I started Mountain Marketing Group in 2008. With several years of experience in the marketing departments at the City of Glendora, Azusa Pacific University and St. Bernardine Medical Center, and with a degree in communication with a minor in business administration, I tackled advertising the way most of my peers did, at the time. We focused most of our energy on print materials and created online brochures we referred to as websites.
The process was time-consuming and complicated:
- I would work with a graphic designer to come up with several options for an original website.
- Our photographer would show up onsite for an entire day, to take professional shots for use on the website.
- We would take large, colorful storyboards to the client. And, once a final design was chosen, our programmer would work tirelessly to convert the design to HTML code.
- After the website was finished, we would work feverishly to decode the mystery of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Our programmer would carefully bury meta tags and use keyword software to make sure our client’s site landed on page one of applicable Google searches.
- Months of work and thousands of dollars later, we produced a static, attractive website that required lots of notice and additional funding in the unlikely event that something ever needed to be altered.
- Eventually, clients decided they wanted to be able to make changes to the websites themselves, so we started building Content Management System interfaces, which provided limited client-access to portions of the website.
Times have changed!
- Half of the people who will visit your company’s website will do so using a mobile device. So the time for unresponsive, miniaturized websites has past. In fact, due to Mobile-geddon, Google will penalize the search engine ranking for your website if your site is not designed to be viewed on a Smartphone or tablet.
- We work directly with programmers from the onset of every project.
- SEO is built into the front-end instead of being added on after the fact.
- Dreamweaver is a thing of the past.
- Websites are not meant to be static. They need to be interactive and dynamic — the polar opposite of a static site.
- WordPress has become the gold standard for website construction, because it is a content management system, which is easy to edit (with a little practice and time invested in watching free YouTube tutorials).
- Original, applicable, valuable content must be offered via social media sites, tied to the website, on a regular basis, if there is any hope of gaining and/maintaining a foothold in SEO.
- As a result of all of these changes, the cost to produce a website is greatly reduced, but upkeep is imperative.
- Not unlike living organisms, websites require care and attention on an ongoing basis. They can’t be constructed and then abandoned like artificial flowers.
At Mountain Marketing Group, we use social media to drive traffic to our clients’ websites, with the goal of increasing the bottom line. But, unlike a typical website design service, we are expert marketers who consider websites to be one of many tools in an electronic arsenal. We work strategically with our clients, to come up with a plan that uses websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+, that fits their budget and produces results. So call today (909) 336-3333 if you would like us to help you reach new heights.
This column first appeared on RIMOFTHEWORLD.net on January 3, 2011.
My favorite day of the week in Mrs. Stanley’s first grade was Friday because that’s when we got to do Show and Tell. Since we had three dogs, a turtle and several fish, and because I loved having an excuse to bring pets to school, I was set for weeks. But my love of the activity extended to other classmates’ treasures as well:
- Brian made a belt out of paperclips, which he fastened to his chair as a sort of makeshift restraining device.
- Dawn had a watch with interchangeable face plates and bands, to match every outfit in her extensive closet.
- Chad routinely forgot to bring anything from home, so he often stuffed part of his lunch into his boot before recess so he would have something to share later in class.
As we begin marketing in 2011, I contend the most successful advertising and public relations’ campaigns will hearken to this elementary-school standby. After all, it is widely believed the use of pictures along with words increases brain activity and aids learning.
- According to Head First Labs, “When words appear within a picture, or there is a combination of words and a picture, our brains try to make sense of how the words and the picture relate. When more neurons are firing, there are more chances for your brain to get that this is something worth paying attention to.”
- Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine found that pictures allow patients with very mild Alzheimer’s disease to better recognize and identify a subject compared to using words alone.
- Swish Video contends that people remember merely 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see and an incredible 70% what they hear and see. So, to effectively promote your product or service, no matter your audience, make sure you do both—show and tell.
If you are handling your own marketing and public relations, make much of pictures. Many entrepreneurs understand their own products to a fault. Don’t forget to “dumb down” technical jargon when marketing your product or service so it makes sense to the buying public. One way to do this is with pictures:
- With blog posts, for example, upload an image and restrict copywriting to a caption. This will remind you to be brief. As a rule, blog posts should contain a maximum of 700 words.
