Social Media Knock Knock

Social Media use it!

There are oh SO many great reasons to use social media (i.e. Twitter, Facebook Page) for your local business. That being said…DO NOT sign up for social media accounts unless you are committed to maintaining them.

In the brick n’ mortar world that’d be like leaving the store untended with everything in locked cases. Potential customers can walk in and ONLY look around. They can’t ask questions or make any purchases because nobody is there.  Plus it looks like it’s been abandoned for a really long time.

In the online social media world customers search for YOUR business. They sign up to follow you. They are specifically asking to be kept up to date. They are giving you permission to socialize with them.

When the first impression of your social media page/account is that it’s being neglected it can affect how they feel about your business.  My particular pet peeve is following a local business (especially ones that I frequent regularly) then not receiving any kind of acknowledgement. As a customer, it makes me feel like I’ve just walked into your store without being greeted.

Social Media use it to stay in touch with customers.
Social Media Don’t Make a Bad Impression

If you’re not ready to add fresh content regularly (stay in touch) then you probably should wait to set up accounts or pages. It looks really bad when a customer posts a comment that is left eternally UNANSWERED. Remember though that you are passing up the opportunity to communicate directly with your customers. To keep them informed. To provide news about your local business. To build a community with your customers and other local businesses.

When customers are looking for you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or others and don’t find you this can also leave a bad impression. The impression that your business may be a little out of date.

I like to look at it this way….when the store is quiet a valuable tweet to followers gives you the chance to treat them as if they are in the store. Thereby eliminating the lull altogether.

Now is the time to put social media to good use for your business!

If you need a little help setting up your accounts, building your social community and keeping them fresh feel free to get in touch 250-710-0594 or



Say Thank You and Mean It!

Wow! What a whirlwind December was. We’re off to the start of another new year. Bye bye to 2014 and hello to 2015. Speaking of December, the month of power shopping reminds me of something I noticed a lot (too much in fact). When you work in retail, without exception you should always say thank you and mean it! This is especially true for small local stores. This didn’t happen with some of my local shopping experiences this holiday season.

I know it’s busy. I know it’s difficult. But…

When I shop in smaller stores I expect to be greeted when I enter, and thanked when I leave and it best be genuine. I want that Thank You even if I haven’t made a purchase. These two interactions are part of the customer experience that keeps me coming back.

Duncan Andison Blackboard with Thank You written on it

Photographic Print Thank You by Duncan Andison

The big bad box store who shall not be named knows how important this is. They pay people to stand at the door saying hi and thank you. All too often though, it isn’t genuine. Just words they are repeating over and over.

Please, please, please understand the time of “buying local” has come. It’s your time as a local business owner to shine. People are becoming more intent on supporting their community by spending money locally. Customer experience matters, it is what can set us apart from big box.

Without exception, do what you have to do to ensure that every person walking in the door is greeted cheerfully and is thanked genuinely when they are leaving.

It’s simple…be honestly grateful that this individual chose to visit your place of business.

I am proud to say that I did most of my shopping locally this year (yeah me!) Also, supported local artists with some of my gift purchasing.


Besides saying thank you, here is some other advice to help improve retail customer experience.

A Busy Busy Christmas Month

Ah December aka Christmas month…

Not like it’s a surprise or anything. Same time, some month, same amount of busy busy busy every year. I’m not complaining, it’s a happy busy. I love the Christmas season. Everything about it.

So many things going on this month I just haven’t been able to write about them. Tons of pictures, just haven’t gotten around to sharing them. They say a picture is worth a thousand words…hmm wonder what a video is worth? Well, I’m going to give it a shot.

As Christmas approaches, there have been so many fun events. We took a bunch of pictures and I planned on sharing A LOT of them. Times running out. If I don’t share them soon Christmas will have come and gone.

The Downtown Duncan Christmas Kick Off…

I remember our first December in the Cowichan Valley watching Christmas fireworks. Being from Montreal, I had never experienced anything quite like it. I mean we had sleigh rides, but fireworks, in the winter? The first year we stood right up close to the town hall. When I saw how close the fireworks were, I’ll admit I was a tad nervous. I had never been that close to them before. 10 years later and it still amazes me, though I do stand further back now.

