community

Marketing Tactic: Doing Something People Aren’t Willing To Do

As Tim Gunn would say, I 'made it work' so I could live stream the Bar Harbor Fourth of July Parade as I promised by duct taping my 15 inch laptop out the window.

As Tim Gunn would say, I ‘made it work’ so I could live stream the Bar Harbor Fourth of July Parade as I promised by duct taping my 15 inch laptop out the window.

Bar Harbor, Maine has an epic Fourth of July celebration. It starts with the local Rotary Club’s Pancake Breakfast, followed by the parade at 10 am, and an afternoon of activities that include a craft fair, lobster races, and the MDI Seafood Festival (and, for many, a very popular activity commonly called “shopping”). In the evening the Town Band plays opening act to an impressive fireworks show that caps off the day. In addition to these Fourth of July spectaculars, Bar Harbor also happens to be the town one of my coworking spaces is in.

This year, I saw a few people in Facebook groups asking if anyone was going to livestream the parade. I had already agreed to volunteer the lunch shift at the Seafood Festival– and since I was coming into the fray anyway, I decided why not do something nice by coming in a little earlier and streaming the parade.

Despite using computers all day in my work, I’m not much of a computer hardware person so I started testing an hour before the parade. It took me a bit to figure out that I couldn’t use the amazing camera on my iPhone 6 for a continuous Facebook Livestream because the connection kept resetting.

After a few false starts (with people watching), I realized I could use my laptop camera and plug that directly into our network so I didn’t have to worry about WiFi. Once it was working, I duct taped my whole setup halfway hanging out our window.

In doing this, I figured out why people hadn’t offered to do it: it’s a pain. You need good internet, good equipment, a good power supply, and a good location.

Because we did the broadcast from Anchorspace (our coworking space), I did the Facebook Live broadcast from the Anchorspace Facebook page. I posted to a couple local groups and to my profile how to access the video (the direct link to where all our videos on our page are: https://www.facebook.com/anchorspaceBH/videos/)

I told them that Friends of Acadia was also livestreaming, linked to both pages, and posted that if they ‘liked’ either page, they’d get notified when the broadcast started. A little salesy? Yup. Instructive and useful though for people unfamiliar with Facebook Live? Absolutely.

Here’s what I was reminded of: when you go out of your way to do something people are asking for that no one else seems to want to do, they appreciate it. 

Here’s a graph of our Facebook likes:

Now these weren’t just 25 Facebook likes I bought off the internet but real people connected to Bar Harbor–whether living here or coming regularly on vacation–the exact people I want to know about Anchorspace.

This group’s first interaction with us showed them that I was resourceful, fun, and tech savvy.

We also generated a lot of goodwill. People watched from other states, wishing they could be here. One woman recovering from an illness wasn’t able to attend but was grateful to watch. While these types of goodwill are not measurable, they are still worthwhile.

In other words, I think it’s always nice for us to look around our communities, our markets, our lives and see where people are asking for things without people providing them… and if we can help, we should. It’s our responsibility as people to make things easier for others… and if we make a few sales or get a few Facebook likes in the process, that’s ok too.

And if you want to watch the parade, here’s the recording (feel free to fast forward through the first five minutes as I figure out the issue and duct tape the computer to the window sill!):

Our Newest Project: Selling Local Gift Certificates Online With Gift MDI

We all know ‘buying local’ is a great idea. More money stays in the community. We have access to goods and services we wouldn’t have otherwise. We have vibrant downtown centers. New people relocate because they have options to make money. It is a win-win.

But most of us need a little push to do this, and it often boils down to a matter of modern day convenience. It wouldn’t surprise you to learn that organizations with online donations get more donations or volunteer participation increases with the ability for volunteers to sign up online… so how can we make ‘buying local’ something more people can do online?

Option 1: Build every local business an online shopping cart. Not only is this overkill/expensive but some businesses don’t want to maintain an online cart, which involves shipping orders, making sure the stock is up-to-date, etc. Also this option doesn’t consider service businesses like restaurants or cleaning services.
Option 2: Have a database of information of where you can purchase different kinds of goods/services in a community. I don’t mind paying an extra $20 for a raincoat at a local shop. I do mind spending an hour long lunch break shopping for one only to spend half my time going to stores that don’t carry rain coats. This ‘here’s what you got locally’ information would either be a ridiculous-to-program website or involve some very knowledgeable people being available at regular intervals to take phone calls. In other words, not ideal.
Option 3: Sell local gift certificates/gift cards online for businesses.  



