Defining the Digital Marketing Ecosystem

Digital marketing is one of the most cost-efficient and—considering all the targeting a company can do—also one of the most effective ways for a business to market itself. But the marketing ecosystem is constantly evolving, which is why it’s important for business owners to understand each marketing channel’s unique characteristics.

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    • RELATED: Register for “Business Growth Boot Camp Part 2: Understanding Digital Marketing & Creating Measurable Results for Your Brand.

    During last month’s “Business Growth Boot Camp Part 1: Understanding the Digital Marketing Landscape & Creating Measurable Results for Your Brand,” Adcom’s Marisa Pisani explained to a packed house what the attendees need to know about leveraging:


    • paid search;
    • search engine optimization;
    • display ads;
    • social media;
    • email;
    • text messaging;
    • billboards;
    • radio;
    • TV; and
    • print.

    Following is a brief description of each channel and how business owners can use these methods to grow their business.

    Paid search
    Paid search places your content at the top of search engine pages. The upshot of this is it allows you to quickly capture search traffic. Another benefit: You can control what people are seeing when they input a search term relevant to your page.

    Cost of this method varies, as it’s based on a pay-per-click model; that is, a business is only charged when a user clicks on the paid search listing.

    Search engine optimization
    Search engines, such as Google, seek out pages they believe will provide the most value to users. While algorithms are constantly changing, in general search engines want pages that engage their audience. This is the most authentic way to build your page’s audience and it’s also a long-term play. Pisani suggested beginning with a paid search campaign to build an audience first and then transitioning to more of a SEO approach.

    Display ads
    Display ads are the image-based ads that appear on web pages and are related to a user’s browser history. This is a good method to use to build awareness of a product or service and to capture contact information if it’s linked to a simply designed, easy-to-understand landing page lead-generation form. It’s also a long-term strategy and it’s important for the business owner to understand what the path was that led a customer to their site. Did they see the ad several times, and then come search for the product or service? A good way to tell whether your display ad is effective is through testing. Turn it on for a couple weeks, then turn it off. Was there an increase in traffic to your site?

    Pisani was asked whether a display ad should be linked to gated content. Her answer: not if it’s linked to a product guide or brochure. But if you can gate something valuable, such as an industry report that adds value, users will be more willing to disclose their contact information.

    Social media
    There are a lot of different social channels marketers can take advantage of and be active on and Pisani gave a brief overview of each:

    Twitter: Good for quick hit industry news.

    Facebook: A great platform when it comes to paid social and targeting your business to a very specific audience.

    Instagram: A hub of visual content, including photos and created media.

    Pinterest: Useful to target DIYers. Also, the audience here skews female.

    YouTube: The second largest search engine in the world, YouTube is a valuable place for your business to have real estate. Bonus if you can get footage of people actually using your product.

    LinkedIn: This is a good place to show that you are a thought leader and share valuable content to other professionals who could become customers.

    Snapchat: Pisani said this is a platform that businesses should avoid at all costs, unless your customers are tweens. People are not using Snapchat to interact with businesses.

    Pisani said email marketing has the highest ROI of any digital marketing channel, so it’s one that should be on your radar. Why? It’s cost-effective, you’re not chasing prospects and, while it’s not a prospecting tool, you can easily build loyalty among your customers.

    This is also a good channel to test different approaches, as it relates to both the buying window and frequency of contact. If you’re sending too much, your audience will unsubscribe. If you’re sending too far out, your customers will forget your message and not buy.

    Text messaging
    SMS, or text messaging, has the highest read rate of all the channels, but it can be very expensive and cost upwards of $20,000. This means, while it’s effective, you’ll need to have a great case for using it (e.g., appointment reminders.) There are also a lot of rules governing text advertising, so consult with an expert before going this route.

    Other advertising methods
    Pisani also spent some time going over the “other” category of marketing: billboards, radio, TV and print.

    Billboards: This is a good way to build awareness, without a lot of commitment as digital billboards can be changed quickly.• Radio: There’s been a shift here, as more users are switching to Pandora, Spotify and other streaming services. These platforms also allow for greater targeting. Traditional radio remains useful, however, especially when paired with advertising on the radio’s website.

    TV: TV has also undergone a streaming shift of late. This allows businesses to see a clearer picture of who the audience is and what the demographic is and what comprises the demographic.

    Print: Print is not dead. And it can be useful in reaching niche audiences that read niche publications.

    Direct mail: This should be a smaller piece of your overall budget. This doesn’t have the ROI of email, but is still valuable way to reach repeat customers.

