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4 Common mistakes that can derail your blogging strategy [Interview]

Posted by Michael Reynolds

Apr 15, 2014 10:30:00 AM

Blogging is often the cornerstone of a great inbound marketing strategy. So why are so many people so bad at it? 

In this episode of The Digital Exec, we sit down with Marisa Smith, Head Brainiac of The Whole Brain Group, to discuss some of the biggest blogging faux pas people make. If you want to improve your blogging strategy, then this episode is for you.

We'll cover topics like the four biggest mistakes in blogging, what to do about them, and how to fall in love with your corporate blog again. If you want to learn how to turn your blog into a lead generation tool, then you'll want to listen!

If you're a visual person, you can watch the video of our Hangout. Or if you'd prefer the audio version, it's available here. You won't want to miss this opportunity to be entertained by two professionals while learning how to improve your corporate blog. 

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Michael Reynolds: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Digital Exec, a marketing and technology insights show for business leaders in the digital age. I'm Michael Reynolds, President/CEO of Spin Web, and your host today. We're online at Spin Web.net, and of course this show is online over at SpinWeb.TV.

I'm thrilled to be here today with Marisa Smith. Marisa is an inbound marketing certified expert and Head Braniac - I love that title -  Head Braniac at The Whole Brain Group. Marisa, how are you today?

Marisa Smith: Great. Thank you for having me.

Michael Reynolds: Awesome. Glad you're here. What is a Head Braniac?

Marisa Smith: (Laughs) Well, it's our fun term for the CEO, I suppose. Essentially, I'm in charge of running the agency. We have 12 people here, 12 Whole Braniacs who work for the company, and we're dedicated to helping growing companies with figuring how to generate leads and sales online, all that good stuff.

Michael Reynolds: Sounds good. You're an agency like us. We do similar things. Now, where are you located? 

Marisa Smith: We're in Ann Arbor, Michigan, so it is negative eight degrees, I think. Wind chill factor today. 

Michael Reynolds: I have spent a time in Ann Harbor. It's a great town. I'm glad you're here. I love our topic today, because I am a blogger. I love blogging. I love to write. I love the concept teaching via your blog. I love the topic we have today, which is four common mistakes that can derail your blogging strategy.

I just love digging into this, because I see so many companies make an effort to introduce blogging into their inbound marketing strategy. Some succeed, but some have failed miserably at it, because of these mistakes among others. We might get these matters to beyond just these four, but I love these four because they're very common. They're easy to fix, which is the good news, but not everybody really understands why they're problems, and how to fix them.

We'll start with the first one here: not creating a communication strategy surrounding your blog. What is that mean to not create a communication strategy?

Marisa Smith: A lot of people just dive in and start writing about whatever comes to mind without really thinking about who their target audience is and what kind of information they really need to know about in order to make a decision to buy from them. We find that a lot that people come in, and they're using it as news post or announcements about the conference they're attending. That has a place on your website, but really blogging is supposed to be about educating your ideal customer either so that they can make a buying decision more easily, or so that you can establish that leadership and expertise in your field. A lot of people just kind of dive in without any thought about what do you want people to do next after they read your blog post, what topics should you be writing about, what is your lead generation strategy, how are you going to circulate the content after you write your blog post.

There's a lot that goes into it beyond just putting 500 words down and chopping it up on your website. You can start that way to begin a good habit, but long-term, in order to make that blog work for you, you really need to think about focusing your blogging efforts, so that you don't spend a lot. Because blogging can be very time consuming. You could spend a lot of time writing without really getting an end results.

Michael Reynolds:  Wait. You're saying your blog is not a place to push your products, and services, and sale?

Marisa Smith: No. 

Michael Reynolds: What? Crazy talk. I want to hover on this topic for just a moment. How much does keyword research come into play when generating blog topics? I know with us, at SpinWeb, we do a lot of keyword research, and we generate lots of variations that lead us into really interesting topics. This seem work for you as well?

Marisa Smith: Yeah, we do that as well. We are HubSpot certified, so one of the things that we use is their blog topic generator. Sometimes we have our clients use that if they're having trouble coming up with topics to blog about. Obviously using all the keyword research that we've done is part of the strategy for them is really important to go after the longer tail key words, the things that you don't have a lot of competition for, picking a topic, and then making sure that you sprinkle those keywords in the key places throughout the blog. A lot of people don't even have their blog structured in a way that takes advantage of the SEO benefits of blogging. They don't put meta descriptions, for example, into their blogs when they post them. They don't use hashtags with a keyword in them.

It's really important to make sure that you know your blog is structured in a way that will take advantage of the SEO benefits that you can get once you start doing it properly.

Michael Reynolds: Yeah. We're HubSpot partners, as well. We love the tools offered. The new blog topic generator is actually pretty interesting. 

Marisa Smith: Right. The blog tool itself, some of our clients are using Wordpress for their blogs and others are using the HubSpot CMS. The thing we love about the HubSpot is that it will highlight for you when you forgotten to put a keyword in, or I will show you how many keywords you've been putting in your post. It's got this nice little interface for reminding you that that is one of the points of what you're doing. 

Michael Reynolds:  Right. Thinking of the points of what you're doing that's a good segue into the next point, which I love as well, is not inviting the readers to connect.

I've seen amount of blogs that they might have some decent content, but at the end of the article there's no links in it, there's no 'call to action,' there's nothing to do. Okay, great post. I'm going to go somewhere else now, and you've missed some opportunities. Tell me a little bit about what it means to invite readers to connect with your blog.

Marisa Smith: You're right. A lot of people think when they think about how people arrive at a blog post, they're thinking, well, they're going to come to my homepage, and they're going to see the list of blog post, they're going to read a blog post, they're going to go up to the navigation. They're thinking about people coming in from the front door, but in fact so many people come into your blog because they have searched on Google for a particular, you know, the answer to a question, and they find your blog. If you don't tell them that there's other stuff on your website, they won't go and look at it.

One thing that we always encourage people to do is to make sure that there are next steps at the bottom of the blog post that tell people straight out what you want them to do next, so you know, "Read this other blog post that we wrote," or "Download this e-book that we've written," making sure that you're using that opportunity to point people in the right direction of what you want them to do next. Sometimes, again, people are really busy when they're reading your blog, so you have to tell them straight out, "Hey. If you found this interesting, please share it with a friend," and people will look at that and say, "Oh Gosh. I could click share up there."  

It's kind of stating the obvious. It seems kind of silly, but we've found that when you do those things that it really does encourage engagement, if you remind people to leave a comment, as they what they think, it really does get people to engage with you a little bit more.

The second piece of that really is just thinking about blogging as a lead generation strategy. If you are subscribing to the inbound methodology, you would have a 'call to action' at the bottom of your blog poster on the side bar of your blog that would have content offers that are related to the blog post topic that you've got.

For example, our blog about common blogging mistakes to avoid, at the bottom of that we've got next steps to download our blogging checklist, which takes you to a landing page with a form. What we're doing there is we're getting people who are reading our blog to actually become contacts in our database, so we can continue to communicate with them moving forward, versus they come in, read your blog post, and close the window, and then you have no opportunity to engage with them moving forward.

Michael Reynolds: I'm such a nerd that I just gotten to a point where it just kills my soul every time I see a blog post with no 'call to action. It makes me feel, like, "Oh no!," if you're missing such opportunity.

Marisa Smith: Exactly.A lot of people don't put even sharing icons on their blog post that allow people to share those post really easily on Facebook and Twitter. It's such a simple thing, but people don't do it. Then they say, "Gosh. We spent all this time writing blog post and we only got five views." Maybe it's because nobody's telling anybody about your great content.

Michael Reynolds: Leaving these simple things out really hurt your chances of getting more visibility.

Marisa Smith: Exactly.

Michael Reynolds: It's definitely no brainer, so those are very good points. I love this next point because you talked about sounding like a robot. Now, I encounter this all the time. I encounter blogs that it's a corporation, a business that is attempting to generate traffic and awareness through a blogging strategy, but every blog post they write is just you can tell it's for SEO, you can tell it's just cranked out by some offshore content farm or something or someone with no heart or really inspiration behind it, but just kind of cranking out content. It sounds very weak, very surface, and that kills my soul, too. What is it that causes these companies to generate robotic sounding blog post, and how can we fix that?

Marisa Smith: You hit the nail on the head that a lot of times people, they take the advice about SEO too strongly, and then they end up with things that are four common blogging mistakes to avoid when blogging on your corporate blog, and they're trying to still kind of keyword stuffing, but in the wrong way. They're aiming to please the search engine versus aiming to make the blog post to actually helpful and useful to a real person.

Michael Reynolds: Right.

Marisa Smith: Really keeping in mind that who ... Again, I go back to who's your target audience, what is their paying, what information are they looking for? If your target audience is scientists, you may not want to use the word "dude" in your blog post.

Your tone and voice needs to match with your target audience. It also needs to match who you are as a company, particularly in service companies where what they're selling is their team or their expertise. We frequently find that people are trying to pun on errors maybe. Their content comes off as being stuffy or super professional, and then in person they're more casual people and they've attracted kind of the wrong folks that will be a good fit for their company. It's really a combination of making sure you're being authentic in your tone and voice, and then making sure that you're tailoring it to who you're trying to attract as well. You got to have both sides of the coin. 

