Friday, September 4, 2009

A 60-Second Introduction to SEO

Hello. I am Ernie Schwarcz, and I am very proud of having been invited by Pat to be a guest phlogger and to occasionally share some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) insights and experiences with you.

Before I start, here are a few remarks (since we don’t know each other yet). First, I will assume that you have at least some basic SEO knowledge. If you are a total beginner (don’t worry, at one point we all were!), you’re welcome to refer to my introductory SEO articles on my own website. Here’s the link:

Second, I’ll try to keep my content professional but the style lighthearted. After all, SEO is great if it works, but can be quite technical on the bumpy road to success. Therefore, I’ll try to cite simple yet vivid examples and real-life comparisons.

Finally, you are welcome and encouraged to comment or criticize. The give and take of a discussion makes these topics even more interesting.

Let’s get started. First, a very simplified overview you can consider a 49-line (I counted!) crash course:

We all know that On-Page ( = Organic) SEO is the science of structuring, writing and programming a website in such a way that search engines will place the site high in their search results (for the desired keywords). This is my definition; Wikipedia’s you can find here: To this end, the search engines (to simplify matters, let’s take Google) frequently “crawl” millions of websites in order to register their content, HTML and other site “makeup”. Then Google files some of what it found. After every new crawl, that information usually gets updated in its databases.

When a web user searches for a given keyword or search term, such as “Montreal SEO Services” (I wonder where I got this example from …), Google compares this search term with all the information it has collected and pre-sorted from all similar and comparable sites. Then it very quickly sorts the information and displays on its search results thousands of websites most important in relation to “Montreal SEO Services” – most relevant websites first. Of course, every website wants to be first because first ranked, first clicked, first to get the opportunity.

For easier understanding, here is an example from real life. Let’s assume Jane Doe walks into her local library looking for books. The librarian will retrieve books for her based on the subject she chooses, but if Jane’s subject is too general, she’ll be asked for clarification. In other words, she’ll have to narrow down her topic. Initially, Jane is inexplicably shy. But eventually she tells the librarian that she is looking for books on bad marriages, good poison, and outstanding criminal lawyers. Now we are talking, and a successful search can be done within minutes.

A search engine is not a librarian and has no idea what you really want when you type in a general expression. But what a search engine will do is compare the search query to the information in their databases, find the contents which most closely match the requested information, and then rank them in order of importance, or relevance, whereby the most relevant contents are displayed first.

And these contents (as mentioned, they regularly are collected by the search engines) are simply what web designers or webmasters have written into their web sites, either explicitly in the copy, the HTML code, or - implicitly - as a set of logical connections, by way of internal and external links to the individual web pages.

So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the better designed and written a web site, the more relevant its content will be for the search engines for certain keywords or search terms. Increased relevance will, in turn, rank the site higher on the search engines' results pages for those terms.

How does Google determine what is “relevant”? Great question. The answer is: it has its own set of hundreds of very complex mathematical and logical rules, aka algorithms. Of course, we would all love to know these rules as they would guarantee top Search Engine Results Positions (SERPs) at all times. Alas, no-one knows for sure since Google guards its algorithms like the vaults of Fort Knox (and, to boot, often modifies and even changes them to keep us on our toes).

Well, not quite. The general principles are more or less known, and Google itself publishes some general guidelines. What is not known is the exact weight Google attaches to each of those rules and in which precise combination they are most effective. Add to this the fact that Yahoo and Bing have different criteria and algorithms, and you can imagine how difficult it is to optimize a website to satisfy all the Search Engines’ criteria.

Welcome to the complex world of SEO!

This was a lengthy introduction and future phlogs will be much shorter (promise!), but once you’ve read the above, future tips and pointers (to follow, unless Pat ejects me) will suddenly become quite common-sense and logical.

Ernie Schwarcz is President of SEO Trump Consultant Company in Montreal, Canada. SEO Trump Consulting is a Web Design & SEO Services Company specializing in high-quality yet affordable Web & SEO Services. Services are offered to US, Canadian and International clients in a a number of languages, including English, French, German, Chinese, Spanish, and Hungarian.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Guest Blogger: APRs take PR to Heroic Proportions

Our guest "Phlogger" this week is Michael Tullier, APR, director of external relations for the Auburn University College of Education.

