Relationships Drive Business

Strengthening Customer Engagement to Propel Your Business

Phone Call of a Lifetime July 25, 2011

They won!!!

 

The waiting and secrecy is over. Distinctive Gardens is a Big Break winner!

At midnight on July 19 voting for AmEx OPEN’s Facebook Big Break for small business closed. Then the waiting began.

And when that ended the secrecy started. And the work for the next phase.  Finalists learned their fate within 24 hours of the last vote. They were sworn to secrecy, actually signed to secrecy.

Here’s some notes from the big phone call, as recalled by Bud:

“We at AmEx and FB were very impressed with all you did to get the votes”….  “We know how hard you have worked”…..   “We’re so very happy you won.   We really really like what you are doing”…..     “Bud you’re a star”  (Bud’s response through the tears). “That’s what the kids say, but I’m just Bud.”

The hard work part is no joke. Here’s a taste of what they did to get out the vote:

  1. Developed 4 sets of web and Facebook Page graphics to keep people interested (the graphic above, for the win is #5)
  2. Created press release, posters and invites  for the Big Surprise Bash, and for the Finalist announcement
  3. Walked the town in Dixon and Sterling before voting started, inviting people to the Big Surprise Bash
  4. Made a Prezi trailer for the Big Surprise Bash
  5. Learned to use Twitter
  6. Created an Our Story Prezi to show at the bash
  7. Passed our “Vote for Us” cards at every bar in town and a local music fest
  8. Thanked every person who fanned their web page, usually a 12 hour/day job
  9. Fed blog content on the experience to SocialPie
  10. Bud’s son and a buddy hit the street to pass out “Vote for Us” cards
  11. The kids also share to all their Facebook friends continually
  12. 13 TV and Radio appearances (either before or after landscape jobs)
  13. Walked town (Dixon, Sterling, Subula) in late afternoon passing out vote cards
  14. Posted every compliment, photo, blog and news mention possible to Distinctive Gardens Facebook Page.
  15. Announced TV and radio appearances to Twitter and Facebook, by now nicknamed DiGgers at the suggestion of a fan.
  16. Created an event on Facebook inviting people to vote and invite their friends to vote. It spawned upwards of 15,000 invitations.
  17. The community was incredibly supportive. There were at least 5 personal friends who posted to their Facebook Pages everyday, the local florist used their sign, “Vote Distinctive Gardens on Facebook;” other businesses supported DG in their ad space and with in-store signage.

Overall it was an incredible experience. Just watching it from 800 miles away I was exhausted and impressed.

They are celebrating today for sure. And I couldn’t be more pleased to have played a tiny role in the whole thing.

BTW – Party at their place Friday night, Ravinia style 🙂

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Did AmEx Big Break Drive Revenue July 20, 2011

 

 

Well, the voting (for 2011 AmeEx OPEN’s Facebook Big Break for Small Biz) is over. What a ride for all the finalists. Winners are announced on July 25, so we have to wait to see who won. Bummer. BUT…impact long term to the businesses that made the Top 10 is happening anyway. All that effort and all the website hits video view should help the businesses, even if they don’t win the contest.

 

What will the exposure created by the Facebook Big Break do for Distinctive Gardens business? Even if they don’t win, the publicity and exposure from being a finalist is nothing to sneeze at. Lisa and I tried to figure out how to measure the impact.

 

Overall we decided that beyond than winning the contest ($20k is a BIG deal) the goal is to drive brand awareness of Distinctive Gardens which could be leveraged to drive revenue growth long term.

 

The real challenge was deciding what we could track that would measure that.

 

We decided to on revenue, and a group of stats that indicate an increase in interest in the garden center that could be precursors to revenue.

Here’s what we decided to track:
  • Foot traffic
  • Retail Sales * – excluding landscaping and maintenance revenues.
  • Facebook Fan count
  • Website traffic
  • Design Inquiry count
  • Newsletter email count
To get a baseline, Lisa measured the indicators for 2 weeks before the release of the Top 10 Finalist videos. Finalists had all agreed to keep their selection secret until the moment the videos were made public on YouTube, midnight July 5. So she used the 2 weeks before that as the “before” baseline.
*Retail sales numbers – Garden center sales revenues is heavily cyclical. July is typically the 2nd slowest month of the year, planting is done, people are vacationing and it’s blisteringly hot in Illinois. So Lisa is measuring total sales from a 4 week period mid-June through mid-July last year vs. this year. That will measure any short term spike in sales. She’ll take another measurement Mid-June through end Sept to track longer term increases during traditionally busier time periods.

