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Thursday, April 28, 2011

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

Why does social networking work? Because you are not alone.

I started a business with a lot of help from friends and family. My vision was singular, but I could not have done it alone.  People painted, built, scrubbed, and sweat to help me achieve my goals.  The best people did it because they saw my dream coming to reality.  They shared the vision.

It does "take a village" to get things done and there is nothing different in Social Media.  It's not even subtle - they call it "SOCIAL" for a reason.  It's all about relationship building.  I have been told for 17 years that I am a force to reckon with, you don't want to mess with me. My communication style in the business world was, NO first, then MAYBE then NO... In 2 years, I have gotten to pour wine for a living, give hugs as people walk in the door, and make people comfortable - BIG CHANGE in communication. Social media was a way to get a quick makeover of sorts.  I share (sometimes overshare) all the time.  I brag about my staff, my food, my customers, my friends.  I know CLEARLY that all the vision in the world for a business is nothing without all of these people, but I get to share it every day.  I use social media to keep these relationships in tact, even though I have little to no time outside of the four walls of my business.

What does 2000 followers on Facebook mean?
  • 3000+ page views a day - can't get that from standard media every day
  • Personal interactions whenever I have a moment
  • Ability to target messages to genders, locations
  • To the second advertising of specials
  • Easy tool to show appreciation immediately, instant gratification to the customer
  • Like watching a sitcom or the news, your customers get to know the people who make your business happen, intimately
Interaction with your clientele is what makes you different from Walmart, chain Coffee Shops and chain Restaurants.  Knowing the owner is important. Being remembered by the owner and staff is your goal and what will separate you from the pack.
"According to many, George H. W. Bush’s career was advanced by his strong habit of sending thank-you notes (an act ingrained by his mother, no doubt)."
There is NO WAY ON EARTH, I will be mailing out thank you notes (so if you get one from me, you are truly special).  I have Christmas cards from 2001 with stamps on them waiting to be sent out (several people have died that they would go to, time flies) so I needed something that would allow me to say what I wanted to in an expedited manner. Social Media doesn't just help that, it is the glue to my business relationships.

My business is a cocktail party every night, without knowing who was invited, and hoping they all show every night.  Social Media is my way of letting everyone know they are always invited, always welcome, and always appreciated.

How do you use Social Media in your business to build relationships?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bad Energy

I am taking a side trip around social media today to talk about competition.  Competition is healthy, and sucks at the same time.  Your business needs to have competition to be viable.  Competition helps you see that you need to change and grow, laurels cannot be sat on.  Being the only game in town can be harmful.  Your business gets traffic because you are "it" - competition makes you grow and change - which you should be doing anyway but can forget because you get so caught up in the day to day - but now it's a necessity because of competition.

My business has been open for 2 years.  In the beginning, I thought I could do it all. I could manage the room, cook, serve and clean it up so we could start a new day tomorrow.  It took 2 weeks and not being able to walk on a bad knee to know I couldn't do that. I hired people, I changed the plan.  Then the wine bar down the street decided to have music every night, and people decided to say we hated each other.  Rumors spread.  My phone rang weekly saying we were going out of business.  I changed my music days so our musicians didn't have to compete in the same genres on the same dates.  I went a couple times to their place on my day off with friends.  The negativity died down. I changed the plan.

Just recently more wine bars have sprouted up.  To be honest, I got a little worried about the dilution of my traffic.  And it did happen. So, I concentrated on what we had, that the other bars didn't have and I focused my efforts, hiring and marketing on it.  It worked because I changed the plan. We got less people in, but the people we got in, spent more money. 

There are a lot of tactics you can take.  I have had competitors say we were going out of business, lie to people about sides and even start the thought of a "Wine Bar War".  I am a pitbull.  My first response to all of this is negative - I want justice and I want it now.  Then I hear my dad in my head (he is there all the time) telling me "Life isn't fair, Kari".  And it isn't.  So I focus on how to make my business better- I change the plan.   If I have vendors not sell to me because they have been told not to by my competitors, I buy other wine.  If people talk trash about my competitors, I don't feed into it - it's a non-issue.

Competition is a GOOD thing.  Buy a fantastic house in a bad neighborhood with no houses comparable and your house will be hard to sell.  You want your business worth something.  If there have never been a business like yours open before, and no one else builds one like it, then getting a loan, selling the business, and even getting customers is hard.  We have had customers actually come into our business from a competitor recommendation - that's the way to go!

A friend of mine knew someone who wanted to open up a wine bar about 30-40 miles away from me.  The woman came in, had a glass of wine and asked me a ton of "How" and "Why" questions on how to open a wine bar.  She then opened her bar a few months later.  You know what - we are friends now.  We talk about our worries, our goals and we even talk about collaborating.  I think that is what this is all about.  Good Energy.  She runs her business differently than I do.  I run mine in ways she would never want to run hers.  It's a synergistic relationship that brings us to a place where as small business owners, we get to chat and meet like when we were in offices.  It's a good thing. We learn how to change the plan from each other.

As two owners of similar businesses, we had some ideas how to make the things that we both shared easy to do and even automated (we both have a geeky software background) and thought we could share that with others. Why?  So we could concentrate on what makes us different.  So we could talk to others and learn from their successes and mistakes. It's lonely owning a business.  It's nice to know you aren't alone in your experiences.