It seemed obvious to me that selling local gift certificates seemed not only the best place to start but also an area where most businesses are missing out on potential revenue. Gift certificates are oftentimes never redeemed or, when they are, the customer spends more than the certificate amount. (Think about it, you get a $50 restaurant gift certificate and you are totally going to order the $8 cake versus leaving $3 unredeemed on the certificate, am I right?) In my own experience, I have given away 5 Anchorspace scholarships as silent auction items in the past two years and ZERO people have come in to redeem them.

We know that:

  • Gift certificates are the most requested item on holiday wish lists, so we know people like to get them.
  • Gift certificates create additional revenue for a business, and since they are never claimed or people purchase above and beyond a majority of the time, they are worth more than face value.
  • Gift certificates are easy to send, meaning shipping costs are non-existent.
  • Paper goods besides gift certificates also work with this model.

So all we had to do was build a super fast, mobile friendly, easy to use website where people could buy local gift certificates online. 

Enter Gift MDI, a website I have been building (with a lot of help from my colleague Dr. Eric York) over the past six months. Eric was the design brain (though I had lots of opinions) and I was the sales/marketing person talking to business owners about this very new idea.

We launched with 14 businesses last Saturday night, and we had our first sale Sunday! If you are a business on MDI and want to be on the site, just contact us.



Our model is simple:

  1. Businesses make more money without more hassle selling gift certificates. If businesses didn’t have gift certificates made, we made them. If people didn’t have an idea of what they could do, we helped them figure it out.
  2. Customers can personalize their experience by sending gift certificates to different people from the same cart and by adding personal messages and greeting cards.
  3. Affiliates can earn money generating sales, decreasing our overall marketing budget and increasing buy in, online and off.
  4. We make our money by taking a percentage of sales, so as not to penalize businesses doing lots of small transactions with a per certificate charge and so as not to penalize businesses with no sales with a monthly charge. You only pay for this marketing when it works.
  5. Once we have our business model down, we take this concept to other communities. This site would be super expensive to replicate, but what is really needed is local community connection and knowledge.



Our goal, besides Gift MDI being our working prototype, is to put $100,000 into the local economy by May 28, 2018 with this website.

I know it’s ambitious but I think we can do it as a community. Sure, it’s a great mix of my customer service, web development, sales, and community development skills but I think it’s something communities need just about everywhere.

If you see this concept as interesting and live locally, please let me know if you’d like to be involved. We’re very open to feedback and participation as this is brand new. I want people to see how vibrant and diverse our local economy is!
If you see this concept as interesting and don’t live locally, please get in touch and we can help get it to yours. 

Thanks to everyone who has supported the effort so far. It is an ambitious project and we are just beginning! Visit GiftMDI.com to buy local and online (yes, you can do both now).



Marketing Monday: Social Media And Economic Development In Small Communities

My friend Ryan Pelletier became the town manager of Madawaska within the last couple years. One thing I’ve noticed since he took this position is how he uses Facebook in particular as a way of reaching the masses. He also has a really straightforward approach (sound familiar?). We decided to ask him how he used social media as a tool to do his job better. We’ve included some of Ryan’s posts as examples in hopes to inspire others looking at this post of what kids of information they can share. 

I see you use your Facebook profile to communicate messages about what’s going on, including changing town office hours or moving public restrooms. What makes you use your personal profile versus an official company page?

For me, I’ve been doing this kind of work for a long time and have amassed a lot of friends and contacts on my personal profile. We have toyed with the idea of an official town profile, but I feel that folks follow me and are used to getting info from me via my personal page. My next plan is to start communicating some of the Town’s notices (meetings, elections, flyers about events etc.) via SnapChat for a younger demographic. I will probably use a town Snapchat account for that instead of my personal one, but I haven’t figured out how to set that up yet.

(Oh Ryan! We do stuff like that!)

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How has your openness changed the way people perceive town government and the Town of Madawaska in general?

People by and large seem very pleased with my style of open communication. Town Government (and really all government) should be an open book. Not everyone will agree with what I or the Town leaders decide to do, but that’s ok. At the end of the day, I have to remember, it’s their town, I just work for them. I also get a lot of compliments from local folks both in and out of Madawaska that have said they notice a huge difference in the perception of Madawaska. That’s the best compliment I can get!

What is the most surprising interaction you’ve had on social media about community development?

Not specifically community development, but, when we were considering the drug testing for welfare proposal. That was very eye opening about the strong opinions both for and against. I got to see lots of opinions expressed from throughout the State on that one.

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Do you have any advice for town governments looking to use social media to promote understanding and interaction?

Social Media is not a lot different than regular media in my opinion. I always say it’s better to control the message than let others control it for you. Just like when I issue press releases or do interviews with the local news, it’s about getting ahead of the curve and letting the people know directly what is going on. So the advice is, keep the message simple, honest and straightforward. Don’t be afraid that your opinion will be opposed. It’s all good!

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