An Open Letter to Small Businesses in Charlotte, NC

Dear Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs:

First off, I too am a small business owner and entrepreneur. JDW: The Charlotte Agency started in January 2008, probably the worst time (or best) since 1983.

Times are tough. But, right now is the best time to increase your market share, and create an even stronger connection with your current customer base.

Business analysts, marketers, and many other communicators have agreed that businesses that participate in marketing activities during an economic downturn, increase their profits during a growth period.

So I ask this: What the HECK are you doing?

Findings from AmIVisible.org came out about the small business presence in Charlotte, and quite frankly, I was appalled. Here are some quick tidbits:

– 44% of small businesses in Charlotte have websites
– 7% Small businesses in Charlotte advertise online
-13% take advantage of FREE online listings and search engines

From these pathetic numbers, you- small business community, have no right to complain about lack of business…you are not even trying!!

My fellow business owners, we have a lot on our plates. We worry about sales numbers, revenue, and keeping the doors open. We scream at the TV everytime a BofA moron is on, and wonder when will we get “that break.” Heck, some of us are praying because this may be our only chance to do this.

But. You. Have. To. Try.

Use these websites:

-Free Press Release.com
-PRlog.com
-FreeArticles.com
-Twitter
-BusinessLeader.com
-Freecitylistings.com

Increase your presence folks! Charlotte needs small businesses to do well! We need each other to do well.

Get your act together. But let’s do it together.

Yours,

Dwayne Waite Jr.

The (Lack of) Wisdom of Crowds

For the sake of this post, let us get all the jargon out of the way:

1. Crowdsourcing
2. Community-based thinking/”ideation” (ugh)
3. Groupthink

I think that’s most of them.

As communicators, we are facing a very interesting time in our career. Since 2002 (rise of the blogosphere)  the face of advertising, marketing and public relations has been slapped repeatedly with change, conflict, pushback and notably, with social and new media. With perfect competition in the industry (meaning that all or most audiences involved are privy to the same information) the only room we have between audiences is differentiation (economically speaking, of course).

But none of that is news to you seasoned professionals, so let me get to the point. Organizations now are opting in to more of a pull strategy, they put a few goods or services out there and let demand take its course. Not a bad thing.  What I am concerned about is the growing dependence on the opinions of crowds. Here are my three reasons.

1. Crowds Will Not ALWAYS Pick the Best Product for Them
Do not get me wrong, the individual is smart. The individual can decipher their own wants and needs and choose amongst a small selection what will work for them. But a crowd? Not so much. Crowds are the reason we get certain politicians in business. Crowds are the reason certain products are not and refused to be made. Crowds are the reason Kia is still in business. Crowds are the reason Tesla Motors haven’t taken off yet. It is human nature for people to swallow their own best interest and give in to a crowd’s command. Let us not forget that. If we want to be communicators, and in that business we vow to communicate what products will benefit them, then work on dividing the crowd, not uniting it.

2. The Product Chosen Might Not Be the Best Product for You
This is from a pure business standpoint. Internally, the product or service the crowd wants may have the potential to be significantly damaging to your fiscal structure. What do you do? If the crowd is in control of the message and information, then you are going to brace for disaster or find a way to be profitable. If you are in control of the message, you can change the conversation.

3. An Organization Should Never Lose Control of the Conversation
As a self-proclaimed gen Y’er, millennial, yadda yadda, I believe whole-heartedly in two-way communication. I do believe that we need to take a step back and better society and ourselves. And I also believe that we can do both at the same time.  So let’s take a step back from this situation. There will be times when an organization will lose control of a message. In this day and age it is inevitable. But the organization should never lose control of the conversation.

Like any argument, each party will make a solid point from time to time. But the party who wins the argument kept control.

Cheers,

DW

A Few of My Favorite Sites

As a self-proclaimed life learner, I cannot believe how the internet never ceases to amaze me. The depth of knowledge one can find at their fingertips is breath-taking.

But with the depth of knowledge, comes a caveat- all the clutter. With every web site worth going to, it seems that there are three pages worth of garbage. Now communicators who rely on the internet must become/create/use opinion leaders to help them sort through the mess. Here now is my attempt to participate.

