Although the majority of my blog posts are not focused on local Farmington, MO news or stories I could not help but to do a post about a local story that is frustrating beyond belief.
For a few of my thoughts on this topic that were discussed on my LocalTek Tech Tips radio show this morning you can read Local Tek Owner Supports Big River Telephone.
Recently the government awarded Big River Telephone a chunk of the rural broadband stimulus funds based on the ability of the company to rapidly deploy a stable and reliable wireless broadband network that will provide thousands of people throughout Southeast Missouri with the ability to connect to the internet in the same way most of us take for granted, at broadband speeds.
In todays world it is virtually a requirement to have access to high speed internet if a community wants to be able to compete in the business world today, or if a student wants to have access to the same information other students across the US and the world have.
Although I tend to lean to the conservative side when it comes to taxation and stimulus I can see the benefits and the value in programs such as this when done correctly. I accept that the money is going to be spent and it needs to be used on quality programs that create quality, lasting jobs, that provide other benefits for the long term, such as education and economic development. In this case the rural broadband stimulus does that.
Now, for the frustrating part. As part of the award of the funds to Big River Telephone it had been discussed they would locate Big River Broadband, the arm of the company deploying the network, in Farmington, MO which is a rural, but very progressive business community in Southeast Missouri.
In an area such as this it is difficult in many cases for individuals coming out of college to be able to stay local because there are not many professional level technology jobs in the community. This means that there is a drain on the community based on the educated and skilled labor leaving for large cities for higher paying, professional or technical jobs that do not exist locally.
I cannot go a month (or a week) without hearing people talk about the lack of the ability to find a good job or hearing people complain about jobs going overseas or to Mexico for manufacturing. With the economy being what it is small communities need to do everything they can to find high paying, quality jobs that are long lasting in their community.
With most jobs that locate to these regions being low paying jobs that can be moved overseas easily (i.e. call centers, manufacturing) shouldn’t a community fight to get these jobs to their area at every chance they have?
Virtually every community in the area Big River Telephone will be serving has fought for these jobs to be located in their community.
The City of Farmington, once learning of the potential of Big River Broadband to locate in the area, offered incentives for the company to be able to relocate to an unused building in the downtown area.
The TIF amount are rumored to be in the $100,000 range. That is a $100,000 incentive to create millions of dollars of economic development in direct money to be spent by new jobs in the company. That does not include the associated businesses and non-direct impact of long term value to a community having a solid tech company that is growing in the area.
Typically you bring one and more come, also what people sometimes overlook is that this will empower people that once never thought they would have an opportunity to create something to possibly have an idea sparked after being around the atmosphere that a company like this brings.
So, why then, would people complain? Is it just to complain for the sake of being heard? In the community there have been a few folks that have caused a hold up and concern for the many people looking for these jobs because they are complaining about the incentive.
Keep in mind these people complaining are people who are in positions to not have to worry about such things but their lack of foresight and their lack of ability to look at the bigger opportunity this creates has the potential to drive these jobs elsewhere. And they WILL GO ELSEWHERE, they will not disappear. Would this group prefer these jobs go to another community that WILL give something to get this.
Big River Telephone is not some huge corporate conglomerate so people cannot complain about big business getting all the breaks, I have known the team at Big River since they acquired a small phone company in Cape Girardeau and have worked day and night to create what the company has become today.
If the money is going to be spent to provide stimulus I have to look past my feelings on such things and realize the money is going somewhere, the stimulus money will be spent, I want it to better the community I am in and not go elsewhere because people are not thinking about the long term impact but just trying to make a stand for the sake of being heard.
The moral of the story here, no matter if you are in my local area or not, if someone is working hard to keep jobs local, keep your kids from moving away since they do not have the opportunity locally, and are trying to have a long term positive economic impact on your area support them. Do not EVER complain about jobs going overseas if you are not going to support keeping jobs in your community.
I never had the opportunity to stay in the community I live in based on the fact there was not a professional level job that offered the opportunity to do what I wanted to do or an income potential that went with it. I had to travel over 100 thousand miles a year on planes to have that opportunity. I have a son that will be in college in the short term future, he may want to move away but I also like the thought of supporting companies that want to create jobs that can create opportunity for him locally as well.
Thanks for letting me rant!
Dear Small Business Owner,
This letter is being written to help you understand the changes that are occurring that will have an effect on how you run your business and specifically on how you promote your business. The Internet is here to stay, historically small business has relied on legacy media such as newspapers and radio to promote their business as well as advertising only mediums such as billboards. These media types focus on one thing and one thing only, eyeballs. The question you have to ask yourself now is this: Are their better ways to promote my business on the Internet? Is there something other than eyeballs I, as a business owner, need to think about?
