‘It’s a lifesaver’: Businesses in Lincoln supercharge their online presence

·3 min read

Businesses in Lincoln are rising to the ever-changing world of digital marketing, in part thanks to a new grant offered through the Town of Lincoln.

On Aug. 24, the town announced that it received $93,000 through Digital Main Street to help businesses enhance their online capabilities.

This is the fourth iteration of the Digital Service Squad program, and so far, the town has supported around 150 businesses.

Support includes a $2,500 digital transformation grant which can be spent enhancing the website, on software or hardware, or on training.

The town was also able to hire a digital service squad member to help businesses with their digital marketing strategies.

Niagara this Week spoke to different businesses at different levels of digital marketing prowess about the support they received and what it means for their businesses.

THE ECOTOUR OPERATOR

“I am an official Luddite: technology kills me,” said Carla Carlson, owner of Niagara Nature Tours and BonnyBank B&B in Jordan.

When Carlson first set up Niagara Nature Tours in 1996, she had a website designed by a local friend. It was updated around 15 years later, but then wasn’t updated again until just now, through the digital service initiative.

Through the program, Carlson’s websites for Niagara Nature Tours and BonnyBank B&B were updated, creating modern sites.

“I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century,” she said.

Through a series of lessons, Carlson is able to learn how to update the content of the websites, updating the events and programs that she offers.

Carlson said that during the winter, she became so busy trying to save Thorold’s frog pond and renovating the B&B that updates to the website fell to the wayside.

It meant that she couldn’t market a spring songbird migration walk, meaning only two tickets were sold, as she didn’t have time to ask her webmaster to update it.

But now, she can sit down one evening and make quick changes.

A new booking system is also coming to her website, along with a credit card payment system, ensuring that all payments are received and eliminating the problem of no-shows not paying.

“It’s pulling me into the modern world, for sure,” she said.

“Having this help feels like a lifesaver to me.”

THE WINERY

Rosewood Estates Winery near Beamsville also used the digital service squad initiative.

William Roman, general manager at the winery, said that they received training modules that gave them a refresher on certain concepts and showed them new digital strategies.

“(It was) actually quite appreciated,” he said.

For Rosewood, the pandemic transformed their online presence. Before, online shopping was “there,” but COVID-19 supercharged it and it now accounts for 15 to 20 per cent of Rosewood’s revenue, according to Roman.

They get customers from the GTA and Ontario, but also all over the country, and Roman believes that e-commerce allows more people to buy more, especially since gas is so expensive, so customers can just get wine delivered.

It also allows consumers to explore, learn and taste more wine.

THE KITCHEN COMPANY

For Peter Boychuck, owner of Jordan River Kitchens, the grant was a game-changer.

“(It was) absolutely huge,” he said.

The company used the grant to send a member of staff to complete a marketing course through York University.

Now that she’s finished, she’s using her training to transform the digital marketing strategy at the company.

Although it's early days, Boychuck is optimistic about the changes.

He admitted that before, their digital marketing strategic was fairly basic, with Google Ads and a decent website being the extent of their strategy.

Now, however, they’ve brought in a digital marketing coach, and the company is making a shift to focus on digital marketing, meeting the demands of a changing world, according to Boychuck.

But he understands that this isn’t the end of their digital marketing training, but a baseline on which to build on.

“It’s the first part of our journey,” said Boychuck.

Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News