Stretching My Copy Muscles: Introducing Copper Fields Design

My first foray into writing high-end retail product content is the recently launched site copperfieldsdesign.com.

New York artisan Sam Spano creates handmade outdoor copper planters that add instant charm to your home or garden. It was a pleasure to craft copy for such a gorgeous product.

An added bonus is that Copper Fields uses sustainable materials like reclaimed ipe in fashioning their decorative planters.

 

 

Visit the Copper Fields site to browse their collections of copper planters, planters with trellises, copper furniture, window boxes, vases and more!

Congratulations to Sam and Suzanne Spano on the site launch. I so enjoyed telling your product story!

Cheers,
Carla

Talking Social Media Strategy & Crowdfunding with America’s LinkedIn Lady

It was my extreme pleasure to join Carol McManus America's LinkedIn Lady — on "The LinkedIn Lady Show" on Toginet Radio. Talking shop with Carol is one of my favorite things to do, and we covered a lot of ground, including crowdfunding and my latest musical pursuits.

Listen to the podcast on iTunes (choose the 10/19/11 episode) or you can download it directly from my site. Carol began our chat by focusing on my corporate experience, then transitioned to the significance of my domain name, my recent site launch and my songwriting news.

PODCAST HIGHLIGHTS By listening to the podcast interview, you'll get in on:

1) The name Saidandsung and how my songwriting informs my copywriting (8 minutes into the podcast).

2) My involvement with the new musical IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU (10:20 into the podcast), now playing at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick.

3) How Crowdfunding can help you move projects forward (18:36 into the podcast) and why I chose RocketHub.com.

4) How I used Social Media for My RocketHub Campaign and how I use it for my business (32 minutes into the podcast).

5) The #1 tip I learned from @BloggingMentor Annabel Candy to help separate my 2 selves on Twitter (34 minutes into the podcast).

6) A frank discussion on Social Media Strategy — thoughts on automated tools, the future of Facebook and more (45 minutes into the podcast) — with Carol's "Marketing Minute" partner Ken Herron a.k.a. @PurpleComm.

UNDER THE (POSITIVE) INFLUENCE At one point in the podcast, Carol asked me about my business influencers, and I gave her a handful:

+ Annabel Candy of @GetInTheHotSpot a.k.a. @BloggingMentor (34 minutes into the podcast): I learned such great Twitter tips and blog tips from Annabel and her "Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps" book!

+ @RobinDickinson (39:52 into the podcast): Robin was the first source I turned to for lessons on how to tweet. His Success with Twitter video was terrific for learning nomenclature, strategy, etc. He continues to inspire through his Facebook page.

+ @JasonWomack and @DyanaValentine (40:45 into the podcast): Two superb coaches/professional instigators whose workflow and big-picture ideas (often in the form of fiery I-dare-yous) are all kinds of inspiring.

+ The authors of "The Wealthy Freelancer" — @EdGandia, @petesavage & @steveslaunwhite (41:10 into the podcast): This book not only helped me get to the next level in my freelance career, but it also lead me to form a friendship with freelance illustrator @DonnaBarger, who is also a terrific accountability partner.

+ Jennifer Shaheen of Technology Therapy (48:15 into the podcast): Jennifer's Advanced Facebook for Business webinar is full of tips and long-term strategy ideas.

And, honestly, Carol continues to be one of my biggest influencers. Each week, I learn so many great pointers from her show, especially about LinkedIn and business strategy. You can tune into "The LinkedIn Lady Show" every Wednesday at 5 p.m. EST on Toginet.com, or listen to her half-hour show at 9 a.m. EST Wednesdays on WGCH AM 1490 in Greenwich, Conn.

I've had a lot going on this past month or so, and like I said in a recent blog post, it takes a village. I'm so grateful to be surrounded by inspiring collaborators, colleagues and friends, and look forward to what's to come!

Onward,

Carla

New Site, New Music: It Really Does Take a Village (and Sometimes Red Bull)

Wow, the past three weeks have been a whirlwind! After some all-nighters, daily Red Bull (Am I in college again?) and a little help from my friends, I'm happy to announce some exciting developments: First off, not only are you viewing Saidandsung.com's new look, but I also launched a fundraiser on RocketHub.com to get my latest song demo pressed! We made a silly video for the campaign — click below to get a glimpse of what this project is about, how you can help move it forward and how to get your hands on the music:

As of this post, I'm nearly 80 percent toward my goal and I've got just 8 days left to complete it — if you can, please consider sending a Hamilton my way to get your own copy of my tunes and other fun rewards!

Here's Where That Village Part Comes In It really does take a village for big projects to come to fruition. None of this progress would have been possible without the help of the following wonderful people (you may be able to use some of their services for your own projects):

+ S.W. Senek ... The playwright-director and EVP of Eagles Talent (and also a dear friend) conceived, directed, filmed and edited the RocketHub video, and whose son, Sheldon III, plays the role of The Last Hope. Plus, a special shout-out to Sheldon's wife, Krysta, who was so patient as we invaded her home for the shoot. And my goddaughter, Josephine, for being so darn adorable on set!

+ Tricia Okin ... This graphic designer/food blogger/woman-about-world was instrumental in giving me ideas for my video, and basically taught me not to be afraid to ask others for help.

+ Dyana Valentine ... The wily Muse and professional get-you-movin' solutions gal was the one who forced me to name a hard deadline for my Web site launch. And boy, there's nothing like a deadline! She also took the time to interview me about my music and get to the heart of why I'm doing this: because I want to help others embrace life experiences and give themselves permission to feel whatever they need to through my music.

+ Nick Norris ... This principal at identifiDesign not only gave my site a fresh new look, but he also jumped in at the 11th hour to fine-tune the site pre-launch and held my proverbial hand through the switchover!

+ Lauren R. Popek ... A designer with identifiDesign.com, Lauren created not only the cover art for my CD, but also my rebus-infused logo (the fact that I get excited by that reveals my inner nerd, but oh well). You can find more of Lauren's work on her own Web site.

+ Allen Mogol ... What can I say about my copywriting colleague and friend I recently voted Most Likely to Be a Business Coach Someday? Allen kept me focused on the light at the end of the tunnel, helped refine my ideas and gave those all-important Lombardi-esque pep talks that kept me sane!

+ Ted Allen ... My fellow songwriter also had a crowdfunding campaign for his upcoming album, so he consulted on the organization of my campaign and the content. His current album, "Nothing to See Here," is so likable and catchy, I highly recommend you take a listen!

+ Thomas Fisher ... Besides being my co-writer on some of the tunes — and my life partner! — Thomas was immediately on board with the video concept, and really dove into his portion of it. He's a talented performer as well, plus he provided the accompaniment and gorgeous harmonies for the "Send a Hamilton to Harrison" song; I couldn't have done it without him.

+ Adam Harley ... Besides being a recording engineer and producer with the best set of ears in these here parts, Adam is also a great videographer who can create attention-grabbing promotional videos for your business as well as local cable commercials that look anything but local.

+ Mark Buono ... Another skilled recording engineer, producer and wicked drummer, Mark worked his magic on my tunes, adding tracking that enhanced the production and even expertly replicating the acoustics for whenever I'd change up a lyric or an entire section!