    At the end of the day, Pisani recommended that businesses test each of these channels and have a presence on several in order to spread their message as affectively as possible.

    This Boot Camp was just the beginning. Secure your place today by registering for “Business Growth Boot Camp Part 2: Understanding Digital Marketing & Creating Measurable Results for Your Brand.

    Next up: Defy the Hand You’re Dealt: Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 2015

    Defy the Hand You’re Dealt: Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 2015

    Six years ago when Go Media Partner Jeff Finley had the idea to combine three of his passions – art, design and music – into a cool, creative endeavor, he never dreamt where it would lead. Today, what started as a grassroots event to inspire and motivate local creative talent has snowballed into one of the most recognized creative conferences in the design industry. And it is right in our own backyard. The sixth annual Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, to be held at the Allen Theatre August 6-9, is produced by Cleveland graphic and web development firm Go Media and runs on the energy and fortitude of the small staff who take inspiration from the strong community behind it.

    Six years ago when Go Media Partner Jeff Finley had the idea to combine three of his passions – art, design and music – into a cool, creative endeavor, he never dreamt where it would lead. Today, what started as a grassroots event to inspire and motivate local creative talent has snowballed into one of the most recognized creative conferences in the design industry. And it is right in our own backyard. The sixth annual Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, to be held at the Allen Theatre August 6-9, is produced by Cleveland graphic and web development firm Go Media and runs on the energy and fortitude of the small staff who take inspiration from the strong community behind it.

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    Members of the Weapons of Mass Creation (WMC) community help to lead decisions about where the fest will organically go. Those discussions lead this year’s content curators, Go Media’s own Heather Sakai and Bryan Garvin, to stray from the fest’s roots in music and pull the focus to the heart of the matter: networking and education. 


    One of the first to hop on the 2015 Fest lineup was design legend Michael Bierut, partner in New York City’s multidisciplinary design firm Pentagram, founder of the Design Observer blog, and a senior critic in graphic design at Yale School of Art. Bierut, originally from Parma, is donating his time due to his passion for Cleveland and WMC. According to Bierut, there was nothing resembling WMC or graphic design in the suburbs of Cleveland in the ‘60s when he was growing up. Bierut will explain his journey in a talk titled: “How to Use Graphic Design to Get from the Corner of Granger Road and West 132nd Street in Garfield Heights to the Corner of Fifth Avenue and 25th Street in New York City in Only 50 Years.”

    The Fest, whose motto is “Defy the Hand You’re Dealt,” is expected to bring more than 1,000 attendees to Cleveland for three days of learning, self-discovery and knowledge.  

    This article originally appeared in the July 20, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.

    Next up: Digital Marketing: 3 Takeaways

    Digital Marketing: 3 Takeaways

    Jason Therrien of thunder::tech lists the top three takeaways from his recent COSE Business Growth Boot Camp.

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    Next up: Digital Marketing: Focus and Set Realistic Goals for Your Campaign

    Digital Marketing: Focus and Set Realistic Goals for Your Campaign

    In the lead up to a special COSE Business Growth Boot Camp Series that launches this month, we sat down with Boot Camp presenter Marisa Pisani of Adcom to get a sense of what attendees are going to take away from the events.

    Thirty years ago, the potential marketing channels available to businesses were limited. Phone. Billboards. Direct mail. TV. Print. That covered the bulk of a company’s choices.

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    The marketing world is much different today. The number of channels open to businesses is seemingly endless, especially as it relates to digital marketing. So, how do you focus on which of these avenues makes the most sense for you? And just as importantly, how do you set realistic goals you can use to gauge the success of your campaign?

    Those are going to be two of the questions addressed by Adcom’s Marisa Pisani during a unique two-part COSE Boot Camp Series. In the first workshop to be held from 7:30 to 10 a.m. on Feb. 22, “Business Growth Boot Camp Part 1: Understanding Digital Marketing & Creating Measurable Results for Your Brand,” Pisani will explain what options are available to you today and which of these, given the limited time and resources small businesses have available, make the most sense to become a priority for your business.


    RELATED: Learn more and register for the Business Growth Boot Camp.

    And there’s a lot to consider. Among the topics Pisani will cover include:

    Build a strategy: Every company is unique. How does your company’s strategy intersect with the options that are out there?

    Know the options: Will paid search be a good use of your limited funds? Or should you focus on increasing traffic to your site organically? Pisani will lay out the pros and cons of the options that are out there and what will yield the most conversions.

