This month I have decided to take a different spin on my monthly letter to our friends. Thinking about what has happened over the past year, where we are now and what the future holds brings mixed emotions. There are a few things that I feel are necessary to get off my chest, a few things that deserve recognition and a few wishes that I’d like to share with everyone.
I welcome your comments, your suggestions and insights. Since this will be posted on our blog, it is very simple to go to the end of the post and make your voice be heard. And if I forget to say later, “Thank You for commenting.”
Our Extended Family
First off, TM had a weird year in business. There have been ups, downs, and despite the economy, we are stable and continue to grow. There have been many new friends that have joined our family and many that continue to stay. Thank you for your trust and confidence in my team. I hope we continue to deliver the value you pay for. Thank you for acknowledging our invoices and making them a priority in your receivables each month.
On new year’s eve in 2007, I told loved ones that “2008 will be great.” Looking back on the roller coaster that it was, I have been careful with my words as of late to not jinx 2009. (if you believe in that stuff…)
Internet 2008 brought us many good things. Online politically charged queries ranged across more than forty categories in AOL’s annual lists of top internet, mobile and video searches. Celebrity news, headlines and pop culture news continued to captivate the online audience; emerging mobile devices bumped activity for social applications like MySpace and Facebook, as well as sharing videos downloaded via apps for the iPhone. No matter how you look at it, your online audience is crucial to any business both large and small. Our new president elect, Barrak Obama, was responsible for at least ½ of all online political ad spending. Search engine marketing (SEM) and direct placement of ads were near $8 million dollars with new “social networks” like FaceBook, MySpace and BlackPlanet seeing a large chunk. So what does this tell us? Reaching out and connecting with consumers on the web was important and successful. Obama’s camp bet on the hope that voters, young and old, would be online to listen and give opinion. Guess what? He was right.
Twitter took storm as the newest, coolest, little thing to do that you could never understand what it was used for other than to waste time. Their company received another round of VC funding mid year after receiving tremendous growing pains, server outages and national attention. During the debates, you probably even got wind of live Twitter chats posted on certain cable station broadcasts.
Corporate America took a stab at Twitter and some early adopters received great press and praise from their followers for embracing social media. Some got into Twitter to find out what the rave was all about and learned a hard lesson.
Online Marketing continued to become popular with major companies, driving up online ad expenses over 2007. Many traditional marketing exec’s were starting to learn about “pay-per-click” and how driving people to your website from Google, Yahoo! and MSN (does anyone really use Live or MSN anymore?) was cool, “new” and interactive! (Notice the sarcasm. I repeat this because a marketing exec from a large firm actually said this to me. Ugh.)
Businesses large and small were taking a dip in the online marketing pool and seeing that it is not just a simple task to select a few words and pay $2.00 per click to establish a new $100k piece of business. They learned that the visitor who clicked needed to then come to a website and convert. That is when the real game began and many realized that their cool 1997 Geocities free site was not cutting the cake.
YouTube is still cool (even when now owned by Google) and business is learning of ways to use a new video-to-web camera to captivate an audience while establishing good natural online rankings. Take a gander at FLAME Furnace (our customer) who records small segments that are consumer friendly and places them on YouTube. They talk about how to check your furnace filter and prep your AC for winter in about a minute or so. Simple, small and useful. No sales approach; just a video to help the average consumer from the heating and cooling experts. And they work. In fact, their videos are viewed every day on Flame Furnace YouTube channel and their website. In my opinion, with the right plan and approach, this can become a great marketing tool that converts. Give it a try.
Regular maintenance on your company website is quickly becoming popular and fruitful for sales. We have seen a steady increase over the past year. Many of our friends want to update their site because they are getting feedback from their customers online. I.E. it’s working for them, so they are seeing the value in investing ad dollars that show a positive return on investment. Search engines, like Google, love new content and appreciate relevancy on your website too. It’s easy for them to index and place in their directory while you help to provide them useful info for their users. (plus you get ranked! Everyone wants to be ranked in Google!) Cool concept that works and is a major win-win.
