FROM THE EDITOR – What’s your favorite way to connect?
If you did a survey and 100 percent of your customers said they would recommend your business to a friend, I’ll bet you would be pretty happy. That’s the response the Peninsula Players, a 77-year mainstay in Door County, has received for at least the last three years.
Nestled in the woods along the Green Bay shoreline just south of Fish Creek, Peninsula Players, this month’s cover story, has always been a big draw for tourists. Managing Director Brian Kelsey says arts patrons in particular will check the theater schedule and plan their entire vacations around a specific play – and that’s a lot of pull for a place where tourism is the top industry. The most frequent source of new business is word of mouth. So what do the Players do with their high level of customer loyalty? They stay engaged, holding on to the enormous – but high-touch – task of handling all ticket sales in-house, whether it’s on the phone or online.
Today, we have more ways to stay engaged than we could even imagine just a few years ago. One of the most intriguing concepts is inbound marketing. What’s this, you say? Opposite of conventional marketing, in which you promote your product or service, inbound marketing is a way to entice your customers to come to you. It’s a concept that’s grown legs in the last few years as new avenues to reach people have developed online. Simply put, you “earn” your customers’ attention by offering enticing content on your website, Facebook page, through LinkedIn, Twitter and other interactive platforms. “The key is allowing prospects to benefit from your knowledge,” says Greg Linnemanstons, president and principal of the Weidert Group in Appleton, an early believer in the concept. Check out “RX for Small Business” by MaryBeth Matzek on page 42, which offers a local case study of a company that’s using inbound marketing to stay relevant to its customers.
Just when you think you might never keep up with all the new ways to reach people, something else pops up. By now you’ve heard of Pinterest. Can you believe it’s already the third-most popular social media site behind Facebook and Twitter? Businesspeople might argue that LinkedIn, with its business-oriented platform for connecting people, remains more valuable. But for business-to-consumer companies, especially retailers and restaurateurs, it seems a nifty way to let people spread the word about their favorite products. They literally “pin” photos of things they like to their personal online bulletin boards. For more on the subject, check out “Pinning down more business,” on page 20.
There are also new and better ways to stay engaged with those in your own company or industry. Cloud computing, through which you store resources, files and communication online, hosted by a network service provider, is helping companies fuel creativity and collaboration. It’s a concept embraced by Plymouth Foam, a Sheboygan County manufacturer of foam products for industrial applications, this month’s Small Business spotlight. Find out more in Sharon Verbeten’s story on page 40.
Of course, there’s no denying that the old-fashioned ways of keeping in touch still matter. You might say that in a hyper web-based world, face-to-face interaction has never been more valuable. This in mind, our Connections feature this month (page 18) takes a look at some of the most popular charity golf outings in the region this summer. Among them is the U.S. Venture Open, coming up Aug. 8. Held at five area golf courses, organizers hope to top the $1.78 million raised last year for the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs.
Also in this issue, look for the New North Mid-Year Report, produced for New North, Inc. by Insight Publications. You’ll see that this piece is full of metrics, precisely what potential investors want when considering their involvement. It’s a great way to stay connected to the many avenues of economic development in the region. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see the progress made toward advancing the economy of Northeast Wisconsin.