Rogers Talks Small Business – Event Recap

 In Business, Event Recap

I recently attended a neat half-day power jam for small businesses put on by Rogers. I know, right? That Rogers that is in your living room or powering your WiFi. They seem to be quite focused on developing their SMB offerings, and this national tour was a neat way to bring great speakers to the small biz community. Craig Bentley, SVP at Rogers, said it best: it’s more important to make a difference than sell something.

 

Location, Location, Location

First up was Peter Van Stolk, the edgy founder of Jones Soda. He shared his great story of how he leveraged the customer perspective to be successful, ultimately acknowledging what is being said as a way to validate that. Since leaving Jones, he has moved on to a project based out of BC that does online ordering of organic food (unfortunately, Spud’s not in Ontario). One of the observations he cites about deciding to get into this business was the market size of online food – that it was generally 2% of the market, whereas certain areas online ordering represented 7% (the UK) or 12% (NYC) of the market. So it’s not just the size of the sandbox in which you play, it can also come down to the location where it is.

 

Needle Rising out of the Haystack

PROFIT’s Ian Portsmouth did a recap of the Canadian Business Insights “Why Canadians Buy” study, which I found to be really interesting yet at times unclear. The analyst in me kept furrowing her brow at the handout’s confusing data labels. Universally, the findings make sense – there is a choice paralysis on the side of the small business trying to market itself that often leads to nothing…or trying to do too many things poorly. I go through this awakening moment with my clients as we try to trim the fat on things that are just much too much. You don’t need to be on 12 different social platforms, particularly if you are strapped for cash, resources, and content. Some neat stats were around the perception of small businesses online – that 80% of people (and 90% of milliennials) would shop small biz if they were easier to find and evaluate online. This type of stat makes my heart sing because it really drives home the importance of a well-groomed digital presence. You don’t have to have a million Twitter followers or the glossiest YouTube videos, but what you do put out there has to be thoughtful, good quality, and polished. This is where I get really happy for businesses to be able to compete on the value they deliver, and not be scared off by the millions of dollars large companies can invest in advertising. The CB Insights study also had some interesting findings about text communication with your customers in terms of what, when, and how different age groups want to connect with your company.

 

Talk Like a Human

Consultant Trevor Currie did a great session that talked about case studies – something I resolved to get better at doing for myself. His breakdown of communication was a great reminder of the need to know when the time is right for contextual questions vs. functional questions, and how to best convey your ability to solve a customer’s need. Take for example a dilemma your company may help a customer with every year:

I make 10 cakes a day.

My cakes are delicious.

Your wife needs a birthday cake.

Versus:

Your wife needs a birthday cake.

My cakes are delicious.

I make 10 cakes a day.

CTA: ORDER NOW

A lot of this comes down to one of my favourite reads, Start with Why by Simon Sinek. (This also came up in a neat-ass keynote address I got to see by Louis Efron earlier this month). Will post about what I learned from Efron’s talk soon.

 

Owned and Earned

I think one of the tricky aspects of this great morning was the panel discussion. The audience had some very specific questions, and some of the panellists (from the big guys of Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook) were not the subject matter experts to be able to address them. The shining star of this session was Ten Spot founder Kirsten Wood and she did a pretty super job trying to answer some of the toughies.

One great question that came up that I’ve dealt with in the past was around duplicate content published to your website and a channel like LinkedIn. At the session, I Tweeted a response out that essentially covers the info found in this handy Moz post about owned/earned media.

My thoughts are that you should always aim to create original content where possible, or at the very least promoting it in such a way that is strategic.

Will you post something original to LinkedIn only and try build up your following? Or will you also post a snippet of it to your website using a complementary blog post? Will you post to your blog and index it to be the originator if republishing to another website? Or does the site publishing your post require originator status?

I re-published a post from my blog to LinkedIn around the topic of doing my MBA and it got over 12,500 views on LI. The benefit here is that the content spread to people well outside my network through LinkedIn Pulse (and a retweet from CEO Jeff Weiner). Based on the article above, there is no penalty for duplicate content as you might encounter with websites pasting verbatim content. I published it to my website a month prior to LinkedIn, so that ranking higher than Pulse with an organic search. However, looking back…I would have preferred to think through my strategy for promoting this post properly rather than just feeling the compulsion to “put it out there” and posting it on a whim. Think for example – which link do you wish to promote on social – yours or LinkedIn’s? As with the questions above, your strategy should be thought out.

 

Joe Knows

The closing speaker was none other than fashion darling Joe Mimran. His talk resonated with me the most because, in a lot of ways, I relate to his hybrid brain. On the one hand he is a super-creative, on the other he has his accounting degree – and this is very much the way I think and approach my work. Joe spoke about the need for entrepreneurs to get a foundation of basic business skills (this was in line with Van Stolk’s experience of growing his businesses and needing to learn). Mimran says that there are a ton of good ideas, but entrepreneurs need an understanding of how to finance them. He talked about his time building Club Monaco and Joe Fresh, and it became clear that you cannot clone his magnifying glass eye for detail. He recalled a story of sitting in a meeting where one client wanted so badly to launch their brand with glitzy fashion shows and PR, yet his eyes were fixated on the dead plant in the office’s corner. How can you launch something when you can’t look after the details your customers see in the office?

This anecdote reminded me of a time I sat in client’s office and found myself staring at layers of dust on their office printer. Looking back, that should have been an indicator that they were not down with technology, much like Mimran found that his client was trying to operate out of priority order.

Mimran also shared his client service mantra:

Pat them on the popo and everything will be tickety-boo.

Do with that as you wish.

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