+ Craig Wilson & Mat Leland ... These two musicians/songwriters/producers/engineer extraordinaires got the ball rolling on this demo years ago, when they tracked, produced and played on the first versions of these tunes at Haven Studios in NYC. Though the songs have developed over the years, I'm so grateful to Craig Wilson and Mat Leland for their work on this demo as well as for their collective belief in me as a writer.

+ Stephanie Harrison, Christina Lea, Brooke Campbell, Thomas Fisher & Fortune Creek ... The singers who brought their unique styles to these songs are all songwriters themselves, and I know that's why they were each able to give such heartfelt performances. I'm happy to suggest you visit their sites to hear their own work: Stephanie Harrison ("Prettied Up" and "The Clearing"), Christina Lea ("All I Could Do"), Brooke Campbell ("Listening" and "Go On") and Thomas Fisher (solo "Where We Begin" and "Rather Look at You" with Fortune Creek.

+ Randy Merrill ... A sound engineer at the renowned NYC mastering house Master Disk, Randy made my songs on this demo pop, and I mean in that sparkly kind of way. If you need mastering on your tunes, he's your go-to guy.

I've learned so much from all of these fine people, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their contributions to this effort. You know what would warm my heart even more? If some of you commented below to let me know that you also remember the TV show "Rags to Riches" — it will make me feel less geeky! (Watch the video above to get my drift.)

Onward,

Carla

P.S. Visit my Tunes page on this site to find out about my new musical that opens in New Jersey this month!

Chatting with America’s LinkedIn Lady, Carol McManus

Carmen Carrozza and I were thrilled to have Carol McManus, a.k.a. The LinkedIn Lady, on our Forward Motion show on 1490 WGCH. Carol is part of the WCCH family, hosting her own show every Wednesday at 9 a.m. (see below for more info). Click here to listen to the podcast of our chat with Carol.

Many people know that LinkedIn has become a go-to tool for professionals, entrepreneurs and organizations, especially job seekers and headhunters, but Carol cuts through the guesswork of how to develop a strong presence on the site.

Carol shared with us some no-nonsense tips, including:

+ How to Effectively Use LinkedIn

+ First Steps to Creating Your Profile

+ The Importance of Recommendations

+ The Quality (& Quantity) of Connections

+ Getting Personal with Introductions

+ How to Devise a Posting Strategy

Click here to listen to 25 minutes of valuable tips from Carol.

And listen to Carol's show, The LinkedIn Lady, on WGCH.com every Wednesday at 9 a.m. EDT. For those who need a jump-start to creating their profiles, Carol's running a Boot Camp, which you can read more about by clicking here.

Thanks for reading (and listening),

Carla

Follow Carol on Twitter.

And while you're at it, follow me on Twitter.

Site Check: Right Your Copyright

Even though we're nearly a month into 2011, we've all likely saved a file or filled out a deposit slip on autopilot with "2010" instead of this new decade we've begun here. One easily overlooked usage of the new year is updating your company Web site's copyright.

This is an easy change (if it's not, we should talk), and freelancers reading this should update the copyright on any sites they maintain for clients.

If you don't currently have a copyright, keep in mind there are a handful of ways to construct them — some using the symbol, some not. I've listed examples below. Choose one you aesthetically prefer:

© 2011 Twitter

Facebook © 2011

© 2011 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

© 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2011 [Name of Company], All Rights Reserved.

© 2010-2011 [Name of Company], All Rights Reserved.

ONE CHANGE LEADS TO ANOTHER ...

Maybe it's been a while since you've looked at your company site. And now that you've made that easy copyright change, could your content use some freshening? Visit saidandsung.com to check out my available services to help you start the year off right!

Happy 2011,

Carla

Shop Talk: Affordable Holiday Shopping Here in Harrison

The following was originally published in The Harrison Report on Dec. 2, 2010. 5 Affordable Gifts & Where to Get ’Em

Written by Carla Rose Fisher

Thursday, 02 December 2010 14:18

ASK & YE SHALL RECEIVE: Last month, I asked readers to submit their favorite affordable holiday gifts ($30 and under) that make an impression. Your top five gifts are listed below, along with where to purchase them locally.

1. Wine

A good bottle of wine doesn’t have to be expensive, and many can be had at the family-owned Friendly Spirits, 355 Halstead Ave. Manager Frank Hahn, whose parents JoAnn and Robert opened the shop 29 years ago, recommended a couple whites and a couple reds that will make an impression without breaking the bank.

For the reds, Hahn said a Pinot Noir will go nicely with holiday turkey, and suggested La Crema for $22.99. For cold weather, he suggested the dry full-bodied nature of a Cabernet Sauvignon. His pick? Simi, for $22.99. As for whites, Hahn said a Pinot Grigio is perfect for when you’re not sure what kind of wine your recipient prefers. “It’s hard not to like a Pinot Grigio, because it’s light and easy,” he said. A nice choice is Altanuta, which will only run you $13.99. He also recommended a French Sancerre for $19.99. Hours: Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. 914-835-3222.

2. Holiday Cookies

Many people don’t know that Bakery & Patisserie, at 247 Halstead Ave., is not the same bakery that was there before, so you best get over there and treat your taste buds to the best brownies, cannolis and low-fat muffins around. But it’s their fancy cookies that are the stars of the holiday season. They’re a delicious gift for anyone on your list, and with the bakery open on Sunday, you can shop last-minute. Mention this article through Dec. 31 to get this special deal: Buy 1 pound of holiday cookies, get a 1/4-pound free. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. 914-630-1476.

3. Chocolate Yes, readers voted for chocolate, but here’s my fun take on the box o’ chocolates holiday standby: Visit Oishinbo, the Japanese grocery at 283 Halstead Ave., and give the gift of Pocky!

Pocky is like eating a chocolate cookie without all the guilt — that’s because it’s a rather thin biscuit stick that’s only partially coated. While chocolate lovers will enjoy the crushed almond and mint chocolate varieties, Pocky also comes in strawberry, green tea and a bevy of other mouth-watering flavors. Trust me, Pocky goes over great with everyone from children to co-workers, and makes a great gift for Hanukkah or as a stocking stuffer. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 914-835-4390.

4. Lottery Tickets The gift of chance is always exciting, and there are dozens of places throughout Harrison to play the lottery. But I recommend Trotta’s West Street Pharmacy, 15 Halstead Ave., simply because they’ve got a Lotto Bar, and I know that when you’re buying your scratch-off gifts, you’ll want to try a game or two of your own. Belly up to the counter complete with footstool and scratch off your cards, then head to the fine gifts aisle for others on your list. Sign up for Trotta’s Rewards Card Program and each of your non-pharmacy purchases earn you points toward $5 credits. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Sunday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 914-835-1125.

5. Charitable Donations Giving to those in need warms the heart, but giving in someone’s name will warm the person on your list all the way down to his or her toes. Try to pick a charity with personal meaning for the recipient (example: If the person is a fan of the arts, consider donating to a theatre or arts organization). Businesses get into the spirit as well, like Harrison Printers, whose “Home for the Holidays” campaign donates 10 percent of every purchase to the Harrison Food Pantry through Jan. 1. In addition, nonperishable food items for donation can be brought to the shop at 246 Harrison Ave.

*****

NEW & NEARLY OPENED: Congrats to the friendly staff at Goldberg’s Rocking Bagel Café, 379 Halstead Ave. near the A&P, on their recent opening.

