Big Ideas from Small Towns: Summary from Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We had a lively and boisterous conversation this week with small business in small towns expert Becky McCray (@beckymccray).  Great insights and ideas to be garnered from the innovative wheels churning away out there in rural America (and abroad).  Must be all that clean air.
First, a few reminders:
sbbuzz: Q1. OK, couldn’t avoid it forever – lets talk economy for a few minutes. Anyone seen real effects on business growth? #sbbuzz
  • chelpixie: Not so far here. I’m working with small business owners and freelance professionals. Things are steady….so far. #sbbuzz
  • wald12: @sbbuzz it’s hard to say what’s economy and what’s 1st QTR 4 sure but a little hesitation is visible in buying #sbbuzz
  • stevemillard: Decision making on purchasing slowing down a lot. Orders put off 1-2 qtrs as folks wait to see what happens #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: Q1. Our first quarter retail was up, but March itself was down, so a mixed economic bag for us. #sbbuzz
  • designleap: Q1 First quarter wasn’t too bad, but not seeing any growth now. #sbbuzz
  • scoblitz: @sbbuzz some clients are taking advantage of slowdown to invest time they normally don’t have towards process and efficiency. #sbbuzz
  • jonedm: our sales rep in MA says it’s the worst market he’s seen in his 15 years selling to K-12 #sbbuzz
  • mriggen: @sbbuzz Q1 We’re doing well; in down economy, your network becomes more important so people are looking to manage it better #sbbuzz
  • rzazueta: #sbbuzz The economy shook up a LOT of my customers. Most seem to be coming out of it – getting crisis fatigue, I think.
sbbuzz: Q2 Have you made any significant changes to your marketing or business development strategies based on news of economy? #sbbuzz
  • stevemillard: Like a lot of others, have tried to use it to rally small biz and create community in the face of adversity #sbbuzz
  • designleap: Q2 Started to attend more networking events and participate in social media. #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: Q2. I can’t say I’ve changed my marketing at all. Made plans in January that are still rolling along well. #sbbuzz
  • selahsynergy: @sbbuzz Q2 I have made some adjustments. Added webinars and group coaching at price point more amenable to tight small biz budgets. #sbbuzz
  • rzazueta: #sbbuzz Absolutely – Developed a turnkey system to start clients out right, then grow as they grow; also offer strategy sessions for DIYers.
  • samuraivt: We have been concentrating more on social media and using online methods to increase exposure, seo, and build our network. #sbbuzz
  • CatMoore: @sbbuzz Q2: Broke big packages into smaller ones. It seems to be working. #sbbuzz
  • bradfordshimp: It is a good time to get a handle on ROI and find ways to get creative with marketing and have it be more effective more quickly. #sbbuzz
  • cspenn: #sbbuzz Q2. Economy makes us look much more carefully at ROI and methods of metrics. Makes us more focused.
  • mriggen: @sbbuzz Q2 Less spending on ads this year. Relying on great customer experiences driving good WOM. #sbbuzz
  • AbsoluteZen: Q2: I really taking advantage of free online networking (i.e., Twitter, Google and several others) and targeting my local zip codes
  • miawv: Q2 It definitely forces you to think more creatively so you can spend less while still getting your return. #sbbuzz
  • MusicSpirit: Q2: More online marketing/WOM, instead of standard print, for artists. But we cannot use same marketing tactics for non-NA markets.
sbbuzz: Q3 OK, so economy making us lean and mean. What new technology have you implemented to save money? #sbbuzz

