Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Blogs

What’s the point of blogging, or Facebooking, or Twittering?

For some, it is merely a way to get something off their chest, it is an outlet designed for people to vent, share, announce, or comment on something funny in life.

For others, it is a way to connect with people around the world, to join in conversation, to share information, to announce a new event/product/idea…in fact, it’s very much the same for everyone.

Social media makes it possible to connect with people all around the world.  What can that do for your business? If you don’t participate, it won’t do anything.

If you DO participate, and stay active, and get involved in “virtual conversations” you will begin developing relationships with people you have never met in person in your life.

And what is business, especially small business, if not relationship business? People want to do biz with folks they “know”.  This doesn’t mean they have to meet you in person, it means that they have to begin the process of knowing you, liking you, and eventually trusting  you.

So, when you decide to add Social Media to your business marketing ideas here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t use your Personal Profile as your main hub on Facebook.
  • Do create Pages linked to your Personal Profile on Facebook.
  • The same goes for Twitter.  You don’t want to alienate your friends and family by bombarding them with posts and tweets that they really may not be interested in.  They probably love you, but not THAT much!
  • Your blog for your business should be about business.
  • Can you add some personal interest stories in your business blog?  Absolutely! Especially if that story works somehow as an analogy or metaphor for something going on in your business, much like my post The Best Boss Ever! just the other day. It was a personal story, but it most definitely related to business, didn’t it?
  • With social media, stay connected on a regular basis. Obviously, the more often you post, the better, but it is better to get on a regular posting schedule so that your followers know when to expect something new and exciting from you.

Is that it for Social Media?  Absolutely not!  But this is a good place to get started.  We will be covering more detailed information about Facebook, Twitter, and blogs in future posts.

For now, consider your biz, your brand, what you want people to think about when they hear about you.

Shop Local – Just Smile and Say “Hi!”

I read a post today that there are more and more people who aren’t sure how to “shop local”.

At first this puzzled me, until I took into account the fact that it is very, very easy to shop in a big box store or at the local mall. You don’t have to talk to anyone if  you don’t want to. You don’t have to feel guilty for just window-shopping. If you’re not interested, you don’t have to explain yourself.

Shopping locally means, however, that you might be in a store with just you and the shopkeeper inside. Oops!  This could begin to feel a little uncomfortable. Where do you go?  What do you look at? You almost feel as if you have stage fright!

We really have gotten accustomed to a plastic and artificial society. Kids talk to each other through their cell phone…even if they’re sitting side by side.  Kids…what am I saying?  I was talking to an engineering manager the other day who said that his engineers would prefer to IM or text one another about a problem rather than getting up, walking five feet and having a face-to-face conversation.

I think that the “shop local” movement is also a movement to return to the idea of relationships.

You don’t have a relationship with the e-commerce shopping cart on that website where you just purchased some air-soft ammunition, do you?

While it might seem easier, developing relationships is important. When you shop locally, you recognize that something that you are doing will directly impact a specific individual. You might even begin to, (gasp!) care about people who used to be perfect strangers.

You might actually be concerned when your barista tells you that her daughter had a fever of 102.5 last evening, and she’s worried about her today.

Talking to your local dairy farmer makes you realize that there are people who are on duty 24/7 and they really don’t seem to mind it.  They milk cows and/or goats twice a day, every day of the week, every week of the year. Isn’t it wonderful that there are people who do that so that we have fresh dairy products every day?

What about the people who are picking your turnips and kale this week at the organic farm you support. Do you follow them on Facebook so that you can get to know the farm and their employees a little better?

Personally, I love stories. I hate watching television programs or movies that ignore the human/interpersonal relationship factor. If there’s a touch of humanness to the story, I’m more willing to watch it. You see, humans are not meant to live in a vacuum.  We need one another, even when we don’t realize it.  We’re much more powerful as a collective force rather than as just individuals.

The next time you step into a local shop, look the owner in the eye and say, “Hello!”

Most of the time, they’re very happy to just have a conversation with you.  Most shopkeepers never expect every person who comes in their store to actually make a purchase.  Try it.  Just one time.  Come back and comment on this post about your experience.  I’d really love to hear it.