 

“How do we isolate and attribute shifts in foot traffic, sales, design inquiries etc.to the BB (Big Break) exposure?”

This is tough. And it’s tough for any form of advertising or promotion. Does Coors Light really know how many more cases of beer they sell specifically because someone saw a Superbowl commercial? No. The ad team takes credit for any increase in sales, sure. But it could be because they also started distributing in a bunch of new stores, or in a county that had been dry.  Or because it was unusually warm in January so people were in  “warm weather, let’s have a beer” mood. Or maybe they got their tax return arrived and they celebrated. There are always plenty of uncontrollable and uncorroborate-able factors.

 

Can you think of any other factors she could measure? Leave us a note in comments.

 

Grabbing Your Community by the Heart July 19, 2011

There's nothing better than community.

 

Today is the final day of voting for American Express Open’s Facebook Big Break for Small Business. The clock stops ticking at midnight eastern time.

 

The tiny community of Dixon, Il and their neighbors are pulling out all the stops to help Bud and Jim at Distinctive Gardens win. You can vote here, if you haven’t already.

 

Here’s the comment stream on the pic. Would your neighbors do this for you? Just fantastic.

 

3 Questions for $20k July 16, 2011

Distinctive Gardens entered American Express OPEN’s Facebook Big Break by answering 3 questions. Here’s what they submitted.

How would you have answered them?

“Tell us about your business.  What makes you excited to come to work every day?”

We love gardening, no two ways around it.  We love gardeners.  They’re the coolest, most open-minded people around.  We love our industry.  These people are honest, enthusiastic, and love sharing knowledge and the joy of their efforts.  We feel lucky doing a job we love. We opened this garden center because it’s a fantastic way to meet like-minded people, and share in our passion for plants, gardening, and community. No gardener (nor garden center) worth their salt is anything if not community-minded. Like our customers, we strive to be good neighbors, seeding our community with the same love it shows us.  We hold benefit festivals, like Gardenstock; teach a slew of first graders on yearly field trips (what a trip); and partner with local businesses and artists expanding art and culture in our town.  We’re a garden lover’s delight growing plants, friendship and community, one seed at a time.

 

“How do you envision Facebook impacting your business?”

Facebook has revolutionized the way we communicate with our customers and community.  In 2009, we started the Distinctive Gardens page, followed by Gardenstock Art & Music Festival, and community project pages: Crystal Cork Art Quarterly, and Second Saturdays Art Happenings.  Seeing results, in 2010, we integrated “like” buttons and “news feeds” into our website to keep fresh and increase connectivity. In our industry, it’s all about creating one on one connection and meaningful experiences.  Facebook offers us “little guys” some “big guy” tools for reaching our audience.  It’s our primary platform for customer conversation outside the physical business.  For community projects its indispensable.  We get the word out and organize large events monthly.  Our little downtown is getting the reputation as an “art town”.  Facebook connections are driving that change.  We want knowledge to further integrate Facebook into communication and online selling activities, customize our page, and enhance community projects.

“How could a Big Break help your business and your customers?”

$20K is an enormous capital influx for our business.  It would take us to the next social media and technological level.  Currently, we are looking into selling online.  We want our website to be a hub of knowledge, selling platform, and social interaction place, a gathering spot bringing people together.  Socially enhanced, we want it to be an extension of our store and community projects.  We want our customers to walk into the greenhouse, click on a QR code, access additional horticultural information, and share it with their Facebook friends.  Last year, we hung posters with QR codes at Gardenstock so concert goers could connect to Gardenstock’s Facebook page and communicate during the festival.  This year we want to extend that by projecting the page live on a big screen.  We want the knowledge to take these ideas further.  A Facebook makeover gives us the information to make that happen.

 

AmEx OPEN Facebook Big Break voting is open until July 19. Vote here.

