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THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Economic boosters poised to open Southland’s first high-tech business networking hub 4343

Chicago Tribune Southland Tech Hub
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Economic boosters poised to open Southland’s first high-tech business networking hub 4343
Reggie Greenwood of the Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator at Governors State University shows off the logo for 4343 Ascending House in Matteson, a hub where small-business owners and other professionals may rent space, network and access technology.
Reggie Greenwood of the Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator at Governors State University shows off the logo for 4343 Ascending House in Matteson, a hub where small-business owners and other professionals may rent space, network and access technology. (Ted Slowik / Daily Southtown)

Small-business owners and other professionals in the south and southwest suburbs will soon have the chance to access shared office space, technology and networking opportunities.

The innovative hub at 4343 Ascending House will be the first of its kind in the area and give entrepreneurs access to new tools to grow their businesses, said Reggie Greenwood of the Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator at Governors State University.

“We don’t have anything like this,” Greenwood said during a tour of the 6,000-square-foot office space being renovated at 4343 Lincoln Highway in Matteson. “We want this to be a networking center for the region.”

For as little as $1,000 a year for a “hot desk,” members will be able to drop by and tap into Wi-Fi from an open, shared space. They will be able to print documents or host a Zoom video meeting from a conference room.

They could record a podcast or stream a Facebook Live video from a studio with professional lighting, audio and video equipment. Manufacturing companies will have access to a $25,000 3D printer that may be used to produce spare parts for equipment, Greenwood said,[Most read] Going to the Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin game at Soldier Field? Here’s what to know, including the schedule for ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’ and the new bag policy. »

For $2,000 per year, members can reserve a semiprivate cubicle. For a $3,000 annual fee, patrons can secure a private office. The rates are introductory and subject to change, Greenwood said.

Amazon, Comcast, Nicor, Mi-Jack, other sponsors and grants have covered costs of renovating the space.

“We’ve raised $500,000,” Greenwood said.

The facility’s numeric name was inspired by 1871, the nonprofit Chicago technology and entrepreneurship center that opened in 2012 on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart.

One could feel exasperated that it took nine years to bring a comparable facility to the often neglected south suburbs, or one could rejoice that such a valuable enterprise is finally here. The target opening date is Jan. 2, Greenwood said.

Reggie Greenwood of the Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator at Governors State University gives a tour of 4343 Ascending House in Matteson, where small-business owners and other professionals may rent space, network and access technology.
Reggie Greenwood of the Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator at Governors State University gives a tour of 4343 Ascending House in Matteson, where small-business owners and other professionals may rent space, network and access technology. (Ted Slowik / Daily Southtown)

Several various programs and entities that support small businesses will share the space and create opportunities for innovation and collaboration, Greenwood said.

“Having programs connected to a space makes them more real, I’ve found,” he said.

Greenwood also is executive director of the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation, an agency affiliated with the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association.

The space at 4343 Ascending House will be used to host networking events, from morning seminars over coffee to afternoon classes on entrepreneurship to evening gatherings with wine and hors d’oeuvres, Greenwood said.

Shared spaces include a kitchen that can accommodate catered events. It is unclear what policies will determine the fate of food left in the office refrigerator or penalties for leaving the office microwave a mess.[Most read] Ask Amy: Generous father plans a blues cruise »

All kidding aside, 4343, as Greenwood calls the center, sounds like it will create exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs to share ideas and grow their businesses.

There also is an, “If you build it, they will come,” element to 4343, to borrow a line from the film “Field of Dreams.” There seems little doubt that there is sufficient demand to fill the six 30-square-foot cubicles and 10 office spaces that range from 100 to 190 square feet.

The Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator is conducting a pilot course on e-commerce strategies and training. Nineteen entrepreneurs from the south suburbs are enrolled, Greenwood said.

“They are all small companies and they are all doing such a great job in the class,” Greenwood said. “One of our ideas is to be inclusive, and I think all of them are minority women.”

The center’s emphasis is e-commerce, which involves logistics, online sales and other services.[Most read] ‘Foundation’ review: Apple TV+ takes a big swing adapting Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi book series »

“E-commerce is a methodology of creating new connections for your customers,” Greenwood said.

Reggie Greenwood stands outside a brick office building at 4343 Lincoln Highway in Matteson, where 4343 Ascending House will offer space for small-business owners and other professionals.
Reggie Greenwood stands outside a brick office building at 4343 Lincoln Highway in Matteson, where 4343 Ascending House will offer space for small-business owners and other professionals. (Ted Slowik / Daily Southtown)

Those opportunities might include a storefront retailer accessing new markets through internet sales or a restaurant attracting new customers by offering pickup or delivery services through an app.

The services at 4343 will help entrepreneurs implement and execute their ideas to expand their enterprises.

“As you use digital marketing more effectively, it requires a change in the entire supply chain,” Greenwood said. “E-commerce is a strategy for your company that involves the evolution of the supply chain.”

It helps that corporate sponsors include the behemoth online retailer Amazon, which is on the verge of opening huge new fulfillment centers in Matteson and Markham in addition to its facilities operating in University Park, Monee and elsewhere.[Most read] ‘This is such a grand facility.’ As historic Arlington Park crosses the finish line, horse racing workers wonder how they’ll fill the void »

Amazon’s newer facilities rely heavily on robotics to aid in packaging, sorting and distribution. The workforce of the future will include many employment opportunities for technicians to program and service robotics equipment.

