Online Marketing Training Can Remove the Sting of Hastings Bridge Repairs

It is hard to imagine any businesses in Hastings that will not be affected by the 4 1/2 month long bridge closure. Many businesses in Warkworth and Norwood and the Trent Hills area generally will also feel a pinch. And not just from the locals who will be taking their business elsewhere. You all know what will face pass-through motorists coming from either the north or the south. Great big detour signs saying that the Hastings bridge across the Trent River is closed and directing them along alternate routes before they even get into town. Anyone wanting to get from the north side to the south side by car (or vice versa) will face a 33-35 kilometer detour. Businesses can kiss the “drive though” traffic business goodbye. So it’s not just customers from the opposite side of town that will be MIA. The flow of business from casual traffic will disappear as well.

The pedestrian bridge will allow walking and those electric scooters to cross, and I have heard many people say that they will be making the effort to cross the river to support the town’s businesses; but if the weather is bad, or you expect to be carrying a load of groceries etc. it is easy to imagine people simply driving to Norwood or Campbellford or Warkworth, instead of walking across the bridge.

Online Marketing Can Help Small Businesses

This is a situation where businesses have little leeway in what they can do, but they can do something. Online marketing provides a zero cost way to make sure potential customers know about you. But it’s not just the name of a business that has to get out there. People have to learn what services or products a business has and what they do.

According to Google there is no catering in Hastings, but when I called up three restaurants, they all said they would do catering. Google says that there is no “truck repair” in Hastings, but Doug Irvine and Jamie McIlmoyle would be surprised to learn that. Google doesn’t know that there is a “real estate lawyer” in Hastings Ontario. Google doesn’t know that there are RV parts and water filters at Home Hardware etc. etc.

If you are a business, you need to stop thinking about simply giving your name some prominence, and start thinking in terms of “what problems can I solve” for consumers. When people have problems, they go to Google looking for answers. The answers you provide need to be findable online, or Google can’t serve them up as search results. If you aren’t making your solutions available online, your online marketing efforts need a boost.

I will be presenting a two hour training session on how to use the internet to improve your online presence, and increase the chances of you getting found by people when they do a search online for products or services. We will cover how to find out what keywords people are actually using when they look for answers to their problems online. And then we will cover how to create an optimized and free Google Plus listing for your business, so you have an online presence. There are numerous other places online where your business should show up, but doesn’t, just as in the examples above for “truck repair” and “catering.” I will be covering the most important of these, and showing you what your profile needs to look like and how you can make sure people can find you when they are trying to solve their problems.

The effect of this material will be to ensure that your business shows up online. Maybe a business has great word of mouth advertising going on, but people new to the area aren’t talking to folks that have been here a long time…at least not initially. They don’t know anyone. When they want something, they look for it online. Make sure they can find you.

The online marketing training is going to happen in January, probably at the Hastings Civic Center. The cost will  be $50.00 and all money goes to the Hastings Historical Society. Everyone attending gets a free family membership to the Hastings Historical Society and can apply some or all of the $50.00 towards additional training sessions that I will be holding in the new year. And all attendees will leave the training session with access to workbooks and videos demonstrating all the material covered, as well as a step-by-step list of actions to take, so that there can be no confusion about what a business needs to do.

Call to register: Paul Stevens at 705-931-2223

More information and an outline of the training is available at

Here are a few testimonials to the full day workshop that this two hour session will be extracted from:

Louise Nettleton – ​If you want to take your online business presence to the next level then you need to attend the one-day marketing course presented by Paul Stevens of Bootstrap Marketing.  Paul touches upon all the key areas that you need to first address and reviews the material at a pace that makes it easy to learn.  I was amazed at the material we touched upon in just one-day.  This workshop is worth every penny! ​The CD material is invaluable – that in itself was worth the price of the ​seminar!
Catherine Hawley – I finally understand on-line marketing! Thanks to Paul Stevens’ one-day workshop “Be Your Own Marketing Department.”
…Paul uses simple to understand language, a slide show indicating where to find what you need to use, as well as videos and guidebooks of the program to confidently continue the workshop on your own. BEST value for understanding and implementing a proven successful strategy to increase business.

Natasa Djordjevic – The seminar that I attended was programmed for local businesses, and I could not find more appropriate presentation for my needs and wants. The lecture saved me weeks of my own research how to plan the marketing strategy. Now I have all basics and overall system and directions on which I will build up the future marketing of my company.