 

 

 

An Adventure in the Midwest July 13, 2011

Distinctive Gardens put together this slide show telling the story of their AmEx OPEN Facebook Big Break adventure. This takes you from the time they considered entering to launch of the voting on videos.
 

15 Minutes of Fame for AmEx OPEN Big Break Finalists July 7, 2011

 

Despite the fun and excitement of the American Express OPEN Facebook Big Break finalist announcements, the work of running the business HAS to go on. Take a look at the Facebook newsfeed from Distinctive Gardens.

 

These are the moments you stretch as a business owner. Yeah, that can leave a mark.

 

Lisa typically man’s the Distinctive Garden Facebook page. She is getting a baptism by fire being Social Media Community Manager for a Facebook Page that has grown by 40% in 24 hours. Look at her post, she’s nearly overwhelmed at trying to keep up with the posts.

 

And look at the post about the event invite they did. It invited people to vote for them and to share the invite with their friends.  7000 invites in 3 1/2 hours. Wild.

 

Keeping up and running the business

 

Notice also the post from Laura, her wedding reception is at Distinctive Gardens Pavilion on Saturday. The wheels can’t come off, or Laura gets the day of her life overshadowed by a contest.

 

Correction: It’s not Laura’s wedding reception. She’s a guest. The newlyweds are Trisha and Zach Arquilla.

 

What do you think happens next? What do you think they should do next? Drop you ideas/suggestions in comments.

Carla

 

 

 

Distinctive Gardens’ Facebook Big Break from American Express OPEN July 5, 2011

The big city camera crew is freaked out by the grain bin behind them.

 

If you follow SocialPie at all, by now you probably know an my buddy Lisa and her hubby, Bud, are finalists in AmExOpen’s Big Break for Small Business contest. Big Break’s  final winners (there will be 5 of them) are determined by online voting.  (You can watch their video here and vote for them to win!)

 

The garden center is owned by Lisa’s husband Bud and Jim Brown, in tiny Dixon, IL. Lisa and I have been friends forever. We met in 4th grade at John Glenn Elementary School in Donahue, Iowa.  Donahue is super-tiny town of 298.

 

Lisa now lives about 90 minutes from Donahue in Dixon, IL; and I’m outside of Philadelphia.  We reconnected at our class reunion and keep in touch through Facebook.  Mostly through posts on SocialPie’s page, and Facebook Messages.

 

The adventure that Big Break has brought to Distinctive Gardens has been great. It’s been fun to watch from behind the scene’s with her going through the process, watching them stretch their business in the process. And not surprisingly, Dixon, Il is the tiniest of all the finalists hometowns.

 

Today’s post captures the timeline of how Distinctive Gardens came to be finalists for AmEx Open’s Big Break.

 

April 21 ~ “SocialPie” facebook page posts a link to the Big Break competition. Lisa saw the post.

 

It all started with a SocialPie Facebook post.

April 23 ~ Distinctive Gardens enters the first phase of competition with a written submission answering three questions:

1.Tell us about your business. What makes you excited to come to work every day?

2. How do you envision Facebook impacting your business?

3. How could a Big Break help your business and your customers?

May 25 ~ A call comes informing Distinctive Gardens is a top 40 semi-finalist from over 11,000 entries across the country. Later that night a phone interview is conducted. Both the written and oral submissions then go to a panel of three judges who decide the top 10.

Lisa found out she was a finalist!

June 2 ~ A call comes from Digitas in NYC, informing Distinctive Gardens they are one of the top 10 finalists.

June 10 ~ The Big Break camera crew of  from Boston, NYC, LA, and Chicago converge on Distinctive Gardens and spend an entire day shooting and interviewing to make a 90 second video for the competition. (Vote HERE 🙂  The crew:  Jon,Jerry, Kristyna, Casey and Leif parachute (not really)  into on Dixon IL and eat mounds of homemade cookies.

July 5 ~ Facebook and American Express OPEN launch public voting on the top 10 videos to determine the top 5 winners.

 

The Prize:  American Express Open has teamed up with Facebook to give 5 small businesses a Facebook business makeover and $25,000 to grow their business. Wish Lisa luck, and go vote (and tell your friends, too) for Distinctive Gardens!