2017 UPDATE:  The Cornerstone sold about a year ago, and sadly, their robust social media strategy didn’t continue. There is still much to learn from this story.

“I’m coming down to Dunsmuir for a Mexi-Benny at the Cornerstone. Stop what you’re doing and join me” was the message I received this morning from a friend who lives in the town just north of Dunsmuir.

Janet and Nicky at the Cornerstone Cafe

A winning Cornerstone Cafe team – Janet the chef, with daughter, Nicky, the Facebook expert

I called back with the question, “How do you know they’ll have Mexi-Bennies? That’s a rare special.”

“Facebook,” she replied. I checked at the Cornerstone Café Facebook Page, and sure enough, there was a picture of their fabulous Mexi-Bennies, and an invitation to come on down and enjoy.

This got me to thinking. Cornerstone is one of my favorite restaurants. They’re one of the local places that inspired a former post. Check out the story and a picture of the restaurant.

The thing is I know the owner, Janet Stair, and she is, in her daughter’s words, a technopeasant. She doesn’t have a website, hates her cell phone, and has a Yelp sticker in her window because someone else put it there.

Janet is a wonderful chef and a great business person, but she, like many rural tourism dependent businesses, doesn’t think she has the time to learn and use all the new web 2.0 marketing techniques.

And yet, here is a fabulous Facebook presence that is drawing in all kinds of fans and comments. How is this happening???

It was a dirty job, but I had to go down there this morning, have my Mexi-Benny and for the sake of other rural tourism businesses, check out how Janet and Eddie were managing such an effective, wonderful Facebook presence.

What I learned is that their daughter, Nicky, has taken on the job of managing both their Facebook and Yelp presence. Yea Nicky!! This young woman is a valuable asset to her parents’ business.

Here’s what you can learn from Nicky.

1. Set up your business page. Nicky said that when she set up the Cornerstone Page for her parents, the first fans were her own friends who were more interested in supporting her than supporting her parents’ business. But Nicky’s first Cornerstone posts that appeared on her friends’ walls attracted more fans, and interest grew to over 225 fans in 6 months.

2. Expect it to take more time in the beginning while you’re getting used to the new skill. Nicky said that she was a little intimidated at first with the idea of regularly having to post something. Now, 7 months later, she spends around a half hour a day posting, and it’s become almost second nature.

3. Be spontaneous, and also plan ahead. Nicky goes into the restaurant fairly often to visit her parents, and when she’s there she takes pictures of specials and new art on the restaurant walls using her Blackberry. When a post doesn’t immediately come to mind, she has a backlog of possible subjects and pictures to share.

Last winter, when the power all over far northern California was out for days, Nicky posted the electricity status in Dunsmuir. She also responded to this post:


Nicky’s answer: Hi Steven, Fay & Jim are well, sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner! I will contact them now for you.

January 23 at 9:28am · Report

Steven’s response: THANK YOU SO MUCH 4 YOUR HELP.

I bet Steven and his family will be customers for life, as will everyone who read and followed this little bit of help in a crisis.

4. And finally: If you can’t do it yourself, get someone to do it for you. With over  1 billion members, you can be sure that your customers are on Facebook, and ignoring them is ignoring opportunity.



The Power of Targeting Your Customer, a Success Story

by Joanne Steele on October 21, 2017

happy children river rafting

UPDATE: This post was originally written in fall 2012. River Dancers continues to grow and change, now as one of the premier rafting companies in Northern California. This success story is still relevant, so read and enjoy…

If you’re a regular reader, or have attended any of my internet marketing workshops, you’ve met Chantal and River Dancers Rafting Company in Northern California.

Chantal and I have been working together for three seasons now.

Here’s the point: It’s been a tough three years for rural tourism businesses, but NOT for River Dancers.

They had the best season ever this year regardless of the terrible spring weather and the third year of the Great Recession.

“Why? How??” you might ask.

It is simple, but has not been easy.

River Dancers determined a number of years just who their Perfect Customer was.

They resisted the urge to market to everybody in hopes that that would fill rafts during the height of the recession.

They continued to do the small, simple, doable things that connected them with the people who were making travel buying decisions for families looking for reconnection, outdoor fun etc.

They learned how to effectively use email marketing, post to blogs, create and update a website that works, and use social media to reach that Perfect Customer.

Here’s the kicker.

This season, Chantal admits that much of her well-oiled marketing machine went to hell during the summer months! She was busy packing trips, guiding when needed and answering the phone and email.

Facebook still got regular photo updates, but if you look at her website today, it doesn’t look much different than it did in June.

What is the lesson from River Dancers great season?

1. Target your Perfect Customer relentlessly.

2. Create good marketing bones –

…a great optimized website, good understanding of how to use email marketing and social media, knowledge of how SEO and how to attract that Perfect Customer.

3. Know how to write good content… when you have the time to do so.

4. Do what you can when you can.

Once you have your marketing engine purring, you can coast a bit when other things need your attention.

The key is to only rest on your laurels for so long before giving that marketing engine another shot of gas. In Chantal’s case, she’s planning on spending time NOW getting everything tuned up and ready for another great season next year.

The major takeaway is that your successful marketing efforts need not overwhelm you. They will, in time, become as natural a part of your life as getting ready for work.

Here’s another blog post featuring River Dancers:

An Internet Marketing Checklist For Rural Tourism Business Owners


Are Rural Tourism and the Internet Small Towns’ Last Best Hope?

October 4, 2017

I’ve recently received questions from two readers that I will answer here in the same post. The questions are: 1. Why have you largely stopped talking about rural tourism and instead talk about local small business? 2. Why are most of you posts about internet marketing? I am passionate about sustaining vibrant, successful rural communities, […]

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What Lawrence County Tennessee Tourism Can Teach You About Using Facebook

May 13, 2017

Are you struggling with how to use Facebook? You know you’re supposed to be “social” and do more than plaster an occasional announcement up on your wall. But what?? And when?? And for heavens sake, WHY??? Let me introduce you to Gail Hughes from Lawrence County, Tennessee Tourism.  Gail knows how to use Facebook to […]

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