That’s why 4343 also will be the new home of the Southworks Engineering and Robotics Competition. The Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation created the annual event to give teams of high school students the chance to show off their chops in applying concepts learned through courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

Greenwood said he hopes to continue expanding services offered through 4343 once it opens early next year. He said he’d like to get a company to sponsor an electric vehicle charging station in the parking lot.

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In addition to the confirmed availability of a high-tech 3D printer, Greenwood said he would like to offer members opportunities to use blockchain technology to mine for Bitcoin.

“Blockchain’s application involves more than cryptocurrency. It’s part of the supply chain,” Greenwood said. “If you’re buying something, it’s provenance is important. Let’s say you’re buying organic coffee. You want to make sure your organic coffee came from an organic farm.”[Most read] Chicago aldermen question mayor’s plan to raise property taxes, rely on federal COVID-19 aid in new budget »

I did my best to grasp the many potential opportunities involved with 4343, but some of the technological concepts seemed over my head. I told Greenwood the introductory offers of $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000 a year for memberships sounded affordable.

The bargain prices are just one more reason now is good time to consider investing in the Southland, where costs are low and the potential for growth is high.

Ted Slowik is a columnist with the Daily Southtown.

tslowik@tribpub.com

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Economic boosters poised to open Southland’s first high-tech business networking hub 4343

https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/opinion/ct-sta-slowik-southland-economic-incubator-st-0926-20210924-6fbpzf6wtzcxbod35uqsplliv4-story.html

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Pennies Tea – Business On The Move

About Pennies Tea

Pennie Crockett  otherwise known as Ms. Pennie –– She is the CEO and Founder of Pennie’s Tea. She is a Chicago native who was a Professor of Health Science where she has worked for ten years preparing students for future careers in healthcare.

Pennies Teas

She is an educator, author, a mother of two, a tea sommelier and health professional with a Master’s Degree in Health and an entrepreneur who doesn’t mind sharing the secrets of better health and vitality.

Pennie crafts blended loose leaf teas that are flavorful and healthy.  She has also mastered a ready to drink tea beverage that are delicious and cold brewed.  Pennie’s creates a tea transformation experience to repair your body from the inside out. 

As a survivor of domestic violence, Pennie’s utilizing the power of specially-blended tea recipes, Pennie combines the healing potential of her brews with the message that health and wellness can help you heal.  As a survivor of domestic violence, it has become Pennie’s mission to increase awareness of the aftermath, both mentally and physically, of domestic violence and how to live with the trauma.

She has turned pain into passion and a percentage of her proceeds go to the crisis center that saved her and her daughter’s life. She wants to continue to help other women find their passion and strength like she did through her teas. She’s helping and healing one sip at a time.

Pennie’s Tea is more than a drink… It’s a movement, transforming the way you experience tea.

Pennies Amazing Teas
Ms Pennie Owner of Pennies Tea
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FOX 40 NEW YORK – 4343 Ascending House

FOX 40 NEW YORK

The 4343 empowers the Chicago Southland by bringing diversity and inclusion to manufacturing business through collaboration and education.

Chicago, IL September 14, 2021 –(PR.com)– Student Highlights of The Ecommerce Strategy Certificate Course Chicago Southland

https://youtu.be/g6OaeLNNkGg



The 4343 is committed to working with manufacturing and distribution companies to enable them to take advantage of new ways business development is being done. Ecommerce is a major component of our effort educate and empower success. An essential business practices.

These Programs Are Aimed at Supporting Diversity in Business
Understanding, accepting, and valuing. The unique differences in races, ethnicities, genders, ages and more. The differences in education, skill sets, experiences & will be enhanced through the 4343 and its programs.

They aim to be collaborative, supportive, and a respectful environment that increases the participation and contribution of all their members.

Supporting The Chicago Southland Through Education

The South-Southwest Suburban Region, commonly known as the Southlands, are comprised of more than 2.5 million residents living in 62 communities throughout Cook and Will Counties. Historically, the Southlands have been a key source of people and firms driving the regional economy. Today, the regions remain asset-rich, housing over 20 percent of suburban Cook County’s population and nearly 15 percent of its businesses. However, this region faces new challenges as they have become increasingly disconnected from the regional economy and its trajectory. This growing exclusion heightens the social, racial, fiscal, and other challenges these communities face, and undermines the long-term growth of the entire metropolitan region.

The most severe poverty rate increases in Chicago occurred in the southern suburban cities of Harvey, Chicago Heights, Robbins and Calumet City. This zone of spiraling poverty is in contrast to the City of Chicago, which has seen stabilization in its low-income population. The greatest need in the southern suburbs is for basic needs such as food insecurity, housing, and safety from abuse. The Southland area consists of disinvested areas, both Economically Disconnected Areas (EDAs) and struggling commercial and industrial areas. Those areas have a concentration of low income and BIPOC populations and have experienced a loss of economic activity over a sustained period. Without action, evidence of increasing training requirements and decreasing employer investments in training raises concerns about compounding inequality and lagging employment.

One distinguishing feature of the South Suburbs – compared to other parts of the region’s suburban landscape – is their prominence as a place of residence for the region’s African American population. The southern suburbs are experiencing increased needs and reduced services and are poorly equipped to advocate for the resources they need to support their residents.

Build a strong foundation in ecommerce sales & marketing with an introduction to core principles and develop needed practical skills. At GSU, it is imperative they educate their members in the wild world of ecommerce.

You are taking so much more than a course. You are joining likeminded individuals on a similar journey. Thanks to the 4343!

