Most of the time I don’t feel my age, but Tuesday I went to a marketing seminar hosted by Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau and I felt not only old, but like an old alien. I was a stranger on this planet. The event took place in a large meeting room on the second floor of the civic center in Asheville. I have been in that building many times, but I had no idea there was a second floor. That obviously was the portal to this alien planet. When my friend June (Visions of Creation) and I climbed the stairs we both felt out of place. Living in Asheville, we are accustomed to being surrounded by hipsters, but in this case we were about the only non-hipsters in the building. Plus, with the exception of a few grey-haired folks, we were the oldest people in the room by decades.
The presenters were from 360i, the marketing company used by the visitors’ bureau. They descended on Asheville from New York and Atlanta and didn’t get the message that some of us North Carolinians talk slower than they do. Poor June with her thick Scottish brogue asked me if they were speaking English. And I, native New Yorker that I am, couldn’t answer that question.
As I looked around the room, however, all the young attenders were smiling and nodding. They not only understood what was being said, but they were thrilled with the information they were receiving. At the start of the presentations we were shown a large, square maze design on the screen in the front. Hipsters were pointing their smart phones at the maze and receiving vibrations from it. Once that maze was captured by their phones, they were able to text questions to the presenters throughout the day. Those of us who couldn’t catch the vibe of the maze couldn’t ask the questions that were cluttering our heads. I took copious notes on my old-fashioned pad with my outdated pen, filling the pages with words and question marks.
The focus of the seminar was how to best use the internet to increase your sales. The problem for June and me was that the presenters and just about everyone else in the room already knew a lot about the internet and all the abbreviations used to describe every aspect of it. I only knew the acronym SEO (search engine optimization) which loosely means how to make your business appear at the top of the list when people are googling what you offer. According to the statistics we got, a huge percentage of searchers do not look past the first page of results that come up. One of the questions that someone texted in was “How do I get my listing to appear ‘above the fold’?” Fold???
That was the question we were all there to answer, whatever the fold was. Since so much of commerce takes place on line now, you want your business to be at the top of the list of all the similar businesses out there. Then, you have to make your website so appealing and user-friendly that consumers will choose you. Then they will click a few buttons that you have strategically placed on your website and voila, money will be heading your way.
The day was spent with presenters giving every possible way to elbow other merchants and ignorant computer-phobes out of the way to move to the top of the list. And every minute I felt worse and worse. I am one of those dunces and I could feel myself sliding down to the bottom of the heap, like in a Chutes and Ladders game. If I couldn’t understand this fast talk, I was doomed.
At the first break I was delighted to hear the amazing Mandy Gardner calling my name. Mandy works for JB Media in West Asheville and is an expert in e-commerce. She is a great writer and talented in many ways. “Help!!” i called to her. “I am so lost, and I need to schedule an appointment with you for a help session.”
Mandy was very reassuring. “Do you want to sell things on your website?” she asked.
I don’t. So she went on to explain that a lot of what I was not understanding wasn’t what I needed anyway. She made some quick suggestions and I could breathe again. My next steps were in my realm of understanding: label all pictures that I post, use key words, and beg people to “like” what I post. That much I can comprehend. So, please LIKE everything of mine you see. I’ll be eternally grateful.
Then at Ingles buying whatever I could find that required little effort for that night’s dinner, I bumped into the fabulous Murphy Capps of Kudzu Marketing. I asked her for reassurance and she patted me on the head and told me not to worry. With two smart, e-savvy friends on my side, I was able to go home, drink a big glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and feel better.