Email your customer base. Get them the message. With postage rates increasing and advertising budgets being slashed (they are always the first to go aren’t they?- why!%#*?!) hitting people in their inbox is very cost effective. Plus, you get immediate feedback. And did I mention it is green?
Mobile web usage is increasing with the introduction of the faster iPhone, new BlackBerry and other smart phones. Google released their G-phone with T-Mobile and opened the Android operating system to developers around the world to create applications for it. Apple also made it easier for developers as well to create and release apps that users can grab from iTunes. So what does this all mean? Those of us that gobbled up the .MOBI domains a few years back may see some low hanging fruit to grab soon. Google announced that they are making a focus on mobile marketing and added an option for AdWords users to buy mobile ads for browsers using Google search on their phone. Cameras are a standard now (and almost never allowed in government courts or strip clubs- gulp!) and take high resolution pictures that you can send to another phone, and email or post to the web. They even have applications for Twitter so you can chat with your followers 24/7.
Point blank: mobile search and marketing will be bigger than ever in the next 2 years. Get on board. Get your website styled so it displays correctly or offers an alternative style sheet to quickly download to your customers’ phone. They’ll expect it.
In closing, my prediction is that your website traffic will increase this coming year. With the state of the economy, we are already seeing that Black Friday was red (for the first time in many years) and cyber Monday still had an increase. It’s easy to get information online in your tight-whites at 11pm on a Sunday and tell that company that “I’m interested, please give me a call this week.” Get prepared and allocate a portion of your marketing budget to your website and online marketing. The results are immediate and success can be tracked quickly.
Traditional Ad Agencies
Here is my open statement to traditional advertising agencies: “evolve or partner please choose one.” We get a lot of referral business from traditional ad firms across the country and we are grateful for that business (here is a recent site for the Village of Hinsdale in IL). I am happy to deliver a product or campaign that shows true value that they can pass on to their customers. However, know when to say when. Know that you cannot be an outlet for all kinds of media, especially if you are not familiar with how they work or what they cost. Gone are the times of a standard 15% markup for media placement. Learn about the web, about web design and development and understand what it takes to successfully scope, plan, design, launch and execute an online campaign. Yes, we do realize that traditional media will never go away. We are not trying to replace you as a business either. We are simply filling the gap of services that customers want.
Please understand and embrace “now media” and invest in learning about how it actually works, potential pitfalls and the results they can achieve. You can make revenue with online development and advertising, but please teach your account reps (continuously educate them, not a one-time effort) to know what they are selling, what they promise and what they can really deliver.
Just because your creative team is highly skilled in Photoshop does not mean they should be building websites with their auto-slice to web functions. Just because you can design a brochure or a logo does not give you the license to design, publish and optimize a website. Websites were written with hand code way before Dreamweaver and are still today. It’s still the cleanest, most effective and best way. Also, SEO is not just about meta tags.
If learning about internet development and marketing is not in your budget, then consider establishing a true partnership with a digital agency like us to fill that void. If you continue to resell media that is improperly placed, scope ideas that you have no intelligence on and throw darts at the board with a blindfold on, you will continue to tarnish all agencies with your ignorance and arrogance. Our digital agency spends too much time turning its wheels for you to scope the unknown, execute garbage plans and put out fires. We promise that this will stop in 2009, for we cannot simply be a part of the injustice of your need for revenue.
We understand that you have employees with families and need to make continuous revenue to run your business. You can. You just need to invest some time and money to learn and understand what you need to do, selling and fulfilling online advertising and marketing. Do your customers some justice in 2009. Be honest and it will feel better.
It’s “Now” media, not “New” media
I keep hearing the term “New Media” over and over again. For our friends that are genuinely interested to make an effort to dive in to online marketing and advertising, we have no problem educating you. It’s no longer new media. It is “Now Media”. Internet, online marketing and websites are not a new concept. They are just becoming more adaptive and integrated in everyday life. So please understand (ah-hum Mr. Traditional Ad Agency) that you need to Edit > Cut and replace that term with “Now Media.”