Michael Reynolds: I could not agree more. A lot of times this comes from a place where a lot of people don't understand. They really get inbound marketing and the content strategy, and so they say things like blogging is just basically throwing a bunch of keywords out there, and getting SEO, and it's not really valuable stuff, and they just don't get it.

Marisa Smith: Right.

Michael Reynolds: To me, when I write a blog post, I'm not even thinking about SEO, I'm not thinking about the sales and marketing part of it. I have to get in the mindset of teaching a concept that I want my audience to get because I want to help them. If you make that your primary focus when you're writing a blog post, it's going to be great. Because it's just as if you're sitting across the table from a client, and they've asked you a question, and you are giving them consulting.

Marisa Smith: Exactly.

Michael Reynolds: That's really what a blog post should be in my opinion. Would you agree?

Marisa Smith:  I would totally agree with you. Yep. I think the other piece of I that I was thinking about in terms of the robot piece is that, sometimes in companies they've got more than one person trying to blog. They're trying to figure out what the tone of voice should be, and so instead of letting different people's personalities come out, they dell it down to the lowest common denominator, and then nobody's got any personality, whatsoever.

Like you said, thinking about yourself as a teacher, and using words that a normal person would understand, making sure it's readable to eighth grade level or below, not using a lot of jargon. All of those things are really important when you're thinking about, "What if I were trying to explain this to my fifth grader," for example. Thinking about the fact that your audience may know absolutely nothing about what you're trying to teach them, and you have to maybe go back to the fundamentals in some cases. I think that's really important to think about what mindset is the person going to be and who's reading the post, so that you can explain the right information. 

Michael Reynolds: Yeah. This actually brings us to the point of being bored with your blog.nYou also mentioned here when you wrote about this. What causes people to be bored with your blog, and how do they overcome this?

Marisa Smith: I think especially for people who've been blogging for a couple of years. You start to feel ... At the beginning there's so much that you could educate people about. You can basically do a big brainstorming exercise and think about whether they frequently ask questions that we get, whether you wish people knew about us. You have a standard set of brainstorming questions that we use with our customers to get them to think about potential  blog posts. Once you've hit all those topics, you can start to get tired of hearing yourself talk. At that point we frequently will recommend get a guest blogger that come in, or maybe get somebody else on your team to ... You could interview them. If they're not a good writer, start mixing it up with the podcast, or something like, just to mix up the topics that you’re writing about, and maybe that it's time to do another brainstorming exercise.

Maybe you've run all of those topics that you came up about a year ago, but maybe there’s new stuff that you should be talking about. A lot of times, we recommend this that people bring their sales team in at that point, because it’s frequently kind of the marketing team is working on their own silo, and the sales team's working over on the other side. You can get people on the same room and ask the sales team, "What is it that you find yourself explaining over, and over, and over again? What do you wish people would ask you about our company, or about our industry, or about our products and services? What are the common misconceptions that you run into that we could clear up with a few blog post? That can help get some fresh ideas into the funnel, and make it so that you're not a stale, I guess.

Michael Reynolds: Obviously, we're missed if I didn’t mention that somebody, these people say, "I don't want to spend all my time blogging. Can I outsource it?" Yes. You and I both have companies that we can do this for them as well. That is an option. I just want to mention that. For those who are blogging internally themselves, these are really good points to pay attention to, and really be aware of.

Is there anything else that you've seen in corporate blogging strategies that just, like I said, kills your soul, just make you, you know, crinkle up your nose and say, "Oh. Stop it. Fix this thing." If there's one thing that you’re going to fix, what's that going to be?

Marisa Smith: I mentioned that at the very beginning of where people think of their blog as just a mouthpiece for announcement and news. Again, I think there’s a place to sprinkle that in here and there, but if all people see on your blog is, "Hey. We’re going to be at this conference," and "Hey. We just won this award," and, "Hey. This is the exciting stuff going on in our company."

Michael Reynolds: Yeah. Nobody cares.

Marisa Smith: Nobody cares. Nobody’s coming back to your website going, "Gosh. I wonder what’s new at XYZ company." What they're looking for is, "I need to understand why I should buy this widget," or, "How do I choose between widget A and widget B." They’re looking to be educated. I do think why some of that stuff happens is because when people first started doing internet marketing, there was a different philosophy about how to use the internet to promote your company.

Now, with this inbound methodology of education, and attracting like-minded people, and all that, you really have to be more comfortable with sharing more information and not worried about the transparency that you’re putting out there by sharing this information. I do think that people sometimes, they get a little too protective, I guess, of their own information, and so you know you get to a blog, and it’s just kind of scans the surface. If they're not just talking about their news and announcements, they've got kind of fluff, I guess I would say, on the blog. A little bit of information, but not enough that you could actually do anything useful with it.

Michael Reynolds: Yeah. There's no meat to it.

Marisa Smith: There’s no meat to it, exactly. Sometimes it feels like a book report. Like they've gone out and done research on other people’s websites, and they’re just coming back and reporting bullet points of what they found versus actually showing their expertise, and showing that they understand the pain of the person who’s sitting on the other side of the monitor.

Michael Reynolds: You're not giving away all your corporate secrets. You can be copied when it's just marketing process or whatever content you’re putting out there. You can copy that, but you can’t copy innovation.  You can’t copy what makes the company innovative,You can’t copy their culture. 

I wish more organizations would let go of their fear and understand that, and really commit to either doing it themselves or allowing us for them to unlock all that knowledge they have, and share it. Because that’s really what generates leads and customers, because that brings them closer to your organization, while the other guys are, they’re keeping their stuff a secret, and you can’t get to know them.

Marisa Smith: People sometimes get really worried, too, about being too perfect, too. So on the other side of the coin, some people who are just skimming the surface and not really giving you any meat. The other side of the coin, you've got people who are writing pages, and pages of content, but it takes them three months to get one blog post written because everybody in the company has an opinion. It's got to be fact checked.

They maybe have four blog posts done, because it's been this gargantuan effort. It’s how to find that happy medium where you can churn out contents that's high quality enough that you may showcase your expertise, but without it turning into the seminal work on you know ... You're not going for a Nobel prize here.

Michael Reynolds: Exactly.

Marisa Smith: That happy medium I think is the toughest thing for people who don't do this all the time. 

Michael Reynolds: Right. I agree completely. 

Michael Reynolds:  Well, this has been a real pleasure. Like I said, blogging is a source of great interest and inspiration to me. I think it's the keystone of many inbound marketing strategies. I'm glad we have a chance to talk today. I know that you and I are in similar businesses. We're both digital agencies. We both do similar things, so I guess we're competitors, but that's okay. Because there's plenty of room for both of us to help our clients, and actually we're going to be in the conference together coming up with all of other competitors as well.

Marisa Smith: That's right.

Michael Reynolds:  I certainly don't mind hearing more about what you do in your company, who you help, who your target markets are. Tell me a little bit more about Whole Brain Group.

Marisa Smith: Our company has been around for 12 years now. We actually started off as a custom software development company way back in the day it was my spin out, out of the University of Michigan when I first got started. I did a lot of database programming, web programming, and what not. My passion for doing things efficiency and using electronic tools to help businesses work more efficiently and grow. Got translated into  developing a couple of products, which then I got interested in Marketing. It evolved over the years.

Just in the last four or five years we've really shifted our focus into web marketing and website design. We do a lot of Wordpress development, inbound marketing support. We do some application design a little bit still, but primarily we work with growing companies who are kind of in that we're at second stage where they've set ambitious revenue goals, and they're trying to figure out, okay, I want to double my revenue in the next three years. How do I do that? How do I get the leads and sales that I need to take it to the next level?

A lot of times we find along with just the normal inbound marketing strategy that people really struggle with the sales process, too. They don't have a CRM. They've got the owner who's been doing the all the sales. There's no process. Nothing's documented. Everything is in his or her head. We really like to work with businesses like that who are trying to figure out the business process that goes underneath the achievement of those goals. We use a process called "traction" with our customers that helps them identify what their priorities are, and set goals, and get traction basically.

Michael Reynolds:  Was that based on the book "Traction?"

Marisa Smith: Yes, it is.

Michael Reynolds:  Very good.

Marisa Smith: Yeah. We use that book in our own company, and then we've actually translated that same system into our work with our marketing and sales customers as well. We use the exact same methodology, and it really is helpful to have a structure around our work with them, because otherwise you've got this bright shinny object syndrome that you were mentioning before we got started.

Michael Reynolds: (Laughs) Right.

Marisa Smith: By using a system like that you can say, "Look. We know you have this vision of where you want your company to be, but you can't have it by Friday, so let's prioritize everything that you want to get done. Let's work backwards, and pick three or four things that we're going to focus on every quarter. Check them off. Move on to the next set of things. When you get to the end of the year, and suddenly you've got a beautiful new website, and 55 blog posts, and a downloadable resource center, and all of this great stuff that you couldn't have dreamed of getting accomplished at the beginning of the year."

Michael Reynolds: A real pleasure speaking with you, Marisa. Thank you so much.

Marisa Smith: Thank you.            

Michael Reynolds: Okay. This has been a lot of good information on blogging. I know they'll help our readers to have great ... Readers ... (Laughs) ... Help our listeners, and watchers, viewers a great deal. Whether you're viewing or listening in your podcast as you workout or drive, I know it's been very helpful. Marisa, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

Marisa Smith: Thank you. 

Michael Reynolds: Thanks everyone for joining us. Have a great day.

Tune in next time for our next installment of The Digital Exec, your source for becoming an expert in the latest and greatest technology. 

 

 

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Topics: blogging

7 Lessons from HubSpot and inbound marketing agency culture

Posted by Stephanie Fisher

Apr 10, 2014 12:54:23 PM

PartnerDayWhat happens when some of the most innovative inbound marketing agencies gather in one place? This week I found out.

[Get our free Inbound Marketing Executive Summary if you want the low-down on inbound.]

I traveled with my co-workers, Allison and Michael, to Boston for HubSpot Partner Day earlier this week. HubSpot is the powerful marketing software platform that we use along with our clients. HubSpot goes above and beyond to educate, support, and collaborate with their users. In this case, they invited their platinum and gold partners like SpinWeb to their offices for a two-day event called Partner Day.

I found that this group of professionals, the inbound marketing industry, is unique. We learned several lessons from this group, from HubSpot and their culture, that we're excited about.

Here are the lessons we learned:

1. We're not just selling software.

HubSpot's business model isn't just about selling their software or retainer services, and neither is ours. The bigger goal is changing the way marketing is done and getting amazing results for our clients. To serve this goal, we believe in educating the customer, giving away the information you need, and being there when you're ready to invest in the process. And by the way, it's a process that works ... which leads to my next point.

2. Inbound marketing works.

Collaborating with your competitors may sound counterintuitive, but it's the kind of culture we found at HubSpot. This is the new landscape of marketing, where agencies come together and share their stories and experience. We learned from our peers that not only is inbound working for our clients and for SpinWeb, it's working for others who are doing it right. We learned that we're doing things right and it was great to share those stories of success, as well as learn lessons about how to improve and innovate.

On the topic of collaboration, Allison said, "A lot of times marketing agencies have a cut throat mentality and they are out to get each other. Really, we're all doing something well and we can learn from each other to improve. This industry changes so fast; by utilizing these opportunities to collaborate it helps all of our clients, and therefore all of our businesses. We're able to stay ahead of the game."

3. Listen to the customer.

It was amazing to see the way HubSpot valued and craved feedback from their customers and partners. We work with a lot of software vendors and I can tell you, their model is very different. We can all learn a valuable lesson from it. 

How are we listening to our customers and using that feedback to get better and better? Do you have a process for it? Do you have ideas for how we at SpinWeb can listen to you and serve you better? If so, speak up in the comments or email me.

steph-michael-allisonLeft to right: Steph, Michael and Allison at HubSpot Partner Day

 

4. Share the knowledge.

Not only did we learn new techniques, processes, and ideas from our peers in the industry, we got to look under the hood of Hubspot. We saw some of the new features coming out and got pretty excited. I signed up to be in an elite Beta group to test some of the new features that haven't been released yet. I'm really excited to see how the new features work, and provide feedback on how to improve the software.

Every part of the software comes back to the same thing: How will this help our clients grow their business and get the results they want? How can we connect all the dots and makes things easier for the user?These websites are powerful tools, not just to look pretty but to get you leads and customers! That gets us excited, can you tell?

5. Transparency is key.

Allison said it best after the conference, when we were discussing HubSpot's culture: "When there's an issue they recognize it. They're the first to admit when there's a problem. Hubspot is incredibly transparent, and so we can be transparent with our clients in return."

6. Jump in feet first.

Brian Halligan, HubSpot's CEO, shared with the group the history and vision of the company and it was super inspiring. Michael said this was one of the highlights of Partner Day for him, "Halligan's presentation was all about transparency and I got really excited about the innovation in their platform. Their database makes relational databases look like the Model T." Which translates to: HubSpot is on the frontlines of this industry. We feel 100% confident that this is what we want for our clients, and what will help you succeed in your business goals.

7. We all have a place at the table.

It's thrilling to see our clients succeed. We have the case studies to prove inbound marketing on the HubSpot platform works for our clients, and so do others in the profession. We have the support from HubSpot to be the best inbound marketing agency we can be, and because we have that place at the table, we're able to turn around and give our clients a seat, too. In your business or nonprofit organization, are you finding ways to bring your clients and members to the table? How can you provide that support and leadership for them?

These were the lessons I learned from HubSpot Partner day, and from other inbound marketing agencies.

As a content developer, I came away with new ideas for collaborating with my clients and coworkers to create amazing, effective content to convert leads to customers.

Allison was inspired to jump feet first into embracing the new COS (HubSpot's Content Optimization System, which is their new website platform).

Michael was excited about some of the new features and changes coming to Signals, HubSpot's integrated sales tool, how it can help our clients take their inbound marketing efforts and follow it through to the sales process.

Oh, and one last thing: we were inspired to have more candy at the office!

hubspot-candy-bar

How do you and your organization learn from peers, from other professionals, and the service providers you rely on? Share your stories in the comments below!

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Topics: inbound marketing

How long does it take to see results from Inbound Marketing?

Posted by Michael Reynolds

Apr 10, 2014 10:00:00 AM

Unless you spend a lot on ad buys or get featured on Ellen, there are very few quick fixes or "overnight success" tactics in marketing. To really succeed it takes time, effort, funding, and consistency.

Inbound Marketing is no exception. To really see the long-term benefits from Inbound Marketing it takes time. How much time? Like many things, the short answer is "it depends."

runner

Inbound Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes months of foundational work and strategy to plant the right seeds and get your return on investment. Let's look at some examples.

Below is an example of website traffic analytics for a manufacturing company doing Inbound Marketing. As you can see the increase has been slow and steady over time but has resulted in a 2x increase in website traffic over 24 months.

manufacturing-traffic

There are a lot of factors to consider here. In this particular case, this company was blogging about every week and generating content at a fairly slow pace. However, they are still seeing strong lead generation and enjoying good ROI from these efforts. By increasing the pace of content generation, they would begin to see even faster results.

In this next example, we look at a software company. In this snapshot of one year, we can see that they have enjoyed a dramatic increase in website traffic, up to 14x or 1400%.

software-traffic

What did they do differently? This company invested in an Inbound Marketing program that included weekly blogging and a more aggressive content generation schedule. They have offers going out every other month at minimum and as a result they are seeing faster results that are much more dramatic.

In addition to traffic, they have also grown their customer base by over 1,000 users in one year. In this example, a faster content schedule leads to faster results.

Let's look at one more example from a training company. In this example, we'll just narrow it down to SEO specifically since that was their primary concern. As you see, within 6 months of starting an Inbound Marketing program, they began to see a dramatic increase in traffic from search.

training-seo

Again, this is the result of weekly blogging, regular content publishing, and a strategy that includes social media and other components. Results in this case were seen pretty quickly also due to the type of audience they were targeting and the level of (or lack of) competition in the marketplace.

Moz also has a nice explanation of the time investment required for SEO in their article titled "Surviving the SEO Slog" and illustrated in this chart:

seo-slog

"The Slog" is that period of time when the powers that be (clients, bosses, boards of directors) are sweating and wondering where the ROI is. Getting to the point where you see returns from your efforts takes time.

So what does this mean for your organization? The bottom line is, the more you invest the faster you go. Some general guidelines are:

  • Expect at least one year before momentum starts to kick in
  • Stay the course and understand the long-term benefits
  • Work with your agency to get content approved and published quickly or your results can be stifled
  • Understand that there are always exceptions

Have other questions about what to expect when investing in an Inbound Marketing program? Leave your comments below!

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Topics: inbound marketing

Hey, marketing directors: agencies are not after your job

Posted by Michael Reynolds

Apr 8, 2014 10:00:00 AM

We love marketing directors. There, I said it.

Really, we love all marketing pros, from directors to coordinators and managers and anyone who loves great marketing as much as we do.

We love creating and executing amazing inbound marketing campaigns and strategies and when we work with a great company that has a great marketing lead... wow, we can really produce some amazing results.

However, we sometimes find that some marketing directors don't love digital agencies like us. We get it. You have a tough job to do.

scared

Your day-to-day schedule includes overseeing marketing campaigns, managing social media properties, figuring out how to generate leads, fighting with the sales team, and begging for a budget, all the while trying to convince your boss or board that what you do is valuable.

Being a marketing director is tough. We understand because many of us were once (or more than once) marketing directors at various organizations before joining an agency. We feel your pain and share in your successes. We understand your world.

It seems that sometimes you are resistant to talking to an agency because it might be a sign of weakness or that we will threaten your job. Perhaps you're worried that if your company hires an agency like us they won't need you anymore.

Perhaps you feel like you already have everything figured out and that you're good to go.

While all of these notions are understandable, we want to encourage you to think differently about it.

Our most successful relationships are built around a scenario in which we are working directly with a marketing director (or coordinator/manager). Why? Because you can do things that we can't and we can do things that you can't and together we make a great team.

So what are some areas that you are great at?

Internal Research and Buy-in

Great inbound marketing is made better when the company culture supports it. Sure, as an agency we can write great content and generate leads for you but the real magic happens when we can get inside the heads of your sales people, your customer service team, and your CEO. As an agency team, we don't really have direct access to those people on a daily basis.

However, you (as the marketing director) work with these professionals every day and can extract the knowledge, expertise, and topics that help us do our jobs even better.

When you lead weekly marketing/sales integration meetings to stay in sync with the pulse of sales, this gives us the fuel we need to accelerate your results. When you poll the customer service team to gather the top questions that your customers ask over and over, this gives us a gold mine of content that helps us produce the right content for your audience.

