Engaging Small-business Customers with Facebook Contests

Social media rules in terms of marketing options. And Facebook is the king of social media.

Okay, those are bold statements and many would disagree. Yet the numbers are continuing to show that these statements, if not true today, can well be expected to be the case within one or two years.

So how does a small-business owner take advantage of this trend?

While there are lots of options, GROW Nebraska connected with Connie Hancock and Jenny Nixon, UNL Extension educators, to provide this session on how doing Facebook contests can attract and engage customers.

In the webinar, you will learn about the basics of branding and establishing your online image. You are then walked through some of the key elements for having a successful contests as well as some of the things not to do.

Examples of contests are used throughout the presentation. The idea of messages and what makes a good message is discussed.

If you are thinking of Facebook contests as an opportunity, or want to expand your expertise in running such events, then pull up a chair.

Marketing is changing. Social media is growing. And there is a good chance, Facebook should be part of your mix.

Marketing and Your Business

It can’t be said enough that “build it and they will come” is just a myth. A “one-and-done” effort will not get you what you want, either. Developing a successful business means putting a marketing plan that creates and maintains awareness of your product and/or services.

Learn how to build your marketing plan from Glenn Muske, small business specialist for North Dakota State University Extension.  Check out Glenn’s article on marketing your small business for more information: Standing Out from the Competition

Tell Your Story

story book

Photo (CC) by UNE photos, on Flickr

Information provided by: Susan Moffat, Extension Educator, Oklahoma State University Extension

Storytelling is a marketing tool small business owners should capitalize on. They have great stories on how they got the idea for their business along with its growth, bumps and all. Plus it allows them to highlight some of their own story.

Susan provided the stories that two quilting/fabric shops have included on their websites. (You may see a theme in these stories. I worked with Susan and know quilting is a passion).

Missouri Star Quilt Company discusses the reasons why they started along with why they picked this industry. They make a strong case for going online thus showing that a solid business can grow in small towns. They offer some key elements that helped the business grow. Hamilton, MO has now become a destination because of their efforts.  Read their entire story at: https://www.missouriquiltco.com/content/aboutus

Prairie Quilt, http://prairiequilt.com/about-us/our-history/, also has their history posted in the “About us” section. They not only include the history of how Randa became the owner along with information about the team and story hours. They also list nearby hotels. The date the business started as part of their logo as well as their tag line, where sewing is fun, is all found on their website.

Both of these examples show how story telling is a great tool in marketing. You don’t find anything lengthy. Pictures were used to highlight the stories. And they are not just about the business but also about you, the owner.

Do you include your story in your marketing? Do you have a short version to tell when networking? Consider them. Customers enjoy knowing more about how you and your business.

For more information, check out:

Are You Telling (and Selling) with Your Business Story at Small Biz Survival blog


Is Your Market Changing?


Photo (CC) by SEO, on Flickr

My drive to work is usually spent listening to news on the radio. Three recent items got me thinking about this column.

Yesterday one of the stories highlighted how millennials are now the largest segment of the U. S. workforce. Today a news story discussed how ethnic backgrounds in various parts of our country have constantly changed since our country’s founding. And last week a news article, discussing the slowdown in oil production in western North Dakota, commented on the rapid change in the mix of people again occurring.

The point these three stories make is that markets change. No matter where you are located or who your market is today, things will be different tomorrow. Developing an understanding of your market is something you do just once. Never stop updating your information about who your market is.

This means your:
• Product and service offerings may need to change.
• Marketing methods may need to change.
• Pricing may need to change.
• Acceptable payment methods may need to change (just an aside – an article yesterday indicated that over 80% of today’s customers do, or want to, pay using credit or debit cards).
• Competition has probably changed.
• Service and support may need to change.

You probably have the picture. Not only do you need to know who your market is but you need to respond to what the market wants. It is rare for a business today to be able to continue to always do business “the good old way.”

There are lots of ways to keep in touch with changes in your market. Following the news is just one. Being involved in the community is another. Keeping up with census data and reports done for local officials or the chamber of commerce is a third method. And of course, you can do your own market research.

Your market is changing. Your continued success happens if you stay in touch and continue to be innovative in your operation.

Building a Social Media Strategy for an Event

social media channels

Photo (CC) by mkhmarketing, on Flickr

You are having an upcoming event and you want to spread the word. You know that social media should be part of your strategy but it seems like there are so many channels and so little time. How can you approach it?

Amanda Christensen, Extension Assistant Professor for the Utah State University , has developed a Marketing Map to help you map out a plan to reach a number of channels on a regular basis. Her blog post and a link to the map can be found here.

Just like an marketing effort, a one-and-done approach will not create the awareness you want. You need to get the event in front of people several times on various platforms. The Marketing Map includes newspapers but I might suggest that you broaden the traditional media category to include all of those outlets as well.

