Monday, September 15, 2014

The Value of Small Business Saturday

I don't like "Shop Local" campaigns.  There, I said it.  I know that many are big fans of the concept and that having a "Shop Local" campaign has found its way into a lot of Main Street Promotions 101 Playbooks, but I don't believe it has the value that it once did.  Over the years, I've learned that while you do need to get your community's attention and focus on downtown in the beginning, they will continue to come back for the business offerings and special events because they enjoy them and provide things that they are seeking, not just because you told them to "Shop Local".

Before you Google it, yes, Downtown Rochester did have a "Shop Local" campaign back around 1999.  It was cute, kinda cool, but also a bit of a one-trick pony.  Almost every downtown, either directly or indirectly has been doing shop local stuff for years.  It was supposed to be the wake-up call to our residents to let them know that they should consider shopping downtown first.  A strong message and a noble cause, and a lot of people took notice, including national retailers.

Yes, those big-box retailers started trying their hand at the shop local game too, with a goal of getting shoppers off the Internet and into their stores.  Shop local, as cool as it is, just doesn't mean the same thing that it used to.  Like "great customer service", it has become a vanilla version of what it was originally meant to be and its long-term effectiveness for downtowns is slight, at best.

And then along came American Express and little marketing campaign called Small Business Saturday.  Let's be clear, AMEX created Small Business Saturday for one purpose - to increase engagement with small business owners and encourage more to accept American Express.  But like many great ideas, it has taken on a life of its own and has gone way beyond just an AMEX promotion.

It's like the classic "Shop Local", but the message is more direct - "Shop Small".  And we all know that timing is everything, so it was strategically positioned between holiday shopping icons Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Yes, independent businesses finally found a place on the stage in the big show of the holiday shopping season.  And just like you experience either feelings of excitement or horror when you think about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday is much different.  It's relaxed, friendly and very downtown.

And because small businesses typically can't compete with the chains on price, they have found a way to capitalize on this day in a very grassroots, very Main Street kind of way.   From special in-store entertainment and refreshments to drawings and  shopping passports, businesses have discovered the secret of the success of Small Business Saturday - it is exactly what their customers have been looking for all these years. 

Case in point, I always go Christmas shopping on Black Friday.  I'm not one of the out-of-bed-at-the-crack-of-dawn shoppers, but I started doing it with my Mom and Grandma when I was a little girl and I feel like it is a holiday tradition engage in a little weekend after Thanksgiving shopping.  Black Friday has become for me and many others, one of the most repellant shopping campaigns in the history of the world.  If you live for the discounts and don't mind waiting 2 hours in line to buy a $10 flat screen television, then knock yourself out. 

But I know that there is another group of shoppers, much like me, that do want to do some holiday shopping that weekend, and we want to do it downtown.  When we ventured downtown on Small Business Saturday last year, we enjoyed shopping in our businesses, maybe getting a cookie or taking advantage of some free gift wrapping.  But I wasn't looking for a sale, I was looking for that holiday shopping experience that  had been swallowed up by the "Open on Thanksgiving, 90% off mentality" that gets all the media attention.  And I absolutely found it, along with millions of others that shopped on Small Business Saturday.

Yes, there are plenty that cast shade on American Express for creating this campaign, complaining that they are profiting exponentially.  Well, if that is the cost of putting the spotlight on small businesses at the most crucial sales weekend of the year, then I'm good with that.  In 2013, $5.7 billion was spent in small businesses on Small Business Saturday, so I think it's fair to say that it is here to stay.  If you haven't signed up your downtown yet, do it today!  I know we all have plenty to do, but add this one thing to your to do list.  You won't regret it, and your businesses will thank you.

See you downtown!

The Downtown Geek

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How NOT To Run A Crowdfunding Campaign

I know that I love to share best practices and success stories, but sometimes you learn more from your failures.  And that is what inspired my latest article for Main Street Now, all about my fantastically terrifying journey into the mystical land of crowdfunding.  A few people had trouble accessing the electronic file that I shared via The Downtown Geek, so I decided to repost it here.  It's a bit longer than my usual blog, but absolutely worth the read!  Enjoy!

How NOT To Run A Crowdfunding Campaign

Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh.  At the end of the day, our crowfunding campaign was successful so I guess it wasn’t all that bad.  As with most epic stories, it is always best to start at the beginning.  

Last year, when we received our bids for our annual holiday lighting event, The Big, Bright Light Show, we were stunned and bewildered when the lowest bid was 2 5% higher than the previous year.  Did I mention it was the end of August and installation begins October 1?  There was absolutely nowhere in the budget to find the extra money that we needed.  We didn’t have time to reissue the RFP and we couldn’t postpone the installation date because they need every day possible to install the 1.5 million lights, so we were in a quandary.  

We seemed to have two options – downsize the show or find the money somewhere else.  I couldn’t even stomach the idea of going to our business owners on Fourth Street and telling them that, through no fault of their own, they were not going to have lights this year.  Since that was now off the table, I was left with only one option – fundraising.  We brainstormed for days trying to come up with a winning idea.  Merchandise sales, big membership drive, additional sponsorship opportunities were all put on the table, but we needed to raise $25,000 and we needed to do it fast.  It became clear that there really was only one viable option – crowdfunding.

I had done my research on crowdfunding a long time ago and identified it as a definite possibility for us from a fundraising standpoint if the right project came along to try it out.  It was never my intent to take our largest, most important event and use it as a crowdfunding guinea pig.  But the days were ticking down and we were running out of time.  And so it began…

First, we had to decide on the platform.  In my research, I identified Indiegogo and Kickstarter as our best options.  Kickstarter had the high profile brand recognition, so that’s the direction we decided to pursue.  As we started to build our campaign, there were two key things that we needed to make our campaign effective – exciting donation rewards and a compelling video.  

So we started with the rewards.  It became apparent rather quickly that without a large quantity of cool rewards at various donation levels, it would be over before we even got started.  We had some merchandise, but not the quantity or variety needed for this type of campaign.  We couldn’t afford to buy any items to offer as rewards because that would be counter-productive and increase the amount of money we would have to raise to offset the new expenses.  So we went to the merchants to seek donations – and they jumped on board immediately.  We had everything from gift certificates and jewelry to spa treatments and music lessons.  We were on our way.  Now all we needed was a cool video.

When we sent out the request for donations, we received a call from a local videographer who saw our request and wanted to know if we could use any video services?  Ah yes, things were falling into place nicely as we made a new friend at Third Street Films and our video was ready to go.  All that was left now was to load everything up on Kickstarter for their approval.  Simple, right?  Not exactly.

The process of uploading everything to the site was very user-friendly and was ready to go within a day.  So we pressed “Submit” button and we waited.  And waited.  In their extensive guidelines, they did say that it would take up to a week to get a response, so we weren’t too worried.  About 3 days later, we finally received an email from Kickstarter…at 3:30 am.  I discovered it when I got up the next morning.  They had concerns about how we chose our category “Art” for the project and that we needed to provide an explanation before we would receive approval.  Truth be told, there was absolutely nothing else that fit us so that’s how we ended up in that category.  But I really couldn’t tell them that, so instead I spun a yard so wide and grand about the “historic buildings are our canvas and the lights are our paintbrush…” (Yes, I know, I’m going to hell, but I needed to raise some dollars and failure was not an option.)  So I sent back my creative writing piece and I waited. 

And we received a response the next morning…at 2:30 am.  Now they approved the category, but had a problem with all of the “third-party rewards” because we cannot involve other businesses that are not receiving a direct benefit from our campaign and all of those would have to be removed if we wanted approval.  Without those rewards, we were sunk.  So I got out my creative writing cap once again and explained, truthfully, what our organization does and that we are representing all these businesses that would absolutely benefit from our campaign.  I challenged them that while this was a bit out of their strike zone, Main Street communities are a huge potential market for their services and wouldn’t it be great to use us a pilot project to see what would happen.   I hit send and waited.  And waited.