It doesn’t take a superhero to fend off reporters and save the CEO in distress, but in today’s fast-paced world of public relations, there is a group of professionals with the demonstrated “powers” needed to be successful. Some mild-mannered, some daring – but all equipped with the knowledge, skills and abilities demanded of the public relations profession – these professionals certainly don’t keep their Accredited in Public Relations identity a secret.

Professionals don’t earn their APR through exposure to the yellow sun or the bite of a radioactive spider. Each builds on book smarts and practical experience and approaches the process with different expectations. But since “deliverables” in our profession are critical, pursuing Accreditation results in power-packed benefits for professionals, employers and the profession as a whole.

Combining introspection and education. Accredited professionals have reported through surveys that the APR process is reflective, introspective and knowledge-expanding. And while we celebrate those employers who require the APR as a requisite for employment or financially reward those who achieve this milestone, a vast majority of APRs find contentment in the personal rewards Accreditation offers. Through a process that 96 percent of APRs surveyed find valuable, 96 percent would recommend to a colleague, and 93 percent feel assessed the skills needed to succeed in the profession, APRs acknowledge the credential for building confidence and credibility while expanding their knowledge content.

Gaining marketplace credibility. Accreditation is not a new concept to corporate America. Manufacturers, educational institutions, medical facilities and the like seek the integrity that comes with their industry’s or discipline’s accrediting endorsement. Should it not make sense that companies would seek the same in their hiring practices? Consider that the human resource industry itself has, not one, but two distinct accrediting levels for human resource professionals. Accredited public relations professionals demonstrate their commitment to mastering – and continuing to develop – the knowledge, skills and abilities, or KSAs, desired by today’s employers. The APR credential also helps employers clearly and effectively evaluate one’s qualifications when compared to applicants from other professions who see public relations as a chance to “try something new” or to take their career “in a new direction.”

Defining the profession. The Accreditation process benefits our profession by bringing structure and definition to it. As part of the Universal Accreditation Board’s 2003 effort to redesign the APR process, APR leaders sought a better understanding of what our profession entails and what it takes to be successful in today’s PR environment. And guess what? It didn’t reveal necessary characteristics like “being a people person.” It created clear delineations between the tactical and strategic practice levels, emphasized the professional’s counselor role, and clarified that public relations doesn’t “just happen” – it is a deliberate, ethically based executive function with measurable results.

Accreditation in Public Relations has prepared – and continues to prepare – professionals to lead by example in our industry and in our associations. Within the nine participating organizations of the Universal Accreditation Board, you’ll find within these associations’ top volunteer and paid leadership levels Accredited professionals equipped to advance the opportunities for their fellow professionals and our profession. As a result, those who have demonstrated an intricate understanding of our profession and their own professional practice are imminently qualified to see our industry into the coming decades.

I’m not suggesting that “APR” comes emblazoned on its own red-and-blue spandex outfit, part of a gadget-ridden utility belt or with powers sufficient to gain you a title role on NBC’s Heroes. What it does, however, is empower professionals in a manner each finds befitting their personal, professional and volunteer expectations. For professionals eager to distinguish themselves in today’s marketplace, Accreditation in Public Relations offers a means of garnering positive attention and that “second glance” in a way that wearing a cape to work never will.

Power up today at

Michael Tullier, APR, is director of external relations for the Auburn University College of Education in Auburn, Ala. An award-winning public relations professional with more than 15 years of experience as an organization’s chief public relations counsel and spokesperson, Michael achieved accreditation in 2003. Tullier served as chair of the Universal Accreditation Board in 2008 and is its current immediate past chair. During his UAB tenure, which began in 2005, he has represented both the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and Southern Public Relations Federation (SPRF).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Guest Blogger: What is Web 2.0? Interactivity and Social Networking are taking over!

Our Guest "Phlogger" this week is Deborah Geiger, APR, of Content Fresh LLC

Are you running Web 2.0? A dramatic shift has occurred worldwide on the Internet that will impact your business whether you follow it or not.

Web sites of the last century were diverse, and one common characteristic was that content was driven by the corporation. Polished and informative brochure-style sites contained loads of information on company history, products, purchase information, and other static business information and resources. Researchers from institutions, marketing and sales divisions of corporations and information sources loaded the Internet with information and valuable content.

