GCC students give GBA advice

Say it needs to be more Web savvy

Recorder/Paul Franz
GCC students Jeff Kristek and William Collins present their business study findings to members of the Greenfield Business Association on Wednesday.

Recorder/Paul Franz GCC students Jeff Kristek and William Collins present their business study findings to members of the Greenfield Business Association on Wednesday.

GREENFIELD — Greenfield Business Association should have a stronger online presence if it wants to bring people to and keep people in Greenfield, its leadership was told this week.

Four Greenfield Community College marketing students told the GBA to be unique, relevant and modern with its use of technologies, especially those that will get the word out about what it does for local businesses, and the local businesses themselves.

Associate professor Kathleen Vranos’ class takes on a local client each year and does research to help the business or organization increase its visibility.

The students commended the GBA for focusing on the downtown, bringing passionate volunteers on board, and holding impressive events that bring the community together.

William Collins of Hinsdale, N.H., Noreen Woodruff of Guilford, Vt., Jeff Kristek of Hadley, and Jeshua Quinones-Santiago of Greenfield said one way to help solve some of the visibility problems it believes the GBA has would be to enhance its web page and make it easier to navigate.

They said they understand the GBA has limited finances — its yearly budget is $50,000 — but while marketing itself and its members, it also has to find a way to offer bigger incentives to potential new members.

The students said the GBA also lacks a recognizable logo or slogan, which may be hindering its success.

The students did a survey of 73 local business people. They said while that was not enough to show a trend or make the information they gathered conclusive, it did give them a good idea about what’s going on and what needs to be done.

The four students told the GBA board that having more of an online presence might also solve some time and money issues.

Coordinator Caitlin von Schmidt is the GBA’s only employee and she is part-time.

The students said when they tried using keywords to find the GBA on the Internet, they either found nothing or found the organization listed very low, so people would probably never get that far.

Vranos suggested the GBA take advantage of an extremely valuable resource in the area: college and high school students.

“They are the future,” she said. “They are the ones who are going to be the business owners some day. They have so much energy and are so willing to work and to learn. They could help.”

The students said another problem is that many people confuse the GBA and the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. They said the GBA needs to find a way to differentiate itself and find autonomy.

They also suggested that when someone goes to the GBA’s web site, they should have choices, that there should be a link for different groups or categories.

For instance, they said there should be a “members only” link, which takes business owners to forums, chat rooms, updates, blogs, and information and education.

They said there should be a separate link for people who are looking for a restaurant, place to shop, or a particular product.

“You have to make the process easy so people can find things quickly,” said Vranos.

Woodruff said someone driving on Interstate 91 should be able to pull over, check for places to eat on his or her iPhone, and find what they are looking for on the GBA’s web site.

“That will bring people into Greenfield,” she said.

Students also said that GBA members, and potential members, should feel there is an “exclusiveness” to being a member, whatever that might mean to them.

The GBA currently has about 100 members. Several years ago, there were about 120 members.

Annual membership to the GBA is $170, or $120 if the business also becomes a member of the chamber. Annual membership to the chamber is $200. Annual membership for both is $320.

Slogans the students suggested for the GBA include “The Force To Fuel Success” and “Bring Your Business To New Heights.” They also suggested “Together for Success” and “Supporting You On Your Path To Success.”

The board will review the entire report and decide if it wants to take action on some or all of their suggestions.

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