We waited for another three days.  I resent the email, sent notes to the help line.  I would have called, but Kickstarter doesn’t have a published phone number so that was super fun.  Finally, we had to make the call, we were planning on running the campaign for two weeks and we had to pull the trigger now.  So after all the time invested, we made the switch to Indiegogo which we knew didn’t have the name recognition, but you could pretty much create a campaign to send your gerbil to college and they would approve it, so off we went and launched on Indiegogo.  Almost exactly 8 hours after we launched, we heard from Kickstarter.  Ugh.

They loved the idea of using us a pilot program to test this downtown market and gave us their blessing.  So now what?  We had raised about $1,500 so far on Indiegogo but if we were considering making the switch, we had to do it now.  Within about 20 minutes, I knew what the right (yet painful) decision would be and I switched us over to Kickstarter.  Now the real fun began.

And when I say fun, I mean my worst nightmare coming true.  Remember when I said that I didn’t want to use The Big, Bright Light Show as the pilot for this type of campaign because I knew it wasn’t a good fit.   I really hate it when I’m right.  To promote our campaign, we had to rely heavily on press coverage and social media.  On the press side, we had to portray the fundraising in the most positive way possible because the last thing we wanted to do was anything that would tarnish the reputation of the show or Rochester.  Social media was a bit trickier since people can respond to you instantly.  And oh, did they ever.  

Within the first few hours on Kickstarter, I received some of the meanest, nastiest, most accusatory comments ever.  Many people were absolutely appalled that we would dare to ask for donations for the lights when there were starving people in the world.  Okay, I get that there are plenty of other worthy charities out there.  And we certainly weren’t suggesting that you stop supporting those charities and instead give us your dollars.  So after some hard thinking and good cry in my car, I decided that we couldn’t go back, we had to keep pushing because this was too important to our businesses and our town.  So we pressed on.

Donations started to trickle in, slowly but surely.  But it was easy to see early on that this was going to be a long, painful road to success.  By the beginning of the second week, it was obvious that unless a miracle happened, we were not going to be successful.  On Tuesday, two miraculous things happened.  First, on a whim, we decided to send out an updated press release and it got instant traction from key television and radio stations in Detroit.  Secondly, we had an angel investor call and offer us $10,000.  One catch – he didn’t want to put the money down unless it would make us hit our goal.  

Our campaign was ending on Friday at noon so we had to hustle.  We worked the press, we worked our social media and by Friday morning, we were still $4,500 short of what we needed to access the $10,000 offered by our angel investor.  So while I sat in my Organization Committee telling them that I was preparing for my first professional project failure, something happened.  We got a call from our local utility company, DTE Energy, and they wanted to talk about the light show.  Needless to say, I walked out of the meeting and got on the phone immediately.  The gentleman informed me that our County Executive heard about our funding issue on the news and had called the CEO of DTE Energy and asked him to help us.  They were willing to give us $5,000 right now.  

After I pinched myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming, I said thank you very much and proceeded to help him make their donation on Kickstarter.  Without missing a beat, I picked up the phone and called our angel investor to see if he was still willing and able.  He was and so at 11:05 am, we officially were 100% funded.  Woohoo!

Was this the best project for crowdfunding?  Probably not.  But did the end justify the means?  Yep.  And there were plenty of lessons learned along the way.  At the end of the day, crowdfunding is absolutely an exciting tool to use and is destined to be a part of future downtown fundraising strategies, but make sure that you know your options and really take time to evaluate your pitch before you take the leap into the deep end of the pool called crowdfunding.

The Downtown Geek

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Reflections of a Downtown Director...

I should probably warn you that this is not a typical Geek blog.  You might not have the usual takeaways, but it will still be engaging and amusing, I promise.  I recently celebrated 15 years working for my community.  Seems like only yesterday that I was a wide-eyed, enthusiastic Promotions & Marketing Coordinator who was asked to create a downtown magazine and a winter event.  Oh, how far we've come.  Naturally, I've been feeling kind of nostalgic, so I was reflecting on the favorite things that I've done, and more interestingly, why I stay.  There were so many to choose from, so I had to limit myself to three.