Harrison’s need for a dollar store is slated to be filled this week, when Harrison Dollar Plus Store will open at 267 Halstead Ave., in the space that formerly housed Gold Rush Jewelers. Partners Saira Ahmed and Mae Comunale are introducing a quality dollar store, where some prices will be higher than a dollar (hence the “Plus” in the name). “It’s the kind of store that will bring a lot of people to downtown Harrison,” Comunale said. With unusual items and unique gifts, this could be the perfect way to round out our holiday shopping lists!

DON WE NOW OUR LOCAL PRIDE: Thanks to a combined effort between the Harrison Chamber of Commerce and the Town Board, 16 holiday-red banners displaying the names of town merchants and other sponsors now remind shoppers to think local when gift-giving and dining this season. The banners are displayed at each cross street along Halstead Avenue, starting at the A&P and stretching to Food City. Everyone at the Chamber of Commerce, including myself, President Ada Angarano and Financial Advisor Zack Bsharat, wishes you a season filled with good food, family and cheer.

Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer for Web and print. She is also an award-winning songwriter and is on the Executive Board of the Harrison Chamber of Commerce. E-mail her your favorite business at carla@saidandsung.com.

Idea-Bursting: Seeing the Forest for the Treetops

This holiday season, I urge you to note that just like there is no wrong way to eat a Reese's, there is no wrong way to top a tree. Last week, while at a doctor's appointment, the front-desk person was busily adding finishing touches to a Christmas tree in the lobby. The somewhat blurred photo below doesn't do it justice; the tree had a lovely blue hue (there's just something about blue at Christmas time, isn't there?) and a towering ribbon perched on top with at least 8 tails spaced evenly around the tree's perimeter. A number of passersby complimented her on the design and execution.

 

Then, one passerby stopped, gave the tree a thorough up-and-down, noticed the ribbon and asked, "Where are you going to put the angel?"

The tree designer replied saying that she wouldn't be putting an angel on the tree (Hello, hence the bow ...). The inquirer just stood dumbfounded for a few seconds, then half-scowling, walked away. She just. Didn't. Get it.

BEYOND THE TREETOPS

With any creative ideas you have throughout  your life, big or small, there are always going to be people who just don't get it. No matter how bursting at the seams you are about your ideas, you can't be everything to everybody. How many times have you birthed a new plan for your business or for a logo design or for a way to streamline operations only to be disappointed at the reaction you got from the first person you told? It happens, and for a number of reasons, but that doesn't mean your ideas aren't valid.

Keep in mind:

1) As poet Robert Bly said, "Be careful how quickly you give away your fire." Talking about ideas in their nascent stages can sometimes be detrimental to their development. That's because the passion you've built up for seeing your idea through can be dissipated if you share too soon and don't get a desired reaction or if you talk it to death. A handful of my fellow songwriters refuse to discuss pieces they are working on (or only discuss them in broad terms) because they know that the more they talk about it, the less "need" there is for them to write it. Essentially, they already got it out of their head by speaking about it too often. Treat your best ideas like they are a treasured secret, and reveal them only when you've given them the attention they require.

2) Trust your inner artist. You know your creative self better than anyone. So round them all up and paint, design, write and create  with conviction. Don't let hurdles — inanimate or otherwise — slow down your progress, or your desire. Be your glittery, sprinkled, outlandishly sparkling self, and don't dare do anything halfway. People are attracted to strong will, bold choices and daring ideas (artists, noncomformists and forward-thinkers in the Twittersphere like @AviWisnia, @zen_habits@identifiDesign, @chrisguillebeau, @marshmallowfeev, @SusanAkaSARK, GetIntheHotSpot,  @DyanaValentine and @papercutny — they're doing their thing, and doing it well). If you bask in your shiny-happy glow, others will not only see it, they'll be fascinated by it. And they'll want to know more.

3) Refine, refine, refine. Sometimes ideas just need a bit of tweaking. Before you make a big presentation or announce your next move via some mass blast channel, run it by a trusted colleague, friend or mentor. Then, really listen to that person's feedback and assess whether it will truly make your end result better. Oftentimes, we balk at initial feedback, and treat it like criticism. But if we pause long enough to see it for its constructive qualities, we learn how we can apply it in a way that builds on our plan.

4) Know your audience. Approach your strategies from your target's perspective, and you will hit your mark way more than miss it. Determine not only whom you should tell, but also how best to effectively convey it, and when. Perhaps you need to make things more visual, with photos, charts or dioramas. Or maybe you need an audio component, in the form of an anecdote, a testimonial, historical context or local endorsement. Timing is everything, so don't just squeeze your idea-bursting into a rushed phone call during the five minutes you have before catching a train. Plan, plan, plan.

Now, press on. You've got some idea-bursting to do.

Carla

Follow me on Twitter.

Join me on Facebook.

Ready to commit your ideas to print? Check out my writing samples.

Easy Peasy Password-Keeping

Everyone uses passwords. A lot of them. To exist online, either as a consumer or as a business owner, you must employ the use of secure passwords, and keeping track of them all is no picnic — especially if you're like me, and you try to come up with mixes of numbers and letters to make them extra secure. Like I once did, you probably find yourself more often than not racking your brain to recall that once so-clever-because-it's-so-tricky password, or even to remember which version of your usual password you've used for a particular site that you need to log into stat. "Remember Me" functions often have time limits (ex. two weeks), or are made null when you have to reset your browser or clear your cache. And sure, there's the "Forgot Password?" function, but even those can be time-consuming, especially when security questions you've long forgotten are involved.

The solution I've found for my business, and recommend to my clients, is 1Password, a software application that saves all your logins, e-mail accounts and identities in one easy-peasy virtual vault.

1Password is compatible with both Mac and Windows operating systems and its features go well beyond keychain tools that come with system software. Here's why:

+ This isn't just a matter of copying and pasting from stored data. By far, 1Password's best feature is that you open your vault, find the login for the site you want to visit and double-click it — next thing you know, the software is logging you in automatically. No copying or pasting of usernames or passwords. Of course, you have to enter them initially when setting up your logins, but that process is quite painless and will save you oodles of time in the long run. NOTE: In Preferences > Logins, you must have the box checked that reads "Submit automatically after filling a login (Autosubmit)" for autologin to occur.

+ Another fantastic feature is that if you ever change your password or create a new log in on a site, an 1Password prompt will ask you if you'd like to update your existing login with this info or save the new information as a new login in your vault. I cannot emphasize how convenient it is that I don't have to make a note somewhere myself regarding my password change.

+  You can backup your data. In 1Password's "Preferences" section, you can set how often you want to back up your password files, and where on your hard drive you'd like those backups saved. Of course, whether you do so is up to you. Some people don't like to store passwords or secure info on their computer, because in the case of a system crash (or a fire), they would lose that data forever. Others don't wish to employ the autologin feature, for fear that if their system was ever hacked, their account info would be compromised. How you choose to handle these security considerations is a personal choice, and you can always search user forums for advice from others who are grappling with the same issues.

+ You can set a preference for which browser you'd like opened when you double-click for autologins.

+ You can organize your logins in separate folders. For my business, I have different folders for different clients, with stored credentials I access on a regular basis. For my personal usage, my husband and I each have a folder for our regular logins, from social media sites to bill-paying to music downloads to online pizza delivery.

We are all looking for ways to make our crazy-busy lives easier. Getting password-keeping software is a step in the right direction toward freeing up your valuable time so that you can more effectively run your business, and your life.