Renee Duckworth – Paul was excellent today giving out important and easy to understand tips on marketing my business. He is very easy to talk to a has a vast knowledge of HOW THINGS WORK

Customer Reviews and Local Businesses

One of the most powerful forces to drive new customers to an existing business is word of mouth. Surveys indicate that 92% of us listen to and trust the recommendations of our friends and family when it comes to deciding whether or not we should do business with a company we haven’t dealt with before.

Reputation Marketing Yelp Review

Online Reviews Help Businesses

It makes sense. We expect that friends and family have our best interests at heart, so they wouldn’t send us to a business that they didn’t believe was good.

Here’s another interesting survey result. Over 70% of consumers trust the online reviews of local businesses that are left by complete strangers. This is somewhat surprising until you start thinking about the dynamics.

We’ve all suffered through poor service and bad products sold to us by shaddy or unscrupulous business people and sales staff. We seem to get satisfaction from telling everyone we know about bad businesses. On the other hand, we get a big kick out of letting people in our own private list of “Good Guys,” businesses and people that treat you well and provide full value. In fact, when we can tell others about a great business they never knew about, we feel a little bit like a hero. We have prevented them from getting taken in by a scam artist.

Online reviews are just this same process only written much larger. How about having the ability to warn hundreds of others away from the bad guys, and direct those same hundreds to the good guys. How great is that. And online reviews can really help local businesses. We know how many visitors and tourists come through Hastings and Trent Hills every year. Many of them have no idea where to go for meals, hardware, vehicle service or anything…but a lot of them use their smartphones and tablets to look online for recommendations. So let’s provide them with the info they need to trust our local establishments. If you can leave an honest positive review, go ahead and do it. But just be careful. Shading the truth or exaggerating how good a place is can have an opposite effect than the one you intended.

Imagine you’ve been driving in the car for 2 hours, the kids are cranky, the AC is busted, and all you want is to stop someplace in the Northumberland hills for a cool drink. You dig out your smartphone and look for lunch places. You read a glowing review about fresh, homemade iced tea and lemonade.

So you stop the car for a break. And find out the iced tea comes out of a can, the lemonade comes in a bottle, the service is poor, and the prices are high. Guess what kind of a scathing review you are going to leave. Angry, disappointed customers are more likely to leave a review than happy ones. And one bad review will take 4 or 5 good ones to erase.

Bad Online Reviews

Bad Reviews Hurt Business

So I encourage you to leave reviews for the good places you deal with. Good businesses deserve your business and support. Letting others in on how good they are is one of the best forms of support you can provide.

For a little more on reviews, you can go to my website Bootstrap Local Marketing


Video Can Boost Your Business

I tried an interesting little experiment recently. I sell used books on as a part time hobby. It’s a lot of fun, I make a few bucks and it pays for my reading habit. A few months ago I cam across a truly valuable book, “Man Ray Photographs 1920-1934 Paris.”

Man Ray was an important artist/photographer through the 1920’s to the 1960’s. The book above was his first, and only about 3000 were printed.  Many copies were destroyed during WWII. Man Ray lived in Paris from about 1920 to just before the war. His book sold mostly in Europe.

I decided that, instead of trying to sell the book on Amazon, I would just use my marketing knowledge to try and get noticed on Google, and sell the book personally.

If you go to Google and type Man Ray Photographs 1920-1934 Paris into the search field, you can see how successful I was. I recorded two videos, optimized them, built some backlinks and did all of this about two weeks ago. As of just now, I have my videos ranked in the number 6, 7, 8, and 9th spot on page one for that particular search. They also take up the first two spots on page two of Google. Then the website I built takes up spots 5 and 6 on page two while I also have the 10th spot with a presentation I posted on slideshare. I then have a spot on page three and two spots on page five.

For a phrase that returns 6,620 results from the Google search, I consider this to be not bad for about 8 hours work.

My point isn’t to brag about being able to rank. If you look at the Google search you will notice that the videos rank higher than the website itself. Google owns YouTube and people love videos, so Google returns applicable videos when a search phrase is entered.

If you watch the videos, you will see that they are pretty simple. You could probably create videos like this yourself. And your videos could rank higher than your website. If they have useful information, people might then click through to your site for more info.