4343ascendinghouse.org

Contact Information:
4343 Ascending House
Reggie Greenwood
708-519-0432
Contact via Email
https://4343ascendinghouse.org

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4343 Ascending House, GSU, Ecommerce EDU complete first eCommerce strategy course for the Chicago Southland

4343 Ascending House, GSU, Ecommerce EDU complete first eCommerce strategy course for the
Chicago Southland

ecommerce education courses southland Chicago 5 stars

The 4343 EMPOWERS THE CHICAGO SOUTHLAND BY BRINGING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION TO MANUFACTURING BUSINESS THROUGH COLLABERATION AND EDUCATION

The 4343 is committed to working with manufacturing and distribution companies to enable them to take advantage of new ways business development is being done. Ecommerce is a major component of our effort educate and empower success. An essential business practice.

THESE PROGRAM ARE AIMED AT SUPPORTING DIVERSITY IN BUSINESS

Understanding, accepting, and valuing. The unique differences in races, ethnicities, genders, ages and more. The differences in education, skill sets, experiences & will be enhanced through the 4343 and its programs!

We aim to be collaborative, supportive, and a respectful environment
that increases the participation and contribution of all our members.

 

SUPPORTING THE CHICAGO SOUTHLAND THROUGH EDUCATION

 

The South-Southwest Suburban Region, commonly known as the Southlands are comprised of more than 2.5 million residents living in 62 communities throughout Cook and Will Counties. Historically, the Southlands have been a key source of people and firms driving the regional economy. Today, the regions remain asset-rich, housing over 20percent of suburban Cook County’s population and nearly 15 percent of its businesses. However, this region faces new challenges as they have become increasingly disconnected from the regional economy and its trajectory. This growing exclusion heightens the social, racial, fiscal, and other challenges these communities face, and undermines the long-term growth of the entire metropolitan region.

 
 

The most severe poverty rate increases in Chicago occurred in the southern suburban cities of Harvey, Chicago Heights, Robbins and Calumet City. This zone of spiraling poverty is in contrast to the City of Chicago, which has seen stabilization in its low income population. The greatest need in the southern suburbs is for basic needs such as food insecurity, housing and safety from abuse. The Southland area consists of disinvested areas, both Economically Disconnected Areas (EDAs) and struggling commercial and industrial areas. Those areas have a concentration of low
income and BIPOC populations and have experienced a loss of economic activity over a sustained period. Without action, evidence of increasing training requirements and decreasing employer investments in training raises concerns about compounding inequality and lagging employment.

 
 

One distinguishing feature of the South Suburbs – compared to other parts of the region’s suburban landscape – is their prominence as a place of residence for the region’s African-American population. The southern suburbs are experiencing increased needs and reduced services and are poorly equipped to advocate for the resources they need to support their residents.

Build a strong foundation in ecommerce sales & marketing with an introduction to core principles and develop needed practical skills. At GSU it is imperative we educate our members in the wild world of ecommerce. 

You are taking so much more than a course. You are joining likeminded individuals on a similar journey. Thanks to the 4343!

This 4 Week Course covers.

  • Ecommerce Overview & Strategy 
  • How to start selling online 
  • Picking Platforms & Online Marketplaces 
  • Choosing Products & Product Positioning 

The  course is designed to build a strong foundation in the basics of ecommerce. It is a perfect introduction to consumer behavior and understanding what drives sales online.

This GSU Ecommerce Course will teach you how to optimize your ecommerce strategies and tactics in the context of multi channel online sales, social media, search engine management, search engine optimization, ecommerce and paid digital display advertising. This course has been developed by leading digital marketing experts from within the US and features up-to-the-minute content covering all aspects of the ecommerce spectrum.

Businesses future is facing serious challenges. The world is changing quickly around us, ecommerce is no longer an option but in fact it has become an expectation. You are one step closer. We believe that too. So what are you waiting for? Start the journey in becoming an even bigger force to be reconnected with.

Lets work together to make your efforts online a success. 

Ecommerce Education Ecommerce EDU
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Black Owned Candle Company Brings Self Care to All

Black Owned Candle Company Brings Self Care to All

Meet the maker behind Unlax Candles and how this military-owned business creates a therapeutic escape for mental health. Brought to you by GoDaddy. https://www.godaddy.com After joining the military at the age of 18, Kay’s difficult experience and steadfast dedication to support her family impacted her mental health. Through therapy, she discovered how challenging it was for her to truly relax and unwind. She started experimenting with making handmade candles for herself to escape from the anxieties of a stress-infused job.

Fueled by the meditative process of candle making, she launched Unlax Candles and hasn’t looked back since. Using the GoDaddy Websites + Marketing platform, Kay easily built a website with an online store and integrated sites like Amazon, Etsy and Facebook Marketplace with the click of a button. Before she knew it, her candle company quickly blossomed as folks prioritized supporting Black businesses during the BLM Movement.

As Kay continues to serve as a positive example for others to focus on self-care, she wants to prioritize her own mental health so she can connect with her customers with a big heart and open mind. Want to hear more entrepreneur stories like this?