Below are two sites that I wholly believe are worth checking out. One of these two is currently in its “soft launch” and the other one, though only a little bit older, has already received acclaim and promotion of the NYTimes writers of the FREAKonomics blog (so naturally I had to check it out).

Enjoy!

1. Open 4 Definition

How do you look at a word? What’s your definition of “expert”? I think your definition is different than mine, and that difference might be explained here.

2. The Book of Odds

Like statistics? Want to see statistics used in a cool way? This website compiled TONS of data and attempts to tell your life in a game of odds.

Don’t be an Expert…Be a Geek.

Go Geek.

Too many people in the marketing and communications industry call themselves experts, gurus, specialists, advocates, and other elitist terms.

How can you be an expert of something constantly changing?

Maybe I should ask an expert. Hmm.

Allow me to try to convince you that it is better to be known as a geek in your subject of expertise (and for the sake of this blog, we’ll stick with marketing) than an expert.

1. Geeks have a Passion for the subject
Sure, the definition of expert implies a mastery of a particular subject, but does it denote a love for it? According to the definition, it does not. Ah, but a geek! Everybody has a geek in their group of friends. Everybody has that one person that can explain life through a football example, or compare an event to the cell phone industry, or can break down a commercial because of the colors used. And in the definition for geek, there is that one word that separates it from expert- Enthusiast. You can develop a skill…a passion comes naturally.

2. People like Enthusiasm more than Intelligence
Perfect example: George W. Bush vs. John Kerry. Kerry seemed to be the more intelligent of the two, but who won the audience? Who seemed human, and enjoyed being there? It is human nature to be attracted to a smile than a statistic. A geek is a scary form of human being because they can showcase enthusiasm for a statistic. Wonderful.

3. Geeks KNOW that their not Experts
Like the old proverb “Fools think they know, when the wise know they still have much to learn”. Listen to those people that have a lot of information, but still admits that there is more information out there. The best teacher is a solid learner.

Go Geek.

Why Smart People Don’t Go Into Politics

With the new wave of political thought in the air, it seems that one trend stays the same: the majority of the intelligent population tend to stay out of politics.

“Dwayne,” one may say “intelligent in what sense?” Let me be sure to cover my base, saying that I am in no way insulting our current leaders’ mental capacity. I will be the first to say that many of our politicians are much smarter than I am (and thankfully I can comfortably say that about our current President).

I am referring to human behavior. From my outside and perhaps too businesslike view, below are a few reasons why I believe the “intelligent” stay out of politics.

1. Government is Inefficient
From the community level, all the way up to the federal, if you want something done quickly, do NOT go into politics.  All of the rules, regulations, operating procedures, and “watchdogs” (as well as the lack thereof) are so counter-productive, that nothing gets done. The phrase “red tape” and “bureaucracy” belong in the government realm for a reason.

2.  Want to Please Everyone, but Protect the Minority?
Our system is built on the thought that the minority must be protected against the majority. That’s where the Electoral College came from. That’s where the House of Representatives and the Senate came from. So, how are we supposed to expect fairness and equality? Fairness according to whom? The system? The majority? Or the minority? You decide. Oh wait…

3. Too Many Hands in One Pot
Everyone wants to have a say in something. Do we really need a bunch of egomaniacs who think they know what’s best for their constituents (when in reality they are more worried about reelection than actual policy)? I am not implying that I know a better system, but I would much rather sit outside and enjoy the show.

4. Government is Entangled with Economics…Ahh!
Once again, there is a place for government to interfere in certain business practices. It can be a consumer, and it could also be a competitor. But for it to disallow certain practices?  Come on now, the market (if we believe in free enterprise, of course) should be able to decide the winners and losers. Oh wait…enter today’s financial crisis. Government “by free enterprise, uh, we meant-” nope, no excuse needed. You all in charge can be replaced. Thank you democracy.

5. The Private Sector is in Charge Anyways
Ah yes, Capitalism. Until government policy is no longer affected by the Corporate powers-that-be, why go into politics? I have never seen a group of people so willing to be puppets.

