retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Every so often I remember the old adage that we have twice as many ears as mouths for a reason: we learn much more when we listen. So I listen and I learn.

This past weekend I had the good fortune to teach at a professional studies program at West Liberty University in West Virginia. While I like to believe my session was valuable, I know that I learned a lot more when I listened to the presentations of a group of students.

Their class was on financial management for professionals. The women presenting in this class were eye-opening as they detailed how the course helped teach them to better understand their finances, better question financial managers and better control their financial future. As one student succinctly put it: everything began when she started opening her monthly statements.

These are professionals at various stages of their careers and lives who, in the safety of this one class, were able to admit—and correct—their fears and limitations when it comes to financial management. Just like that, they became empowered.

It got me thinking about all the articles I’ve written here at MNB on social networking over the past year due to the work I’m doing with the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council. Thanks to those articles and countless presentations, I’ve learned something similar to what I heard at that college course last week: once people discover what they don’t know, they are willing to ask really good questions.

Those are important admissions. The social web is so new and so huge that it’s essential for business to get a handle on this new world. Yet, most of us are so busy with the old world that we struggle to find time for a broad new topic even though we accept its importance.

That’s one reason why I’m so excited to be conducting a workshop on the social web at next week’s National Grocers Association (NGA) Convention in Las Vegas. The session, which will include a discussion with Dennis Host, the director of marketing at Coborn’s, will focus on both understanding the social web and taking the steps to building a useful strategy for engagement.

These lessons are important to all businesses, but especially the many independent retailers who attend the NGA show. Many independents have long found community links and understanding as their key to business success. Although they battle far larger companies in town after town, independents have learned to survive and thrive by better knowing and serving those communities.

In 2013, it’s impossible to do that without understanding the social web. In many ways, the social web substantially changes the competitive picture. Small companies can use networking sites to build stronger community ties than ever and become trusted allies to shoppers struggling to manage busy lives. Of course, large companies can do the same...

In other words, businesses have to engage. And hopefully they can engage progressively and well.

So if you’re in Las Vegas for the NGA show, join us for the session at 8:15 a.m. on next Monday. (Here’s hoping that people aren’t stopping in on their way to bed!) I’ll share the some findings of the CCRRC study and Dennis will offer real world experiences at Coborn’s.

If you can’t attend, check out the study by clicking here. Download it and discuss it in house as you try to build your plan.

Because as the very smart young woman explained to the class last weekend: if you don’t open your statement, you can’t possibly plan for the future.

You have to start somewhere.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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