Meetup — The Small Business Marketer’s Paradise

Meetup logo

If you’re a Small Business owner or marketing professional in a small business, you undoubtedly find yourself at a point where you go to networking events and keep running into the same people over and over again. The monotony is not only mind-numbing but it’s also bad for sales as you’re not building new leads for your “trusted referral partner” network by seeing the same folks all the time. Well, worry no further as Meetup™ is here! Er, they’ve been here for more than a decade, but we won’t mind that little detail. So, what is Meetup and why does it matter to Small Business marketing?

 

 

MEETUP, THE MOVEMENT

September 11th changed the world; strangers helped strangers that day in remarkable ways Scott Heiferman recognized. He wanted to keep that momentum going and it became the inspiration for Meetup.com. Meetup, according to their own website, is:

Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. More than 2,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities.

Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.

I enjoy seeing the “Do something • Learn something • Share something • Change something” motto when you visit Meetup.com before logging in, and that’s the essence of what makes the platform so versatile. I feel like they should add “in real life!” to that message because that’s the key component to what I think Meetup does. It bridges the digital-analog divide so many of us face today with digital (email, phone and text message) and Social Media communications as our primary business contact throughout the workday (and perhaps even more so in our personal lives, trying to stay in touch with family and friends with ever-increasing work hours and workloads). All the Meetups are live, in-person group meetings coalesced around a shared interest. And, what does this have to do with your Small Business marketing efforts you ask? Read on!

 

SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING ON MEETUP

Whether you’re trying to build your Small Business brand, increase sales to your local boutique or retail shop, or want to learn how to build a smartphone app, there’s a community of not only your target audience on Meetup but also like-minded small business entrepreneurs getting together to help you! That’s the power of Meetup! These meetings are usually free (though I believe in the give-what-you-can model since it does cost Meetup Organizers to create a Meetup group on Meetup.com and other administrative costs, plus the value of their time), you can see who’s going, and you can ask questions, share and collaborate before and after the get-together through Meetup.com.

I know that today with the proliferation of Web marketing, it’s easy to think that focusing as much of your resources on your Web presence is important but even I (a Web and digital business strategist) think that all the Web has to offer is worth nothing if it doesn’t make our physical, real world lives better! So, sign up for a Meetup account today, type in your industry, professional, service or product (or a current challenge facing your business), and RSVP for a Meetup in your community soon! You’ll be glad you did.

Google for the Small Screen (Google Mobile Web Products) [events]

Google Mobile Web ProductsGoogle for the Small Screen (Google’s Mobile Products Overview)
March 8, 2012
10:15 – 11:15 am

Who in the world thought you could have the world on your mobile phone?!  Deploy Google Mobile products in your business to give employees access to information anywhere, anytime.  Let Ray Sidney-Smith show you how you can literally have the world at your business fingertips!  Join us for this free one hour webinar.

To register, go to: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/974369169 or call 703-778-1292 for more info.

Healthy Employees are Productive Employees

Healthy Employees Walking TogetherAs business owners, we worry often about the health of our business, but how frequently do we worry about having healthy employees? Sure, it gets attention when an employer contributes to health care insurance. If employees are absent because of sickness or a condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome that limits their productivity that affects the bottom line, and the prosperity of the business. However, even if employees show up for work, they may be suffering from health conditions which reduce their ability to do their best.

How can a business owner help maintain the wellness and health of employees, so that everyone benefits from a healthier business, both financially and otherwise? Prevention is clearly key. This is why employee washrooms in restaurants always have the sign “All Employees Must Wash Their Hands before Returning to Work.” Maintaining a healthy workplace and encouraging employees to adopt and maintain healthy habits go a long way. Leading by example is very effective. If the boss is seen smoking — and known not to exercise — then employees may read the hidden message that it is okay for them to do the same. On the other hand, if the boss brings a gym bag to work (as she stops off at the gym either before or after work), then this sends a completely different message. If the boss discusses engaging in sports activities (and not just watching sports on the television) whether as an individual, or in family activities, then this becomes a conversation topic among coworkers.

As small business owners, we may not be able to pay for gym memberships, but we can provide incentives for employees to lead a healthy lifestyle in other ways. Large companies can organize weight loss, smoking cessation or healthy eating workshops, and encourage employees to attend, and sometimes provide incentives for doing so. Small companies can create some challenges to employees and provide some tools to get started, such as a notebook for tracking exercise routines, food intake or other measurable criteria. An inexpensive pedometer can go a long way to help track distance walked or jogged during a lunch break or outside office hours. A business owner can reward an employee who participates in a wellness workshop in their free time, or achieves individual fitness and health goals. The key is to provide motivation that appeals to the employee.

