Our Point of View

On all things marketing...
  • 24 Mar 2014

    Is Having a “.com” Web Address Enough?

    The answer is we don’t know yet. The release of more than 1,000 new gTLDs (generic Top Level Domains) is the biggest shake-up in the digital landscape since the Internet began 25 years ago. What it means is that there are currently 32 new Web address extensions available beyond the tried and true .com and potentially 500+ more to come.

    The Good. 

    New brands now have more options in naming their companies and products, with more Web addresses available. The availability of many more names will also deter the power of domain squatters, who buy up names in bulk and try to make a profit reselling them. When you type in a domain name to check availability and find that it’s only being used to advertise itself for sale, a squatter owns it. They typically target larger companies, but also watch domain names that are about to expire and quickly buying them before the owner can renew it. Some watch Web addresses searched on sites, like GoDaddy, and buy up everything someone is considering before they can make a decision. Talk to your Web hosting company to do the search for you from a source that’s more secure.

    The Challenges.

    Existing brand owners that have invested heavily in owning top dollar Web sites are not happy. The supply of Web address names going up dilutes the value of existing domain names. Established Web domain owners will need to secure additional gTLDs associated with their name before competitors do. Marketers will be looking at entire portfolios of Web addresses for the brands they manage in this new world order on the Internet.

    What New Names are Available?

    In early February 2014 .BIKE, .CLOTHING, .GURU, .HOLDINGS, .SINGLES, .PLUMBING and .VENTURES launched as the official firsts in the Internet namespace expansion. In the first week the clear leader in registered domains was .GURU with more than three times the popularity of the next highest TLD, .BIKE.  TOP 10 TLDs registered as of 3/19/14:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    What Names Should We Secure?

    To date, a .com domain address is still the most common by far:  .com represents 75% of names registered, .net 11%, .org 7%, .info 5% and .biz just 2%. We don’t expect any of the new names to become more prevalent than .com, but it’s possible that the tride and true domain names may seem passé in the coming years. Because no one knows which way the trend will go yet, it’s smart to attain both. We recommend reviewing the entire list of names coming available and chosing one to three  that make the most sense in your category of business, such as .manufacturing or .agency. Have your Web firm at the ready to register your chosen names when they become available.

    TLDs Available to Date as of March 19th, 2014

    Will it Affect SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

    That is ultimately up to how consumers adapt. If they do engage with brands via the new extensions, then search and SEO naturally will follow. You should consult with your Web firm about your specific situation to weigh the pros and cons of multiple addresses and their impact your online presence and search rankings.

    Who is Adding Names and Why?

    The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, /ˈaɪkæn/ eye-kan) is a nonprofit organization that has been overseeing the maintenance of Internet-related databases and tasks since 1998. Their stated purpose of adding hundreds of new TLDs is to increase competition and choice in the domain name space. Time will tell how that pans out.

  • 17 Feb 2014

    Do You Need to Be on Facebook?

    Maybe. The social media giant turned 10 last week and it seems that everyone is using Facebook. Statistics from Facebook like, “people spend more than 700 billion minutes monthly on the platform,” can initiate panic among business owners about what they’re missing. Don’t panic. Look at the profile of your best prospects and see if it’s a match.

    The profile of the average Facebook user is changing. Facebook started as a place where teenagers socialized, but at the end of 2013 Forbes reported, “Facebook is Dead and Buried to Teens.” Teenagers are reportedly gravitating instead toward sites like Snapchat, Twitter, What’sApp and Instagram that are mobile-first apps and easier to use. Facebook is still a Web first platform. The reality is that as Facebook has aged, so has their user profile. It is no longer just a place where kids hang out and may include some adults in your target audience.

    Social media can be compared to mingling at a cocktail party. It’s where you meet, mingle and touch base with people. If you do a good job of working the room, everyone will remember you. It’s never the entire marketing program, but one part of the overall process of developing a relationship with prospects.

