Workbar Hosts Marketing Panel With Experts from Drift, Yelp, Netflix and Alignable.com

Photos by Workbar Member Sooz

Owning a business, no matter what size, is no easy task. With plenty of responsibilities and not always a lot of resources, entrepreneurs looking to build a thriving business often face tremendous obstacles and can feel overwhelmed.

Fortunately, with new trends in local marketing and free digital tools and platform to network, build community and reach their audience, small business owners now have a shot at competing with larger companies and developing a marketing plan that works for their goals.

This very topic inspired Workbar’s latest Speaker Series Event “The New Age of Localized Marketing”, held at the Cambridge coworking space. During the event, business owners and marketers gathered to hear valuable marketing hacks and tips to leverage, courtesy of a panel of experts coming from diverse industries and backgrounds.

 Business owners and marketers gathered at Workbar Cambridge for a Speaker Series panel on localized marketing on May 24, 2018. Photo by Sooz.

Business owners and marketers gathered at Workbar Cambridge for a Speaker Series panel on localized marketing on May 24, 2018. Photo by Sooz.

Full House, Diverse Panel

Congregating around 100 attendees, the panel moderated by VentureFizz editor Colin Barry featured Drift’s Daniel Murphy, Yelp’s Director of Marketing and the company’s only Boston-based staff member Damien Smith, Armandina Cueva, a Global Marketing Operations Producer at Netflix, and Eric Grove, cofounder of social media platform for local businesses Alignable.

Boston’s Unique Small Business Environment

Known for centuries as a hub for top-of-the-line higher education, the Boston small business and startup community has developed a similar reputation in the recent years. With highly-trained talent and plenty of resources in the form of incubators, mentors, digital tools, panels and workshops, Boston proves to be a special location to start a business.

What makes Boston unique is the experiential marketing opportunities you are given. You’re not only selling a product or service, you are selling an experience. Boston is full of these cool little pockets like JP [Jamaica Plain], Somerville, Cambridge; it’s full of great experiences small business can leverage.
— Damien Smith, Yelp
Our demographic in Boston are early adopters. Here, people are always ready to align with the latest technologies, more than in order places. That makes the business environment in this city unique.
— Daniel Murphy, Drift

Building Connections with Other Small Businesses

During the event, the panelists focused on providing general advice that can prove valuable to local businesses in a variety of industries, and one of the most import tips was devoting time to build connections with other small business owners. Those connections, from a simple introduction and business card exchange to a joint digital marketing campaign, can turn things around in a local ecosystem.

Eric Groves’s platform Alignable does just that – giving small business owners the opportunity to create profiles, send referrals and establish connections with other owners in the area. For him, community and collaboration, instead of fierce competition, have proven to be help local businesses succeed.

It’s very simple to break the ice if you’re genuine. You can connect with other small business owners by literally crossing the street to say hi. That interaction might turn into partnerships, and you are becoming part of a connected community
— Eric Groves
I’ve worked in a lot of places where the marketing budget was very small. In these cases, building partnerships is key. Start doing joint campaigns with other local businesses, promote your products and share your customers.
— Armandina Cueva, Netflix
 Networking, note-taking and rich conversation among the panel attendees.  Photo by Sooz.

Networking, note-taking and rich conversation among the panel attendees. 
Photo by Sooz.

Should Small Businesses Have an Online Presence?  

When talking about the importance of a business’s digital footprint, the panelists offered insightful contributions to help owners determine how much time and effort to devote to creating a website, building social media profiles and interacting with customers online.

Yelp’s Damien Smith shared that if a business has customers who are predominantly active online, then the business must have a solid presence.

Having a business is like being on an island. If the island gives you everything you need, you don’t need a boat, but it’s a good idea to have one. It’s the same with a website. Always a good idea to have one.
— Damien Smith, Yelp

Touching upon the close relationship consumers have with technology, Armandina Cueva explained it is likely for a business to lose credibility in front of certain audiences it if does not have some kind of online presence.


Hiring for Diversity in the Tech Industry

Elaborating on the connection between race and professional success, panelist Stephanie Castaños, a Relations Manager at Resilient Coders, shared that while organizations like hers, that help folks gain professional skills to enter the workforce, the power to change how society operates around race and income ultimately lays in the hiring businesses.

These days we are always googling things, we always want to know more about the businesses trying to connect with us. If you don’t have a website, some users will start questioning the authenticity of the business.
— Armandina Cueva, Netflix

The Value of Reviews and Word of Mouth

Additionally to having a website and social media profiles, another key pillar to digital presence for small businesses is managing online customer reviews. For Yelp’s Damien Smith, reviews, even negative ones, give businesses the opportunity to connect with their clients directly and show that they care about the feedback they are getting.

Moreover, he reported that Yelp users often edit negative reviews to add more stars after a business has responded to them.

If you engage in the conversation, you get closer to your customers. Even the ones who did not have the best experience will appreciate that you take time to acknowledge their concerns. Always interact, never ignore.
— Damien Smith, Yelp
Starting a conversation with your followers is much more valuable than seeking a specific open or click rate. If you are not learning from the people who are interested in your business, how are you going to become a better marketer?
— Daniel Murphy, Drift

And on the other hand, small business benefit every day from referrals and word of mouth. The four panelists agreed that for businesses to get loyal customers, who become ambassadors of their brand, good customer service and authenticity are crucial.

Mistakes Small Businesses Should Avoid

To close the discussion, the panelist shared advice on how small business owners can avoid common, easy-to-fix mistakes.

 Workbar's monthly Speaker Series event brought in top marketers from Drift, Yelp, Netflix and Alignable. VentureFizz's editor Colin Barry moderated the discussion. 

Workbar's monthly Speaker Series event brought in top marketers from Drift, Yelp, Netflix and Alignable. VentureFizz's editor Colin Barry moderated the discussion. 

Business owners often make the mistake of thinking marketing is sales. Marketing your business and having people love your brand is a long-term process. It doesn’t always translates into immediate sales, yet it’s very valuable.
— Armandina Cueva, Netflix
Incentivizing reviews online is always bad. Trying to force or speed up the process of people talking about your business will fire back. It’s a process that should happen naturally.
— Damien Smith, Yelp
A big mistake businesses make is thinking digital is all what matters. Just because I spend 8-10 hours/day in front of a screen it doesn’t mean that content is what resonates most. I keep talking about this ad I saw in a magazine.
— Daniel Murphy, Drift

As intimidating as starting your own business can be, entrepreneurs who decide to pursue this venture always learn valuable lessons along the way – the most important one, perhaps, that no one has all the answers, and that seeking advice, building a supportive community and adapting a trial-and-error approach can lead to greatness.


Workbar Speaker Series is a monthly event that connects local innovators and leaders in the Boston community and offers an interactive space for discussion, conversation and networking. With different topics and speakers each session, the event looks inspire attendees with insightful contributions and to create a positive footprint in the innovation scene.

Join us this June 28th for our next Speaker Series Panel: Exploring Blockchain.