- Include a photo or illustration with every press release you write. If you have not yet mastered the art of uploading a jpeg from your desktop to an online platform, figure it out. Like it or not, the Internet is here to stay. So don’t let technology stand in your way.
On a Limited Budget—
- Pay a little extra to include artwork in your advertising. It will be worth it. In fact, if you only have enough cash to buy a small ad, ax the text. No one has time to sift through a sea of words anyway.
- Experiment with video. You can get a hand-held video camera for about $100. Buy one. Take it to work and start filming anything and everything. Then, edit and upload short, educational bits to YouTube.
- If the idea of making a video is overwhelming, start with a slideshow. Use a platform like Vimeo, Animoto or Kizoa, which will enable you to use still photos to create short video pieces set to music.
The Sky’s the Limit—
Zappos.com recently reported a 6 to 30 percent increase in sales on items that are accompanied by a video. Quality video content, with correct tagging and intelligent distribution online, has tremendous power to reach wide audiences for two reasons:
- Video is a powerful medium for contacting and communicating on a human level.
- Video is a powerful tool for engaging search engines.
So hire someone to produce, tag and post short, professional videos for use with press releases, ads, websites and social media platforms. But make sure you keep the clips short or they will likely go un-clicked.
Still unconvinced? Imagine how much more interesting this particular column would have been if it had been accompanied by a video of Show and Tell in Mrs. Stanley’s first grade class circa 1969.
Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more depressing movie than Pay it Forward.
Spoiler Alert: Although the premise of doing things for the sole purpose of making the world a better place to live is one I support, I wish the screenwriters would have framed the story in something other than the murder of a 11-year-old cherubic everyman played by Haley Joel Osment when he was still adorable (before his voice changed).
With that said, paying it forward is worthwhile not only in Hollywood but also in the real world…especially in business. The general idea is to selflessly give to three people without expecting anything in return. Then, the three people you help should do the same until the impact is felt in large scale. It’s a small but revolutionary idea. And I can’t think of a better time than the holidays to give it a try.
I propose you use whatever line of work you are in to pay it forward in your own little corner of the world. If you take the time to open your eyes, you’ll discover that opportunities abound. And they come at several different price-points:
One of the services we offer at Mountain Marketing Group is ghost-writing for social media accounts such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Our goal is to build a foundation and then teach our clients how to build on it by maintaining the accounts on their own. Although many choose to retain us in lieu of riding solo, most enjoy the process of learning how to provide industry-specific, valuable content to the folks in their target market.
But we usually have to repeat our social media strategy numerous times before it actually starts to sink in. Experts in my field agree the ultimate goal of social media is to contribute and engage instead of directly selling. But providing something for nothing is counter-intuitive to savvy business professionals who generally measure success by terms like ROI and “the bottom line.”
Like it or not, we are living in a brand new world, where we can no longer pretend we have cornered the market on anything! The Information Superhighway has made it necessary to honestly represent your offerings. But don’t worry; sharing information will not make you irrelevant. On the contrary; you will emerge as a leader in your field. For example:
- If you sell soap, write blogs about secret ingredients and tools of the trade. Don’t worry; you won’t reveal anything that isn’t already posted online.
- If you teach Latin, tweet key phrases and uses for the dead language.
- If you make blankets, provide Facebook status updates when fleece and flannel go on sale.
According to a September 2010 Study by Pew Research, 54% of people conduct online research before buying anything…regardless of whether they end up making the actual purchase in the real world or in Cyberspace. So providing information to fuel their inquiries is a great way for you to pay it forward.
On a Limited Budget
Use some of your profits to fund a charitable organization. While I can’t show you a ledger to prove the value in contributing outside of your own firm, I can personally testify to the benefits (both personal and financial) of paying it forward by giving. Since we are near year’s end, perhaps the idea of donating is a tad more attractive now than at other times? Whatever it takes, go with it. Put your money where your mouth is.
The Sky’s the Limit
Sponsor a charitable event. Since sponsorship usually comes with PR-related perks like corporate attribution and public acknowledgment, some may argue this is not a true “pay it forward” activity. But I maintain you are paying it forward whenever someone else is the beneficiary of your benevolence. So select any organization that makes sense to you.