Now here is where I contradict myself, and willingly so. Human nature needs order. Thankfully, our government gives this population the perception of order, which is fantastic. The theory of public citizenship is wonderful, and democracy-giving people the power and belief that their vote matters- is sorely needed. So, although my views of the political arena is poisoned with what I would consider as reality, I am very thankful for those who think otherwise.

Cheers,

DW

Advice from One of My Favorite Professors

Believe it or not, I am a proud graduate of Elon University.

And, believe it or not, Elon University happens to be a more than decent institution.

So how I got in (and graduated), I have yet to figure it out.

Anyway, while enjoying the mistake Elon made during those four wonderful years, I had the pleasure of learning from some of the brightest, most interesting minds of their fields.

One mind in particular, and the subtopic of this post, is Professor Michael Skube. What an odd fellow. But he gave me some of the best advice. And it is pretty simple. All he said was “good writers read good writing.”

Easy enough.

As a communicator, it is crucial to weed out all the fluff we read, in order to continually expand our minds and stay sharp. So below is a short list of the material I read, and the material I stray away.

What I read:
1. New York Times
2. Kurt Vonnegut
3. Shakespeare (I know, quiet)
4. Some classics (Machiavelli, American Revolutionaries, etc.)
5. Anything Freakonomics

What I Don’t read:
1. Wall Street Journal op-eds (Post-Murdoch)
2. Anything associated with Fox News (perhaps due to my own bias, but ah well)
3. Anything science fiction (minus Ray Bradbury)
4. Anything long-winded (Nathaniel Hawthorne- yikes..easy on the description)

And of course, also from Prof. Skube, I keep an AP Stylebook and  Strunk & White’s “On Writing Well” nearby at all times. Good grammar and writing is hot.

Cheers,

DW

North Carolina- At Least LOOK Like You’re Trying…

I love living in North Carolina.

More specifically, I love the Queen City herself, Charlotte.

What really bothers me, though, is why there are many people and business people asking me why I like it? This place is beautiful, shouldn’t they know already?

Then I checked the North Carolina Dept of Commerce Site.

Oh, that’s why.

You see, I am a big fan of facts and figures. Without them, artful language is nothing but that. My philosophy of marketing is that marketing is the ability to make facts and stats dance and entertain the potential investor or consumer, so they become attracted to a specific good or service. Good marketing makes good facts and figures palatable.

Bluntly put, the aforementioned site has no dancing. no entertaining.

I want to help North Carolina out. Here are my top five reasons to do business in North Carolina.

1. Smart, Ambitious and Young

Take Charlotte for example. The average age here is 34.1 years of age. Not an uncommon statistic around the growing cities in North Carolina. And with so many prestigious universities here, there is a breeding ground of brains and talent.

2. Won’t Break the Bank (too soon?)

Referencing the Cost of Living, take a deep breath. Compared to the other places in the nation, the South has it made! Come on now business folks! Use the CNN Money Cost of Living Calculator and see how North Carolina beats out the competition.

3. Extremely Low Barriers of Entry

It’s EASY to do business in North Carolina. Why look anywhere else? Listen. North Carolina has suffered from having to switch from a pure textile and furniture producing economy. But that makes room for so many more businesses to target more markets.

4. Prime Industries Ready to Launch

In my networking, reading and listening to the buzz in Charlotte, here are some industries in the next few years will pop off (grow) in the Carolinas:

-Wineries and supporting businesses
-Wind, Solar, and alternative energy companies
-Equine Industry (horseracing and maybe even legal horse                                        betting)
Can your company grow with these businesses? I think so. So why aren’t you here yet?

5. You’ll End Up Here Anyway

In my last blog, about the U.S. Demographic Landscape, it showed that close to 40 percent of Americans are going to be living in the South. 4 out of every 10 Americans will be experiencing the wonderful weather, beautiful nature, and the like. With such a huge chunk of people, won’t your operations need to have a certain southern lean to it? Perhaps, if you don’t already have a foothold in your current region.

Regardless of how North Carolina portrays itself,  it is not as boring as you would think. Take a look at all the facts, and then come down and visit for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.