Promoting your small, local business ONLINE

It can be difficult as a small, local business owner, to figure out where best to utilize your limited resources (time/money/energy/creativity) to promote your business. It can also be stressful. In the past, the Yellow Pages was the go-to option. It cost a few hundred dollars to run a large ad for a month, but everyone had one at home and several at work. You only had to think about it once a year. But times have changed and they’ve changed quickly. To illustrate this point, one of our clients who tracks how all their new customers find them went from having ~20 new customers/month who heard of them through a Yellow Pages ad in 2007 to only ~1/month in 2013 (they quickly dropped the expensive Yellow Pages ad after that).  Small businesses are now scrambling to figure out social media strategies, which is hard because big businesses have been at it for a while and benefit greatly from Facebook and Twitter’s strategies to keep their sites free for individual users – they can spend the savings on paying a social media team. At this point, in order to stay effective, it’s going to cost you to have an effective online presence. This is why I believe that whatever social media outlets you choose to use, the corner stone of your online presence needs to be a website.

Self-Host (pay) Sites v. Free Hosted Sites

The easiest way for me to explain the difference is:

Self-Host = mydomainname.ca

Free Hosted Sites = mydomainname.wordpress.com or mydomainname.blogger.com

In my opinion, self-hosted sites are the way to go. They appear more professional, and you can get a great custom email address (eg. myname@mydomainname.ca), and the costs aren’t that high to maintain the site if you are using a self-hosted WordPress template.  The start-up costs can also be very low if you can set that site up yourself. Here is a WordPress set up tutorial that I actually used an older version of a few years back when we built our first websites. The guy who put this tutorial together pitches hard for Bluehost as a hosting service – I also love Bluehost and we use them for all the WordPress websites we’ve worked with. While you can find slightly lower prices from other hosting websites, you usually end up losing out on customer service which, if you don’t have your own IT department, you really need.

What do I put on my website?

The great news is, your website doesn’t have to be complicated in order to be valuable – actually, it shouldn’t be! Here are 5 things you MUST have on your website.

1. Location: If you are a brick and mortar business you need to have your address, a map, a list of the nearest transit stops, where parking is, anything that will help a new customer find you easier. People like easy.

2. Contact Info: Email/Telephone/Fax/Carrier Pigeon put them all up there, with one caveat – List all the ways you want your new and potential clients to contact you – and omit the ones you don’t. Only list methods of contact where you can guarantee prompt, professional attention will be given to a new/potential client – you only get one chance to make a first impression.

3. About Page: Now, your page doesn’t have to be called ‘About’ – it could just be on your home or landing page – but you do need to put up clear and concise information about who you are and what you do. For example, on the front page of CaulfieldWhite.com we have a short video reel that shows off some examples of video and film work we have done in the past. We also have an ‘About Us’ page that briefly introduces our company (what type of work we do, and what industries we focus on) and the two key members (Ryder and me), our backgrounds and what our roles are at the company. This helps prospective clients know who they should be talking to.

4. Products/Services Page: If you sell specific products or services, it is good to describe what they are in detail on your site – if you have an e-commerce site this would be your store, or, if you sell through an outside site like Amazon, Ebay, or Etsy you would link to those pages.

5. Social Media: Most wordpress templates have widgets which will allow people visiting your website to share it through their social media accounts, and/or to like/follow your social media presence. USE THEM.

Should I have a blog?

Blogs are everywhere these days. Do they help? Do they hurt? What should I do? The answer is YES. To all of it. Blogs can be useful to people in all industries, but they can also be unhelpful time-sucks, or worse. Here are three questions to ask yourself to help you decide whether or not a blog is for you:

1. Do you like to write? If you hate writing, or are a slow typist, writing a blog is going to be tedious. Alternatively, if you don’t like to write, you can have a blog by delegating the task to an employee or by using a ghost writer. If someone on your team or in your staff writes well and knows the business well enough to write regular, relevant blog posts (perhaps with some topics/themes provided by you), then you should use that person’s skill and spend your time on other tasks you excel at. If you don’t like writing and aren’t lucky enough to have someone on your team who can take over for you, you might want to consider hiring a ghost writer. With a ghost writer you will need to provide blog post topics and important points to make if not a full outline. It can be time consuming and expensive, though.