The new Internet, or Web 2.0, is driven by individuals.

A Wikipedia definition: "Web 2.0" refers to what is perceived as a second generation of web development and web design. It is characterized as facilitating communication, information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web. It has led to the development and evolution of web-based communities, hosted services, and web applications. Examples include social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, mashups and folksonomies.
[Citation: Web 2.0. (2009, July 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10:14, July 10, 2009, from]

While companies are still posting and adding content in scores, the change is in the fact that the majority of what people say online is no longer managed by corporations or their staff. Millions of people share information daily on social networking sites, such as Facebook (over 5 million members) and Twitter. In fact research shows that searches for social networking has FINALLY surpassed porn!

“According to Bill Tancer, Hitwise's general manager of global research, Web searches for social networking sites have finally surpassed searches for pornography.” [Source: Gina Hughes: The Techie Diva, blog, Yahoo Tech!, Tue Sep 16, 2008 7:39PM EDT]

By enabling and allowing information sharing and collaboration, the Web has become a shared “application” where the content begins with PEOPLE, not business or companies. Smart companies are joining in the conversation by adding corporate blogs, joining Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and more.

Leading edge are letting their customers post actual messages and receive feedback in real-time on their sites. It takes guts to allow your customers to post their true feelings about your products on your Web site, but the companies that do this are seen as sincere, honest and businesses where you will want to spend your money! Are you ready to give it a try?

Deborah York Geiger, APR, owner of Content Fresh LLC, maintains a blog at With 20 years experience in marketing, public relations and business, Deborah writes about technology for business professionals. For more information, visit

SPRF (Southern Public Relations Federation) is conducting a survey about use of social networks. If you are an SPRF member and have not taken the survey, please use the link below and take part. And if you do not belong to SPRF, please take the survey anyway. Here's a link:

Check out this link!

It will take you to a story on the benefits of using a virtual ad agency. Imagery Marketing & Research Consultants, Inc. is a virtual agency... And we would love your business! We've got years of experience and loads of expertise. Check us out at

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Do We Still Need Newspapers? What About Local Radio?

I was skimming through my overview of discussions in the Linked In groups to which I “belong” when I came across one that immediately got my attention.

Charisse Louis, who owns a graphic design shop and is a blogger, asked the question, “Do you still read the newspaper?," bewailed that the over 55 crowd seems to be the only group that still reads the paper, and wondered what would happen when they (I assume, newspapers) were gone? She has written a blog installment on the same question. (Here's a link: )

It triggered memories of bad times here on the Gulf Coast. In the wake of several hurricanes, the most devastating of which was Katrina, I saw good reason NOT to allow newspapers or local radio stations to vanish!

I know that the under 50 crowd thinks they can get their news from national broadcasts or on the Internet, but my question to them is, “what happens when there is no power, the phone lines and cell towers are damaged, you can’t get on the Internet (for lack of power or your wireless connection on your laptop isn’t getting a signal), and you can’t watch TV because it’s all digital now?”

In a media class I was teaching at Spring Hill College, many of the students believed that local radio and newspaper were “dead” until I described how it felt when a hurricane made landfall and the aftermath of the storm. Some of them had been in Mobile after Katrina, so they understood what I was talking about.

During the storm, the only connection you have to the outside world is the voice on the local radio station, since the only means of receiving news is your battery powered radio. Your battery powered televisions are no good now that we’ve gone to digital signal only. You huddle around the radio in the dark listening to that voice tell you where the storm is and what’s happening. Sometimes the voice may go off the air because the “roof of the studio is coming down.” (This actually happened during hurricane Frederic in the 70s.) So you switch to another station. I applaud these brave “voices in the dark” for staying and reporting to all the fearful folks huddled around their battery powered radios.

And when the hurricane has passed through and you emerge to take stock of the damage, you have another dilemma. Power is out, cell phones and phones may not work. Once again you feel cut off. But either that day or the next, the local paper is being sold on the street corners or delivered to your house. In the stifling heat, you read all about the devastation visited on your city and/or others down the coast; where to get help, supplies and services; catch up on the regional, national and international news; and you are eternally grateful that the paper published the issue in some other city and had it trucked in for the residents, who otherwise would be isolated.

