any, editing. Even if some editing is needed, there are some programs that most people can pickup and use in just a short period of time.

Check out this video and then, “Lights, camera, and action,” should be your next step.

To here to read Pam’s blog.

Using All the Resources Available – Build Your Network

Success sogm

Photo (CC) Bruce Berrien, on Flickr

In order to do the best job we can, whether we are in business or are a service provider, the bottom line is we must use every resource available.

For business owners, one such resource are other business owners. This idea formed the basis for the Power of Business effort.

For service providers, such as those of us working for Extension, we have this vast network of each other that we can turn to for help and ideas.

Both of these internal resources are great and I hope you use them. Yet many more resources exist in organizations and businesses outside of our and second circles of connections. The example I will use here is the Farmers Market Federation of NY. 

This organization provides information for customers, farmers, and market managers. I have followed it for a couple of years. No, I am not from NY but what they provide gives me ideas for my work with local food promotion and the growers involved in that effort.

In there August 17th newsletter, they wrote about holding music events during market days. Now that may not be something new to you, but they included a press release used by a market manager, the Facebook event connection, and a photo used.

The article also provided some other resources (I love these type of freebies) including where to find special days and months (National Chicken Month, National Smile Day, etc). This lets you make an event when you might not think nothing exists. They also challenged market managers to make the market the special event of the week.

There may be nothing new here, but outside resources, such as these, can remind us of ideas we may have forgotten and new twists to something we are already doing. 

 

Use of Online Marketing for Ag Enterprises

Online marketing tools and techniques are rapidly growing in use.

Yet the use of such tools among rural business owners and small agricultural business owners has not kept up with the national trends. These businesses tend to continue their use of more traditional marketing tools.

The Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement at Kansas State University has taken a look at this issue among the green industry businesses including garden centers, nurseries, and landscape operations. In this webinar, they discuss their findings and offer ideas on how rural small-business owners can make the best use of online marketing. 

Effective Employee Feedback

Good job sign

Photo (CC 2.0) by Steven Depolo, on Flickr

We all know that some guidance will help us to do our job more effectively and efficiently and in line with the needs of the company.

Yet most of us also know how nervous we get when its time for the annual appraisal. We are afraid of what we will hear and so we enter the conference room with our shields and rebuttals already in place and formulated.

And the person doing the evaluation may have had little support in providing effective feedback and also may find these conferences scary and perhaps of little value.

With this background, should we be surprised that the results are less than what we would hope for. A recent article confirms the idea that annual appraisals offer little in terms of results.

The University of Wyoming Extension’s, Enterprising Rural Families, looks at the issue of effective feedback in their July newsletter. Juliet Daniels, the author of the article, outlines the need to give feedback often, quickly and in private. She discusses the need to focus on observable behaviors, something that can be seen and something that can be changed. She gives the example of a “bad attitude.” This comment isn’t specific and may be something that the employer and employee see quite differently.

As you think about your employee development program or you work with small-business owners who are involved in such an activity, this newsletter offers some practical advice and a great background of effective feedback.

The goal is behavior change. Effective feedback can help make that happen.

Find the full article at: http://eruralfamilies.uwagec.org/Newsreleases/2016_07_NEWSLETTER.pdf 

Building Community Through the Little Free Garden

Little Free Garden

Little Free Garden

Thanks to Meghan Myrdal, co-founder of Ugly Food of the North, for sharing this story.

Her story focuses on an effort to bring food and an awareness of food to communities. In it she discusses how the project can bring meaningful connections.

I have the privilege of knowing her and watching her work towards a well-connected food system that, in turn, drives strong, healthy communities.

I hope this idea inspires you to try something new or to try this program in your own area. There are so many different ways it could be done and it could involve some many different groups.

Thanks Megan for sharing.


Grow. Take. Share. – The Little Free Garden Project 

By: Megan Myrdal

This summer you will find small, raised-bed gardens springing up in front yards across Fargo, ND-Moorhead, MN. But there’s something special about the little boxes with the green placard. The food grown within eight-square feet can be taken by anyone. In fact, it’s encouraged!

Ugly Food of the North recently launched the Little Free Garden, a project intended to foster communities committed to growing, sharing and cultivating food in small, raised-bed gardens, designed to fit in residential spaces.  The project launched with an inaugural build event at Concordia College on April 23.

The project was inspired by the Little Free Library project, but instead of sharing books the owners share food. The small, cedar wood, raised-bed gardens (4 x 2 ft, 12” deep) are placed in a household’s front yard, are planted and tended by the homeowners, and all the food grown is to be harvested by anyone who wants it or needs it.

