Third in a series on Group Marketing

Phil Anania has no misconceptions when it comes to running a business.

He’s an owner at Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob and also helps the Blackstone District through marketing and planning with GreenSlate Development. Founded by two Omaha millennials – Matt Dwyer and Jay Lund – Greenslate had a vision for redeveloping the stretch of Farnam Street west of Midtown Crossing leading up to the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Taking risks other developers wouldn’t, the sudden growth of new and rehabbed residential properties with the revitalization of the commercial hub at 42nd & Farnam Streets brought Omaha the Blackstone District. It’s a mix of eclectic, locally-owned businesses that benefits from group marketing.

“Business owners don’t have a lot of time to go to meetings or to post on social media,” said Anania. “Everyone’s on their own island.”

Yet when it comes to drawing people to visit the Blackstone District, Anania thinks bigger than individual islands. “Businesses here want help with networking and social media. We’re trying to sell a whole neighborhood – not just one business.”

It’s another Omaha story where local character meets partnerships, events and grassroots marketing savvy to help define what makes our community unique.

Events and social media

Anania credits live events as one of the biggest draws to the neighborhood. Big scale events like Farnam Festival help line the streets while smaller, weekly events – such as the live music featured at The Blackstone Meatball – help bring waves of customers into the neighborhood. “The more events, the better,” said Anania.

Strong partnerships

Similar to the Old Market and Benson, Blackstone also has a Business Improvement District (BID) to help generate funds for maintaining and promoting the area. Unlike the other two though, there are much fewer property owners in the area, so having a full-time marketing manager like Anania is something the businesses can all support.

That also makes for more focused promotions and group offers.

The Blackstone Pass is a discount card provided to GreenSlate tenants (Blackstone’s residents) and UNMC students. The card provides exclusive discounts to holders, which Anania says works particularly well with the college students. They flock to the neighborhood to utilize the savings offered by the card. The specific discounts change frequently, but oftentimes feature substantial discounts. The exclusivity of not everyone having a Blackstone Pass ads to the lure of the card.

Anania said partnering with neighboring large corporations help keep the Blackstone District thriving with a mix of smaller corporate events. “We love Kiewit, Nebraska Medicine and Mutual of Omaha. We’re just going around and starting little fires.”

Those “fires” involve bringing Blackstone District businesses together to draw in more customers. Recently Anania did a quick audit of social media posts from Blackstone District businesses and was surprised to find many of them hadn’t posted in some time. “I tell them – they have to post every day.”

He’s right; small businesses that frequently engage with customers via social media see their profits go up as their sales increase.

The Blackstone District is a diverse neighborhood featuring premier businesses and impressive residential buildings. As the businesses continue to work together, the Blackstone District will continue to thrive.