  • cspenn: #sbbuzz Analytics, lots of custom code, making liberal use of many APIs and chaining services together to get tailored solutions.
  • rzazueta: #sbbuzz Started making more use of SugarCRM to track leads, projects, etc. Lots more integration with my processes. Makes us VERY efficient.
  • bradfordshimp: Q3 – Using WordPress to develop sites has saved hours upon hours of time and made the process so much faster. #sbbuzz
  • MusicSpirit: Q3: No new technology. Money spent $0, money saved $0. #sbbuzz
  • cspenn: #sbbuzz we make strong use of Google properties, too. Analytics, Site Optimizer, Trends, Insight for Search, Apps, and more.
  • scoblitz: @sbbuzz Q3: We’re examining opps to reduce / consolidate paid services that may not be critical to our process. #sbbuzz
  • miawv: Q3 Not necessarily implementing new technology, but making our current one work harder #sbbuzz
  • chelpixie: Q3 I also do all of my own web design and implementation, admin, billing, etc. Web based software makes this easier for small biz #sbbuzz
  • mriggen: @sbbuzz Q3 Wufoo is pretty cool to do quick surveys. And just tried 3rdpartyfeedback.com for site test – was great for $25! #sbbuzz
  • bradfordshimp: Google has made it possible to do alot of interesting things for free in our business, things we may have otherwise paid for. #sbbuzz
  • scoblitz: @chelpixie Agreed, love the web services available. Costs add up quickly so need to make sure we’re using to best advantage though. #sbbuzz
sbbuzz: Q4 @beckymccray How are local retailers & service companies using social media to connect with a local community? #sbbuzz

  • BeckyMcCray: I use a blog for my retail website, and write ‘useful’ posts, not (all) promos. Service providers can share tips, too. #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: Q4. It also pays to blog/promote local events online. Use your tools to get involved, and your biz will benefit. #sbbuzz
  • mriggen: @sbbuzz Q4 is such a good question! We tend to think big picture, would love to hear thoughts on going local. #sbbuzz
  • fiberartisan: Q4 Blogging, promoting the website, and searching twitter stream for folks that might be in area. #sbbuzz (keep forgetting the hashtag)
  • deniseoberry: @BeckyMcCray Do you blog all local events or just those that would tie in with your biz in some way? #sbbuzz
  • DrFernKazlow: @mriggen Q4 so few are using social media for local biz, that it makes it even easier for those who do to get big results #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: @deniseoberry I’ve seen people do both: blog everything local, blog only the ones they like, or only the biz related. #sbbuzz
  • bradfordshimp: @BeckyMcCray With the blog, how do you get local customers/people to read it? #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: @deniseoberry Rex Hammock @r does a great job of incorporating local events. (Does Nashville count as a small town?) #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: @bradfordshimp They have to know about it, and find something of value there to draw them back. Lots more on that topic coming soon! #sbbuzz
  • mattharrell: Q4 It seems counter intuitive to use SM for local at first. But I’m looking for it. Discounts at local vendors, last min spec. etc. #sbbuzz
  • fiberartisan: Since we survive on locals but depend on tourists, I’m trying to blog about all things local that people would be searching for #sbbuzz
  • rzazueta: Been working on a small biz site for Contra Costa County. Loads of interest, but not fully launched: http://bit.ly/47HvxM (expand) #sbbuzz
  • bradfordshimp: One struggle I have is how to make the blog a must read for local customers. Especially since it may not be a normal routine. #sbbuzz
  • selahsynergy: @BeckyMcCray Are you finding more local customers are finding you because u have an online presence? Or are you finding them on web? #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: @selahsynergy Local people do find me online, and mention it, for my retail biz. #sbbuzz
sbbuzz: Q5 @BeckyMcCray from @chelpixie how accepted is social media when you’re talking to small town businesses? #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: Q5. @sbbuzz Social media acceptance varies, depending on their tech level, but I’m seeing lots of interest and even excitement. #sbbuzz
  • fiberartisan: Q5 Same here. Vast majority (other than local realtors) are completely unfamiliar. One small step at a time. Don’t overwhelm. #sbbuzz
  • deniseoberry: @BeckyMcCray Don’t you think with the major news media embracing social media it’s helping small local biz get on the band wagon? #sbbuzz
  • desireescales: Q5: I think it depends on the business and the person running it. If they are not afraid of technology, they will jump aboard. #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: @deniseoberry Yes, the major news media discussion is clearly driving more general awareness is small town biz owners. #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: I do use the Twellow search to find more local people. Found a couple of locals I didn’t even know! 🙂 #sbbuzz
  • scoblitz: @BeckyMcCray I’m hoping my village moving into the space with a Twitter / Facebook presence will help lead more locals in. #sbbuzz
  • smallbiztrends: @BeckyMcCray If you had to take a wild guess, what percent of local small biz are using social media? Just a wild guess. 🙂 #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: @scoblitz I’ve been amazed at the rapid Facebook acceptance in my town. More talk about it, does lead more people to join in. #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: @smallbiztrends That would be a WILD guess! Umm…. using for business? Not that many here, maybe 1-3%. Use at all? 10%. #sbbuzz
sbbuzz: Q6 frm @smallbiztrends Do you see Twitter used by local retail regularly or just early adopters and those w/ Internet-based models? #sbbuzz