Give it a try and see what happens.


How’s Your Reputation?

Every business either loves or fears “word of mouth” advertising. They love it if they do a great job and have plenty of raving fans, and they hate it if they are constantly upsetting their customers. These days, word of mouth travels at the speed of electrons flowing down a wire, and the mouth that customers are listening to doesn’t even have to belong to someone they know or have ever met.

I am talking about online reviews. It doesn’t matter whether you have a website or not, if somebody looks up your business online in a search, Google will serve them up a heaping helping of info on you. Google has scraped information about your establishment from wherever it can and has created a listing for your store or service. And they are encouraging customers of yours to leave reviews.  Look at the example below.

Bad Reputation = Marketing Dollars Wasted

This review has been sitting there for a year. The only good thing to say about this is that the listing appears on page three of the Google results, so not many customers are likely getting to see it. Now compare that to the likely feeling the following review creates.

Review for Springbank Cottages

Reputation Marketing the Way You Want It

I have written a little more extensively about how to market your reputation, and what the recent changes, in how Google shows your business search results, can mean to your business. Check out my Reputation Marketing post at my Bootstrap Local Marketing web site.

Campbellford Workshops in November (And Maybe Hastings & Warkworth?)

I have tentatively arranged to do a 

workshop in Campbellford sometime in mid to late November. I am quite excited because I intend for this workshop to use case studies involving local businesses. More on that later.

One of the most underused avenues for marketing, available to local businesses, is video. Video is a huge part of the internet now. People use it to learn, inform, amuse and wow their friends almost every day. Businesses who use video are ecstatic with the results. Even a couple years ago, retailers were starting to take notice: “Retail site visitors who view video stay two minutes longer on average and are 64% more likely to purchase than other site visitors.” (Comscore, August 2010)

Video has a way of boosting consumers confidence in their purchase. They have a chance to see a product or service in actual use.  “According to Internet Retailer, 52% of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in their online purchase decisions. When a video is information-intensive, 66% of consumers will watch the video two or more times.” (Internet Retailer, 2012)

Still, is video of any use for small business? Absolutely. People are so used to user generated videos now that high production levels are no longer critical to video success. While it is true that professionally produced videos get more and longer views, many people are just looking for information, and will overlook the fact that some videos are obviously home made.

In the workshop I will be showing attendees how they can create their own good looking videos, and also what to do with them once they are made. I have asked Schelle Holmes of The Holmestead Print & Business Services, and president of the Trent Hills Chamber of Commerce, to find me two volunteer businesses to use. I am going to make one or two videos for each business and then set them up to drive traffic to the businesses websites and stores/offices. There will be a modest charge to the volunteers, to cover my costs, but they will only have to pay $125.00 each. A lot cheaper than an ad on local TV, and the videos will stay up and continue working for years.

I have contacted the Hastings Chamber and the Warkworth Business Association to try out the same thing with each of them. So anyone that wants an up and close look at the process of video marketing, keep your eyes open for announcements, or contact me for details.

Local Events Can Boost All Businesses

This weekend there is going to be a huge book sale at the Riverside Auction Hall in Hastings. Over 30,000 books for sale from $0.50 – $1.00. Friday, July 27th. 12:00 – 5:00, Saturday, July 28th, 9:00 – 5:00 and Sunday, July 29th, 12:00 – 3:00. Sunday is Bag Day. Bring your reusable shopping bag and fill it up for $5.00.

Lots of fiction, non-fiction, new and used books including antique and vintage from before 1900. Covers do-it-yourself, exercise, cooking, travel, self-help, sports, history, crime, nature, science, philosophy, religion, crafts and hobbies. Some reference and university level texts.

Any local business can make an effort to work with others to promote this type of “for profit” happening and see some real benefits for themselves.

Any large sale is going to attract potential buyers. And anything that draws people into town has a chance of spinning off ancillary sales for other businesses. Certainly a town like Hastings, that counts on summer visitors and tourists, will get a boost every time folks venture into the village.

People who frequent book sales will often make large purchases, thinking nothing of buying 10, 20, or 30 books to feed their habit. And when books are selling for $1.00 or less, they don’t think twice about picking up interesting looking titles for friends and family members who aren’t at the sale.