Subscribe to GoDaddy on YouTube:

http://bit.ly/GoDaddy-Subscribe

Learn more about Unlax Candles: https://www.unlaxcandles.com

https://www.instagram.com/unlaxcandles

https://twitter.com/unlaxcandles

https://www.facebook.com/unlaxcandles

Website Builder: https://www.godaddy.com/website-builder Email Marketing: https://www.godaddy.com/online-market… As the company empowering everyday entrepreneurs around the world, GoDaddy gives you all the help and tools you need to grow online. #GoDaddy #GoDaddyMakers #SuccessStories #MilitaryOwned #BlackOwned

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What is Workforce Innovation? – MEP News

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August 30, 2021By: Matt Fieldman

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Credit: iStock/chabybucko

This blog is the sixth in a monthly series brought to you by the America Works initiative. As a part of the MEP National Network’s goal of supporting the growth of small and medium-sized manufacturing companies, this series focuses on innovative approaches, and uncovering the latest trends in manufacturing workforce development.

V’principe, da.

In Russian, it means, “In principle, yes.”

In reality, it means, “No. Not a chance. Nyet.

Definitions are important, and it’s a lesson that I’ve learned the hard way. From 2006 to 2007, my wife and I had the opportunity to live in St. Petersburg, Russia, where our job was to consult for local nonprofits with the goal of strengthening their operations. In the years after the fall of communism, Russia’s nascent nonprofit sector had a tremendous opportunity to grow and develop from literally nothing into a robust and vibrant sector. Filled with recommendations and suggestions for improvement, we would offer our ideas to our Russian colleagues with the best of intentions. They would respond positively, saying “V’principe, da.” Then, weeks and months would pass with no action whatsoever. Finally, a Russian colleague explained to us that, while the literal translation was “yes, that makes sense,” the actual meaning was, “No, we’re not interested, leave me alone.” As you can imagine, it was a challenging year!

It occurred to me recently that, six months into this blog series, we haven’t yet defined what “Workforce Innovation” actually means. What constitutes “innovation” when it comes to workforce development?

Accelerating the Impact on Workforce

As readers of this blog may know, the goals of America Works are to accelerate the impact of MEP Centers nationally when it comes to workforce. One of the tools we’re using to do that is mini-grants: $10,000 grants to MEP Centers to try something new when it comes to training programs. The four criteria for these grants are pretty simple: How innovative is this program? Will it create a best practice that can be scaled or replicated nationally? Does this not only use partnerships with other local organizations, but maximize each player’s strengths? And finally, will this generate new knowledge for the MEP National NetworkTM? As I reviewed the numerous, thoughtful proposals in this first round of micro-grant applications, I realized there were three themes that kept popping up:

  1. Leveraging emerging technologies: As we’ve seen in the MEP Workforce Database, MEP Centers are rapidly adapting new technologies to deliver training. Whether it’s Learning Management Systems (LMS), Tooling U-SME, virtual classes, simulations, phone apps, or games, these Centers understand that leveraging technology for cost-effective training of remote populations is important. Earlier this year, we took a deep dive into Oregon MEP’s Smart Talent platform, which adapts an existing LMS specifically for manufacturing clients. One of the exciting areas that saw several mini-grants was in virtual reality, where MEP Centers want to leverage TRANSFR VR’s manufacturing career awareness headsets to bring manufacturing careers directly to high school students.
  2. Reaching out to new populations: We’ve talked about how MEP Centers are on the front lines of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and this grant round reinforced that point. We saw emphasis on promoting minority ownership of product-focused startups, exciting new forays into online education for displaced workers, a new program to train young adults with autism the skills of CNC machining, and – as mentioned above – using VR to engage high school students.  
  3. Launching new partnerships: While MEP Centers are skilled at manufacturing consulting and training, it’s important to recognize that we’re not experts at everything. For example, we aren’t traditional teachers, social workers, guidance counselors, or career coaches. But as we enter this new era of workforce development, where we’re focusing on the holistic needs of each individual trainee (and not just those of the company), we understand that all of those roles are important. That’s where local ecosystems partners come into play. Community colleges, workforce investment boards, re-entry organizations, high schools, and so many more must be engaged and encouraged to bring their unique assets to this ongoing fight. Another set of unique partners are the Manufacturing USA Institutes; we’ve done two webinars to learn about their new workforce programs. To steal a well-known saying, it’s going to take an entire village to develop the advanced manufacturing workforce we need.

With those considerations in mind, I’m excited to announce the seven winners of the first round of mini-grants:

  1. Montana Manufacturing Extension Center (Montana MEP) – Launching a new re-entry training, placement, and support program that will take place in two local men’s and women’s prisons.
  2. Catalyst Connection (part of Pennsylvania MEP) – Launching Pittsburgh’s first-ever regional workforce conference, which will forge new partnerships and create new collaborations that advance workforce in the area.
  3. Polaris MEP (Rhode Island MEP) – To bring manufacturing career awareness and training to two high schools through VR.
  4. Impact Washington (Washington state MEP) – To provide lean tools and training to 40 Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)-owned companies.
  5. NWIRC (part of Pennsylvania MEP) – To pilot a new training program for individuals with autism to learn CNC machining (with Uniquely Abled Academy).
  6. PRIMEX (Puerto Rico MEP) – To partner with Jobs for the Future (JFF) to bring manufacturing apprenticeships to Puerto Rico, including marketing, translation of materials into Spanish, and expansion.
  7. CONNSTEP (Connecticut MEP)– To incorporate VR manufacturing training into 12 high schools participating in the Manufacturing Skills for CT program.

Of course, while I’m excited about the local impact and national scalability of these new programs, not every workforce venture is going to be successful. Still, these are good lessons to learn, as we seek to push the limits of each technology, better understand the needs of each new population we want to serve, and maximize our local and national partnerships. In any case, we’re not going to beat around the bush like my Russian colleagues those many years ago; instead, we’re going to be candid about what worked, what didn’t work, and how we can improve from month-to-month and year-to-year.