After one of the hurricanes flooded Mobile some years back and the wind knocked out power, the Mobile Press Register still produced a daily paper. They had it printed in either Pensacola or Birmingham and trucked in. We got our in-depth news, which is still another reason for newspapers to be treasured.

Broadcast news cannot give us the in-depth coverage of a newspaper. I take the digital form of the Wall Street Journal, and treasure my time going through the articles. I read the printed format of the Mobile Press Register (as lean as it is these days). If the power goes out, I’ll lose my Wall Street Journal feed for lack of power to my computer, just as I’ll lose television coverage, but the Mobile Press Register will still be there, as will local radio stations.

I happen to like to work the crossword puzzles in the paper. I’ve tried doing crossword puzzles online, but at 9 p.m. my eyes hurt and I don’t want to be in front of a computer screen any longer!

I’m afraid of what will become of in-depth news when print is gone. I’m afraid that there will be lots of coastal residents in the dark with no friendly voices telling them what is happening if the local radio stations go automated and all we have is “national robo announcers” or satellite. I think there is good reason to have many viable mediums from which we get our news. I don’t think that digital television, satellite radio and the Internet are the end-all be-all of the media world.

Ms. Louis emailed me and said she had never considered a natural disaster when she had come up with her blog post about newspapers. And I didn’t see any other people citing similar examples in their discussions.

Is there anybody else out there that is afraid of losing our local media (especially print)? Is there anybody else out there who wonders what will happen in the wake of a natural (or unnatural) disaster? I’m afraid that we are being short sighted in our worship of the “new” technologies we have developed. How about you?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Search Engine Woes Part II

SEO, SEO…Don’t get me banned from Google, Mr. SEO!

On my last post, we looked at a couple of tricks that some underhanded SEO practitioners might use. And I promised you that in a future post, we would cover things that might get you banned on search engines. Well here we go...

Straight from the webcrawler's mouth, here are the ten "dirty SEO tricks" that will cause Google to ban your site:
1. Cloaking (This doesn't relate to a Romulan "bird of prey.")
2. Duplicate Content (Pretty much what it says...)
3. Have a Robot Write Your Web Site (Mr. Data isn't involved here, either.)
4. Add Keywords that Don't Relate to Your Content (What it says...)
5. Link to Bad Neighborhoods (They have those on the web? Believe it!)
6. Hide Text (Also called keyword stuffing or fontmatching.)
7. Title Stacking (Google calls this the "cousin" of keyword stuffing.)
8. Distribute Viruses, Trojans or Other Badware (Nasty, Nasty!)
9. Doorway Pages (Another sneaky redirect)
10. Automated Inquiries (Another Robot No No!)

And rather than "duplicate content" which might violate copyright (which to me is one of the BIG No Nos), I'm going to link you to the page that explains the ten nasty tricks listed above.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Search Engine Woes Part I

SEO, SEO… What the Heck is SEO?

According to Wikipedia:
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via "natural" ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results. Typically, the earlier a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, and industry-specific vertical search engines.

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work and what people search for. Optimizing a website primarily involves editing its content and HTML coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines.

The acronym "SEO" can also refer to "search engine optimizers," a term adopted by an industry of consultants who carry out optimization projects on behalf of clients, and by employees who perform SEO services in-house. Search engine optimizers may offer SEO as a stand-alone service or as a part of a broader marketing campaign. Because effective SEO may require changes to the HTML source code of a site, SEO tactics may be incorporated into web site development and design. The term "search engine friendly" may be used to describe web site designs, menus, content management systems and shopping carts that are easy to optimize.

Another class of techniques, known as black hat SEO or Spamdexing, use methods such as link farms and keyword stuffing that degrade both the relevance of search results and the user-experience of search engines. Search engines look for sites that employ these techniques in order to remove them from their indices.

So how do I get “SEOd”?

We are constantly being emailed about optimizing our site (which we have already done, and we do for all our clients). I had one “gentleman” tell me we had to hire his firm because no one could find our site on the search engines. I asked him how he found us. Obviously, he had been on our site, since he knew we existed, had my company email address and the company phone number. He couldn’t have found us in the Yellow Pages, since we’re not there.

Watch out for these companies that contact you by email and tell you that they can produce great results for you. These spam emails are about as useful as the emails that you get on “male enhancement” pills.

