One of my roles as a marketing consultant for Solid Cactus, is to organize an event called Solid Cactus eCommerce Boot Camp. These three day events held at various times throughout the year are a three-day gathering of eCommerce store owners from around the country. Informational sessions are put on by Solid Cactus staffers and guests and are held throughout the day. Evenings are set aside for networking opportunities with fellow entrepreneurs.
The latest Boot Camp wrapped up last night and marks the seventh such event I had the pleasure of putting together. I always enjoy meeting with other eCommerce store owners to learn about their business, what they’re doing to drive sales and most importantly, how they’re combating a challenging economy. As we move into the busiest time of the year for most merchants, the general feeling is that of uncertainty. Uncertainty about whether or not Christmas 2009 will be better or worse than Christmas 2008. Personally, I feel it’s going to be worse.
If you listen to the talking heads on television every night, they make you feel like the economy is on an upswing. Yet at the same time they report that the unemployment rate is nearing 10% as more and more people are laid off. With 10% of the working class not getting a paycheck every week, spending just isn’t happening. Store owners I talked to are feeling the effects; some more than others.
Knowing that store owners need to be cautious in what they spend to attract business this season, I tailored most of the sessions at this latest Boot Camp on free and cost effective ways to get customers. Social Media, SEO, effective Internet Marketing and features designed to convert were the hot topics.
One thing that I did notice was that many store owners have not fully embraced the power of Social Media. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are free ways for business owners to capture customers, but few of the attendees are actually using them to their full potential. Some expressed a lack of time or an inability to gauge Social Media’s ROI as reasons for not exploiting these means of advertising. No matter what your opinion or reasons for not taking advantage of Social Media are, the fact that you should be using them to get your message out is paramount.
I always enjoy sitting in on the Boot Camp presentations because I always learn something new. While I try to keep up on trends, there’s always something that I missed! I enjoy listening to the presenters even if it’s on a topic I’m very familiar with because I could always stand to learn just a little bit more or get a refresher on the topic.
We had a great group of attendees this time around and a nice mix of new and seasoned eCommerce store owners. This always makes for a great Boot Camp as the pros tend to help the newbies and the newbies walk away with a lot of great information to help them be on their way to online success.
While this Boot Camp may be behind me for now, I’ve already started working on the next one!
For those who were unable to attend, here are some photos from the event: