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G'land Chamber member talks biz strategies in tough times

Amid economic uncertainty, Guilderland Chamber of Commerce members were given some practical, Web-based advice Friday, April 3, when fellow chamber member Lisbeth Calandrino, of Peachtree Communications, presented a one-hour seminar: Tough Strategies for Tough Times What You Can Do To Survive and Thrive."

Calandrino spoke at length about "Internet 2.0," a term used to describe interactive Web sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

"Networking is not just making friends online," she said.

Calandrino said the Internet, RSS feeds and "blogging" are tools to keep businesses current and traditional advertising is a thing of the past.

"Your marketing really has to be online and active," she said. "You need a Facebook. This is faced-paced stuff; you've got to keep moving."

Roger Lipera, a chamber member, Web designer and consultant, said Web-based strategies are useful for monitoring popularity, consumer wishes and information about how often, and for how long, users frequent a company Web site.

"Everything on the Web is countable " everything," Lipera said.

Calandrino said she understands the fast-paced nature of the Internet can intimidate some, but it is still growing. She said the myth that seniors are not online is just that " a myth. They are actually the fastest-growing segment of Internet users to date, she said.

Calandrino advocated for using the Internet as a tool to open a dialogue with customers, and to learn what they want, especially now when they are "scared, mad and confused" about the economy.

She said customers no longer "listen" to messages from advertisements.

"They speak," she said. "They're blogging. They want to be part of your business. It's our connections with humans that make us human."

Calandrino emphasized societal changes in attitude.

"We live in what's called an experience economy," she said.

She likened the changes in consumerism to baking a cake. At one time, people bought the raw materials to make the cake, then they moved on to cake mixes for $3 a box, then to buying whole cakes for $30. Now, she said, people want to spend $300 at Chuck E. Cheese's for the experience of cake and party.

She also spoke of "Generation G," who she said ranges in age from 18 to 45, and, as a group, is moving away from the "greed" of corporate America and choosing "generous and green" business practices.

She said community relations and trust are vital.

"Who you are in the community is more important than the brands you sell," she said.

Kathy Burbank, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, said she was pleased to have Calandrino speak to members.

"Member-initiated workshops tend to be the best [because] they know what's going on out there," Burbank said.

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