2. Do you have enough to write about? An easy test is to quickly write down as many blog post topics as you can think of in 5 minutes. Don’t go into details about the blog, just jot down a one sentence topic. If you are still writing when time is up, WOW! you have a lot of ideas and are well on your way to writing a consistent blog. I would say that if you can’t come up with at least 10 blog post topics off the top of your head in 5 minutes, you probably don’t have enough to write about. This is not necessarily a bad thing…it really depends on the business you’re in.

3. Do you have the time? The most important thing you can do to make your blog successful is to provide consistent content. Whether you post every day, or twice a month, keep the days and times of your posts consistent. This will make it easier for you to build a following.  Most small business owners don’t have enough time to post a blog every day – we put out our blogs once a week. Sometimes we write them week by week, sometimes we will feel inspired and write three blog posts in a day and schedule them for later. The point is that we found a frequency that works with our schedule. Remember, you need to write your post, have it reviewed/edited by someone, take your own images or find royalty free ones online, and assemble it all into a nice package – don’t forget to post it!  You should be spending about two hours a week on your blog, plus responding to any comments left there.

If you said no to any of the above questions, then right now is probably not the time for you to start a blog – reevaluate in another 6 months or a year when you may be in a better position to do so. Having a bad blog (poorly written, barely maintained) is worse than no blog at all – it makes it look like you don’t care about your website, and if you don’t care about your website will a potential client/customer really believe that you will care about them? 

 

Welcome to Caulfield White Creative Industries Inc.

Hi! Welcome to Caulfield White Creative Industries Inc. (formerly Caulfield White Productions) More specifically, welcome to our blog. Now this isn’t your Grandma’s blog (although we do subscribe to it – she’s quite the spunky lady) we won’t be posting the daily ramblings of over-caffienated creative professionals here, you’ll have to check out our personal twitter accounts for those (@arcaulfield + @ryderwhite).

As we start out, we plan to only post to here about once a month (on the first Wednesday, and focus our energies on delivering high quality, relevant content for small businesses, creatives, and makers who want to use the internet to find new clients and better retain your existing ones. Tomorrow we will be sharing our first post “Promoting your small, local business ONLINE”.

We also share our own online marketing insights and those of people we respect via our Twitter and Pinterest accounts.

Thanks for visiting us! Drop us a question about the art of business or the business of the arts in the comments below and we’ll respond to you either in the comments, via email, or perhaps with a new blog post if we have a lot to say on the matter.

-Alexandra + Ryder

Resources

VIFF: The Princess of France

So it’s a beautiful, sunny Saturday at the end of September, not exactly the ideal day for watching a movie so I made sure I took a stroll around before heading to see The Princess of France.

The woman I was behind in line takes a real VIFFCATION every year: two-and-a-half weeks off work watching 60-65 films. I was feeling proud that I was hoping to see between 30-40. Apparently she has no trouble seeing 5 films in a day “as long as you vary them, watch a comedy, then a drama, then a musical, or a documentary. It gets hard if you watch too many that are the same.” I’ve been thinking I might write a post about all the conversations I overhear while at the theatre, or the people who come talk to you when you are seeing a film alone. I always sit next to the people who will talk to you when you’re alone.

Judging on the sounds I heard after the film ended, I think I might be the only person in that theatre who liked it at all. The film is dialogue heavy and in Spanish so all of us English speakers had hurry our subtitle reading, so much so that I feel like I barely got to watch the action. I loved how The Princess of France was structured as a film, exploring time, memory, and re-memory in a light and playful way.

The film heavily incorporates the Shakespeare play Love’s Labour’s Lost, (so it is a mellow drama)which I have to admit that I am completely unfamiliar with. I would like to acquaint myself with that work before revisiting The Princess of France. It is the only film I’ve see so far at the fest that left me wanting to revisit it almost immediately. Next time, I might just ignore the subtitles and see what I get from image alone.