The Big, Bright Light Show

Yes, you knew that it would be on the list.  How could I not include it?  Think about it - I convinced my Board, elected officials, city officials, merchants, property owners and even the Michigan Department of Transportation to allow me to cover our historic facades in Christmas lights every four inches.  Quite an accomplishment, but that's not why it's on the list.  The show is not just lights, and it's not just sales either.  But it absolutely is economic development and it does provide a priceless amount of PR for our little city.  But most important to me is that it is, for lack of a more sophisticated term, a memory maker.  When the lights are aglow, people are everywhere - taking photos, getting engaged, and making holiday memories that will last a lifetime.  Heck, I even well up at least once per season when I realize what we've accomplished with a crazy idea and over 1.5 million twinkling lights.

Main Street Makeover

In downtown circles, the chance to work on a major construction project is the stuff of nightmares.  But we saw the Makeover as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and weren't about to mess it up.  Working with the City, we agreed from the start that we weren't going to let the project manage us.  Two years in the making, the day we closed the road and put the first shovel in the ground, reality hit us...hard.  The next 8 months was like a trip to Oz so chaotic and profound that I never knew what would happen from one day to the next.  I learned so much, and more importantly, our advanced planning paid off.  Any challenge that was thrown our way, we met and resolved instantly. From hitting unmapped water lines to unearthing an Indian burial ground, we truly saw it all.  And even though everyone told us to expect at least 25% of our businesses to close, they didn't.  In fact, we gained more businesses and hit an all time high occupancy rate of 97%.  At the end of the day, we finished on time and on budget.  Can't really ask for more than that.

A Revelation

But after hundreds of event days downtown, multi-million dollar projects and that little light show of ours, what could really top all of that to be my favorite thing ever...and the reason why I stay?  I discovered the answer to this conundrum last week when two of my favorite downtown pals came to visit Rochester - Ron Drake & Ben Muldrow.  In case you don't know them, Ron is a downtown consultant, author and has more authentic enthusiasm for community development that anyone I've ever met.  Ben is an unbelievably talented, branding guru and absolutely the smartest guy in every room.  We talked for hours about what we've done, where we've been and more importantly, where we see the future of downtowns and what we might be able to do collectively to contribute to that future (but that is a blog for another day - stay tuned).

And then it hit me.  The best of part of having this job is all the people that I've had to the pleasure to meet, work with, learn from and be inspired by.  I never intended to be here.  Let's face it, kids don't grow up dreaming they will be a downtown director.  Quite honestly, most of my downtown peeps, myself included, are here by accident.  In my case, I've come to believe than there are no accidents and some things are just meant to be.

Make no mistake, I wouldn't still be here without that love, support and faith that so many have shown me.  I take it to heart and I always strive to make sure that the trust  placed in me to care for and protect my downtown and others has not been misplaced. I don't know where the next 15 years will take me, but I am confident that I have still have more to give.  And I look forward to being on this non-stop thrill ride of community revitalization with all of you for many years to come.

The Downtown Geek

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Flip This Town, Required Reading for Main Street

I have to admit that it has been a long time since I read a book for pleasure.  Sure, I read non-stop, all day, every day for my job, but it's rare that I take time out to just sit down and read.  So what inspired me to make this shift?  A man named Ron Drake.

I met Ron at the National Main Streets Conference in Detroit.  I've been attending the conference for 15+ years and pride myself on knowing just about everybody, so it was exciting to meet someone new.  He told me about his town, Siloam Springs, Arkansas.  He talked to me about the projects he was working on and that he had recently made the transition from general contractor to full time downtown consultant.  Oh, and he wrote a book.  A book?  I was intrigued. I know a lot of Main Streeters, but not many of them have written books.  It struck me that if he took the time to write a book, that he must have a lot to say.  And I might need to take the time to find out.

So a few weeks after the conference, my copy of Flip This Town arrived.  I had a minute so I popped it open to read the first few pages. An hour later, I was still reading.  I was expecting a book about rehabbing downtown buildings, but what I was reading was so much more than that.  It was a story - his story about the journey he took to find his true calling. When he talked about falling in love with Siloam Springs at first sight, I could relate.  I think anyone involved in Main Street remembers that moment with their own towns. But that was just the beginning.  The book goes on to tell the story of how he started out doing drywall and ended up as a key stakeholder and thought leader in his community.