Please note that I have no affiliation with 1Password; I simply like it. Try it free for 30 days and see for yourself.

Securely speaking,

Carla

Want more tips? Visit Facebook.com/saidandsung.

Shop Talk: Holiday Shopping (and Promotion) Starts Here

The following was originally published in The Harrison Report on Nov. 5, 2010.

Shop Talk Business happenings in and around Harrison

Written by Carla Rose Fisher

Thursday, 5 November 2010

In West Harrison…

UNIQUE IN NEW YORK: Shop Talk's first reader write-in recommendation prompted me to visit West Harrison last week. Walking into 23 Taylor Square, I discovered a gift wonderland that smells like Christmas.

Taylor Square Shoppe can serve as an example for retail storeowners, especially for ideas on how to bump up store traffic and holiday sales. And since we all have holiday shopping to do ourselves, you should stop in and view the store’s unique offerings, because you just may find you don’t need to shop anywhere else.

It’s amazing how many items 750 sq. ft. can hold. Turns out, the wonderful aroma upon my entering was the Frasier Fir scent in the Thymes candle line, also available in hand lotion and other products.

Owner Maria Anella opened the shop five months ago, and is planning a grand opening in mid-November, just in time for the holidays. Having managed the Chilmark Gift Gallery at Prescription Plus in Briarcliff for the past 12 years, Anella jumped at the chance to open a gift gallery in West Harrison, where she’s lived for 20 years.

“I love this community, and I fill my store with things I love,” she said. “It really is my dream store, and I love what I do.”

As a local merchant and mother to a son who came up through the school system, Anella continues to be a hands-on volunteer. She’ll soon be joining the community neighborhood watch and the newly reopened Harrison Chamber of Commerce. During each of the weekly neighborhood car shows over the summer, Anella gave away $25 gift cards. At last week’s Halloween parade, she gave away Silly Bandz to the kids. She knows that freebies are a great way to get customers in the door.

When choosing which items to carry, Anella considers her customers. “I like to find things that are different, and I think, ‘What’s a great gift for a great price?’” Here you’ll find stylish gifts starting at $3. And handbags start at $24. Kids can shop for inexpensive gifts for mom and dad, grandma and grandpa. Bosses can shop for company gifts. No matter the recipient, Anella has great taste: A bracelet she carries was featured in last month’s issue of InStyle magazine.

A sampling of what you’ll find at Taylor Square Shoppe: accessories like scarves, including pashminas; jewelry, from funky costume jewelry to high-end designers like Judith Jack and Crislu, as well as vintage lines like Annie Koplik and Clara Beau; tween gifts; boys’ gifts; baby gifts; men’s and women’s watches; wallets; handbags by former Vera Bradley designer Stephanie Dawn; Lolita wine and martini glasses; the Tea Forte line of silk-infused tea; fancy walking canes; Voluspa candles; lint-free flour sack kitchen towels; and greeting cards, from the popular Champagne line to homemade cards, including handmade cards by Samantha Shopovick, a ninth-grader at Harrison High School.

A certified pharmacy technician in her former career, Anella is huge on customer service. It’s why she offers free gift-wrapping and free local delivery (including downtown Harrison, White Plains, North White Plains and North Castle), why she takes pride in creating custom gift baskets and why she offers discounts — seniors and teachers receive 10 percent off, as does anyone visiting the store for the first time. She also ships.

During my visit, store patron Marie Tedeschi came in for her custom-ordered gift basket. “I’m not normally a shopper, but Maria makes it so easy,” Tedeschi said. “She comes up with beautiful ideas all the time. I just love this store; it’s so convenient to have this here.”

Gift baskets are Anella’s specialty. For individuals and companies, she fills them with Ferrara products and other Italian imports and items carefully chosen for the recipient. She also creates fruit baskets, baby baskets and wedding baskets.

A smart marketer, Anella maintains a mailing list for sending postcards with valuable offers, and her son helped her post flyers throughout Park Lane. Since marketing changes with the times, Anella knew she needed to be on Facebook when she was shopping online and saw the ubiquitous “Find us on Facebook” tagline. She’s received great responses from her Facebook page, especially from Harrison teachers.

Holiday hours are Monday-Wednesday 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Thursday and Friday, 12-9 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Call 914-949-3800.

Talk Back

In what ways have you reached out to customers in your community? Are there promotion ideas aside from those discussed in this article that have been effective for your business? Comment and share!

Shop Talk TipTime to Post Your Holiday Hours

Even in October, I started seeing signs in storefronts advertising holiday hours, the most creative being Quizno’s, on the corner of Halstead and Harrison avenues: “Quiz the Season.” Posting holiday hours early lets your customers know you care about their busy schedules so they can plan errands accordingly. Be sure to post the holidays you observe, not just Thanksgiving and Christmas, so your customers know you won’t be open on those days. Read more on my previous post about tips for posting holiday hours.

Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and Web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. She is also an award-winning songwriter and is on the Executive Board of the Harrison Chamber of Commerce.

Need help with your company's marketing and promotions? Visit saidandsung.com.

You’re Looking at WGCH’s Newest Listeners’ Advocate …

Great news!

Last week on WGCH's Forward Motion, Business and Life Coach Carmen Carrozza asked me to be a regular contributor on his show! I will be the show's Listeners' Advocate, playing the role of the layperson, sporadically asking questions for clarification or rebutting when necessary to speak on the listeners' behalf, or just plain causing some good old-fashioned back-and-forth! In essence, a co-host.

You can hear Forward Motion every Tuesday from 4-4:30 p.m. EST on wgch.com. Just click "Listen Live." Call in with your questions and comments at 203-661-5051.

The Oct. 12 show was my third appearance on the show. It was special to me not only because Carmen asked me to be a regular contributor, but also because I was able to speak in tribute to my late father, a small-business owner for 50 years. Listen to the podcast here.

Hope to hear you call in on a future show!

Carla

Returning to Forward Motion Radio Show

Tune in today (Oct. 12) at 4 p.m. EDT, as I make my third appearance on life and business coach Carmen Carrozza's "Forward Motion" radio show. You can listen live on 1490 AM WGCH.

As always, Carmen and I will discuss how we can assist small businesses and entrepreneurs in their marketing plan efforts. Listen in and call us at 203-661-5051 with your questions!

Cheers,

Carla

Husky Ways to Cross-Promote Sponsorships

The following was originally published in The Harrison Report on Sept. 30, 2010. Click to download a PDF of printed version of the paper.

Shop Talk

Business happenings in and around Harrison

Written by Carla Rose Fisher

Thursday, 30 September 2010 12:54
A BANNER START TO THE SCHOOL YEAR: My small-business heart was all aflutter a few weeks ago when those “Home of the Huskies” banners began appearing throughout the downtown area. To see the outpouring of support for our school athletics is a wonderful thing, plus the banners just make Harrison look so pretty. And guess what? More are on the way!The second shipment is due later this week, according to Lola Alvora, of the Harrison Booster Club. Her son, Duke, is a senior football player at Harrison High School. Alvora and two other Booster Club moms came up with the idea – Robin Basciano and Stacie Bogdany, whose daughters, Alexa (senior) and Angelica (freshman), respectively, are cheerleaders at the high school.