And that’s the point of these America Works mini-grants: to experiment, fail, iterate, and try again. Because strengthening America’s manufacturing workforce is a marathon, not a sprint, and we’re going to need innovation – along with a very clear definition of what that word actually means! – if we’re going to win this race.MEP National Network and Workforce

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

matt fieldman

Matt Fieldman

Matthew Fieldman is currently Executive Director of America Works, a nationwide initiative to coordinate the American manufacturing industry’s training efforts, generating a more capable, skilled, and…

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Washington Businesses cohort dig into digital marketing with Ecommerce MGMT

Pierce County

COVID-19 prompted a huge demand for marketing resources to help small businesses get their products and services to customers. And now, as businesses work to rebound and recover from the effects of the pandemic, digital marketing is the key to their success.

But knowing how to be competitive online isn’t easy, especially for businesses that haven’t previously considered the internet an essential part of their business plan. That’s why the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County and Impact Washington teamed up to create a technical assistance program to help local businesses enhance their digital marketing presence and, ultimately, boost leads and sales.

The Marketing for Success eCommerce class, held virtually over four weeks in June, was offered free of charge to five Pierce County business owners and led by Curt Anderson, co-founder of B2Btail. Anderson ran a highly successful eCommerce business for nearly two decades before shifting his focus to helping other entrepreneurs tackle eCommerce strategies. The in-depth course offered presentations by industry experts, group sessions and one-on-one consultations that drilled down on specific topics and exercises, from identifying customer personas to nailing the perfect mission statement—all through a manufacturing lens.

“What hit retail, restaurants and more 20 years ago is just now hitting manufacturing,” Anderson said. “Manufacturers never expected the internet to be so important. Now, it’s more important than ever.”

To join the exploding eCommerce market, small-business owners typically have two choices: do the work themselves or have someone else to do it for them. “We try to find that sweet spot,” Anderson said. “Our intention is to help teach these entrepreneurs how to fish. We work alongside them and provide the tools, resources and advice they need to ease into the eCommerce world.”

Immediate results

“Being part of the digital marketing course was really eye-opening, especially when it came to our customers,” said Markiss Cooper, owner of iHAUL, an on-demand, third-party logistics company in Tacoma that specializes in last-mile white glove delivery. “I’d always thought our client was the mom-and-pop store. It’s really the distributors or manufacturers.”

By identifying his key customer, Cooper could end the stressful rat race of trying to be everything to everyone. After completing a class exercise to identify his three ideal clients, Cooper acted immediately. He’s already landed jobs with two of them, one of whom said iHAUL was already on his radar before Cooper reached out.

Cooper had also struggled with clearly communicating the services iHAUL provides. “Our tagline was ‘Big or small, we’ll haul it all’. I realized that just wasn’t true,” he said. With Anderson’s help, Cooper came up with something better: Delivering peace of mind, one white glove delivery at a time. “It seems like a small thing, but it covers exactly what we do,” he said.

For Cooper, who co-founded iHAUL with his wife, Ashley, those seemingly small things picked up during the class added up. “It was lifechanging for us,” he said. “I appreciate the EDB and Impact Washington for putting this together. It’s one more thing that makes us realize people value what we do and want to see us succeed.”

 Zeroing in

Jeremiah Meacham’s Puyallup-based company, K9inebubbles, is unique. So unique, in fact, that during the digital marketing class he realized his business doesn’t have a North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. (The six-digit code is the standard used by federal statistical agencies to classify individual businesses by industry.) His warm-water dog baths are considered both a pet product and a plumbing product. That made connecting with customers a challenge.

“We were trying to reach out to everyone we thought would use our product,” Meacham said.

He and Anderson dove into his company’s website and social media presence to determine what was being communicated—and to whom. “We weren’t even close to doing what we needed to do to reach our customer,” he said. “The class helped me realize we need to zero in on dog owners first. Now we know who our customer is and how to talk to them.”

To enhance his digital footprint, Meacham labeled pictures and blogs on his website and included keywords across platforms to optimize Google search results. He’s also leveraged the power of LinkedIn to communicate with other businesses that could resell his product. And he’s continuing to work with Impact Washington and an eCommerce management group to take his digital marketing efforts to another level. That includes exploring more distribution channels and creating a strategic business plan.

“The program exposed me to so much more than what I was aware of,” he said. “Now I’m trying to make the best of all the resources.”

Starting with the basics

Taking part in the digital marketing cohort during peak construction season was no easy task for Arti O’Brien, president of Advanced Government Services, Inc., provider of traffic control services and safety products. She didn’t have the bandwidth to make big changes or ponder large-scale strategies. But the small-group format of the class and Anderson’s personalized approach enabled her to focus on modest steps that could still boost her digital marketing presence.

“Curt reached out to me ahead of the class to talk about my expectations,” O’Brien said. “He took the time to get to know me and understand my business and what I was looking for.”

O’Brien’s background is in sales and marketing, but the Internet digital space has changed significantly in recent years. And with COVID in the mix, it’s more dynamic than ever. The class helped bring her up to speed and get her thinking about what she can do now and in the future.

“The class really brought to light the ‘soft things’ no one tells you about,” she said. “I think of them as the bedside manner of the internet.”

When she has more time, O’Brien plans to start with some digital marketing fundamentals, like tagging images on the company website to enhance Google searches, tweaking language across platforms and incorporating videos to make a more powerful impact. “I feel like I have the tools now to think outside the box,” she said.

