Friday, November 20, 2009

CentrePort Canada - The Brand

I recently went on to Google to learn more about the CentrePort Canada project. Like any average web user I typed in a search term that I thought would quickly bring me the most releveant information. I typed in "centreport". I thought the first website listed would be for CentrePort Canada, but what I found instead were a host of other CentrePorts around the world.

I assumed that CentrePort Canada was unique in its name, considering the magnitude of the project. However, when you type in "centreport" on Google, you'll find that there is Centerport in New Zealand and one also in Fort Worth Texas. There was even a hotel listed in Nice, France that uses the name. Hmm... So then I thought I would try the term "inland port." This unveiled even more websites around the world from an inland port in Mexico to Kansas City's SmartPort to many others.

I wonder if CentrePort Canada Inc. realize the competition they have in building their brand on the web?

I'm sure I am not the only person around the globe that is seeking further information about the project. How about taxpayers in Manitoba trying to understand exactly where their money is going? Brands are built and broken on Google, whether you are selling widgets, a tourist destination or an inland port. What opportunities are they missing from interested parties searching for information from around the world?

It wasn't until I came to page 23 of Google, for the term "centreport" that I finally came across the official site for Centreport Canada. And page 46 for the term "inland port." I don't know about you, but normally I tend to look at the first page, and maybe....maybe the second page of search.

It doesn't take a degree in Marketing to determine that the team heading Winnipeg's inland port project put little value in what the internet can do to build a brand and drive investor interest. Hopefully the recent addition to their team, Riva Harrison, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, will see there is life beyond Brandon.

It's your turn Winnipeg.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winnipeg Real Estate Investments "Pretty Good?"

Winnipeg businesses and Winnipeggers should be embarrassed by yesterday's article in the Free Press about our local real estate investment market. The story shed light on the poor job done to date on educating national markets on the opportunities in Winnipeg.

MMPI Canada, a tradeshow/seminar management company, have committed to holding a one-day real estate investment forum next April, the first since the company was established in 1992. If you go to their website, you'll see portfolios for many of the major cities in Canada, except Winnipeg or anywhere in Saskatchewan. I'm sure no one will find it hard to believe this company is headquartered out of Toronto, the centre of the world. These seminars are for the purpose of attracting real estate brokers, investors, lenders and property owners from around the country; so why has it taken 18 years to finally get their attention? Haven't we been Selling Winnipeg to the World for some time now?

What I found striking in the article was the comment by Ken Yee, senior executive VP at Cushman & Wakefield Brokerage services, about the impact the seminar will have on those attending, "...I think some of them are going to walk away saying, 'Wow that's pretty good." Yep, leave it to Winnipeggers to really get excited about opportunities to grow as a city and province.

Also, a question of accountability really comes into play when reading the comment by Don White, chairman of the Winnipeg REALTORS Commercial Division, "The Winnipeg market is under-reported on and misunderstood." Why? Who is accountable for this failure?

The other question I have: "where do interested parties go for information on Winnipeg's real estate market?" Should they go to the WCC website, or maybe the "work" section of Destination Winnipeg's site? Hey, how about to the WinnipegREALTORS home site, or the "LivingManitoba.ca" site that is in replacment of the Spirited Energy campaign. Oh... you haven't heard of this? Neither has anyone else.

Maybe our market is misunderstood because we fail to provide a unified channel on the internet delivering the value proposition for doing business here. Winnipeg should look at investing in their "virtual real estate," that is investing in positioning the message of Winnipeg in prominent positions on the serach engines. Whether it be a business looking for options of expansion or skilled workers looking for a place to relocate, each turn to the internet for their due diligence. Through consolidation of all these related websites mentioned above, and through investment into search engine position, Winnipeg can build the brand that will sell the world.

It's time to strive for more than "pretty good." It's your turn Winnipeg.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yellow Pages Losses Lead to Attempt at Local Search

The Yellow Pages Income Fund announced continued losses in the third quarter due to continued drops in revenue from print advertising. This has prompted the company to move outside their expertise and water-down the SEO industry further by offering advertising packages that would do more to target local search.

To give you an idea of how far removed the Yellow Pages are from being Search Marketers, CEO Mark Tellier was reported as saying, "I think we're going to see a trend in the Internet, broadly speaking, to go more local." Going to see? Has Mr. Tellier ever done a search in his local market for anything before?

For example, if you type in "Winnipeg SEO Expert" on Google.ca, one of the primary search results you receive are Google Maps results. Duh? These are local search results! Not to mention that Google has been geo-targeting a users IP address since 2005, providing users search results relative to their geographic location.

If you are a Winnipeg business, and are still one of dinosaurs that thinks the Yellow Pages are used by your common consumer - WAKE UP! The Yellow Pages are out of their realm moving into this market, and are being driven by their revenue losses. They're old, they're dated. And, members of the Winnipeg agency that is responsible for selling Yellow Pages advertising in the city openly admit the company does not know how to SEO.

If you want to be top of the search engines, hire an SEO company, not a print company.

It's your turn Winnipeg.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Winnipeg Businesses Confusing Media

Winnipeg businesses seem to be extremely confused in the use of media lately.

Yesterday I was driving down Marion Street and saw an ad for the Manitoba division of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. The billboard has some guy on it next to a globe with the words "Dare to Compete.ca" in huge letters. Now the only reason I knew it was the CME was because I have met with the association recently regarding their marketing direction, and am familiar with their new website and branding. However, to the common person driving past this sign, it would be very difficult to determine that it is an ad for CME. Why? Because all text about the CME is in very small print, where the focus is on the website address.

Here in lies the confusion.

It seems that the majority of businesses in Winnipeg, and other markets in general, are now using their radio, outdoor and print ads to drive people to their websites. This is not a good use of a company's precious marketing dollars.

If a company feels the best chance they have to capture new business is to get consumers to their website to learn more about them and their services, than why not invest in the actual form of marketing that specifically serves this purpose - Search Marketing.

Search marketing or search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of making a website directly relevant to the terms a company wants their brand associated with. For example, if I sell pool tables in Winnipeg, than I'd want to list high on the search engines when someone types in "pool tables Winnipeg." SEO investment ensures that you are placing your company's website in a position of high visibility to consumers actively in the market for your products and services.

The Winnipeg business community are too conditioned to stop using traditional media, even when they see that the best opportunity for them to capture new business is through their website. And I know this because every radio ad you hear now ends with a company's web address; every print and outdoor ad has their website address as a prominent component of the ad.

Winnipeggers, stop wasting your money! If you feel you the internet provides your business the greatest opportunity for growth, than invest in an SEO campaign that will push your website into a position of high visibility on the search engines. Use your radio ads to expand your brand through jingles or to highlight sales events. Use your billboards and print to shout the name of your company and something unique about your business, but whatever you do, quit spending copious amounts of money on old media to push new media.

It's your turn Winnipeg! Embrace the sales that exists for your brand on page one of Google.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Winnipeg Business Still Trying to Roll A Square

When will Winnipeg & Manitoba's so called business leaders learn you cannot role a square?

Armed with large federal and provincial budgets, they go about trying to educate the world of our wears. This my friends is not done by painting a bus that travels up and down Portage Avenue, nor having the biggest billboard in the city, nor advertising with all the local radio stations and newspapers. Why? Because no one beyond Brandon will ever see or hear about it. Still we shovel the same crap to the same old companies doing the same old stuff and we wonder why people don't take us seriously or why no one has ever heard of Winnipeg.

Times have changed and Winnipeg business you will have to as well. I know some of you have websites now, built by people who have won awards in Manitoba. Awards are great and all, but results are what pay the bills, and an all singing website that no one sees only wins awards not customers.

Today 90% of people globally use the internet to find, buy and/or research before any purchase or investment. If you cannot be found, you lose. Its that simple.

Stop trying to role a square. The wheel has been invented - it's round and works much better. Okay... maybe all your old pals you usually work with have not got a website yet or they are still trying to fathom how it works, but in the meantime, business generated by the net is passing you by, forcing you to work 10 times as hard to catch up once you wake up to the new world.

Don't be embarrassed to say you don't know. Don't be ashamed to use someone who does. And certainly don't be shy to spend all that government, tax payer money where your going to get the best return - with a proven SEO company.

The old school cannot have it's own way anymore, they are stopping progress. What for? Personal gain. They choose to agree on nothing until the divi's are worked out to everyone's favour. But what about the people, the city, the province, the tax payers?

Winnipeg, it is time to get some BALLS, stand up, be counted and instead of doing what's familar, do what works.