My thoughts about the people that don't want to run their businesses positively?  It's hard to maintain, no one wants to be around a negative person all the time, and it will work itself out.  You have a business to run, you need to learn from your competitors and decide what you need to change, communicate and do with your business because of the competition, and whatever you do, even if nothing - has to be with the goal of growing your business. Looking for the positive is not my strong suit - but I try daily to do it.

Good energy - send it to the negative people around you - work positively on your business no matter what is said or done to you - use the tools and materials you have been given - it will all work out fine if you learn how to change the plan.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I am naked

Titles work. They suck your customers and viewers in. It's marketing peeps. Gotta get people's attention in your posts.  I am thinking about Facebook for this post, but would love your input on other medium for your tips on how to see what has been successful for you (twitter, linked in, myspace, blogs and others - how do you do it?).

My thoughts on how to get people's attention...

  • Say something out of the ordinary 
    • Constantly posting events the same way is boring - there are different ways to show things off - updates, pictures, friends posting.
    • Don't just post to post - if you post infrequently but it matters, then people will take attention at your posts.
    • Be timely - posting something that happened 2 weeks ago or 5 weeks in the future doesn't work.
  • Show a picture
    • Pictures draw people in - they say that it says 1000 words, but those words are different to every viewer.  It's an amazing way to say EXACTLY what the viewer wanted you to say by them making it up themselves.
  • Use a poll
    • Tricky one here - I think polls stink.  But if you can get a controversial (yet benign - this is business right?) topic and some wild answers - try it!  Prizes help too...
  • Make sure what you used to get attention is true 
    •  False advertising is false advertising - people will not follow your cry for wolf more than a couple times.
    • I am naked - under my pajamas (I blog in bed a lot)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Making a club...

My last post was about being cool.  What is cooler than being in a club?  Clubs are organized cliques! Cliques by definition are cool!  So why a club? Why make a group for people to be members in? How do you do it so that your goals for your business and the club are maintained? Because clubs get things DONE!

I joined a board and a business association when I first opened my business. I really could not participate until I had my feet on the ground and had staff that could run the place so I could attend meetings and get time to help out with things - I am glad I stuck with it, because it's been a great thing for my company and to help build relationships with the bizs around me. I then was asked to be on a chamber board.  It was outside my physical business area, but the members of the board I knew were supportive, and it felt like a good fit - but then there was drama - and a LOT of it, so I left it before the ink was dry. Then, I was asked to join the Rotary.  I was sponsored, nominated and approved by the board.  It's a group that I enjoy because it has structure, goals and camaraderie. I am sure there will be others, but these are 3 great examples to start with.

Why create a club?
  • Common interests attract people to each other
  • Relationships within the club keep people
  • Positive clubs with good membership invite the same to it
How to create a club?
  • Start small 2-4 core people -you need workers and people with time and skills to help build the club
  • Set goals and objectives - keep them small 1 core goal, 2-4 objectives that meet that goal
  • Be selective who joins in the beginning - you are setting a tone and exclusivity will make the ones that want to join later, more willing to follow your structure and help out
How to grow and keep the club going?
Monitor your club... Your club has a goal, and objectives. You and your core group are now responsible for keeping it in line.  How to do that in your social media tools is important.
  • Facebook - watch for spam, hide it, block if necessary.  Talk offline to people about the goals of the group.  Do not chastise! No one, no one wants to be told they are wrong - so don't.  Explain your rules, and then moderate. If you need to - change to a group, and make it invite only.
  • Twitter - search for mentions, use tools that alert you. Search for your business or club name - stay on top of what people say - thank a lot and retweet as much as you can for things that fit your goals and objectives.
  • Blog posts - check for responses.  Delete spam, and respond to all posts.  Yes, all.  Your blog needs to be active.
If I could say one thing about the club you are making it would be this - STAY POSITIVE.  Your club has to have a positive energy and goal to have growth, keep that always in mind.  If you have a Negative Nellie or a Drama Debbie, get them out.  The ripped band-aid hurts, but the club will be better for it in the end.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I have a secret...

Why do certain pages gain followers and others don't?

'Cuz the cool ones make me feel cool for being there.

Not always easy for all professions, businesses or even people.  Here are some quick tips on making your followers feel cool...
  • Know them.  
    • Even if you might not know them on the street, know what they love, who they love, what they want.  It's amazing when you can't remember a name, if you can remember their drink, the first time you met, what they were looking for that you found... It works.
  • Let them know you.
    • Weird but true, everyone wants to know the owner.  You have to put yourself out there.
  • Don't belittle your competition.  
    • Hard, especially when they belittle you, but higher ground prevails. After all, if your customer had a good experience there, or enjoyed themselves - you are telling them they are not cool by going there.  #fail on the goal.
  • Thank them.
    • In public, and in private.  They need to know you know how important they are to you. Thank with a note, a free sample, a hug, a flattering introduction... it all is appreciated.
  • Be sincere.
    • None of this crap works if it's an act.  You may be a great sales person, but if you are building relationships, you need to put yourself out there.  For reals.
I go places that have great products and there needs to be more.  The chef coming out to thank me, the waiter remembering I can't have nuts, that all makes me feel wanted, or cool.  You really do want your customers... making them feel it is the goal.