Getting married? Romance Leaders can hook you up with a fabuous destination wedding anywhere in the world.

Romance Leaders is a new division of Travel Leaders, a twin cities based travel agency, that specializes in destination weddings and exotic honeymoon vacations anywhere in the world. We designed and built this full-featured wordpress site for the new division that their in-house marketing staff / travel agents will be constantly updating the content, and creating special private landing pages for clients, new partner pages promoting a number of travel vendors.

With the new features in WordPress 3.42 along with other handy widgets supplied by the Genesis Framework, it was easy to hand the keys over to the staff at Travel Leaders.

At Home Restoration: a very cool WordPress site for a very hip guy. And a monster conversion rate to boot.

wordpress websites

At Home Restoration owner and Expert Finisher Jon Dominguez has a unique passion for refinishing and restoring antiques, furniture, interior wood trim, and cabinetry. But he is unlike most tradesman you might bring into your home. Jon is an artist in the true sense of the word. His mission is to create beauty where none exists. His medium just happens to be wood. His results are impressive, his pricing is reasonable. He loves his work so much, he might even do it for free.

Free, really? As Seth Godin puts it,

“Art is what we’re doing when we do our best work. Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording… but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.”

And that’s precisely what Jon brings to the table. Like me, he consistently over delivers when it comes to quality, whether the client appreciates it or not. That’s why it was a rare pleasure to create a branded wordpress website for this interesting character. Jon is also a very talented musician and songwriter, BTW. Fun to be around, no doubt.

About the site, it converts at a very impressive rate, probably higher than 10%. Just a guess. But the site competes very well organically for terms like ‘furniture refinishing minneapolis,’ ‘furniture refinishing minneapolis mn,’ ‘wood refinishing minneapolis,’ and many other localized terms that put his site #1 on Google.

Unimax LineOne: a focused new direction using WordPress as a micro-site.

telecom wordpress website

I’ve had a long-standing relationship with the good folks at Unimax going back at least five years. The telecommunications software marketer has traditionally sold it’s flagship product, 2nd Nature, to enterprise companies with thousands of employees. Suffice to say, 2nd Nature is a big ticket item, with a long sales cycle.

Instead of depending on sales for the flagship product, Unimax tried a different approach. They created products designed products with specific features aimed at solving specific problems, at a much more attractive pricepoint. LIneOne is a such a product. To take LineOne to market, Unimax needed a simple solution for both branding and marketing. And WordPress was the solution.

Instead of creating complete new websites to promote the new product, we created a simple microsite off the main domain, http://unimax.com/lineone/. This way, they could have a complete site, while continuing to build on the primary domain. For lead generation purposes, they use the site primarily as a landing page for email marketing, webinars, and other communications done with partners. Seems to be gaining traction, as I see a steady stream of leads on a daily basis.

Facebook firestorm creates instant traffic for new Eagan, MN yogo studio.

In this day and age, builders of WordPress Websites like us are often tasked with creating Facebook Fan Pages. It’s just part of the deal. But being a fan page admin, it can be kind of be a pain when your page attracts new followers like the folks at Sparrow Studios in Eagan, MN.

We built this sleek, stylish WordPress website for owners Erin Zosel (2nd cousin) and Brigitta Sharpe back in Early August with the goal of opening the Yoga and Fitness studio in the south suburbs. With the growth of Yoga and fitness, and what promises to be a growing economy (knock wood), Sparrow Studios seems poised for success. With Both Erin and Brig having huge Facebook Friend lists, acquiring 400 fans to their page was a slam dunk, and and should bode well for their new business. So when the site and fan page launched, I began receiving dozens of notifications daily of folks liking the page, and showing enthusiasm for the new fitness venture. Which was awesome, BTW, but a little surprising.

A great lesson for anyone starting a business these days: build a following withing your closest group of friends, who’ll gladly spread the word for you.

Daily Mortgage Report: automated blogging makes for awesome lead generation.

A print ad in this day and age? Well, sort of.