It's your turn Winnipeg.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Canada’s first Foreign Trade Zone

The federal and Manitoba governments recently announced that they would put aside $3.5million to fund the start-up and operational costs of CentrePort Canada in Manitoba – Canada’s first Foreign Trade Zone. This is big news that has long-term potential for the country, because the port will promote Canada’s competitive advantages, including the National Gateway Strategy.

The federal and provincial governments are partnering to create within CentrePort a one-stop shop for transportation, international trade and value-added manufacturing – a pilot project called the Canada-Manitoba CentrePort International Business Development Project.

There’s also the new Pan-Western Outreach Program a pilot project aimed at raising awareness in business circles about Canada’s programs and policies supporting international trade, with a focus on marketing foreign trade zone-type programs, such as the ones being coordinated and delivered through CentrePort.

As Canada’s first Foreign-Trade Zone, CentrePort will give international companies the option of shipping their out-bound goods to Manitoba, where they can be stored without additional duty costs, before being shipped to consumers in the United States. This is part of an economic agenda to position Canada as an attractive destination for international business investors.

CentrePort comprises 8,093 hectares in Winnipeg, anchored by the James A. Richardson International Airport, one of the busiest cargo hubs in the country. The new zone brings together Manitoba’s existing transportation assets, including the airport, three intercontinental rail lines – CN, CP, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe – more than 1,000 for-hire trucking companies, the Port of Churchill and the Emerson border crossing to the U.S.

A year ago, CentrePort was created under Manitoba Premier Gary Doer – Canada’s next Ambassador the U.S. – when the provincial legislature unanimously passed the CentrePort Canada Act, creating CentrePort, a private sector-led corporation.

Since then, major infrastructure investments have taken place, including $212.5 million for CentrePort Canada Way, a four-lane divided expressway announced by Prime Minister Harper to increase speedy access for moving goods to the U.S.

This package of investments and policies – from marketing to infrastructure to funding – is a comprehensive approach that will be required for Canada to compete internationally. It will help bring Canada on par with other countries that have inland ports and gateways that are hubs for export-oriented job creation.

In an era when labour and business don’t often agree about trade policy, and political parties fight over infrastructure funding, supporters of CentrePort have spoken with one voice. Stakeholders from the Manitoba Federation of Labour have worked together to bring the inland port to life. The federal Conservatives and provincial New Democrats have collaborated to get shovels in the ground. As a result, CentrePort Canada is off to a good start as a model for integrated trade and transportation policy that could spark new economic development in Canada.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Human Rights Museum's Patrick O'Reilly Just Doing His Job

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights continues to get mixed press, with the latest being an attempt to somewhat villianize Patrick O'Reilly for his recent travel bill in promoting the museum to international markets. Anytime the new museum is mentioned in a group of people, you can pretty much divide the opinions down the middle - those that believe in its future success and those that only see tax dollars being spent. The $28,000 tab reportedly spent by the museum COO shares this same scrutiny.

I myself have had the pleasure of meeting Patrick O'Reilly on multiple occasions, and I can tell you first hand the man is all business, fuelled by his passion to make the museum a success both locally and globally.

Personally, I'd want the COO of Canada's first national museum outside of Ottawa to be sipping wine and eating cheese at a Bistro in Paris - as I'm sure there are many Winnipeggers who'd rather see him wearing a Jets jersey and eating roadside poutine. If we are to capture the essence of being a world-class facility, than we need to ensure that the people running and representing it are of the same class.

The Facebook posts were meant for close friends and family, who'd be less interested in the business he is doing versus the travel experience. Those posts were for their eyes and ears and have misrepresented his efforts. If there is any critisim it is that Mr. O'Reilly should have had better knowledge in keeping those posts from the public. In saying that, the main point is that they were not for the public, and we as the public should only be concerned with the results of his travels. Anyone who travels for business knows that downtime to enjoy the destination comes as a natural consequence and perk.

I am very confident that Mr. O'Reilly is using his time abroad wisely, helping to put the museum and Winnipeg on the global map.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Manitoba 1000 - Webidiotz

I heard on the radio today the advert for the Manitoba 1000 website, so I went on Google and searched "Manitoba 1000". Guess what website was not on page 1?

So I got around to thinking how is this website going to increase sales for Manitoba businesses when it cannot even list itself.... sounds fishy?

After a little bit of research I found the possible operator of this website is wanted by all sorts of people in the UK, the courts too, for monies he ripped off them.

His old company was called "One Move" here are some of the horror stories:

Neil Patel Story #1

Neil Patel Story #2

Neil Patel Story #3

Now I'm not sure if this is the same guy. and everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but the latest story says he owns "webidiotz" in Winnipeg.

If you checkout their address 2157 Henderson Highway, Winnipeg it belongs to a company called Ade & Co. who are Patent Agents. No business name is listed outside for a web design company, but a testimonial from Ade is on the website.... very confusing.

So if this guy is the same fast talking I'll make you rich shyster, Beware Manitoba! Don't be a Web Idiot.

Do your homework. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Winnipeg Culture Website a Waste

I must commend today's article by Morley Walker in the Free Press regarding the new cultural website promoting Winnipeg's designation as Canada's "cultural capital" for 2010. He nailed it on the head when saying "the trouble with a website...is...if you don't know it exists, you will never stumble upon it."

With all the potential that exists from being awarded this designation during a very popular point in the new millennium, you'd think more dollars would be allocated to the one tool that can drive qualified traffic and interest to Winnipeg - a highly visible website through effective search marketing. I find it very disheartening that when the Marketing Director of Destination Winnipeg is questioned on why more dollars were not allocated to the marketing of the site, she openly states that "we're going after low hanging fruit (ie. Grand Forks, Fargo)...People from Vancouver aren't coming here anyway."

Wow... that's optimism! Considering I personally know 3 different groups of friends here in Winnipeg that visited Vancouver this year alone, and that the entire Manitoba Homecoming 2010 event is dependant on travellers from around North America migrating back to Winnipeg, you'd think - at minimum - a more positive spin could have been placed on the limited dollars being allocated to the website.

What I can't seem to figure out is what the $60,000 allocated to this project was used for?

Considering there are very limited dollars in place to advertise the project (all mailed leaflets I might add) and the website itself on the high side should only be $10,000... where was the rest of the money allocated?

My guess is that it was evenly distributed amongst the same companies that continue to survive off the government grant money awarded to these half-ass efforts, making print brochures, charging copious amounts of money for content writing, and laughing all the way to the bank, with little concern for the success of the project other than just plastering up something for show. I'll be curious to see if there is any report in the future from DW on the membership levels they gained on the new site. I doubt it.

And I quote, "if you don't know it exists, you will never stumble upon it." There's a great big world out there Winnipeg, and those who know how to tap into it know. Hopefully egos will be put aside one day, and the companies that can truly deliver results will be awarded the honorable job of putting Winnipeg on the map.

It's your turn Winnipeg.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another Winnipeg Free Press Cash Grab

Today was the release of the Fall issue of Wave Magazine, "Winnipeg's Health & Wellness Magazine"; a product of the combined efforts of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and the advertising department of the Winnipeg Free Press.

What a shock that at a time when people are concerned over the potential harm that could erupt from H1N1 virus, the hungry Free Press ad reps come up with another winning model for revenue. This smells equally as rotten as the much anticipated, but highly disappointing insert they ran called "We Believe in Winnipeg." That piece was supposed to be a pullout insert that each week featured different success stories of Manitoba businesses across various industries. Instead it turned out to be nothing more than a double-page spread make work project for the editorial staff, feeding off the marketing dollars of the businesses highlighted in the articles.

The "We Believe in Winnipeg" advertorial was suspiciously timed with the rollout of the "Selling Winnipeg to the World" spearheaded by the team at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce - a time when there was much buzz in the Winnipeg business community over the potential to increase the profile of Winnipeg to the world based on a handful of major projects which included CentrePort Canada. Only after a large number of Chamber members berated Chamber VP Chuck Davidson at a regular "coffee-break session" with the Chamber, did they finally admit that the "We Believe" weekly edition was born from the ad department at WFP rather than the editorial department or the Chamber themselves. My guess is that these same opportunists called the WRHA with the same sales pitch to capitalize on the fear of many Winnipeggers and Winnipeg business owners.

If the purpose of the magazine was simply to educate the public on the "health threat of the day", the Free Press and WHRA could have easily accomplished this through a series of monthly or quarterly articles, coupled with a dedicated information page on both websites. However, the ads just look better in a glossy, 8.5" x 11" bi-monthly mag.