“We’ve seen banners like this in college towns and in a town in [New] Jersey,” Alvaro said. “When we saw these towns supporting their teams, we thought, ‘How about us?’” Initially, the Boosters had planned to keep the banners up until Christmas, but are hoping to keep them up longer, pending Town Board approval. They would also love to make this an annual event.

The banners represent any and all sports, plus band families. “They not only beautify the town, but also let any kid who participates in sports or activities know just how supportive the town is,” said Alvaro. In all, 95 banners have been sponsored, 50 percent by businesses and 50 percent by families and individuals.

The downtown banners were set to stretch along both sides of Halstead Avenue from St. Gregory’s on Broadway to the new flooring store near Parsons Street, but when they ran out of poles, the Booster Club decided to also make use of both sides of Harrison Avenue. Seven banners are up in West Harrison. Mayor Joan Walsh helped Alvora in her efforts to implement the idea, and also sponsored a banner, at the southeast corner of Halstead and Harrison avenues.

“These banners are for anybody who wants to just plain support the town,” Alvaro said. “The fact that Mayor Walsh and Judge Marc Lust’s family each sponsored banners wasn’t political; rather, because they simply love the Huskies.”

Funds raised from the banners will go to anything the teams need, as determined by the coaches. A portion of the money will also be given back to Harrison in another beautifying way, to buy flowers to plant in some empty flowerpots in downtown.

From a marketing standpoint, sponsorship should be touted. So I ask:

1) How can businesses maximize the visibility of their sponsorship?

2) How does the proximity of each banner to its storefront play a part in bringing about awareness?

First, I suggested to Alvaro that they announce the sponsors at the football games. After all, people attending games are those who most appreciate the sponsorship and are a captive audience. Since no more home games remain this season, Alvaro said she’d happily implement that idea for next year.

Second, Alvaro said each business decides whether their two-sided banner should be placed out front or anywhere in town. From my perspective, having one directly out front reinforces the pride in sponsoring the teams, but having one far away from the storefront potentially draws in new customers who otherwise may not have that particular store in their daily travels.

Butler Bros. Market Place Co-Owner Brian Butler was one shop owner who didn’t specify where the banner should be placed; he just happened to land a primo spot, along with Station Cleaners, at the bus stop on the northwest corner of Halstead and Harrison avenues.

“It’s where people stop at the light to make a right turn, and are idle waiting for the bus, so we’re very happy with our spot,” said Butler, who is proud to be part of something that is being done for the first time in Harrison. “Our major goal was to support the town and the school and the Boosters. We got on board early because we wanted to help give them a head start.”

For those owners whose banners are not located outside their shop, you can opt to put your street address or a relative address on the banner, such as “Across from RR station” or “three blocks down,” which helps town visitors. Alvaro said some businesses put their phone number or website. Butler chose to have the phrase “Fine Foods” included on his banner, as a way of describing the business. Just keep in mind: The more you put on the banner, the smaller the letters will be.

If you prefer, put up a small sign in your store: “We’re proud sponsors of the Huskies!” Or, create a promotion with a sign that says, “Find our banner and get 10 percent off!” and then offer 10 percent off to customers who tell you the location of your banner.

Alvaro hopes the banners help boost the local economy. “I used to go to dinner in the surrounding towns, but now that I see the support our dining establishments have shown for our kids, I now go out to dinner in Harrison,” she said.

If you are interested in sponsoring, contact Alvaro at 843-3377 or e-mail lolaalvora@yahoo.com. Alvora wishes to offer special thanks to Signs Plus in Mamaroneck, owned by Ron and Debbie Linsalto.

*****

A FOND FAREWELL: On Sept. 1, the small-business world suffered a great loss, as did I: My father, Anthony Arnone, passed away from cancer at age 71.

Though the bakery, deli and food importing business he owned and operated for 50 years is located in Erie, Pa., his legacy is here in Harrison, as he is the reason I am such a strong proponent of small business. Seeing how hard he worked throughout his life, and growing up in that family-business environment made me realize that opportunity is available if you have the passion and are willing to sacrifice and put in the hours. A lifelong Yankee fan, my father tried out for the Bronx Bombers when he was a teenager, but had to return home to take over the family store when his father suffered a heart attack. He sacrificed his dream, and created a new one for himself and his family. Thank you, Dad. I miss you and love you.

Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and Web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. She is also an award-winning songwriter and resides in Harrison. If you know of a newsworthy small-business happening in the area, e-mail carla@saidandsung.com.

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Want some fresh ideas to strengthen your marketing efforts? Contact me at carla@saidandsung.com.

Websites: Big-Business Value for Small-Business Owners

Still think you don't need a website, or that yours was a waste of money? Pshaw! Read my latest column below, which was originally published in The Harrison Report on Sept. 2, 2010. Marketing guru/freelance writer Allen Mogol contributed to the research of this column. Shop Talk

Written by Carla Rose Fisher
Thursday, 02 September 2010 13:46
Websites: Big-Business Value for Small-Business Owners“I spent all this money on my website, and it hasn’t brought me a single sale.” For small-business owners with sparkling, newly launched websites, this is a common lament. You’ve invested time and money in your website. Why, you ask, after three days — or three months — hasn’t my site paid for itself? Have I wasted my investment?

Probably not. Your website is a long-term investment. Instead of expecting your site to pay off immediately, consider that it takes time to attract and persuade a new customer to buy. A website can begin the process, but not necessarily seal the deal. A website can also remind your existing customers that you’re there for them 24/7, placing you on par with bigger businesses, and also let them know about new products, services, discount offers or special events. Your site can help keep you in the forefront of peoples’ minds when they need you, but may not necessarily result in an instant sale.

You actually may be getting business from your site without knowing it. If you ask your customers how they heard about you, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear how much of a traffic-builder your website has become. Especially if you’ve got video: Forester Research tells us you are 53 times more likely to appear on page one of Google’s search results if you have video on your website. And any good site designer these days will input keywords into the site’s coding to maximize its chances of being easily found on search engines.

5 key benefits websites offer:

1) Credibility. If your bank, favorite cable channel or preferred charity didn’t have a website, you’d wonder about its professionalism and reliability. By the very act of having a website, you’re telling your current and potential customers that you’re legitimate, current and committed to be there for them, not just now but down the road. When you meet someone in a business setting who makes a good impression, don’t you want to find out more about what they do? If he or she doesn’t have a web presence, it’s natural that you’d wonder about your new acquaintance’s level of expertise.

2) Convenience. Does that restaurant you’d like to try have vegetarian options? Is it wheelchair accessible? Busy consumers are used to getting instant answers not just when deciding where to eat, but when deciding on colors for their kitchens or where to buy school supplies. A website allows potential customers to get answers or even make purchases at their convenience, no matter what time of the day, often saving them the parking and traffic headaches that come with heading to actual storefronts. Whether refillable pencils or paint samples, a website transforms your business hours from 9-to-5 to 24/7.

3) Browsing. When potential customers are investigating a purchase, product photos online can result in a visit to your store when those customers are ready to buy, no matter if it’s tomorrow or months from now. It’s modern-day window-shopping. I recently watched an employee at a tea shop set up a stand in front of the store, offering free samples to dozens of passersby. Over 10 or 15 minutes, close to 50 samples must’ve been given out. And not one sampler walked into the store. A waste of time and product? Absolutely not. The product is delicious, and the shop made lots of impressions among tea drinkers that will likely pay off in the long run.