We all want to stay healthy, both on and off the job. Having healthy and productive employees is surely an indicator of a successful business. Motivating employees to maintain their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, or whatever the individual goal might be, will send a sure signal that they are valued beyond their work performance. Hiring and training new employees is much more expensive than retaining existing staff, and so wellness encouragement reduces overhead and management time spent on these issues. A few hours or a few dollars dedicated to focusing on employee wellness now can pay dividends in the future.

For suggestions on incentives or rewards for an employee wellness program, please visit our website at www.oxfordpromos.com or call Oxford Communications at 703-922-4193.

 

Photo courtesy of USACE Europe District

Google+ for Your Small Business [event]

Google+ logo

 

Google+ for Small Business
Technology That Can Help Your Business Grow!
February 29, 2012
9 am – 12 Noon

 

With only 20 spots for this hands-on workshop, we anticipate more demand than space.  Email or call Patricia Melton if you are interested.  Slots will be filled on a first come, first served basis, and then we’ll start a standby list.  See information below.

 

Google is the well-known search engine and leader in the Web advertising world, but if you haven’t already started seeing and hearing, they have recently launched a new service platform called Google+ and its Google relations, the +1 buttonDirect Connect and Search Plus Your World. Together, Google+allows businesses share, promote and measure the building of relationships between the business brands and the people who care about them. In this seminar and workshop, you get the best of both worlds from Alexandria Small Business Development Center. First, Ray Sidney-Smith, president of W3 Consulting, a Web and digital strategy firm for Small Business, presents a strategic overview of Google+ for small businesses. Following the presentation, Ray will walk you through the steps to launch your own Google+ pages for your business. This event is not to be missed!

 

From Google+ Pages’ site:

 

Share

 

Different people are interested in different parts of your business. Whether it’s breaking news, updates, promotions, links, photos – even talking face-to-face with groups via easy-to-use video chat –Google+ lets you easily share the right things with the right customers.

 

Promote

 

Help word get around. Put the +1 button anywhere you’d like people to be able to recommend your business, products or services to friends and contacts all across the web.

 

Measure

 

How’s your page doing, and how could it do better? Google+makes it easy to learn more about how your followers’ interactions on your page affect your brand, and your business.

 

Bring your wireless-enabled laptop, netbook, or mobile tablet (e.g., iPad). The session will be held in our boardroom, located at 625 N. Washington Street, Suite 400.  Because we expect this to close out early, we ask if you register, please attend or let us know if you cannot, so others may have the opportunity!

To register, email or call Patricia Melton, SBDC Counselor, at 703-778-2960.

 

Enter the “Retail Parking” garage via Pendleton Street for free parking.

______

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Federal Business Development and Marketing for Service Providers (Event)

Start Manage and Grow with the Alexandria SBDCSo you want to provide services to the federal government. Where do you begin to develop your book of business? How do you identify opportunities? How do you get face time with government staff?

Join us for the second in an interactive series of START, MANAGE, GROW your business workshops for federal contractors.  Workshop # 1 gave you the top 10 proven activities you need to do to obtain federal business.  In this workshop, Federal Contracting Consultant John Boulware will provide suggestions on how service providers can conduct Federal business development activities.  He’ll give service providers tips on how to identify Federal opportunities and how to get meetings with government staff.  He’ll also discuss reasons why some development efforts for services fail. He’ll also identify critical actions you shouldn’t do when seeking a federal contract.

REGISTER NOW

This FREE federal contracting SMART, MANAGE, GROW your business workshop is sponsored by the Alexandria Small Business Development Center and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership.

Join us at for two hours of interactive programming in our new office Board Room, 625 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA beginning at 9:00 AM.    Learn federal contracting from someone who has seen it all through 23 years federal teaming and subcontracting experience.  John expects you to bring your questions!

 

Save the date for these other federal contracting workshops:
  • Tuesday, March 13: “Federal Proposal Development – Focus on Technical Proposal” presented by John Boulware, Federal Contractor Consultant
  • Tuesday, March 27: “Federal Proposal Development – Focus on Cost Proposal”presented by Sequin Lukon, The Essential Agreement, LLC
  • Tuesday, April 24: “Subcontracting to Prime Federal Contractors” presented by Sequin Lukon, The Essential Agreement, LLC
  • Tuesday, May 8: “Financing for Government Contracting: The Importance of Timing” presented by Barbara Greenwald of Sheinwald Financial Strategies.

For more information these and other SBDC trainings and programs, please contact:
Genny Lush
www.alexandriasbdc.org

Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Small Business Federal, State and Local Government Contracting, an Overview

Alexandria Virginia City HallMany Small Business entrepreneurs interested in growing their businesses look to government contracting to sell their goods or services to state and federal agencies.  Alexandria Small Business Development Center can help you in many areas of government contracting.  To begin, you will need to register–think of it as the driver’s license to do government contracting–at all levels of government, and the requirements are separate and distinct for each level of government (i.e., local, state and federal).  There is a great deal of information on the Alexandria SBDC website under the “Grow Your Business” heading about the registration requirements for Virginia state (eVA) and federal (CCR) registration.  These registrations are generally done online, and it is necessary to have your formation documents (LLC or Corporate registrations, local business license, EFIN, and DUNS numbers) ready before you start the process.