“SEO” as a common word
Wikipedia states: SEO, or search engine optimization “is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. Usually, the earlier a site is presented in the search results, or the higher it “ranks,” the more searchers will visit that site. SEO can also target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, and industry-specific vertical search engines. As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work and what people search for. Optimizing a website primarily involves editing its content and HTML coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines.
Did you understand this? SEO is not SEM (search engine marketing, commonly known as the placement of media, keywords in websites and directories in a CPM cost per million, CPC cost per click or CPA cost per acquisition model). SEO is so commonly becoming the new “buzz” word with our friends. Please take some time to ask us more questions about SEO and what it means to your business. It is not a one-time effort and is a continuous, ongoing balance of analytical tracking, benchmarking, testing, design and development that helps to achieve and reach new goals. Please do not use the word SEO in your arsenal of hip, new cool marketing terms unless you truly understand what it stands for.
Get what you pay for
We receive request to quote on development and online marketing every day. They come in via phone, from our website and through the front door. Please understand that we are not a team of freelancers that have a 98% profit margin. TM is composed of a number of individuals who have been designing websites, writing software and planning or executing marketing campaigns for a number of years. We have taken the time to learn, spent the money to learn the hard way and never make promises that we cannot deliver on. We are in the office during normal business hours, answer the phone and can speak intelligently at your technical level. We care about the projects we work on and want all of our friends to be successful.
If you are looking to have something done for minimum wage rates, please refer to Craigslist. Post your job at a local college or talk to others who are resourceful. Look online. There are many freelance job board sites where they will bid on your business. However, please understand that this is not TM. While we do not look down upon freelancing and third-world wages, we know our value. We know the product that we will deliver and we know that we will be here in another 5 years. We also suspect that you will come back to us after your nephew in college cannot finish your project or that freelancer that was awesome is now AWOL. Age old saying is true today: You get what you pay for (Dean, our Project Manager also did a great post earlier this year titled “Pretty costs extra lady“).
The economy is very interesting right now. We are entering a time that we have not seen (nor have I lived through) in decades. Over 15 years ago, I worked in Engineering Graphics at JTE (Jeep Truck Engineering) in Detroit, MI and thought I was home free. I had a plush corporate job earning a great wage, job security, and with hopes of a pension in 30 years. I was living the working man’s dream. Then, after 3 years, I was disgusted and bored. Frustration grew daily that all these flagpole sitters were simply afraid of me, my knowledge and determination to excel. They were scared that I would make them look bad and potentially threaten their job, health care and pension. Heck, it was them that barley showed up and sat at a desk for 20+ years pushing paper and attending meetings. It was owed to them. They earned it. I had seen with my own two eyes how automobiles were really engineered and manufactured. I learned that closed door “top-secret” vehicle build areas were a great place for Poker at 2 pm daily. I learned about a few bars that had a burger, fries and beer from 11-3 Monday Friday, and that I could suck down 4-5 beers in an hour before returning to work. Then, one day, I sat and thought about what I was becoming and how it was disgusting. How much that my father made out to be “the American Dream” was really a farce and a telltale of our future. So I split to go do my own thing.
Welp, here we are folks.
This week we learn if Congress will give 15 billion dollars as a loan to the big 3 of Detroit. They cannot sell cars, Wall St. is to blame and everyone has a house, houses that are worth negative 50-90% value from 3 years ago. Ah, America, the beautiful.
This has forced me to take note and realize that our friends need us now more than ever. If the auto industry fails and bleeds more and more in to 2009, we know that the trickle-down effect will touch each and every one of us. Please know that my team is committed to do what it takes to make every dollar you spend with us in 2009 show return on investment. Communicate your concerns, your needs and we promise to help through this tough economic time.
Make a Change
Long ago, I realized how lucky I really am. I have a great family; own a successful digital agency and new start (LinkXL.com). Have a nice house in a great neighborhood and live a modest life. I’m pretty lucky.
