Small Business Social Media Guide

American Express is offering a free guide called Implement Smart Growth Strategies. It doesn’t go into great detail, but it does give some good examples of small business social media success.

It’s amazing to me that in 2010, almost 2011, so many medium to large businesses just don’t get social media.  It’s one area where smaller is definitely better.  I think what they’re missing is the “social” part.  Folks who use facebook, twitter, and other social media tools aren’t looking for slick presentations.  They want content.  They want information.  They want to be entertained.  They want to believe that the companies they choose to follow actually care about them.  Some big companies understand this.  Most don’t.

As a small business, you’re online approach should mirror your personal approach.  “Well, good morning, Mr. Buckley.  Gee I’m glad you came into my business.  How can I help you today?”  Not, “Go find the stuff you want, put it in a cart, then stand in a long line to give me your money.”

Check out this AmEx guide and think about what you can do to serve your customers better.

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Small Business Saturday

You may know that I also write a religious blog called DeaconCast. The following is an item I posted there today.  I’m sharing it here because it deals with small business.  Hopefully the readers of DeaconCast will take it to heart.

OK, this isn’t a business blog.  It’s a Catholic blog.  But what could be more Catholic than helping your neighbor?  That’s what Jesus called us to do.  Tomorrow is your opportunity to do just that.

It’s Small Business Saturday!

You’ve gotten up early today to stand in line to get the “Super Bargains” at the big box stores.  Hopefully you have a little money left to spend.  Why not spend some of it to support your neighbors who own small businesses right there in your town?

I was an early supporter of something called the 3/50 Project.  The idea is to spend $50 per month at three locally-owned businesses.  That’s not $50 each;  just $50 total among the three businesses that you would hate to have to do without.  Why is this important?  Because if you don’t support these businesses with your discretionary cash, they may not be there when you really need them.

Case in point is my local True Value Store.  Whenever I lose my mind and decide to do some kind of project around the house, or when something (usually a toilet) stops working, Handyman Hardware always comes to the rescue.  Unfortunately, they’re never going to survive on my toilet parts business.  So, when I need things that I could buy at the big box, I always give that business to Handyman.  This year I bought a snow blower, a patio set, and any number of other things from them.  I want them to be around for a good, long time.

That’s what Small Business Saturday is all about.  Take advantage of the convenience, the short lines, and the surprisingly low prices at your local merchant.

Also, don’t forget your neighborhood dining spots.  Frankie G’s Grill, just a block from my house, has the best burgers around, reasonable prices, and an excellent staff.  (Full disclosure-my daughter works there.)  A meal at Frankie’s is no more expensive than one at a fast food joint and the experience is much better.  Besides beautiful waitresses, they have more TV’s than you can shake a stick at.

So, on this day after Thanksgiving, think about showing your thanks to that guy who sits in the pew in front of you who owns a mom and pop widgetorium.  Give him some of your Christmas business.  It’s just one more way to show that love that Jesus asks from all of us.

Miracle on 34th Street

I was just watching the classic movie, Miracle on 34th Street.  You know, the real one with Maureen O’Hara and Edmund Gwenn.  You may remember Santa’s innovative approach of sending Macy’s customers to other stores, putting the children first.  In 1947, the year the movie was made, that was quite a new concept.  Who could believe that a greedy business like Macy’s would send someone to a competitor?

Of course, as Mr. Macy pointed out, the positive publicity from this strategy would drive more customers their way, increasing their profits.

Today we would call a similar philosophy TQM or Total Quality Management.  Put the customer first, regardless of short-term profit, and your business will come out ahead in the long run.  Santa was ahead of his time.  But that’s not so surprising, is it?

Today, as all of my retail friends take a last breather before the sprint from “Black Friday” to Christmas Eve, I hope that you all enjoy your Thanksgiving Day meal with family and friends, then sit back and relax.  Enjoy this last peaceful day before the big rush begins.  Whatever time you’ve chosen to begin your “Black Friday” promotions, whether it’s 3:00 AM (ridiculous) or your normal opening hour, keep in mind the reason for the season.  Amidst the madness of the next four weeks, please take time out for the three R’s.  Rest, Recreation, and Reflection.

Rest. You can’t be at your best unless you’re physically strong.  No matter how hectic the next few weeks may be, nourishment, exercise, and sleep are the fuel that will keep you going.

Recreation. Break the word down.  Re-creation.  Again, you have to feed the inner man or woman.  Take the time to read a good book, even if it’s only 10 minutes a day.  When you work, work hard.  But then allow yourself to play, even if it’s just for a little while.  Nobody can be “on” twenty-four hours a day.

Reflection. At the end of this hectic selling season comes a day we call Christmas.  Don’t forget what that day is really all about.  We all sell something and for most of us this is the time of year we sell the most, but if not for that Child born in that manger more than 2,000 years ago, would it all be worth it?  I don’t think so.

So, enjoy your Thanksgiving and I hope that the next month of so are all that you hope they will be, both personally, spiritually and profitably.

PS.  They call the holiday “Christmas“.  I hope your signage and advertising reflect that.  If I come into your store and someone wishes me “Happy Holidays” or any similar politically correct nonsense, I will shake the dust off my sandals and move on.  I’m just sayin’……..