The auction hall, situated as it is on the river, is in a perfect location to more or less force visitors to drive past the local picnic/swimming areas along the waterfront. Folks coming from the south have to pass the gas stations (with their pleasantly lower gas prices), several restaurants, a gift shop, legions of people fishing from the bridge (and the Ultimate Fishing Town sign), the Liquor and Beer stores, and a few B & B signs to get to Al’s Auction Hall. Anyone who hasn’t been in town before will have to be exposed to several reasons to stop for a while, and come back again.

It makes sense for local businesses to support such an event with posters in their windows and also to mention it to customers who are visiting cottagers or tourists.

The more reasons people have for coming to Hastings,  the more reasons they may return, and the more they will boost the local economy.


Effectiveness of Facebook

I just finished presenting a workshop on Facebook for the Warkworth Business Association. There were questions about the usefulness of Facebook. Facebook is a “community” communication device. A business wants to develop a “community” of buyers, or potential buyers that it can keep engaged. It does this by presenting useful and/or entertaining information/applications and fostering a back and forth through posts and comments. Links can be shared, images put up to view. As I told the attendees at today’s Social Media workshop, think of meeting some friends at a coffee shop and the kind of conversation you can have.

A great example of how effective Facebook was seen tonight at the Hastings Legion, when Hastings successfully won the “Ultimate Fishing Town” designation in the World Fishing Network contest for Canada. Much of the excitement around this contest was generated through regular posts on Facebook, in which people could automatically send a notification when they voted for their town. I am sure that the regular posts encouraged regular participation by participants. While a Facebook page might not generate that kind of excitement around your business, it might generate some conversations, some sharing and is a great tool for customer feedback.

A business Facebook page is free, fills much of the same duties as a website, and is fun besides. You should consider one.


Wokshops to Run in Campbellford?

Right now I am engaged in an effort to see the marketing workshops delivered in Campbellford.

Schelle Holmes, of The Holmestead: Print and Business Services, is trying to get them set up for early mornings (8:00 am) in June. They will be essentially the same workshops that I have put on in Hastings and Warkworth. In the process of giving the workshops, however, I have come across some ideas for delivering the information more effectively. The questions from the participants provide direction, and raise interesting points as well. I am happy to be able to include additional and more directed information to my presentation because of this back and forth flow of ideas. So I would say that these workshops should be better than the originals.

These will be the last set of workshops I am running locally for the summer, so if you would like to participate, jump on-board now. If you want to be contacted with the details when they become available, shoot me an email (use the contact form in this site) and I will get back to you.

Speaking of workshops, thanks to those at the last one in Hastings who picked up copies of my book, Online Marketing for Your Local Business. I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review at that link. If you have been to any of the workshops and feel you got value from them, then I also wouldn’t mind a review at my Google Places listing.


Thanks again to all. Look forward to seeing you at the Campbellford workshops.


How Not to Survive, Revisited.

Well, in a previous post a couple of weeks ago, I told the little story of my wife’s desire to take her Mom on an outing to Brighton that Sunday. She asked me to check that the clothing store they wanted to visit would be open, but Lynn couldn’t remember the name of the store. I searched on Google for “women’s clothing Brighton, On” and found nothing. After doing a Google street level walk, along main street I found the “Dragonfly” and confirmed, through a phone call, that it would be open when Lynn and her Mom got there.

The reason I posted was that, even though the Dragonfly had a Google Places listing and a website, they weren’t showing up on a search for “women’s clothing Brighton On.” That was a great example of why you need to do the things I talk about in these posts and on this site.

I used this story as an example of what not to do in the Internet Marketing Keyword workshop I ran in Warkworth yesterday (three more to go, all are welcome, see my previous post for times, dates and topics).

As fate would have it, personal business had me down in Brighton today, so I thought I would do the store owner the favour of mentioning their Google invisibility to them. Hey, maybe I could get some business, maybe not, but it wouldn’t cost me anything to give them the courtesy of a visit.

Just to confirm that they were still not appearing in search results, I double checked with a search on my phone once I got to Brighton. Because I was getting results from Brighton, England, I specified “Brighton Ontario” in my search. Imagine my surprise when my blog post came up two spots higher than the Dragonfly boutique did.

Now, I want to specify, this was a “web” search, not a “Google Maps” search. There is a difference. A web search is more likely to find a website than a Maps search. Still and all, not good for them that my blog came up first.