Its your turn Winnipeg...shake your addiction to print!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Winnipeg Inland Port Announces CEO

After much political posturing within the inner circles of the Winnipeg business community, the announcement was made that Diane Gray - Manitoba's first female Deputy Finance Minister - has been named CEO of CentrePort Canada, Winnipeg's inland port.

Gray appears to have been the natural fit having been a major conduit in helping the inland port gain legs within all three levels of government and the private sector. The CEO position requires an individual capable of playing in both arenas, and Gray has much experience in handling this fine balance.

At this point, CentrePort Canada has been more a concept than an actual project. Much of the delays in moving the project forward to this point have been in finding the right person for the CEO position, and according to Kerry Hawkins, co-chairman of CentrePort Canada, they couldn't have found a more qualified person for the job.

"Without a CEO we are pretty much rudderless," says Hawkins. "We've been getting so many inquiries but we had to put them off because we weren't ready." We needed someone who could work with government and the private sector to get the port going, and find overseas markets. She's been there and has been doing all of those things already."

Winnipeg's inland port sits on 20,000 acres of land around the Richardson International Airport, and is being touted as a major hub for the manufacturing, distribution and warehousing of goods in North America.

For more information on the inland port go to http://www.winnipeginlandport.ca/

Friday, September 11, 2009

Winnipeg Goldeyes' Organization of the Year

Yet again the brass at the Winnipeg Goldeyes have been crowned the Organization of the Year in the Northern Baseball League. The team has been awarded the honor for the 4th time since the award was first handed out in 2003.

Winning the title has much to do with the impressive attendance numbers the Goldeyes continue to draw; leading all other Northern league baseball clubs for the last ten years for both total attendance and average attendance per game. In 45 home games this season, the Goldeyes drew 278,009 fans, with an average attendance of 6,180 per game.

“This is an award to be shared by everyone associated with the Goldeyes and I speak on behalf of the entire organization when I say we are honoured,” said president and CEO Sam Katz. “From top to bottom, this is a very solid organization. It is part of a very strong league, one that will become stronger next year with the addition of two more teams and will become even stronger in the years to come as more and more fans get to know this amazing product we call Northern League baseball.”

The team has proven year in and year out since building the new ballpark and re-joining the league, that baseball is a viable product in the Manitoba market.

Congratulations!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to Work Winnipeg Business People

Though it seems more summer now than ever this last week, the harsh reality is it is ending. And with the passing of days at the cottage, rounds on the golf course and bevies on the patio comes the return of work Winnipeg business people.

Yes, decisions must once again be made, visions of your future growth must turn to paper and pen (or I suppose keyboard to monitor). I highly doubt I am the only Winnipeg business person filled with the mixed emotions of excitement for the rush of activity that September brings and the sadness knowing that soon it will be dark when I leave for work and dark when I drive home.

July and August are tough months to close business in Winnipeg. With decision makers scattered across our many lakes in Manitoba, I find most businesses coast along, committing to very little. Is this a negative or a positive in respect to the progress of Winnipeg's business community?

I think the answer lies with the individual. Many will view it as a time to re-energize, to reflect on goals accomplished or missed, to strategize the direction forward and to mingle with clients and partners to strengthen important business relationships. This restores their passion and drive for their business, resulting in new ideas and energy to move their company forward.

Others would blame the summer as the reason that Winnipeggers fail to enact change. The idea that we only work 10 months a year has a lot of business people pointing at the hot weather as the culprit in our failure to follow projects through as a city to the point of success.

As an example... Has anyone heard anything about CentrePort Canada recently? Or Selling Winnipeg to the World? I guess maybe if you have a cabin in Lake of the Woods you may have overheard one of the board members arguing over who gets to be the next CEO of Winnipeg's inland port and cash in the big salary that will likely accompany that position.

Oh well...regardless of what side you are on in the debate over our approach to summer, its now September, and that means its all business. Back to work people!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

SEO's Dramatic Climb into the Mix of Winnipeg Business

It was almost exactly a year ago that I began researching into the world of internet marketing as it relates to Winnipeg business. My background was print and radio advertising; however, anyone breathing can see the shift that has occurred in where consumers now look for information on products and services. It was because of this that I sunk my teeth into researching this growth market.

At the time, there were only about 3 or 4 companies that were offering SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services; basically selling the ability to list a company's website top of the search engines for search terms related to their products and/or services. Now, a year in the future, there are over 60 companies in the mix vying for the Winnipeg business owners precious marketing dollars. (even more precious in the 'Peg as our belts tend to be strapped on quite tight). The obvious question becomes: How can so many experts emerge in such a small market in such a small period of time?

The answer: They can't!

Why then are so many companies offering a service they really can't deliver? Well... as one Winnipeg Marketing Agency told me in an interview "Its where the money is." Wow!... with care for the customer like that, please... take my money.

The reality is that SEO is a very distinct skill set, and that most companies offering this service in Winnipeg are mainly web designers or traditional marketers who have gained some base knowledge of good practices through blogs and online forums. To hire someone of this calibre would be equivalent to spending a night of fine dining with a chef reading from "Cooking for Dummies." The result from both being a bad taste in the mouth and less money in your wallet.

For a skill as specific as SEO (also known as online search marketing) it is actually quite simple to measure the merits of the competing Winnipeg businesses:

Step 1: Go to Google.ca (.ca means that Google will pull pages from Canada first)

Step 2: Type in "SEO Winnipeg" or "Winnipeg SEO" or "Winnipeg Search Marketing"

Step 3: Read which companies are listed first on the left-hand side (the organic not paid side)

Step 4: Call the #1 company.

Why you might ask? Because if a company is offering to list your website top of the search engines, they better be able to be the leader in their own category in a market the size of Winnipeg. If they can't, what makes you think they will be able to list you?

Whether economic times are difficult or not, wasting money is wasting money. In the past, a business struggled to place their marketing dollars in a media that most directly reached their target customer. The guessing games are over now. If someone types in "pool table Winnipeg" its because they are in the market to buy a pool table in Winnipeg. This is the power of the net.

The Fall is when most Winnipeg businesses will begin looking at where to allocate their dollars for marketing. If you are one of them reading this, please follow the steps above and put your dollars where you'll see results.

It's your turn Winnipeg!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Your Next Winnipeg Business Lunch

My wife and I, on an empty stomach, found ourselves asking the same question we often ask when deciding on where to walk to enjoy some good food on a patio in Winnipeg - Corydon or Osborne Village? However, this day we changed our predictable path and found ourselves wondering around in St. Boniface when we came across what is now our new favorite restaurant.

Les Jasmins De La Tunisie is Winnipeg's only Tunisian restaurant, positioned beautifully at the base of the Esplanade Riel Pedestrian Bridge. The restaurant is run by the Manachou family, and just recently celebrated their one year anniversary back in May of this year.

My wife and I were very unfamiliar with the majority of the items on then menu, but all are well explained, and the owner was quite helpful in providing further information and also wine pairings. Come on... you can't enjoy a meal in Little France without a little red wine.

Unfortunately I did not grab a menu when we left, (and they have no website...?) so I am unable to give the exact names of the meals we had. What I do remember is the appetizer we had called "brik." This is a filo pastry stuffed with tuna, spinach, fresh herbs and an egg. After the first bite, we stared at each other almost like wild dogs knowing we had to share, while each wanting to eat the whole thing ourself, plus a couple more. Truly a taste unlike anything I've had in the city before.

We are both eager to return to try other parts of the menu, and both have plans to bring friends and co-workers. Winnipeg palates rejoice! You will be amazed by the food and charmed by the location and owners. Bon Appetite!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Social Media hits Winnipeg Businesses

I couldn't believe when I read the Free Press and found they published an article promoting social media. There must be a wave of change towering over Winnipeg businesses if the editors at the Free Press have actually surrendered to the demand for more news about new media. Normally, the only information you can find in the Free Press to do with the changing media landscape are ads directing the readers to the various websites they have selling cars and homes. That leads me to an interesting conversation I had with the VP of Corporate Development at Corus Entertainment.

As many of you may have read, Corus lost some $145 million in their last quarter. I spoke with the VP there to understand what they were doing now to try and raise their online presence, considering a large reason for the loss was reportedly because of the shift of consumers and marketing budgets to online. She said they were building some new websites and using their TV and radio stations to promote them. Huh?

It was just reported that there are more users online, but you're choosing not to invest any money to help people find you online? Sounds like a plan... not a good one, but a plan.

If you listen to any Winnipeg businesses advertising on our local radio stations, they all do the same thing - air ads that direct listeners to their website. Ads in the Free Press and The Sun are no different. Yet, if you call anyone of these Winnipeg business owners, most will tell you that they have no budget for marketing online. My second huh? of the blog.