At times, I too get caught up in the rigmarole of everyday life and lose focus of the big picture. I too, tend to forget that there are others that are not as fortunate as I have been.
This is why I founded a great little 501(c)(3) non-profit charity called Recycling for Charities. RFC, as it is called, helps to protect the environment and benefits consumer and charities across the USA. We take in old working and non working cell phones, PDA’s, iPods, pagers, digital cameras and other wireless electronics to be properly recycled or environmentally disposed of. We have vendors that will abide by our guidelines and buy these items from us. Consumers, schools, churches and organizations donate these items to us, chose a charity to benefit and we make sure they get financial compensation for each item. Donors also get a tax deduction. It’s very win-win and only feels better each day I’m involved.
To date, we have received over 100,000 items and donated over a quarter million to over 650 charities across the USA. We’ve provided funds to help spay and neuter animals, build homes for the homeless, help fund marching band instruments and buy tools to help clean rivers. RFC has done a lot and we only plan to invest more to make it a stronger outlet to help charities raise funds while cleaning up the environment. So I say in 2009, make a change and give a little back. Get in where you fit in. It feels very good and enriches your life.
My 2009 Wish List
Getting near the end of my manifesto (sorry, I hope I didn’t bore you) I wanted to close with a list of my personal and business wants and goals for 2009. They are not in any particular order, and if you feel I left any out, please let me know.
– New flat screen TV’s for our conference room and development meeting rooms. (completed with a Black Friday Meijer sale)
– Cable TV or DishNetwork so our employees can listen to news and soccer games during work.
– New computer upgrades and dual monitors for all. New chairs for all. We sit for hours on end and these are our trade tools. My team deserves the best to perform the best for our friends.
– New long regulation Texas Hold’Em poker table an 8 chairs for Friday’s at 5
– Decrease receivables over 120 days by 50%
– Increase organic traffic to our website by 50%
– Encourage and welcome our friends to become more actively involved in their online marketing and development campaigns
– Move entire office to Google Accounts or another client for calendars and email
– New coffee machine and wider variety of coffee selection for development office
– Quarter year internal audits and revision of internal and client development processes
– Monthly team building field trips outside of the office
– Add an additional software developer and graphic designer to staff
– Hire a great the right sales person
– Adopt summer agency hours
– Spend more dedicated time to internal projects and company website properties
– Increase office productivity to 90% efficiency of hours
– Allocate more reserve capital for employee bonuses and payroll
My Personal List
– Eat healthy, become more active and trim off excess pounds
– Read a book a month and blog about what I learned
– Understand and try Cricket out
– Increase my bowling average by 25
– Walk my dogs daily or every other day
– Kick the puffer habit once and for all
– Become more involved in business networking
– Focus and market my personal website projects
– Take 2 vacations (out of the USA)
– Schedule in daily exercise
– Work under 40 hours a week
– Learn fluent Spanish
– Attend 4 industry trade shows and training sessions
– Diversify my financial portfolio
– Audit and liquidate unused domain properties
– Find the right building to purchase
– Remove “dead weight” associates from my life
Thanks for listening and I hope there was something of value that you can take out of this. Remember, I am wanting your comments, suggestions and ideas.
Oh, one more thing. We normally close down for a week or so during Christmas to after New Year’s day. (although someone is always available to speak with) We’ve done this for years and plan to do it again this year. Many people have said to me “Wow, you give that much time off? How do you afford to do so? Things must be good eh?” Well, the truth is that we need this time off. We cannot afford not to.
My team busts their butts all year and quite frankly, society teaches us to work more and consume more: repeat. European’s have been known for and are referred to again and again with the amount of time that they take of from their work every year. We like this concept and are working towards making it happen at TM. Little by little, we’ll get there.
All of us here at Trademark truly wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday and prosperous new year. Thank you for the continuing patronage and business. We look forward to walking beside you in 2009.
and for our Spanish Friends…
and for our Jewish Friends…