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VIFF: Two Days, One Night

My third and final film for the day was the Marion Cotillard vehicle Two Days, One Night. Luckily for me it was screening in the same theatre as October Gale so I didn’t have to jog anywhere this time. Thankful (finally?) Ryder was able to join me for this film, his first of the fest! I wasn’t sure what to expect going in as the description in the festival program was rather vague, but I had heard good things coming out of TIFF so it got put on my list.

Since I didn’t have any expectations going in I can’t say I was surprised by the film, but I can say that I found it completely fresh. The portrait of depression and ‘recovery’ was unlike any that I have every seen on screen. Raw, grinding, and for the most part without mellow drama. While Ryder and I both agreed that the film ended on a hopeful note, we were at odds about the overall tone – I thought it was generally positive, Ryder did not.

I would definitely recommend you make a point of catching this film at its only other VIFF screening on Wednesday, October 1st at 1:30pm at The Playhouse.

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VIFF: October Gale (and a note about Foxcatcher)

After a quick coffee break, I’m tempted to call it a run, I hoofed it over to the Centre for Arts (a great venue where I watched Foxcatcher last night*) to see this ‘psychological thriller’ that takes place on Georgian Bay in Ontario. Excitingly, and surprisingly to me this screening was the opening for the Canadian Images program at VIFF (I really need to read the program notes better) so there was pretty good attendance for this Canadian-made feature directed by Ruba Nadda.

I know I just told you it was a psychological thriller, but this film was pretty muddy when it came to genre. I really did enjoy the fact that the character of Helen was a doctor facing personal turmoil (for once they didn’t kill off a woman to give a man emotional depth…) but actually, every character in this movie is a huge cliche.

Which isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy (most of) it. I got caught up in the drama, and was following along until the climax where unfortunately they lost me. The actions of characters need to make sense with who we know the characters to be, in this movie though, it felt like they only served to advance the plot.

Spoiler Alert:

Everything turns out okay in the end. I guess, like they said in the film, you can only fall so far until someone catches you.

I think this film will probably get a small theatrical release and some VOD, so I recommend watching it on a couch if you still feel like seeing it. But, if you do want to get the full experience of watching a storm with theatre sound you can check it out on Sunday, September 28th at 2pm at the International Village Cinemas.

*You might have noticed that I haven’t written anything about Foxcatcher. I promise you it wasn’t because I disliked the film, quite the opposite actually. However, I feel quite close to the story as my father was a member of Canada’s national wrestling team around the time the story takes place, and was slated to be an alternate at the 1984 Olympics where Mark and David Shultz won their gold medals. As a result, I am going to try and wrangle my father into writing a nuanced review with me after he sees the film next week. If you want to see Foxcatcher at VIFF, and I recommend you do, your options are:

Thursday October 2nd at 3:15pm at The Centre
Friday, October 10th at 9:30pm at The Centre

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VIFF: a girl walks home alone at night

Day 2!

Once again I didn’t hit any films until the late afternoon, which was a bit of a pity as the pouring rain outside made it the perfect day to hide out in a cinema. I dodged raindrops to make it to the 4pm screening of what I learned from Wikipedia is the “first Iranian Vampire Western” – with a distinction like that, how could I resist?

After seeing the film, I would personally swap Noir for Western – morally ambiguous yet mostly livable characters abound, along with brief veiled dialogue. If you love genre films, you’ll really enjoy this.

It had the feel and pacing of an early Jarmusch film – very Stranger than Paradise – with the romantic glances and sparkly lights of a Sophia Coppola film.

I feel like to fully enjoy A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night you need a beer or two and a couple of buddies, which means the final screening of the film will be perfect: You can catch it on the closing day of VIFF – Friday October 10th at 4pm at the Rio.

VIFF: Before the Final Curtain Falls

Immediately following my experience with 52 Tuesdays, I stayed at the Rio to see Before the Final Curtain Falls – my first documentary screening at VIFF. Unfortunately, I have to report that I found the film a bit disappointing. The stories of the central characters themselves were fascinating, and I enjoyed the documentation of parts of the performance of “Gardenia”, but the film itself felt thrown together. It was clunky to say the least.

