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 The impression that your business may be a little out of date.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 Shelley@ILoveCowichan.ca

 

 

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

 

 

Christmas Decorating at BC Forest Discovery Museum

Building an Igloo at the BC Forest Discovery Centre
BC Forest Discovery Centre Logging Buildings
Duncan BC Forest Discovery Centre

The museum with over 5,000 pieces (from tiny tools, to great big chainsaws even working locomotives) is interesting and educational. There’s always something new to see and learn.  It was originally started with a private collection put together by founder Gerry Wellburn and his family.

The BC Forest Discovery Centre collects and preserves objects related to coastal forestry. It teaches people about what it is like and what it was like, living and working in forest communities of coastal British Columbia.

A walk through the woods is tranquil; nature abounds…BUT, for me I absolutely love the old logging camp buildings.

When I’m going through them, I feel like I’ve been transported back in time. Doesn’t matter how many times I walk around, it always feels magical to me.

Last week, the Duncan (Monk) team celebrated it’s second anniversary of decorating for the Christmas Express at the BC Forest Discovery Centre.

The sunshine was bright, but the wind was cold. Many red noses appeared (not just Rudolph’s).

Watch as the penguin’s home is built and they come to play.

I absolutely love the schoolhouse.  Whoever decorated it, great job!!!

Hard to show the lights during the day, but it will make for an amazing backdrop for the night time Christmas Express train rides.

Go team go….

 

For more pictures visit…

“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

Veggie Recipes

Artichokes for Sale at Market at Campo De' Fiori

Recipes Using Frozen Artichokes

As fresh garden veggies become a thing of the past (well a past season that is) it’s time to start being creative with frozen vegetables. They can be a great off-season alternative to fresh vegetables. Frozen vegetables are available all year round. We don’t have to wait until summer to enjoy garden fresh taste. But… Quality is really important.  Try choosing vegetables that have been frozen within an hour or two of being picked (with no additives). Check for local farm produce that is also available frozen.


 Here are a two nummy artichoke appetizer recipes.

Marinated Artichokes and Shrimp Recipe

Cook the artichokes 1/2 minute less than package directs. Drain well and chill. Beat the egg yolk in a bowl; add the oils, mustard and vinegar, beating steadily. Mix in the scallions and parsley, and then the shrimp and artichokes. Marinate in the refrigerator 4 hours, basting occasionally. Serves 6.


Artichokes a la greque Recipe

Let the artichokes thaw sufficiently to separate. In a saucepan, combine the other ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook over low heat 25 minutes. Add the artichokes; cook 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Pour into a dish (not metal), cool, then refrigerate until needed. The artichokes will keep about 2 weeks. Serves 4-6.


  Serve With Main CourseSauteed Artichoke Hearts

Partially defrost the artichokes. Mix together the flour, salt and pepper. Lightly roll each artichoke in the mix­ture. Heat the oil in a skillet; sauté the artichokes until browned. Serves 3-4.

Vegetable Combination

Recipe Artichauts a la Mirielle

Heat the oil in a deep skillet; sauté the onions 10 min­utes, shaking the pan frequently. Add the artichoke hearts, broth, salt, pepper and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, cover and cook over low heat 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley. Serves 6-8.

Easy Frozen Vegetable Recipes

Dry the artichokes on paper towels. Heat the oil in a skillet; lightly brown the artichokes in it. Add the garlic, peas, lettuce, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat 10 minutes, adding a very little water if necessary to keep from burning. Serves 8-10.

 

Artichokes for Sale at Market at Campo De' Fiori
Artichokes for Sale at Market at Campo De’ Fiori

Click here for some Frozen Broccoli Recipes

Broccoli Sicilian Style or with Lemon Butter Sauce Recipes

How to get kids to eat their broccoli. This first one is an incredibly easy way to add some flavor to your “green trees” as my daughter likes to call them…

broccoli with lemon butter sauce

Cook the broccoli 1 minute less than package directs; drain.

Heat together the butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper; pour over the broccoli and sprinkle with the egg yolk.

Serves 4-6.


 Broccoli Sicilian Style

1 large bunch broccoli, or 2 packages frozen  

1 teaspoon salt

Broccoli, Sicilian Style

Wash the fresh broccoli thoroughly.

Remove the coarse leaves and tough lower portions of the stalks.

Split lengthwise. Place in a skillet with the salt and boiling water to a depth of ½-inch.

Bring to a boil and cook over low heat 5 minutes. Cover and cook over low heat 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and keep hot.

Cook frozen broccoli 1 minute less than package directs; drain and keep hot.

Prepare the sauce while the vegetable is cooking.

Heat the oil in a saucepan; sauté the onions and garlic 5 min­utes.

Blend in the flour and pepper.

Gradually add the broth, stirring steadily to the boiling point; cook over low heat 5 minutes.

Mix in the cheese until melted, then stir in the anchovies and olives.

Pour over the broccoli. Serves 4-6.


 Baskets of Fruits and Vegetables

Baskets of Fruits and Vegetables

 

 

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 www.scottstoysandhobbies.ca