Ugly Food of the North formed in August of last year with the goal of creating a more sustainable, personal food system through education, networking and community organizing. Since the group formation, they’ve held monthly events to bring the community together to learn about and discuss important food issues including food waste, urban agriculture, local food access, and food security.

The creation of the Little Free Garden project was inspired by the idea that the little box symbolizes a simple response to many of the important food issues the group has been working to address — the disconnect between food and agriculture, people lacking access to healthful, locally grown food, a lost sense of value for food and therefore waste and/or overconsumption, and people craving an opportunity to connect with one another around healthful food and positive social experiences.

The project envisions that the little gardens will not only be a free transaction of food, but an littlefreegarden2exchange of personal, meaningful connection – a reason to talk to a neighbor or stranger; a chance to connect with one another in a shared growing experience.

The project launched over 50 gardens in the Fargo-Moorhead area this spring and has been documenting the community growing experience on their social media channel. They hope to follow the first gardens, learn how the process is received, and to launch the project more broadly next year.

You can read more about the Little Free Garden project here including ways to donate and support.

Fine-tune Your Agritourism Operation

steve-driving-the-tractor-980-websiteGetting the most out of any business requires constant adjustment and fine-tuning. Agritourism businesses need the same thing as noted in this blog post by Michigan State University Extension.

In the post, they pulled together three tools to help you take a good look at your agritourism business. These tools came from the University of Vermont Extension, University of California Extension and Louisiana State University Extension.

You may also want to look at a resource booklet from Oklahoma and another from Oregon.

Agritourism offers some great opportunities to develop additional income from available resources. Achieving that goal requires you manage it like any other business. These guides can help.

Still wondering if agritourism is an opportunity for you?  Here are four farms that made it work. They are just a small sample of what there is to offer.

Take Control of Time Spent Doing Your Small Business Online Marketing

Online Marketing

Online Marketing Options

Developing an online presence is a necessity.

However, you hesitate because: you hear it takes a lot of time or you are not comfortable with technology or you know your customers won’t use it or they all know about your business already. Perhaps it a combination of these items and more. So why have an an online presence?

Yet if you are reading this, you are using that same technology. And if you look around, you will see mobile technology all over being used.

Let’s not hide the fact though that the time needed for a large online presence can be substantial. This article clearly points out that fact. Yes, it really does talk about 12 to 104 hours per week just for doing search engine optimization of your web site. Such time is not even available in your wildest dreams. Perhaps if you didn’t want to sleep…… And we haven’t even talked about your social media efforts yet!!

But are you at that level?  If so, then go for it.  If not, keep reading.

So what can be done to build an online presence and yet control the amount of resources it takes? 

These are my thoughts on the steps you might take. Others may disagree but this will get you started.

First, learn about the online world and the technology. Understand its place in a marketing effort. Then find a way to dip your toe in the water. Let me suggest the following steps:

  1. Learn about the online world and be ready to commit some resources. Take some classes about what this online world is at your Extension office, library, school, college, etc. Any time you are out, look at the people around you, they are probably online with a mobile device (and you may well be reading this on your mobile device). And ask how much you can carve out to commit to developing an online presence.
  2. Online starts off-line so talk with your customers. What are they doing online and how are they getting online? What would they like to see from your online presence? At the same time, see what your competitors are doing as well as other businesses in your community.
  3. Claim your bubble. You know, that little pin that shows where a business is located. Get listed in at Google business and other similar services. Correct inaccurate information. Google is the current big player but don’t overlook other sites such as Bing and Mapquest.
  4. Check out the review sites where your business might be listed.  Set up a plan for reviewing those sites on a regular basis. I would encourage at least a weekly review and a response to any negative reviews. A thanks to positive reviewers would also be a good idea. Now might be the time to consider how you can get more reviews. (15 minutes per week)
  5. Set up Google Alerts or some other means of getting an update, such as Twitter lists,  Feedly or Hootsuite, to know when your name or the name of your business is mentioned online. You may also want to follow your key products, trends, or key industry informants (15 – 45 minutes per week)
  6. It’s now time to take the next big step in your online presence. My recommendation is to build a website. The reason for that method versus something like a Facebook page is you control it. Social media sites are owned and controlled by others. If they decide to change, everything you worked for can disappear quickly. Your site can vary from something basic to very elaborate with shopping carts, etc. You can do it yourself or you can hire someone else to build it. Taking this and step 7 may require more help and training. This is also where your required time commitment will start to grow.
  7. Another big step – Now it’s time to add social media perhaps including a blog.

