The Internet and investments in technology is an essential business tool that can benefit us all in expanding and sustaining our businesses. I’ve embraced technology and the internet since the mid 1990’s.
Whether you are the Director of Parks and Recreation, CEO of a small company, a restaurateur, you need to get on board. This is indeed a trip to Mars and the ride will last well into the future.
My family businesses have seen some extreme changes since 1948, when we were first established, including 12 presidents from Truman to Obama, gold rising from $34.00 to $1,700, along with quite a few changes in economics. When it comes to local business, we’ve seen many changes in Ridgefield and its business community.
Technology and the Internet are the most drastic shift in business in my time. I recall installing technology back in ‘82 when my sister Carleen — who worked for Xerox — got it for me. I used to “play” on it and still do and that’s how I’ve learned.”
Today I create many of my own ads, and reach out to many clients and suppliers daily with the use of technology. I rarely speak directly with suppliers and or clients on the telephone; most of our communications are via email and online.
Back in 2008-09 most all of my traditional media advertising came to a halt as sales just fell off a cliff in ’09. I decided to dig deep into the Internet and opened accounts with Google, Merchant Circle, Facebook and a few others and while paying close attention I learned how to use these tools myself. I have hit a very effective stride that has enabled us to sustain our business and even grow it in a tough economy.
Some of our most important sales have occurred during this recession and we’ve even broken sales records.
If you still conduct your position and or business by folks just walking through the door, this a dangerous place to be. How can you sustain your investment or your job? You can’t.
Now think of all the benefits the Internet can offer and yearn to learn. The tools are available. You can learn from your industry leaders, trade shows. Study those leaders that are the most effective, too.
It amazes me when I receive an email blast advertisement from any local businesses with attachments! Even their email contacts are listed where I can see them all! I cringe and want to help others, I want to teach them what I have learned. If you’re not engaged deeply with technology and you’re standing around asking yourself why is my business struggling, technology is a part of the answer.
Addessi Jewelers has been here longer than most small businesses and we understand the importance of acute care and extreme client servicing and relationships.
We have seen not only the changing habits of the consumer and the jewelry industry but also seen an evolution in marketing and how communicating with customers has evolved so dramatically. When it comes to marketing in the past, Addessi has spread their message with sizable investments spending well over $150,000 annually, hiring a publicist, marketing firms, billboards, newspapers, Cable T.V. and magazines. However, with the birth of the technology and the Internet, most of these traditional methods I’ve done away with.
I do believe there is a segment of the business world that are not using technology to their advantage and if you truly don’t understand how reasonable and cost effective online communicating can be, you need to seek help and there is plenty of local help available by calling me or other local organizations.
I saw the potential early and embraced technology as early as 1996 by launching our very first Web site. I also installed laser technology in our jewelry workshop after my jeweler Jeffney brought this to my attention. Email was still in its infancy, mobile phones were too and there was definitely no social media. Since the 1990’s I’ve transacted some of the most important sales in the history of their business with the assistance of communication via email.
The amount of smartphones in circulation in the U.S. being approximately 150 million (50% of population), an increase in mobile devices such as iPads and tablets and the growth of online retail shopping and social media is growing rapidly.
I began working directly with Facebook and other online tools as early as 2009. Working with local Ridgefield based companies I finally settled with Gaia Media Group early in 2012.
I embraced social media communications and marketing. We enhanced our search engine optimization and Internet marketing to engage with our existing customers and attract new ones from neighboring towns, cities and across the country. Our Facebook page just passed 5,000 likes which is up from 700 just less than a year ago. The investment in Search Engine Optimization has meant that we no longer need to pay Google or others for costly pay per click advertising, as our traffic is now mostly Organic. That means the traffic is not paid for, because our online tools and investments are now working for us!
Social Media has allowed us to sustain and catapult our business to where our customers are and observe their conversations and be a part of their conversations, in a way that has never been possible. By running a few sweepstakes promotions, posting important and educational content, blogging, sharing ideas and different products images, we are able to get valuable feedback about the product we should carry and how we can address some of my customer needs — both existing and new.
I also witnessed what it means when a post goes viral when a photo of a particular ring posted on Facebook went viral. Over 70,000 people viewed our one particular posting, which is incredible for any local Main Street store in a little town like Ridgefield.
These are successes you just can’t gain from traditional media alone, especially given that these opportunities are extremely cost effective. My advice to other local businesses is to embrace the Internet and embrace it now! If you aren’t on these new social media and online channels, your competitors are. If you offer a great product, service and more you may continue to lose ground.
This does not necessarily mean going out and breaking the budget from day one. There are plenty of free or very inexpensive online tools that businesses can use today that will help them generate traffic at a local level.
There is no need to pay for local directory listings or such. You just need to be visible and engaging your customers. My advice is to hire a local professional and create a plan and work with them to learn as much as you can. Interview 2-3 professionals and then create a quarterly plan. You can base your new hire on credentials and references from business like yours. Look at your competitors too but from other regions and look to the ones who are successful. Study your industry and look to what other success stories are out there. The changes don’t always happen overnight, but they can happen quickly.
The writer is president of Addessi Jewelers on Main Street, and a lifelong Ridgefield businessman.