As our client Unimax is about to launch an exciting new product, we helped them create a teaser email that they’ll blast to their mailing list today previewing the upcoming announcement. It was fun, partly because it was reminiscent of the days when we cranked out print ads on what seemed like a daily basis. Real old school formula — headline, visual, killer copy.

With print seemingly near extinction, there are not many requests for marketing and design calling for this unique skill set. Is it a dying art? Or will it make a comeback? In Unimax’s case, it will definitely get the job done.

 

 

Splunking: impressive messaging all B2B marketers should aspire to.

While working on a recent B2B marketing project for a software client, I checked out Splunk, a provider of operational intelligence solutions. And I must say, I was totally blown away by their messaging. I can’t say that I’m a IT Director or CIO (their prospect I’m guessing), but I’ve gotta say, their approach is dead brilliant. In literally under 30 seconds, I completely get what they do technically on two important levels:

1. Emotional (‘Listen to Your Data – It’s Trying to Tell You Something’)

2. Intellectual (showing their awesome dashboard in the video)

That’s pretty impressive. Plus they support their claim with business case arguments, which are also backed up with impressive big brand case studies. If I were a director or C-level prospect, I’d be picking up the phone, I’d want to know more.

Am I being overly naive here, or should we all be taking a lesson from this? Splunk simply follows B2B marketing principles to the letter. In my 30-second first impression, they did not mention a single feature, only big picture benefits. They told me what they could do for me (benefits), not how they do it (features).

I’m offering this short post here today, only becuase  it’s rare to see such well-executed B2B communications such as Splunk. While I don’t give them huge kudos for their aesthetic design, the brand approach from a messaging standpoint was literally flawless. I know nothing about operational intelligence solutions, yet in less than a minute I can see what a cool solution Splunk offers.

That’s a principle all B2B marketer should aspire to.

The results are in: top 7 observations of the 2011 media usage survey.

First of all, thanks to all of those who completed my 2011 Media Usage Survey. More than 60 of you clicked through and completed it, about 25 in the first hour alone. It was by far the most successful newsletter I’ve ever done in terms of clicks and engagement.

Analyzing the results, however, was a lot tougher than I thought. I guess the first thing I learned from doing a survey was to use a tool like surveymonkey that performs many of the calculations and analysis. But still, after plowing through Excel and trying to make sense of it all, I still was able to discern some pretty interesting stuff. Too bad it took six months. Download the excel file below, take a look at the data, and let me know what you think.

Click here to download excel file

Small sample size validates my assumptions, at very least.

First of all, to keep this project in perspective, I’m fully aware that a sample size of around 60 is pretty small. But it’s definitely large enough to spot a few over-arching trends about people and their media habits. As I stated earlier, these days I see people falling in two distinct groups – the tech savvy ‘haves’ and the technology squeamish ‘have nots.’ I broke down my group of 60 into five age groups:

  • Age 60+ (6)
  • Age 50+ (10)
  • Age 40+ (19)
  • Age 30+ (15)
  • Age 15 – 30 (14)

Survey Scope: gauging our technical comfort zone.

As you can see by the number in parentheses, the largest number of respondents came from the 40+ age group (19), which says more about who is on my mailing list than anything else. Here are three things you need to know about the survey before any of my observations will make sense:

  1. Primary objective was to discern peoples’ comfort level with using technology in their daily business and personal lives.
  2. Yes/No questions were asked in sequential order from less technical to more technical; ‘reading a daily newspaper’ (less technical) to ‘posting a video to youtube’ (more technical) to ‘managing a network’ (even more technical).
  3. Respondents could a score up to 26 points, which should approximate someone’s technical comfort zone.  The two highest scorers overall had 25 points. Each missed only one — one had never attended a webinar, the other didn’t use social media. Both were under age 40.

Observation #1: Newspapers may be around a little while longer — For someone like me who enjoys the feel of print newspaper in hands as I sip my coffee in the morning, I am relieved that over half the people survey indicated that they read a daily print newspaper. However, 26 of the 31 responses came from ages 40 and up. No surprise there, but don’t count Star Trombone out just yet.

