In 2011 I visited every business in Hasbrouck Heights with an invitation to join the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce. I was bitterly disappointed that barely a few businesses signed up. Since then the Chamber has grow due to the hard work and contributions of a steadfast and dedicated leadership. They have come up with many creative ideas such as Holiday Fest, Boulevard Stroll and a Taste of Hasbrouck Heights. Probably the most successful idea has been the Hasbrouck Heights Street Fair.
So here’s the question: why isn’t there 100% membership of Heights and Woodridge businesses in the Chamber? In 2011 I was told by the majority of business owners that they needed more marketing support. I was also told by some that they didn’t see a return on their membership investment. That what they needed was marketing support. Ok fair enough I thought : I did a presentation on Google Maps, and Google My Business. Three people showed up. Mimi Hui scheduled Bill Loges to come in to talk about Reference USA and we had a much better turnout. What packed the house was a presentation by a Constant Contact representative on email. However, the majority of the attendees did come from the Heights.
I noted a couple of problem areas. First, that time was a problem. There is no good time to take off of business to come to a meeting. Also the meeting itself really doesn’t lend itself for a business owner to voice a concern and get a full discussion that leads to a strategy and a plan of action. Second, I learned that business owners were attracted to the things that they were already familiar with in the way of marketing but there was difficulty getting new information in front of them that they needed to help their business grow. Finally, there was the question of investment of not only time but of money. Was it enough to give the knowledge without an execution plan and the expertise to deploy and execute the plan? Businesses now recognize more than they did even just a two years ago that every business is in the media business if they want to market successfully. And they also recognize the power and the dangers of social media.
It took me awhile but I worked out what might be the solution to these various problems.
First, the meetings can be held virtually in webcasts, Google Hangouts, and Facebook Live as far as media, marketing and advertising goes. Materials can be set up for immediate download. This includes ebooks, reports, workbooks, cheat sheets, blueprints, strategy guides, videos, webinars and podcasts. This keeps the monthly Chamber meeting as the main focus for policy, governance and guidance. But it gives an opportunity to get attention on an individualized one on one basis for the business owner.
The second thing to tackle is to get the right expertise and the people with the knowledge in front of the right people at the right time. The advantage of doing this virtually is that experts can be brought in from around the world many of which would love the opportunity to speak and present their expertise. So that really lead to the last part which is the most interesting and presented the biggest challenge – strategy planning, implementation and execution. Inherent in these are human resources and expenses.
Most business owners can’t delegate enough and have to wear many hats. The last thing they need is more homework and a science project at the end of it all. That is what it is like. I don’t mean to boast I know a great deal about media, marketing and advertising, and have to stay on top of an ever changing media and marketing landscape. But no one person can be expert in everything. Moreover, not every business can afford to hire an ad agency, and a marketing manager to run things. In fact, an insider secret if you will, is that much of today’s marketing work is outsourced to virtual assistants in various places around the world such as the Philippines. Also many agencies use white label services for various aspects of campaign development, website management, pay-per-click and the list goes on.
I’ve found that many college undergraduates are involved in some aspect of video, photography, graphic design, social media, and writing who are looking to add to their work experience. There are also a multitude of recent grads, entrepreneurs, consultants and budding new agencies hungry for clients. There are people out here who won’t change an arm and a leg to get a modest and effective campaign up and running, or do some social media curation, or help with a cool video.
And this bring me to my final point : the human factor. I honestly believe that what is missing today is the connection between people to get a sense of the voice of the business. Can text, email, Skype and webcasts get it done? Yes I believe that technology can do a great deal. But much of what is communicated between humans is non-verbal so we actually do a disservice to ourselves by not meeting and networking. This an essential part of finding the right fit for the marketer and the business owner.
Anyway, that’s it. We’re going to provide local business support as a supplement to local Chamber activity to stimulate recruitment. Use technology for learning, teaching and coaching. And develop relationships to take advantage of local human and virtual resources as the business may require.
I’ve had this idea on the drawing board for a long time and I am interested in securing funding and building a team. If you are at all interested in being connected in an advisory capacaity I an bringing this to a incubator as a pilot project and plan to roll-out nationwide.