    At Gerard Marketing Group, we recommend developing a strategic marketing plan to determine which, if any, social media platforms will give your business added value. Genevieve Lachance of socialmediatoday.com gives us 10 general tips to add value to your Facebook Business Page for users:

     

    Source:  PEW Research Center.

    1. Find the Answers

    Why: Why should you be on Facebook?

    Not every business should be on Facebook! Figure out where your target market is and focus on the platform(s) that will have the highest pay off for your business.

    What: What are your goals or what are you trying to achieve?

    Some of your Goals may be:

    • Create brand and/or product awareness
    • Build a community
    • Show your expertise
    • Educate
    • Increase your reach
    • Generate traffic to your website
    • Build new partnerships
    • Provide Customer Service
    • Increase sales, etc.

    Who: Who is your target?

    Have a clear idea of who you want to reach on Facebook. The more you know about them, the better you can target your message.

    How:  How are you going to get there? Figure out which best strategy will help you achieve each goal.

    Source:  PEW Research Center. Social Media in 2013 User Demographics. May 2013.

    2. Use the Space Given Wisely

    Facebook gives you space which can leave a lasting impression on your Page visitors. Make sure to pay close attention to your Cover image, Profile image and About section.

    3. Your Cover Should Talk

    Your Cover image is prime real estate on your Facebook Page and it’s the first thing your Page visitors will notice. Your Cover image should express who you are as a business and your Page visitors should understand what your business is about at a glance.

    4. Post Regularly

    Posting at random or not regularly enough can leave a negative impression on your page visitors and affect your reach. Also, posting too frequently can have an adverse effect on your Page engagement. Find your rhythm by testing your frequency and watching your numbers to optimize engagement. Creating a Content calendar can help you stay on track and makes the process easier to manage.

    5. Understand the Platform 

    Facebook EdgeRank

    Did you know that not all your fans see your posts? Actually probably less than 16% of your fans see your Page posts! Edgerank determines what posts appear on a Facebook user’s newsfeed.

    Page vs. Profile vs. Groups

    Pages are for businesses and are entirely open to the public and search engines. Pages can also have applications and custom tabs to help engage with your audiences. You can have as many Pages as you want and there are no limits on the numbers of fans (likes) you can have.

    Profiles are for your personal use and represent you as a person. On your profile you have “friends”. You can have up to 5000 friends and you’re allowed to “like” up to 500 pages. You’re only allowed to have one personal profile. You can control your visibility with the privacy settings.

    Groups are for people who share a common interest. Group members can participate in chats, upload photos to shared albums, collaborate on group docs and invite members who are friends to group events. In Groups, there are 3 Privacy Options: Open, Closed or Secret.

    Facebook Terms of Service (TOS)

    Breaking Facebook rules may result in having your page shutdown without notice. Be familiar with the TOS. Visit Facebook to learn more https://www.facebook.com/policies.

    Insights

    By using the Page and Post Export option in your Facebook Page insights, you will have valuable data to help you understand how people use your Page and what works best for your business.  Facebook insights can provide valuable data to help you measure your Page success. Keep track of your numbers and adjust accordingly.

    Help Section

    Facebook Help section can provide valuable information and is often underused. Visit Facebook for more https://www.facebook.com/help/pages.

    6. Use Facebook’s Features

    • Vanity URL
    • Post Targeting
    • Pinned Posts
    • Highlighted Posts
    • Featured Likes
    • Custom Tabs
    • Events
    • Post scheduler
    • Offers
    • Promoted Posts
    • Milestone
    • Questions

     

    7. Respond to All Comments

    According to socialbakers.com, only around 30% of brands respond to comments. Respond to ALL comments and make sure your settings allow for people to post on your Page.

    8. Cross promote

    To increase your Page visibility, you will need to tell people about it. Don’t forget to link your personal Profile to your Page. Promote your Page on:

    • Other social networks
    • Your website
    • Business Cards
    • Marketing material
    • Events
    • Newsletters

    9. Invest in Your Page

    It’s becoming clear that Facebook ads are no longer an option for businesses. Include Facebook ads to your marketing budget to help increase your Likes, engagement, visibility, promote events, market your products or services, etc.