A few years ago we discovered the Lighted Truck Parade in Victoria.  Again, it was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Now we look forward to it every year. Here’s a video of this year’s full parade. The children in the background are, well I guess you’d say very excited!

Plan was to name each of the shop windows, but I’m running out of time.  Sorry I didn’t get around to it. I’ll try again next year. If you see your store window please give it a big shout out in the comments. The Downtown Duncan windows in all their Christmas splendour needed to be shared so here’s a video….

Please remember (Christmas shopping too)…Support Your Neighbours Your Friends Your Community…Buy Local! Pretty please :)

I Love Cowichan Facebook page



“I Posted a New Photo to Facebook” Pet Peve (Uggg)

Facebook TwitterIf I’m on Twitter, I want to read something, In fact, I want to read something interesting.

If you want me to visit your business on another social media website, for example let’s say Facebook. Then send me there via an interesting thought and a picture. Entice me, encourage me to visit your other post.

I realize the Facebook link shrinks the 140 characters but if the most interesting thing you have to say is…

I Just Posted a New Photo to Facebook …

I’m probably not going to visit. I’m most certainly not going to fave or retweet it. What’s the problem with sharing the picture on Twitter? You’ve got my attention, why risk losing it?

Think about it for a second, you are on Twitter to grow your local business.  To communicate directly with your customers. To increase the number of customers (and potential customers) who are following you. You have a limited amount of  real estate (140 characters) to promote your business, and instead you’re promoting Facebook?

I realize most likely, you want customers to visit your Facebook page because there you can offer more information. You may have a page (or pages) set up specifically geared to offering valuable information to your customers, freebies, coupons. It’s a great way to stay in touch with customers and for customers to like/share your pages. You can manage lists and campaigns, the possibilities are endless.

BUT…right now we’re talking about you having somebody’s attention on Twitter…

Your Twitter goal may in fact be solely to direct customers to your local business Facebook page(s). You still have to offer something of interest or value. Think of the 140 characters as a headline. An interesting headline will get the click, will get favorited and will get retweeted. A powerful headline & picture; even better!

I know it’s tempting and a real time saver to use an ap that updates all of your social media accounts when you make a new post.  That unfortunately leads to boring and unpopular  Tweets like “I Posted a New Photo to Facebook fb.meblahblahblah”

I’ve taken the time to visit you on Twitter, please give me a little time in return by sharing your interesting Tweets.

Now if you’ll excuse me…I’m heading over to Tweet something (ILoveCowichanca) that will hopefully entice my Twitter friends into reading this blog post.  Have a super day!

Support Your Neighbours Your Friends Your Community…Buy Local! Pretty please 🙂

Support Local Business

Local Business Please Support Local Business

I absolutely love how Buy Local is on the tip of more and more tongues these days, especially for those of us from smaller communities.

Support Local Business Merit Furniture Duncan BCToday when I was out and about in Downtown Duncan I popped into Merit Furniture to look at sofas. Our current couch celebrated its 10th birthday recently. Though it has served us well, the time for a new one is most definitely on the horizon.

I remember we bought the couch when we first arrived in the Cowichan Valley.  The one I bought was a little more expensive than the others. The sales person pointed out that it was made in BC and that this particular company made great quality furniture. She was right. It’s been through A LOT. Not a single spring is broken and the frame is as good as new.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a couch last nearly that long…even before kids.

When we were just about done, Roger mentioned how he has started bringing in some locally handmade (in Duncan!) accent pieces. He showed us a gorgeous corner hutch and some tables.

While he was showing my husband and I the furniture, another customer in the store overheard and joined us. We started talking about how important it is to Buy Local.

Then it hit me. This wasn’t just a case of us as shoppers buying local, but an ideal example of one local business supporting another local business. Kudos to Merit Furniture in Duncan!

As consumers more and more of us are doing our “Buy Local” part.

As a local business owner, are you doing your part? Whenever possible please support other local businesses. Sell locally grown or manufactured products. For whatever services your business needs hire someone local, be it an accountant, web designer, carpet or window cleaner etc.

