Reflections on a Dozen Years

Those of you who are my friend on Facebook are probably aware that I recently hit my twelve year anniversary with the Manatee Chamber. Wow!  I thought it might be fun to reflect on some of the changes we’ve experienced since 2000.

  • Social Media. Yeah, that’s the big one for me so I’m giving it top billing. Twelve years ago Facebook was nothing to us and now we have more than 3,000 fans on our page. It is such a great way to interact with members!  Twitter and LinkedIn are good communication tools as well, although I’m more of a Facebook fan.
  • Staff. There are lots of people still here – Bob Bartz, Jacki Dezelski, Neil Spirtas and Joni Korzen were all around when I bounced onto the scene. Lisa Reeder arrived just a few months after me.  But the majority – Kim Dalglish, Reba Parrish, Jahna Leinhauser, etc. – came onboard at later dates. I don’t know how the Powers That Be find such amazing people, but they do so consistently!
  • Chamber of the Year. We won our first Florida Chamber of the Year Award just six months into my tenure. Food, parties, and accolades – I just knew I was going to love this job!  Two more Florida Chamber of the Year Awards and the inaugural National Chamber of the Year were to come.
  • Members. We hit some bumps in the road due to the economy, but our membership is higher than it was then and we’ve added some great members!  I count most of them as friends because you’re not going to meet a better bunch of people anywhere.
  • Lakewood Ranch Office. My predecessor hadn’t quit… instead, she headed out to the ComCenter on State Road 70 to open our first mid-County office. Which later grew to become our Lakewood Ranch Office at the McClure Center.
  • ManateeCalendar.com. That little calendar we used to have on our website became it’s own site and grew to include events from throughout our area. It’s an invaluable tool (and if you’re not posting your events on there free of charge, you should be).
  • Manatee Young Professionals. I sure was a young professional when I started, since I was just 27 years old!  Ours is the longest-running young professionals organization in the South Tampa Bay Area and it is awesome if I do say so myself.  Yours truly helped choose the domain name MYPOnline.com. Short and to the point!
  • Green Certification / Sustainable Manatee. What was that twelve years ago? Our green initiative back then was choosing the golf tournament shirt color.  Now our local businesses are saving the environment through dedication to eco-friendly products and programs! And we have an electric car charging station right outside my office window. Spiffy!

I could go on and on about how our Manatee Chamber has continued to grow and expand, adding programs and initiatives. But my post is already pretty long, so I’ll just sign off by telling you this is a great organization to work for and the businesses that are members are the best. I enjoy working with each and every one of you!

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Manatee Chamber Makes Media Exposure for Businesses Easier than Ever

(Manatee County, FL) –   What better way to help area businesses than by assisting them in getting the word out about their products, services, events, new hires, and more?  In 2006, the Manatee Chamber of Commerce became the first Chamber in the country to offer an online Press Release Submission Tool free of charge to its members.  It was an immediate success, particularly with smaller members with little to no marketing staff.

And now it’s even better!  The online tool has been improved to offer additional information and functionality, including: the contact names at each media to whom press releases are sent, a field to individualize the subject line of each release, and the ability to print mailing labels and follow up on your electronically submitted information with a hard copy.

How does it work?

  • Members of the Manatee Chamber receive a unique login to access the Press Release Submission Tool
  • Fill in contact information and press release
  • Attach photos and documents (optional)
  • Select media to whom the release should be sent
  • Click submit

“In today’s fast world and faster news cycle, it’s more important than ever to get your information into the hands of the media,” stated Manatee Chamber President Bob Bartz. “The Manatee Chamber’s Press Release Tool reaches more than 90 media representatives in the Tampa Bay area. In addition to newspapers, television, radio, and magazines, releases are sent to blogs and electronic news outlets. More than 80 million individuals get their news online every day and major media outlets get a significant percentage of their stories from local media outlets.  We believe in helping local businesses promote their good news.”

For more information on the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Press Release Submission Tool, contact Carey Miller at 941-748-3411.

The Manatee Chamber of Commerce Announces “Cash Mob Manatee” Event Saturday, March 24 at Main Street Bazaar

(Bradenton, FL) –
You’ve heard of “flash mobs,” but have you heard of a “cash mob?” The Manatee Chamber of Commerce will be promoting Manatee County’s first “Cash Mob Manatee” for Saturday, March 24 from 3:00pm to 5:00pm at Main Street Bazaar (8111 Lakewood Main Street, #J101 in Lakewood Ranch). The entire community is encouraged to participate!