The owner wasn’t there, so I left a message with the staff and also sent in an email when I got home. And I think that’s about all I can do. Hope they correct their keyword problems. And I hope this little story gets you to correcting YOUR keyword problems.

Till next time.


Next Workshop – Do You Need a Website? What’s Wrong with Yours if You Have One?

The last of this round of Hastings and District Chamber of Commerce sponsored workshops is going to be held on Wednesday, May the 16th, at Bridgewater Coffee and Pizza, starting at 6:00 pm. Originally called “What’s Wrong with Your Website?” I decided to broaden it out just a little, to spend a few minutes talking about why you need a website, and what purpose it serves.

Websites do serve multiple purposes. Check if you have any of these needs.

  • More customers
  • A showcase or catalogue for your products or creations
  • A need to educate consumers about your products or services
  • A need to educate consumers about you or your company
  • A need for credibility as an authority in your field
  • A way sell your product, or information products about your field or niche online
  • A way to provide customer service – FAQ’s, “contact me” info, product instructions, etc.
  • A way to promote yourself or your services/products
  • A way to provide access to additional information – interviews, videos, reports etc.

Now tell me about a company wouldn’t put a check mark in front of at least four of those needs.

A website really levels the playing field between the little guy and the big corporation, in terms of appearance, at least. If you want to go all out, you could elect to spend $5,000 and have an all singing, all dancing whiz-bang web presence that looks fabulous and competes right up there with larger companies. The advertising budget for many small businesses could handle this with no problem. Especially because a well designed website, used strategically, could allow them to cut back on their other marketing efforts.

But it is not necessary to spend that much. A domain name costs about $10-12 a year. Hosting for your website is available for $5 – 10 per month, depending on your needs. So ongoing costs are $72 – $156 per year. You can get a very nice website built for $1500. That is a one time expense, so assuming your business lasts at least 5 years, you could say it costs you $300/year for a total expense of $372-456 every 365 days. Of course, this is a business expense that you claim against income. I hope I have convinced you, with this little numbers game, that you need a website.

There are do-it-yourself options out there that allow you to put up a website for free, if you don’t mind somebody else’s advertising on your site. I wouldn’t recommend that unless you have a good eye for design. If all you want is a relatively plain vanilla, say a 3 page website, you can probably find someone to build you one like this one (Survive the Bridge Repairs Hastings) for $350. Again, that’s a one time expense. If your business lasts five years, your cost is $70 a year for your website. Overall, it is possible to have a web presence for under $150/year, over 5 years. At this price, you need a website if you are in business. You will not find any cheaper way to get information about you and your business out there.

What Your Website Needs

We have already talked about keywords. You should have done research on what terms people are using to look for your product or service. Those words or phrases need to be on your site. Since it is likely that your business is not strictly internet based, but has a physical presence, then your keyword phrases need to have a geographic locator included in them. “Hastings Used Books” is an example of a geographic oriented keyword phrase. “Hastings coffee shop” is another. Read over the Keywords page on this site for more information.

Most websites are missing a “Call to action.” What do you want people to do when they get to your site? Contact you? Leave an email address? Ask for more information? Buy a product online? Whatever it is, you must ask them to take action to get it done. This is the equivalent of the car salesperson saying “Why don’t we get started on the paperwork?” Sometimes you want to offer something to get them to act. It could be a coupon or special offer. It could be information like a special report or video. It could be a free consultation. Whatever it is, it needs to be prominently displayed so there is no mistake about what the visitor is expected to do next.

Contact information, along with your address if you have a physical location, needs to be on every page. In addition you need to have a separate “Contact Us” page, with a form people can use for email. I cannot over-emphasize how important it is to get a list of people who are interested in your business. Once you have a list, you can maintain a relationship with people. Many who do not buy initially will become customers over time, if you do your marketing correctly.

Those are the big three, in terms of what your website needs. Keywords, Call to Action and Contact information – really the fundamentals of any seller/customers interaction, whether on a website, or even in-store. Miss any one of these, and you can bet you are giving up business.

There are also other things, including some technical on-site requirements, if you want people to be able to find you, but I will talk about them at the workshop where I will have a chance to show you examples to make it easier to understand.

As always, happy to see your comments or answer any questions. Just fill out the comments box and I will get back to you.