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


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.


Marketing Workshops to be Scheduled for Warkworth

I’ve just confirmed with Kim MacNeil, Trent Hills councillor for Warkworth, that I will be presenting four marketing workshops at the Warkworth Town Hall Centre for the Arts.

The Centre for the Arts is big enough that it can hold anyone who might want to attend with no problem. It has WiFi so I will be able to do some live demonstrations. The Hall has to be rented, so there will be a nominal charge for attendance. It should be something like $5.00. (I haven’t talked to Kim about opening the doors for folks from outside Warkworth, but I think I have some pull in this deal so I can get you in)    :-)

(Note: All are welcome)

I will be presenting the same workshops in Warkworth that I have presented in Hastings. I have had an opportunity to tune them up a little though; and an opportunity to run through them, so I expect they will be better. In addition I will commit to including additional material, based on your feedback. So, if you attended the Hastings workshops, I am certain you will still come away with valuable information you either missed the first time, or that I have added. The truth is that a couple of months can be a long time on the internet. A perfect example is Facebook completely changing their look and utility between the time I committed to doing the Facebook workshop and when I had to present it. They had me scrambling for a few days, I don’t mind admitting.

The workshops are all running in the morning, from 8:15 to 9:45. I don’t know if that works better or worse for you, but there it is. Dates established so far as below:

Workshop #1 – Keywords and Your Google Places Listing – Thursday, May 10th

  • Keywords, Keywords Phrases, The Long Tail and why you need to care
  • What are your customers looking for? Women’s clothing, women’s dresses, women’s apparel or clothing stores? It’s costing you money if you don’t know
  • Using the Google Keyword Tool
  • Other research resources
  • Google Places, your free internet real estate
  • Common mistakes with Google Places listings
  • Directories, directories and more directories – why they matter
  • Optimizing your Places listing with descriptions, categories, pictures and video
  • Effective use of your Places listing
  • Getting positive reviews
  • Dealing with negative reviews

Workshop #2 – Email Marketing – Thursday, May 17th

  • Best return on investment
  • Your emails are not SPAM, they are wanted by customers
  • Where are you on the relationship matrix
  • What do you do with people who don’t buy today?
  • Managing your list
    • Manually – up to 100
    • Autroresponder for over 100 – As low as $5/month
  • Getting sign-ups
  • Autoresponder features
  • Kinds of email
  • Scheduling emails
  • Construction of an effective email
  • Email topics/content

Workshop #3 – Social Media – Facebook – Thursday, May 31st

  • Why you need to use Social Media
  • What “Web 2.0 means to business
  • Facebook for Business
  • Building your Facebook page step-by-step
  • What an effective Facebook page looks like
  • Getting people to your page
  • Using Applications on your page
  • Facebook advertising
  • Creating content for your page
  • Resources

Workshop #4 – Why Your Web-site Isn’t Working – Thursday, June 7th

  • What your website can do for you, and what it can’t
  • Why it isn’t working
  • Getting found
    • On-page SEO
    • Off-page SEO
  • Driving traffic to your site
  • Making your site “sticky”
  • Bringing customers back for another look
  • A “call to action”
  • Your website and email marketing
  • RSS feeds
  • Blogging
  • Becoming an “authority site”
  • Selling from your site
  • Analytics – who has been there, for how long, from where did they come and what did they look at?

This is a great opportunity to learn a little about internet marketing. The information in these workshops is actionable. You can go ahead with your new knowledge and improve your own marketing enough to put dollars in your pocket. The four workshops add up to 5-6 hours of training that you can’t even buy anywhere locally. An added bonus is that I am there, live, so you can ask questions and get answers specific to your business. It’s not one-on -one consulting, but it is the closest you can come for free (oops, I mean for $5.00).

Hope to see you there.

By the way, I am also talking with Schelle Holmes, president of the Trent Hills Chamber of Commerce, about putting on the workshops for the Trent Hills Chamber members. We haven’t established dates as yet, but I expect them to run in May and June. Details about when and where to be worked out.



Greener Pastures

There are two classic essays about lost opportunity that remain as true today as they ever were. One is “Acres of Diamonds”, written as a speech by Russell Conwell, , the other is “Greener Pastures”, by Earl Nightingale.

The link above will take you to “Acres of Diamonds.” Let me summarize Nightingales “Greener Pastures” for you. Nightingale makes the point that, when you are standing in your own backyard and looking off into the distance, every other yard or pasture seems to be a flawless green carpet. When you look at your own yard, you see the holes, the brown spots, the weeds, the torn turf. Of course, the point of the essay is that, if you could be transported to that far off patch of green, and look down on it from a height of 6 feet, you would see the flaws in it as well. It is only distance that makes it look better than yours.

In the same way, many business owners will spend thousands of dollars on Yellow Page ads, display ads in newspapers, and in flyers that cost hundreds to distribute every week. They are hoping to attract a few new customers. What they are ignoring are their own past clients. Folks who have already qualified themselves by spending money in the owners business. Marketing gurus like Jay Abraham and Dan Kennedy have made millions of dollars by going into existing businesses and convincing the owners to ignore the distant “greener pastures” and to focus on their own back yard “acres of diamonds.”

I have accumulated a lot of marketing material in the last 10 years while I have been learning this skill set. Here are some of the best ways to mine your own past customers for additional revenue…generally by offering them additional value.

  • Make them more frequent offers
  • Find a way to reward frequent purchasers
  • Provide a reward or discount for higher volume purchases
  • Organize a VIP club for your customers that comes with special privileges or discounts
  • Communicate with them regularly through email (or direct mail if the purchase point is high enough)
  • Identify your best customers and treat them better
  • Create continuity programs (you’ll be needing this every two months…why don’t we just sign you up, bill you monthly and we will throw in free delivery)
  • Regularly survey your customers to see if there are related products or services they would like you to arrange for them
  • Create special offers for them by doing joint ventures with other local businesses or services
Most businesses underestimate the impact of simply making more frequent offers to their existing clientele. Think of this…they have already purchased from you so they like and trust you. If you have something they need, why wouldn’t they buy it from you? Many times people are too busy to shop, forget about something they need, or are someplace else when they remember they need it, so they buy it from whoever is in front of them at the time. By reminding them of the availability of your product, you serve them and help yourself.


Plan for the New Year

Planning for Bridge Repairs

Plan Your Response to Bridge Closure

Starting January 1, it’s a ten month countdown to the bridge closure, then we will have to grind out four months of reduced access. There is absolutely no point in waiting until October, and then hoping things turn out okay. The time to start taking action is right now. At least it’s time to start planning. Dealing with a four month traffic reduction seems huge, but there are things you can do.

Any project planner will tell you that to have a successful project you need to have an end goal clearly in mind. Then you identify the milestones needed to get to that goal. Then you identify the tasks needed to reach each milestone. So let’s start with a goal or two. Nothing wrong with having two goals, as long as they don’t compete with each other. Maybe one of our goals should be to generate extra income this year before the closure, to soften the blow of reduced income during the repairs. And the other could be to extend our marketing reach in a direction that won’t be hurt by the closure, so we won’t see such a drop of in business. Let’s take them one at a time.

More Income

How can we generate more income. There are really only three ways.

  1. Get more customers
  2. Get customers to buy more each visit
  3. Get customers to visit more frequently
  4. There is actually a fourth way that is kind of a subset of number one; that is re-activate old customers that have stopped coming in

Fortunately, all of these items don’t hurt our second goal so we can safely work on any or all of them.

Getting More Customers

Getting more customers means reaching out to more people in more ways, to grab their attention. It is hard to improve things if you don’t know how you are doing now. Do you track where you current business is coming from now? If you don’t plan to start. Are people finding you through the Yellow Pages, newspapers, flyers or posters? Which is most effective on a cost basis? Should you be cutting back on one and scaling up a different one?

Getting More Customers

Are you collecting email addresses? Do you have a formal customer referral plan? Have you entered into any Joint Ventures or partnerships with other non-competing businesses? These ideas don’t cost any money to implement.

When you capture clients email addresses, along with their permission to email them, you are in a position to ask them to forward any emails you send them on to their friends. You know how credible a recommendation from a friend is. You ask your friends their opinion of different products and services all the time. You act on them as well. So does everybody. Encourage your satisfied clients to recommend you to their circle. Having a Facebook Places Page makes this very easy to do. Having a Google Places page that your customers can post reviews on has a similar effect.

A Joint venture could be as simple as identifying a business outside of town that has some alignment with your own. You could arrange a simple coupon swap. Every customer that buys from them gets a discount coupon to your store. Every customer that buys from you gets one to their store. This way you both wind up getting some awareness that you might not have had otherwise. Will it generate much new business? Hard to say. But almost certainly any business that results is business you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Worst case scenario, both of your customers feel slightly more appreciated, since you have made the effort to secure them this discount; and the coupon allows you to inform a wider audience about products and services you offer. Maybe giving them information they didn’t have before.

Get Customers to Buy More Each Visit

This one can be a simple as moving a valuable offer right up to the cashier. As your clients are paying for their purchase, offer them the opportunity to take advantage of the valuable offer. Make it something larger, that you have discounted, but that still leaves a good margin of profit. Is there a regular consumable that you don’t often carry but you could order in? Something your customers frequently buy some place else? Can you think of something that you could give them a quantity discount on, that they could come in and pick up next week?

Let me give you an example that might be off the mark, because I don’t know the margins and quantity pricing available to you but they will illustrate my point. What if, as folks were checking out your cashier said, “We are planning a large buy on water softener salt, for delivery next week. If you order three bags today, you can get them for $6.95 each. That’s 20% less than regular price. If you want, I’ll bill you now and we will call you when they come in. You can pick them up right here, probably next Thursday. It’s the sort of thing you need to buy regularly anyway. But this will save you some money.”

You could use the same principle on everything from wind-shield washer fluid to cabbage rolls. Service providers could switch it up a little bit to say “February’s are always my worst month, I don’t know why. If you book and pay for your next appointment now, I can give you a 15% discount.”

You know your customers/clients better than I do, so you will have to come up with examples, but I think you get the idea. You are generating purchases that you wouldn’t have otherwise had. People may be used to purchasing certain products some place else, because your prices have to be higher. By managing larger quantity orders, you lower your costs, and encourage them to increase their purchase amount on something you wouldn’t have sold them. Win/win

Next post I’ll talk about encouraging more frequent visits and re-activating dormant accounts.