Friday, January 7, 2011

Advertising 101 ... Networking

Something Cecile commented on yesterday's posting reminded me ... Chambers of Commerce, let's talk about these. I'm personally member of three different Vermont Chambers. Aside from that I'm also a member of the National Association of Professional Women. I've spent a LOT of would-be advertising dollars on getting here. Now I hate to admit it but some of these organizations are a waste of my time and hard-earned money. One such org, however, is WELL WORTH the Chamber dues and has brought me such copious advertising and networking opportunity that really I feel like I owe them more. This amazing Org is the Lamoille Valley Chamber of Commerce. Now I don't work for them so please see this as it is: a VERY satisfied customer giving a plug. LVCC publishes a weekly e-newsletter that circulates roughly 5000 readers. Advertising in that newsletter (for members) is FREE. Seeing as I do a lot of community events in the Lamoille Area this is a massive media outlet for me. On top of that we have the weekly mixers with area businesses, the Rte 15 Festival, the quarterly publications and other Chamber-run events. And by the way, their dues for a small business such as myself are only $200 annual. Like I said, I'm a member of two other chambers as well as the NAPW and when the time comes to renew ... well, LVCC is the only one who will be seeing MY advertising dollars.

As a promoter, I've come to lean most heavily on internet, Chamber, and word of mouth networking for my advertising. The newspaper and radio rooms like me, don't get me wrong, and they LOVE my money, but I've come to think of them both as last resorts. Internet is fabulous, cheap to maintain and available to the world ... IF you know how to direct the traffic. I have news for some of you who maybe aren't as tech savvy as others, just because you own a web-page doesn't mean anyone is seeing it. I've (sadly) seen businesses spend upwards of 12K on a fancy new webpage then be handed the controls by the developer and just watch it sit there. Websites, like anything, need advertising. There are google and yahoo listings, key word queries, social networking and block ads. A webpage is only as good as the potential consumers who browse to it, and if they didn't already know about Jim's Crab Emporium before the page was up, they certainly aren't going to be typing in any time soon. Now a properly handled webpage can be a gold mine. Once that baby is built, you're looking at usually $150 annual to keep it live and advertised, and for some of us, it may be all the advertising you need. (This totally depends on your business)

Which brings me to the wonders of social networking. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Reddit, Digg, Foursquare ... there are more but come on people, I'm not THAT much of a geek! These free networking options are AWESOME and so easy to start and maintain. If your business doesn't already have a Facebook page and/or Twitter then you need to get on that, pronto. I find both Facebook and Twitter to be fantastic segways for getting online consumers over to your regular website. With suggestions pushing you up in consumers faces all the time, at some point most people are going to get curious and click the link. If the page is catchy and interesting and the first thing they see is a link to your website, they're there. Voila, free advertising!

I'm curious how other Vermont businesses feel about all this. Do you agree, or are there other advertising options you've found to be more useful. I welcome debate. :)

Lamoille Valley Chamber of Commerce:

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