Kathleen Birmingham

Customer Service – Ladies’ Night Out

The very best way to get some new blood into your business is to have an event.

One of those events is to host a Ladies’ Night Out.

In our case, our customer profile is 99.9% women. But, as I have interviewed other business owners around the country, I have discovered that a few of them who run businesses that are typically male oriented have found that hosting a Ladies’ Night Out or Ladies Only type of event has been very profitable.

The idea is this:

You want to make women feel like they’re special. Every human being needs to feel special and if you host a Ladies’ Night Out, you’re going to have that opportunity to reach out to your female customers and treat them differently. You want to treat them well. Give them that chance to ask some questions that maybe they wouldn’t have asked otherwise.

Especially if you’re a predominantly male centered service, say an auto parts store, or a woodworking store (not that I am discriminating against women who are in these industries) but when you look at the client base, you are going to establish that generally speaking, most of your customers are going to be male.

By hosting a Ladies’ Night Out, you’re going to cater to a portion of the population, in your case, that you don’t typically reach. BUT, speaking as a woman, I know that I feel really good when someone extends that hand of friendship and says, “I’d like to give you the opportunity to come in and ask any question you want to ask about whatever it is you want to ask.

So, this works both for male-oriented products and shops as well as those that target women specifically. Remember, we’ve tried the Guy’s Night Out and it just didn’t work for us. We are a women’s gift shop and we even tried to host a night when the men could come in and it was men only who were shopping for the women in their life…they didn’t bite. It didn’t matter that we had football/tailgate type party snacks. Unless we were turned into a sports bar, it wasn’t going to fly! We drew in just a handful of men, and even they were very uncomfortable. This is something we’re going to have to work on.

Whenever we host a Ladies’ Night Out we had so many women respond, so this tells me that women really enjoy an invitation to something special and if you treat them like they are special, then they will come back. AND they will remember that you did this.

So, the idea is that you treat them well. Offer refreshments. Remember, because you’re going to have women, it would be nice to offer something that is not a football snack. Get things that women like. We’re talking chocolate, sweets, maybe some nice individual quiches, a bit of fruit…anything that women are going to feel that they’ve been singled out as someone important and you’re making an effort to please them.

One night we hosted a Mojitos and mashed potatoes night. The mashed potatoes were offered with anything you could visualize on them. The mojitos were served by an attractive young man (we kept the rum to a minimum) who had a lot of personality. The women loved it!

As long as you try to please the women, you’re going to reach a good number of them. For the Ladies’ Night Out you can run specials. You can hold a workshop. There is one man I know who runs an auto repair store and on several occasions he has hosted a Ladies’ Car Care Clinic where it is women only and they can ask any question they want.

By the end of the clinic, most of the women provide feedback that they were so happy to have had that opportunity to ask any question they wanted to ask and not be made to feel stupid, not to be made to feel like a fool, not to be made to feel like anything that was derogatory. Women are sensitive creatures.

When you host a Ladies’ Night Out you are going to solidify a relationship with a portion of your customer base that you probably didn’t have a very strong relationship with before.

Let me tell you. The ladies are going to remember this!


These are the words my daughter just shouted from the kitchen. She should know, she works 7 days a week, two jobs, going to college, and she has two bosses who are as different as night and day.

One boss can only criticize, find fault, reprimand, and continually asks for more without ever giving anything back.

The other boss found out it was her birthday, posted it all over the coffee shop where she works, and we suspect that she has ordered a specially made cake from a cake designer to help celebrate her birthday next weekend.

In addition, this boss tells her all the time what a good job she’s doing, how valuable she is to their business, and invites her periodically to have coffee, go to an event, or randomly texts her to see how she’s doing.

Which boss would you want to work for?

Which boss ARE you?

Sure, we’re really focused on getting our businesses into that healthy place where the bottom line isn’t red…but when you focus ONLY on money, you forget that your business is built on your employees and they depend on you for quite a bit.