What is Cash Mob Manatee? A fun, fast-paced and concentrated shopping event designed to draw more awareness, visibility, and shoppers to locally-owned businesses.

How does a “cash mob” work? We start by getting the word out to everyone who is interested in supporting our local businesses that there is a “cash mob” event happening on a specific date at a specific time. Shoppers then show up during the designated time frame at the featured business and buy something. There are three rules: spend a little cash at the business, meet people you didn’t know, and have fun!

How was Main Street Bazaar chosen as the first “Cash Mob Manatee” location? It was drawn from a list of retail businesses that are local members of the Manatee Chamber.

“Encouraging consumers to spending their money locally couldn’t be more important than in this time of economic recovery,” stated Manatee Chamber President Bob Bartz. “Shopping in the Manatee County region saves jobs, preserves our local flavor, and reduces environmental impact and transportation costs. According to a Michigan State University study, 73% of dollars spent at local businesses stays in the community. Small local businesses are the largest employers nationally and create two out of every three new jobs. It’s critical that we support these small businesses.”

The Manatee Chamber plans to host additional “Cash Mob Manatee” events in the future. For more information, contact Carey Miller at 941-748-3411.

Small Firms = Big Targets for Hackers

Hackers are starting to move away from “big scores” that are harder to accomplish, and are moving on to smaller and ultimately easier and more profitable thefts from small and medium-sized businesses, whose generally lax to non-existent security systems make for easy and quick money.

In physics, there’s a concept called ‘the path of least resistance’. The meaning is plain enough objects that move in a system take the path where they will encounter the least challenges and hurdles in order to quickly move to wherever they are going.

Apparently, the same principle applies to hackers nowadays. Instead of targeting larger firms for that big ‘score’, hackers are now considering it more feasible and much easier to victimize smaller firms and companies, even for a much smaller amount of money.

Why is that? First, smaller companies generally have much more vulnerable IT systems. Security is minimal or average at best, and the hackers don’t get as much heat or attention when compared to trying to breach the much more complicated, state-of-the-art security systems of bigger firms and businesses. Take a small newsstand business in Chicago: cyberthieves were able to install a Trojan in the cash registers which sent swiped credit card numbers to Russia. When the jig was discovered, Mastercard subsequently demanded an investigation – at the expense of the business owner – and the proprietor had to shell out a hefty $22,000.(i)

A survey in the United States reveals that more than half of small or medium-sized businesses believed that they ran no risk of being victimized by hackers, and less than half of the respondents had security systems in place.(ii) That looks like a path of least resistance, as far as hackers are concerned.

The loss of a few thousand bucks may not be much for a big business, but it can make a significant dent on the profits and sustainability of smaller organizations. And in the case of implanted viruses that steal credit card information, your reputation can also take a big hit. So if you want your business to stay truly safe before it’s too late, please contact us so we can discuss options and blueprints to make your business secure.

References: (i) and (ii)

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Article contributed by:
David Spire, President
United Systems Computer Group
www.uscomputergroup.com

Pay Per Click 101: Traffic vs. Conversions

Over the past few years Google AdWords (also called Pay-Per-Click or PPC) has started getting a bad name because of the way some internet marketers and large media companies have misguided their customers.  If someone is running a PPC campaign for you and the primary success metric they track for you is “traffic”, then your campaign is doomed from the start.  The primary success metric you should be tracking is “conversions”.  That is a much more difficult result to achieve, which is why many don’t focus on it.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you look at PPC as an option for marketing your business online:

Landing Pages

When someone clicks on your PPC ad, you typically should not take them directly to your main website because it probably is not designed to receive traffic from a PPC ad.  Research shows that people who click on PPC ads are much more conversion-oriented, which means they are ready to make a purchase or complete an action.  So instead of taking people to you website, you should take them to a Landing Page that is specially designed to successfully convert visitors in some way that you can track: clicking a button to “Buy Now”; submitting information through a contact form; calling a phone # you can track internally; etc.