Call the executive director to set up a meeting so you can determine the needs and availability of the organization. Now more than ever, non-profit groups are in need of folks to pay it forward. According to SiloBreaker, due to the recession, donations to our country’s 400 largest charities declined this year by 11%. And that figure is even more depressing than fictionalized homicide.
Until next time, I’ll be Bowling for Business.
Tags: Bowling for Business, bowling on a budget, Marketing For Free, Marketing on a Limited Budget, marketing when the sky's the limit, mountain marketing group, Pay it Forward with clients, PR, return on investment, ROI, Social Media, social media marketing
I’ve never been much of an athlete. In fact, in kindergarten, I had such a difficult time climbing the thick, giant rope that dangled from the ceiling in our gym that, when I finally achieved the goal, my PE teacher invited me to perform at Parents’ Night. The other invitee was a sickly girl named Lisa who didn’t have eyebrows, skin pigmentation, or stamina.
My lack of athletic prowess is probably the reason I’m such a die-hard fan of figure skating. The polar opposite of me, figure skaters demonstrate power, artistry and precision in everything they do. I’ve been watching every televised figure skating event since Dorothy Hamill won gold at the 1976 Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria. I was one of the few who didn’t tire of endless news reports about Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding in 1994. And I’ll probably see every Olympic figure skating event held this year in Vancouver.
But, along with other Olympic fans, thanks to advances in technology, the way I watch the games this time will be different.
- TiVo—instead of enduring countless commercials, I’ll be using our DVR to tape events. If I watch any advertisements this time around, it will be because they catch my attention as I fast-forward.
- Website—rather than relying on NBC producers to spoon-feed me the information they believe most relevant, the Olympic website offers information, ad infinitum, about every athlete, venue, competition and affiliated sponsor.
- Interactivity—if I’m so inclined, I will be able to connect with the athletes by reading their Tweets, perusing their blogs or watching videos on YouTube. And I won’t be hampered by location or previous commitments since I can access it all, 24/7, on my Smartphone.
So what does any of this have to do with marketing small businesses and non-profit organizations? Just this. Contrary to our cultural training as consumers in a society that expects on-demand entertainment and instant access to anything and everything, when it comes to advertising in 2010, we have to be willing to wait.
Instead of blasting our message to a passive audience, we must recognize that we are on the supply side of the equation. To learn what our target market demands, we have to be willing to listen, engage in relevant conversations, and earn a share of the voice. Social media success is less a sprint than a marathon because social media is all about relationship. And, in the real world as well as Cyberspace, it takes time to build relationships.
Ironically, when it comes to social media, the most important step is the one most often overlooked. Unless you take time to listen to what people are saying about your organization, you won’t know what you can offer to the conversation. To do this, do a keyword search for terms relative to your field. Then, when you find the sites where folks gather, put away your keyboard and read. Once you understand the neighborhood, resist the urge to lecture. Instead, engage and contribute so that you become a trusted member of the community.
On a Limited Budget—
If funds are tight, hire an intern or junior staff member to monitor social media conversations and report back to you. But save the heavy-hitting for the folks who understand your brand. To succeed in social media, you have to become an expert in sharing whatever interests your target market. So teach your employees how to take advantage of blogs, wikis, Facebook, or YouTube. A great resource for this is a social media book I’ve touted, before, Groundswell. In it, Forrester researchers Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff provide plenty of social media case studies, along with proof they work.
The Sky’s the Limit—
Instead of joining a social network community, start one yourself. One of the first high-profile companies to do this was Dell. In the early days of social media, Dell turned a deaf ear to complaints lobbed by a customer named Jeff Jarvis, who started blogging about “Dell Hell.” But Jarvis’ discontent struck a chord. Within months, the highest ranking Google search term for Dell was Dell Hell.
Eventually, Dell had no choice but to address the nightmare. Their solution was to create a social networking site called Idea Storm, where customers post ideas and vote on products. The transformation didn’t happen overnight. But, in time, Dell went from cautionary tale to the benchmark for successful business communication, proving that flexibility and persistence pay off for anyone trying to climb the corporate ladder (or a giant rope).
Until next week, I’ll be Bowling for Business.
