Grant Relaunched to Help Brantford Businesses Boost Online Marketing and Commerce During Pandemic
By: Yvonne Van De Wiele-Cooper
Mae Legg, Senior Small Business Consultant for the Brantford-Brant Business Enterprise Resource Centre (BRC), is passionate about helping local business.
“When you look back at where you grew up, you don’t usually talk about the local big box store. You talk of that small restaurant you went to, or that shoe store and it brings identity to the community. A small business owner is so much more than just their business. They live and breathe in that community and they know what they do in that community impacts it,” she said.
During Covid-19, E-Commerce has meant salvation and in some cases, larger profits for small and medium sized businesses. But for many, the biggest problem is not knowing where to start.
That’s where the Digital Service Squad can help. A crack team of online experts has been revived, thanks to a $15,000 Digital Main Street grant. The federal/provincial funding is again being administered by the BRC in partnership with the Downtown Brantford Business Improvement Association (BIA).
“We want to make businesses aware that this program is back and if they need help improving their digital technologies, whatever that may be, to contact the BRC,” said Legg. Then they’ll decide which expert member of the squad should be dispatched, to help reach maximum online results for “brick and mortar” businesses.
The squad includes experts from; digital marketing company All Day Breakfast, Octopus Red which specializes in web design, graphic design company Clarity Design, and Purple Bean Media which specializes in social media. This time, a number of students studying tech programs at Wilfred Laurier University and Conestoga College have also been enlisted as part of the squad.
“Our goal is 60 businesses and we will reach out to downtown businesses first, but we will see businesses anywhere in Brantford,” says Legg.
With the pandemic, contact will be made online, through Zoom, or some other form of video conferencing, or by phone. If the business owner feels comfortable, squad members will visit in person, making sure pandemic protocols are in place.
Legg says one of the biggest problems that businesses had the first time the Digital Service Squad was in action, was that they had social media platforms, but weren’t using them to their full extent.
“They had questions like; ‘how to I really get the message out, what content should be on a page, how often to do social media and those kinds of questions,’ which are so important,” she said. Squad members will help businesses use those existing platforms to the best of their ability.
“Right now, with people staying home, it’s more important than ever for a small business to have an online presence and one that people can find,” she says.
Many are checking things out online and then ordering or picking up their purchases at the curb, and realizing it’s an easier, more comfortable way to do business. Legg says whether or not people are able to order online during the pandemic, can determine whether or not a business will “pull through.” Business owners may not know how to set up E-commerce, but the Digital Service Squad can help set that up as well.
Most businesses have some kind of online presence these days, but Legg says it has to be the best it can be. “You can be out there, and have a sign, but you want a sign that people notice and that’s what we’re helping businesses with,” she said.
Helping decide what type of platform you should actually be on whether it be Facebook, Instagram or some other platform, are also things the Digital Service Squad can help determine. And she says in some cases, a business might be better off hiring the squad member who will spend a few hours every month, just organizing their social media.
To enlist the services of the Digital Service Squad, business owners need to contact the BRC for an assessment and then, based on their needs, a squad member will be sent out and spend as much time as is needed with them. That could be anywhere from three to four hours spread out over a few weeks.
Legg says the success businesses have achieved was evident after the program ran last year. We’ve been able to help businesses take the next steps to update and enhance their online presence.
To find out more about the Digital Service Squad, call the Brantford-Brant Business Enterprise Resource Centre (BRC) at 519-756-4269 to speak to a consultant.