You are likely very comfortable advertising with your local newspaper, Yellowpages, and radio station, the same salesperson has been visiting you for many years and you purchase month after month and they talk about the number of houses delivered too, the number of listeners, etc. Have they mentioned anything about the 92 percent of newspapers that have reported a drop in readership or the major drop in print Yellowpage usage?
Now, before you think that you have a business that is immune to the shift or that since you do not sell a product online that promoting your business on the Internet is not for you I would like to give you an example case where a business has grown their business by promoting online effectively.
This specific small business, a 3 person pet grooming salon in rural Missouri, had never had a website because they had never thought that a pet grooming shop would need online promotion, the Yellowpages and Newspaper seemed the obvious place to advertise, everyone has been doing it for years, right????
After someone came into their shop to discuss a small website and targeted promotion on the web they decided that having a website might be “neat” but the company working with them also explained the concept of building the site to allow for targeted traffic that allows for higher customer conversions. This was a new concept to them, advertising had always been about viewers not necessarily only getting visitors that actually convert to customers.
The pet grooming shop decided to move forward and purchased both advertising and a website. The advertising was targeted by community and also very important was the targeting of the website that was developed for them. It was developed specifically to receive traffic for pet grooming customers in their specific rural town.
The results, after just one month of being live the customer contacted their supplier and let them know that they had several new customers that let them know they found them on the web. What does this mean? It means in even small towns people are searching for offline businesses instead of going to the newspaper or flipping through the Yellowpages. This is a group of customers that you, the small business owner, is missing.
For many years small businesses have complained about corporate America ruining community businesses. The same thing has the potential to happen on the Internet. How can you tell? First off you have to ask yourself how you use the Internet or think about how your potential customers use the Internet. If the first thing that you thought after reading that was that this does not matter since you do not use the Internet, the thing you actually need to think about is the second part of the sentence, “think about how your customers use the Internet”. One of the major mistakes many long time small business owners make is thinking that since they are not users that their customers are not.
Anyway, back to corporate America, they have had budgets to do marketing online for years, in many cases if you search for a certain type of business online in small and large towns the large corporate companies show up in the search results. Why? Because they know how to play the “Internet game”. They understood that people are using the web for finding services and products locally. As a small business owner you need to think about this as well. The topic that seems so technical is actually your marketing today. No longer can you think about your website as a technical item but it needs to be looked at as a marketing tool. It is about finding customers not just having a website because it is “neat”.
The next thought many small business owners will have is my town is too small no one is searching for services here. That is also not true and will be changing rapidly. The US government has approved a 7.2 billion stimulus package to drive broadband Internet access into rural America. This means the way people access and use the Internet in these areas will change drastically and if your business is not prepared those “corporate guys” will take business away because they show up in Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Being small and rural does not matter any more. Whether you are in New York City or Kearney, Nebraska the Internet is the Internet and people can find your competitors without having to drive to their doorstep.
So, if you have read this far I want to give you items to think about as you realize that maybe having a presence online that actually draws targeted viewers looking for your service or product is important:
- Targeted Traffic – Here is the best analogy to explain this: Shotgun Vs. Rifle. Think of newspapers and radio as the shotgun approach and targeted web traffic as a rifle. How you get that targeted traffic is the more complicated part. But it has been proven many times that targeted traffic converts at a much higher rate than traffic received from the shotgun approach
- Search Engine Optimization – SEO is the typical way this is said. SEO is the process of building your website in a way that draws the targeted visitors to your business presence online. Think about this, if the front door to your business is locked no one can get in. If your site is not optimized the front door might as well be locked.
- Domain Name Selection – This is VERY important, it is not as simple as just going to Godaddy.com and picking a name. It is important to select something that describes your business and if possible be rich in words that describe that you are doing. This helps gain the targeted traffic that is discussed above. In many cases it is worth the effort and money to acquire this domain name from a third party who may own the name currently. You selected your physical office location based on location, shouldn’t you also choose the best possible location for your online presence?
- Call To Action – Once they get to your website you need to make sure they take action to contact or buy your product. Your site needs to be developed in a way that urges them to do this. This is most often the piece that is overlooked when developing a site (right up there with SEO).
After spending time with small business owners in both large and small towns and cities I have found it very common to hear the comment “My (insert family member here) is building my website.” In almost all cases the site has been done in a way that is not optimized and will never have a visitor because the site was not used as a marketing tool but simply as an item that was “neat”. It is important that you understand that your website is as important to your business presence as the sales people you have working with customers or the office space you have. It is your face to the public, but if no one ever sees it because it is hidden in a crowd and is never seen then it does not matter if it is “pretty and nice looking”. You must optimize your web presence starting at the selection of your domain name and ending at the call to action to act once they get there.
For more information feel free to use the contact me button at the top of this page to get more details on what can be done to help your business prepare.