Big-picture Organizational Strategy

As your digital agency, we are focused on a very specific agenda: growing your website traffic, generating leads, and filling your sales pipeline. However, we do not develop your strategic vision or set financial objectives for you. We don't do your person-to-person networking for you.

These are things that you, as the marketing lead, are great at. While we run your inbound marketing program, you can focus on the big picture. How much growth do you want to see next year? What strategic partnerships make sense to pursue? What support can you give to sales? These are places where you can really shine and are areas that we are not focused.

Thought Leadership

While inbound marketing enhances thought leadership for your company, there is something magical about having a "face" and a "voice" of the company's marketing.

We love to see marketing directors giving presentations, doing interviews, and doing social media community management. These are all areas that are best handled by you. What we do supports your efforts and your thought leadership can really push the program further.

So what can we do that helps you?

Diversity in Skill Set

Go out and try to hire someone who is an SEO expert, social media marketer, a great writer, an analytics pro, a creative strategist, a designer, a developer, and a technical manager and see who you can find. Still searching?

You're not going to find one person who can do all that. While you may have some of these skills, it really makes more sense to partner with an agency that has a team of people to do all this at the fraction of what it cost to hire all those skills in-house.

Innovation and Trend Analysis

You are (for the most part) solely focused on your own company... as you should be. However, we are working with lots of different organizations across different industries. We are also attending conferences and engaging in lots of professional development that keeps us abreast of trends and best practices in marketing.

This means we can bring you fresh perspective. We can bring ideas to you that come from outside your daily world and can be a powerful supplement to your big-picture strategies as well as your inbound marketing program.

Accountability and Results

Would it be nice to have a whole team of marketing pros working for you, driving results, and making you look like a hero? That's us!

Your agency should support your vision, prove results, and make you look great. Even when you get busy and pulled into other things going on in your company, we're always executing the program and reporting results. This frees you up for the other 17 things that inevitably pop up every day demanding your attention.

So what you can see is...

We are not after your job. We want to partner with you. We want to support your vision and create a great inbound marketing program together.

Marketing is often (unfortunately) de-valued and under-funded but in reality it is an incredibly important component of your business.

So to all the hardworking marketing pros out there, we love working with you and salute your commitment to creating great marketing. Thank you for all you do.

Oh, and when things get too stressful, don't forget the emergency kittens.

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Topics: inbound marketing, collaboration

10 minor tweaks to immediately improve your social media experience

Posted by Michael Reynolds

Apr 3, 2014 10:00:00 AM

While social media is a part of our agency culture here at SpinWeb, we understand that everyone has different priorities and job descriptions.

However, no matter what you do professionally chances are you are using social media to some extent. Maybe you just use Facebook to keep in touch with friends or maybe you do research on Twitter to stay current on industry trends.

Or maybe you're like me and you are connected to thousands of people from all over the world and social media is simply part of your communication habits.

However you use social media, I'm guessing you encounter daily annoyances. Sometimes you just get tired of seeing certain things people post on Facebook (i.e. politics, religion, cat videos). Other times you just feel lost and don't seem to be enjoying social media as much as you used to because of all the noise.

Not to worry. There are some ways that you can instantly "optimize" your social media experience through some apps, tactics, and methods that we'll cover here.

The following is a look into specific ways to improve your experience grouped by social network.

Facebook

If you're not on Facebook, you're probably not really using social media at all and we're amazed you even found this blog. Stop reading now and enjoy your day! For everyone else, let's dig into the cocktail party that is Facebook to see how we can improve our experience.

The "unfollow" option is your friend. Do you often see posts by people on Facebook that annoy you? Of course you do. However, if you don't want to blatantly un-friend them (which is so aggressive!) all you have to do is "unfollow them" and you'll stop seeing their updates. You'll remain friends and they'll never know but your news feed will become more interesting and pleasant.

To unfollow someone, just click the little down-arrow to the right of their name and choose "Unfollow [NAME]" and they will no longer appear in your news feed.

Facebook-unfollow

By the way, you should most definitely not unfollow Rocky Walls. He's awesome. And hilarious. Actually, go follow him now while I wait.

Unfollowing is nice because you still get to be Facebook friends but your news feed improves and makes room for people who actually post things that interest you. As you do this more and more your Facebook experience will start to get better each time.

Unsubscribe from Facebook emails. If you find yourself getting inundated with emails from Facebook every time someone comments on something or messages you, go to your account settings and turn all email notifications off.

Facebook-emails

This ensures that your inbox stays clean and that you will only see notifications upon logging into Facebook.

Twitter

Twitter is a fire hose of information and can wear down the best of us. It can take steely nerves to keep up with all the chatter but there are some ways to make Twitter much more useful.

Create Twitter lists. Once you start to follow more than a few hundred people on Twitter, it can get hard to keep up. To help keep things organized, group your followers into lists. For example, if you are interested in football, science, and marketing, you might create a list for each of these interests and then assign people to the appropriate list.

Neil deGrasse Tyson would go into your "science" list, while SpinWeb would go into your "marketing" list. See what I did there? Of course all football-related accounts would also be grouped accordngly. So now, when you want to catch up on marketing-related information you can simply click on that list to see it all in one place.

Twitter-lists

Use Tweetbot to filter and mute. If you still find yourself overwhelmed or annoyed by people posting things you don't want but you don't want to unfollow them because they still sometimes post good stuff, try Tweetbot. This app (iPhone only) will let you "mute" certain types of posts.

You can mute certain hashtags, posts from certain Twitter clients that schedule stuff (like Buffer) and even all those "My run time was 12 minutes and 47 seconds... I'm a superstar!" posts by your over-ambitious athletic friends who connect their running hardware to their Twitter accounts (we get it... you're fast).

By muting the stuff that you don't want, you can enjoy a much cleaner Twitter stream and get more value from it.

Pinterest

I'll admit it... I really like Pinterest. It's the one social media site that is 100% fun and not work-related. Pinterest is pretty pleasant to use already but I didn't "get" it for a while until I figure out how to make it fit into my life by doing this...

Treat Pinterest like a "dream board" or a lifestyle encyclopedia. If you treat Pinterest like Facebook or Twitter, you'll get frustrated because it doesn't push information or updates at you like other networks. It doesn't keep you up to date on what your friends are doing. It just is.

So with that in mind, it makes sense to use Pinterest more like an information repository. For example, I set up boards on Pinterest that I can just dump information into and then forget about until I need it.

I have a "Dream Vacation" board so that whenever I read about a place I want to travel, I just pin it to that board knowing I can reference it later when it comes time to plan a vacation. I have a "Home Ideas" board for stuff related to home projects I want to do. I have holiday boards so that I am not scrambling for holiday ideas at the end of every year. A (private) board for gift ideas is also handy... maybe even organize it by friends and family members.

Pinterest-boards

Now, I don't really think about Pinterest too much but it comes in really handy in two main situations. 1) when I see some information I want to keep and don't know where to put it and 2) when I want to travel, work on a project, or otherwise plan something and I need ideas and inspiration. Thanks, Pinterest!

LinkedIn

I love LinkedIn. Yes, it's true... I'm all about business so it's no surprise. However, a lot of people never log into LinkedIn because they don't really know what to do with it. We happen to have an entire ebook on LinkedIn if you want a more in-depth look but here are some immediate tactics that will improve your experience.

Join a few (not too many) groups. LinkedIn groups are one of the best parts of this network. The problem most people have is that they either don't join any groups, or they join too many or the wrong groups.

Try to pick 3-5 groups that you are really interested in. Don't just randomly join groups that sort of align wth your business, pick stuff that is really exciting to you. LinkedIn has a directory of popular groups you can start with. Once you join, make sure you opt in to getting discussions emailed to you (opposite of Facebook) so that you can stay connected to discussions that interest you. For more active groups, a daily or even weekly digest will be more appropriate.

Use the LinkedIn iPad app for daily news. The LinkedIn iPad app is absolutely beautiful. If you treat it like a daily newspaper and customize it with your interests and preferences, you will find yourself enjoying LinkedIn more and more. Additionally, if you connect it with your Google Calendar, it will give you intelligence on who you're meeting with.

Google+

Google+ is newer and hasn't really caught on yet in some circles (no pun intended... or was it?) but it is showing promise and has some really nice features. Here are some ways to make it work better for you.

Segment ruthessly. Remember Twitter lists? Google+ is all about circles. You can assign people into circles to segment them by labels, interests, and categories. Then, you can quickly jump to the circle you want to get information from as needed.

Use Google+ as your photo sharing site. You can share photos on Facebook and other sites but Google+ treats your photos with loving care. While other sites degrade quality and convert your photos to low-res versions, Google+ displays beautiful high-res photos that you can easily share. It also lets you link your smart phone to your profile so that all your photos are automaticallty backed up.

Follow only really really smart people. Obvious? Maybe. However, I've noticed that a lot of people treat Google+ like Facebook and just accept everyone. However, I'm finding that by being super-picky I'm getting a lot of value from Google+. Aside from close friends and family, I only circle people I know personally, or that are extreme thought leaders.

Since I'm a marketing nerd, this includes people like Chris Brogan and Christopher Penn. Find the thought leaders in your industry and circle them. Then be really picky about adding anyone else.

Tune Your Social Media Experience

As you can see, your social media experience is what you make of it. Some people complain that they don't "get" certain networks or that there is "too much noise" but don't forget that you're in control. There are plenty of apps, settings, and tactics that can help you improve your social media experience.

