RAHWAY, NJ - Attendees at the Union County Means Business (“UCMB”) networking breakfast on Tuesday titled “Think Globally, Act Locally: Market Your Business in the age of e-commerce” were treated to insights from a panel of experts.

Hosted at Hamilton Stage, in the center of the Arts District in downtown Rahway, panelists Cory Booker, U.S. Senator from New Jersey; Kristina Hahn, Head of Consumer Packaged Goods, Google; and Stan Robinson, Jr., the chief executive officer of SHR Marketing, LLC, and member of Union County’s Workforce Investment Board, responded to questions about e-commerce and the digital age. 

Moderator Tara Dowdell, the founder and principal of the Tara Dowdell Group, a marketing and strategic consulting firm, is a frequent commentator on CNBC and FOX Business News. Dowdell introduced the panelists and posed questions to them for their response. The target audience for this networking event was business owners in Union County, with a focus on small and medium-sized businesses. 
 
 
Dowdell asked the panelists to comment on what each felt is the first step to effective digital marketing of one’s business. Hahn, of Google, said that the “first step is to get on Google.” She explained that businesses can manage the information about their company by going onto Google, selecting the “Get on Google,” and the inputting the pertinent information about their businesses. Also important is updating this information whenever there is a change. This service is free. 
 
Robinson advised the audience to think about ones objectives and strategies first, articulating “who is your ideal customer, and what is the value you deliver this customer.” Robinson said that designing a good web site, and building an email list for any business is an important first step.

 
“Businesses need to lean into the digital environment,” Booker said. The Senator shared with the audience how, when he first became the mayor of Newark, the image of the city was poor – Newark had a poor brand. “We decided that we would get online and develop a digital strategy.” 
 
Through their efforts to use electronic communication and social networking tools, Booker claimed, “We (Newark) ended up controlling (and improving substantially) our image.”
 
Booker recommended a book, Begin with the End in Mind: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey, as a good primer for how business owners should approach strategy of managing image and brand. 
 
The group addressed several aspects of marketing in the age of e-commerce, including what area(s) should be the focus to set in place an effective digital strategy, first steps, and overall recommendations for how to proceed. Google’s Hahn cited that, in 2014, 75 percent of users will be on mobile phones, engaged in shopping. Hahn called the mobile phone the new “Personal Assistant.”
 
While shoppers are in stores, they will be comparison shopping for price and product on their mobile devices. So, businesses need to make the on-line experience for their prospective customers easy and seamless. 
 
Robinson encouraged business owners to “make all your processes and services work together seamlessly” and “start small.’ Start with what you are good at, and “make your model work here first.” If business owners want to extend beyond their current market, Robinson says it is a good idea to “find partners to expand. Look for people who are good at what you’re not” and partner with them. 
 
Establish yourself as a ‘Thought Leader.’ Linked-In is a very good tool to assist businesses in effectively marketing to their audiences, and in identifying potential partners. 
 
All three panelists underscored the need to ensure that the “User Experience” with any e-commerce site be very positive, in order for businesses to be effective. Senator Booker discussed the need for businesses to “be authentic about your digital presence. Whatever the truth of what your brand is, be true to that” in one’s digital interaction with customers. 
 
Senator Booker discussed how he is focused on helping business owners gain access to capital to help fund their businesses.
 
“The companies I like the most are ones who use creativity to get their message out,” Booker said.
 
He encouraged the public to reach out to his office if they have a need for assistance in sourcing capital for growth. He has over 1.5 million followers, and regularly posts to Facebook, Twitter, and says that, while it gets his message out to many constituents and followers, it does not take much of his time, and allows him to stay connected in an effective way.
 
Opened in September, 2012, in Rahway, the Union County Performing Arts Center's Hamilton Stage is a state-of-the-art concert/teaching facility. Hamilton Stage hosts an extraordinary group of performers-in-residence and presents a year-round roster of concerts, plays, dances, readings, films, art openings, benefits and classes featuring a scintillating blend of international, national and local talent.
 
For further information, contact the Union County Means Business at www.ucnj.org/ucmb.