It's called cutting out the middle man. If you know your clients are online, why not put your marketing dollars into making your website visible to them instead of having them try and memorize your web address?

Obviously change is coming to Winnipeg when the most traditional of marketing vehicles publishes the "tricks to tweeting." One can only hope that those grey hairs that read the article will jump on board too.

It's your turn Winnipeg.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Winnipeg Businesses Shift Towards Internet

Businesses in Winnipeg and across Canada continue to move dollars away from traditional media and into the internet as is evidence with Corus Entertainment announcing a third quarter net loss of $145 million. In Winnipeg, Corus owns stations CJOB 68, 99.1 Groove FM and Power 97 FM. The loss was directly related to both the slumping economy and the growing shift in dollars from radio advertising to the internet.

This, and the other countless examples from the thinning Free Press to the fall of CanWest, should have Winnipeg business owners asking themselves: Where am I putting my limited dollars for advertising?

You'd think common sense would come into play when considering this question. With all the press out each week on the struggles felt by traditional media, you need to start taking more time considering if a quarter page ad in the Sun is the best use of your money?

I'm amazed at the number of companies in Winnipeg that still don't have a budget for online marketing. Many have locked themselves into stale Yellow Page campaigns or blown whole budgets doing trade shows. Yet, if I ask them how they look for goods and services many tell me they mainly search online. Those that still use phone books are usually those that worry if they click too many buttons on the computer it will blow up. These owners need to fight through the fear of the unknown and use the smarts that made them leaders in business to recognize that, even if they don't understand computers and the internet, that it is not a fad and that it can help their business.

Over the weekend I was at an anniversary for my Aunt and Uncle and ran into a radio personality who works for 99.1 Groove FM. We began discussing the advertising climate in Winnipeg and she was openly scared for her job. She reported that many people have been laid off or have quit seeing that the future in radio is a complete toss up. She actually had to come off maternity leave early just because of her fear that there may not be a job to come back to if she was away too long.

Personally I don't see the end of radio or newspapers anytime soon; however the playing field has definitely changed. Have you?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Winnipeg Business I Know Where Your Target Market Is

The mystery of where to put your dollars in marketing has always been based on the question, "Where is my target market?"; and - Winnipeg business owners - if you don't know this by now than please continue reading.

As is common, a Winnipeg business owner will set aside a budget specific for marketing. And if you are like most, you naturally gravitate towards the traditional options of the "Free Press vs The Sun; BOB FM vs CITI; or Winnipeg Women Magazine vs Flavours Magazine." But the question still persists, "Is this where my target market is?"

The answer is to quit guessing and embrace the change that is"online search marketing." When a person types in "skechers shoes" on Google.ca, it's because they are in the market to buy skecher shoes.

There is no wondering if your target audience watches "The Amazing Race" on Wednesday nights to hope they'll catch your ad. There is no fear they may not read the "City and Business" section of the Free Press and miss your sale on men's ties. No my friends, if they type in "men's ties" on Google.ca and your website is one of the first they see to click to, than once again your 24/7 online salesman has closed a sale.

The times aren't changing, they've changed. The guessing game is over.

It's your turn Winnipeg.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Who is Measuring the Winnipeg Business Call Initiative?

It was reported today in the Free Press that 12 hot leads have been prospected from the "Business Call/Selling Winnipeg to the World" initiative led by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. At the Chamber breakfast Friday morning, it was further revealed that actually 100 prospects were identified, and of those 12 were considered "hot." What also came to light was that about 5 or 6 Winnipeg businesses are preparing to exit the city as well - something the Free Press failed to report on. To me this is the most important piece of information, and may be the most critical work done by the Business Call team.



My question - Who is the Chamber/Business Call team accountable too? Who, outside the Chamber, is measuring their performance? Is it the responsibility of Winnipeg business owners or the taxpayers or some third party committee? How are they measuring success? One company relocating to Winnipeg?... Two? Keeping one here who was going to leave? What?



We all know should the Chamber close any of these 12 hot leads that Martin Cash will be quickly be shouting the praises of their good work in the "City and Business" section of the Free Press...but what if they don't close any? Furthermore, what if they lose the 5 or 6 businesses looking to leave?



I was also puzzled when the Free Press quoted V.P. Bill Morrissey on the results of the survey that Business Call did to the variety of Winnipeg business owners. He stated that "the results were not surprising -- the highest positive attribute was the reliable workforce and the most prominent negative one was the tax base." So why do the study then? Was this the best use of time? Why not at least make a statement more to the flavour that "the study reinforces our strong workforce and limitations that the payroll tax provides" as opposed to saying "no surprise?" I'm big on the language people use, especially in the business and political world, and I would guess that interested Winnipeggers would be sensitive as well - especially when in writing. The statement made me think that there may have been better questions to ask to better utilize the time of the business owners they called.



All in all, the Business Call initiative is important. The one-to-one approach will always be effective. I only wonder, though, that if this initiative fails, how or will we ever know?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Winnipeg Business - Online Brand Protection

I was enjoying a walk with my beautiful wife the other day - my mind far off the Winnipeg business scene - when we came across a home that was quite obviously mired in renovations. As we grew closer, it was easy to see the amount of work that remained to turn this construction site into a home. What was most eye-popping was the sign, written in red marker on a large piece of cardboard, which read:

"I.C.E. Construction Group
8-10 weeks Concrete Project
Began Sep 08
Concrete???"
Trying to focus on what my wife was telling me - I couldn't help but think about the power of the written word, but more than this, the importance of online brand protection.
The sign, coupled with the obvious state of disarray this poor homeowner was enduring, sent a very powerful message to the competency of I.C.E. Construction Group. Immediately, my wife turned to me and said "remind me never to use them for any concrete work."
This event made me think about the power a blog can have when distributed effectively, and how people really do believe what they read. I can almost guarantee that my wife is not the only one to have made that comment, and that the entire surrounding neighbourhood will never use the services of I.C.E. Construction Group for any of ther concrete needs. But what if that message on the piece of cardboard was seen by 1,000 people or 10,000? At that point the angry voice of an unsatisfied customer turns into thousands of lost dollars. What happens if you have no way of protecting what is written about you across the net?
A good recent example of this would be Furnasman One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning. Just search the term "furnaces winnipeg" or "furnace repair winnipeg" and see for yourself.
With blogging across the internet, your brand is open to anyone and everyone.
Winnipeg buiness - what are you doing to protect yourself online?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Winnipeg Business Tees off with the Chamber

Yesterday, I attended the 19th annual Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament at Pine Ridge Golf and Country Club. The course was in beautiful shape, the drinks were flowing and, despite moments of rain, the event was a great success.

As can be expected, much schmoozing was going on amongst the many Winnipeg business owners and other organizational leaders. As much as the event is to help network and give back to a worthy charity - this year being the Winnipeg Human Society - much like in my high school days, there is curiosity amongst all that attend as to who is mingling with who.

Yes, despite being over a decade since walking the halls of River East Collegiate, I still feel that same sense of "who's hot and who's not" that happened when identifying the "cool" kids from the popularity challenged. Each handshake carrying with it either a label of "in the know" vs "no need to know." "Why his he golfing with them?" or "Where is so and so this year?"

As much as things change, they just stay the same.

The mixture of booze and fatigue always lead to a slip or two of the tongue, and its no different at this event as I witnessed when within earshot of one very example - though no further details will be found on this blog. Point being that no matter the title on the business card or the level of education, it seems at heart we are creatures motivated by acceptance and driven by curiosity, mixed with a healthy dose of drama. As the world turns, these are the days of our lives in business in Winnipeg.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Manitoba Moose Downtown Party

I'm calling all Winnipeg business and Winnipeggers to flood our downtown for a massive street party to cheer on the Manitoba Moose when they win the Calder Cup Trophy. I have vivid memories of the craziness that ensued in downtown Winnipeg after the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series back in 1992. Everyone poured into the streets, fanatic that a Canadian team was able to capture the crown of best in baseball. The Manitoba Moose are Canada's hockey team now, and let's show the country and the continent how much we love our home town teams.

Considering most Winnipeggers would rather eat fish out of the Red River than support anything based in Toronto, it would be a disgrace to our beloved Moose if we didn't honor them by taping off the downtown and filling the TV screens with everything Moose.

So... I encourage all fans of the Moose, all fans of sports in Manitoba and all fans of good times in general to flood the streets of downtown when the Moose raise the Calder Cup. Bringing Manitobans our first title in too many years to mention is worth getting the police out to watch us as we party and celebrate our rightful place at the top.

