HAPPY 20 YEAR Anniversary to Startup Production
So excited that Startup Production is celebrating 20 years in business this month. It has been a thrilling ride from the very beginning, as I started my business so I would have the flexibility and control over my work schedule as we planned to start a family. It was a slow start as I was in college as well as working a part-time job as an office manager. And now twenty years later, I have experienced the highs and some lows of entrepreneurship, but always incredibly enduring through the trials and obstacles, battle-scarred but more determined to push on.
All in all, I was fortunate to grow something out of such small beginnings to help support my family and be a stay-at-home mom for my son, who is now sixteen years old. I have met so many great people along the way and have learned the value of positive, supportive and loyal relationships. The learning lessons, even the painful ones, have been more instructive and humbling than damaging, and I’m excited to see where the journey leads me.
Evolution of Digital Marketing
Over the years, the industry of online marketing has evolved, and thus so has my business. From exclusively offering web design and development, logo design and graphic design, and about ten years ago, we added social media marketing, SEO, digital media implementation and internet marketing consulting and training. As our slogan says, “A Professional Website is just the Beginning,” because as our homepage states, “your website is the beginning of your internet marketing journey … we build strategies that increase traffic to your website and help convert those visitors into customers.”
So more and more, customers come to me with concerns about their overall online or digital marketing efforts and why they’re not getting more hits and leads from those efforts. The competition is much fiercer than it was even a few years ago with nearly 2 billion websites in 2019. With more websites in your industry, many brands are fighting for the top slots of the same or similar keywords on search engines, because they know that SEO leads are more engaged and often much easier to convert.
“SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7 percent close .” (Search Engine Journal)
If someone is actively searching for a product or service, studies show they are more than likely going to make a purchase and often within a few days.
“One in two (50%) people who conduct a local Google search visit a store that day, and 76% of people who search for something nearby on their smartphone visit a related business within a day.” (Search Engine Watch)
And a visit to your store or a call to your business often leads to revenue (conversion):
“Local searches result in purchases 28% of the time.” (Hubspot)
How to Manage your Digital Marketing Efforts
Increasing traffic of your engaged target audience who are currently searching for your product or service and converting those into leads is the ultimate goal of your digital media efforts or internet marketing. How is this accomplished? Each industry and client’s marketing plan is going to vary depending on their industry, their target audience and their specific niche of the products and services they offer.
An internet marketing consultant will suggest various methods including website development, content marketing, blogging, social media marketing, video and podcast production, hosting of events and webinars, as well as a continual content creation strategy with optimized, keyword-rich content. The particulars for each client are going to vary on frequency, content topics, digital media platforms utilized and appropriate branding according to their industry and the culture of their company.
I’m often asked various questions when the topic of internet marketing consulting comes up:
- How often should I blog?
- How frequently should I post on social media?
- What social media platforms should I use? Instagram, LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter, What’s App, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, Google My Business, etc.?
- What topics do I post about or write about on my website, my blog or social media?
- How do I measure ROI on social media and other efforts?
- How do I stand out from my competitors online?
- How much time per week or per month will I have to spend on my internet marketing plan?
All of these questions are extensively researched, analyzed, customized, answered and explained for each of my internet marketing clients, when they utilize me as their consultant.
Tips & Cautions to Hiring a Digital Marketing Firm
Hiring a professional internet marketing consultant can save you time and money especially if their purpose is to teach rather than just manage your efforts. Here are some things to be aware of when hiring an digital marketing firm and questions to ask them before you sign the contract:
What are you exactly going to do to increase traffic and leads?
Many Internet Marketing firms tend to overcomplicate it or manage your marketing with a veneer of mystery while overcharging you for lackluster efforts. Often national or large marketing firms are taking a universal approach with no regard to your specific goals and unique target audience. If you don’t understand the specifics, then you don’t understand fully what you’re being charged for, what benefit is being provided, or how to track the ROI.
How are you going to prove my ROI (return on investment)?
They prove their effectiveness not with Google Analytics (which cannot be contrived or exaggerated) but through manufactured statistics in their custom dashboards. Personally, at the request of my clients, I have interviewed several nationally known Digital Marketing firms, meeting with their local representatives to drill down to what the client is actually being charged for, what their monthly efforts consist of, and the long-term effects of those efforts. After some research and interviews with their representatives, I’ve come to the understanding that the focus of their business plan is to keep the client as dependent with little knowledge of what or how they are increasing hits to the site or calls to their business.
How important is Content Creation to your overall strategy and where do you post it?
They produce content that is not engaging, stuffed with random keywords and too short for results. They rarely post content where it offers long-lasting results, but are typically looking for the short-term clicks so they can inflate their results.