The Marketing for Success business cohort was open to companies physically located in Pierce County that provide services or products outside the county. Additional participants included Scott Reader, managing director of Rainier Woodworking, a Tacoma manufacturer of fine-crafted cabinetry and millwork, and Anthony Veliz, owner of Lakewood-based Veltex Services, provider of commercial and residential cleaning services.

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Marketing 101: Top Ten Tips for an Effective Call-to-Action

Lead generation is your bread and butter for long-term growth and stability. Your store depends on a steady stream of new customers to refill the pipeline.

Whether your business model relies on thousands of smaller transactions — or a smaller number of large transactions — you should continually improve your lead generation marketing strategies. And an effective call-to-action (CTA) lies at the heart of it.

Why?

Because without clear, focused, actionable directions, your potential leads will be left to guess their next step. This result is inaction and a missed opportunity to secure a new lead.

Let’s examine ten CTA tips with a focus on lead generation and customer acquisition.

1. Shrink the obstacles to taking action

New leads are often hesitant to pay full price at a business they’ve never purchased from. If the journey to becoming a customer takes five steps, your lead generation CTA should take them from step one to step two.

So instead of ‘Buy Now,’ it might be ‘View Our Products.’

Here’s a chart showing more examples of bigger vs smaller steps in the sales process:

Shorter-step CTAs Longer-step CTAs
Take the quiz Join our newsletter
See your score Schedule a free consultation
Try a free sample Get my first week free

Notice that none of these are asking for a sale. But it’s less daunting to take a quiz or see a score than to join a newsletter or schedule a consultation. Trying a free sample with no obligation is easier than a first week free, because the second option implies you’re signing up for something.

The smaller the step, the less your leads will feel like they’re making a commitment. That means less resistance to your offer.

2. Use first-person language

‘Sign Me Up!’ is better than ‘Sign Up!’. It personalizes the CTA. It gives the person ownership of their decision and gets them more invested in the outcome. Simply adding pronouns like “me” and “my”, as opposed to “you” and “your”, helps turn a CTA from a message into a decision.

This CTA on Okdo’s site uses first-person language to encourage visitors to join their community
 This CTA on Okdo’s site uses first-person language to encourage visitors to join their community

Other examples of this approach:

  • Send my free book
  • I’m in!
  • I want to be in the club!
  • Reserve my spot in the webinar

3. Make your CTA as specific as possible

Be clear exactly what the person is getting when they take action. This is why ‘submit’ isn’t super effective.

What happens after you send in the form? Find a way to imply or directly state that in the CTA.

CTA on BAM Bamboo Clothing's site asking visitors to subscribe and get a catalog
BAM Bamboo Clothing is specific about what happens when someone subscribes: they get a seasonal catalog delivered to their door

‘Send Your Question’ implies that an answer will be forthcoming. ‘Snag My Fast-Action Guide’ tells someone what they’ll get when they ‘submit’ the form. By telling the lead what happens next, you help prepare them for when it happens. Then, they’ll be more likely to take the next step you offer as well.

4. Focus on benefits and outcomes

‘I want to save more money’ focuses on the outcome, whereas ‘Send my budget guide’ just tells someone what they’re getting. Both are good because they’re specific and use first-person language. But the first one states the desired outcome vs. the tool you’re offering.

The person is thinking, “I don’t want this guide because I have nothing better to do. I want it because I want to save money.”

Dr. Scholl’s focuses on the benefits of their products in every CTA
Dr. Scholl’s focuses on the benefits of their products in every CTA

Below the main CTA, some businesses will use the opposite approach to manipulate people into accepting. Instead of a simple “x,” there might be a line of text that says “No thanks, I don’t want to save money,” with a link to close the offer.

This is distasteful and could damage your company’s reputation. Moreover, if you use manipulation to close deals, those people are more likely to be unhappy, leave poor reviews, and be one-and-done customers.

5. Use numbers

Numbers are a particularly effective form of CTA. For example:

  • Respond within three days
  • Get 20% off your first order
  • Upgrade to one-day shipping

The number adds to the certainty of what’s happening for the customer.

6. Make the CTA impossible to miss

Visibility is really your top priority for your call to action button. And yes, you should probably use buttons instead of text links because they grab attention more easily. For offline CTAs in direct mail situations, text emphasis like color, bold, underline, centering, larger fonts are essential.

Daelman’s uses an orange button that stands out from the blue background
Daelman’s uses an orange button that stands out from the blue background

If your brand guidelines have a bold color that’s reserved for special occasions — this is the occasion. You want it to stand out without straying from the feel of the rest of your brand. If your page consists of a lot of text, using an image could draw in visitors’ eyes. Another option is to leave physical space around your CTA (white space) so it stands on its own.

And for longer sales pages, use more than one CTA. Sprinkle them throughout the text as appropriate. If you do this, use the same text each time so the person hears the repetition and gets a clear picture of what is expected of them. Don’t change the messaging every time, or it feels like there’s more than one offer.

7. Place CTAs where they fit in your copy

Timing is everything, as they say in comedy. The same is true with marketing. It’s not just how you phrase your CTA or what it looks like; it’s when you say it.

Putting it too early can dilute your message and make it obvious you just want their information. Putting it too late can cause you to lose some readers. Putting them every other paragraph will make the reader feel like you’re desperate.