Ad Placement

Your PPC ad will appear higher than your competitors if you are willing to pay more Per-Click than they are.  The inherent problem with this model is if your competitors are running campaigns that aren’t optimized properly they may be artificially inflating the Cost-Per-Click for everyone competing for the same words and phrases.  Increasing your Quality Scores can help mitigate the impact of competing against poor campaigns.

Quality Scores

This is often something business owners are unaware of.  Google assigns Quality Scores to your PPC campaign based on the quality of your ads, the quality and substance of your Landing Pages, how long people are staying on your Landing Pages and whether or not they are converting.  If you have better Quality Scores than the other ads you are competing against, you will pay less than every time someone clicks on your ad—even though your ads are positioned above your competitors.

Return On Investment

If it costs you $5.00 every time someone clicks on your PPC ad, and you understand that average Conversion Rate for a PPC campaign is 10-15% (it varies from industry to industry) and you charge $15.00 for your product, you can quickly see the math doesn’t add up and a PPC campaign may not be the answer for you.  If your internet marketing team isn’t going through this exercise with you be prepared to spend a lot of money and not get any ROI.

It’s easy to throw a bunch of money at PPC and get traffic to your Landing Pages, but if that traffic isn’t targeted (i.e., they aren’t qualified leads) you are spending money attracting people to your Landing Pages who really aren’t interested in your product or service.  High traffic and no conversions means you are fighting an uphill battle.  Your business can’t afford to run a campaign this way.

Article contributed by:
Troy Newport, Business Development Director
Webtivity Design Solutions
http://blog.webtivitydesigns.com

China… the Mysterious Orient

What’s on your bucket list?  For most people, one of the top things they want to do in life is travel.  Preferably to an exotic destination.  We can help you with that!

The Manatee Chamber has partnered with CITSTLINC, International to offer individuals a chance at the trip of a lifetime.  Nine days in China at the unbelievable (but definitely accurate) price of $2,000 per person for members and $2,300 for non-members.

No, that’s not a typo.  What’s more, it includes your airfare from JFK in New York, three fantastic meals daily (you’ll eat Peking Duck where Nixon did), 4- and 5-star hotel accommodations, incredible shopping, and more. Tian An Men Square, the Summer Palace, the Yu Garden, pagodas, tea houses, and… the Great Wall of China.  What visit would be completed without it?

If you’d like to learn more about this amazing opportunity, visit the Manatee Chamber’s website.  An informational meeting is set for April 20 at 6:00pm in the Lakewood Ranch Office at The McClure Center. Ask specific questions regarding the trip and pay a deposit to reserve your seat.

Online Scams Can Happen to Anyone

I was at lunch yesterday when I heard the distinctive “pop” that meant someone had messaged me on Facebook.  So I flipped screens to check in with whoever wanted to chat.  Hmmm… a Manatee Chamber member with whom I never really speak.

Member:  “carey, how are you doing?”

Me:  “Peachy, thanks!  Yourself?”

Member:  “i am not fine  i need an urgent help from you”

Me:  “What can I can help with?”

Member:  “i need you to loan me some cash  i promise to refund it back to you  i am stuck in London  i was mugged last night at gunpoint”

Me:  “Sure you were.”

And suddenly they were no longer interested in speaking with me.  They knew I was on to them and were moving to the next person in an attempt to get some money.

I called the member and sent her an email so she’d know about the problem.  She’s working on the issue from her end, but it’s not going to be easy.  The moment the scammer got hold of her account, he / she changed the password and locked the actual person out.  This gives him free reign until Facebook responds to her request and helps fix the situation.  I’m not sure if they change the password and give access back to her OR if they simply cancel that account and she has to start a new one.

Either way, it always pays to be vigilant when it comes to online dealings.  Never be tricked into providing your information or into giving someone money from an online post.

I’ll take it a step further.  Never click on a shortened URL from a site.   I know, I said never.  But what if it’s someone you trust?  Well, what if their account has been hacked as the member above was?  There’s a great new service out that will reveal the real destination for shortened URLs (bit.ly, tiny.cc, is.gd, ow.ly, etc.)  You can download it or go directly to http://www.untiny.me and copy / paste the URL in the box.

Safety first, I say!  If you have any questions about the above post, please don’t hesitate to ask.  I would be happy to help you to the best of my ability.