A MAKE IT Monthly talk recap
Heidi Carreon, Contributor
In the age of smartphones and laptops, consumers often use suggestions from social media and online sources as guides on what to buy and where to buy it. These tools let emerging brands get noticed like never before, without needing to rely on gatekeepers like big retail stores–if you know how to use them.
In our MAKE IT Monthly Talk in January, we learned about the rise of Vertical Comerce Brand companies, which execute their business and marketing entirely on the Internet. With more than 85% of searches for products and services conducted online, small businesses can compete on the same level with large brands. Yet the flip side of this fact is that the space is crowded with more brands than ever trying to do the same, and those who aren’t native social media users can find it difficult to navigate industry jargon and conflicting advice.
For Rick Kanter, co-founder of e-commerce brand barrio.la, these facts are nothing new. Prior to barrio.la, Rick helped networks such as the Food Network, HGTV, and Travel Channel build brands, grow the distribution, and make money on advertising.
Working a cushy job in television media had its perks, but in 2015 Rick and his sister left their jobs to focus on a more personal passion—supporting their local community. Barrio.la came from their desire to promote products made in Los Angeles. Rick not only promotes the stories of the entrepreneurs who make these products, but also helps them create effective business strategies.
Having a strong digital strategy is key, and so this month Rick shared his best tips with the MAKE IT IN LA community, starting with two important themes:
New brands often deal with issues of organization. Small businesses have to handle multiple tasks when they are trying to scale. Even small teams can lose ideas, photos, paperwork and other information among emails and computer folders.
The solution to this, according to Rick, is to take advantage of free online applications that organize files and communication. Rick highlighted Slack because its users can organize multiple messaging threads based on a topic or particular project. Users would also be able to upload files related to the thread.
Rick also recommended that brands invest in cloud storage such as Google Drive and Dropbox to keep important files in one place. Instead of transferring files with flash drives, members of a team can upload to an online folder easily accessed by other members.
Learn DIY Social Media
Rick has found that many business owners usually don’t try to do their own digital marketing. Many cite the challenges of handling the other aspects of running a business, and so think it’s better to outsource that labor to those who offer expert knowledge and advice. Since marketing consultants can cost between $80 to more than $100 per hour, businesses just starting out need to be scrappy.
Luckily, Rick says that evaluating the social media interactions that work best for consumers is easy—one simply needs to invest a little time creating a digital presence.
Become Discoverable With Strategic SEO Practices
There’s more to it than setting up social media accounts, however. Rick says creating good Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is key to showing up on search results.
“It’s like having an amazing restaurant with amazing food…but no one can find you.” Rick said, “You want people to know about you.”
For websites using WordPress, Rick recommended using the Yoast SEO plugin, where brands find a focus keyword that people would use to search for and make the brand use the focus keyword throughout the site.
“It’s daunting,” Rick acknowledged in his talk. Emerging brands have more than enough to worry about without adding stubborn algorithms and finicky interfaces. This shouldn’t discourage small business owners, however. Having a strong online presence encourages a relationship between brands and consumers. That sort of brand loyalty will drive sales and, ultimately, allow a company to flourish.
MAKE IT Monthly events are a series meant to bring entrepreneurs, manufacturers and business owners together for an evening of discussion and learning on industry trends to help them scale their businesses. For more information, visit the MAKE IT IN LA events page. Sign up to receive invitations and never miss an event.