Your webmaster or mistress should understand keyword optimization and build it into your site in the design and development phase. If you have hired someone to build your site, ask them if they understand SEO before the process begins. And listen carefully. If they promise you the moon and stars, be skeptical.

If you already have a site, check with your provider and ask them if they have optimized your site. Ask them how they did it. If you don’t hear anything about keywords and site structure, then you may want to investigate companies that do search engine optimizing. But be careful. There are plenty of SEOs out there that do underhanded and unethical stuff that may get your site removed from the search engine indices (as stated above).

If you think you need SEO, check with people you trust to find out who they recommend. Talk to your ISP. Talk to Internet design firms. And be wary of the “SEO” song and dance. Don’t let anyone promise to put you at the top of the Google search. Nobody can promise that you’ll end up as number one on all the search engines.

Questions to ask:

* What experience do you have in my local area? Nationally? Internationally?
* What are your most important SEO techniques?
* How long have you been doing SEO? How long has your company been in business?
* Are you putting me in paid advertising or actually optimizing my site?
* How do we communicate? Will you provide me with detailed information about how you intend to optimize my site and the reasoning behind your plan? Will you provide me with a written plan and list of keywords?

If you don't have an Internet site design and maintenance firm, check us out.

Next time – Avoiding practices that could get you banned from the search engine indices.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Recovering From Information Burnout

I just spent about a month not updating this blog. Why? I think I’ve been suffering from information burnout!

Between RSS feeds, e-publications, social media, other blogs to follow, business and personal email (at several addresses), and updating client sites, I finally ended up with totally singed synapses. So what did I do? I backed away from every form of communication I could and only looked at the news info I had to have to keep our clients happy and unscathed by the information age.

Having bronchitis for about four weeks didn’t help, since my voice kept cracking when I answered business calls, but it probably aided my attempt to hide from the information bombardment.

Do any of you find yourselves experiencing information burnout? I’d like to know. I don’t see myself becoming a tweeter for this very reason. Perhaps this isn’t a great admission on my part, but…

Hey! We all need a vacation at times!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

You may need a Virtual Assistant!

Virtual Assistants (typically abbreviated to VAs) are entrepreneurs who provide professional administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients from a home office. They usually work for other small businesses and consultancy groups. It is estimated that there are as few as 5,000-8,000 or as many as 35,000 Virtual Assistants worldwide; the profession is growing in centralized economies with "fly-in, fly-out" (FIFO) staffing practices.

Common modes of communication and data delivery include the Internet, e-mail and phonecall conferences, online work spaces, and fax machine. Professionals in this business work on a contractual basis and a long-lasting cooperation is standard. Typically 5 years of administrative experience in an office is expected at such positions as executive assistant, office manager/supervisor, secretary, legal assistant, paralegal, legal secretary, real estate assistant, etc.

What is a Virtual Assistant?
A VA is an independent contractor who works remotely in his/her home-based business, usually from his/her home office, performing secretarial, administrative, creative and many many other tasks. With the use of e-mail, Internet, fax, phone and mail, a VA is more than able to offer valuable support to large and small businesses who can get on with growing their own business, while outsourcing administrative tasks.

Clearing up some misconceptions about Virtual Assistants
A VA does not have a work at home 'job', but a work at home business, nor is a VA an employee or an employed telecommuter. As stated above, a VA is not an employee, but a contracted service provider.


Let Imagery Marketing & Research Consultants provide VA services for you! Call us or visit

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What is PR and why do we need accredited PR Professionals (instead of spin doctors and flacks)?

Several years ago, one of my classes at Spring Hill College created a campaign for Public Relations which was intended for use by the Public Relations Council of Alabama. In the advertising and promotional materials prepared for PRCA to use with Alabama businesses and organizations, the class used an excellent line to explain why businesses should hire accredited public relations practitioners. I think their sentence says it all:

"We could spend an entire day explaining what a trained public relations professional can do for your company, but we basically help your organization build and protect the relationships that count."

PR must be a conversation with those "publics" with whom we must maintain good relations. Any means to carry on that conversation should be utilized by a smart practitioner. So in a way PR is connected at the hip to marketing communications, advertising, and others, but must also maintain a distance in order to be the conscience of the corporation.

