Small businesses try variety of ways to get themselves attention
NEW YORK (AP) – The growth of the Internet and social media has changed the way small businesses market themselves — the variety of online marketing channels allows businesses, whether they serve consumers or other companies, to focus on a broad or narrow population.
But many owners find that low-tech marketing methods can work for them. For example, a new retailer or restaurant might send discount coupons through the mail to homes in their area. Some owners who consult or provide services like accounting may find that networking and word-of-mouth are their best bets for finding clients. Often, it can take trial and error to find the right approach.
Before owners pick a marketing channel or channels, they need to answer some key questions for themselves, says Ramon Ray, a small-business consultant who often speaks publicly about marketing. Who is your target market? Are you clear about how your service or product will help them?
Here are some tips from small-business owners about selecting a marketing method:
– Owners should consider which marketing method is the best way to get information to prospective customers to help build a relationship, Ray says. For example, an accountant could offer in social media posts to send tax tips in return for a potential customer’s email.
“I’m not trying to sell to the customer first,’’ Ray says. “I want to get their attention.’’
– Social media can be ideal for start-ups. Carolyn Bothwell, whose marketing consulting business is just about a year old, social media has been low-cost and effective. “Over 80 percent of my inquiries come in directly from Instagram,’’ she says. Many of her clients are also young companies and social media channels including LinkedIn and Facebook have worked for them.
– Different social media channels will yield different results. Germain Chastel, CEO of technology consultant NewtonX, says Twitter helps the company be more visible — it shows up at the top of Google searches. LinkedIn is the social media channel most of the company’s clients use, so it’s a natural to try to reach them there.
“You just need to be on the channels that can lend real value,’’ Chastel says.
– Face-to-face contacts can be just as valuable as online marketing. Robyn Lanci, owner of Owl PR, a marketing firm, has “found the best methods for marketing my business are networking groups and pure, organic conversation.’’
Workspaces centered on women on the rise in #MeToo movement
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Entering the year-old workspace ModernWell feels like coming into a comfortable spa. Clean lines give way to cozy touches like footstools covered with faux fur and a roaring fire surrounded by comfortable armchairs. Women type away on laptops at tables scattered throughout.
There is not a man in sight.
ModernWell is one of a growing number of women-only and women-focused workspaces around the country. While many predate the #MeToo movement, their growth has been interlinked with it as it put combating workplace harassment on the national agenda. They’re also tapping into a desire among many women to build a community and supportive environment at work that’s different from a stereotypical corporate workplace culture.
The spaces provide more than just desks and a coffee machine. They offer programs like high-profile speakers or yoga classes, and a chance to build a social and business network with like-minded women. It’s like WeWork, minus the beer on tap and tech bro atmosphere.
“I think women, especially, are craving safe spaces where they can go and be inspired and do really important work without interruption, and without being reminded of all that, too. There’s literally no risk that somebody’s going to sexually harass me here,’’ said Renee Powers, a ModernWell member who founded her business, Feminist Book Club, in the space.
The biggest player is The Wing, which opened in 2016 in New York and has been expanding rapidly across the country. Its San Francisco location opened in October with a nod to the #MeToo movement, naming a conference room after Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before Congress that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in high school. Kavanaugh denied the allegation and was confirmed to the court. Membership to use one location costs $2,350 annually, and the company now has more than 6,000 members, spokeswoman Zara Rahim said.
Most of the spaces allow men, but some do not. The Wing was sued by a Washington, D.C. man who alleged discrimination. Its board soon after approved a membership policy providing that an applicant’s gender identity would not be considered, a development first reported by Insider. Rahim said the policy was being developed before the lawsuit and was unrelated to it. The Wing is also under investigation by the New York City Commission on Human Rights for gender-based discrimination. The Wing said it is working with the commission.
Another fast-growing space is The Riveter, with five locations in Seattle and Los Angeles and plans to open in Austin, Texas, in March. About 20 percent of its members are building venture-scale startups, but the majority are small businesses with just a few employees, or people who work on their own such as lawyers or real estate agents, founder and CEO Amy Nelson said. It ranges from $99 to hundreds of dollars monthly.
About one-quarter of The Riveter’s 2,000 members are men, Nelson said, but the difference is that “out of the gate we’re putting women first.’’
“I think that we’re seeing a societal shift that isn’t going to go away,’’ she said. “Women’s voices are being heard.’’
The space has brought in high-profile speakers such as Sheryl Sandberg and offers activities such as office hours with a venture capital firm and seminars on digital mindfulness or wellness. That kind of programming sets the spaces apart from more general ones, said Steve King of Emergent Research, who studies the future of work and the rise of the independent workforce.
ModernWell founder Julie Burton, an author and wellness instructor, teaches yoga at her space, which also offers events such as a class on women’s memoir writing. Burton said her space grew out of a writing group she co-founded in 2015, which coincidentally was women-only. After the 2016 presidential election, she said many women she knew were upset and she felt galvanized to build a business to help women support each other and empower themselves.
“Whether you are out marching or not marching, I felt we had work to do, and I wanted to be part of the work,’’ she said.
The space has given women from different industries and professional backgrounds a chance to connect, she said.