  • BeckyMcCray: Q6. Right now, I still see Twitter in local retail as an early adopter thing. I don’t use it for my local retail store. 🙂 #sbbuzz
  • desireescales: My local client @klehmercsc is embracing Twitter on this chat tonight. I think chats are a wonderful way to meet interesting people. #sbbuzz
  • selahsynergy: @desireescales I agree chats are great intro – a niche 4 those who want local networking w/o the out-of-office chamber meetings #sbbuzz
  • fiberartisan: I’ve told some folks about twitter – they sign up and then protect updates. they have no idea what to do next. Need coaching. #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: Lots of people need coaching, once they get online. Just starting them out is not enough! (I’m guilty, too.) #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: One example of a small retailer on Twitter: @thesilverbarn #sbbuzz
sbbuzz: Q7 @BeckyMcCray frm @bradfordshimp How can you pull together small town (esp. home) biz to work together and pool resources? #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: Q7 Oklahoma City has an *awesome* co-working collaborative that anyone can steal ideas from! http://okccoco.com/ #sbbuzz
  • fiberartisan: People have to understand that it’s ‘relationship-building’ not selling. some newbies just want to sell. immediate turn-off. #sbbuzz

  • desireescales: Q7: Start a small town or local chat immediate on Twitter. That’s a huge start. Let people test it out. #sbbuzz

    RobynMcMaster: @BeckyMcCray What is the area in which people need coaching most when they get started online, and why do you think so? #sbbuzz

  • imaginestudios: @sbbuzz Q7: Make connections w/ others in your industry (or helpful industries), build relationship, need arises: ask! #sbbuzz
  • BeckyMcCray: @RobynMcMaster That’s quite a broad question, but I would coach them on how to find answers. #sbbuzz

  • bradfordshimp: Slowly build some connections from the ground up. #sbbuzz

  • nrohrbach: Q7: We have a small community of young professionals in our town, we have a forum setup that we share ideas and resources on #sbbuzz
  • imaginestudios: Q7: We held a social media/SEO class that introduced them to the power of SM. Then linked up on Twitter & had further “coaching.” #sbbuzz
  • Timberry: Q7 what I don’t get is why people who don’t use twitter get defensive about it, or aggressive, as if there were some moral issue . #sbbuzz
  • desireescales: @Timberry Because they feel foolish because they don’t know how to use it or even try. #sbbuzz
  • bradfordshimp: Web Worker Daily has a lot of good articles on coworking. #sbbuzz

sbbuzz: Q8 @beckymccray from @norbach Branding sounds “big city” should small businesses in smaller communities be concerned with branding? #sbbuzz

  • BeckyMcCray: Q8 Small town “branding” = “reputation”. Set a sterling one, and live up to it. #sbbuzz
  • Canvasman: Q8 Yes if you have local competition. #sbbuzz
  • imaginestudios: @sbbuzz Branding is the #1 most important thing to make your biz stand out from others (competition & otherwise). #sbbuzz
  • desireescales: Q8: Branding is everything. Nike started as a local small brand, so did Microsoft. Branding makes people comfortable-they know you. #sbbuzz
  • bradfordshimp: I think “branding” needs to be rebranded for small biz. #sbbuzz
  • bradfordshimp: Branding = Reputation is a great way to distill it for us normal people. Thanks @beckymccray #sbbuzz
  • nrohrbach: Q8: branding is essential, small towns have a lot of the “good ol boy” system, they know names/faces, brand and tap into that feelin #sbbuzz
  • selahsynergy: @sbbuzz Q8 Branding not a size question, it is a business imperative. #sbbuzz
  • Timberry: Q8 and then there’s twitter as in branding as in burned indelibly and you can’t get rid of it authenticity. Tweets live forever, no? #sbbuzz
  • imaginestudios: @sbbuzz Q8: The better your branding techniques, the more you need to do right by your customers. #sbbuzz
  • desireescales: Q8: The best “branding technique” you have in your arsenal is a happy customer who tells 5 people about your company. #sbbuzz

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