What if the Silly Putty story took place today in our digital media age. Think of the resources the scientist would have had at his disposal. He could have made a YouTube video of his findings along the way. If you are skeptical or aren’t sure what YouTube is, here is a snapshot: In November 2006, YouTube, LLC, was bought by Google, Inc. for $1.65 billion. When it comes to searching for information, YouTube has become the most used search tool second only to Google. Many people think YouTube is only about crazy people posting silly videos of cow tipping and mud wrestling, however seminars, workshops, and public events of all topics can be found. By typing in keywords and with the simple click of a mouse, one can watch and learn about anything from the uses of Silly Putty to the latest findings on quantum physics or global warming.
Other than satisfying the hunger pains of an ego or scratching the itch of the desire to be famous, what other good might our scientist procure from his original silicone polymer? In short, he would have instant feedback from a global community. Fortune 500 companies spend millions of dollars in focus groups and demographic survey panels trying to find out how the general public will respond to their product or services. These groups are asked to give their honest opinions about function, feature, and packaging of the product. This information can make or break a product before it ever gets to market.
You are a small business owner in Tallahassee and you are ready to take off the training wheels and get out of doing circles in your driveway. You don’t have a million dollars to invest in focus groups or private surveys. So what are your options? You need feedback and you need it fast and cheap.
Here’s a sample of what that might look like:
Let’s say that you are small clothing shop like Sick Boy Vintage on West Gaines here in Tallahassee. You carry one-of-a-kind vintage clothing for MEN or WOMEN, luggage, housewares, etc… You have a few new pieces that you want to find out how the market will respond to. You would need to have a digital shop where people can visit and leave instant feedback. A real bonus would be giving these prospective fans the opportunity to purchase if they felt so inclined.
Being at the right digital space at the right digital media time is exactly what Sick Boy Vintage owner Devon Pyles has done. She started with a MySpace page, http://www.myspace.com/sickboytally. With over 900 friends, she now has a great following. So how did people find Sick Boy Vintage on MySpace? They might have typed in the keywords “Vintage clothes, Tallahassee” or something similar. Just throwing up a MySpace account and posting a few pictures isn’t going to make you an overnight success. Sick Boy Vintage is passionate about everything vintage. No different than when you walk into the physical store, when you visit online you are greeted and interacted with on a very personal level.
The next step was to find a way to have the same level of exposure to a relevant group but offer visitors the opportunity to purchase amazing one-of-a-kind items, so Sick Boy Vintage launched http://www.sickboyvintage.etsy.com. With a prominent link from their MySpace page to the new Etsy.com site, visitors can take the next step if they see something they like. Within Etsy.com visitors can favorite items (Instant Feedback), message shop owners, as well as purchase items. Again, just opening the doors to a virtual shop isn’t going to turn them into the next Gap. It takes daily involvement in running the online shop just as it does a physical store front. The difference is now there are more entry points for revenue, relationships, and future growth. Involvement is key! Whether it is creating treasuries (thumbnails of you favorites from other shop owners) on Etsy.com, or being active in Keep it Sassy Tallahassee, Sick Boy Vintage is right in the middle of their neighborhood.
You can do it yourself, but it can be very lonely especially on the bad days. There is something magical about being a part of something larger. If you have reached a plateau with your current business model, keep this in mind: Being involved means being connected and that is where you and your business can zoom. In this digital media age, placement, relevance, and daily involvement in all your virtual space will position you and your business to move forward! I would love to hear your feedback and comments, keep the conversation going!