By Jen Portland

We launched Excel Rain Man in May of 2008 to help individuals and small businesses with their Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet needs. Because spreadsheet consulting may not have the same pizzazz that other small businesses possess (though I can’t understand why), we have tried to give our business a cool and funky twist by sharing compelling content and connecting with other business owners.

One way we do this is with hip Excel template giveaways, which are featured in our monthly newsletter. These have included things like a Fashion Week Datebook, M-A-S-H Valentine’s Template, Football Survivor Pools, Golf Gambler and others. Our free NCAA basketball brackets spreadsheet drew national media coverage in March.

We tried to create a social media footprint by banging out a newsletter, posting it to our Facebook page and tweeting about it. We realized it would be hard for Excel Rain Man to join the social media revolution, considering that our product didn’t lend itself to “going viral” as easily as, say, a new online cupcake shop or boutique sandal maker.

So we tweaked our approach to better spread the word. One of the more interesting ways that we have grown our notoriety is by promoting other small businesses. Starting in November of 2009, we added a section to our newsletter called the “Small Biz Spotlight” in which we showcase a small business that we think is spectacular.

Adding this section to the newsletter has proven to:

Help others
The small business community is a tight knit group where help from others is always appreciated.
Enhance our social media presence
Our Facebook page no longer only consists of spreadsheet tips and template details. It now has write-ups on other small businesses including tags to their business pages. These small businesses often push out the Excel Rain Man write-up as well as our other content, allowing our page to be referenced on other business pages and to be seen by a countless number of other Facebook users.

Create and foster new relationships
Our small business spotlight immediately creates a relationship with the featured business. In many instances, these small businesses have become our clients or have referred us to others.

Lock and Mane was the first small business we featured in our newsletter. Led by husband-and-wife team Jackie and John Cascarano, the company offers fabulous brand-name luxury hair products and a very user-friendly website. I became an immediate customer, and as a small business owner trying to peddle my wares with grace, I offered to be an ambassador of L&M. A year later, we mutually “tweet” and “like” each other’s news and successes, L&M gifts and gift certificates are my go-to gift, and L&M has become one of Excel Rain Man’s biggest customers.

My love affair with Callie’s Biscuits began a few years ago when my mother-in-law was planning our first vacation to Charleston, South Carolina. She read about Callie’s Charleston Biscuits, and since then we have included these artisanal biscuits in our meals both at home and on vacation. About a year ago, my mother-in-law set up a chance for me to meet Carrie Bailey-Morey, the daughter of Callie and the founder of the company.

In addition to the incredible advice and ideas that came out of that first meeting, we featured Callie’s in our next newsletter and continued to recommend these amazing treats to anyone and everyone who would listen, including several local markets that now stock Callie’s in the freezer section. Callie’s has also become a client, as we were able to find some great spreadsheet solutions for tracking inventory and revenue figures.

In short, our love for helping small businesses goes beyond beating up a spreadsheet or two and has paid off in valuable relationships.

OPEN Cardmember Jen Portland is the founder of ExcelRainMan.com, a consulting company that helps people tackle their spreadsheet issues.

 

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