Saturday, October 29, 2011

SPAM, SPAM and more SPAM in Vermont

SPAM! We all hate it. But to be in business and actively pursue unsolicited emails from potential clients, donors, vendors, etc some SPAM is going to get through. Read a little bit about the battle that is waged against SPAM on a continuum. We all wish there was a magic bullet for SPAM...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Coolbreeze Air Conditioning in Tuscon, AZ speaks Spanish!

Through our iMarket Solutions partnership, we have a client in Tuscon Arizona, CoolBreeze Air Conditioning and Heating. In their market, they have a large Spanish speaking population. And since Cool Breeze cannot necessarily afford the expense of having an entire website translated into Spanish (particularly when considering all the ongoing blog posts and social media content strategies they employ), they compromised on having a landing page translated into Spanish. The approach is to let their Spanish speaking potential clients know that they have staff both on the phone and in the field that can communicate in their native language. So far, this program has met with great success.

In particular, when discussing what can be a difficult subject matter for any consumer, it is important that the language not become a barrier. Air conditioning repair might be straight forward to CoolBreeze as they are experts. But talking about why an air conditioning system might not be working, or the options for air conditioning installation, or even describing the needs for an air conditioning repair can be difficult and confusing to the ordinary person let alone having the communication be compounded by a language barrier.

So the lesson is that you don't necessarily have to manage your entire website in a different language but if you do have a client segment that you know speaks another language, reach out and dedicate a page or section that speaks to them in their own language. It might be more expensive in the beginning but you will show that you care and earn more business. It has certainly been true for Cool Breeze and their air conditioning repair programs.

Cheers, Andrew

Monday, May 16, 2011

Air National Houston Launch

Vermont Design Works and iMarket Solutions recently launched a new site for Air National Houston. Air National is an existing company that has expanded into the Houston area after many successful years running a full HVAC service company in Tampa, Florida. As a brand new company in a new market, they are actively building relationships, establishing a customer base, and providing responsive customer service.

For the new website, we will be working with them to post 3 blogs per week of interesting and topical subjects related to the comfort for homeowners at the beginning of summer. Check out their new site:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - Vermont Design Works Partnership Launches 16 New Websites in March

Vermont Design Works started a partnership with iMarket Solutions ( in the summer of 2010. Since then, iMarket and VDW have created over 30 websites with full online marketing, blog, content and social media services. Our Domination package is bringing companies with very little presence in the SERPs to the top of the Organic listings within a few months of launch. And these HVAC and Plumbing companies will stay on top because we add new fresh content to their websites, update their promotions, add testimonials, and manage their social media on a daily basis.

In March, our partnership allowed us to launch 16 new websites for iMarket Solutions customers. And now our post launch activities are starting. These websites will always be up to date with new content that the search engines and customers love.

One recent search in a town outside of Tampa revealed that our customers held 3 of the top 4 positions in the google organic listings for the highly coveted "air conditioning repair" keyword.

Our mission continues. April looks like it might be just as strong.

The basic philosophy is to combine excellent user friendly design, with search engine friendly programming, with extensive click, email, and phone call tracking. After that platform is created, add fresh new keyword targeted content at least once per week (iMarket Domination customers get 3 new keyword targeted blog posts per week). Track all the leads and results and modify the approach to maximize the cost per lead of the websites. Our sites generate customers at a cost per lead that is 90% lower than industry averages. And we are adding more than 10 new pages to the Google index per month. Each one of those pages is like a raffle ticket just waiting to be read by a prospective customer.

Our results are strong and we intend to keep it that way.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Inbound Marketing Webinar

I am listening to the Inbound Marketing Webinar by Hubspot at #Inbound2011. Some of the data is great. More money and effort is being expended on Inbound marketing (blogging, social media, linked in, etc) versus outbound marketing (TV ads, radio, trade shows, telemarketing, PPC). The costs per lead for Inbound marketing are much lower than the costs per lead for outbound marketing.

Some great statistics and information. I'll post the followup report later.

The biggest hole in this presentation is that they have not considered Yellow page advertising at all. It does not seem to be on the radar screen.

While these folks (#inbound2011) have just addressed my question about yellow page advertising on the webinar, I think they are reducing the discussion to far too narrow a focus.

Their idea was to cut Yellow Pages advertising by 10% and see if your leads drop by 10%. If not, reduce even further. But it will be critical to move those reduced yellow page spending into building an Inbound marketing strategy.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Stock Options 101

Vermont Design Works just launched a great new website that supports the project. Terry gets so many questions about basic stock options information, that we wanted to create a website dedicated to the basics of trading stock options.

On Terry's Tips behalf, I acquired the URL from a person that was not using it. The URL had been registered for a few years so it already has good history online despite not having a good website full of content.