First drinks on me!

Monday, June 1, 2009

CentrePort Canada - Bridging Commerce to the North

The effects of global warming are heating up opportunities for business in Canada's North. CentrePort Canada realizes this opportunity and is using the Port of Churchill as further fuel in selling the world the benefits of doing business at the future site of Winnipeg's inland port.

The selling point for CentrePort Canada has been location, location, location. The changing seascape in the Artic has opened the opportunity to shorten shipping routes, open new trade avenues for Manitoba and Canada with international partners through Canada's only major international Arctic Seaport at the Port of Churchill. The "Arctic Bridge" as its being called connects with the Port of Murmansk, Russia, allowing for trade opportunities that were unavailable only years ago. Further development will also lead to increased commerce opportunities for those communities located in the both Arctic regions.

Further development of the marine link between Russia and Manitoba is being planned from establishing working groups, doing test flights and shipments, and continuing to improve communications amongst all industry stakeholders.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Winnipeg Business in Heartlandia

Talks have resumed around the development of an economic corridor, dubbed "Heartlandia," between Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwestern Ontario, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Combined, the region accounts for around $400 billion dollars in regional GDP which equates to 25% of Canada's overall GDP. "There is a need for opportunities to interact on a personal basis," says Klaus Thiessen, CEO of the Grand Forks Regional Economic Development Corps. "There are all sorts of natural commercial and cultural ties in the region. The idea is to do it in a more structured way."


Though the provincial government has yet to confirm any part in Heartlandia, Premiere Gary Doer has made it a major priority during his tenure to build strong relationships with the respective governors and premieres. Says Riva Harrison of Manitoba Trade, "The premier's style is to be very engaged with governors in other states. He has very strong alliances with a number of them. It is a way to get things done and generate business and that is ultimately the goal. Any proposed alliance would always be considered in an open mind."


Business, academic and community leaders in Manitoba and North Dakota got together last fall in Grand Forks to discuss the potential development of Heartlandia, and the plan is to have a second summit, this time in Winnipeg. It is believed that the development of Winnipeg's inland port is a major motivation to talks being renewed between the economic regions.

Winnipeg's Human Rights Museum Losing Public Confidence

Still three years from it's first visitor, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is already millions short on the budget required for both its capital costs and its annual operating needs. The museum has reported they need a minimum of $5.2 million in operating funds from Ottawa this year alone to keep construction and development going.

The federal government has already responded to say they would not provide additional funding on top of the $100 million towards construction and the approximately $21.7 million required in annual operating costs.

Museum spokeswoman Angela Cassie has provided little direction as to what the real number is in respect to the funds required for both continued construction and operating costs. "There is no total figure yet. It's difficult right now when you don't know how much it will cost to heat a building in 2012." Isn't this a requirement when establishing the initial budget? Inflation is taught in Economics 101.

My guess is that a lot of taxpayers and donors are wondering just when they'll be tapped to foot the bill. The museum is doing themselves a great injustice in gaining momentum for what should be a world class facility into what is appearing to be a major lesson in poor financial planning. This stigma seems like its becoming a stain on the Asper legacy, one I hope they can reconcile before Winnipeggers and Winnipeg business completely give up on this global attraction.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Winnipeg's Inland Port Holds First Open House

CentrePort Canada, Winnipeg's inland port, held their first open house May 13th, 2009. What the event was, and what I expected it to be were completely different.

I went with the impression that it would be a town hall setting where the public could step up to the mic to ask questions to the board or at least a few members of the board. Instead, the event was put on by MMM Group, the firm hired by the Government of Manitoba to develop the Development Plan for the 20,000 acres dedicated to the project. They had staff present to answer questions, or try to answer questions, that would have been best answered by the board members. Poster boards and a slide show were placed throughout the small conference room outlining a very basic idea of what the project entailed. Also on hand was Harlan Mushumanski, Communications Coordinator with Communication Services Manitoba. Now, I must add that I didn't stay till the end of the event, so board members may have been present. However, considering the magnitude of Manitoba's inland port, should they not be there for the whole event?

I first spoke with an employee of MMM Group to get an understanding of their involvement. The gentleman really knew very little about the project as a whole, and when asked about the new website being promoted at the event, told me it was thrown together for the event, but with no intention of further development once their role was completed. This leads nicely into my conversation with Harlan.

In talking with Harlan I pointed out the fact that the bodies involved, from government to the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, have really done nothing to collaborate all the information on CentrePort Canada to one central website for public review. I added that the government had already spent over $220 million dollars on the project, and with that comes questions from the taxpayers. For a Communications Coordinator he didn't seem to feel that this was a real issue considering what an early stage they are at in the port's development. Is it just me, or are Winnipeggers not seeking information on what the economic and social impacts will be on them as taxpayers? Maybe not... but that may be because most people still really have no idea the inland port is happening.

I've taken the time to ask a number of friends and Winnipeg business associates what they think of the project. To my concern, a number hadn't heard of the project and others thought it was just the airport extension. In fact, one of my colleagues was talking with the Union leader for Air Canada, and they didn't even know about the project at all.

Being a Winnipegger, I know how difficult people in this city accept change, and how angry they get about where their tax dollars are being used. Couple that with those concerned about the environment and green initiatives in the city, and Winnipeg's inland port becomes a very touchy subject. The board and other bodies involved need to recognize this, and should be flooding the internet with the positives this project will bring to our city and province. As one friend said when asked about the inland port, "what's in it for me?"

The Open House once again proves my point that Winnipeg needs to start accepting the role the internet plays in how people develop their opinions. They are seriously missing an opportunity to build the public's confidence in CentrePort Canada by not respecting that people, globally, are looking for information on this now. People believe what they read.

The most interesting conversation I had at the event was with a farmer from Rosser who's land is part of the 20,000 acres being developed. He has great concerns on the lost dollars he will experience if the government tries to aggressively acquire his land, and whether he will be paid a fair price. I asked him what the government has done to educate him on the project, and whether they have opened negotiations for his parcel of land. All he's received to date is an invitation to an open house that had no one there that could properly handle his concerns. How many others share these same concerns for their future well-being that aren't being heard? What resources are being put in place to help these people learn more? The internet is where they look, but as of today, only one Winnipeg private business is addressing these concerns, doing what they can to provide the information to those affected. At least someone understands that people need information, I just thought that this would come best from CenterPort Canada Inc. themselves.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Winnipeg Public Health Inspectors Need To Look Harder

The Sizzling Wok at St.Vital Centre is already back up and operational after being closed for a day after serving a baby rodent to a Winnipeg couple. One day?! I really struggle with this.

I realize we all risk our health anytime we place our faith in the food being served to us; but when a mouse is found by a patron, am I the only one that feels a day off the market is a bit short? I admit I have no experience in the supervision of food handling, but to think that they are already serving people again before the community has had a chance to properly digest the news seems absurd. Are we that hungry that we can't wait a few days to ensure that there are no further problems that could emerge?

I respect that they have no past history of food contamination, but this wasn't a hair in my soup... it was a rat people! Fight your urge for Chinese cuisine, and have a burger or something. I just can't understand how there cannot be further interrogation of the restaurant owners and their suppliers before firing up the wok again.

Don't these restaurant owners realize that they are hurting themselves long-term by opening up so quick? Having had only 24 hours to think about whether I would eat there again, I know now I wouldn't. I don't feel bad at all if their business goes bust because to me, it seems like their biggest concern is getting the shop up and running again to make some money, as opposed to staying closed and getting to the heart of the problem, showing that they care more about those they are serving than themselves.

The restaurant owners could learn something from Michael McCain of Maple Leaf Foods. Where are they? Where is their statement? The Manager of Public Health Inspection Programs Mike LeBlanc and the management of St. Vital should be seriously giving their heads a shake if they feel the public are okay with this restaurant opening a day later. Who runs the PR departments and when do they get fired? Do they think that people who roam the mall are hopeless drones, unaware of the news, just looking to consume whatever is in their path? Well... for some maybe, but for most, you can bet they won't be eating at the Sizzling Wok or any other food court restaurant for that matter considering how poorly this situation is being handled.

Before I end, I'd like to say that I do feel sorry for the couple who were served; not because they found a mouse, but because they are probably at home sick thinking back to all the times they ate there and never looked.

How's your stomach feeling? Lunch anyone?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Winnipeg's Inland Port Brimming With Potential

Winnipeg's inland port "will have a big impact for generations to come," boasted CentrePort Canada's chairman Kerry Hawkins during his first public address at a breakfast hosted by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Thursday morning. The room was filled with Winnipeg business leaders representing all industries that will benefit from Canada's first official inland port. The event was sponsored by Chris Lorenc and the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association.

"Thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in investment, that is the course we are on," said Hawkins, while comparing the project to the Port of Huntsville in Alabama. This area has generated 24,000 jobs and payrolls of over $1 billion dollars since being transformed from a cotton field to an inland port, and the chairman feels the same potential exists right here in Winnipeg.

The address spoke mainly of the immense opportunity being given to the city since the federal government pledged their dedication to the project, scratching a cheque for $212 million dollars for the construction of CentrePort Canada Way, a four-lane highway connecting the airport to Inkster Blvd. and the Perimeter Highway. Updates were also provided regarding the status of CentrePort Canada Inc., where they expect by July to have a CEO in place, and that they have now secured office space and will be moving in soon.

What really stood out in the address was how quickly things have evolved since the legislation passed for the creation of the CentrePort Canada Inc. back in September 2008. Already Edmonton and Saskatoon had been lobbying government for dollars to create their own inland ports, but the hard work of both the Board and the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce have made Winnipeg the location of choice.

"It's not yet six months old and there is much more to do," stated Hawkins, but it is clear from the early success and the excitement in the room during the address that the potential can be reached.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Winnipeg Free Press Dodge Winnipeg's New Media Businesses

Only 3 weeks into the "We Believe in Winnipeg" campaign featured in the Sunday edition of the Winnipeg Free Press, and already its proven to be a farce. Originally the piece was a separate insert, focused on Winnipeg business success stories, with each week featuring a different industry sector. This week it was supposed to feature Winnipeg businesses involved in Internet Communications Technology/New Media and Education. Instead, there was no insert this time, only a 2-page spread, and all that was in there were articles around Red River College. Okay... that covers education but what about the other areas?

Hmm? What a coincidence that the Winnipeg Free Press - who are hurting financially because of losses in ad revenue to Internet Communications Technology & New Media companies - chose against featuring any of these companies in the article.

It seems pretty clear that the private interests of the paper outweigh the purpose of the whole campaign. New Media companies are popping up all over Winnipeg, so you think there'd be plenty to write about. It's so pathetic that I'm surprised the Free Press didn't decide to just promote their cars, homes, and auction e-commerce sites in the new media section to try and further fill their pockets. Lame.

I guess you can file this campaign in the same G-drawer as "Love Me, Love My Winnipeg" in the 1980s; "100 Reasons to Love Winnipeg" in the 1990s and; "Spirited Energy" in 2006.

Can't wait to see what's next. Maybe the Free Press could give all their subscribers a gold star to pin on their chest to remind them of how proud they should feel to be in a city that provides such bias reporting.

I believe in Winnipeg, just not in the Free Press.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Winnipeg Should Just Sell the Simple Life

I've been to so many meetings recently with all the entities responsible for "Selling Winnipeg to the World," and the only thing I've learned is that no one has any idea what to promote or who we truly are as a city.

What is the unique selling point of Winnipeg? Is it cheap Hydro? The amount of sunshine? The upcoming Canadian Museum for Human Rights? Or maybe its our steady economy or our growth potential being the center of North America? Ask yourself this, would you move your entire family and business to a new city for a museum or for cheap hydro? The answer to all these questions is no.

We are in a very unique time as Winnipeggers in that the opportunity to be a leader as a city on a national level has never been so readily available since the early 1900's. At that time, it was our location and natural resources that gave us the title as one of the fastest growing cities on the continent. We all know what's happened since then, but because those same reasons for our rapid growth exist today, I think there is a fundamental question that we are failing to ask. Do we want to be the next Toronto or Vancouver? I think the answer again is no.

Majority of the campaigns that have ran recently - such as Spirited Energy, or more recently, "We Believe in Winnipeg"- touch on the idea of the ease of life in Winnipeg, but none seem to feel this is enough to make people want to relocate their home or business here. I think it is.

People that crave the pace of life or ego stroke that comes with living in Toronto or New York have no interest in Winnipeg. They would find us way too boring. And if you ask a Winnipegger, they don't want them. It is the simple life that makes Winnipeg appealing.

Yes these campaigns make mention of the friendly people and the fact that you are an hour away from being on a lake at the cabin; but they all seem to then mask this by sending a message that puts us in competition with Vancouver or Calgary. We can't compete with them because, at our core, Winnipeggers don't carry the same values. If we did, we'd live there.

Why not run a global campaign called "Winnipeg - the simple life" and really focus on this as a benefit. That you can relocate your family and start the small business you've always dreamed of and have a fighting chance of success in our market. That we choose rather to work to live than live to work. Sure there are some workaholics in Winnipeg, but ask most people and all they want to do is get through the day to enjoy a drink on a patio on Corydon or a round of golf with their buddies.

By focusing our marketing plan as a city on what we will eventually be once CentrePort Canada is built and once we figure out rapid transit, people outside of the city who receive this probably think "Hmm... maybe I'll move to Winnipeg once all this is done?" Instead we should be looking to attract the people who are thinking "Man I hate waiting in traffic for 2 hours everyday, never seeing my family, burnt out. Winnipeg sounds like a great place to relocate to start enjoying my life again."

What this also does is help the younger generations realize how good they have it. Instead of our media focusing on the negatives of living in Winnipeg, and staring wide eyed at the Vancouver's of Canada like a horny teenager, let's laugh at how these other cities are so lost in their egos that they need to work 20 hours a day just to feel important enough to sit in their new Mercedes for 3 hours in rush hour traffic; all the while I've already gone to the gym, had a long walk with my wife and watched the latest movie I've been dying to see. Youth want entertainment, not work. The only reason larger cities seem appealing is because you make more money which provides more entertainment. Help them realize they can do it all right here, with less work and enough pay to live a happy life.

Ask most Winnipeggers who've travelled or lived in big city centres and you tend to get the same answer, "great place to visit, but I'd never live there." And for those reading this that have never left Winnipeg, my guess is you're all the biggest whiners. Take a trip, so when you come home you can once again realize how good we have it.

Its the KISS syndrome Winnipeg. Let's do what we're good at which is working hard through the winter so we can play in the summer. Enough of trying to be like all the other cities, its time they started envying us.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Winnipeg Believes - but not in Advetorial

So its been two weeks now that the Winnipeg Free Press, in conjunction with the Winnipeg Chamber, have put out this "We Believe in Winnipeg" insert into the Sunday edition of the paper. When I first heard the idea, my fear was that the piece would simply be a cash grab for the Free Press to hit up the Winnipeg businesses who fall under the featured industry sector. The verdict - it's even worse.

First off, why wouldn't the Free Press look to engage the opinions of writers outside of the Winnipeg market? How fresh can articles on Winnipeg's agricultural and aerospace industry be when three of the five stories are written by the same person? The first edition featured Winnipeg's art scene. I just happen to have a friend who is part of the administration team for the Manitoba Theatre Centre, and he told me the interview for their article was a laugh. The writer asked questions like "what makes the MTC special?" What kind of amateur question is that? I'll tell you what it is, its a lazy approach by a writer uninspired by an article he obviously has no passion about. My suggestion...

Why not bring in writers from outside the province, have them tour the arts scene for a week, try different restaurants, stay in a few different establishments, and get a real flavour for what our city has to offer? They wouldn't need to ask 'what makes the MTC special' because they could formulate their own opinion and fresh perspective.

This second edition featuring the ag and aerospace industry is about as interesting a read as a Sunday grocery list. Tell me... is knowing that Boeing Winnipeg are a major supplier to the 787 Dreamliner program got anyone falling in love with our city? Where is the fun? Are these truly success stories meant to inspire or just an extension of the "City and Business" section?

I had the privilege of sitting down for an open forum put on by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce where a number of key Winnipeg business owners and professionals had their moment to talk about why they love Winnipeg and what they think of the "We believe" campaign. To my surprise, despite some of the gray hair in the room, most were saying that doing this in the newspaper is missing where most people would be learning about their city - in the classroom and on the internet.

One elderly gentleman brought up the recent YouTube sensation - Susan Boyle - and the 20 million odd hits on her performance on the "Britain's Got Talent" t.v. show. He was encouraging the Chamber to look at new media to send the message of why this city is great. I had a laugh because no one seemed to know of the "Incredibly Cool" campaign trying to convince the world that Winnipeg exists, and the Chamber - a supporter of the campaign - never mentioned it either.

