Getting businesses online in Barrie & Simcoe County 💻
In 2019, the City of Barrie and the County of Simcoe decided to join an initiative called Digital Main Street, where a team of specialists would be assembled to help local businesses with their online presence. This program was originally intended to only last 12 months, however due to the success of the program, it was extended until March 2021! Hyden was chosen to help with this task after showcasing a video of a platform Hyden was working on to educate other programmers. Our dedication to education was our key to success with the hundreds of businesses we consulted.
Helping businesses who did not have a digital presence meant we needed to go the old fashion route: door-to-door. From there, we were able to speak directly with each business and learn their needs and more importantly, their pains. Some needed a website ASAP, while others needed help with their social media, some were looking for guidance and some wanted to be educated. With this knowledge, we then began to implement a specialized plan for each business.
Getting your name trusted is half the battle.
Going door-to-door meant a lot of skeptical businesses. Who are these people entering my store, promising me guidance for free (the program was funded by the City and County, along with the Province)?
Therefore, we needed a plan, and a plan we made. First, we used the partnership with the City to get designs developed that showcased the logo of the City along with the Small Business Centre. Next, we got a page created on the Small Business Centre website illustrating who we are, and what the program was. Finally, we brought an iPad (along with our phones to create a portable hotspot) to have that web page loaded up by default.
Now that we got our foot in the door, it was time to do what we were hired to do, help these businesses with their online presence.
For each business, we would sit down to determine what goal to focus on. One such business was Bohemia Barrie. By the end of the program, Bohemia had a fully functional Squarespace website, with ecommerce functionality, and were comfortable using the platform. That last one is huge. It meant that they would keep the site fresh! If you want to learn more about the process we took with Bohemia, check it out.
Educating on a larger scale
Each year, Barrie hosts Xcelerate Summit, Central Ontario’s Premier Business Event. In between scheduled events, Xcelerate hosts their “Learning Series.” We were tasked with hosting the seminar, along with marketing it!
Educating a crowd of 75+ business owners was quite different from the 1-on-1 we had been doing up until now. However, we were able to utilize all of the door-to-door knowledge that we gathered, the pain points businesses had, and we were able to condense it into three 1 hour presentations.
Taking the story online
Building off of the success of the Learning Series, we rolled out several webinar series to continue educating businesses en masse. This meant the creation of a whole slew of webinars, from social media to websites. It also meant the creation of slideshows and deliverables that we could give to each business as a sort of “care package”.
Animated GIFs are a life saver (and a money saver) 🎉
Image ads cost significantly less than video ads, both in terms of labour, and advertising costs on Facebook, Google, etc. We utilized this knowledge to instead advertise using animated gifs! This proved to be a huge cost savings for the event, and helped us to stand out.
An unexpected turn of events
Going door-to-door helped get our foot in the door (no pun intended). However, in 2020, our plans were unhinged due to the global pandemic. Meeting directly with businesses was no longer an option. We had to do what we do best and get creative with it.
No longer able to reach those without a digital presence, we began to reach out to our network with new messaging. “If you know of someone who has a business and needs help with their website/socials let us know.” We started to get others to do the reaching out for us, within their network.
Our biggest web series yet
Having to focus solely on meeting virtually, we planned our biggest webinar series yet! Called Pivot Point, and partnered with the Xcelerate Learning Series, this 5-part series focused on a wider range of topics including: photography, email marketing, graphic design, social media, analytics, SEO and more.
We helped hundreds of small businesses.
This was the biggest result by far. Combined, the team of specialists were able to connect with over 200 businesses and help with their digital presence (from a 1 hour call to up to 10 hours of help per business). We were able to help businesses activate numerous tools such as Google My Business. We helped explain their analytics, and we even got to make a few websites.
Webinars for anyone to access.
All of the webinars that we hosted have been recorded and archived for viewing for any business owner on the Barrie website. If you would like to watch any of the recordings, feel free to check them out.
Some businesses we worked with through the program.
We couldn’t post them all, or this page would never end! If we worked together and you would like the backlink, let us know 😀
This program is what launched Hyden, and we wouldn’t be here today if this program did not exist. We want to thank all of the partners involved, and we look forward to the day where we collaborate once again.