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  • Writer's pictureAshley Wenger

The marketing dilemma for small business owners

With ever-changing trends and AI technology coming onto the scene, it’s increasingly more difficult for business owners to learn marketing tactics, create new strategies, and run their businesses. Over the last six months, our Ecosystem team has been working to help solve the question, “How do entrepreneurs find industry-specific resources and opportunities to help them run successful marketing campaigns?” (This question initially stirred from a conversation at the fall 2023 Regional Coalition meeting. Read about it here). 

A group of dedicated professionals has taken the initiative to develop potential solutions and bring accessible marketing support to entrepreneurs. After months of brainstorming, gathering insights and data, and figuring out what resources are available in the Valley, they put a plan into action. Over the next several months, SCCF, with the support of other ecosystem players (including George Neighbors, Josh Grim, Danielle McEwen, Damian Gray, Susan Vincent, Chris McVey, the Staunton Innovation Hub, and more), would launch several marketing workshops to bring knowledge, connections, and tangible support to business owners. 

Resources for Entrepreneurs

The first workshop launched in February and focused on visual storytelling using photos and videos. The format uniquely combined a panel discussion and a speed Q&A with industry experts. Think of it as speed dating for business advice! Following the panel discussion, entrepreneurs sat down with an expert (marketer, photographer, videographer, etc.) and had five minutes to ask their most pressing questions. The pair could then exchange contact information to follow up in the future. This format not only helped the entrepreneurs walk away with tangible solutions and new connections but also provided lead generation for the experts in the room - a win-win for everyone involved! 

The topic of visual storytelling, which often coincides with social media, was a big hit, and it’s clear that business owners are hungry for more guidance in this field. Some attendees were having such great discussions with each other that they stayed talking at the Staunton Innovation Hub late into the evening, even after everyone else had gone home! 

In April, we will begin a series of brand workshops with local marketing consultants Susan Vincent and Chris McVey. They will cover telling your brand story, developing a marketing budget, meta and pay-per-click ads, and organic social media marketing. This series will be more hands-on than the February panel discussion. Participants are encouraged to bring their laptops and notebooks to engage in the workshop actively. 

Ready to dive into marketing and start building your brand toolkit? Register for the workshops today via SCCF’s events calendar! Entrepreneurs are encouraged to attend all four sessions to gain the most comprehensive understanding of branding but can pick and choose which sessions to attend for convenience. 

SCCF has been hosting these workshops in the Staunton and Waynesboro areas as a midpoint for the entire Shenandoah Valley. However, it can still be a far reach for some coming north from Winchester or south from Buena Vista. The good news is that we aren’t the only ones tackling this issue! The Laurel Ridge SBDC has been, and continues, to host free online webinars covering various marketing topics (The next one is March 27th. Register here). In the south, our friends at Main Street Lexington are hosting Main Street Mornings to help entrepreneurs simplify their message, optimize their content, and leverage analytics. This four-part series will occur on the fourth Wednesday of each month through May and will be conducted entirely in person (Learn more here). SCORE, an SBA small business resource, provides free monthly webinars (See events here) and free virtual marketing consulting (Learn more here). 

You’re not alone if you’re struggling with marketing your small business. It is okay to say that you are not an expert and to ask for help! Whether it’s through training, free resources, or paid marketing services, wherever you are in the Valley, there are resources available and people who are eager to help you overcome your marketing hurdles. At SCCF, we have been compiling a list of these resources (events, marketing agencies, and more) on the Valley Business Compass to help entrepreneurs find what they’re looking for all in one place.

Resources for marketers

Being a one-person marketing team or a solo marketing consultant can be isolating and lonely. If you need people to bounce ideas off of, share your client frustrations with, or talk about industry trends, join the next Monthly Marketing Mix at the Staunton Innovation Hub hosted by Danielle McEwen, Priscila Cavalcante, and Lauren Shelter. The group meets at the Staunton Innovation Hub on the second Tuesday of the month from 12-1 pm.

Be part of the solution 

There are many organizations and service providers that we can’t add to our marketing resource list on VBC because we just don’t know about them! If you are a marketing professional or marketing agency, create a Valley Business Compass profile so we can add you to the list! 

Furthermore, if you would like to provide your expertise through a workshop, panel discussion, or other training format, please reach out to our Director of Ecosystem Building, Anika Horn, to discuss ideas and how we can work together! Participating in workshops is a valuable opportunity to connect with other industry professionals, learn more about your customers’ pain points, and gain new clients! 


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