Some good places to put CTAs are:

  • After you’ve asked a key question that the offer answers
  • At natural pauses
  • When you’ve just finished a main point that is meant to motivate the lead

Also, consider the location of the call to action on the page.

Here’s some data on how well CTAs have converted at various locations. You have to take this kind of data cautiously, of course, because no conversion rates will be consistent across all industries. Nevertheless, it’s notable which places seem to perform better than others.

  • Sidebar: 0.5 – 1.5%
  • Generic, end-of-post: 0.5 – 1.5%
  • Pop-ups: 1 – 8%
  • Sliders and bars: 1 – 5%
  • Welcome gates: 10 – 25%
  • Feature Box: 3 – 9%
  • Navbar: varies

The one place that stands out the most is the ‘welcome gate.’ This is typically near the top of the page or takes over the entire page, and requires someone to respond before they can close it. If it’s the right offer that touches on a core need for your ideal customer, you can amass a treasure trove of leads.

You’ll need to be careful, though. These full-page takeovers can annoy users and actually earn you penalties from Google. And gated content can boost conversions, but also turn away casual visitors who might have otherwise become loyal fans over time.

8. Employ CTA urgency

‘Claim your spot’ is good. But ‘claim your spot before the webinar fills up’ is better. If you’re giving away physical copies of a book, limit the number and use it in the CTA. Deadlines of all sorts can move a person considering taking action to actually do so.

Urgency is one of the most powerful marketing techniques. It might just be the missing element of your entire sales effort. Don’t wait until it’s too late — learn how to implement urgency in your marketing.

9. Use ‘power words’

‘Subscribe’, ‘buy’, ‘get’, and ‘sign up’ have their place. These do well in certain situations. But they can be better. ‘Claim’, ‘reserve’, ‘snag’, ‘secure’, and ‘seize’ have more emotion behind them.

Don’t be afraid to sprinkle in a bit of “negative” language when appropriate. This can emphasize the fact that you’re offering a solution to a specific problem:  “Stop struggling,” “End bad hair days,” etc.

You can also use descriptive words like ‘easy’, ‘simple’, ‘fast’, ‘quick’, ‘proven’, ‘free’, and ‘guaranteed.’

Urgency can be enhanced with words like ‘only’, ‘miss out’, ‘lose’, and ‘give up’ (as in, don’t give up your chance to X).

Action is driven by emotion more than logic. Inject emotion into your CTA.

10. Make sure your CTAs are responsive

It’s important that your calls to action look great on all devices, from desktops to tablets and phones. Otherwise, you’re not reaching a large portion of your audience!

Take the time to check your design with a tool like LambdaTest, which previews your site on devices and browsers of all types. Make sure that nothing’s cut off, buttons are easy to click, forms are easy to use, and everything looks great for everyone.

Heggerty’s call to action stacks on mobile for an engaging, easy-to-use experience

Convert more leads with better calls to action

You’ve worked hard to create an awesome product or service and you’ve worked equally hard at driving traffic to your site. Encourage those visitors to take the steps you want by providing clear, motivating, and inspiring calls to action. Make sure each CTA is specific, can’t be missed, and creates urgency. Then, just like with everything in marketing, continue to experiment to see what works best for your audience.

If you’re looking for an edge in your business, spending some extra time perfecting calls to action might just be all you need.

Have you discovered something that works for your site? Share it with the community in the comments below!

Posted on

Four New Countries and Launch of Multi-Currency for WooCommerce Payments

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Our native payment solution, WooCommerce Payments, is available in four more European countries! If you’re a merchant in Spain, France, Germany, or Italy, you can now benefit from a secure and fully integrated solution that supports new local payment methods.

In this latest iteration of WooCommerce Payments, we’ve also introduced Multi-Currency. You now have the power to accept payments in multiple currencies on your store – without the need for an extra extension!

Get started for free. No set up costs or monthly fees – just a small charge per transaction.

Increase your conversion rate

Did you know that the average cart abandonment rate is over 84% across all industries? There are a number of reasons why this happens, but a poor checkout experience is almost always a contributing factor.

With WooCommerce Payments, you can streamline the purchase process for shoppers by keeping them onsite the whole time – no redirecting to a third-party payment provider required. And with the option to save their card details on your store, future purchases are even faster.

For an even speedier checkout experience, why not offer Apple Pay® for a one-click checkout?

Go global with Multi-Currency

Dreaming of international expansion? Or maybe you want to give your existing international customers an easier way to shop? With Multi-Currency, you can choose from 135+ additional currencies to add to your store, enabling your customers to shop and browse in their preferred currency.

Now available straight out of the box – no additional extension required.

New local payment methods

Attract new customers by offering additional ways to pay. WooCommerce Payments comes with the popular European payment methods giropay and Sofort – giving you the ability to tap into new markets and offer more flexibility to your customers.

We’ll be adding more local solutions to WooCommerce Payments later in the year. Let us know what you’d like to see!

Manage everything within WooCommerce

Get access to the important transaction data you need, without having to log in to another system. As a fully integrated solution, WooCommerce Payments enables you to monitor charges, handle disputes, track deposits, and manage recurring revenue with WooCommerce Subscriptions, straight from your store’s dashboard.

Where would you like to see WooCommerce Payments next?

WooCommerce Payments is currently available in 10 countries – the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, France, Germany, and Italy.

We’re continuing to launch WooCommerce Payments in more countries this year. Keep an eye out for future announcements, and let us know if you’d like to see your country on the list.