The book is filled with practical tips about working in partnership with the community, the businesses and the municipality for the ultimate benefit of the town.  But what is most striking about the book is the pure authenticity.  This isn't a paid consultant giving you a "how-to" from their perspective, but rather a real person, telling you in his own words about his journey.  There are great success stories, but also a few stumbles that he still explains with great passion because he believes that they are equally as valuable.

Flip This Town takes the elements of preservation, economic development and community engagement and shows them in action in the real world.  The concepts presented are practical, thought-provoking and, most importantly, actionable.  I guarantee that when you finish this book, you will feel re-energized and ready to make things happen in your town. My favorite quote?  "I know, there's a fine line between brave and crazy, right? But sometimes you have to take risks to have rewards...".   Truer words were never spoken.

After reading Flip This Town, it's clear to see that that author has accomplished many things, but I don't think he's done yet.  Yes, I believe we can all expect some great things from Mr. Ron Drake.

Order your copy of Flip This Town -

Happy Reading!

The Downtown Geek

Friday, June 13, 2014

Creating Buzz For Your Downtown

It's a common catchphrase that we all use at one time or another.  Some companies spend ridiculous amounts of money trying to create it.  We are all striving to generate buzz about our downtowns through our events, capital projects, new businesses and everything in between.  Why?  Because this buzz, this "x" factor, is what puts feet on our streets, makes the registers ring and, in short, makes downtown vibrant. 

For purposes of this post, I'll give my definition of "downtown buzz"

Downtown Buzz - To inspire others to take action and ownership in support of downtown

Pretty simple concept really, but creating buzz isn't as easy as you might think. Buzz is elusive, hard to predict and quite honestly, hard to plan.  I gave up a long time ago trying to anticipate what would strike a chord with people.  Sometimes I hit it spot on, other times I was left scratching my head trying to figure out what went wrong.  Good downtown ideas only become great when they receive buzz.  For example, you can build an awesome pocket park, but if no one uses it, is it really a success?  Or you plan an absolutely killer event, but only a few hundred people show up.  Success or no?

Does that mean that you don't have any control over your downtown buzz?  Absolutely not, but you need to make an effort.  It has to be project specific.  You can't use the same tactics to market a new streetscape and a music festival.  You need to look at each project - break it down and identify the hot buttons (or sweethearts as I like to call them) that will not only grab attention, but will engage your audience.  To that end, I think it's important when planning any event or project, that you look beyond the nuts and bolts of making it happen and figure out how you are going to market it on the back end and have that as a part of the overall plan.

Unfortunately, I think marketing is all together lost in some downtown promotions planning.  So much focus is put on the actual execution of the event, rather than the plan to get people there.  For any event we do, we typically have two marketing strategies.  First, we work on inspiring people to get involved in the event itself.  Once that's done and the event planning is almost complete, we switch gears and start a marketing initiative to drive traffic to the event.  And to be clear, ads in the local newspaper are not buzzworthy.  They have their place in your overall advertising plan, but should never be confused with actual marketing.

Here's a recent example to support my point.  In my town, Downtown Rochester, we are planning a new holiday event, the Downtown Rochester Festival of Trees.  This is an event that is going to require a significant amount of community support, so we need to get the ball rolling now.  We just received our approval last month, and are still working on all the details, but we wanted to start to get the word out now and generate a little buzz. 

So how do you  promote a new holiday event in the middle of June?  We decided to create a new Facebook Page for the event.  This is not something I typically do or recommend only because you want to keep traffic on your downtown's primary Facebook Page, rather than watering down your message and reach by creating a bunch of individual pages for your various events.  But I believe that the Festival of Trees is different and will take on a life of its own if we craft the story correctly.  We will eventually roll out the participation opportunities, event schedules, call for designers, call for sponsors, tickets on sale, etc., but for starters, we did a simple "Save the Date" message. 