    Learn from the best: How can you apply the blueprints other companies have used to find great success in their digital marketing campaigns?

    Pisani will follow up this presentation with a more granular discussion on March 22 from 7:30 to 10 a.m. during “Business Growth Boot Camp Part 2: Think Outside the Box.”

    Related: Learn more about Part 2 of this Business Growth Boot Camp series.

    This session will build on the lessons learned during Part 1. Now that you know where to spend your time and money, how do you scale it and make it more automated? The points addressed during this follow-up session will include:

    Measurable results: Launching your campaign is only half the battle. What are you doing that’s measurable? And what are you learning about your audience?

    Refine your campaign: And using the data you’ve gathered, how do you focus your campaign to make it as successful as possible? What’s the best way to stay in front of your customers to keep your brand top of mind?

    At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that you are not marketing to machines. You’re marketing to human beings. This Business Growth Boot Camp is a unique, fun way to learn how to reach these humans using proven, realistic methods that give you the best chance to grow your business.

    Secure your spot for this unique Business Growth Boot Camp experience today. You can register for Part 1 by clicking here. And learn more and register for Part 2 by clicking here.

    Next up: Digital Marketing: What Is It and What Does It Mean for Small Business?

    Digital Marketing: What Is It and What Does It Mean for Small Business?

    The New Year offers a perfect time to tackle fresh challenges for your business. You’ve prepared a game plan for the year ahead, made projections, mapped your budget, and identified new investments you intend to make. You’re ready to go. Time to accomplish everything on your list, one by one.

    The New Year offers a perfect time to tackle fresh challenges for your business. You’ve prepared a game plan for the year ahead, made projections, mapped your budget, and identified new investments you intend to make. You’re ready to go. Time to accomplish everything on your list, one by one.

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    After so many years, you’ve developed a process, and established a working formula that could be described as semi-effective. The low hanging fruit—the practical stuff that’s easy to tackle, easy to measure—always makes it to the top of the list, while the more organic, harder to quantify stuff such as your marketing strategy, get relegated to the back burner.

    The promise of a new marketing strategy in the new year and the challenge of stepping up your marketing game is challenging indeed, and formidable by nature. Every year you endeavor to get a handle on it, and every year it slips through your fingers. Before you know it, it’s July, the THIRD QUARTER has started, and you’re still struggling to get your foot in the game. Eventually you give up altogether, put your marketing priorities on autopilot and hope for the best, or at least for a better shot at it next year.


    The results of your marketing efforts are not always easy to measure, because traditional forms of marketing haven’t always lent themselves well to the assurances of instant gratification. The natural response is to put your marketing strategy on the shelf, and hope it takes care of itself.

    Thankfully, we live in a time where traditional forms of marketing are being replaced by the use of new information channels and new methods that enable small businesses to analyze what works and what doesn’t, in real time. This is the age of digital marketing: No more wondering whether a particular marketing campaign is paying off. Now you can manage and track quantifiable results in real time.

    You’ve effectively run a business for many years. Your reputation is sound, and your client base is solid. But lately you’ve noticed the same faces walking through the door. How do you break with tradition and make the most use out of the ever-allusive digital space, crack the code and bring in new business?

    The good news is you already understand the basics of digital marketing, in a purely intuitive sense. After all, you engage in the digital space every day as a person, a consumer, and, of course, as a small business owner. It’s everywhere, embedded, coded, for your convenience whether you’re conscious of it or not. In fact, the very ubiquitous-ness of digital marketing might explain why it can be both easy to utilize and hard to grasp at the same time. The biggest challenge is often knowing where to dive in.

    Fortunately, you’ve been in business long enough to have gathered a lot of the basic tools needed to survive in this new territory: company website, Facebook page, client list (with important data like email addresses and names), even your own Twitter feed.

    Trouble is:

    1. Your website is out-of-date and unresponsive (i.e., it doesn’t translate well on mobile and other handheld devices).
    2. Your client list is stuck on a local network somewhere in your office and has never been imported into an email Marketing service such as MailChimp or an online marketing resource like Constant Contact.
    3. Your Facebook page hasn’t been updated since Labor Day Weekend, 2013.
    4. Your Twitter account is so dormant that, even if you wanted to tweet about your latest promotion, you couldn’t remember your login credentials to do so.

    These factors amount to a tremendous disconnect between your business and the purchasing habits of today’s consumer, and the trends of the marketplace in 2017. Consider these seven useful tips to help get a handle on this new wave in marketing communications.