Support Your Neighbours Your Friends Your Community…Buy Local! Pretty please 🙂

My Buy Local Market Adventure

Duncan Farmer's Market

One of my recent buy local adventures was a tad chilly, a bit rainy and a whole lot of fun.  I finally made it to the Downtown Duncan Farmer’s Market.

Which meant of course. the first thing I had to do was grab a coffee. Truth be told,  it’s the first thing I do regardless of the weather; ALWAYS.

Can’t remember if I had the Dragon’s Tooth blend, the Bulldog Bite or maybe it was the South Seas Serenade, but the coffee really hit the spot. I didn’t catch his name, but the conversation sure was lively.  The product motto is a pretty good indicator of his personality… “Beans so Fresh They Ought to be Slapped.”

Misty Ridge Organic Coffee Buy Local
Misty Ridge Organic Coffee

Great coffee, great conversation and some useful advice ” Warm your mug with hot water just prior to pouring your coffee into it and your coffee will stay hot longer”.

Raw Vegan Organic Dark Cacao
100% Handmade Raw Dark Cacao

While I was enjoying my coffee the stand right across from me caught my attention.

RAWkolates, hmm had no idea what it meant, but the display looked interesting and I was pretty sure I saw some samples.  I poked around for a minute or two while Vida (she introduced herself soon after) finished up with some customers.

Vida quite patiently (I say patiently because I asked a lot of questions) explained what RAWkolates are and that she makes them all by hand.

RAWkolates are handmade raw vegan fair trade organic dark cacao bars & squares. Her treats contain absolutely no refined sugar, no gluten, no dairy, no soy, no sulphites, no GMOs nor wax.

I was a bit hesitant when she offered me a sample, but I have to admit it was a really good. Just the right amount of sweet.  Vida is a Holistic Nutritionist &  Raw Food Chef who lives in  Nanaimo.  She is Island born and raised.  She grows her own food, creates in the kitchen and even builds her own furniture from recycled wood pallets.

RAWkolates are also available in Duncan at Chari-Teas

Just two vendors into my buy local Saturday adventure and it was pretty clear.  People who sell at the market are extremely passionate about what they do and they have some pretty interesting stories to share.

Ummm, that and judging by the number of questions I ask it’s going to take me way more than just one Saturday to get through the entire market.

Vegetable Appetizer Recipes

Buy Local; Get a Dose of Enthusiasm For Free

Scott's Toys & Hobbies
Scott’s Toys & Hobbies Station Street Duncan BC

Enthusiasm; that’s the word I’ve been looking for! When you go into a small local business and are greeted by an owner, you’re greeted with enthusiasm. When they talk about their service or product it’s with passion and with knowledge. They care and also know what they’re talking about.

It isn’t so much about making a sale, or getting you to buy local. It’s about sharing knowledge of a passion that they have built a business around. The sale is a natural result of that interaction.

The foundation of that business is something they are keen to talk about and love to teach others about. Chances are if you’re at that store in the first place, it’s a shared interest.

Small business owners are genuinely happy to see you, and after a return visit or two more than likely will greet you by name.

I’m not sure about you, but nothing makes me feel more welcome and appreciated than when I’m greeted by name and with an authentic smile. I’m a social person, and I like to chat. I absolutely enjoy when shopping includes a visit.

For example the other day, I dropped by Scott’s Toys and Hobbies to pick up some of my favorite oil pastels and was hoping to visit with the owner (Diane).

She is a wealth of knowledge, about her products and her town. It’s a chance to do some shopping, and to catch up on the latest happenings in Downtown Duncan. As luck would have it, she was in and so I enjoyed my shopping experience that bit more.

On the flip side…if you work in (or own) a small local business, please remember the person standing in front of you has chosen to visit your establishment. More than likely over a big box store with bigger selection possibly lower prices.

The reason they are in your store most likely is for the overall customer experience. Ensure you deliver, give them that extra dose of enthusiasm for free and they will be back to buy local again and again.

New Pastels from Scott's Toys & Hobbies I Buy Local
Love my new oil pastels

Scott’s Toys & Hobbies just one of my many favorite places to buy local

Buy Local Twitter Ambassador

Over the last five years I’ve become more aware of why it’s important to “buy local”. I’ve been doing my best to be supportive of businesses owned and operated in the Cowichan Valley, especially in Downtown Duncan.