I love Winnipeg, and I don't need my local paper to tell me that. The fact that I happen to be a young 30-something that actually reads the paper everyday is mainly due to the fact that I'm in advertising, and I look to see where Winnipeg business owners are advertising more than anything. I don't claim to have the answer to how we can help Winnipeggers get over their inferiority complex, but newspaper articles and YouTube videos that accentuate this negative feeling and come off as advetorial do more harm than good. Let's talk to the school boards to provide more positive content on our city's history and look to government to provide more subsidy for young people to enjoy entertainment. Keep 'em informed and entertained and they'll stay.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Winnipeggers It's Time to Believe in Winnipeg

No matter if I'm talking with Winnipeg business owners, members of government or friends and family - Winnipeggers, for some reason, are their own worst enemies. Despite all the good this city offers to both business and families, Winnipeggers still believe our city is second-class to the rest of the nation. At least before people would run down Saskatchewan to make themselves feel better about living in Winnipeg; but even that's changed with the economic success that province has been experiencing. Even more than their success, what really makes the difference is the people.

Just look at Rider fans for example. No matter the importance of the game or time of year, they fill their stadium. They are known across the CFL as the most loyal fans, hence the term "Rider Pride." Blue Bombers fans?... we struggle to fill the stadium when we host a playoff game. We'd rather sit at home and watch the game while we complain about how awful the weather is outside.

For all these negative reasons and more, it was high time that the city started targeting the message of how good it is to live in Winnipeg...to Winnipeg. This is why it was encouraging to read that the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce plan to launch a new campaign to get the city to feel good about itself. Too often all marketing efforts are focused at drawing interest from tourism and relocation outside of Manitoba - but what's the point if when people get here we give them every reason to leave?

The "We Believe in Winnipeg" campaign will see a series of stories run over several months about Winnipeg successes, beginning on April 12. Says Dave Angus, Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce President, "The effort is not a marketing campaign. Winnipeg needs to get over its inferiority complex and do a better job of trumpeting its success stories."

Let's hope this doesn't fall on deaf ears. I know I go blue in the face sometimes defending what a good way of life we have here. Just like when you start to feel sick, if you convince yourself that the next day you're taking off work, and "whoa my head feels weird," you can literally will yourself into a state of illness. I think we've done the exact same thing in how we perceive our city. If you believe it sucks - it sucks.

Next time you feel the need to complain about the weather or the potholes or the mosquitoes, take a deep breath, punch yourself in the stomach, poke yourself in the eye - do something to condition yourself to instead focus on; the friendly people, the arts & cultural scene, clean air, whatever. And, like my Mom used to say "if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all." That or move. I hear space is freeing up in Ontario and Alberta.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Start Living Campaign Relying on Old Media

The province of Manitoba has announced their newest campaign to try and attract relocation of Canadians to Winnipeg and other cities and towns in Manitoba. The Start Living campaign is a reworking of the provincial government's previous $3-million Spirited Energy promotion which was riddled with criticism for its limited results and community support.

$2-million dollars is being invested into television ads to run nationally promoting all the reasons to consider Manitoba as a place for people and businesses to relocate, along with newspaper ads targeting Southern Ontario created by Destination Winnipeg. What has yet to be mentioned is any investment towards marketing online.

Though I still feel traditional media can be of successful in creating interest in a product, service or destination - ultimately their shelf-life is limited. Once people see an ad and express interest, they look to the internet for further due diligence. A website is required to deliver the information, but there is more than just setting up a site to support traditional media. When marketed properly, it is your 24/7 salesperson driving interest and locating audiences, globally, who may not have seen or have access to the newspaper ads or t.v. spots.

Consider that every week the press is reporting the declining ad revenues in traditional media because of the change in habits in how people spend their leisure time. Marketing online carries two major advantages over traditional mass media:

1) it is measurable as you can physically see what people are typing in when they search to find things online and you can see how many people have visited a website - both keys to any marketing campaign and;

2) your message is more targeted, in that the person searching is already pre-qualified as interested in what they are searching for (ex. if you type in "great places to raise a family" its because you are looking to move); this also makes it more cost-efficient as opposed to mass media which sends a general message hoping people will be in the market when they come across it

All and all, the province is right when they say now is the time to be capitalizing on our economic stability to attract people and business to relocate. I would just hate to see the $2-million already invested yield the same poor results as Spirited Energy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Canadian Museum For Human Rights Near It's Goal

The recent donations to the Canadian Museum For Human Rights prove that, despite hard economic times, businesses across Canada believe in the vision of Izzy Asper and the importance to the success of this international destination. The recent efforts by the Friends of the Canadian Museum For Human Rights, led by the endless energy of Gail Asper, has put the Museum only $2 million dollars shy of their goal to raise $105 million dollars from the private sector.

The Cardinal Foundation - created out of the good will of Tim Burt, CEO of Winnipeg business Cardinal Capital Management - has agreed to donate $100,000 over five years. Burt felt it was time his organization had more focus in their charitable donations going forward, despite the roughly 25 per cent decline in the firms assets over the past year.

The firm is encouraging employees and clients to get involved, noting the foundation is open to anybody at Cardinal Capital. They've even developed a financial incentive to volunteer-minded employees.

On a larger note, Graeme Sifton, President of The Carolyn Sifton Foundation, has made a $1 million dollar donation in honor of his late mother Nancy. The donation was motivated by the Museum's focus on educating youth to the importance of human rights.

Winnipeggers should be glowing as the Museum will bring both tourism dollars to Winnipeg, and a sense of pride in providing the world an architecturally stunning destination, focused on bridging people through our common rights as humans.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Manitoba Homecoming 2010 Well Timed

With the stable economy being enjoyed in Manitoba, Manitoba Homecoming 2010 seems like a timely event. Why not try and attract the starry-eyed ex-pats back to their home province instead of continuing to reside in someone's garage north of Calgary hungry for oil? Considering the economic climate in Alberta and Ontario - home to many former Manitobans - this may just be the bait to lure them back. If not for good, at least for long enough to soak them for some much welcomed tourism dollars.

The fact that Kevin Walters is Executive Director of Manitoba Homecoming 2010 provides hope that the lofty goals of turning a $2.5 million dollar investment into $30 million dollars of new tourism revenue may be possible. Possible, but tough based on your average $10 social ticket.
Walters led Winnipeg's Juno Awards bid in 2005 and was integral in organizing the Canadian Country Music Awards just last year. I like that Walters is realistic as well, "I'm not naive enough to think any single event would bring Manitobans back," he said - "But when you get enough of these events and package them you can accomplish (something)." Something...? I'm not exactly sure what that something is, but anything would be more than the brand Spirited Energy generated - or should I say cost.

I don't know if a few free concerts will be enough to bring 50,000 visitors and 100,000 room-nights to Manitoba hotels, but it makes sense to try. We have a lot of positives leaning in our favour right now as a province. If we can get a few thousand ex-pats to spend a day at the Forks listening to live music, reconnecting with old friends and remembering all the good Winnipeg, and the province have to offer, it just might be enough to pull the heart strings hard enough to bring them back to relocate.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Manitoba Business Shows Leadership in Diversity

Alberta who?

The Alberta tar sands are looking more like quicksand these days. The Alberta government originally projected six months ago they'd have an $8.5-billion budget surplus this year; they now admit they'll have to kick in $1 billion of extra cash to avoid being in the red. Alberta, most recently the Provincial juggernaut in Canada because of their abundance of oil, are now in a recession based purely on an inability to diversify.

Like any smart business person knows, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to have your company rely on one client to provide the majority of your revenue. The minute the client cancels, you can pretty much say goodnight to your business as a whole. Running a province is about as big a business as you can operate, and due to poor management during their boom period, many Albertans will now find themselves a casualty of government's failure to see past their short-term riches.

I think Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason said it best, "For years this government has put their friends in the oil and gas industry before ordinary Albertans and their families," Mason said. "Today we're paying the cost."

Manitoba on the other hand is well-diversified across many industries, and we are well-positioned to weather the economic storm. Of course, we're not untouchable, however we have been able to avoid the yo-yoing that occurs when too dependant on one industry.

Imagine for a a moment that Winnipeg business was as reliant on Canada's leading media company CanWest Global as Albertans are on the oil and gas sector. With reports of looming bankruptcy, and the potential of the Asper family losing company control, Winnipeggers would soon be moving West cheering Green this labour day weekend.

So for all you ex-pat Manitobans with big dreams of big money in Alberta I say this ... you always have a home in Friendly Manitoba. See you soon!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Winnipeg Business Is Poised to Dominate Canada

There I said it; the title - "Winnipeg Business Is Poised to Dominate Canada." Why not? Everything is pointing in that direction.