What are some of your favorite hacks, tactics, or tools for optimizing your social media experience? Share your feedback below!

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Topics: social media

How much does inbound marketing cost?

Posted by Michael Reynolds

Apr 1, 2014 10:00:00 AM

Inbound Marketing works. There is undeniable proof of that through case studies, stories, and real-world results.

However, one concern many people have is "how much does it cost?"

I always like to say "it's free!" and while it's said partially in jest, I also happen to believe it's true. Here's why.

ipad-charts

Inbound Marketing is not an expense. It's an investment. And not in the sleazy, salesy way of saying "remember, buddy... this new car is in investment in your lifestyle!"

Inbound marketing is a serious, legitimate investment in your business and like all investements it should generate a return.

So before we get more into that, let's look at the numbers. To create and execute a successful Inbound Marketing program with an agency, you need to be prepared to spend about $60,000/year + software expenses. This is an estimate. Sometimes you can spend a little less and get decent results. Other times bigger companies see value in spending $100,000 or more per year to achieve faster results.

So why would a company spend so much money on Inbound Marketing? Because (when done correctly) it can generate a tremendous return.

Before we get too deep, we need to understand what type of business Inbound Marketing is (and is not) a good fit for. Inbound Marketing works very well for organizations that sell a high-value service or collect a high dollar amount per sale. It can also be great for scalable organizations that can do lots of volume, like a software company.

Some examples include manufacturing companies, professional services firms, software companies, financial services, real estate, and even non-profits (what's a large donor or sponsor worth?).

Industries that may have more of a challenge justifying Inbound Marketing might include local restaurants or other small businesses with a limited audience and limited ability to scale. The revenue per customer just can't sustain the investment in Inbound Marketing.

So if we go back to the industries that work well, the return on investment of an Inbound Marketing program can make a lot of sense. We'll use a consulting firm as an example. It could be a law firm, engineering firm, or financial services firm but we'll just say "consulting firm" to keep it simple. Let's say that the average revenue from a single engagement is $15,000. If an investment in Inbound Marketing results in over 4 new clients that year (assuming a $60,000 investment) then we can see that the program has paid off.

In a scalable business like a software company, we look more at volume. Since there is little to no overhead in signing on a new customer, a software company can scale very quickly. Even if a subscription is $99/month, it would take less than 1,000 new customers in a year to justify an Inbound Marketing program. Fore more expensive B2B software apps, the numbers become even more favorable.

Not to leave out the non-profits, if your target is $10,000 donors and sponsors, you can begin to see how things can add up.

So why do I say that an Inbound Marketing program is free? Do the math.

The caveat to all this is that there are no guarantees in marketing, ever. No matter what type of marketing you do, there is always a risk. Anything in life that involves getting a return on investment involves some risk. This is true for your mutual funds, your home, your employees, and it's true for your marketing program. However, the advantage of Inbound Marketing is that it's measurable, it's agile, and it has a proven track record.

Another thing to consider is the idea that a healthy marketing spend is at least 5% of revenue. Some companies spend more but you don't want to dip too far below 5% or you start to under invest in the lifeblood of your business. In a recent podcast episode, financial expert Greg Crabtree goes into detail about how to set a marketing budget.

So, to recap:

  • Be prepard to spend around $60,000 - $100,000/year (plus or minus) on Inbound Marketing
  • Look at your program as a long-term investment
  • Do the math to see how well it makes sense for your business
  • At least 5% of revenue is a healthy marketing spend
  • Be prepared to take a risk (like all marketing is) but understand that it's a well-managed risk

Have other questions about Inbound Marketing? Post your comments below!

 

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Topics: financial, inbound marketing

Expand your conference room with Chromebox for Meetings

Posted by Michael Reynolds

Mar 27, 2014 10:01:00 AM

If your organization is a ROWE like SpinWeb is, you probably have some team members that work remotely at least some of the time. Whether it be from home, from a coffee shop, or while traveling, we all know that work can happen anywhere.

Or maybe you are a multi-location company with team members all over the state or the country and you need an easy way to collaborate as a group. Sure, you can use Skype or Google Hangouts to meet 1-2-1 but what if you have a group meeting with more than a few people?

Until now, you had to rely on awkwardly placing laptops at the end of conference tables, messing with clunky speakerphones, or spending a lot of money on fancy video conferencing equipment.

However, Google has a great new product that we could not resist trying out here at SpinWeb. It's called the Chromebox for Meetings.

It's basically a hardware kit that is integrated into Google Hangouts. I got mine from my buddy Alan Cook at CDW and he did an awesome job of speeding things along and getting the license provisioned so we could start using it right away. If you want to get one for your office (or if you have any other tech supply needs), give Alan a shout at AlanCoo@cdw.com or 877.325.6618 and he will hook you up with amazing customer service.

When I first received the Chromebox for Meetings, it looked a little bit intimidating since there were quite a few parts to configure but it ended up being no big deal once I got things unpacked.

The Chromebox for Meetings consists mainly of these components: webcam, speaker/mic, hardware box, cables, and remote. The main unit is a small box a little bigger than a ROKU or Apple TV.

chromebox

It has USB and HMDI ports so you can connect it to your TV as well as plug in a keyboard (in addition to the webcam and speaker/mic).

The webcam is your basic Logitech webcam that is designed to perch on top of the TV. I don't know if there is anything unique about it specific to the Chromebox for Meetings but it looks pretty standard.

chromebox-webcam

It's really easy to adjust and sits nicely atop the TV screen.

Next, I plugged in the speaker/mic, which is the most useful and significant element in the system. I say that because audio quality is usually the problem when conducting remote meetings.

chromebox-speaker-mic

The speaker and microphone are combined into one small unit that sits on the table and connects to the Chromebox for Meetings unit via USB cable. And holy cow... it sounds great! As we tested the audio with remote team members, the feedback was that sound quality was excellent. Even when we compared sound by sitting at different parts of the conference table (both near the unit and farther away) there was no degradation in sound quality.

After plugging everything in, the next step was to enroll the device. Upon startup, we had to set a few preferences and then sign in with a Google Apps account. I got stuck here because the device was not yet provisioned by Google and CDW so I gave Alan a shout and he sped things along for me (thanks, Alan!) and the next morning I was all set. I signed in, configured a few more settings, and then the final step was to connect a resource to the Chromebox for Meetings.

We had a resource already set up in our Google Apps account "Conference Table" so I connected this resource to the Chromebox for Meetings (this is all done on the web via your Google Apps admin interface). What this means is that now all we need to do is add the Conference Table resource to any meeting and it automatically creates a Google Hangout that anyone on the invitation can join.

For example, we have a weekly team meeting called "Team Huddle" on our calendars. I added the "Conference Table" resource to the appointment which means that anyone who is remote can jump into the meeting by clicking the link on their calendars and they are connected via the Chromebox for Meetings.

The user interface is pretty nice. When no meeting is in progress it displays the next upcoming meeting on the display (if there is one scheduled soon).

chromebox-creen

All you need to do is select the meeting and start the Hangout with the included remote. All set! The video quality from an attendee standpoint is crystal clear. The reports we got during testing were that is the was the best audio/video quality we've ever seen.

The webcam view is wide enough that it shows pretty much everyone at the meeting with room to spare.

chromebox-table

So what make the Chromebox for Meetings to unique and useful when compared to just using a laptop to conference people in?

For one thing, the audio and video quality make a huge difference. When you're not worrying about dropped phrases and choppy video, it makes collaboration much easier. It feels more like you're actually there. Because the speaker/mic are one unit, there is no echo and it sounds clear and natural.

Next, the ease of setting up meetings is awesome. Before, we would have to say "can someone Skype in so-and-so" and we would perch a laptop at the end of the table and try to make it work with limited success. Now, we can just click a button on a remote and start the Hangout.

Another thing that helps is that it makes remote team members "life sized" because they show up on the TV screen which makes it feel more like they are in the room.

chromebox-chris

So in all, we're very pleased with Chromebox for Meetings. The total cost is about $1500 which is much lower than "big company" video conferencing systems.

What do I love about it most? It reduces the friction between in-office meetings and remote team members. Anything that streamlines collaboration leads to better results and I would say this device is well worth the investment.

Are you using Chromebox for Meetings? What has been your experience?

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Topics: google, rowe

The Changing Marketing Landscape [Interview]

Posted by Serena Acker

Mar 25, 2014 10:00:00 AM

In this episode of The Digital Exec, we sit down with Douglas Karr, President/CEO of DK New Media, to discuss keeping up with marketing trends.

Marketing and technology are arguably two of the most fast-paced industries in the world, which is why it's super important to stay on top of their latest trends.

If you want to know more about keeping up with marketing and cutting through the noise, then this episode is for you. We cover topics ranging from how SEO has changed, how email is becoming sexy again, and how visual media is becomingly increasingly important. If you want to know how to make sense of it all, you'll want to listen!

If you're a visual person, you can watch the video of our Hangout. Or if you'd prefer the audio version, it's available hereYou won't want to miss this opportunity to be entertained by two professionals while learning how to stay at the top of your marketing game

 

doug 

Michael Reynolds: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Digital Exec, a marketing and technology insight show for business leaders in the digital age. I’m Michael Reynolds, your host and President CEO of SpinWeb. You can find us online at Spinweb.net. We’re a digital agency. This show and podcast, of course, is over at Spinweb.tv.  I’m thrilled to be here today with Doug Karr. Do you go by Douglas or Doug?