Getting this done will take time and effort. It would work best if you have a team and if you use scheduling tools such as Hootsuite.

Also use your networks to help you spread the word. And don’t forget to make personal contacts. Connecting directly with people can be very effective. Your direct contacts should include people involved in the media who you have nurtured over time.

The Map also reminds us about the lead time needed. They recommend some marketing being done up to five weeks out. Depending on the event, you may even want to put that out further. For some major conferences, I am getting save-the-date reminders nearly six months ahead. People have busy lives so the longer the notice, the more likely you are to get a good turnout.

Putting together an event takes a great deal of energy. And it offers the audience something they want and can use. So making sure people know about it makes your event a win-win situation. Use all of the tools, like the Social Media Marketing Map, at your disposal.

Good luck.

Throw a Twitter Party, Have Fun and Grow Your Business!

Yes, it is possible to grow your business while having fun.  One way to do it? Throw a Twitter Party!

A Twitter Party creates an experience to engage your clients and prospective customers. Twitter Parties can build your online presence, market your enterprise and expand your brand.

Use Twitter Parties to connect with your audience, discuss timely topics and present information about your products and services

Join Alyssa Dye, Nebraska Extension Intern and entrepreneur, as she discusses setting up a Twitter Party while providing strategies designed to make your Twitter Party a success!

To learn more about Alyssa, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW9bxBUnQpE

Register for the Twitter Party event at: http://go.unl.edu/friday15registration

Missed previous events?
Check out the Power of Business YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/PowerofBusiness
or the “Friday 15 tab at Power of Business. http://powerofbusiness.net/

While you are on the site, sign up to receive reminders for monthly chats and a newsletter designed to grow your business!

“See you” on later today at 11:15 AM CT!


Marketing, Branding, and Small Business: The Bartlett Farm Example

Bartlett Farm Merry Christmas – Used with Permission – Click here to go to video

Merry Christmas video

Merry Christmas from the Bartlett Farm – Used with permission

Small-business owners, like all other business owners, want people to know about their business. They also want to establish a reputation regarding their business and to build a brand.

There are many tools that owners can use to get this done. One such tool, the use of video, has been seeing increased use and is being encouraged by those who work with and support these owners.

Getting into video production is a scary idea though. When suggested, owners think of cameras, editing rooms, putting together a script, and, of course, cost.

Yet more and more often, owners are finding that they can do great video on their own without fancy tools.

An example of the latest video from the Bartlett Farm from northern North Dakota shows how one small business uses video in their marketing and branding campaign. Part of establishing your brand is providing some background of the people involved in the business. They also show that you can have some fun when making them. And they include a visual reference to one of their products.

To see more on how they use images and video, check out their website – http://bartlettfarm.us/. Notice they even have a link to take you directly to their media page.

As you make plans for your next marketing campaign, think about all of the marketing tools you have available. Know where your audience is and how best to reach them.

Video is effective and growing in popularity and is something you can do it yourself. It can put a personality on your business, let your clients be your advocate, and tell your story.

Happy Holidays from Power of Business

Marketing is More Than Sales

Grand Opening by BJMcCray on Flickr

Grand Opening by BJMcCray on Flickr

You have opened the door to your new business.  What a great day.

Of course as a small business owner, you have lots of things yet to do but the shelves are stocked, everything is gleaming, and you even remembered to get change for the cash drawer (Yes, some people still use real money to make transactions. I rarely fit into that category but I have heard stories).

Some time passes and someone walks into your business. It’s the business owner from next door and she just wants to wish you good luck.

Some more time passes and some friends and neighbors have also dropped by.  Some of them actually bought something but you don’t really count that as a sale. No, they were just being polite.

Some more time passes and a stranger walks in, looks around some and leaves.

Some more time passes and a group of people walk in. They look around and then begin to ask questions about one of your products. They ask about a discount if they buy several of the same item. As they make the offer, you are mentally wondering just how to respond. You tell them you will get back to them on their offer.

Some more time passes. Another person comes in. He comments he didn’t know that your store was even here. He is from out of town. He had researched his opportunities, didn’t see what he wanted but had another reason to come over to your town and just happened to see your temporary sign.  You have several items he wants and makes a purchase. YOUR FIRST SALE! You feel like your business is officially open.

The day continues. Sales are slow. At the end of the day, you look at what you sold and get a little discouraged. This isn’t what you expected.

While a fictitious story, it fits the experience shared with me by several owners.

What happened? As you consider the results, the common theme seems to be following the myth, “build it and they will come.” Marketing is much bigger than sales. Marketing must happen early, be ongoing, and use a variety of tools.

So what marketing should have happened?

1. Marketing starts well before the doors are even open. It includes understanding who the customer is and what they want.