Those connections help women support each other, battling feelings such as “imposter syndrome,’’ where women question whether they have the qualifications to start a company or embark on a particular venture, Burton said.
That community feeling is what draws some women to the spaces, said Jamie Russo, executive director of the Global Workspace Association.
Co-working spaces in general are on the rise, and as the sector grows, different niches have developed to serve different groups, such as attorneys or people working in real estate, technology, big data or artificial intelligence. For the operators, niche spaces tend to be more profitable than more general workspaces, Russo said.
An analysis by King’s firm estimated more than 14,000 coworking spaces and 1.7 million members globally in 2017 and forecast around 30,000 spaces and 5.1 million members by 2022. There’s little data about women-centric spaces, and while the segment is growing, it is expected to remain a relatively small niche in the industry, King said.
Some spaces offer child care, but until now it’s been rare, likely due to complicated state and local laws around child care, King said. That may be changing. The Wing will offer child care starting this week in one of its New York City locations and soon in Los Angeles.
Jasna Burza, a life and business coach, has a home office but prefers to do her work at ModernWell, where there is a community of women to greet her. She compares coming to the space to the old TV show `Cheers,’ where everyone knows her name.
“It can be really isolating to be on my own,’’ Burza said. “I come here, and it’s my happy place.’’
Activist teachers use education to help reframe argument over money issues
(AP) Los Angeles teachers who declared a victory after a six-day strike have added momentum to a successful wave of activism by educators framing their cause as a push to improve public education, not just get pay raises.
Teachers in Denver, Oakland, Virginia, Texas, Washington and Illinois were planning rallies, marches and, in some cases, strikes of their own — actions that have fed off one another since the movement began last spring in West Virginia.
“Some of this action breeds more action,’’ said Daniel Montgomery, president of the teachers union in Illinois, where the nation’s first strike against a charter school network ended last month in Chicago. “People look around and say, `It is possible to do this. The teachers walked out in West Virginia and the walls didn’t cave in.’’’
In several states, governors and lawmakers are moving pre-emptively to address teachers’ grievances through proposals to increase money for education.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and new House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, both Republicans, emphasized more spending on schools as they were sworn in this month. Elected officials in New Mexico , Georgia , Indiana,Mississippi and Arkansas are among others who have proposed increases in teacher pay early in the new year.
“Some state legislators may get wise and head this off ahead of time,’’ said Kenneth Dau-Schmidt, a labor and employment law professor at Indiana University. “You may see less strikes just because legislatures get out in front of the problem.’’
In Los Angeles, 30,000 teachers returned to work Jan. 23. They settled for the same 6 percent raise offered early on by the nation’s second-largest school district, but they also secured promises for smaller class sizes and more nurses and counselors to benefit students.
Labor historian Joseph McCartin, a professor at Georgetown University, said the recent actions have been more popular politically than a series of teacher strikes in the 1970s because of how they are framed.
“What you’re seeing in each of these cases is when teachers did engage in militancy, they did so not just to win raises for themselves, and sometimes not even primarily to win raises for themselves,’’ he said, “but to push back against the austerity regime that was undermining public education.’’
Montgomery said teachers have made a point to discuss things like crowded classrooms and inadequate supplies, an approach that drew public support for Detroit teachers during “sickouts’’ in 2016.
“They couldn’t strike, but the teachers did a sickout to call attention to rats in school districts and buckled gym floors and standing sewage and things like that, and people see that and they get outraged,’’ the Illinois union leader said. “It’s bringing it to people’s consciousness in a way that they can see and feel.’’
Unions in several districts have been taking cues from the movement that began with the nine-day teacher walkout in West Virginia before spreading to Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and beyond.
Denver teachers were ready to walk out Monday before school officials asked the state to intervene, delaying their plans to strike over the district’s pay scale after more than a year of negotiations.
A Washington state union that represents school employees invited a West Virginia teacher to an assembly last spring after their walkout ended with a 5 percent raise for teachers and other staff.
“West Virginia was inspiring to our folks because the teachers weren’t just saying, `Hey, give teachers something,’’’ said Tricia Schroeder, executive vice president of Local 925 of the Service Employees International Union.
The union represents school health staff and other paraprofessionals from the Issaquah School District east of Seattle who voted earlier this month to authorize a strike amid contentious bargaining.
In Texas, teachers plan to converge March 11 at the state Capitol, where 12 seats in the Republican-led House flipped to Democrats that emphasized education funding during the midterm election.
After teachers in neighboring Oklahoma won an average $6,100 raise with a nine-day walkout last spring, Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria said he received several calls suggesting a walkout. Striking is illegal in Texas, so teachers organized around the election and plan to keep up the pressure, he said.
Teachers across Virginia plan to march on the Capitol in Richmond on Jan. 28 to demand lawmakers restore funding lost to Great Recession-era cuts and pay teachers in line with the national average. Like Texas, where the march coincides with spring break, it won’t shut down schools.
Virginia educators are requesting leave as they test the waters in a state where teacher strikes are illegal.
“When you take on these things, you really have to do them together. It really has to be big,’’ said Sarah Pedersen, a middle school history teacher who helped form Virginia Educators United to build unity. “We’re expecting between 1,000 and 3,500 people. We need to ensure that we can grow to 30,000 to 40,000 people.’’