4) Reach. Let’s say you own a children’s furniture store. That’s usually the kind of store that potential shoppers will check out online first, before making in-person visits. They won’t go miles out of their way, not when they can go online first. And they likely won’t decide immediately. Your website is your chance to persuade customers to travel to your business, rather than go to the nearest one. Just know that the visit might not happen for weeks or months, as most people tend to research purchases — mostly through online reviews — before visiting the store to investigate further.

5) Branding. This may be the most important benefit of all. Your website is an ideal tool you should be tying in with all your other marketing efforts. In fact, you’ll increase site traffic by taking every opportunity to let your customers know you’ve got a website. Place your URL on fliers, your storefront display, business cards, coupons, menus, bags…virtually everywhere you promote your business. A website doesn’t operate in a vacuum; it’s part of your overall campaign. But you’ve got to make it known. Lots of companies Harrisonites do business with make sure their web address is prominent whenever they send out a postcard about a sale, an invoice for a previous purchase or a catalog promoting its whole line. Reminding customers about their websites gives customers a chance to find out more, and might persuade them to place an order or pay an in-person visit.

Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. If you know of a newsworthy small-business happening in the area or want more info on creating a web presence for your business, e-mail carla@saidandsung.com.

Need a writer for your website? Visit saidandsung.com to view my writing samples.

Shop Talk: One Door Closes, Another Opens in Downtown Harrison

The following column was originally published in The Harrison Report on August 5, 2010. It is reprinted below with additional photos.

Shop Talk

Written by Carla Rose Fisher

Thursday, 05 August 2010 15:25
As any Harrisonite will tell you, there are countless shops and businesses that give our community its charm and character. Many are doing their best to retain customers or attract new ones in this economy, and this column will examine marketing trends in the area and enable other businesses to apply the wisdom gained to their own operations.

One door closes, another opens

In Downtown ... As you make your way through downtown Harrison these days, you can’t miss the signs. They’re plastered in every available window of a shop that has been open for business for 29 years. The kind of signs you don’t wish to see. At Gold Rush Jewelers, 267 Halstead Ave., they read “Going Out of Business Sale,” “Fixtures for Sale” and “Store Closing Sale.”

The closing of Gold Rush Jewelers is a sign itself of the continuing merchant struggles in downtown Harrison. When I visited the store both to talk with owner Jason Manstream and to take advantage of the total liquidation sale, I found myself speaking in a funereal tone. “Well, take care,” I said when I left, averting my eyes. The sad circumstances felt completely antithetical to my natural role as a cheerleader for local business; I take closings of mom-and-pop shops hard. And Gold Rush is where my husband and I purchased our wedding bands, and where we got them engraved to mark our first anniversary. It’s also where I got my goddaughter’s christening present, and on this particular day, a chain to match, for her upcoming second birthday.

I asked Manstream why the decision was made to close the store now. “Summer is the worst time of year for retail,” he said. “We wouldn’t make it to Christmas.”

Across the street, the opposite signage: “Grand Opening” and “Now Open.” Those signs belong to CVS/pharmacy, whose arrival at 270 Halstead Ave. in Harrison was two-and-a-half years in the making. When asked if Gold Rush should postpone its closing in the hopes that the store traffic from CVS/pharmacy might cross the street to Gold Rush, Manstream said it’s non-issue. “It’s not about proximity. People just don’t have the money to buy luxury items these days,” he said.

Since taking over the store last year from his parents, Charles and Betty Manstream, Jason said the store’s economic trajectory has been downhill. “There was nothing I could have done differently to fight against the down economy,” he said. “Our potential customers are more in the market to sell off their gold.”

News of Gold Rush’s closing began with a direct-mail letter from the Manstream family sent to 5,000 Harrison residents, stating that it’s time to close. It also featured a sign-up form for a raffle for over $2,000 in prizes, a promotion set up by Wingate Sales Solutions, the nearly 100-year-old consulting company the younger Manstream hired to handle the closing. In addition to that initial entry form, the letter noted that for every $50 you spend in the store, you receive another raffle ticket. During the first week, 200 people had signed up for the raffle.

With the announcement of the Gold Rush’s everything-must-go sale, which began July 22, the store’s daily traffic during that fourth week of July had increased by 300 percent. That turnout was generated strictly from the letters and the going-out-of-business signage. By coming out in droves, the Harrison community is sending a strong message that Gold Rush is a part of the town’s heritage and will always hold a warm place in our hearts.

The sale is so big that it’s easy on our tight budgets: The entire inventory has been reduced for quick sale. This includes 14K and 18K gold jewelry, precious and semi-precious stones, pearl jewelry, clocks and watches, fine collectibles and gifts (like humidors and Precious Moments figures). Customers this past week have run the gamut from young to old, including two teenagers who came in while I was in the store, looking for gifts for their girlfriends.

Even with the sale and raffle to soften the blow, some customers have been taking the news rather hard. “They’ll ask me, ‘Why are you doing this to me?’” Manstream said. “But it’s not personal; it’s business. Hopefully, the people of Harrison and I will do business again...” His voice trailed off as he took a long pause. “In another time, another place.”

When I ask if there is any advice he’d like to offer new businesses, Manstream paused. “That’s a tough one. Small business in Harrison is, sadly, dwindling,” he said. He went on to cite the closing of the photo developing a store a few months ago, and I mentioned Bagelicious’ recent closing.

So what’s next for Manstream? That depends on how well the closing sale goes to pay off store debts, etc. He anticipates that the sale will last eight weeks, with the doors closing for good at the end of September. The sale is Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. I encourage you, dear readers, to think ahead to Christmas, Hanukkah, upcoming family birthdays or anniversaries and do some early shopping now. You don't see prices like this every day.

*****

Fortunately, there is good news for non-luxury item merchants in the neighborhood. CVS/pharmacy’s presence has brought several shops more foot traffic. According to CVS Store Manager Alexis Nunez, Dunkin’ Donuts, Quizzno’s, Harrison Donut Shop and Harrison Pizza & Pasta have all seen an increase in store traffic as a result of their proximity to the 10,880-square-foot store.

In fact, Nunez made a point to get to know his new neighbors. Prior to the store’s July 25 opening, he visited each business in the neighborhood to gather staff head counts so that he could provide them each with 20 percent off coupons for extra savings on the first day of business. He has also ordered food for his staff from his neighbors, he purchases daily meals in the neighborhood and he recently donated to the Harrison community by providing water bottles for the Summer Concerts in Ma Riis Park, where the Harrison High School cheerleaders sold the water to raise money for new uniforms.

Nunez can sum up the message he wants to send to residents in four words: convenience and customer service. “We want to make the store as convenient as possible for residents,” he said, letting me know that that some customers expressed how frustrated they were at having to go to Mamaroneck or Rye to shop for certain items. Some Harrisonites even came in that first day thanking Nunez for opening, amid exclamations of “finally!”

The hours of operation are also a big part of CVS/pharmacy’s convenience, considering its proximity to the Metro-North station. The store proper is open from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week. The pharmacy is open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday.

As for the service, Nunez said CVS is all about it. “We have both front and back check-out area, in addition to the pharmacy,” he said. “Everybody here is cross-trained, so managers and even pharmacy staff can hop on the register if need be.” He’s already done so. The store also features drive-through pharmacy service (with free delivery), a digital photo cafe, a Healthy Skin Care center and a 37-space parking lot.