Doug Karr: It’s weird. I go Douglas online when it’s written, I go Doug when it’s in person.

Michael Reynolds: Okay. Well, we’ll call this in person then. Doug, thrilled to be with you today. You’re President CEO of DK New Media, also a digital agency here in Indianapolis. I personally know you as a great speaker, a great author, one of the smartest people I know when it comes to marketing and technology, so I'm thrilled to have you here. Doug, how are you today?

Doug Karr: Fantastic. You’re setting expectations way too high, Michael.

Michael Reynolds: I do my best. It’s all downhill from here, right?

Doug Karr: Yeah.

Michael Reynolds: If you wouldn’t mind, could you give us a quick 30-second intro on maybe your background, what you’re all about, what DK New Media is all about? Who is Doug Karr?

Doug Karr: Sure. I started in the newspaper industry way too long ago, then really saw the light that online media was the way to do. The first company that I ever worked with was actually here in town and then a cable company as well. We started to do a client analysis, and retention, and integrations, and things like that.

I was introduced then to sales force in ExactTarget, and did an integration between the two. That was the really days of ExactTarget, and that just took off. About the same time, I had a marketing technology blog that I was starting, so that was about over 10 years ago now, the MarketingTechBlog.com. Actually, it’s MarketingTechBlog.com, and just got mired. One of the great things was that in those early days, I was an integration consultant at ExactTarget, and just found that clients were really having a difficult time trying to put all the pieces together.

I worked for that company, and then I worked for an e-commerce company after that, and then I worked for a content platform after that; and saw the same problems over and over again, and that was marketers tended to be fantastic at one thing or couple of things, but right now, there’s 20 different mediums and 14 different strategies. By the time you do the matrix, there’s a million ways that you can market. Things were really getting out of control for marketers, and they needed help. They needed someone to guide them on what they were doing. At the end of my 10-year at the content platform that I was working at, we looked for agencies that could do that. It was hard.

It was hard to find an agency that said, “We are great at balancing and juggling all of these balls, and optimizing everything for the client,” and so I decided that maybe I should be that agency. I think everybody in Indy told me I was nuts. They told me that I should specialize, either you build websites, or you do design, or you do integration, or you do SEO. I felt really strongly that marketers really needed someone just to help them govern where their budgets were going. I guess thankfully, it’s getting more and more complicated every day, and it’s been very good for the agency.

Michael Reynolds: We’re wondering. You have a great agency. It’s been around for a while, and Marketing Tech Blog as well is a great resource. I’ve written a few posts for that website as well, and always a lot of good information there. I’m really thrilled about our topic because I was really excited to have you on the show because you embody this topic to me. The topic is the changing marketing landscape. The reason that I say that is because you were someone that I always admire as someone who is always on the bleeding edge of figuring out what’s next, what’s new, what’s changing, what to watch out for, or what’s coming down for the future.

I really love the fact that you are so innovative and so willing to take those risks, and help the rest of us out, and help your clients out with figuring out how to navigate the landscape of what’s new and shiny, and how to react or not react.  There’s a lot of good stuff in here, but I do want to start with again the topic being the changing marketing landscape.  There’s a few things that you pointed out when we talked prior to this, starting the show off. One of them was returning to true marketing. What does that mean to return to true marketing, and how is that applied today?

Doug Karr: Well, I think that what happened especially over the last five years is just this onslaught of technology, and so everybody has been wanting to gain the system somehow or use. We still have a problem in the marketing industry where a lot of people are focused on eyeballs, and more and more eyeballs. If they get more eyeballs at the top of the funnel, maybe they’ll get more at the bottom of the funnel that they convert. To do that, they started cheating. People start buying likes or buying follows, and buying this, and buying that, or buying rank with SEO which was a multibillion dollar industry until it came basically collapsed in front of everybody’s eyes.

I think everybody got distracted, and they started focusing on numbers, technology. Thankfully for us, folks like Google have slammed the mallet, and brought everything back to center. What is it now again? It’s building trust and authority online, promoting great content, providing value to your audience. We’re back to where we were before the internet was even live. I think it’s great to be back. It’s great to be back to where, if you’re a great marketing firm or a great marketer, you’re going to get attention now. It’s not going to be these guys that just have more money and can cheat their way to the top all the time.

Michael Reynolds: I’ve seen that as well. For some reason, I always assume the best in people which is always a mistake I find because I always assume that these are the marketing companies, or keeping up with the time, understanding that Google’s algorithm is changing to become more useful to the end-user, et cetera.  It always shocks me when I see these link farms still out there. People still think SEO is keyword stuffing and things like that. It just blows my mind because we’re way past that. You’re right.

Google for example is becoming almost artificially intelligent to the point where it recognizes if you’re sincere in your marketing or not. If you’re sincere, you’ll be fine. I tell my clients, “Hey. Just forget about all the crazy tricks you can try with keywords. Just be sincere, and Google will figure it out.” Is that what you’re talking about as well? 

Doug Karr: Yeah. Especially now, the algorithms now for a searcher is so nice that long-tail searches, larger combinations of keywords are being focused on longer copy and pages. If you have really great copy that has media. It has maybe video, and it has text, and bolded items, and maybe a few images. Google is paying attention to all of that now, and then they’re paying attention to who’s actually writing it. Authorship if anybody’s read about it that they’re actually focusing on who this person is on the internet and what they’re known for, and that’s something that a cheater can’t, he can’t create. Like for me, he can’t create 10 years of blog posts, and build that authority that I have. It’s awesome.

I think it’s so good that people are back. There’s still the “black hat” going on though. They call it “black hat” and “white hat” for good guy, bad buy marketing. We noticed that every time that Google does some kind of shift, those companies tend to shift as well. We see things like, “Oh, we’re fantastic at getting your articles placed online.” I asked those guys, “Oh, so you’re just placing an article.  No link in the article?”  “Well, yeah.  There’s a link in the article.  Well, yeah.” Well, so you’re doing the same thing. You’re just disguising it different.  Maybe you’re calling it PR now instead of SEO or something.

The real problem that I have with it is it puts the client at risk long term because as Google … Let’s say you hired one of these guys, and you spent hundreds or thousands of dollars, and you basically get an article placed on every single website, and the topic is relevant, and it’s all pointing to you, and you ranked number one. When Google catches up with that, that’s all gone, and all that money that you invested is gone; but your client who sincerely wrote on their blog, and continued to have a presence on social media, and answered questions, and everything else, guess what, they’ll still be there, and they’ll still be building momentum. I should say it this way.

Michael Reynolds: Well, I can give you firsthand another anecdote. You don’t need anymore, but this really works because Hummingbird was very good to us. We have been plugging away for years and years solving clients’ problems, answering real questions, being genuine, being sincere. Every time Google changes this algorithm, we win more and more because we follow the same rules for years and years.

Doug Karr: Yeah, same here. Right.

Michael Reynolds: Now, Google is catching up to again being more artificially intelligent and acting more like a human like it’s benefiting us big time, but we’re just doing what we’ve been doing.

Doug Karr: Well, that’s back to marketing, right? You guys were always great marketers. That’s where you focused on, and that’s where you’re back to. Don’t get me wrong. I tried it like everybody else did. When there’s a large sum of money sitting out in front of you, and everybody is attacking it, and you’re left with breadcrumbs, you tend to try it. You go out there, and see if it works. I think the writing was on the wall early, and we backed out really early. We started to say, “You know what? This just doesn’t seem right. We’re definitely gaming the system, and if you’re gaming the system, you’re going to get clocked.”

Michael Reynolds: Well, also something in our preshow notes that you’re alluded to here. I want to make sure I get this right. You said something about a search in social dropping. I want to hear a little more about that because while everyone else is proclaiming, “Social media is the latest shiniest thing. If you’re not on social, you’re losing. Social campaigns are the big sexy thing nowadays.” Are you saying that search and social are on the decline?

Doug Karr: I would say from an important standpoint, yes, they are on the decline that their strategy is just as everything else’s strategy. To give you an example, and I think the specific of what we’re talking about was email had dropped as a priority below social media for at least a year, maybe even two because social media was the next big thing. It was funny because in the early days, I would talk to guys like you, and we would go, but nobody’s going on Facebook to buy a pair of sneakers. That’s not what they’re doing. I don’t understand how this business thing fits.

I think overtime, that’s been proven that the social mediums that started as incredible peer-to-peer networks. I went out there today, and I asked for … I think I requested a help with the whitepaper, and I probably got 10 people responding to me.

Michael Reynolds: That’s a lot.

Doug Karr: Yeah, and overwhelming response. We’re looking for a car for my daughter, and got a huge response. It’s this great peer-to-peer network, but I didn’t go there to buy a car. I didn’t go there to hire a copywriter. That comes secondary to the network.

Michael Reynolds: That’s a link in the chain.

Doug Karr: It’s a link in the chain.  I was talking to someone yesterday about it that if you could picture, you have the consumer, and then you have the brand. In-between the two, you have a need. The consumer has to have a need to the brand; but as companies, we always think we’re the center of the universe, and we have consumers all around us. It’s totally the opposite.  It’s that you have a consumer at the center of the universe, and then that consumer has needs, and then there’s a bunch of brands that they deal with every day. You’re not the center of the universe.