“Content is no longer that important,” a local representative of a National Digital Marketing (that provides everything from customer relational management software to web design to payroll to digital marketing). I nearly fell off my chair when he told a room of professionals and business owners in a local chamber presentation. To correct him, content has never been more important than it is now, and will continue to be as Google uses the quantity and quality of your content as a barometer to measure your brand’s trust, credibility, expertise and authority.
What is your process of writing, editing and approval? And what is your typical word count?
Over the years, I’ve read lots of articles that popular Digital Media firms have written for clients and I am often shocked at the brief (typically 300-400 words), meaningless, repetitive and keyword-stuffed content that is not written for humans but exclusively for search engines. They are not placed in locations for long-lasting, residual effects but for a quick hit that often attracts poor quality and misdirected traffic to your website. And that is why over and over again, I hear business owners say to me, “I paid all this money to XYX Digital Marketing but only got one or two leads from it.” The ROI never meets the standards of service that was originally promised by these so-called experts.
In contrast, when we write content for our clients, we communicate regularly with the client, interview them on the message, the process, the pros and cons, case studies and how their brand can offer resolution. We interview, research, write, edit and then apply visual interest to create an article that humans want to read and search engines want to rank well. It’s not just about keywords, but it’s writing content that your target audience wants to read and is searching for. And our word count averages between 1200 to 2200 words.
“Average length of top ranking pages on Google is 1,890 words.” – Backlinko
Do you use alternate domain names and phone numbers to track my leads and who owns that intellectual property if I ever discontinue my contract?
Often with my clients, their former digital marketing company would register a new keyword-based domain name (for example: “commercial-hvac.com”) and a new phone number that they forwarded all the traffic and phone calls to, both of which the client does not own. This can be a precarious situation when/if the client ends the contract, as they lose access to the domain names and phone numbers registered by the Digital Marketing firms and used to point all the leads to. That means you will lose the domain history of their domain name, lose leads and potential phone calls.
For example, I had one client who was spending nearly $1500 per month on minimal efforts, where all his traffic was being sent to a domain name he didn’t own and a phone number that the marketing firm managed. It took us several months to recover from the dissolution of the unnamed digital marketing firm’s contract but soon with organic SEO efforts, consistent content creation, the firm was more than happy to save money and have more control of their marketing.
Why do these digital marketing firms register their own domain names and phone numbers to direct traffic and leads to? (1) First, of all it’s easier for them to track results so they can clearly show how many hits or phone calls resulting from their efforts regardless of domain history. (2) Second, it gives a good reason to increase customer retention, because a client who ends the contract loses access to their domain names and phone numbers that the marketing firm owns. It’s very close to entrapment and causes enough fear to encourage their clients to sign up for another year’s contract.
How can I protect myself when hiring a digital marketing firm?
So when hiring and working with your digital marketing firm, make sure you do the following:
- Before signing a contract, clearly communicate your goals (increased traffic, more lead captures, phone calls, ecommerce sales, newsletter signups, brand awareness, etc); and understand how they will work to achieve them.
- Ensure you understand what exactly they are doing each month and what you are being charged for each month with a detailed description of what they accomplished on each monthly invoice.
- If they are writing content for your business, make sure you have input on not only on subject matter but the quality of the content. Require approval on all content before publishing.
- Make sure you have access to Google Analytics stats in addition to their custom statistics software, so you can verify their numbers are accurate and not being artificially inflated.
- Have regular and open communication with your marketing consultant to verify your goals are being met and what modifications need to be made if they are not. (It may take several months to achieve desired results as different methods are tested and finetuned.)
How can Startup Production offer digital marketing assistance to your brand?
Startup Production offers digital and internet marketing consulting and workshops to local businesses, organizations, and non-profits. Sometimes, even my competitors attend so they can learn and copy a thing or two. One such competitor who attend wrote a 5-star review:
“I enjoyed your class the other day on Finetune Your Digital Footprint. There were a few tidbits that I found helpful and plan to work on for my business. Plus, I have been considering putting on my own class at some point and wanted to see how you ran a class. I hope you don’t mind if I copy some things that you did!” – Web Designer in Berea KY.
For over 20 years, we have been working closely with our small business clients and understand their needs, challenges, financial limitations and passion to promote their business. We are here to help in the way that you feel comfortable and that you can afford. Our flexible approach to digital marketing can be utilized to analyze and customize a marketing plan for your brand, to manage your content marketing and ad campaigns, or a combination of both.
It all starts with a free conversation to discover what your goals are, the state of your current digital marketing efforts and how much of a role you want to play in your digital marketing presence. It’s a easy going, relaxed discussion where I’ll get a feel of where you are and where you want to be, and you’ll hopefully learn a few easy tips you can apply right away. Call me to get started today!