The Grand Opening is set for this Sunday, Aug. 8, starting at 7 a.m. Nunez said it will be kid-focused, with balloons, refreshments and Elmo and Cookie Monster on-hand for pictures from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For adults, freebies include gift bags (while supplies last), free skin care analyses and skin care samples. There will also be a drawing for a Healthy Skin Care gift basket valued over $100.

FOR THE RECORD: Just to dispel any rumors that may be surfacing, Bakery & Patisserie, at 247 Halstead Ave., is not closing. The sweet shop owned by Violet and Sean Gerguri is entering its fifth month of operation in downtown Harrison, and while cakes and pastries are their most popular items, they also serve gourmet coffee. “We know that many people are on vacation now, and we are optimistic that business will pick up as we head into the fall and the holiday season,” said Violet. “When people come in, they will see that we offer quality baked goods at a good price.” The bakery also has also become a friendly neighbor, having recently supplied cookies, danishes and other pastries for an art exhibit held two doors down at Masterpiece Framing. I can personally vouch for the bakery’s chocolate ganache cake; it was a hit at a recent party.

Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. She is also an award-winning songwriter and resides in Harrison. If you know of a newsworthy small-business happening in the area, e-mail carla@saidandsung.com.

Action Figures: Answering the Call, One by One

More often than not, your readers, customers and clients — we'll collectively call them end-users — need things spelled out for them. Not in an insult-their-intelligence kind of way, but just a little prodding along so they know where to click next and why. Each clear directive you provide to your end-users so that they know which step to take next and for what purpose is what marketers refer to as a call to action. But in order for them to be effective, you must provide easy instructions.

For example, if you have a Web site that requires people to fill out a form, less is always more.

In the form below, note the two boxes beneath the form: One says 'Register' and the other says 'Home.' After filling out the form, the next step should be for the end-user to complete the registration process by clicking 'Register.' Take another look. You'll see there are a couple confusion-causing issues here:

1) The buttons are too close together (You shouldn't give your end-users too many choices; be simple by asking for just one call to action at a time.)

2) The 'Home' button is red in color, which means it stands out more to the user than the 'Register' button (Note: Red should be avoided on your site, if possible, since that color is often used for warning messages and errors.)

3) The 'Register' button looks less like a button than the more proportionately boxed 'Home' button

4) The 'Home' button is larger, so my eye naturally draws to it more than to the 'Register' button

Even though I'm a savvy Web user, I was fooled by the large red button, and I clicked it before realizing that I hadn't completed the registration process. As a result, I had to fill out the form again (frustrating) and click the 'Register' button first.

In this case, it would have been better to have a smaller button labeled 'Cancel' instead of 'Home,' making it clearer that the end-user has a choice between clicking 'Register' and canceling out their registration.

Action Done Right

A perfect example of clear calls to action can be found in the recent viral-video marketing campaign brilliantly executed by smoothie franchise Jamba Juice.

It begins with an eye-catching html e-mail (at left) that contains a link to a YouTube video.

Also, the subject line of the e-mail contains the interest-piquing phrase Cheeseburger Chill Smoothie — quite possibly the mother of all oxymorons — and it also includes one key component: the promise of a $1 off. That clues end-users in on the fact that they will be rewarded for what they read.

Once you click the video link, you are sent to YouTube to view the ad for the new smoothie. Go ahead and watch it; it's a lot of fun!

A screenshot of the video is below. Note the number of views.

The video uses parody as an engaging tool as well as a bouncy, catchy tune.

The actors in the video are so convincing about their love for the new smoothie that it can be hard for viewers to distinguish whether it's for real. If you read the comments under the video, you'll see a lot of people wondering aloud whether this smoothie is actually for sale. That kind of uncertainty creates a buzz (or controversy, even), and that buzz leads to large numbers of "You've got to see this!" hits.

The final shot of the video encourages viewers to visit a landing page, found at cheeseburgerchill.com.

Once there, viewers are finally given the explanation they were seeking as to whether the product is authentic.

The text on the landing page is written with a snarky tone, comparing the inanity of Jamba Juice making cheeseburger smoothies to fast-food burger joints now making smoothies (see below).

Then, Jamba Juice thanks the reader for "being in on the joke" (creating a sense of belonging with the Jamba newsletter community, making them feel smart and part of an elite group).

Best of all, after all those clear step-by-step calls to action, the campaign ends by providing a link for the reader to click to obtain a coupon for a $1 off any smoothie.

It's an excellent reward for their readers' time and attention.

Speaking of, why are you still reading this? Click the link above and get your Jamba Juice coupon! You've earned it.

Thanks for reading,

Carla

Want more tips and cool links? Follow me on Twitter.

Facebook.com/saidandsung

Today, my Saidandsung Facebook Page got its custom URL, also known as a vanity URL. Now, I can use facebook.com/saidandsung in promotions, whether verbally or written, and people can easily find my page. To get one for yourself, read this previous post. I will be using my page to offer people insight on more effective writing; links to fun design, copy and innovative marketing; and ways to be more creative. The Page also features a 'My Band' tab, where you can listen to the songs I've written. Finally, my two worlds of copywriting and songwriting are together on the same site!

Visit my Facebook page and click Like to stay in the loop and to hear my tunes. Hope to see you there!

And send me the link to your Facebook Page.

Thanks for reading,

Carla

Talking Shop: My Small-Business Column Debuts!

My business column for The Harrison Report debuted this week. You can view it on the newspaper's site here. I've reprinted it below with additional photos. Special thanks to Managing Editor Mark Lungariello for this opportunity.

Shop Talk
Written by Carla Rose Fisher
Thursday, 22 July 2010 17:12
As any Harrisonite will tell you, there are countless shops and businesses that give our community its charm and character. Many are doing their best to retain customers or attract new ones in this economy, and this monthly column will examine marketing trends in the area and enable other businesses to apply the wisdom gained to their own operations.

In West Harrison … IT’S ALL IN THE NAME: Changing a company name is a major decision, especially in terms of brand marketing. Before doing so, be sure your new name is easy to remember, that it follows suit with your target market’s expectations and that it stands out amongst your competitors. Keep in mind that you’ll have to budget for the creation of a new logo; the printing of new signage, business cards and letterhead; updates to your website and more. Further, the change must happen strategically, so as not to alienate regular customers.

Summertime is a fine time for the Silver Lake area of West Harrison, with a variety of local commerce offerings and their proximity to the Ron Belmont Pool in Passidomo Park. “The summer is always better for business here,” said Tino Giresi, co-owner of Café Eats, a popular neighborhood delicatessen that recently underwent a name change.

According to Giresi, one reason he decided to change his company name from Giresi Salumeria is because the deli went from a family-operated business to one in which he and two silent partners merged with a company called Café Eats.

Giresi said the former name was also hard to pronounce. “Salumeria” is Italian for “cured meat shop,” more commonly referred to as “Italian delicatessen.” Though West Harrison features a large Italian-American population — with which the former name resonated —Giresi wanted to broaden his customer base.