    • Promoted Posts
    • Sponsored stories
    • Facebook ads
    • Offers

     

    10. Provide Value 

    The 80/20 rule. Try publishing around 80% original and curated content that provides value to your followers and no more than 20% promotional content. Promotional content includes selling your products or services, posting about how great your customer find your business (unless your clients post it directly on your wall), showing your work or portfolio, promotion of your accomplishments, etc.

    Relevant Content. Provide a mix of content related to your products or services. All too often we see Pages that post about random topics that are totally unrelated to their business. Don’t stray too far off your topic!

    What’s In It for Them? Whenever you post to your page, remember that your page visitors want to know “what’s in it for them”. Be mindful of the content you post on your page to make sure you provide value to your visitors and fans. Most Facebook users Like pages to:

    • Receive discounts or promotions
    • Stay informed
    • Get entertained
    • Interact and connect
    • Get Educated
    • Show support
  • 20 Jan 2014

    How Much is Enough?

    The answer is it depends upon many factors like the size of your business, growth objectives, the category you are competing in, your target market size and acquired customer value. As the principal of Gerard Marketing Group, I am happy to help walk any business owner through this process, because there truly is not a one-size-fits-all simple answer.

    The following perspective from the Bloomberg Report provides a good start:

    What Should You Spend on Advertising?
    By Steve McKee, Bloomberg Report

    One of the questions I’m frequently asked is: “How much should my company spend on marketing and advertising?” It’s a conundrum that vexes many corporate leaders, from emerging entrepreneurs to seasoned CEOs. Unfortunately, instead of seeking a rational answer to the question, many of them just ignore it and hope it will go away.

    As a rule, emerging companies focus most of their time and talents on meeting the needs of customers, as well they should. If they don’t take care of the customers they already have, everything else will be academic. Strangely, however, many neglect the function of winning customers in the first place. Others naively assume that if they simply provide excellent products or services, their reputation will precede them. Call it the “build a better mousetrap” syndrome. But the world has too many other things to do with its time than beat a path to your door. That means you need to structure your profit-and-loss statement in such a way that you can profitably allocate a reasonable percentage of your revenue to marketing.

    The Big Question:  How Much?

    While there is no definitive answer as to how much any business should spend on marketing, there are general guidelines any company can use to develop a formula that works for them.

    Your first step should be to try to find out what the advertising-to-sales ratio typically is in your field. Public companies in your industry may give a figure for their marketing spending in their financial statements (found in their annual reports). With a simple calculation, you can figure out what percentage of their overall revenue that represents. If you can’t find any public companies that seem similar enough to yours, you might want to start at 5% and then adjust your projected spending up or down based on the size of your market, the cost of media, what you can learn about how much your competitors are spending, and the speed at which you’d like to grow.

    You’ll also need to ask yourself if your business is built to leverage volume or to leverage margin. Even within industries, there are substantial differences in the marketing spend of volume-driven companies compared with margin-driven ones. Volume-driven companies tend to spend a tiny percentage of sales on marketing, in part because their large revenues enable small contributions to add up fast, and in part because of the margin pressures they face in having to compete with other high volume companies. By contrast, margin-driven companies tend to spend a larger percentage of sales on marketing: They have room in their margins to afford it, and they’re often working from a smaller revenue base.

    The retail industry provides some good examples. While Wal-Mart (WMT) might spend a meager 0.4% of sales on advertising, the sheer size of the company turns that tiny percentage into a significant budget. Wal-Mart’s nominally higher-margin competitor, Target (TGT), spends closer to 2% of its sales on advertising, while Best Buy (BBY), as a specialty retailer, spends upwards of 3%. Finally, more upscale stores like Macy’s typically spend on the order of 5%.

    The same kind of ratios can be seen in the car industry (automakers’ generally spend 2.5% to 3.5% of revenue on marketing), liquor (5.5% to 7.5%), packaged goods (4% to 10%), and every other industry.

