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the widget midget

I just opened a widget shop up on Hertel Avenue. I can’t really afford to advertise just yet, but I’m eager to get the word out about my shop. Your Best of Buffalo issue seemed like a good bet. No one sells widgets like mine. (In fact, no one in town sell widgets at all. My nearest competitor is in Cleveland.) But, boy, it’s hard to crack the top five in your voting unless everyone already knows who you are. Got any advice on ways to persuade people to vote for my widget shop next year? Some promotions?

The Widgeteer

Ruthless says: A “widget shop?” What’s your name—John Doe or Joe Schmo? Come on, I haven’t heard that term since the 1980s, from the economics majors who grew up to be…(drum roll, please)…owners of small businesses on Hertel Avenue who are unsure how best to hawk their wares.

But before I really take you to task, let’s be clear on our definitions: Are the widgets of which you speak a) computer-related devices? or b) small bead-like devices placed in the bottom of cans and bottles of beer to aid in the generation of froth?

If your answer is a) then call your lawyer, ’cuz you’re about to be sued by Apple.

If your answer is b) then you may be on to something. Those little things are nifty! Ever cut open a can of Guinness with one of those inside it? That’s fun stuff. And you are in Buffalo, where beer-related beats computer-related nine times out of 10. Even among computer geeks (and trust me, I am one).

The Practical Cogitator says: It’s easy, folks. You want to win Best of Buffalo, you have to try. Give stuff away in exchange for valid ballots with your name filled in on the category line you want to win. Get online and advertise whatever it is you have to give away: half-price widgets, pens from pharmaceutical companies, loose cans of Old Milwaukee.

There’s no election law that obtains here. Next year, shake up this contest: Fight for that plaque. They’re pretty.

The Roller Girl says: The thing is, as with most things, the best way to be well-known is to be well-known already. It’s a tragic catch-22, but it’s a universal truth. The Best of Buffalo issue is really more a popularity contest than a promotional tool. Your best bet is to focus on your overall promotional efforts, and hope that as part of that, you can gain greater exposure in the Best of Buffalo contest. Absolutely have copies of the paper by the register and encourage your customers to vote in it. Better still, find a bunch of other business owners in related categories and try to cross-promote your businesses—do a coupon exchange, and encourage your patrons to vote for these other businesses in the contest along with yours while they do the same for you to their customers, and whatever else your little promotional mind can come up with. It’s about networking, it’s about thinking creatively, and—unfortunately—it’s about doing a damn lot of work.

Pay Now or Pay Later Says: At this late date there will have to be some serious bribery involved. Most of the Artvoice employees are above this sort of thing, but not yours truly. They’re all a bunch of snobs anyway—the kind of people who covered their papers during tests in school just to make sure no one was cheating. You know what I mean. Anyway, we haven’t gone to press yet with our Best of Buffalo issue, so there is still time to work out a deal. Since I have no use for widgets, we’ll have to arrive at some other kind of bartering arrangement. As sick as I am of trying to procure dates for Dr. Sigmund Fraud, I still owe him big for the time he testified at my trial. But that’s a long story. In any case, all you have to do is meet him for a drink at a specified location, and answer any and all questions he may have for you. This is not your usual “date” and it makes no difference your gender, age, or physical attributes (well, Dr. Fraud is a sucker for a pretty girl, but something tells me you are not that). Anyway, yes, I’ll make you the winner of the heretofore nonexistent category “Best New Small Electronics Shop” if you agree to meet at the arranged place. I’ll be in touch. And remember—as of now you’re only in the top five. Go back on our deal and I’m opening my own widget store and naming it the winner.

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