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3 Things Distinctive Gardens Learned from Big Break Metrics August 10, 2011


Publicity does not equal immediate gratification.


There’s no doubt AmEx Open’s Facebook Big Break for Small Business gave finalist (and winner 🙂 Distinctive Gardens gobs of publicity. And it was a ball (and a ton of work.) The nuts & bolts and bean-counter question is —  did it grow the business. Let’s take a look.


Lisa’s main goal was to use Big Break to drive brand awareness and measure results with some key metrics (read more about that here.)


More of the nitty-gritty is below, but first the big picture observations.


3 things the metrics taught us:

  1. Watch for changes in untargeted categories
  2. Metrics don’t measure psychological highs
  3. Small business is a marathon


OK, numbers chicks

Here are the results. She compared year-to-date numbers during the pre-Big Break period to the 2 weeks of Big Break voting (July 5-19, 2011) in these categories:

  • Foot traffic  – up 4.2%, and 20 people specifically mentioned Facebook
  • Retail Sales (all numbers are year-to-date)
    • Nursery +3%
    • Annuals +.4%
    • Perennials +2.5%
  • Facebook Fan count – + 2027
  • Website traffic – hits were way up
  • Design Inquiry count – 3
  • Newsletter email count – not much change, only a couple new names


A couple notes:

  • Foot traffic up 4% doesn’t sound like much. Until you mash-up foot traffic with weather. Dixon was in the midst of that brutal heat wave that crushed most of the country. In fact, July was the 6th warmest month on record for Illinois. Not many people wanted to be outside, let alone plant anything.
  • Overall for 2011, Distinctive Gardens has had a challenging year. On average they’ve been down double digits year-to-date. So the upticks while small, were welcome.
  • Website traffic was not just up, it went global. Typically their site gets hits from IL and the 4 surrounding states. With Big Break hits came from everywhere, including New Zealand. The map up top tells the tale (it’s from July 10.)

The Surprise

In crunching the numbers Lisa found another interesting up-tick — pavilion rentals.  At the beginning of July their pavilion rentals had equaled all bookings for 2010. In the hot, hot month of July they have never booked a pavilion rental.


That changed this year. During Big Break they booked 6 pavilion dates. (Revenue gets hit w/ deposit money) So not only are they ahead of last year, they’ve already knocked last year out of the park. It’s not their core business, but it’s a solid revenue stream that’s growing.


What’s all this mean long-term? No one knows. But common sense tells me this – when guests come to an event at Distinctive Gardens pavilion, it’s like advertising for the rest of the business.  It’s more eyeballs exposed to what they love – artful plantings.


What, dear reader, do you take away from these numbers?




Favs This Week – April 25 thru 29, 2011 May 1, 2011

People ask me how I keep up on changes happening on social platforms. It is hard for sure. There’s no way to read everything, there’s just too much information.

Below are things I’ve read over the prior week that have struck me as important or influenced my thinking. You’ll see the link and 1 sentence about what struck me in the post. Take a closer look if something sounds interesting.

Thanks to Duct Tape Marketing for the idea.

This week:


The Do’s And Don’ts Before Leaving Your Job – First off 36% of people planning to change jobs? That’s a big number. But the main point here is your last impression, how you finish your last 2 weeks makes one hell of a difference. I have first hand experience with this. Both when I quit and when my position was eliminated. You may not get to control when you exit, but you can control how you exit. Do it well.

Watch Email Campaign Results on a Map in Real Time With WorldView – It is amazing what we can learn about customers when we realize that they are real people at the end of those email addresses. This new technology let’s you watch who is responding and pinpoints their location on a map. It’s like reality TV on your monitor.

Royal Weddings over Time – Yes, I watched the wedding. I’m an unapologetic girlie, girl. These pics of other famous royal weddings are beauties. Beyond the beauty of the event, it was fantastic to see two women (Catherin and Pippa) who were so comfortable in their own skin. Even when on such a big stage. Snaps to them! And I pray my own daughters find the same degree of poise.