You have covered the basics (Steps 1 through 5, and have moved on with items #6 and #7. The first five steps require a reasonable (dare I say small) ongoing time commitment, maybe as little as 15 minutes per week although I hope that you are getting lots of positive reviews that take time to read. Just a reminder, though, there is upfront time being spent to get ready.

At this point, you can look at social media advertising, search engine optimization, getting ready for mobile, and tracking your metrics.

The bottom line is you can begin an online presence without spending the hours suggested by that first article. And you can do much of the work yourself, even with the long days your business takes.

Additional information:

Sale Point Alternatives

Creativity

Photo (CC 2.0) by PunkToad, on Flickr

If you are running a small business you know that one part of the equation is getting your product in front of the customer.

The link provides you with a creative solution being used by one local foods entrepreneur.  The business owner didn’t invent anything new but simply took existing technology and put it to use somewhat differently. In this case, the different way was the selling of local meats.

As noted in the article, such machines are, and have been, used in similar ways for a few years. I can remember getting food out of vending machines in college and airports. So why not use it for local foods.

Yet it took someone to think a little bit out of the box. The idea allows for 24/7 sales, adds a virtual sales person, and can help someone expand their market reach.

This is just one way that a creative thought can move your company forward. Remember, standing still is not an option.

Cyber Security and Your Small Business – Part 2

Mary Peabody, Univ of Vermont, and Steve Hancock, Cornell, offer more tips on how small businesses can keep their online data secure. 

In this episode, Mary and Steve discuss how to protect your customers. Businesses need to build trust with clients. It is that trust which then allows the client to provide his or her credit card and personal information when you ask.

There are four strategies a small business owner can use to build such trust:

  1. Have and follow a privacy policy
  2. Know the data you are collecting. What is it? How will you use it? How are you storing it? Who has access?
  3. Keep what you need and delete what you don’t.
  4. Protect the information.

It is not uncommon to hear business owners express concern about the perceived cost of keeping data secure. That cost is made up of two things, software and time.

The software can often be obtained for free. Companies are increasingly will to share it as data security is in everyone’s interest.

As Mary identifies, there will be time involved. Yet the time spent upfront will be much less than what would be spent should a data breach occur. And it is not only the issue of fixing the data breach but the time and energy you will spend in re-establishing trust with your clients. Recovery is much more expensive than time up front.

Another thing business owners can do is to help their customers stay safe when online. A tip sheet was provided that business owners might share with their customers as a place to start.

As a business owner, you want your customers to feel comfortable in engaging with you and your website. Take the time and make the effort to ensure your work does not disappear because of an online security lapse.

Social Media: An Effective Tool for Rural Businesses

This week’s blog information comes from work done by Dr. James Barnes and Dr. Katlyn Coatney, both of Mississippi State University. They are working to look at how online marketing tools can be effectively used by rural, small agribusinesses. Part of the work of Dr. Barnes includes examining how Facebook ads can be included in the marketing mix.  All of this work is part of  the Mississippi Bricks to  Clicks program

social media channels

Photo (CC) by mkhmarketing, on Flickr
mkhmarketing.wordpress.com

It’s no longer should  you use online marketing, it is how soon can you start.

The idea of online marketing is not new to any business owner.  If the owner isn’t already doing it, they have probably been approached by someone encouraging them to start.  Just in their daily lives, business owners see the idea in action as they go online themselves or even pick up a newspaper or magazine and see advertisements directing them to an online site.

If you look at the data, more and more businesses have begun to include use of online marketing in their overall marketing strategy. Somewhat research finds that businesses in rural places and agribusinesses have been somewhat slower in instituting such practices. To encourage business owners, Drs. Barnes and Coatney have authored a case study, The Economic Value of Social Media Advertising on Mississippi Agribusiness: The Case of MG Farms, Inc. 

Through their work with MG Farms, it was possible to show the economic benefit of using Facebook and Facebook advertising as a marketing tool. Focusing on an upcoming sale, MG Farms made an effort to increase the number of people who liked their Facebook page and who became engaged users during a three-month period.

Such likes and engagement forms a valuable intangible asset for a business.  In the case of MG Farms, that value was worth around $122,000.

Yet Facebook and Facebook ads also had tangible benefits to the business. When the sale was held, attendance increased by 20 percent and gross revenues increased by 33 percent, both based on 2015 as compared to 2014. The social media effort was the only thing MG Farms changed during the year.

The cost for MG Farms for the advertisements was only $735 thus making for a strong return on investment.

The report from Drs. Barnes and Coatney provides a research on the effectiveness of social media marketing for rural businesses. If done with guidance on its effective use, it has the potential for substantially growing your bottom line.