I could go on.

This is the time to put personal agendas aside both publicly and privately, and live-up to the potential that our geographic location provides us.

Who cares about who gets the credit? And if you do... you should ask yourself why?

I've met with a lot of Winnipeg businesses over the last year, and its been an eye-opener. We should be proud of our private sector. There are a lot of sharp minds in this city, and the most exciting part about the people I've met is their will to take risks. I mean really... everyone knows Winnipeggers love to gamble.

The investments in physical infrastructure that are happening in Winnipeg are exciting; but there is a missing piece that is being unfulfilled. The infrastructure for marketing these developments.

The infrastructure for how we will send these ideas to the world is equally important to how we complete them physically. In order to "sell Winnipeg to the world" we'll need to invest dollars into laying the foundation for our virtual infrastructure, webbing all the entities into a common voice across the internet - so we are visible globally.

If the City of Winnipeg and the private sector can meld these two elements seamlessly, we will truly have a product and a stage on which to market it.

Winnipeg...its time we stomp on the Vancouver's and the Toronto's. You know if they could do it to us they would.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Winnipeg a Living City

I recently watched an interesting documentary this weekend on CBC called Living City: A Critical Guide. It was hosted by Christopher Hume, a provocative urban critic and columnist for the Toronto Star. In the special, he travels by train from Halifax to Vancouver, stopping at all the major cities, highlighting the projects and passionate people who will shape urban life in Canada in the coming decade. Hume also gives the viewer a firsthand look at what's wrong with Canada's aging infrastructure, failing mass transportation and overall lack of political will.

Of course being a Winnipegger, I was most interested as the train neared my home town. Before heading into the commercial break leading into the part about Winnipeg, Hume says this "I want to see what happens when a city dreams, but its ambitions falter." Needless to say this statement got me quite worked up - I couldn't help but agree to some level - though I refuse to be defined by this statement.

Hume goes on to talk about how Winnipeg business and the economy were booming in the late 1800's - a time when we were known as the "Chicago of the North." We were leaders in transportation and infrastucture, supported by our geographic location. When Hume arrives he stands outside the doors of the VIA Rail depot, and upon staring at our downtown asks "where is everybody?"

The piece was quite negative in its view of Winnipeg, but was factual. The positive aspect of the documentary was the review of the new MB Hydro Building, and the leadership role they are taking in Energy Engineering.

I don't want to spoil the documentary for those that want to watch the special online. For any Winnipegger or Winnipeg business, it truly is a must see. A piece that should motivate and guide the way we think about urban development in the decades ahead.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Winnipeg Business 2.0? I doubt it.

Here is a excerpt from the recent Mayor's State of the City address I read. Let me stress that I read it.

"Globally, governments who want to serve their citizens better are learning to reset
the ways they do business... And this Spring, I will officially launch the public input component to this initiative through a Symposium - A Sustainable Winnipeg... We will introduce effective methods of engagement such as an Interactive website, Web TV, blogs, roundtable discussions, and scenario visioning workshops."

Hmm... I may feel more confident in Winnipeg government and business embracing the opportunities that technology and the internet bring if they could have - at the very least - provided a digital video of the speech. Both the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce website and City of Winnipeg website both have the .pdf. It's great to be able to read it over in detail, but... come on - would it have been so tough to actually post the video to capture some of the emotion?

Winnipeg Business 2.0 - I don't think so.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Winnipeg Business Can Learn From Maple Leaf Foods

You can't help but applaud the job that Michael McCain - President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods - has done since last years listeria outbreak. With the company facing a national image crisis, McCain has been able to turn a corporate nightmare into standard business practice.

From the t.v. commercials to the full page newspaper ads, McCain has taken full accountability for the problem that occurred; and has managed to spin the entire issue into a corporate strength. Listeria - from everything I've read - seems to be an inevitable occurrence. The problem has been kept under wraps in the industry until last year's outbreak. Now - in addition to a public apology and open door policy to the press on the matter - McCain drives ahead in waters not normally ventured by big corporations - honesty. Huh? Who would've thunk it?

I quote "The greatest risk to the Canadian food-safety system is the multitude of Canadian plants which do not find positive test results simply because they don't test adequately. If you test, you will find and you can eradicate with the proper protocols. If you don't test you won't find, but there will be no eradication which is the real food safety risk in this country."

Need I say more? What will be interesting is seeing how many competitors will begin reporting listeria cases of their own - and if they don't - what the public opinion will be?

So Winnipeg Business... what dirty secrets do you hide? What industry ghosts are lurking in your darkest corners, away from the public light? Can honesty position your company ahead of your competition? Consumers are only getting smarter, which is directly related to the ease in information the internet has provided. You can run, but you can't hide. Maybe its time to to put your anxieties to rest and be open with what worries you the most about your service to Winnipeggers? What's worse being honest or being discovered?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Gift to Winnipeg Business

I recently had the pleasure of using the services of JustGiftBaskets.mb.ca - a Winnipeg business in the growing online gift basket industry. With my loving wife under copious amounts of stress in her new role from teacher to administration in Manitoba's education system, I felt a "gift for her" would be a way to erase some of her building frustration.

This Winnipeg business blew me away when I saw the quality of products they offer in their gift baskets. I have ordered these in the past, only to be disappointed by the cheap, tasteless food - and even worse - the mountain of tinsel that I received.

Warning people: just because something is shiny, doesn't mean its of value.

I'm still a little old-fashioned, so I phoned to speak with someone there about my order. I was floored by the enthusiasm that came from the person I dealt with; its obvious when someone is passionate and loves what they do. I purchased the gift basket online, and the transaction went off without a hitch. The website was easy to use, and easy to navigate.

I went with the "Gourmet Treats - Medium" basket which was worth every penny - or at least so I heard - my wife and her staff devoured the goodies in one short sitting.

So Winnipeggers, if you have a loved one or some corporate butts to kiss, I suggest you leave it to the capable, creative minds at JustGiftBaskets.mb.ca

Monday, January 26, 2009

Winnipeg Businesses Need to Invest in their Internet Presence

I visit with many business owners across Winnipeg week in and week out. Whether it be a large national corporation or small mom and pop shop, when you mention the words "internet marketing" fear settles in immediately. This fear is understandable when you consider how integrated the internet has become to businesses across every sector, while the gap in skill sets required to manage this area widens. As a business owner, its impossible to be a guru in every area of your business. So... when you are faced with an area as dynamic as internet marketing, you need to invest in a trusted consultant to guide you through these new waters. Consumer behaviour has changed for good, which is apparent when looking at the massive growth in users on the internet in a short span of just ten years.

Recent news articles report that from 1995 to 1996 users on the internet grew from 1 million to over 10 million; and now, in 2008, that number has eclipsed 1 billion users for the first time in history, with no slow in sight.

How is any business owner expected to adapt this quickly, while juggling the challenges of their day-to-day operations? The answer is you can't. This is why Winnipeg businesses must invest in a trusted consultant to guide your business online.

I empathize with business owners as most are forced to trust this growing component of their business to a third party to manage. Many try to save money by employing family friends or their IT departments to tackle the issue of visibility on the web. The hard truth is that more often than not, your first impression to consumers is your website. Is your first impression really the area to save money? When you weigh the mass potential that exists in Canada on the web, business leaders need to begin putting their anxieties aside, and start opening their ears and wallets to this new online market.

Some recent stats from December 2008:

China led the pack with 179.7 million users, while the United States ran in a close second with 163.3 million. The top five nations were rounded out by Japan with 60 million, Germany with 37 million, and the United Kingdom with 36.7 million.
Other notable nations contributing usage to the chart included France with 34 million, India with 32.1 million, Russia with 29 million, Brazil with 27.7 million, South Korea with 27.3 million, Canada with 21.8 million and Italy with 20.8 million.

Chances are you do business in one or more of these countries. Can they find you on the net?

Ask yourself this: Is the internet going to be a larger or smaller part of my business 5 years from now? Once you've come to the unavoidable answer the next question is obvious - what am I doing now to ensure I capture my share of this growth market within my industry?

And where do most people search for goods and services?

Focusing on the global influence of specific Internet properties, search titan Google attracted some 77 percent of the worldwide audience in December, which equated to almost 776 million users.

The facts are in Winnipeggers. The internet is here to stay - and if you plan on being in business long-term - its time to invest in your "online real estate." There are a number of quality companies right here in Winnipeg that can help- one that even has a former Director of Google headquartered in the CanWest Building.

Don't leave your web presence to your brother's son's locker partner, hire professionals and reap the return on investment that comes with being a leader online.