This last site moved me, nearly to tears. It is a Facebook page cataloging the personal items found strewn about the south after the April 27th tornado outbreak.  The first post I saw was a pic of a zip-top bag holding a baby tooth. The piece of tape on it said “Blyth’s first tooth.” Look through the Photos tab. It is an album of displaced memories. There are pics of found objects, the name town they were found in and how to reach the person who found it. There are baby pics, graduation pics, wedding and prom pics, burial announcements, canceled checks, precious love notes from the ’50s, vacation pics, even an Xray found in someone’s yard. It is a scrap book and time capsule of southern life. Amidst all the loss and confusion, I suspect this Page will help people heal and make feel more connected to the people around them. They are all in my prayers.


Have a great week.

If you missed last week’s, you can find it here.



7 Steps to Regular, Dread-free Newsletters March 24, 2011

Nearly a year ago I started sending out SocialPie’s weekly newsletter. When I started planning it, my friend Russ said, “Weekly? That’s a big commitment.” It made me step back, rethink and plunge forward anyway. Weekly, smeekly. I could handle it.

Fast forward, rubber hits the road. Weekly was a big commitment. Were there week’s I wished I’d bitten off something smaller? Yes. Have I missed a week? No (knock wood.)

At first the weekly churn from idea to article was a drag, it took so much time. Coming up with a topic, finding the resources, getting it down on the screen, editing. It all seemed to drag out and I found myself dreading it. Some week’s I was up until midnight finishing for a 5:00 AM post time. There was even one Friday morning I sprang out of bed realizing I hadn’t finished. It was discouraging.

Fast forward some more, now I have it down to a science, and that’s what I want to share with you, the process that’s evolved. With process and practice I’ve increased the speed it gets done, and that has been encouraging.

Here’s my 7 steps to regular newslettering:

  1. Bookmark an interesting article or comment.
  2. Capture random thoughts on the topic right in Emma (my newsletter platform), save the draft.
  3. Turn those thought fragments into sentences and edit.
  4. Walk away.
  5. Spell check and edit again
  6. Read aloud, edit again.
  7. Final formatting and scheduling.

This process came together over time. I can’t emphasis enough that weekly deadline I gave myself helped me hone a process. Now I turn out newsletters in 3-4 sittings, totally about 90 minutes of my time. Are they perfect, gosh no. But they ship.

Another thing that’s really helped is an editorial calendar. Within my calendar I created another “Newsletter Topics” calendar. That’s where ideas get dumped. Some week’s I get 3 ideas, but I only use 1 topic per newsletter. With the calendar I can dump the extra ideas and links to what triggered them in a convenient place. When I’m ready to write I go to the calendar to grab the ideas. It has made things much easier.

Have you struggled with the same thing? How have you handled it?


Making History March 14, 2011

Filed under: Leadership,Life in General,Successes — Carla Bobka @ 3:21 am
Tags: , ,

This weekend my kids school, Sanford School in Hockessin Delaware, made history. Again.

Our boys AND girls basketball teams both won State Basketball championships. For the 2nd year in a row.

The girls won Friday night in a nail-biter.

And Saturday the boys won in cliff hanger.  Both teams fought incredibly hard. The lead had changed hands 4 times in the 4th period. We were down by 1 point with 4.4 seconds left.   Then one of our seniors, Deon Jones, nailed a 3 pointer from 25 feet. It was just stunning. The crowd went crazy, singing “Dou-ble, re-peat!” It was an amazing moment. And it followed an amazing moment the night before. I couldn’t be more proud.

A couple more amazing things happened that speak to the community of our school and the leadership instilled in our kids. After shaking hands with the opposing team, our guys went over to the head of school, Chip MacKelcan.  Everyone of those kids looked him in the eye and shook his hand.

Then they went to the student section and the crowd poured out of the stands into their arms.

Once the trophies were handed out, it was net cutting time. We’d watched it the night before with the girls’ team, it’s a great moment. Trever Cooney, another senior (he scored 18 points that night and has a scholarship to Syracuse) he went back over to Chip, and insisted he come to the floor and take his turn on the ladder. You might not think that’s unusual. Except six months ago Chip announced his retirement, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is stepping down after 13 years. So a climbing a 12 foot is a risky deal. The team insisted, they spotted Chip on the ladder, ensuring he was safe. The team wanted Chip to have more than a memory of this moment. They wanted to share the experience with him, culminating his 13 years at Sanford. Every parent I could see was teary eyed.

Sanford is a small independent school. Between Junior Kindergarten and 12th grade we have 575 students. Our average class size is 15. Graduating classes are about 60 kids. So the dual state championships are a huge feat. And do to it back to back is stunning. But it isn’t the only extra curricular area where we shine.