Once you have reviewed the registration requirements, it is wise to see if there are any certifications for which you qualify that could give your business preference in the contracting process.  At the Virginia state level, SWaM (Small, Woman-owned and Minority) certification is available for most small businesses.  The application process is easier at the state level than at the federal level, so we generally advise small business owners to begin there.  Again, there are SWaM resources on our website to that describe the process and walk you through the registration and certification.

As indicated, the federal certification process is more complicated and the requirements for preferential contracting set-asides are more onerous.  Review the various programs through links on the SBDC website for the 8(a), WOSB, and other programs, described in detail on the SBAs website at www.sba.gov.  The Alexandria SBDC is ready to assist you in determining which program works for your company, and we can assist in the certification process.

Finally, once you have completed all registration and certifications requirements, you will need to work on developing government business.  This can be a time-consuming process, but there are certain “tricks and tips” that can assist you.  The Alexandria SBDC is offering a six-part series on Federal Contracting during the winter and early spring of 2012, so visit our website events page often, connect with us however you’d prefer (email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or AlexandriaSmallBusiness.com) or contact the SBDC for more details.  We also offer inpidual business development counseling for both federal and state contracting to City of Alexandria businesses.

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Photo courtesy of Cliff

Small Businesses Are on Alert, FBI Is Watching Social Media

FBI Announces Plans to Monitor Social MediaIn a spooky and telling move, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced plans to start downloading and reviewing the public data available from social networking sites. On the surface, the issue seems benign as its data that is already out there on the Web for anyone to see. FBI, in their statement, “will not focus on specific persons or protected groups, but on words that relate to ‘events’ and ‘crisis,’ and activities constituting violations of federal criminal law or threats to national security.” That sounds like double-speak legalese to me to say that they’ll be watching anything and everything they’ll get their hands on. However, to temper my concerns, I’m glad that there are organizations out there that will be monitoring what the FBI will be doing.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has weighed in on the matter and is quite concerned about the stifling of individuals’ privacy on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and others. They are certainly the organization to watch as this movement by the US government and its agencies begins.

Who is the EFF?

(from their website’s About page)

From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990—well before the Internet was on most people’s radar—and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today.

What are the implications for Small Business?

In a word: tremendous. Businesses are just learning the power of Social Search, using social networks and social media to conduct market research and find their customers on the Web, as well as the benefits of content marketing, using social media to engage with their target audience through content. If people become reluctant to speak comfortably about themselves on the Web, Social Web content will decline and the real-time, real-world experiential knowledge Small Business was garnering from their target audience diminishes in value. Additionally, that means that businesses will draw back adoption of content marketing strategies, which will leave a struggling economy in limbo about how businesses can generate consistently new clients. All this doesn’t even take into account how the FBI will use this data in taking actions against businesses with their data.

So, it seems like we’re on guard and alert that changes are on the horizon for Social Media and how Small Business can depend on content marketing as the next generation of marketing strategy. Summarily I think we, as business owners, should pay attention and not change our plans based on this one announcement, but don’t be afraid to change as the tide does. If you’d like to read the original article from New Scientist, it’s a good background on the matter. And, in the words of the British propaganda poster (which has seen a revival, albeit in the commercial sense), Keep Calm and Carry On.

Think. Shop. Buy. Local. Join the Movement, Small Businesses!

think. shop. buy. local: join the movement! (c) Retail Merchants AssociationIf you haven’t heard about it already, the Retail Merchants Association has launched a campaign and website, ThinkShopBuyLocal.com, to encourage consumers and businesses to join a movement to support retail business in local communities.

I can’t say it better than them on their main page, so here’s what it says about each aspect of the campaign:

Think:

  • Your local businesses give back more to the community.
  • More of your dollars stay in the community.
  • More jobs stay in the community.

Shop:

  • You can find anything you need locally.
  • You develop relationships locally.
  • You can find affordable prices in our community.

Buy:

  • For every $1 spent at local businesses, 45¢ is reinvested locally. Non-local purchases keep, at most, 15¢ in your local community.
  • Local businesses value, respect and appreciate your patronage.
  • More tax dollars go to schools and roads in your community.

Local:

Join the movement! Take the pledge to show your support: “I pledge to THINK first of my local economy, SHOP first at my local businesses, and BUY first from local companies who give back so much, in so many ways, to my community.”

So, if you know a retail small business in Alexandria that hasn’t joined, please suggest it to them and to have them spread the word to other retail small businesses. And, if you’re a small business in Alexandria, why not patronize your retail small businesses for products you need for your company? It can only help the local economy and the small business community in the City of Alexandria!