Obviously they need money, we all do.  That’s probably the primary reason they’re working for you.

But did you know that people choose to stay at a job more for how they’re made to feel, rather than the paycheck. If they feel like they’re a valued team member, they have a lot of reasons to smile when they talk about you or their job, and they feel that they have opportunities to grow, chances are good you’ll have a really stable work force.

If you want a stable work force…make sure any serious conversations and/or reprimands are followed by a session where the employee is encouraged, coached, and made to feel empowered to make the change required.

There is a right way and a wrong way to be an employer.  Make sure you’re doing it the RIGHT way!

Telling vs. Selling

Many retailers make the mistake of thinking that they’re selling when all they’re doing is showing the customer an item.

Selling involves asking discovery questions of your client or customer.  What are they looking for? Why? How will it help them? Will it improve an aspect of their life?

Then you also try to discover what they are not looking for, what they do not want. If you don’t ask, you might be assuming, and we all know where that takes us!

When you take the time to discover what your customer or client wants, you can then sell them on the product by showing how it will solve their problem, make them look good, and feel that you’re doing them a favor rather than trying to sell them something they either don’t want or don’t need.

Black Friday

Is it worth it?

Most people are worried about buying gifts.  But a few folks on Black Friday got hurt.  How much is each injury is worth?

I was out and about on Black Friday, but I spent time at distant coffee shops, and at a restaurant opposite a viciously busy mall in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Black Friday was apparently a success. The last number I remember seeing was over 52 million dollars spent on the day after Thanksgiving.

Do you mind if I ask, how many of those dollars were spent in your local community?

I’m still very much interested in getting people to spend money in their local community.  I’d rather know that 68% of my money was staying in my local community.  As a result, all the money I spent on Black Friday was spent at local stores and restaurants.  I can’t support sending my hard earned dollars out of town…and more importantly, overseas. I had a scone and a cup of tea in a local coffee shop, then I had lunch with three friends at a local restaurant.  Before I was done for the day, I bought a couple of plants at a local nursery (fall and winter planting in Phoenix is my favorite!). That’s it.

While I sometimes spend money on the internet, focusing on local businesses, especially this time of year is critical to keeping our economy moving.  Where are you spending your money?

Would YOU be willing to spend $50 at a local business at least three times a month?  If so, I WANT to hear from you!  This is the only way we are going to get things to change. I’m tired of seeing all our hard-earned dollars going to countries overseas. I know far too many people who can’t find a job because their jobs have been outsourced.

Isn’t it time to bring things back to the U.S.? I’m looking forward to hearing your words of wisdom.

Amex Supports Small Biz Saturday

This might seem like a bit of a stretch, the great big corporation, American Express, supporting Small Biz…and yet it isn’t.

Initially, Small Business Saturday was the day after Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving).  Amex was pushing ads in the middle of the summer to have small businesses apply for an opportunity to win $25,000 and grow their biz.  The deadline was in the middle of summer, so perhaps they’re really trying to spread the word about supporting small business.

What I always find interesting is this bid for attention to a single day of the year this coming November.  Now they’re promoting Small Biz Saturday all year.

I can’t argue with their effort.  Small biz needs to find their oomph.  If American Express is going to support that effort, I’m all for it.  For now, I’ll “Like’ them on Facebook, and I’ll watch to see what other tools they make available to small businesses to better market themselves.

There are free tools to use, available from them on their website at Small Business Saturday.  Most of them have to do with creating a biz page on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.  If you aren’t doing this yet, you really need to.  I’m not going to wonder at their motives, they’re purely financial…but if it brings biz back to Main Street, America, then let’s join the march!

Words – Persuasion

We are constantly persuading and being persuaded, whether we realize it or not.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we knew when we were engaging in this behavior?

What would it do for us?

Even more importantly, what would it do for our business?

Being able to be persuasive without being manipulative will allow you to experience a sales interaction that is both professional as well as productive.  As a small biz owner, who wouldn’t want that?

Every word we utter or write is designed to do something. The problem occurs when we don’t plan out what our words actually mean. We just say something or quickly throw some words on paper or on the computer screen because we have to.