And in these days of “AIG Bonuses”, all types of corporate greed and layoffs like we haven’t seen since the eighties, our corporations need a conscience!

Check out our interview on “Virtual Agencies”:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Public Relations versus Advertising

Our guest "Phlogger" this week is Mary White, MA, SPHR.

Many people have the misconception that publicity and advertising are the same things. While both publicity and advertising can play important roles in an organization’s overall marketing plan, they are very different. The three primary differences between publicity and advertising are (2) control, (2) cost, and (3) credibility.

Control: Advertising is a controlled form of communication, whereas public relations is uncontrolled. When you run an advertisement in a print publication, you purchase a specific amount of space on a page to run in a particular issue of the publication. You may even be able to specify that your ad be placed on the top left corner of the sports page. You control the content of the ad as well.

With publicity, you don’t dictate when, where, or if your promotional messages ever see the light of day. You can send a news release to a print publication, and the editor or journalist who receives it might see value in it and print it in the next issue. He or she might really find the information appealing and interview you for a cover story. However, your news release might just as easily end up in the garbage can, depending on its relevance, timing, or a number of other factors.

Cost: The control that you get with advertising doesn’t come without a price. The reason that you can specify when and where your advertisement will run is that you pay for the space, airtime, or bandwidth that it occupies. You are able to control the content because you also pay to have the advertisement itself created. Some advertisements can be produced inexpensively, and others are very costly.

When you are trying to generate publicity for your business through public relations efforts, the only cost is the manpower that it takes to create the documents that you send out to the news media and the costs of delivering or shipping. It is much less expensive to send a photograph and a news release to a magazine editor than it is to create a 4-color, camera-ready magazine ad.

Credibility: With advertising, you are able to make sure that the exact message that you want appears in the media exactly as you have specified. When consumers see an advertisement, most of them are aware that it is a paid promotion. Some consumers tend to be a little bit suspicious of advertising messages for this reason.

However, when your local newspaper runs a feature article about your business as a result of a news release that you sent to the editor, consumers generally don’t stop and think that the story started with a promotional message from the company. A story in the newspaper is generally considered to be much more credible than an advertisement in the newspaper. The reason for this is the third party endorsement effect associated with having someone outside your company saying good things about it.

The best marketing plans include a mixture of advertising and publicity. It’s important that you understand the differences between these two forms of communication so that you can make sound decisions about the ideal mix for your organization.

About the Author: Mary G. White, M.A., SPHR is the Training Coordinator for Mobile Technical Institute & MTI Business Solutions (, where she specializes in human resources, management, and marketing training. She teaches open enrollment classes for MTI, provides on-site corporate training, and frequently speaks at conferences and association meetings. She is also the author of 101 Successful PR Campaign Tips in the LifeTips book series. MTI provides a variety of consulting services, including IT Training, certification testing, HR consulting, and custom database development. For free career and business development tips, see and

Check out our "Blog of the Month":

Monday, February 16, 2009

Why should you have a website?

At the end of last year, about 153 million people were online in the United States and about 10 million are expected to adopt the Net this year. (eMarketer)

More and more people are looking for services and products on-line than every before. Peoples' habits are changing. People move to a new area and very often rely solely on the Internet to learn about the new area, research and find out who to go to for what. Many people research and find their homes and jobs over the Internet. Most people are coming to expect that any professionally run business will have a web site. With a well-designed site your small business becomes a real player both on and off the net.

Add your Web Address to your stationary; business cards, other advertisements and you'll have visitors knowing exactly where to go for answers to their questions and where to send their friends to for great service.

The more people know about you and your company the greater the chances you have for attracting new customers. More is generally a good thing when running a business, unless you're talking about expenses!

Why should you have a website?
1. With a website, your business is open to the public all day, every day. Limited office hours and different time zones won’t hinder your customers’ ability to visit your business through your website. You can reach those people at any time of the day or night.

2. It’s a marketing piece that you can change instantly. A website can be like an online brochure or catalog to promote your business. But, unlike printed materials, you can change your website anytime to reflect new developments, featured service or product offerings, or just give your business a new look.

3. A website presents a professional image. A professional-looking website can help instill confidence in your customers and give the impression that a small business is a larger one. A website is a necessity by today’s standards – your customers expect you to have one, and they expect your web presence to reflect the kind of company you are.