Let’s say DK New Media. I’m not going to DK New Media’s Facebook page to do business with them. I probably never will, but I am going to their website to do business with them. I am going to the events that they’re at. I am going to this. I feel that social media is a great echo chamber. When you get a good word out and you get a good notice, it spreads the word, but you have to bring those people back to your site. On your site, you’ve got to have some solid things emplaced. You’ve got to have a great website, a path to engagement where people can convert in to customers.

You’ve got to have an email subscription that keeps them coming back to the site over and over again, or is notifying them when they are ready to buy.  Social media is a tool to echo, but it’s not the core of what we should be doing here.  If you do everything right on your website, and you write brilliant copy, and you provide value, guess what, social media happens.  It just goes.  I think what happened is from a priority standpoint from marketers, SEO and social have dropped back, and providing value and important content on the website, distributing that content, syndicating it, providing an email to pull back, that circular activity has just blossomed.

You guys are an inbound marketing company. That’s exactly what we do with customers every day, show them how to make their website a salesperson instead of a brochure. That’s what I meant by that. Social is still big.  We talk on it, we syndicate to, we promote on it, but I don’t actively, let’s say, spend half a day in my DK New Media trying to foster and nurture our relationship there. No. I do that with my website and with my content.

Michael Reynolds: I’m glad you mentioned that because we always tell people that content is fuel, and we have the fuel.  Social media does ignites on its own easily. I think it was maybe Skittles where a few years ago, and social media was on the upswing in terms of sexiness factor, and everybody was all up the hike about social media. I think it was Skittles if I’m not mistaken, their entire website turned in to just a couple of links to their social profiles. They had no website at all. They had a link to their Facebook page, they had a link to a Twitter account. Everyone is like, “Ooh, Skittles. Look, there’s no more website necessary. It’s just all social.”

Apparently, obviously that fell flat because we’re noticing a lot more people that have neglected their websites for the past two or three years thinking social was the big thing.  hey’re realizing they can’t make money on social media unless they have a platform. It’s over now.  Finally, coming back to us saying, “Oops. Can you redesign our website in like three weeks?”  We’re like, “Okay. Get in line. We’re happy to help you, but not in three weeks.” They’re realizing that you do have to have both components.

You have to have the satellite splash point components of social media to generate some additional exposure; but really, when it comes down to people, you have to come back to your home base to actually transact with you. That’s really where business still happens. When you put the two together, you’ve got a very powerful combination. You got the home base plus the amplifier so to speak of social media.

Doug Karr: Lucky, I’ve been long enough, and I’m an early adapter that I have a huge following on Facebook, and Twitter, and everything. I can tell you that it’s out of control. I can’t respond to every tweet. I can’t respond to every Facebook request. I can’t sit there, and talk, and just meet with every single person, and so it’s become unruly that I have this huge network up there. My job on a day-to-day basis, I have this boutique agency with finite resources is hand-selecting the tiny 1/100 or 1/1,000 of that to actually approach, and maybe do work with.

I’d say social media causes me now more problems. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s great that I’m known, but at the same time because I’m known, it’s a lot of time to take in, and figure out, “Is this someone that I’m going to do business with or not?” That’s a tough one. To the average person that doesn’t have following, like I love all the social media gurus. I love them, but when they say, “You want to go out there, and you want to build this face community, and …”  Well, and what? How are you going to take care of them? How are you going to show them a return on investment? How do you measure whether that’s effective or not?

Michael Reynolds: We got to make money, right?

Doug Karr: Exactly. I’d much rather have people doing A/B testing on their website to see if they can increase conversions there. I’d much rather have people writing great content there, designing infographics there, putting up whitepapers there, than just chatting on social media.

Michael Reynolds: A couple of episodes ago, I talked with Chris Brogan.  It was phenomenal. He and I talked a little bit about email. Email, when it first came out, obviously it was the new shiny thing, and it’s now very established as a de facto communications medium in business. Every so often, I notice people say, “Oh, email is dead. Email is on decline. Something else is replacing it …”  When it comes down to it, email is so entrenched in everything we do, and I think a lot of people, you might agree, are noticing a resurgence in the effectiveness of email because of what you can do with it and how targeted it is.

When you get a hold of someone’s inbox, and you give them something a value, that gets a better or a lot of low times than all the social chatter in the world. Would you agree?

Doug Karr: Absolutely, because it’s a step more intimate than social media.

Michael Reynolds: It’s not sexy, right?

Doug Karr: Yeah. Well, it could be sexy if Outlook would update its standards. You know what I mean?  The fact that we’re still working on a 10-year-old HTML, it stings. No, it is. I think what’s sexy about email nowadays is the companies that are popping up that are doing drip marketing, trigger, event-based marketing, heavy segmentation. I’ll mention a client of ours, Right On Interactive. What they’re doing with people to improve … A lot of system, even email, it’s all about acquisition. Go get a list of 100,000, and go blast them every single week.

Folks like ROI, that’s they’re acronym, think just the opposite. It’s now, how do we pair this down segment really tightly? How do we measure our prospect against our greatest customer? Not just a customer or not just a person that answers the ad, how do we measure them against that, and then how do we get a series of communications that provides a really unique path for them to come back to our channel? It’s not just action blast where it’s spam, it’s really this periodic timely event-driven thing that happens. Multi-touch with a client, it’s not intrusive. There’s something of value in that email, so they look forward to it, and they actually click to open it. When you’re doing that, it’s as sexy as ever.

Michael Reynolds: Yeah, I agree. We see a lot of clients that stood out with us getting really obsessed with how many Facebook likes can they get, how many Twitter interactions can they get. We said, “Hey. Hang on.  Be patient. Let’s see how much we can grow your email database first, and let’s see how much we can get those people to react to something and convert to something. In a few months, you’re going to be a lot happier with that than with your Facebook likes.” Every time, it’s true. They are so blown away about the ROI they can get from a great database-driven email campaign.

The Facebook stuff takes care of itself, and the Twitter stuff takes care of itself because the content is there.  I’m glad you agree. I think we’ve seen a lot more value in email these days.

Doug Karr: I was talking to a friend of mine right before this. His name is Jim Hart. He’s an old school marketer. He works in the newspaper industry and direct marketing. He said, he likened this that you walk into a bar, and you’re looking for a date. Everybody’s sitting at the bar. At the end of the day, someone hands you a slip and says, “Forty-two people liked you,” when you were sitting at the bar. Someone else hands you a napkin, and it says, “Here’s my phone number.” Which one is worth more to you?

Michael Reynolds: I love that. That’s a fantastic analogy. Can I use that?

Doug Karr: Yes. It’s a fantastic analogy.

Michael Reynolds: That’s a great story. Well, there’s one more thing I wanted to bring up because you mentioned this again our notes before this episode which was about visuals becoming increasingly important.  Tell us a little bit more about that.

Doug Karr: Technology is helping as well. Bandwidth is cheap now, and most people have broadband, or they have really good connections even on their phones. Time is of the essence, even with email. Time is of the essence, so you have to start grabbing people’s attention immediately. Text doesn’t quite do that. It’s literally scientifically proven that when you see an image, your retention goes up significantly, exponentially. We do it on the Marketing Tech Blog. Every single blog post requires some kind of visual representation that captures that person’s attention.

From just a typical image that you include with a story or series of it, interactive visuals. What we’re getting is infographics which there’s probably more bad ones than good ones out there I think. Infographics, what they’re supposed to do is take a heaping load of a complex issue with a lot of complexity, but visually represented where you can understand it a lot easier  It should paint a picture of some sort. It should be a story. By the time you finish reading an infographic, it should be great.

I just put one up on the site. I’m not knocking them, but E-consultancy and Responses did highlights of their marketing budget for 2014. It’s beautiful graphics, but there’s not a story there. There’s not a bite to it that says, “Okay.  What should I do as a marketer?” It’s just vomiting data, and doing it beautifully. I think a typical infographic, we did one a little while ago for Meltwater. They did an article on top 10 things you do in a social media crisis. We built it, and it was Pitch Man, the superhero. It takes you through the steps that he actually takes, and what he thinks in this crisis until it’s resolved.

It’s an education. It’s a complex topic, but it’s simplified through the graphic. Its hard part of it is data, and it’s a story, and it’s graphic designed all mashed in to one. Take that another level, and now, people are doing interactive infographics where you actually play with the website. Maybe you enter in some terms, and something happens, or you scroll, and things move, and everything else. Again, it shouldn’t just be there to play and have cool HTML5 which we all love, it should be there to paint a clear picture that make something go off in your head, and then there’s videos which are really compelling.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth?  It’s worth millions.  Even then, it’s condensed.  You want a minute-and-a-half video that explains your product.  You want a 45-second video that flashes a feature or whatever.  Visuals are just becoming ever important especially with bandwidth being as inexpensive as it is.  The good thing too is on the technology side. We were just talking to a client yesterday. She said, “Well, we’re not going to host video because it’s too expensive for bandwidth.” I was like, “Oh, my god. You don’t have to do that.”

Michael Reynolds: Host a video. Who has video on their website anymore?

Doug Karr: Exactly. There is Vimeo, and Wistia, and all these fantastic … not to mention YouTube, all these fantastic things to host video for you. For companies, the step-in isn’t like it was … What was it five years ago is $25,000 to do a professional video for your company or something. Now, what is it? Pick up your iPhone, throw it in iMovie, and …

Michael Reynolds: Candidio.

Doug Karr: Yeah, anything. Put it in Candidio …

Michael Reynolds: Put it on for our 12-star media there, Candidio.com.