2. Marketing also means getting the word out. In the above scenario, nothing was mentioned about pre-opening publicity. Nor was there mention of a ribbon-cutting (free PR + creating awareness among other business owners). And while the inside of the store looked good, the outside had a temporary sign only plus there is no mention of inside signage that can answer questions and even increase sales.

3. Nothing was mentioned about traditional marketing that may have been done. There also could have been pre-opening networking to develop community awareness.

4. Also there was no mention about online marketing. It is important to claim your bubble on the various services such as Google, Yelp, Yahoo, and others. Also you need some web presence of your own – a website or a blog. This must something you own. The phonebook still has a place but remember that it may be nearly two years before your listing ever makes it into print. Online it can happen nearly instantly.

5. And there are so many other parts of marketing. Just a partial list would include pricing, packaging, store location, social media efforts, image, visual efforts, etc. The list goes on and on. Remember also that marketing is not a one-and-done effort. It must be consistent, build on a regular theme, and help develop your brand.

So while sales are the lifeblood of a business, marketing is the heart that keeps things flowing.

Bottom line – The day you think of a business idea is the day you start your marketing efforts.


Planning for the Future

From Power of Business (powerofbusiness.net), an Extension initiative, and our eXtension community, Entrepreneurs and Their Communities, welcome to Small Business Week. The land-grant university system and Extension support small businesses and their development as a part of their mission. Today we highlight another small business assisted through a variety of programs offered by this resource.

By Mandy Gross, Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food Agricultural Products Center Communications Services Manager

Corey Carolina

Corey Carolina

Tulsa-native Corey Carolina wanted to take his grandmother’s passion for making jelly and start his own business developing delicious wine fruit spreads, and he did just that. In August 2011, he created Carolina Food Co. LLC.

However, Carolina knew little about how to market his product. He turned to Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food Agricultural Products Center for assistance and attended the center’s Basic Training for food entrepreneurs, which helped him develop a plan for the future of his business.

“I learned so many important things in the Basic Training class, such as marketing and the importance of looking at the competition,” Carolina says. “The jam/jelly market is extremely competitive. When one of the presenters showed a slide of a grocery aisle with jelly products from top to bottom, I really realized that this was my competition. I needed to find a niche and be unique.”

After attending Basic Training, Carolina followed the Client Success Path, a model established by FAPC to help clients enter the market. He continued to work with FAPC specialists for product scale-up, label and nutrition panel assistance, and marketing assistance, including food show opportunities.

As a result of hard work and perseverance, Carolina sold his first jar of Toasted Wine Fruit Spreads in April 2012. This spring, he celebrated the completion of his second year of selling the unique wine spread.

This is a big milestone,” says Rodney Holcomb, FAPC agricultural economist and one of the organizers of Basic Training. “Of the more than 1,200 Basic Training graduates, only about 15 percent of these new food product companies are in business after one year.”

In addition to Carolina’s success in selling Toasted Wine Fruit Spreads, the company was named one of the top six in the 2013 Tulsa Community College Startup Cup business model competition.
The seven-month competition is designed to support entrepreneurial growth, expand business and community connections and maximize promotional opportunities both locally and nationally. It awards local entrepreneurs who develop and pitch the best business model.

“I have been blessed to have been selected to the top six entrepreneurs in the Startup Cup,” Carolina says. “My dreams have come true; I have been able to sell Toasted Wine Fruit Spreads to great Oklahomans who have been so supportive.”

Carolina said FAPC is essential to the success of a small business, and the center has gone above and beyond to help his company.

“I want others to take the leap of faith and start selling their products,” Carolina says. “The Startup Cup coaches and judges have helped me improve my business. It is opportunities like this that really support the small business industry.”

Today, Toasted products are available in six flavors: Strawberry with Sangria Wine, Peach with Peach Chardonnay, Plum with Sangria Wine, Grape with Blush Wine, and a Wine Pepper Spread and Wine Pepper Sauce, both with bell peppers and jalapeños. The fruit and wine spreads can be used on sandwiches, meats, cream cheese, toppings for cakes or ice cream and more.

Carolina said his future plans include continuing to work with FAPC to further develop his brand and distribution methods and launch at least two more products.

What advice does he have for others wanting to start a food company?

“Be willing to work late and often seven days a week,” Carolina says. “Be willing to travel, give out free samples and make a personal financial investment. Follow your dreams.”

Carolina’s products are available at more than 50 retail outlets including several Oklahoma wineries; Green Acres Market in Jenks, Okla.; Akin’s Natural Foods and Whole Foods in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, and Reasor’s in northeastern Oklahoma. The products also can be purchased online at www.toastedwinespreads.com.

To view a video about the FAPC Basic Training class, visit http://fapc.biz/videos/basictraining or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57cPbL7wd-w.