    1. You need an upgrade. To bridge the gap, temper the divide, and build a global client base, start by rebuilding your website on a content management system, such as WordPress that lends itself well to the demands of the new marketplace. This is enormously important. Most consumers today are searching and making purchasing choices with a mobile device. If your site was built before 2012, chances are it doesn’t translate well in today’s mobile environment. Upgrading to a more contemporary, responsive website that clearly lists your products and services, and allows consumers to contact you on the go, and make buying decisions with you from their phones, is tremendous.

    2. Re-write, remove, edit, and update old content to improve the search rankings of your website. You’re essentially killing two birds with one stone here. On one hand, you’re giving your content a much-needed upgrade. On the other hand—by re-crafting the content on your website with a focus on keywords—you’re essentially optimizing your site in the process. It’s not enough to tell your clients who you are and what you do these days. You’ve got to strategically craft the content on your site (through the use of code optimization, link building, and other methods) in order for it to register with the search engines of the world. This ups your online profile, and ultimately leads to new business.

    3. Start using that old blog page if you’ve got one. One of the simplest, most effective ways to ensure your site continues to rate well with the search engines of the world is to keep it stocked with fresh content. Having an active blog is a great way to accomplish this. Try posting regular content once a month or every couple weeks about certain aspects of your business. Make it educational. Fill it with keywords (or terminology central to your business), and soon you’ll see your rankings improve. You don’t need to re-write War and Peace here. No one’s going to read that anyway. Regular, easy to read, bite-sized content on your blog (unique to your business) goes a long way. So, delete that old post from 10 years ago, the one with all the cobwebs growing around it, and start fresh!

    4. Stay connected with your client base by utilizing your contact email list. Ensure it’s up to date and use it to create regular eblasts, promotions, and newsletters to communicate with your clients. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Keep your promos simple. Re-purpose content from your blog and, with it, craft the occasional newsletter. Another great advantage to using e-marketing tools is many of them offer you the ability to manage and monitor the effectiveness of each marketing campaign in real time. Each app provides built in metrics that allow you to monitor the click rate and conversion rate (i.e., those customers who did more than just window shop or browse) of your latest marketing campaigns, and ultimately the purchasing habits of your customers. Strong stuff.

    5. Utilize social media. Here’s where that old Facebook page of yours (the one that hasn’t been updated in years) comes into play. Take the content from your Blog, or the promos from your latest newsletter and send them out on social. Re-post to your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages. But don’t just regurgitate the content. Tweak it, and edit it for context. This is where you can have a bit of fun with your marketing strategy. Slice, dice, and customize your marketing efforts. Tailor your message to fit the medium.

    6. Do the time. The biggest commitment you need to make when it comes to digital marketing is time. And it’s not always as simple as carving out an hour in your day, at the same time every day. This is ephemeral stuff. Keeping your digital marketing efforts up to date requires stealing time when you can get it. The digital flow of information fluctuates too much to settle for anything less. Being there with something fresh, oftentimes at the spur of the moment, is key. The tools used for your digital marketing efforts are ultimately perishable products. The relevance of information continually ebbs and flows. Your digital marketing strategy will dry up unless you care for it on the regular. Shooting from the hip, and keeping the lines of communication open are key. You already have the tools in place to reach your clients when you get the urge. A stolen moment goes a long way in the digital space, and you never know what posts will resonate with your customers. Sometimes it’s the simplest stuff.

    7. Get buzzed by association! This is an effective and perfectly legitimate strategy in digital marketing. Consider sponsoring a popular event in your area. Well attended, buzz worthy events (and the people and organizations involved with them) often promote themselves organically. Reposting, sharing, hashtagging, you name it. Making room in your yearly marketing budget to support and sponsor these types of events will insert your company name and logo into the digital market stream by proxy. Ride the wave.

    There you have it. The democratization of business right at your fingertips. You have the potential to grow your business, expand your sphere of influence, and multiply your client base with the touch of a button, from the comforts of your office. Knowing which channels to focus on and prioritize is the challenge. It’s OK to pick and choose. The New Year is here. Don’t water down your to-do list with other seemingly more manageable priorities. Keep your marketing strategy front and center, up-to-date, and off the back burner.

    Michael J. Miller is a part of the Go Media team.To learn more about building the right digital marketing strategy for your business, contact Go Media, your Cleveland Digital Marketing Specialists.

    Next up: Does Your Marketing Suck?

    Does Your Marketing Suck?