Tags: advertising, Bowling for Business, dell, dell hell, Dorothy Hamill, engage and contribute, for free, forrester researchers, groundswell, idea storm, interactivity, Kathy Bowling, keyword search, marketing, Nancy Kerrigan, Olympic Figure skating, Olympic Games, on a budget, rimoftheworld.net, SmartPhone, Social Media, social media case studies, social network, the sky's the limit, TiVo, Tonya Harding, Tweets, website, wikis, YouTube
This column first appeared in RimoftheWorld.net on Nov. 29, 2009
I’m not sure how I sliced off a chunk of skin from my left index finger while we were at the drug store the other day. But I couldn’t get the thing to stop bleeding. While I was digging in my purse for tissues, my daughter, Lauren, was scouring the aisles when she came across a new product that speeds coagulation. It’s called Wound-Be-Gone.
“Mom, this would be perfect for you,” she said, reading the fine print on the box. “It’s the only over-the-counter product clinically proven to accelerate healing, decrease inflammation, reduce tenderness, and prevent scar formation with both acute and chronic wounds. And it’s travel size, which is perfect for you since you are always hurting yourself.”
Though she sounded like an infomercial, I have to admit Lauren was right. My left hand looks like a “before” picture for burn cream, eczema medicine, and anti-bacterial ointment. The battle scars are from my curling iron, our oven, and several particularly menacing grocery store rotisserie chicken-heating units. So, to my daughter’s credit, Wound-Be-Gone was a lucky find.
Lauren’s slick salesmanship aside, the primary reason I made the jump from casual browser to paying customer was because the prospect of parting with $19.99 plus tax was less painful to me than the embarrassment and inconvenience of hemorrhaging all over the floor at Rite Aid. The manufacturers of Wound-Be-Gone made the sale because they met me at the point of my pain. And, in the end, every sale does the same.
The rub is how to articulate your ability to meet needs. You can do it with the name of your company, the name of your product, your slogan or your advertising campaign. Or, better yet, with all of the above.
Here are some examples of national brands that do this well:
Pain Point: My house is a disorganized, undecorated mess.
Solution: You can do it. We can help. (Home Depot)
Pain Point: I’m so sick that I can’t sleep.
Solution: The nighttime coughing, achy, sniffling, stuffy head, fever, so you can rest medicine. (Nyquil)
Pain Point: I have to deliver this package right away or I could get fired.
Solution: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. (Federal Express)
Pain Point: I’m fat.
Solution: Slim Quick
To make sure you are addressing your prospective customers’ points of pain, you need to define your Unique Sales Proposition. The reason I recommend creating a USP as a first step is because it will force you to look at your offering from the end user’s point of view instead of from your own. The good news is that you can create and support a good USP no matter your budget.
Ask your friends and business associates for ideas. A jewelry store owner and former member of my networking group developed a slogan by asking us for ideas. He finally decided to go with Everything Fine at Kelly’s on Vine. And while it isn’t necessarily my first choice, because it doesn’t clearly communicate his Unique Sales Proposition, it’s catchy. So he should use it with abandon. Once you settle on your tag, splash it on your business cards, letterhead and website and in your email signature.
On a Budget
If your budget puts you in an either/or situation, spend it to hire someone to define your trademark instead of on the advertising to promote it. With social media marketing and directory listings, there’s never been a better time to advance your brand for free. And when business improves and your budget increases, you’ll be proud of what you’re promoting.
The Sky’s the Limit
Find an agency to help you come up with a strategy to compliment your USP. One of our clients, Sandra, is a doctor of optometry. Before coming up with a tagline for her practice, we reminded her she is selling more than eye exams, glasses or contact lenses. She is offering the promise of clear vision. To accentuate her goal of superior customer service, we came up with a slogan that showcases her USP, Eye Focus on You. And, I’ve got a great spokeswoman on deck if she ever wants to do an infomercial.
Until next week, I’ll be Bowling for Business.
Tags: BNI, Bowling for Business, brands, company slogans, directory listings, drug stores, home depot, logos, national brands, nyquil, rimoftheworld.net, rotisserie chicken burns, slim quick, Social Media, unique sales proposition, USP, wound be gone