Date of Project
2020 – 2021
This Trek Included
e-commerce & social media strategy
Neighborhood Allies is a Pittsburgh-based community development partner that embraces its multifaceted role as a “funder, lender, connector, and consultant” for Pittsburgh communities seeking strategic leadership to renew their neighborhoods and invite meaningful participation from the residents they serve.
Trailhead: Where We Started
Having successfully partnered with TrailBlaze Creative during its Beyond the Laptops and Level Up 412 campaigns, Neighborhood Allies invited TBC to submit a proposal to provide marketing, technical assistance, and strategic leadership surrounding a third digital inclusion campaign, “Get Online and Grow Online” (GOGO). Conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the acceleration of this joint Neighborhood Allies’/Urban Redevelopment Authority program, which was designed to assist “brick and mortar” businesses with the transition to supplemental online operations, including how to market and sell products or services on the web and via social media.
Trek: Steps We’ve Taken
After contracting with TrailBlaze Creative, Neighborhood Allies and URA met with the TrailBlaze team to discuss shared goals regarding the GOGO initiative. TrailBlaze quickly recognized that many of the businesses under consideration required similar forms of marketing strategy, technical assistance, and training. This realization led to TrailBlaze’s recommendation to adopt a cohort model to maximize Neighborhood Allies’ investments and create opportunities to consolidate trainings and services based on needs. Once this cohort model was embraced and implemented, TrailBlaze organized a six-member social media cohort and a four-member website cohort composed of members seeking direct technical assistance with their webpages and e-commerce operations.
With six regional businesses organized by Neighborhood Allies and URA into a social media-centric cohort, TrailBlaze conducted a survey assessment to gauge each business’ experience with various social channels; paid and organic advertising; product advertising and other related practices. Following the completion and evaluation of these surveys, TrailBlaze created a customized workshop to address the cohort’s most pressing practical and educational needs. Additional time was later dedicated to developing a Social Media Roadmap and strategy for each business based on current infrastructure and expressed marketing aims. Following the customized workshop designed for the social media cohort, TrailBlaze also offered one-on-one coaching sessions to assist participating businesses with concerns regarding new social media efforts or basic tasks like optimizing Facebook posting and paid advertising efforts.
Within the cohort seeking direct technical assistance with website projects, TrailBlaze developed or re-designed multiple websites while coaching these same businesses on marketing needs including but not limited to social media, audience engagement, newsletters, branding, and improved customer experience. Although businesses within the cohort shared a number of common concerns and needs, TrailBlaze offered customizable and adaptive support to each client, addressing the distinct goals of each business amid their broader transition to online operations. In the process, each business benefitted from a new or revamped website, as well as installed or revitalized e-commerce platforms.
To augment TrailBlaze’s daily work in assisting Neighborhood Allies’ and URA’s GOGO business members across cohorts, TBC created a “Small Business Outpost” Facebook group to allow cohort members to share ideas, insights, resources, and publications online. The group, moderated by TrailBlaze, grants cohort members opportunities to pose questions to other cohort members, establish collaborations, or read through topical content posted by TrailBlaze (articles, blog posts, and other resources).
Summit: Vision Realized
In addition to the large number of Neighborhood Allies and URA-affiliated businesses whose websites, marketing efforts, and social media strategies were optimized for e-commerce and/or online operations, the TrailBlaze “cohort model” was legitimized and proven for future use in other contexts, including in other current TrailBlaze-led projects across Pennsylvania. Social media cohort participants are now using optimized posting strategies and hashtags to attract larger audiences to their businesses. Other clients and cohort members benefited from extensive technical assistance applied to their websites, ranging from the actual creation of new websites to the implementation and optimization of e-commerce platforms using preferred merchant services and payment methods. As a result of the successfully adopted cohort model, Neighborhood Allies and URA have retained TrailBlaze’s services to continue to guide local local and regional businesses in their transition towards viable and sustainable online operations.