I Want the Made In America Store to Go Out of Business

Now before you strangle me over this headline, let me make my point.

A few months ago I made the trip to the Made In America Store; everything in the store is 100% USA made. The store was busy for a Sunday afternoon. People come from all over the United States to visit the store. Owner Mark Andol has appeared in national print, television, and radio media, all fascinated by his concept. What’s makes it fascinating? That there is a sizeable (and growing) market of people who want to purchase commodities manufactured in their home country to protect their dollar and invest in their own job market and economy? That there is so little supply for this demand that one man had the business sense and economic citizenship to make his feeling of civic duty became a national destination? Yes. Unfortunately, that is fascinating. In our personal drives to acquire more goods for less money we continue to make ourselves more vulnerable as an economic whole. Mark Andol stays out of the politics. He’s appeared on Fox and Friends, he’s been interviewed on NPR, he’s been solicited by groups across the political spectrum. He doesn’t budge when they try to pull him one way or the other. Maybe there’s too much taxation and regulation for American manufacturing to be viable. Maybe we don’t do enough to invest in our work force. Mark doesn’t comment. He just loves America. He had no idea his store would be a commercial success. He just wanted to make a statement. Mark owns General Welding and Fabricating across the street. He told me that in 2007/2008, he lost major business to China. He had to lay off more than half of his employees. He wasn’t going out without a fight. He purchased the vacant Ford dealership across the street with one simple sales strategy. Everything in the store would be 100% USA made. He had 50 products to sell. Today he has over 4,000 and counting. What’s the point I make with my post title? The Made In America Store should be the rule, not the exception. The fact that the store is so remarkable, shows how deep we’re in it. Buying American isn’t a marketing niche. We have to claim responsibility for our own actions and decisions as consumers. I don’t want to speak for Mark, but I have a feeling he wouldn’t mind seeing more retailers taking his lead. It seems to me that’s why he got in the business in the first place. I’m as guilty as anyone else for not shopping local nearly enough. Sometimes, I’m lazy. Sometimes, I just don’t know where to go. Mark Andol, his family, and his staff, make it a little easier for us.  I love America too, Mark. I love it a little bit more every time I meet people like you.

Oh , editor’s correction: I hope the Made In America Store stays in business forever.

How Social Media Makes Your Advertising More Effective

“Come on down to Wilson’s Widget Warehouse. In business since 1944 with the widest selection of widgets, from all of your favorite name brands. Our friendly, knowledgeable, no pressure sales staff can help you make the right decision to fit all your widget needs. Wilson’s Widgets, because we’re here for you.”

If you still use this in your radio or television commercials, try it on your Facebook page. Odd. Zero likes. Zero shares. Zero comments? Must be Facebook. Try Twitter. Zero retweets. Zero replies. But this is marketing. This is how it is supposed to sound. I didn’t let my TV rep run that goofy ad, because I know this was better. But it only has two views on YouTube.

Your social media outlets merely tell you what your advertising rep or creative agency has been trying to tell you for years. People HATE commercials. You’re an honest businessperson. Great. How what a dishonest businessman describe himself? The exact same way. When you post a message like the above on your Facebook page, your customers (or lack their of) are giving you their brutally candid opinion, by what they’re not doing: Interacting.

Social media makes you be honest with yourself. There is now analytic proof that your advertising is unremarkable. You’re not a politician (if you are: take a lesson), you don’t have to speak in advertising soundbites  Do you sell fishing supplies? Post a picture of the biggest fish you ever caught. And the littlest. Are you a plumber? Post a one minute video of yourself every week with a DIY plumbing tip. Oh, and do it while sitting on the john with your pants at your ankles. Just talk to us. Be honest. Be brief. Be candid. You will know you are when you see people talk about you to their friends and family through, shares, likes, reblogs, retweets, comments, etc. Beyond all else, that is the value of social media to a business.


The Four Most Basic Ways to Use a Blog to Improve Your Google Search Results

While it can be time consuming, this should  be the most natural form of marketing for you. You are the expert in your field, right? You should know your product better than me, John Q. Customer. But you’ve probably noticed that John Q. Customer knows a lot more today than he did twenty, ten, or even five years ago. He’s getting his information online. He could be getting it from you. Even if you’re here in Buffalo, NY and your customer is  from Medicine Hat, Alberta, you can create rare answers to infrequently asked questions. There’s a number of things to do to convert the inquiry into a sale afterward, but that’s for a different post, isn’t it?

1). Create a blog for your website.

2). Map the blog to your domain so that it’s either blog.yourwebsite.com (first choice) or yourwebsite.com/blog. You can do this through WordPress among many others. http://en.support.wordpress.com/domains/

3). Answer every question you’ve ever been asked in your line of work. Every single one. Do this as concisely as possible. Create a different blog post for each question.

4). The question should be the title of the post

Stuff: To Have or To Do?

We may (or may not) be coming off of a time when having stuff was the material measure of success in life. Bigger and more. More cars, bigger houses, more toys, bigger property. I don’t like stuff. It gives me anxiety. Please don’t ever give me a Margarittaville mixer for Christmas. But beyond an idiosyncrasy for avoiding clutter, having stuff is often the opposite of doing stuff. For instance, people work many hours per week to be able to afford the stuff they want. They need to prove their material success in order to obtain more of it, so they work even longer. They work longer still to provide their kids with all the stuff they want. But how often do they enjoy it? Does the ATV sit idle in the garage? Does the boat get on the water more than twice a summer? It’s a matter of opinion, I suppose, but doing stuff is way better than having stuff. Doing stuff: spending time with my family, sky diving, traveling, running, reading, lifting weights, horseback riding, volunteering, studying martial arts, hiking, perfecting a hobby. I’m not interested in buying exercise equipment because that’s what gyms are for. It’s a good example of being able to share stuff, but not being able to share time. I’ll need a bigger garage or a bigger basement to store my universal gym. So I’ll need to work even more hours to afford it.  In the interest of integrating with society I have to compromise on some of this. If I had it my way I would live in a studio apartment with a mattress, some clothes, and my laptop. Everyone has some stuff they want, and rightfully so. I’m no exception. I’m just only interested in stuff that will provide me with more memorable experiences again and again (i.e. a summer cottage). I have a cousin that has spent a lot of money on airsoft equipment. But that stuff, is used on his cousins and friends and allows us to have a fantastic experience together. That’s a good stuff investment (especially for me). What’s at the very top of your short list—something you don’t need but you really, really want?

Not Perfect, Just the Best

Written in on Honor of My Dear Grandparents, to Whom I Owe Most of My Moral Foundation

Picture ganked from Becky and Breanne

Brokaw was right. They were the Greatest Generation. It’s aggravating that I even have to qualify it. I find it hard to say anything about them that hasn’t become cliche. They were children in a period of desperate poverty. They were teenagers and young adults who gave their lives to fight the fascist and imperialist powers of murderous bigotry. In their time, many groups of people had less of or no voice. I’m happy we’re more inclusive of gay people, women, and different ethnic backgrounds today. But Christ, do we have to throw the baby out with the bath water? Let’s recognize their truly exceptional place in history. Generations before them participated in slavery, profited from the imperial conquest of sovereign nations, and decimated the environment in the name of industry. Generations after them waged unjust wars, bankrupted public programs, and yielded to materialism and corporate greed. This one group, this tiny bracket on the timeline of world history, was pound for pound, the best collective of human beings ever to inhabit the world. I didn’t say they were perfect. We are better stewards of the environment today (sort of). We are more inclusive (in many ways). I said they were the best. As a culture, their redeeming qualities trumped their flaws. They were localists. They were charitable. They were civic minded. They were morally principled. And now, they’re all but gone. I hope we take advantage of every bit of wisdom of those that are still with us. I hope they stay with us for many, many, years more. I hope we remember them not for their few faults, but look to them for inspiration the collective will, the selflessness, and the tenacity to overcome the world’s greatest challenges. They can be overcome. What luxuries can I sacrifice for the benefit of other people? How can I portray my respect for other people in my day to day behavior? When will I stop looking at this person as a stranger and see her as a neighbor to whom I bear a responsibility? I have to force myself to ask myself these questions. My grandparents didn’t. It was just the way they were wired. That’s what makes them the best.