Finding the difference

What makes you different? That question was posed to local business owners and nonprofit members who attended the latest “From How to Wow” seminar Tuesday at Kendall Young Library.

The seminar, which focused on both online and offline marketing, was hosted by Webster City Chamber of Commerce Director Deb Brown. Her presentation will also be shown later this month at the Preserve Iowa Summit in Burlington.

Brown’s question of what makes businesses and organizations different was applied to several places around Webster City. While she said the Wilson Brewer Park and Complex could be simply described as a really old cabin, a school house, a church and depot, the Park is unique because the cabins are the first ones built in the county by Wilson Brewer and his family. The area was also explored by the Dragoons, including Daniel Boone’s son.

“A lot of people talk marketing, and they do stuff online and they get excited, but they have no clue what to do with people once they get here. It’s really important to know that every town has businesses, history, historical sites, but what makes you different? That’s a key phrase as you plan your events and activities,” Brown said.

Bringing people to town through marketing has been a big part of Brown’s job, and she said that people need to be given a reason to visit. While people can enjoy art, play and shop in Webster City, Brown said specific events and locations are important to highlight. She noted the Art in Boone River Country Sculpture Event each year in West Twin Park, the cabins at Briggs Woods Park, and Chamber events like Ladies Night Out.

Those marking efforts by businesses are effective, but Brown also said word of mouth marketing is very effective. She said getting out to the hot spots around town, gas stations, restaurants and events and educating people on their business can help spread a message. She also said local service groups are often looking for speakers and programs and businesses and groups should reach out to them.

From there, Brown moved onto online marketing. She presented many different ways that marketing can be presented online, from social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, to websites and blogs. The online world offers many marketing opportunities, and Brown said it can be overwhelming at times.

“You can’t do it all,” Brown said. “But you can choose two or three of these options and do them well.”

To combat that feeling of internet encumbrance, Brown suggested setting aside an hour a day several days a week to only focus on maintaining an online presence because of how important it is. Not only is maintaining a regular presence of two Facebook posts a day at least two or three posts on Twitter critical for a business, but Brown said adding content regularly is what keeps people interested. Posting upcoming events, holding giveaways and posting articles to a page keeps its content fresh.

Brown’s “biggest rule ever” in the presentation was to always put the articles posted on Facebook or other sites to a business or organization’s blog and website. Brown spoke about tips for bloggers, saying they should be upfront with information, tell stories through the medium and post great photos with the blog posts. Keeping the blog posts fun gives an organization a positive look.

“You write one thing, and you post it to six different places online,” Brown said.

The seminar wrapped up with questions from attendees. Lunch at the seminar was catered by Whoop-ti-doos.