Monthly Archives: August 2010

Four free ways to promote a Lawrence business

Last week, my wife, Amy, announced the opening of her new business, Tiny Tykes Playcare. The business is half parent’s-day-out, half preschool, and opened today.

Amy has taught at several preschools in the area such as the Head Start, Brookcreek Learning Center (now part of the Ballard Center), both in Lawrence, and three in Topeka: Community Action Head Start, Let’s Help, Inc. Preschool and Topeka Public Schools.¬†Since the birth of our first daughter, Ember, in 2006, Amy stepped away from teaching for a bit to take advantage of some stay-at-home-mom time. But the opening of Tiny Tykes Playcare means she’s got to “get back out there” and get a little exposure. So, as her website developer and de facto marketing department, that meant I needed to find some places to help get her noticed. Here’s what I found.

Since we’re catering to people who live in Lawrence (unless they’re up for a drive), I looked at Lawrence-centered websites that we could post for free. I’m not opposed to spending a little on advertising, but when you’re first getting started it can be tight. Here’s the top (and perhaps only) three local websites where we could post the business for free. If you’ve got a small business, I hope these help you as well.

Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/

Facebook, the social networking juggernaut, is a far cry from being a local website – or is it? Facebook fan pages are free, and if you’re on Facebook, you’re likely already friends with many people where your business is located physically, too.

Pros: Facebook fan pages offer insights into the demographics of your fans: age, sex, location, language, etc. Most importantly, it creates an excellent opportunity to open a dialogue with fans and potential customers of your businesses. Can easily integrate into Facebooks advertising program when you’re ready to spead a little dough. Many online referrals come from Facebook to the website.

Cons: For the most part, you’ll only benefit from Facebook fan pages’ features if visitors to the page are already users of Facebook. Interface for Insights can be a little clunky.

Craigslist

http://lawrence.cragislist.org/

If Facebook is the new order, Craigslist is the old school king. With a design that has barely changed since its incorporation in 1999, Craigslist is one of the largest threats to newspaper advertising. Because it offers mostly free advertising, it’s popularity and reach is unparalleled.

Pros: Depending on what your business is, you might be able to post on several different categories for the Lawrence area. You will get some web traffic just by being on Craigslist.

Cons: Prepare for spam. Because Craigslist is free, it’s also can be a spammer/scammer playground.

Larryville

http://www.larryville.com/

From 2003 to about 2007, Larryville.com was my No. 1 place to find information about products and services in Lawrence, particuarly in their forums section. In this section is the Larryville Local Business Websites forum and the Larryville SOHO Listings, both great for listing your Lawrence businesses for a little extra exposure.

Pros: Like Craigslist, Larryville is a good source of traffic. Although not as heavy of a referrer as facebook, it’s still good for a few website visits now and then.

Cons: Sadly, Larryville is a shadow of what it used to be. Visitors to the larryville.com home page are greeted with news articles that haven’t been updated since April, and much of the website has turned from a useful resource to a political soapbox without much direction. It’s easy to tell by looking at the Last Post section on each forum that interaction on the site has slowed.

Marketplace

http://www2.ljworld.com/marketplace/

Marketplace is a product of the Lawrence-Journal World, the big newspaper in Lawrence. Marketplace serves as a virtual directory of many local businesses and upgrade options can lead to greater exposure in LJW’s other publications. I’ve had experience with Marketplace before, with the inclusion of my web development side biz, Rumblestrut.

Pros: Very clean design, well organized, search features are great, excellent integration with other media products.

Cons: From my experience, very (and I mean very) few onlne referrals come from Marketplace.

Ultimately, you should go with whatever works for you.

If Marketplace gets you tons of referrals but everyone who likes your business hates Facebook, then the choice is already made for you. It takes time to get the word out about your business and you should use whatever methods are available, then prune out unnecessary ones if you need.

Why not try posting to all of them today and see what happens?

Fair to middlin’

2010 Douglas County Fair

Growing up in southeast Kansas there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot to do, but each year when the fair came to town it was one of the biggest highlights of summer.

The scene usually went like this: my sister and I would stay with our grandparents for a week, who lived on an 80-acre farm 30 miles north of my hometown of Baxter Springs just outside the former mining town of Weir. It was always a treat going there. My grandparents had a pond out back that was always open to fish in, provided cows weren’t in it cooling off from the summer heat. I had all the things a young Kansas boy was suppose to have: freedom to roam and explore, a vintage Red Rider BB gun to shoot, and vegetables to pick from grandpa’s garden.

Somehow it managed to be awesome, even without air conditioning.

After a glorious week, we’d load up into their ginormous, four-door Mercury Grand Marquis, riding in style to the Cherokee County Fair in Columbus where we’d meet up with my parents and head home after some fairtime fun.

It’s been moEmber rides the ridesre than 10 years since I moved to Lawrence and through I had heard of the Douglas County Fair, I never once ventured out to see what it was like. My experiences of my youth were so much fun and still so vivid, I didn’t want it to be tarnished by anything else. I didn’t think it would compare. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and as Will Rogers once put it: “Things ain’t what they used to be and probably never was.”

Oh, how wrong I was.

The Douglas County Fair was awesome. It had every bit of dirt, animal, farm smell and Рdare I say it Рredneckishness I had enjoyed in my youth. There were more Daisy Dukes there than a weekend marathon of The Dukes of Hazzard. They had airbrushed license plates for sale! Pictures of men in Speedos lying on air  mattresses that can be hung on the wall of your home (which my wife informed me was NOT attractive)! The ever-classic Playboy bunny icon mirror! Cotton candy, fried Oreos, turkey on a stick Рeverything you could expect in a spectacle like the county fair, and it was GREAT.

At the risk of sounding like some cheesy dad line, one of the best parts was seeing Ember (the oldest daughter) bounding from ride to ride. It caught me off guard; she isn’t the type to get on rides. I can’t even get her to ride the mechanical horse at Hy-Vee. Yet she wanted to try everything anyone over 36 inches could write and didn’t even blink. As she rode each one, I sat on the sidelines: part of me wishing I was young again and part of me deliriously happy to watch her smile from the same experience I once had.

There’s something about the fair, isn’t there? It’s intoxicating. It lulls you in. It wants you to enjoy yourself, empty your wallet, have some fun and forget about normalcy.

Sometimes, that escape from normalcy is exactly what we need.

Go have some fun.