With a little thought and effort, you can refine your message to more accurately reflect what your business stands for and what people can expect by doing business with you.

Stay tuned for more information on how to write for your business.  There is PLENTY of information on this topic!

Holiday Open House, Champagne and Lights

This is an event that you can host with your small business in conjunction with other small businesses in your area. This is specifically for the December holidays. Again, it is a “unite your forces” idea that I expressed in one of my earlier articles.

This event we called Champagne and Lights. It is held on a single Friday or Saturday evening, early in December. This is where all the shops agree to be open late on a Friday or a Saturday evening. In one city, there were two shopping centers that were just a block away from each other. They discovered that if they were to actually unite forces between the two shopping centers and have their Holiday Walk, or their Champagne and Lights, or whatever they wanted to call it on the same night, the were able to maximize the draw from each other’s marketing and advertising efforts.

You want people who are easy to get along with and are savvy business people to help organize this among the shops, and certainly between two separate shopping centers. All too often small business owners feel territorial about these ideas and fail to see that by uniting forces they create a much bigger event, which will gather energy and draw a much bigger crowd.

If you are willing to share ideas and you recognize that rather than feeling as though you’re giving away secrets, you will realize that by joining forces it is actually better for everyone involved. The project will develop a synergistic energy that continues to grow.

In my experience, Champagne and Lights, the idea is that everyone stays open until a specified time that evening. Each store or shop should have a special that night and each store or shop should have a special offering for the customers. One store might have hot cider, another store might have Christmas or Holiday cookies. Another store might invite kids in and have them make Reindeer feed bags, a simple, simple activity for kids that costs very little, but creates a great feeling of holiday spirit and gratitude on the part of the parents who are shopping with their little ones.

Hire a Santa Claus. Get a group of people to stroll through the shopping center and sing Christmas carols. See if one of your local high schools has a choir or chorus who would be willing to put on a musical show for half an hour during the event. Have a group of people play their instruments. It doesn’t matter what it is that you do as long as you make it a festival feeling.

Your event has to feel festive. There has to be a reason for them to come. It would be a good idea to have whatever best sales or best offers that you have but make it available for that night only. Most of the time the event would be held between 5 pm and 9 pm. In December, it is dark by 5pm and it is a good idea to have all kinds of holiday lights lit outside, making the atmosphere as gay and festive as it can be.

This way, each shop obviously will market to their very best customers. However, all of you will benefit from the very best customers of each shop. This is what I mean when an event like this takes on synergistic energy. You will all win when you all put in the effort.

Small Biz is the Backbone of our Economy

Shopping locally is the thing to do.

Shopping locally will make a difference

I recently read that small business employs a whopping 97% of all employees.  I’m not quite sure how they came up with this number, and you know what everyone says about statistics…that 48.7% of all of them are made up on the spot.

Yes, I made that one up.

The real fact, however, is that small biz is what this country was built on, long before the industrial revolution.

Today, it is what I look for when I shop.  I support CSA, community supported agriculture.  I actively seek out “mom and pop” shops for coffee, lunch, and other shopping endeavors.

Yes, I shop on the internet, and I do shop at the large chain stores from time to time.  If I knew where to get these things without going on the internet or going to a Kohl’s or Target, then I would do so. I also recognize that sometimes you can’t get around finding what you need at a larger store.

What I’d really like to do, however, is to raise everyone’s awareness about shopping locally.

When you shop at a large department store approximately 17 cents of every dollar stays in your community (usually in the form of taxes). When you shop at a locally owned small biz, between 48 and 78 cents stays in the community.

That’s a HUGE difference.

A grass roots movement is afoot around the country to raise the awareness of people to this fact.  The economic forecast is pretty grim.  However, if we try to spend more of our money locally, we might just turn things around.

Let’s do our part.  Shop locally. Encourage others to do the same.

If we can even persuade people to spend $50 to $100 locally this holiday season rather than at a large chain store or the internet, we will be making a significant change in our communities.  Let me know what you’re doing to make a difference.

I welcome any and all comments.