4. Give your customers instant gratification. Customers and clients don’t always have the time to wait for more information – they want to get answers right away. With a website, they can find out the basics about your business, but you can also offer them even more – like downloads, samples, photo galleries, videos, news stories, links, or other content that will give them more information and keep them interested in you.

5. Promote your business and make yourself known to your customers. A website can help give your business more awareness among your customer base, locally, nationally and even globally. More and more consumers use the Internet as a research tool when searching for the best product or service. Without a website, you miss an opportunity to promote yourself and let your customers know who you are, what you do, and why you’re the best choice for them.

Imagery Marketing & Research Consultants designs and maintains websites for small businesses and non-profit ogranizaationsat affordable rates. Contact us today if you need our services!

(Resources: ClearTech and Jireh Communications)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Undertaking Market Research

(We've borrowed a bit here... but we think it's stuff you should read)

You have a great idea and are anxious to get your new business underway. Make sure you take the time to find out if your "idea" is appealing to others and if it can stand on its own two feet. It may take time that you don't want to spend now, but doing research early on can save you grief further down the road.

Who is your ideal customer? Who do you want to buy your product(s) or utilize the services that you are offering? This is important to know because it will shape how you identify and try to reach this market group. If you are not sure about who your customers should be, consider factors such as: your product(s) cost, your geographical location, knowledge necessary to fully benefit from your product or service. Answering these questions should give you a good start to your market research endeavor.

You may also want to look at the buying trends of potential customers before you begin to finalize your plans. Look at the time you spend doing market research as an opportunity to "fine tune" your product or service for the best possible result (business and money to you).

Market trends and demographics can be found in many different ways. For information on the kind of people who live in a particular area (age, race, income bracket, family size), also called demographics, it is best to consult the U.S. Census Bureau ( Finding lifestyle trends is more difficult... You may have to conduct your own market surveying to learn whether or not your business will be successful.

In designing your custom-made market research instrument, decide how much time and money you want to spend. This may make your selection easy. Do you want to do it all alone? Can you find friends to help you out? (Note from Imagery: Hire professionals for the best results)

The best way to find out what people want and what types of products or services they would consider buying is to ask them. This can be done in a number of different ways:

Interviewing: Put together some standard questions and go out and ask people in the market you are targeting. Know that people often avoid this type of experience because it is long and inconvenient. It is, however, inexpensive and relatively easy to implement.

Survey: This may be your best bet. Putting the survey together can be tricky and how well you do it will determine the quality of your results. Again, see if a marketing professional would consider helping you to design your survey form. Once completed, hit the streets and ask people to complete the form. This is usually received better if you offer some type of incentive to the survey taker. Consider candy, cookies, or lottery tickets. You may want to enter their name into a drawing for some type of prize. Everyone loves a contest.

If the services you are providing are via the Internet, consult your database (you are compiling one, right?). Send a survey out to everyone and offer free t-shirts to the first 50 who return them on-line. This method can be time and cost efficient.

Surveys are not very expensive in and of themselves. Depending on your own creativity and knowledge base, the costs can add up when you figure in printing the surveys (if necessary), paying the survey administrators (if necessary), interpreting the data.

Focus Groups: Basically, this is a group discussion where 4-8 participants are asked a series of questions in a facilitated setting. This approach is expensive because you have to hire a consultant to facilitate the group and move the discussion forward, plus you have to compensate the participants in some way. Due to the nature of the questioning, responses tend to be more complete and give more accurate information. The number of people questioned is lower than other methods due to the time it takes to perform the questioning.

The most important thing to realize is that the outcome of your market research may change the course of your business plans. In some instances you learn that there is not a need for your product or service. Often times, you need to change your focus or marketing plan. Be open and be flexible. And remember that market research is an ongoing process that really does not end. Be sure to always be in tune with your customer base so as not to be caught off guard by sudden market shifts.

~From, a free networking and information website

Imagery Marketing & Research Consultants can create a survey, set-up focus groups and do demographic and trend research for you. If you spend a little money on the front side, you actually save money in the long run and avoid costly mistakes. Because we are a "virtual agency", our rates are affordable; our performance is professional! Contact us today!

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Social Media… the rules are pretty much the same as “being social” at the company “Christmas Party”

My father used to tell us, “Engage your brain before engaging your mouth. Once those words are loose you can’t get them back.”