So, did it work?  Well, within the first 24 hours, we had over 900 likes on our page.  Pretty darn good for an event that no one has even seen, and that many people probably don't even know what the heck it is all about.  But what they do know is that it's something new, has an interesting look and everybody loves the holidays here in my town.  Even more importantly, our initial campaign was successful because of our reputation we've created over the past several years that we are an event town, and anything that we do is usually pretty darn cool. But did we create buzz?  Absolutely!  Not only did we get a ton of our fans sharing our post about the new page, but we have already been contacted by several people asking how they can get involved.  Inspiring others to take action and ownership, yep, check.

Is buzz important?  Absolutely.  It's not about the money you spend, but about the time you take to develop your plan and tell your story.  I've said it before, as downtown managers, we wear many hats, but none more important that that of storyteller.  You have the power and the passion to tell some amazing stories about your downtown, to shape perceptions and opinions and most importantly, to inspire ownership of your downtown.

The Downtown Geek

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What I Learned From Detroit

As I settle back into my regular routine in my hometown, Downtown Rochester, I can't help but think about the last week spent in Downtown Detroit with 1400 of my closest friends at the National Main Streets Conference.  It was an event a year in the making, with over 225 volunteers working diligently to make it happen.  I had the pleasure of serving as co-chair for the Opening & Closing Committee, so I had a front row seat for the creative show.  

Choosing my favorite part of the event is like choosing my favorite pair of shoes - an impossible decision because they are all so fabulous.  From the Opening Plenary kicking off with the incomparable Selected of God Choir that totally blew the roof off Cobo Center to the Big Bash at historic Eastern Market featuring everything from a marching band to a graffiti artist and so much more.  So I stepped back and tried to take a wider view.  And it came to me, the best part really came down to the people.  I wrote a blog for the conference a few months ago, and I told everyone that the best part of their visit would be meeting the people of Detroit, and understanding their passion and energy for their city.  And I was absolutely right.  All I heard from anyone attending the conference was how amazed they were by everyone and everything they encountered in Detroit.  They didn't expect Detroit to be, well, cool.  They expected ruin and despair, but instead they found beauty and promise.

This is the first conference that I feel that I learned more from the host city than I did from the educational sessions (which were awesome).  Detroit is, in my opinion, the ultimate example of what Main Street is all about.  While they do not have a formal Main Street program in place, they are doing everything the Main Street way.  Specifically, Detroit, purely through its existence is inspiring individuals, businesses and organizations to invest time, dollars and talents in the City with one singular goal - to revitalize Detroit.  As attendees explored the streets of downtown this week, they marveled at the grand architecture, the vibrant public spaces and the people making it happen every day.

But most importantly, it was the energy in Detroit that caused all the buzz.  People found that Detroit is indeed a city on the brink, but on the brink of great things.  I made a lot of new friends this week, including a gentleman from Arkansas who told me that what we did through our conference efforts was create ambassadors for Detroit and those ambassadors would be going back to their communities to sing the praises of everything they discovered in Detroit.  And what a perfect way to dispel the negative national publicity that Detroit always seems to attract.

I'll take it one step further.  When I attend the National Main Streets Conference, I always look for at least one great idea to take home. And I believe that every attendee is taking home the same thing from Detroit - Hope.  It's a simple, yet powerful word.  If you look around Detroit, or any city, it's easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged by everything that needs to happen.  But if you hold the hope in your heart, if you keep Detroit in your rear view mirror as you look forward to the new challenges in your own community, you will be successful.  Downtown is never done.  It is a journey filled with challenges and opportunities.  And just like Detroit, there is nothing so insurmountable that you can't go on.  You find your hope, find your hustle and make it happen.

See you downtown!

The Downtown Geek

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Making An Impact For Your Town...In 15 Minutes or Less

My eyes popped open Monday morning with an overwhelming feeling to create something.  As I went through my usual morning routine, my mind marveled at the possibilities.  What could I do today that could create an impact for my town?  As sang with wild abandon to AC/DC on the road to downtown I started to think about all the things that I had to accomplish - writing a press release, merchant newsletter, etc., and suddenly my resolve to create something new started to waiver.  Maybe I wouldn't have time to create because life was going to get in the way?  No, no that just won't do, I'll just have to think a little smaller.