    If you’re in a services business, you might want to bump your starting point higher than 5%. For example, like most professional services firms, my company is more margin-oriented than volume-oriented, so fueling its growth requires that we spend a higher percentage of our revenues. Last year, our number was just over 8%, and I’ve seen companies spend upwards of 15% when warranted—especially young companies that need to invest to build their brand.

    Marketing, Not Just Advertising

    It’s important to make a qualification here. Giant consumer corporations such as automakers, packaged food manufacturers, and retail chains spend a huge percentage of their marketing dollars on paid media advertising, the most visible (and expensive) tool in the marketing toolbox. Depending on the size of your company and the business you’re in, advertising might not be the right (and certainly not the only) tool for you.

    A professional services company like my own is a good case in point. While we serve a national clientele, we are much too small to effectively advertise on a national scale. As a result, we don’t purchase paid media advertising. But we do have an aggressive marketing program built around tactics like direct mail, online marketing and public relations. For a variety of reasons, paid advertising might not be right for your company either, but events, vehicle wraps, point-of-sale displays, or other tactics certainly could be.

    The important thing is intentionally and deliberately to set aside some rational percentage of your sales to get out there. That way, the question you have to answer isn’t “How much should we spend?” but rather, “How do we spend most effectively?”

  • 06 Jan 2014

    Are You Digital Enough?

    As new technology evolves the way people consume information, articles about how to use digital tactics for allegedly “amazing results” abound! Fear not. You do not need to try every new tactic out there to obtain the best ROI on your marketing budget. In fact, my favorite definition of “strategy” is “deciding what not to do.”

    As the principal of Gerard Marketing Group, my advice is to be aware of the trends in a big-picture sort of way, but don’t get caught up in the hype of any single one. Your primary marketing focus should still be on your target and how they relate to your product/service.

    Some bigger picture trends to note in the digital world:

    Content is Still King

    • Content marketing is 31% cheaper than paid search advertising, but is still not free!
    • 62% of companies outsource their content marketing.
    • The ROI of content marketing has risen 300% over the previous three years.
    • There are now content discovery apps which support the growth of content consumption:  Flipboard, Pulse, and Fancy (to name a few).

    Separation of Email

    • 12% of people use separate work and personal inboxes.
    • In mid-2013 Gmail started its rollout of the new tabbed inbox, separating personal and promotional e-mails automatically in consumers’ inboxes. Yahool and AOL are expected to follow suit.

    Mobile Growth

    • In 2011, mobile devices outsold desktops for the first time. By 2017 it is expected that 87% of connected devices sold will be smart phones.
    • 80% of Email users report reading their mail on mobile devices.
    • 64% of mobile time is spent on an application.
    • Websites today must be “responsive,” meaning the format changes to vertical from horizontal automatically when viewed on a mobile device.
    • Apple’s announcement of the iBeacon functionality in 2013 as part of its iOS7 technology allows a customer with an iPhone 4S or later model who’s downloaded your app to receive special offers based upon where they are. For example, a customer strolls into Aisle 12 and then receive a push notification on their phone with offers or content related to where they’re standing.

    SEO Matters

    • 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine.
    • 75% of users scroll past the first page of search results.
    • 70% of the links search users click on are organic.
    • 67% are using a free web analytics solution.
    • 70-80% of users ignore the paid advertising.
    • 61% of global Internet users research products online.
    • Companies that blog have 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links over companies that don’t.

    Social Media Diversification

    In 2013 we saw a surge in popularity of new networks like Pinterest, Vine and Instagram. Like the splintering of the cable channels way back when, social media sites are also beginning to segment audiences further.

    Increased Hashtag Use

    I have been known to call this a “pound” symbol, revealing my age; however, today’s primary use of this symbol is in social media. It allows users to label and search posts by general topic, such as #GetWithTheTimes or #AnnoyingOveruseOfHashtags.

    Initially hashtags were a feature on Twitter, but were added by multiple other platforms in 2013, including Facebook. Now that posts and searches can be done by general topic across various social media platforms, updates around general topics are no longer limited to established ‘communities of interest’ within any given platform. The most interesting and outstanding posts can now become viral without the help of “friends.”