I can remember people getting a little looped at company parties and saying things that they wished they “could get back.”

My father’s advise is wise if you’re talking to people at company parties or meetings, but also when you are using the new “social media” to communicate. Stop and think. If it’s on the Internet, it’s there for everyone to see. Do you really want everyone to see it?

I see high school and college students putting information on sites such as Facebook that makes me extremely nervous, and not just because someone dangerous might use the information to “get them.” Potential employers (even years from now) may happen on something they posted. “Mary Jane is a ____ and I would sure like to see ____ happen to her.” Suppose Mary Jane’s father is the head of HR at a company this student has targeted in a job search.

But it’s not just the high school and college students that need to be careful. You have to read this blog entry on a real “social” gaff by an account executive at an extremely large PR agency to get my drift…

So, if you’re going to be social, engage your brain before engaging your fingers!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Excellent Customer Service... A way to win in a bad economy

This week's guest phlogger is Carmen Brown, vice president and "fun goddess" for Imagery Marketing...

Are you a business owner? Do you want to know how to WOW your customers all the time? Maybe you are just a manager, but your job is important to you. One of the ways that a business can gain a competitive edge is to offer better customer service than competing businesses. There is an old saying, "If you treat someone well they will tell one person, but if you treat them poorly they will tell 10". This is very true and here are some customer service tips that will help your business excel at treating customers well.

First, a couple of general things that make customers feel like you care. You should always have someone greet your customer within 30 seconds of entering your business. This is a rule of thumb for all businesses. Also, never talk about what you cannot do for your customer. Always talk about what you can do for them.

If your business is very telephone-oriented or if there are telephone conversations at all, make sure to use the customers name periodically during the conversation. This makes them feel comfortable and it personalizes that experience for them. Also, always smile while you are talking to them because it effects the tone that you use. You should also thank them at the end of each conversation because everybody likes to know that their business is appreciated.

When you are dealing with an irate customer, you should always let them speak until they have finished. Interrupting them is rude and will only irritate them further. You should also offer to do anything within your power to make the situation better and to assure them that they are appreciated. It is important to make sure they are happy when they leave your building so that they will not only come back, but also so they do not talk about your business negatively to friends.

Customer service tips also include going the extra mile by sending out thank you cards to customers, finding out about birthdays and anniversaries and sending out cards with coupons or small gift certificates for those days. If you run a company that makes large sums of money off of each or some of your customers, then gift baskets for Christmas and things of that nature are very much appreciated. The goal is to go above and beyond what the other guy might do for your customer so they will not leave you for them.

Imagery Marketing & Research Consultants, Inc. has been providing customer service training for over 5 years and can customize an affordable customer service program for your employees. Contact us for details and rates.

Carmen Brown, VP-Fun GoddessImagery Marketing & Research Consultants, Inc.

It is a good investment to spend resources to retain existing customers. Your best customer is your current customer.-- David Cottrell

  • By the way, we're looking for guest phloggers. If you would like to add your voice to our little blog on marketing, advertising, public relations, or just business in general, email your submittal and a short bio to

Monday, January 5, 2009

Business Lessons I Learned from My Dogs

In honor of "Marley & Me", I thought I'd let you in on the business lessons that I learned from my dogs (the current one and those who have gone on to doggie heaven):
  1. No matter how small you are, act like a BIG Dog.
  2. Always be loyal to the ones who fill your food and water bowls.
  3. Greet people with a happy wag.
  4. Once you sink your teeth into a project, don't let go until it's done.
  5. Protect your territory.
  6. Protect your people.
  7. Don't bark unless there is a real need.
  8. Be patient with people. They don't always understand what it is you want.
  9. Don't leave a mess where people can step in it.
  10. Howling all night at the moon only wastes energy.
  11. You're not a squirrel, so don't chase after them. They can climb trees and you can't.
  12. Stay clear of cats. They have claws.
  13. If you get scolded, don't sulk. Just get on with life.
  14. If you don't expect anything from anyone, you'll never be disappointed; and if you get something, it's a treat.
  15. Try to make people laugh every now and then. They'll love you for it.
  16. Sniff things out before jumping in all the way.
  17. Take time to play.
  18. Take time to nap.