Here’s the thing, the championships came a week after the spring musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” If you’ve ever seen it, it’s a big show.  A cast of 30, and everyone sings and dances in classic Broadway production numbers. The performance I went to on Friday night was phenomenal. After the 3rd song I knew there would be a standing ovation.

The cast was ready. They had been rehearsing since November. Can you imagine teaching 30 teenagers to tap dance? And get them to dance 6 or 8 production numbers?

Even though our school is small we have a normal school. There are drama kids and the athletes. There’s not a lot of cross over. But there are great moments that speak to the values instilled in our kids by parents and polished by the culture of the school.

Turns out the Friday performance I went to  was attended by Deon Jones, the guy who nailed the winning basket. He loved the show, thought it was amazing. The final performance was on Sunday, at the same time as the quarter finals boys game. Deon was so impressed with the play, that he posted to Facebook everyone should go to the play instead of the game on Sunday. He assured them the team would win, so people shouldn’t come to the game. They should go to Sunday’s play, or they’d miss out. The semi-final game was later in the week, people could come to that.

That made the cast feel great.

Our school motto is “No talent lies latent.” Our kids really proved that these last 10 days. The play, 2 championship titles. Oh, and end of trimester exams in the middle of it all. Talk about a load.

Great kids achieve great things when they have great leaders. You just don’t get these types of results without talent in the classroom. Students make up the team, but coaches form teams. Snaps to the coaches and the Fine Arts department leadership for the teams they put together. My family is still glowing from the entire thing. I’m thrilled my kids are growing up here.

**I don’t have any pics of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

**Deon Jones has not yet announced where he’ll be going to college. I bet his phone is ringing this weekend.


Negative Post Planning March 2, 2011


Facebook Success Summit 2010 – TweetNotes October 6, 2010

Tonight was the kick-off keynote by Brian Solis, for Facebook Success Summit 2010, brought to us by Mike Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner, one of my favorite blogs.

He rocked it. Big time. (not a surprise, but just as good as a surprise). Here’s his book, Engage.

Takeaway – figure out your Facebook strategy. Why do you want to be there. To accomplish what. Pretty soon people will be buying things with Facebook gift cards. Do you want to be ready when that happens? Start now. (Shameless plug – if you want help with these things call me. Wanna do it yourself get the how-to newsletter)

There are so much good info, it was nuts. The best way to share them with you is via the tweets.
Tweet highlights:

  • New definition of KISS = ‘Keep It Significant and Shareable
  • Facebook Success Summit 2010, the premier Facebook marketing event: #FBSS10
  • Reputation, trust, and relationships are earned through our ACTION and WORDS.” @BrianSolis #FBSS10 [Yesss!]
  • “The average ‘liker’ has 2.4x the amount of friends than that of a typical Facebook user.” @BrianSolis #FBSS10 [Wow!]
  • “No brand is an island. People don’t go to your website as much as they used to.” — @briansolis
  • “By this time next year, you as a brand/brand rep will spend MORE time/resources on Facebook than Twitter.” @BrianSolis
  • “Of the 150 million users on Facebook mobile, they are TWICE as active as web Facebook users.” @BrianSolis
  • “Friends, followers and fans are NOT created equally.” @BrianSolis
  • one last fun fact from Brian Solis’ #fbss10 keynote- Those who put digits in their updates are shared more than those who don’t.
  • Product, Price, Place, Promotion… and PEOPLE! Amen! #FBSS10 @Briansolis
  • “Any company that focuses on a higher purpose outperforms companies focused on profit.” @BrianSolis
  • “Social media is about sociology and psychology more so than technology” @BrianSolis
  • “More than 150 million people engage with Facebook on EXTERNAL websites every month.” @BrianSolis
  • “Someone who provides valuable & relevant content is an influencer.” @BrianSolis
  • “Twitter is a network for *competing for the moment*.” @BrianSolis
  • Target will soon be selling Facebook gift cards to buy what will soon be sold there. — @briansolis
  • Great insight from tonight’s keynote. Make sure your social media voice is engaging, empathetic, transparent and authentic. #fbss10
  • “On Facebook: Keep it short and simple. Saturday is biggest sharing day. Include more verbs than nouns.” @BrianSolis
  • “At the end of this – why? Why are you earning this attn?…hoping to earn this attn?” – per @briansolis
  • Those who use verbs more than nouns are shared more. — @briansolis
  • “The most influential individuals on the social web create, post and share content” – per @briansolis
  • “Saturday is the biggest sharing day of the week on Facebook” – per @briansolis
  • “We should look at continuum versus a campaign”…”use day to day engagement” – per @briansolis
  • “If you look at the social consumer, everything begins with search” – per @briansolis
  • “It’s not a fan page…it’s a brand page!” – per @briansolis
  • “Facebook is your homepage for the social web” – per @briansolis
  • “It’s about finding ways to integrate interaction, stimulate interaction in creative ways” – per @briansolis
  • You’re trying to connect with an individual whose attention is thin” – per @briansolis
  • “Individuals are already becoming more prominent than the brands who are trying to reach out to them” – per @briansolis
  • “Actions speak louder than ‘likes'” – per @briansolis
  • “As a brand, your actions equate to social currency” – – per @briansolis
  • “A lot of this is driven more by social science than technology” – per @briansolis
  • Listening versus hearing – this will create empathy w/ customers. Who is doing your social media comms? {communication}
  • “Ask what drives people to share…Who are your advocates?…Who are your adversaries?” – per @briansolis
  • “The 5th P is ‘People” (beyond the 4 marketing P’s of ‘product’, ‘place’, ‘price’ and ‘promotion’)” – per @briansolis
  • …and turning on the 5th P “takes empathy”, says @briansolis
  • “The last mile that we all need to embrace, define and implement is…the human connection” – per @briansolis
  • “Social media is your platform for communicating [your] mission/purpose” – per @briansolis
  • “To hide from this feedback (once you build your presence) is cowardice.” — @briansolis
  • “If you fear feedback, you may have other work to do before you think about social media” – per @briansolis
  • “One of the common themes I hear is the fear of creating an official page” from corps, says @briansolis
  • “Corp social responsibility goes well beyond charity/ contributions [instead] who are you trying to engage and compel” @briansolis
  • Touching on “the fallacy of social syndication” )the idea of taking one update and broadcasting across the web) per @briansolis
  • “More than 150M people engage w/ FB on external websites every month” per @briansolis
  • “People spend over 700B mins/month on FB…30B pieces of content…ave user connected to 80 pages/groups/events” per @briansolis
  • “Twitter brought out the me” says @briansolis, but it’s important to diversify the brand “you”
  • “Facebook is worth more of your time than Twitter” – per @briansolis
  • “It [Facebook] will not be your only focus, it will be your great focus” per @briansolis
  • “By this time next year, you as a brand will spend more time on Facebook than you will on Twitter” per @briansolis
  • Just wrapped the intro of @briansolis and now let’s live tweet his keynote, “The Case for Facebook and What Your Biz Needs to Know”

And the Clouds Part… August 12, 2010

Today one of clients had a breakthrough. We’ve gotten her a foundation on Facebook and Twitter, and she’s beginning to promote to her customers that they can find her there. I’ve been working with her web designer and graphics person to develop a cohesive look across all the digital platforms.

This morning we went through Constant Contact for the first time. I had set up a template for her, loaded images and mailing list and added the beginning of content so she could see the framework. This afternoon she dove in herself, fine tuned the content, sent a test email and edited the oopses. At 6:00pm she hit send for the first time to all 2000 people on her list.

Prior to this she’d been doing a newsletter but the process was much different. She’d been putting her newsletter together in Microsoft Publisher and attaching a PDF to an email.

At 8:00 I logged into Constant Contact and could see the email was Sent, and she’d had 99 opens so far. I dialed her, “Hello, this is instant gratification calling…” I cannot tell you how tickled she is! One of her customers was in the store when she got the email. She opened it right up, no waiting for a doc to load, my client could see her read it. She could see how great it looked on the phone’s browser – just as great as it looked on her desktop before she hit send.

We’ve been moving toward this point for a month. There’s been 6 meetings, more phone calls and miles of legwork. And we’ve finally arrived at a place where she’s seeing all the clouds part and the golden light shining down on her business from the power of the web tools that had baffled her 45 days ago.

It’s a process, for sure. We have more ground to cover, and believe me her gears are turning on what to do next. If you are frustrated and feeling stuck, give yourself time, trust that there’s a point where you too will see the fog clear.