    Better Retargeting

    These days, you can’t just visit a site and forget about it. The cookies on your browser make it possible for that site to follow you wherever you go online. I personally find it creepy when I visit a non-related site and see an add for something I was researching two days ago, but there’s no doubt it helps increase conversions. Marketers of B2C and B2B expect the trend to ramp up again this year.

    The Rise of Paid Social Ads

    • Social ads have deep user engagement and more sophisticated targeting tools.
    • News feed ads on Facebook generate 49 times more clicks than right-hand side ads.
    • Similarly, LinkedIn now offers sponsored updates, and Pinterest is currently testing promoted pins. If these programs show the same effectiveness as Facebook’s, other channels may see this as a great opportunity to cater to business accounts.

    More Visual Content

    • As device use and band-withs continue to grow, online video consumption will also.
    • Video content consistently outperforms blogs and other text-based content. One study shows the retention rate for visual information can reach 65% versus 10% for text-based information.
    • Pinterests’ visual-focused boards now generate more revenue for retailers than Tweets or Facebook posts.
    • New popular platforms like Vine, SnapChat and Instagram now have micro-video capability.

     Sources:  IDC Study, Forbes, SocialMedia Today, Yoda London, Twitter, Facebook, TechCrunch, Instagram, WordPress Hosting, Hubspot.

  • 16 Dec 2013

    Microsoft Should Not Try to be Like Apple

    The St. Louis Galleria now has a Microsoft store just down the way from the Apple store. It’s always empty, even during this busy holiday season. The Apple store is always buzzing. The first time I saw the Microsoft store, all I could think was, “Why are they trying to be Apple?” Claim your own position in the category. You have the budget to do it. Apparently you don’t have the marketing savvy though.

    I like the take on this from Forbes’ contributor, Dave Their:

    Microsoft Stores are Very Sad Places

    For those of you who haven’t been to a Microsoft store, it isn’t hard to imagine. Picture an Apple store. Now picture a poorly designed Apple store. That’s pretty much it. I walked into a Microsoft store for the first time recently. It was, for lack of a better word, pathetic. It caused me to feel real pathos for Microsoft, a company that seems to have no sense of what it is.

    Everything in the Microsoft store is a cheap knockoff of Apple. There are big glass doors, long tables with Microsoft products people can try out, helpful store employees with bright T-shirts and lanyards, walls of accessories and scattered software. There’s a dedicated area for children. At the front of the store is an “answer counter” that looked suspiciously similar to the Genius Bar. There are differences, but the differences only serve to hurt it. The natural wood colors can’t match the sleek white that defines an Apple store. There’s no stylistic unity from product to product, sacrificing the sci-fi quality that comes with a store that looks like a set. There are columns in the store, for God’s sake. Apple would never suffer columns.

    It makes you wonder what the meeting looked like: an energetic if uncreative communications executive making the impassioned pitch about how they can fight and win against Apple on their own turf, the executives slowly nodding as they began to believe it was possible.

    It doesn’t have to be that way. Microsoft is a real company. They make real products that real people use, and there are many reasons why somebody might buy a Microsoft product over an Apple product. But Microsoft doesn’t seem to be able to make people realize that. When it comes to marketing, they’re still the nerdy kid that hangs out behind Apple. Apple makes fun of them, but they still wear a backwards hat because that’s what Apple does.

    Remember the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads? They hit Microsoft right where it hurt: mocking the company’s squareness in the face of Apple’s monumental coolification of personal electronics. They were also hilarious, something the uncool can have a hard time with. And so Microsoft came out with a series of rebuttal ads called “I’m a PC,” showing a bunch of people trying to look like Justin Long and pretend they were using Microsoft products by choice. It was a bit hard to watch.

    Here’s what they should have done: show a useless hipster taking filtered pictures with his iPhone and tweeting on a MacBook. Then show someone running a business using a PC. Same stereotypes: suit vs. t-shirt, just reversed. It could have been an effective message: Macs are shiny toys, PCs are valuable tools.