In terms of impact, Giresi said his regulars were initially dismayed, thinking that the change meant their trusted neighborhood deli was leaving the area. But once those loyal customers realized that Giresi himself was there to stay, they got on board. And the fact that the deli added 75 sandwiches to the menu made the transition even tastier. Some have snarky names like “911” (which features a bevy of hot meats, including sopressata and pepperoni, topped off with hot sauce) and “Sting Like a Bee” (mortadella, ham, smoked mozzarella, broccoli rabe and roasted peppers), while others have local flair like “Harrison Huskies,” “Harrison’s Finest” and “Frank Russo.”

The decisions Giresi made have translated into greater profits. Sales are up 20 percent from the same time last year, just after the Silver Lake area was hit hard with the construction of the pool. “The construction didn’t just affect us; it murdered us,” he said. In fact, he had to close up shop for an entire week. To overcome such physical obstacles and get people in the door, Giresi offered a three-course family feast that fed four to six people for $35. It’s this type of forward thinking that keeps small businesses afloat.

But the deli’s specialty is European-style thin-crust pizza, featuring fresh basil, fresh mozzarella (sliced, not shredded) and San Marzano tomatoes, handmade by Chef Gaetano Mangano. “It’s the best-kept secret in West Harrison,” Giresi said, “We have people who come from downtown Harrison just to get our pizza.” I can personally attest to it; I thought I had to go into the city to get a slice this good.

In Development… Many West Harrison residents have been wondering what’s happening with the property at 97 Lake St. After speaking with Project Manager John Robinson, I discovered that the space — owned by Purchase resident Alan Smith — will soon house 97 Lake, a sports bar and restaurant, with an opening date set for mid-August. According to Robinson, the project is on schedule and a grand opening is slated for September. “This area is an up-and-comer,” Robinson said, “and as a resident myself, I believe that 97 Lake will fill a void.”

And in Downtown … After much delay, the CVS in downtown Harrison will be opening on July 25.

This Month’s Shop Talk Tip: Post Your Business Hours Don’t leave people guessing whether you’re open. Post your hours of operation clearly on your storefront window or door, and if you have to step away or close early, leave a sign, even a handwritten one. This past week, a shop in downtown Harrison left its door open with no staff tending the store, leaving a patron perplexed and disappointed. That could have been a future customer, maybe even a potential regular, so be sure to let your customers know how much you value their time.

Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. She is also an award-winning songwriter and resides in Harrison. If you know of a newsworthy small-business happening in the area, e-mail carla@saidandsung.com.

Pockets of Information, Part II: Ensure Knowledge-Transfer Ease

In my last post, I discussed the importance of speaking up about all facets of your business life, especially if you own your own business and have another side gig, or if you're an independent contractor who wears many hats. Keeping such information to yourself only hampers your ability to truly connect with others, in terms of potential customers, business partners or referrals. Today, I'd like to emphasize how important it is for business owners and corporations to ensure that pockets of information do not go out the door when an employee leaves the company. I'm not just talking trade secrets here; those can be protected during exit interviews and with the proper paperwork. I'm talking about those little-known tricks, workarounds, resources and systems that a savvy staff member develops while in your employ.

For example, Joe in Marketing is the only one in the company who uses that frustratingly antiquated back-end such-and-such tool, simply because he's the only one who knows how. It's your job to make sure that when he leaves the company, his successor knows precisely how to operate that tool, even if it is an old way of doing things, because necessary files or information may be stored there that can later be analyzed for statistics or trends. At the very least, the successor should know that the particular process exists, if only to recommend more user-friendly software to accomplish the same task. This may require that Joe either train his successor, brief his manager or draw up a func spec to serve as a reference guide.

I realize, however, that what I am describing is an ideal knowledge transfer, which isn't always attainable. Not every resignation or termination situation carries with it the standard two weeks' notice. Some happen abruptly, with a later-that-day departure that leaves no opportunity for file transfers, copying of client contacts or hand-offs of any kind.

To avoid future situations in which leave you in the dark, I suggest that managers, directors and owners start early:

1) Try to instill regular documentation habits early on in the process. Asking employees to keep regular reports is an effective way to keep tabs on where systems need to be implemented, or even to spot where systems exist in the first place. If you see that an employee is approving customer comments on the company blog, then ask that employee to draw up a simple how-to guide that includes login credentials and step-by-step instructions so that any co-worker can cover that task in the case of illness or departure. While employees don't enjoy the process of daily or even weekly reports, it truly is one of the best ways that you can see productivity and the big picture.

2) Encourage managers to hold regular team meetings, or even a team meal. The more a team gets together as a unit, the more opportunities for open dialogue to occur. And when co-workers talk shop, processes are shared, ideas emerge and operational flaws are discovered (and often solved). At one company I worked for, a close-knit department got together once a week for lunch in the conference room. It wasn't catered or anything; rather, teammates would either bring their lunch, order in or get it to go and then gather around the table for an informative, casual discussion. That department operated like a well-oiled machine, and I'm sure the bonding and sharing of information that occurred at those lunches had a great deal to do with that.

3) Start. Organizing. Now. It's never too late to start documenting processes or even just keeping tidy files. Don't wait until things get chaotic (the office is moving, there is a merger or acquisition, a new leader implements a system overhaul, etc.) to organize files and develop systems for the smooth transfer of how things are done. You will only make an incredibly tedious assignment even more of an uphill struggle. For myself, I regularly pick a portion of my hard drive to organize every week or so: On any given day, I'll tackle photo files; the next time around, I'll handle music files; and all along I'll make sure that client folders are categorized and up to date. It's such a rewarding feeling to get a request for a specific file and to be able to locate it right away with no problems. I want that for all of you.

What's one way you ensure knowledge-transfer ease?

In organization,

Carla

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Pockets of Information, Part I: Empty Yours by Speaking Up

Yesterday, I enjoyed a brief respite from work to play softball for my Broadway Show League team. During a post-victory conversation with a teammate, I mentioned I was on my way to a meeting with my writing partners for a new children's musical project. My teammate just happened to know a higher-up in the children's musical world, and thus, smack dab in Central Park, a connection — or the promise of one — was made.

The lesson here? My teammate had NO IDEA that in addition to being a freelance business writer, I am also a songwriter, let alone that I have children's songs in my repertoire.

This is a perfect example of what I call Pockets of Information. And they need to be emptied.

SPEAK UP

Don't assume that answering the question "What do you do?" (WDYD) with a job title is enough to spark a connection in the mind of the person to whom you are speaking, especially if you are in business for yourself. In fact, if you answer that initial question confidently (which you always should), then that person may assume that you are all set in your profession and aren't seeking new clients. You also should share more about your other interests, but I'll say more on that in a couple paragraphs.

I'd say a better way to answer the WDYD question (using myself as an example) is, "I'm a freelancer writer and consultant for Web and print, and I'm always seeking new clients in small businesses, corporate clients, even individuals."

As the conversation continues, you should then try to work in any other passions you are pursuing (in my case, this would be my songwriting). Side jobs or businesses, even extracurriculars, can lead to tangental conversations, which are great breeding grounds for expanding your network.

If you own a business with a storefront, that's one thing, because people can see what you do. But if you have additional businesses or are an independent contractor of any kind who keeps the other sides of you deep in your pockets, few people will be able to guess them. By opening your mouth, you open your work and your interests to a new world of possibilities.

So get out there and get talking! Get on Twitter, on Facebook and LinkedIn to share your likes and dislikes, your passions and your strengths. You'll be stronger for it.

In Part II, I'll discuss how Pockets of Information affect business teams.

Thanks for reading,

Carla

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