Then, Terry wanted the site launched quickly...of course. So we used Vermont Design Works "template" program where we took a standard installation of our ContentWorks content management system with a standard set of tools. In just a few weeks, we had the site designed and built and ready for content. Terry, despite having limited technical skills, was able to populate the site with content, set up navigation, and get the site ready.

We launched the site and we don't even know how, but Terry got his first sale without doing any advertising of any kind. Just another reason why content is king!! Publish good content on your website that speaks to your audience and is full of good keywords and google will give you traffic!!

More on the success of this site as we start to actively promote it online.

Cheers, Andrew

Monday, February 22, 2010

Blog updates made easy

Every website needs to have a blog or news update module. A blog is an easy way to create new pages on your website easily and efficiently without hiring a content writer and stressing about what you will say. Ideally, you will use your own customer service policies, schedules, and selling points for your business to update the blog.

Essentially, each blog post is a new page on your website. Each new page is like a raffle ticket that might draw a potential customer into your sales funnel. In addition, it also shows your site visitors that you are an active business that takes the time to stay on top of their website updating. And that similarly, they take care of their business as well as they take care of their website.

If your website looks at all like it is not getting attention, your web visitors will assume that you manage your business in the same way.

And in the worst case, not having a website clearly states that you are not in business or taking your business seriously.

Ok. Back to blog/news posts. Here is a quick list of ways to add blog posts on a calendar that is easy to execute:

10 federal holidays - list your hours of operation, emergency phone numbers if necessary, and let your customers and potential customers know about your availability during holidays. This can actually turn into 20 posts. A week before, announce your schedule. The day before, remind everyone of the schedule and wish them a happy thanksgiving, memorial day, presidents day, etc.

1 promotion per month (12 per year) - offer something each month as an incentive for web visitor to take action and become a customer. It doens't have to be the best deal ever. Just enough for the customer to take the next step with you and for you to build a stronger relationshiop. Usually, this can be set up once per year and it will automatically appear each month on your website.

Tips/Articles/Suggestions once per month (12 per year)- whatever business you are in, surely there is advice that you give customers every day in your business or on the phone. Use this same advice to come up with 1 suggestion or piece of advice each month about your business. Visit other websites, see what others in your industry are doing and use that for inspiration.

Post links to other tips/articles/suggestions (12 per year)- if you don't feel comfortable or dont' have time to write, find a good article from your industry, post the link on your site, and write a 1 or 2 sentence commentary on the article. Make it easy on yourself by using content from other websites!

So with holidays, promotions, and just links to other articles that you don't write, you are looking at 44 updates per year. Almost 1 per week. If you then write a few articles yourself or provide tips, you can get this up to once per week in no time.

Weekly updates to your website would put you ahead of 95% of all businesses on the web.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Social Media Forum Review

Rick Burnes of HubSpot on Inbound Marketing using Social Media

A forum hosted by BTV Social Media Breakfast Club

Twitter account: @rickburnes

Here are my notes (and some elaboration, corrections, and expansions on my part; very little editing or checking was done)

  1. Interruption marketing is the old media model
  2. Inbound marketing takes time but eventually saves money for a business (Inbound marketing being defined as providing great content, surrounding the content with on and off page search engine optimization, and letting your customers and prospects find you)
    Invite people into your website instead of “interrupting their lives”
  3. Rick made a big mistake by declaring unabashedly that ALL traditional media is dead. He got hammered b/c he suggested that all traditional marketing is bad and online is the only way to go
  4. Including direct mail and Pay Per click that don't work effectively
  5. While I think Rick goes too far to suggest that internet marketing is the only way to go, I wish all my clients had been there to hear how effective and inevitable a content rich web presence is for all businesses if they want to compete in the long term.
  6. I suggested to Rick and in my opinion it is more accurate to suggest that it is the effectiveness and ultimately the return on investment of traditional marketing that is diminishing. That on the rise is online marketing which includes providing lots of free content about your industry and business and your specific business approach.
  7. I went on to tell him not to trash traditional marketing but talk about the trends in marketing. Traditional marketing still works but the trends all point to a diminishing return on investment. Starting now with online marketing means you'll be a player down the road when the trend lines get more severe.
  8. There was a lot of conern in the audience about the quality of writing (the “I can’t write” problem) Writing content for the web does not have to be elegant. Just use the same language you use to sell your services, promote your products, and talk to your customers. Start a conversation about what you know. It does not have to be complicated.
  9. As you live your life and business, put yourself into the content mindset.
  10. Repurpose every interaction in your business into a content opportunity.
  11. Probably the strongest analogy that Rick made was the Lottery Ticket. It's all about content. Each page or article of content from your website that appears in the search engines is a lottery ticket. Would you rather have the same 8 static pages as lottery tickets or a 100 new lottery tickets per year as you write 2 blog posts per week about your business?
  12. Every business is different in terms of measuring success of your online presence. What are the metrics for your business? Customers? Subscribers? Diners? Do you make large one time sales? Do you have recurring revenue clients? Set your metrics and then measure them (and he wants you to use HubSpot).
  13. Rick finished by giving a relatively subdued pitch for the $250 per month HubSpot online marketing software. $3000 per year might seem steep but if you were able to prove positive ROI (return on investment) on the $3000, it would be worth it.