    But like McDonald’s trying to pretend it’s an upscale coffee shop, Microsoft is trying to emulate another big business while losing sight of what made their own company successful in the first place. It’s not going to work: their brand will never be as trendy as Apple’s, and trying to pretend it can be only points out how far it has to go. But confidence comes from all kinds of places, and if Microsoft wants to be a leader again it will have to develop a style that is all its own. So long as it commits itself to following, it ensures that it will remain in second.

    On the flip side following is a nice take on why the Apple stores do work from blog, The Story of Telling:

    The Apple Store, Belonging And Love

    What’s the one thing you never find at an Apple store? That thing you probably found in your hotel room when you checked in. The poorly expressed intention to customers, that guarantees they will never come back. Oh, and it’s most likely laminated and taped up in several places.

    Ah yes.…. a list of rules.

    I found that list pasted four times around our ‘holiday getaway’ recently. Every poorly considered word told us what we couldn’t do in the outdoor spa and what we must do. Every time we saw that note we knew that we weren’t trusted and didn’t belong.

    apple-store-new-yorkThe Apple Store is a place without rules. No glass cases. (Although the building itself in NYC is a glass case.) No velvet ropes between the product and the customer. Everybody’s welcome. That’s part of the reason it’s the busiest store in your city. Every single contact point invites you to experience and start getting intimate. To explore, to touch, to play, to linger and belong. There are no barriers to intimacy. And that’s exactly what your customers want from you. Your customers want to know they belong.

    Before they can allow your designs, copy, books and products to belong in their lives, they need to sense your intention. They want to trust you and feel that you trust them too.

    Your clients want to be welcomed like a friend and wooed live a lover. They can feel your intention at every point of contact. It’s your job to communicate that with all your heart and soul. Doesn’t matter if you sell shoes, coffee, design, copy or connection. Making rules is lazy. Building trust and expressing intentions isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

    Have you found ways to create intimacy with your clients either online or offline? Tell me more about the businesses and brands that you love and how they do that?

  • 25 Nov 2013

    Re-branding from the Inside Out

    Today the Cooperating School Districts (CSD) of Greater St. Louis announced to their members and partners a new name, EducationPlus and with it, a whole new image. CSD serves close to 70 public school districts across the St. Louis region; however, most were not aware of their many capabilities. Their objective was to not only increase usage among members, but also awareness among the community at large.

    CSD charged Gerard Marketing Group, a St. Louis marketing company, with explaining their broad range of capabilities to this broad target under one cohesive brand. The result is one powerful brand, that exudes their corporate values and is explained in a way that even CSDs’ internal employees are saying, “Now I know how to explain what we do.”

    At Gerard Marketing, we take a top down and bottom up approach to getting to the key messages that will resonate with the right people, in the right place, at the right time.  From the top down, our research team discovers the category trends and and external influences. From the bottom up we come to an understanding of the target audience’s relationship to the service and identify the key consumer insights that will resonate with them–the “why” behind the features and benefits.

    For EducationPlus the key messages varied by target, to include:

    Superintendents – Empowering Educators
    Teachers – Excelling Students
    Community – Enriching Communities
    Legislators – Supporting Missouri Public Schools

    The end result was categorizing their services into three groups to simplify their broad offering into a shorthand way that made sense to the target(s) and internal employees. The message would now be clear not only on their Web site and promotional materials, but also from their staff in their every day interactions with their members.

    The launch of the new name, logo and messaging began with a pre-launch campaign internally via posters in all of their locations to generate excitement. A personal letter first went to their key members and partners followed by eMessaging and a direct mail piece that folded out into a poster to be hung within the member schools and organizations to further the message to their staff and parents in the school community.

    Education Plus Animation

    welcome.educationplus.org.