    Spoiler alert: It probably does, but our columnist is too nice to say it.

    I thought of calling this rant ‘Your Marketing Sucks,’ but that declarative statement sounded too in-your-face and presumptuous, even for me. So, I changed the statement into a question to let you decide if your marketing sucks, and how much.

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    Many small business owners and entrepreneurs play around with marketing plans and tools, but few of them meet expectations and even fewer exceed them. So, let’s consider three critical questions that will help you position your marketing on the positive side of the ‘Sucks Continuum,’ which ranges from ‘Doesn’t suck at all, thank you very much,’ all the way to ‘Sucks so bad, I’m really embarrassed!’  

    •          RELATED: The four biggest marketing mistakes you’re making as a business owner.


    Question No. 1: How well does your marketing program meet defined objectives?

    In order to answer this first question, you might need to consider some follow-up questions: Did your current plan or specific tools meet the metrics you set up for them at the onset? How did they relate to your definition of success? Did you get a positive ROI?

    Tip: You know your marketing sucks if it didn’t produce a positive ROI, it and sucks really bad if you didn’t have any metrics to measure and evaluate success to begin with.

    To help improve your marketing, you need to clearly redefine SMART goals going forward. They need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. So, think in terms of numbers:

    •          How many initial inquiries or site visits do you want to achieve?

    •          How many actual phone, in-person or email conversations should result?

    •          How many proposals or serious buying discussions?

    •          How many actual sales?

    •          What’s your ROI—ratio of new business revenue and profit generated (yes, they’re different numbers) to marketing program costs?

    •          Did you get any survey or anecdotal customer feedback about the campaign?

    Question No. 2: How well do your marketing messages communicate in a customer-centric manner?

    And again, the follow-up questions: Did you communicate with prospects and customers the way they like to be communicated with? Did you use their language, not yours? Did you sound like a real person who has value and cares about their needs? Were you customer-centric?

    Tip: You know your marketing sucks if you weren’t communicating in a customer-centric manner, and it really sucks if you have no clue what that means.

    So, go where they are. Here’s how.

    •          Don’t baffle them with acronyms or buzz words.

    •          Use words they understand in a syntax that makes you sound authentic.

    •          Don’t try to impress them with your lofty vocabulary. Impress them with your clarity.

    •          Use the Q&A format—sound like you’re responding to questions they have, or should have, about their needs and your products or services. That’s where ‘FAQs’ came from.

    •          Regularly let them know when you achieve a milestone, earn an award or are featured in the local—or national—media. Make it sound like you assume they all really care about you and your business. Some of them actually do. More will when you give them good reasons to care.

    Question No. 3:  How well does your marketing program reward customer loyalty?

    Follow-up: Do you constantly seek new customers, but make existing ones still feel special? Once you ‘get them in the tent,’ what do you do to keep them there? How much time, effort and money do you spend trying to get new business from existing customers rather than trying to get new customers? Do your customer loyalty and referral programs create positive results?


    •          RELATED: The easy way to earn repeat and referral business.

    Tip: You know your marketing sucks if you spend more time, effort and money trying to get new customers than maximizing value from existing customers, and it really sucks if you don’t have a customer loyalty or referral program.

    So, embrace the time-honored marketing concept that it’s 10 times easier, faster and cheaper to get new business from existing customers than it is to get new customers. Here’s how.

    •          Create simple customer loyalty programs with quick rewards that give them a reason to buy from you again and again rather than from the competition.

    •          Find ways to reward customers for referring their friends or colleagues. Depending on your industry, consider tangible gifts, coupons for money off, freebies and even donations to non-profits.

    •          Analyze your customer base to determine VIPs to be rewarded differently. Think frequent flyer programs with their various tiers of rewards.

    •          Periodically talk to your existing customers about ways to improve your products or services. With small customer bases, call them. With larger groups, try targeted emails or a percentage each week or month.

    •          Consider invitation-only customer appreciation sales or events.

    •          You may give away cool logo SWAG at trade shows to get new customers, so why not periodically send cool stuff to your customers, especially your VIPs?

    These questions should help you assess how much your marketing sucks. That’s the easy part. Putting the best practices referenced in the answers to work for your business is the hard part. So, start small and simple. Try a few strategies and evaluate the results. Network with colleagues to learn what they do. Regularly incorporate new strategies with proven worth. Keep striving to move your overall marketing as far to the positive side on the ‘Sucks Continuum’ as you can. Your bottom line will tell you how well you’re doing.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 440-449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.