Besides the obvious…I started to buy local more often myself, I decided another way I could support Cowichan Valley businesses is by becoming somewhat of a buy local Twitter ambassador.

Now, I say “attempting” because it’s been way more difficult than I expected.

Buy Local Twitter Ambassador Spell Check
Apparently re-tweet is causing some verb confusion 🙂

What I expected was, to log in to my Twitter account (@ilovecowichanca) find all of my favorite Downtown Duncan businesses and follow them. Plan was to keep it honest. I would favorite and re-tweet interesting stuff. I would tweet about each and every excellent experience I have as a customer. I would tweet about my favorite purchases.

What I didn’t expect was….

  • to find as few twitter accounts as I did
  • the low number of acknowledgements I received after following
  • so little overall tweeting activity

I don’t think some small businesses realize how powerful a punch the right kind of tweet packs. Nor how many of their customers (plus, potential customers) are right there, ready willing and able to interact with them. They don’t yet see the value in having a Twitter account; the reach potential.

Buy Local Twitter Ambassador Thank you
Always say thanks to people who follow you on twitter

For those that do have a Twitter account, please understand that proper etiquette (manners) still apply in the virtual world. If someone calls or walks into your place of business you don’t just ignore them. You acknowledge their visit and you thank them.

The same goes for Twitter. If you have an account and someone follows you, acknowledge that they followed you by (at the very least) tweeting a thank you. There is a very good chance that the person who followed you is a customer.

You’ve taken the time to set up a Twitter account for your business, don’t have it just sit there dormant. Very little or no activity whatsoever is probably worse than not having an account. You don’t have to dedicate a whole bunch of time but pencil it in.

It’s only 140 characters for goodness sake!

Tweet something of interest (relevant to your niche) at least once per day. Not just a sales pitch in each tweet but something of value. Thank new followers every day.

If you’re stuck for something to say thank specific twitterers (wow that one is most definitely not ok with spell check ) for retweeting and/or favoriting your tweets.

A follower (someone who is interested in your business) is giving you permission to share information with them, don’t pass up the opportunity…and while you’re at it  do yourself a favor, consider following them back.

Support Your Neighbors Your Friends Your Community…Buy Local! (pretty please:)


Raw Carrots Lead to This…

Things have really changed since I wrote this paragraph back in 04’…

“As the song goes…try a little tenderness. Ok, so the song really isn’t about vegetables but it does apply. Maybe the song I’m actually looking for is respect. Way too often creativity and the flavour potential of vegetables is over looked. I mean who sits around talking about veggies or what can be done to make them appealing and delicious? Really, other than just boiling them (to a flavourless death) maybe adding some butter, salt and pepper what else can we do? And, potatoes? Well, that’s just something we eat out of habit.”

My point at the time was that in certain cuisines (French and Chinese for example) vegetables are respected. Care is taken to bring out their delicate taste with just a dash of butter or oil, using only the minimum amount of liquid or steam necessary. This is still true but…

That’s not what I want to talk about right now.  Fast forward to today and WOW things have changed. We really do sit around talking about veggies. Their many health benefits, the amazing variety and fun ways to eat them. Not only is exchanging vegetable recipes now common place, but caring about how and where they’re grown has become a priority for many of us.

Anyway, trying to figure out an interesting way to prepare carrots for Thanksgiving got me thinking about some recipes I had on my old computer. Searching for those recipes lead me to the article I’d written. Reading it made me realize how much times have changed and how much I have changed.

Besides growing almost a decade older (shudder), I have grown to understand the importance of buying local. Which brings me to my point (finally).

Buy Local Buy Fresh
Buy Local Buy Fresh

If you haven’t gotten around to taking the “buying local” plunge yet, why not start with veggies? While you’re at it, you might as well grab some fruit too.  It’s a win win. You support a local farmer and you get to enjoy FRESH produce. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to start scrolling for some carroty inspiration, which reminds me…..I hope to get around to sharing some of those vegetable recipes really soon.