     

  • 07 Oct 2013

    You Can’t Furlough the Entrepreneurial Spirit

    The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the Midwest. While our federal government has been partially shut down in the last week, entrepreneurs in the heartland came out in record numbers to the 5th annual Startup Showcase. Their unwavering entrepreneurial spirit was abuzz at the event in St. Louis’ Science Center, staying true to their nature. According to a Research Magazine survey last year, 75% of small business owners are optimistic about their businesses’ prospects, while only 37% express optimism about the economy in general.

    The 60 participating nascent enterprises had a shot at start-up fund awards, totaling $160,000–a motivating lure, as funding is a small business owner’s biggest challenge, according to a Wall Street Journal report last year. Most of the innovators were based in St. Louis, yet many also came in from out-of-state. Their budding businesses ranged from innovative solutions in the tech and medical fields to not-for-profit groups supporting education. Some up and coming companies to watch include:

    • Muzio is play off the word, “What’s your muse?” and is a tool for multi-media storytelling combining photos, video and audio into an easy to use and share app that went live on Apple’s app store in June of this year. Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin, 27, and Elizabeth Buchanan, 28, are delightful entrepreneurs that have already gotten national recognition for their business in Fast Company FastCompany.com, The New York Times NYTimes.com and ABC News’ ABCNews.com app of the week. Download it for free from your app store muzioapp.com.
    • Kit-Case.com is a patent-pending design that “makes your smart device smarter.” The 40+ add-on capabilities range from practical, low-tech features like a Swiss army knife to digital accessories like a thumb drive. Christopher Manzo, founder of Skipping Stone Technologies, is a delightful entrepreneur, former Washington University professor and currently owner of his own architecture firm. His product is not yet available, but he is looking to generate interest to begin production.
    • Time to Cater was started by a group of pharmaceutical reps who were seeking an easier way to order quality, local fare at their meetings across the country. Their site makes the life of a rep much easier. Several of the owners have been able to quit their “day jobs” to run the company.

    Entrepreneurial support systems were also there to raise awareness of their programs to keep St. Louis’ budding economy growing:

    •  Start Louis ­is “a grassroots community of bootstrappers, solopreneurs, and startup enthusiasts.” Their mission is to bring St. Louis entrepreneurs together for learning and collaboration. See their site for a schedule of their free monthly events.
    • St. Louis University’s not-for-profit, Independent Youth, aims to generate entrepreneurial awareness and understanding among youth through an array of educational programs and hands-on experiences. Their events include kid business owner speakers and breakout discussion sessions.

    Continual technology innovations make it an exciting time to be an entrepreneur. Remember your entrepreneurial spirit and why you started your business. Stay the course. Innovative small business is keeping our country’s economy moving forward!

     

  • 18 Sep 2013

    Protect Your Brand

    The name and image (or logo) that represents your product, service or company relays what you do, how you do it and your reputation. It’s part of your company’s intellectual property. In our competitive, worldwide marketplace, it’s becoming more difficult to develop a unique brand. So when you do, you’d better protect it.

    The Internet has made it more challenging.
    It is becoming increasingly difficult to develop a unique brand name. If your company will have an online presence, they are effectively competing nationwide, even it is a geographically local business, such as a law firm or retail shop. While the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) still grants naming rights geographically and by business category, you will still need a Web address that is ideally your company name. For that reason, when considering name availability, Gerard Marketing Group will do a Web address search first.

    Why bother registering.
    The legal name for your logo or brand is a “trademark.” A trademark is defined as “a distinctive sign or indicator to identify that the products or services originate from a particular source.” A trademark consists of your company name and it’s visual treatment, or logo.

    At Gerard Marketing, when we develop a new brand name for our clients, we do an initial search with the USPTO files. Trademarks are registered by state or region and within certain business categories. The point of registering a trademark is to define the owner of the name and mark in a product category to avoid consumer confusion. I have worked with clients and even other advertising agencies who have not registered their brand name(s), either because they did not know they should or didn’t deem it necessary. If you don’t register and begin operating under a name, no one is going to come after you. But, if someone else enters the market they will not know your company exists if it is not registered. They may then register and own the same or a very similar name that may cause consumer confusion. In this case, the entity who used the name first in the marketplace, regardless of registration, legally has rights to the name; however, you will spend much more time and money defending your ownership than if it were registered.