    Questions from the audience:

Question: I use direct mail. It works. Why should I stop?

Rick: Online is better. Which was not a great answer. What he should have said…keep doing direct mail. But put effort into online marketing and continue to measure the return on investment for both channels. Over time, you will probably learn that the online marketing approach will provide much higher rates of return.

And in fact, use direct mail to build your list of email addresses so that you can continue to follow up with your direct mail prospects for almost nothing with email marketing.

Question: Must a business have your own blog on your own domain?

Yes. And I agree with Rick. Absolutely. That doesn’t mean that you might not put the same blog entries (or a shortend version pointing back to your main website) on a blog hosted at blogspot or wordpress. But you want all that wonderful blog content to be credited to your main Domain (aka, website address or URL or URI).

Question: Do I need a website and a blog?

Rick didn't answer this as we ran out of time. However, a blog can in fact act as a website. They can be one and the same. However, the blog format does not always lend itself to providing some of the basic information about your business nor advanced functionality that a full website can offer. Having just a blog is always better than nothing and some blogs are hard to differentiate from full websites! And a blog is always better to have than to have a web site that never gets new content or updates.

That’s all for now. I will surely touch on these topics more in the future. Content is king!

Please contact me if you have any specific questions about these issues.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Santa Night Black Tie Event

The Vermont Agency Foundation is holding a Black Tie Event to support the Santa Night mission in St Albans, VT, Burlington VT, and Plattsburgh, NY along with the Common Ground center.

Not only is Vermont Agency a client of Vermont Design Works, they have been strong supporters of the Santa Night mission to help children and families during the holiday season.

This is our 12th year of running Santa Night in Burlington. The Burlington event is on Friday December 18th while St Albans and Plattsburgh are set up for Friday December 11th. 14 other cities around the country are also running their events on the 11th with the exception of our newest Santa Night City, Montclair NJ. Welcome!

Thank you to everyone for your ongoing support of Santa Night and its mission to become the largest 1 day fundraiser in the world!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Advanced Landing Page Strategies for Higher Pay Per Click Conversions Webinar Summary

Not a bad little webinar. Ion Interactive is promoting a tool to make it easy to create and test Landing Pages. Briefly, a Landing Page is the page that a web visitor sees after clicking on a Pay Per Click ad.

The essential premise of the webinar is that most PPC campaigns are flawed because more often than not, the landing page of a PPC ad is the home page of the web site. This is a horrible idea (except for a specific search for a company's brand, ie Joe's Plumbing Service Burlington Vermont - they are specifically looking for this company.)

The question is why is the home page most likely a bad landing page. When running any PPC campaign, there are 3 elements: the keyword that was used to search, the Advertisement that is displayed, and the Landing Page where the visitor ends up. Creating a cohesive strategy to guide the web visitor to what they want is how PPC advertising works.

The unique angle of this webinar is using their analogy of the Ad as the "promise" and rehashing an old Seth Godin gorilla/banana analogy. Once your ad is displayed, the copy is the promise you are making to a web visitor. The landing page must match the promise made by the ad. Make your landing page as specific and easy as possible to take action from.

If a gorilla is searching for bananas, the keyword, ad copy, and landing page should all offer bananas and nothing else. If someone is looking for an air conditioning unit, your ad copy and landing page should promote air conditioning units (not your home page selling your overall HVAC service, or air conditioning repair, or solar panels...but only air conditioning units).

Ideally, the "promise" of the ad is associated with a call to action that delivers on that promise. "The 6 critical decisions to make when considering a new air conditioner" with an offer for a free estimate for example.

Overall process for a solid PPC campaign:
  • write ad copy that creates a solid "promise" that will appeal to whatever keyword was searched
  • create a landing page that delivers on that promise
  • offer very targeted and few click paths (hence, never use the home page where all of your standard navigation just gets in the way)
  • make sure that the promise is connected to a very specific call to action
  • test different keyword, ad copy, and landing pages to maximize conversions
  • measure the results and test again
Good advice for any small or medium sized business that is involved in a Pay Per Click marketing campaign. If you are outsourcing your PPC work, use this list to ensure that your current firm is maximizing the return on your investment.