Dozens of people mingled in and out of The Liberty’s banquet hall in Elkin Thursday afternoon to learn about services provided by businesses in Surry County during the fifth annual BizFest.
The first hour and a half of the event was set up as a welcome from sponsors Surry Telephone Membership Corp. and Workforce Unlimited as well as hosts the Surry County Economic Development Partnership and its partners, the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce and the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The bulk of the opening time, though, was spent learning how businesses can beef up their marketing from consultant Chisa Pennix-Brown.
Pennix-Brown’s main point was that everyone in a company is part of its marketing. She also shared that social media should be part of a company’s marketing.
She had everyone in the room write down three goals they would like their company to meet in 90 days, and then she quizzed the participants on what those goals were, with answers being everything from growing sales to gaining new clients or getting brand consistency and hiring help.
“I’m a big believer you probably have the connections you need to grow,” Pennix-Brown told the audience. She also encouraged them to ask people what they think about their company and what it offers. “A lot of times we assume we know what they need, but look at your current customer base and ask them.
“Who today do you need to meet?” she asked about the networking opportunities that were available after the welcome and seminar. “Someone in here can help you, who do you need to talk to? Who is in your network that may help power your (marketing) up?”
She said things to think about in marketing are the demographics a business is targeting. For younger customers it may be that social media and digital marketing is key, while for an older demographic a business may want more traditional ways of marketing.
Pennix-Brown then divided the audience into four groups and asked them to spend seven minutes as a group developing a plan to sell her a bottle of water. They had to give it a name not already used, and market it.
Each group had different focuses, with one being on marketing it to a broad range of users, another using a local appeal, a third using sex appeal to sell the water and the fourth group focusing more on the design of the bottle and message of a “green” product for marketing.
“Unless you primarily do business online, most customers come from a 50-mile radius,” she said.
She said if a business is frequently discounting products, then it will only get customers looking for a discount, not long-term customers.
She pointed out while all the groups had different marketing ideas, in the end they were all trying to sell the same product. “With marketing you have the opportunity to tell them how you want them to feel, packaging is key,” she said.
Another tip she provided was to build an email base of customers, and frequently send them emails, not just emails trying to sell them products, but also messages on tips to help the customers out. Emails can include messages celebrating a business’s employees, using customer testimonials, and Pennix-Brown said social media can give a business the opportunity to expand its audience.
Events like anniversaries of companies need to be celebrated, and she encouraged everyone to hold more open houses, take more pictures and videos.
“Also, take into consideration how people can pay you,” Pennix-Brown said. “There’s nothing worse than having to wait to get a check or having to track someone down to get a payment. Make it easier for someone to pay.”
Following the welcome and seminar, the networking floor opened for businesses and the public to mingle and visit the booths of 40 exhibitors who were sharing information on their products and service.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” said Curtis Taylor, CEO of Surry Telephone, title sponsor and wifi sponsor for BizFest. His company has been title sponsor of the event since its inception, and he shared with everyone during the welcome how much his company has changed in the past five years, including the installation of more than 900 miles of fiber-optic lines and an investment of $28 million. “None of that would have happened without our greatest asset — our employees.”
Deirdre Rogers of Rogers Realty in Mount Airy said it’s important for her family-owned company to participate in BizFest because “it’s networking.”
“I think it’s very important as a hometown business to promote other businesses,” she said. “You need to promote the businesses promoting you.”
Rogers said despite growing up in Surry County, there are always businesses offering new products. She said during last year’s BizFest she learned about Happy Tooth and that it provided services for her daughter that she was told she didn’t qualify for.
“I’m all about hometown, support your local people,” Rogers said. “We’re the small town, hometown people. It all starts with hometown folks.”
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.