    How painful is it?
    It is seamless for Gerard Marketing Group clients. We typically register the name for our clients. Registration begins with a search, then paperwork and then a process of review by other lawyers to ensure it does not encroach upon any other brands out there. The process can span a long time, so the mark you apply to your logo will change, depending upon where it is in the registration process.

    What do the marks mean?
    There are marks to use on unregistered trademarks until they have cleared the registration process to include:
    ™   A mark used to promote a brand or brand goods/products
          ℠   A mark used to promote brand services

    Once a mark is registered and approved by the USPTO a ® signifies it is a registered trademark.

    The owner of a registered trademark may commence legal proceedings for trademark infringement to prevent unauthorized use of that trademark. However, registration is not required. The owner of a common law, or unregistered, trademark may also file suit, but an unregistered mark may be protectable only within the geographical area within which it has been used or in geographical areas into which it may be reasonably expected to expand.

    If you currently have an unregistered trademark, it would be smart to pursue getting it registered. As the marketplace continues to become more global, the fight for a great name in any category will become increasingly difficult.

  • 09 Sep 2013

    Demystifying SEO

    Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can seem like a black hole of monthly fees for your marketing budget. Is it necessary? Yes. Following are the top five questions non-techies have that can help you understand why:

    1. What is SEO, really?

    Search Engine Optimization (SEO) describes the activities you do to improve your rank with search engines. ie. Who is listed first, second, etc. when a prospect searches for something online.

    Marketing efforts that are considered “organic” SEO include:
    1. “Back End” Web site development by your digital team
    • Built on browser-friendly platforms
    • Coded and tagged in a way that is logical and easily read by search engines
    2. “Front End” digital marketing by your social media team
    • Regular and relevant blog posts
    • Social media activity relevant to your business, like an active LinkedIn corporate page. Google+, Facebook or Pinterest may also be relevant social media sites, depending upon your target audience.

    2. What is PPC?

    Pay Per Click (PPC) is the opposite of “Organic SEO.” PPC ads automatically show up at the top of the page when you do a search. They pay the search engine company, such as Google, a fee by keyword to be listed at the top. PPC listings are usually set off with a different color in your browser. See illustration below.

    3. Who decides who gets to be listed at the top?

    Google, mostly. Every search engine has their own algorithms they develop to rank listings in response to a search. Google is by far the leading search engine, so most SEO experts focus on their formula for results. Search engine’s share of market as of July 2013:

    Google 67%
    Bing 18%
    Yahoo 11%
    Ask 3%
    AOL 1%

    4. Does my business really need SEO?

    Yes, to some degree. In the past if the Yellow Pages was integral to generating new business leads for your business, SEO will be a primary tactic for you. If not, you still need it, just not as much.

    More and more people are turning to search engines, like Google, as their new best friend to help them find what they need. Today SEO is in essence a referral source.

    At the very least your company needs to have a presence online. As soon as someone meets you, they will search online for your company, and most of the time, not with the exact Web address. You need to show up in the search to be relevant.

    5. Can I trick the algorithms and just implement one tactic to get to the top?

    No, not anymore. Google’s algorithms are being developed to act more and more like the human brain. Quality content is what matters.

    In the early stages, keywords drove rankings and companies would publish non-sensical pages of key works to rank at the top. ie. “We sell widgets in North America and we are North America’s best widget maker.” Those sites are now considered spamming.

    On the front end key words should only appear sparingly in title tags, Web copy and headings. On the back end a good programmer will use key words selectively in your site’s tags.

    Later on the rave was links. Many believed the more links you had, the better your rank. Not so anymore. While search engines still consider links as “votes” or “recommendations” for content in their algorithm, it’s best to have 10 good, relevant links vs. 1,000 non-relevant. Ignore paid or spam link offers. At Gerard Marketing Group, we recommend focusing on obtaining link relationships with the authority in your category and the key influencers on your target audience.

    © 2013 Gerard Marketing Group. All rights reserved.