The worst part is that I’m not entirely sure I would feel that way if the subtitles hadn’t had about a 20 second delay. It was beyond distracting. The original edit (sans subtitles) paired words and images in a way that someone watching with subtitles would never be able to fully experience.

So here is a bit of a review from Indiewire:

Before the Last Curtain Falls intersperses avant-garde choreography with confessional interviews. Slowly, the outer shell of the performance is peeled away to reveal the essence of its subjects. As Gardenia’s spotlights are replaced by the natural light of day, the cast shares their most intimate stories of great love, loss, happiness, resentment and the dreams that came true. German-Canadian director Thomas Wallner offers “an endearing recollection of life as an outsider, a sincere exploration of queer identity, and a stunning celebration of the communion we achieve in art.”—Oliver Skinner, Indiewire

If you have a space in your viewing schedule on September 29th at 4:30pm it might be worth your while to head down to the Rio Theatre for the final VIFF screening of this film, but I wouldn’t rearrange your schedule for it.

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VIFF: 52 Tuesdays

First movie of VIFF!

The published summary:

So much can happen in a year. For instance, your mom can transition from female to male. Such is the case in Sophie Hyde’s provocative, authentic and refreshingly modern coming-of-age tale. Handled with care and restraint, “(this) accessible narrative experiment boasts breakout talent in front of and behind the camera.” -Variety

I watched 52 Tuesdays at The Rio Theatre in East Vancouver this afternoon. While the venue itself is familiar (it’s in my ‘hood so I like to hit up a Beyonce sing-a-long or midnight movie on the regular), this is my first time going to a festival film at the Rio and I wasn’t sure how it would differ from past festival experiences. There was only one line up outside as that is all the sidewalk allows for. However, they do pull pass holders out of the line for first admission like any other venue.

I’m really happy that this film was the first of the fest for me because it represented the kind of film that I love and want to see more of in the cinema, but that seems to be made less and less these days – the intelligent family drama for adults. Granted, 52 Tuesdays is also a coming of age story, something that is still, and will probably always be popular.

The structure of the film was really lovely; it consisted of 52 vignettes taking place (as you might have guessed) over 52 Tuesdays. I love films with a strict structural conceit, I even mulled around the idea of writing a project that took place on the same day over the course of 10 years. I think I like them because they give the feeling of being less contrived, even if they may be obviously more so. One beautiful part of the film is actually when they break away from that structure in the last moments of the film (I promise this isn’t a spoiler) as it conveys – perhaps more than any dialogue could – the changes that our two leads have gone through.

If you have a chance to catch 52 Tuesdays at one of its other two showings (October 4th at 9pm also at the Rio Theatre, or October 7th at 1:30pm at SFU Woodwards) I would absolutely recommend you jump at that chance.

VIFF

Today is the first day of the Vancouver International Film Festival! From now until October 10th we’ll be seeing a whole lot of movies. We’ll keep you updated on films we love and any crazy shenanigans we get up to.

Looking forward to seeing you at the fest!

Canadian Frame(lines) Update

As many of you will already know, for the year for 2013 we travelled Canada teaching people in small and rural communities to make Super8 films – and all at no cost to the participants or their communities. If you want to learn more about that project you can visit the Canadian Frame(lines) website.

Near the end of 2013 we conducted a fundraising campaign to help us cover the cost of finishing the project which included putting on a gallery exhibition of all the films made by participants in the project (which we did in February of this year) and making DVD copies of the films for all of our participants (which we are currently assembling and hoping to mail out at the end of next week).

Some of our fundraiser’s donor perks included digital downloads of the films made in the project (emailed out last week), a digital download of our ‘How to be a Super8 Filmmaker’ course (this is currently being finalized and will be emails out by the end of October), and tickets to a private preview screening of the documentary Come Home that we shot in the community of Baie Verte, Newfoundland while we were travelling with Canadian Frame(lines). We are excited to announce that the Come Home premier screening will take place in January 2015 in Vancouver. We look forward to sharing more details with you as we approach the new year.

We also want to take a moment to thank everyone who helped us along the way. Our family, friends old and new, and everyone who had taken an interest in our work, we couldn’t keep doing it without you.