Scott Colom: Entrepreneurs and the new marketplace

January 26, 2011 10:43:00 AM

Scott Colom - colomsw@gmail.com

 

Charles O. Perkins and Mario Murray have at least one thing in common: They are both using Facebook to sell something. Charles is using Facebook to sell his products and Mario is using it to sell his services. 

 

Charles has been in the art studio and frame business for over 30 years. Born in McComb, raised in Columbus, Charles studied art at East Community College and Delta State University. It didn''t take long in the workforce for Charles to realize he didn''t want to work for anyone, so he opened his first art studio in 1969. In 1994 he purchased a framing shop and has operated it in several parts of town.  

 

In 1996, Charles decided to go online. Initially, a contractor built him a website, but after troubles with the site, his son, Bryant Perkins, created a webpage for the business. In 2009 Bryant recommended setting up a Facebook page to sell his products and services. Since then, Charles has been fascinated at how easily he can sell his work over the web. With a Paypal account, a purchaser in South Africa can buy a frame in a matter of seconds, and, with the address, Charles can mail it. (This happened three years ago).  

 

Mario''s business is young compared to Charles'' art studio and frame shop. Allstars Hair Design opened in 2009. At the shop, Mario is the barber and Deangelo Glenn is the hairstylist. Deangelo and Mario are both from Columbus but Mario recently decided to stay in Columbus, after contemplating a move to Atlanta.  

 

Shortly after opening his business, Mario realized the power of online social media. Instead of spending money on fliers, or radio/television advertisements, and having to monitor the value of expense versus return, Mario began using Myspace to make direct contact with potential customers for free. As Facebook became popular, Mario started using it. Soon, he developed a marketing strategy. 

 

The strategy is two-fold. First, Mario pays attention to the times when there is high usage of Facebook. For instance, when the sitcom "The Game" recently returned to television, he noticed lots of people making comments about the show on their profiles. This meant a lot of people were signed onto Facebook, therefore, he decided to post a picture of a recent haircut to his page, knowing that people were more likely to see it then.  

 

The second part of Mario''s strategy is to draw attention to his page through controversy. On his Facebook page, Mario promotes his skills as a barber and challenges other local barbers. He posts pictures of recent haircuts and boasts about the quality of his work.  

 

These comments often draw responses and the more responses to the comments the more popular Mario''s page is on the site. Mario admits that some of the comments may sound arrogant but thinks the publicity, good or bad, is good for business. It keeps his name "constantly out there," and "controversy sells," as he told me. 

 

In the Internet age, Charles and Mario''s willingness to use social media with their businesses represents one of the ways entrepreneurs can compete in the 21st century. The Internet is the new marketplace. More and more people are going to buy more and more things online. Buying something from home (or while you are supposed to be working) is more convenient than being able to buy everything at Walmart. This is why cyber Monday will eventually be more popular than Black Friday.  

 

Folks, like Charles, who don''t want to work for anyone, need to find creative ways to take advantage of this trend. Whether it''s selling your frames in South Africa or posting images after a popular television show, the entrepreneurs that learn or create the marketing skills for this new marketplace will prosper. For examples of people doing this, you don''t have to look beyond Columbus. 

 

Scott Colom is a local attorney. His e-mail address is colomsw@gmail.com. 

 

Scott Colom is a local attorney.