The end of day one was a very interesting forum. I missed the opening remarks but here is what I took away:
The Web 2.0 Equation: Community and Viral Effects:
Mike Edelhart, CEO, LiveDeal; Matt Howard, CEO, SMBLive; Darren Waddell, VP, MerchantCircle
Do-it-yourselfers (diy) unite! These business believe that the diy is strong business model and the timing is right. Matt Howard said, the current economy with folks wanting to spend less and in addition to the rise of the social web, will definitely help move to the diy.
In addition to diy there is the building of communities online which MerchantCircle and many others are doing. Using the leverage relationship local business has with other local companies to bring them online. “Hey I use xyz site it is pretty cool, you should too” This can be a very powerful tool and it bringing a lot of people online.
Leveraging Print and Online:
Brian Kraff, CEO, Market Hardware; Paul Ryan, CEO, DoneRight; Josh Walker, CEO, CityVoter
Traditional media is not dead and still plays a large role in helping building online traffic and marketing avenues.
This last section was very interesting. There was a panel of three “real” small business and four companies (listed below). The small business spoke a little about what they were doing online and then the business were to try to sell their services to them.
The conclusions after the meeting was that the businesses on the panel did not do that great a job explaining or selling. Now in their defense they only had 7 minutes. The one business which seemed to speak the most was Rick Cook, Founder of Treasure Islands of Santa Cruz (here is a free link for you Rick!).
Rick is a real diy-he said spending 16 hours a day many times working online. His problem as with the other “real” business folks is that they did not understand all of the subtleties of online marketing, needed help, needed information, and a helping hand.
Rick was very money conscious and did most of the offline marketing himself. (I totally can relate to that). Rick said one thing that stood out to me:
“need to feel like there is hope for me”
This is critical. Small business need to be educated and empowered to know and somewhat control what or how their business is being marketed online. None of these “real” business folks really wanted to do the work themselves but wanted someone to work and talk WITH him, not AT them.
Marketing Business Panel: Todd Crandell, COO, Metrix4Media; Court Cunningham, CEO, Yodle; Travis Fore, Senior VP, Sales & Service, Network Solutions, LLC; John Keister, President and COO, Marchex
“Real” Business folks Panel: Rick Cook, Founder, Treasure Islands of Santa Cruz; Adam Simms, President and GM, Sunnyvale Toyota; Galen Workman, Marketing Director, Sterck Kulik Neill Accounting Group, Inc.
I will say you have given a pretty good description, and accessed the underlying message I was trying to give as a SMB owner (IE: the link to my website, Thanks!).
I was really wondering why I was there as part of the ILM panel (feeling a bit out of my league). I had so much more to say about what we needed as SMB’s right now, and what I thought would work for me and many other SMB’s that I am networked with. Some of the businesses that I am networked with are on the verge of collapse due to the current economy (some have been in business as long as 30 years).
The fact is as SMB’s we just do not have big advertising budgets to gamble with (most SMB’s never do).
We are getting hit from so many angles on what is supposed to work best for us to market our business online, that it is hard to make a confident decision on where those dollars should be spent (and even harder to part with them).
For me, I am signed up on a few networking sites where I can pay for basic memberships (total of about $150.00mo), and work the day and night away promoting my business through newsletters, blogs, and helping other members succeed.
I only mentioned MerchantCircle during the panel discussion because it is a perfect example of a network site where all the tools are there for a SMB on a small budget to market their business in their down time (IE: blogs, ads, coupons, newsletters, pics, keywords, business listing, and a few more).
As they are doing this, they are also becoming more savvy on how to use these tools to work best for them (I am a perfect example).
MerchantCircle invites any SMB to sign up and receive these services for free.
As you add content and learn the tools available on MC you can upgrade to a paying membership that gives you more features, and expands your visibility in more cities.
I started with a free membership, then $29.00mo, $49.00mo, and now $99.00 a month.
Another beautiful thing about MC, I can go out into my community (and the surrounding communities) and actively invite potential customers to come to our website and see the products and services we have to offer (where else can you do that?).
That is where the hope comes in.. Rather than sit and wait for a marketing company or a fancy ad to do bring in customers, I can actively do something on my own.
So it doesn’t look like I am plugging MC just a note: The customer service at MerchantCircle could use a little work. Because they have so many non-paying members, they feel that if the merchant cannot learn to use their site on their own, (actually I don’t know what they are thinking). My point is, MC is one of the best free sites I have found that is easy to setup, navigate, and has all of the online help that you need (so if you are even a little computer savvy you can figure it out).
The problem is if you need to speak to a person for any reason, your attempts will be futile (sorry MC). They need to realize that every free customer is a potential paying customer. The competition is getting thick, create loyalty and customer confidence now and it will pay off later.
Thanks for putting in the extra plug, and our website link on your blog. If you are ever on the Pacific coast and in our neighborhood please visit, we will point you to all of the best places in Santa Cruz.
Rick Cook – Treasure Islands Of Santa Cruz.