Doug Karr: That’s a perfect example that you don’t even have to be great at video. You’ve got a director and a producer at the other end that are going to make it look professional.

Michael Reynolds: Well, I agree. I see a lot more engagement when we have visuals emplaced. We’ve seen the same thing for us and our clients as well, so I wholeheartedly agree. We’re just about out of time, but do you want to wrap up with a little bit more about what you’re up to?  I want to find out where you’d like to send people to find out more about you and DK New Media. Would you like them to go to your main website, DKNewMedia.com or Marketing Tech Blog?  Tell us where our folks to go to find out more about you.

Doug Karr: If they’re enterprise customers, typically what we’re doing is we’re really helping large companies, educate them on that strategy internal, and get the pieces emplaced. If that’s the case, come on  If not, Marketing Tech Blog is just this incredible resource where typically a client ask me a question, and I write a blog post about it, and then send them the link. We’re literally releasing information on new tools every single day on there that are just fantastic. Marketing Tech Blog is definitely the highlight.

From a DK New Media standpoint, we’re receding into the mist, and putting Marketing Tech Blog out there more and more. If you’re a marketing tech related company, we want you to sponsor obviously, and we want to grow that. We just have such an incredible audience there that listens to everything we say, and shares that it’s just been a beautiful platform.

Michael Reynolds: Fantastic. Well, we’ll definitely put a link to both of those websites in our show notes as well as everything else we referenced during the episode.  It’s been a real pleasure having you on. I really appreciate the insight, great stuff.

Doug Karr: Always.

Michael Reynolds: I’m glad to hear we’re seeing the same trends in marketing, and I really appreciate it.  Anything else you want to add?

Doug Karr: That’s it. Thanks a lot, Michael. This is fantastic.

Michael Reynolds: All right. Well, thank you. As always, Doug, I really appreciate it. Thanks everyone for joining. We’ll see you next time.

Tune in next time for our next installment of The Digital Exec, your source for becoming an expert in the latest and greatest technology. 

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Topics: marketing, video, seo, social media

Word and grammar nerds unite: 5 tools for your writing toolbox

Posted by Serena Acker

Mar 20, 2014 10:00:00 AM

As a writer, there are days that words just flow. I'll get "in the writing zone" and knock out drafts of a few blogs or - on a really good day - an entire ebook. 

On the other hand, there are days I stare at my laptop screen for hours, struggling to form a few meaningful sentences (which I may or may not delete when I go back to proofread later). It's days like this that I question my grammar and sometimes my basic spelling. I'm ashamed to admit that there was one day a few years ago that I literally stumbled my way through typing out the word "who." (Can anyone relate?) 

So, what's a struggling writer to do? It's during these trying times of writer's block - and doubt - that I turn to some of my trusty online writing and grammar resources (or go run a few miles, which usually clears my head). Whether you're a full-time content developer like me or a marketing specialist hoping to brush up on your writing skills - here are a few tools to add to your toolbox.

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"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." - Hemingway 

Have you checked out the Hemingway app? Our team just (ecstatically!) discovered this gem recently. (In fact, it's the app that prompted this blog post.) You write your masterpiece, and when you're ready, you click the Edit button. From there, the app works its magic - pointing out sentences that might be hard to read and yes, those dreaded adverbs that Ms. Waggoner warned us about in 8th grade. Similarly, it calls out passive voice and offers an overall readability grade. I equally love that it gives you overall stats on your piece - # of sentences, paragraphs, words, and characters.

hemingway

Merriam-Webster

It's an oldie but a goodie. Obviously, this dictionary needs no formal introduction, but it happens to be my favorite dictionary/thesaurus combo. That's right...Merriam and I are besties. We hang out often, particularly when my brain can't seem to come up with just the right word. I equally love that it inspires me to expand my vocabulary with its Word of the Day emails (which you can sign up for in the blue box below).

Dictionary 

Hubspot Editing Checklist

Hubspot probably thinks that I'm stalking them with as many hits as I give their website each day. (If you aren't reading their blog and partaking of their free resources, you are seriously missing out on some awesome and valuable information!) They released this editing checklist this past Summer, and it's one that I reference often (meaning it has earned a coveted spot along my bookmarked toolbar). It's a great resource to scan over before I hit "Publish."

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SelfControl

Especially when I'm up against a deadline, my ADD kicks in ("Oh, look...a squirrel!"), so I'll go check Facebook. And send an email to my Grams, just checking in. And see when the next episode of Grey's Anatomy will be on TV. (And..and...and...) SelfControl's free app eliminates those distractions by not allowing me to visit sites on the "Blacklist" for an allotted timeperiod. Set the app's timer for whatever length of time you need to focus (as long as it's less than 24 hours), and get busy!

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Wordcounter

Wordcounter is a resource that does oh, so much more than merely count words. It ranks the most frequently-used words in any given body of text to help identify terms that are overused (i.e. is everything a "solution" for you?"). This prevents me from being repetitive in my writing and identify keyword opportunities. Did I mention that it's free?

word-counter 

Whatever tools you utilize (or don't), remember that content matters. If you're writing content for a website or blog, it should be wordsleuthed with the same care that would go into a magazine article or book. Polished, professionally-written content will dramatically boost the credibility of your organization. 

 

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Topics: writing

How to avoid being terrified to commit to a website design

Posted by Jason Harrop

Mar 18, 2014 10:00:00 AM

One of my favorite things as a designer is to present to clients a draft of their shiny, new website. After all, we've interviewed, collaborated, dreamed, planned, labored, chosen pictures, picked colors, and strategized, and it all comes down to this moment. Okay, so maybe it's doesn't deserve that much fanfare, but we really do take pride in our work, so we love to see clients' reactions to their new websites.

Admittedly, though, it's equally terrifying as it's a designer's worst fear that a client will not like what we do. And it does happen. I don't take it personally, though because sometimes, clients have a difficult time committing to a design whether it's the full website or a responsive or a mobile one. It's not that they're trying to be difficult or indecisive, necessarily. It's just that sometimes it can be like nailing jell-o to the wall to get them to settle on one look because they're terrified to commit.

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Don't get me wrong. I totally get that your new website is a big deal, and you want it to be just right. And we, as your digital agency, want you to totally and completely love it. But sometimes... just sometimes... it's like some companies are scared to actually commit to a new look, which can make my job as a designer that much more challenging. (Don't feel too sorry for me here... I love what I do!) But 27 redesigns later, c'mon people! It's time to commit to a new look!

All that being said, there are things you can do to help you feel more comfortable choosing a new design.

First and foremost, be upfront. Somewhere during our planning meetings, you'll be asked, "What design requirements do you have?" If you secretly desire a textured background, don't hesitate to say so. The more clear you can be about your desires, the more likely we are to make all your website design wishes come true.

Similarly, let us know what you don't like. If you have a personal vendetta against the Calibri font (or squares or buttons or colors or whatever), these are important things that we need to keep in mind. The last thing we want to hear is "Oh, I really wanted pictures of cartoons" when we spent hours laboring over photos of real life people. The more upfront you can be with us in the beginning (about everything, including your website redesign budget), the more we can deliver the goods in the end...which will make your ability to commit that much easier.

[I'm going to take this moment to acknowledge that sometimes you don't always know what you want as a client, too, and that's okay. As our client and buddy Jim from Hy-Pro Filtration said, "How could we tell someone else what we wanted when we didn't know?" We get that sometimes it's hard to verbalize something so intangible. End side note.]

Next, don't be afraid to be vocal. If there's something - anything - you aren't super fond of with the design, for the love of all things holy, say something! It's not going to crush our souls or even ruin our days if you don't like something. So speak up! We want you to love, love, love your new website. So the more you are vocal with feedback, the more we'll be able to make the design precisely what you want, which will make it that much less terrifying to commit in the end.

Thirdly, trust the process. Trust that you've been honest with us and that we've done our best to represent you and your company well. This what we do for a living. It doesn't mean that we're perfect (We're not!) or that sometimes we might be a bit off, but trust that we know what we're doing. Because we do. Well, most of the time. :) As our friend and client Kathy from Wessler Engineering said, "Approving our design was scary because I wanted to make sure the design was worth the investment, but SpinWeb did a great job of reflecting who we are as a company. I'm so glad I trusted them with our redesign." If Kathy thinks we do good work, then you know we do! 

Finally, take a deep breath. You're making a big step forward for your company (one that we think is fun and exciting!). Recreating your website is a big deal, but don't put too much pressure on yourself. Even after you launch it, you can always make changes down the road. In fact, we recommend it! Your website should be fluid. Just make sure that as you make changes and tweaks along the way that they continue to be in line with your initial goals. 

Approving a project doesn't HAVE to be terrifying, as Johnson County Public Library attests to. According to Davin Kolderup, "When we finally saw the proposed design, it was a big moment, but it wasn't a huge surprise because we had developed a strong vision for what the site needed to do to be as user-centric as possible. Approving the design wasn't a difficult decision because we worked closely with SpinWeb ahead of time." These are the approval processes that we love. But don't take that the wrong way, we still love working with all our clients, even when the process is a bit intimidating at times.

In the end, it all comes down to making a step of faith by committing to a design. We know that's sometimes a scary thought, but we also love walking beside our clients in this process. And anything we can do to make it easier for you, just ask. We aim to please, even if it means holding your hand through this scary process.

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Topics: website, branding, web design