So instead of going directly to the office, I took a little detour to drive around downtown to see if inspiration might strike.  The parking lot piled two stories high with snow could make a great venue for a snowman building contest this weekend?  With the chilly weather, maybe an online contest for gift certificates to bring visitors downtown?  As I drove around, it struck me how beautiful it was - crystal blue sky with the sun making the abundant snow shimmer like diamonds.  And then it hit me.  Why not take photos of everything I'm seeing and share it with our fans on Facebook?

So armed with my winter woolies and my new Samsung Galaxy, I ventured out to catch spectacular snow shots on the creek, in the park and all over downtown.  After critically reviewing my work, I used PhotoGrid (my favorite new toy) to create a photo collage which I promptly uploaded to the Downtown Rochester Facebook Page.  Start to finish, I spent about 15 minutes putting this little promotion together.  But was it time well spent? 

The answer came quickly as the likes and comments started to roll in.  After it was all said and done, we had 791 Likes, 25 Comments and 53 Shares, with a total reach of 15,720 people!  Not too bad for an on-the-fly idea.

So what's the point?  Is social media is a downtown marketing juggernaut?  Absolutely, but I'll save that one for another post.  Some days, it's easy to wake up energized and ready to take on the world, only to have your hot pink balloon of enthusiasm popped by the harsh pin of reality.  I liken it to when you download a few new songs on iTunes.  Suddenly, your whole music library feels fresh again.  It's easy to get caught up in doing your job, but if you don't take time to step back and look at the big picture, you're only going through the motions and not really doing the job you want to do. 

When was the last time you made an impact?  If you can't remember, then maybe today's the day!

Happy Creating!

Kristi, The Downtown Geek

Friday, January 17, 2014

A New Year's Revelation

Yes, revelation.  Not resolution.  I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions.  Frankly, the idea of reserving one day a year to make life changing decisions gives me hives.  If you want to make a change, make it.  Don't wait for a holiday.  But I digress, back to my New Year's Revelation.

It was actually New Year's Eve and being the jet-setting family that we are, we decided to skip the parties and get take out.  We decided to be adventurous and try a little Mexican carry out joint we'd spied one day while running errands in Lake Orion.  So there I was sitting in the parking lot at Revere's Mexican Carry Out wondering if I made the right choice.  Why you ask?  The parking lot was fairly empty and the windows were steamed up to the point that you couldn't even see inside.  But I had a hungry family to feed, so in I went, not knowing what to expect.  Then I met Deb.

In the 20 minutes that followed, I had one of the most pleasant experiences that I can remember in a darn long time. Deb, the owner of Revere's was an absolute delight.  She took my order, then proceeded to prepare the food while continuing to have a conversation with me.  We talked about her business, Lake Orion, her grandchildren, even our shared love of Disney World. 

But what was even more amazing, Deb knew every person who walked in the door by name.  More than that, she took the time to ask them about their family, all the while, continuing to prepare orders for the long string of tickets in front of her.  It was sweet, borderline charming and an experience that could only be found walking in the door of a small business. 

And that's when it hit me (here comes the revelation).  It's no big secret that I love what I do, but one of the things that I love the most is working with small business owners.  And that 20 minutes spent with Deb reminded me of that fact.  Small businesses owners are smart, savvy and most importantly to me, passionate about what they do.  Her restaurant was rockin', the phone never stopped ringing, but Deb never broke a sweat and still managed to make every customer feel like they were the only one in the place.

And just in case you were wondering, the food was terrific!  And we've been back several times to see Deb and I can tell you it wasn't a fluke.  Every time I go to Revere's, it's been the same - great food, special service and a good feeling every time I walked out the door.  And within that lies my new challenge.  How can I share that kind of experience our downtown customers?  I know that those same things happen every single day in my downtown, but how do I harness that energy, maximize it and of course, market it?  And that's what I'll be working on these days.  Did you see what I did there? I made a decision to make a change and it's not even a holiday.  I know, I'm crazy like that.

Happy Revelations!

The Downtown Geek