Get WooCommerce Payments
Posted on

Merchandise Returns: How To Turn a Pain Into Gain

Let’s be honest: no business owner enjoys returns. They can be expensive, time-consuming, unpleasant, and tedious. But do returns always have to be so terrible? Can return policies actually help boost your business? The answer is — absolutely.

There are seven common reasons for returns:

  1. The customer purchased the wrong product
  2. They no longer need the item
  3. The product didn’t match its description
  4. A gift purchase was incorrect
  5. The product arrived damaged
  6. The store shipped the wrong item
  7. The customer bought, used, then tried to return the product.

Returns and return policies are a crucial part of your business plan. 66% of customers review return policies before buying and 80% won’t shop with you again if it’s difficult to return an item.

A poor or nonexistent policy can hurt your reputation quickly via negative word-of-mouth, social media posts, and bad reviews on sites like Yelp, Google My Business, Foursquare, and many others. With an estimated 72% of consumers writing at least one business review online, it’s best to take this seriously.

But a good return policy can benefit your business by building customer loyalty, strengthening engagement, and generating positive buzz. All of this leads to repeat purchases and higher sales.

Keys to a successful return policy

Here are a few suggestions for making returns less painful and more gainful.

1. Have a clear, written policy

Let’s start with the basics — creating a crystal clear policy in written form that leaves little to interpretation. A well-considered and detailed statement will mean less miscommunication, confusion, hassle, and headaches for your employees and customers. Keep in mind, if you also use a third-party sales channel, it may have its own return policies that must be honored.

An effective return policy should include:

  • What items can and cannot be returned.
  • What items can be exchanged, credited, or refunded.
  • The deadline for returns after purchase date.
  • The required condition of returns.
  • If a receipt or ID is required.
  • How to obtain a return/exchange.
DRYFT Fishing return policy
Photo © https://dryftfishing.com/

DRYFT Fishing’s policy includes options for both returns and exchanges. They go the extra mile by providing specific instructions for how to package items, details about what to include in the box, and a link to a super simple form so there’s no confusion. They even suggest a shipping carrier.

TermsFeed has more examples of return/refund policies and templates that you can download for free.

What if your store doesn’t accept returns? 

Potential customers are still going to look for a return policy, so create and link to a page with that information. It should be clear that you don’t accept returns or issue refunds.

2. Make your return policy easy to find and understand

On your website, add it in the footer navigation, FAQ page, product page, cart, checkout, and any customer service or support menus. Include it in your confirmation or follow-up emails and receipts.

Have one page with all the information. If your policy has a lot of special conditions for different products, start on your main page with general information and link to the finer details on separate pages. Put introductory text at the top of the page that emphasizes your commitment to a quality experience.

3. Be more lenient and flexible

According to a University of Texas study, more lenient return policies led to increased purchases. Researchers also found that extending the return window led to fewer returns.

IKEA return policy page
Photo © https://www.ikea.com/us/en/

One example of a laid-back return policy is the Swedish home furnishings giant IKEA, which allows returns of unopened items within a year and opened items within six months. Their cheery and helpful returns page is another great example to follow. Their generosity is consistent with a reputation for value and a pleasant buying experience — undoubtedly key elements to their success.

4. Make the process quick and easy

In addition to the tips above, the process or platforms used to handle returns should be easy to learn and efficient to use. Good news — if you use WooCommerce, you already enjoy a tool offering easy returns and refunds (more on this later).

5. Be friendly

Neither party usually enjoys the returns process and your customers aren’t always thrilled. Don’t make things worse by acting rude or irritated during the transaction. Take responsibility and don’t blame the customer. Note IKEA’s headline at the top of their returns page: “It’s OK to change your mind!”

6. Make returns a sales opportunity

Some stores extend their return period for members. Others make the process easier for email subscribers, who you can reach in the future with discounts and sales.

If appropriate, a customer service representative can suggest specific alternatives to an item being returned (like a different size or feature). They might even offer a discount for the new product. This can flip a return into an exchange and give your store a second chance at providing a product that meets the customer’s needs.

7. Be on alert for fraud

Fraudulent returns are a significant and growing problem. Common schemes include returning stolen merchandise, using false or stolen receipts, and buying something to use with the plan to return it.

Return fraud cost businesses $25.3 billion in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation. The tricky thing about fighting fraud is that most of the measures you would take to address this problem involve making your return policy more stringent. Anti-fraud measures might include requiring receipts or ID, fully intact product packaging, or shorter timeframes, and allowing only exchanges or store credit.

Every business owner should take a long look at their particular situation and balance the need for fraud security against the benefits of a lenient policy. Ask yourself: How large a risk (or ongoing problem) is return fraud for my business? With an eye for balance, adjust your return policy accordingly.

Tools of the return

WooCommerce offers options for both automatic and manual refunds. Automatic refunds change the order status and reverse the charge. Manual refunds change the order status but require you to manually return money to the customer.

refund request with the WooCommerce Smart Refunder extension

The WooCommerce Smart Refunder extension makes things even easier with a quick, simple, and automated process. You can offer instant refunds, enable customers to request a return from their Account page, and allow both full and partial refunds. And, with the Smart Coupons extension, you can issue either cash refunds or store credits.

Returns are an inevitable part of running an online store. Instead of letting it become a frustration, consider it an opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. You can turn less-than-thrilled customers into your best advocates with a surprisingly delightful and human-centric approach.

WooCommerce has the tools to simplify your return process — it’s up to you to determine your policies and set your brand’s attitude towards this essential part of customer service.

WooCommerce Smart Coupons