Observation #2: people would rather email talk on the phone — The question was Which of the following do you consider to be the most effective or satisfying for one-on-one personal communications? Turns out that while 46% indicated Meeting Face to Face as their #1 preference (whew!), but 28% indicated they prefer email, which eclipses talking on the phone (15%). If I’m reading this right, it’s disturbing to discover that more people actually prefer email communications to Face-to-Face or telephone. Scary to say the least.

Observation #3: social media rules — Over 80% surveyed indicated that they currently use social media, facebook in particular. Twitter hasn’t quite caught on, and was most popular in 30+ age group (63%). Surprisingly four of six in the 60+ age group claimed to use Facebook.

Observation #4: more folks read books and watch TV — Now, I for one find this hard to believe. Really? I’m lucky if I read more that 3-4 books a year, but always watch at least an hour of tube each day. I guess it goes to show you, never overthink what you think people think. Or, it just may be there’s nothing good on TV, even though most of us have thousands of channels to choose from.

Observation #5: 30+ age group is the most tech savvy — The question: Are you comfortable troubleshooting simple technical issues with your desktop applications (ie., MS Office)? 100% of the 30+ age group answered yes to this question, compared with 61% for ages 15-30, 57% for 40+ and about 50% for 50+.Not only that, but over 80% of the 30+ group also have claimed to have operated a blog as well.

Observation #6: Internet #1 source of news — When asked their primary source of news, 45% chose the internet, with newspapers surprisingly getting 28%, followed by TV with 16%, and radio with a meager 6%. Somehow, I expected radio to be higher, but with ipods, smartphones and devices available to stay in touch with everything, it just makes sense. What is the future of radio anyway?

Observation #7: Smartphones have taken over — No big surprise here, as 72% of us now use iPhones, Droids or whatever. The smartphone has become an extension of the human persona, in all ages groups across the board.

There is so much more to share about this, but who has the time? I would really appreciate your comments and/or questions below.

How YouthHockeyHub.com attracted over 12,000 visitors in its first 30 days.

search engine traffic success

In late October, it was nothing more than a pipedream. Today, YouthHockeyHub.com is a thriving new blog/website claiming over 12,000 engaged visitors during its first month of operation.

When someone starts a new blog or website, the goal is usually to generate a high volume of engaged visitors. So, if one generated over 12,000 in the first 30 days, it’s safe to say that would qualify as a rocking success. That’s precisely what has happened with YouthHockeyHub.com.

And it didn’t happen by accident.

So what is YouthHockeyHub, and why the sudden success? The site is a joint-venture between ZoselCo (Scott Zosel) and Multiply Communications (Tony Zosel, aka Tony Scott). Yes, my brother and I, both being youth sports enthusiasts, took a hard look at the marketplace for youth sports and saw some exciting opportunities looming. Our idea was to create a blog-style website covering Minnesota youth hockey, complete with feature stories and editorials. The primary drawing card would be weekly team rankings for both boys and girls hockey ages 9-14. Our long-term goal is to monetize the site via affiliate programs and advertising revenue.

However, you can’t just throw the site up and expect over 12,000 to beat a path to your door. If you want to generate big traffic numbers right out of the gate, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.

In a nutshell, here is our formula for success:

  1. Find a large under-served market —  After exploring the marketplace for youth hockey, we saw that mnhockeyhub.com claimed some 70,000 visitors at its peak in March last year (see graphic below). This level of traffic volume will support several players. We wanted to be one of them.
  2. Find a marked loaded with engaged customers — Simply put, youth hockey parents and coaches are insanely engaged, and will spend big bucks at the drop of a hat (sticks, skates, ice time et al). If your ultimate goal is monetization, your market must have this essential characteristic.
  3. Connect with key influencers one-by-one — One of the chief reasons to offer weekly rankings was to attract visitors interested in seeing how their kids’ teams were doing. However, to offer rankings, we needed coaches and parents who would login to the site and rank teams in their division. Recruiting them meant finding them through their local hockey association website, individually emailing each one of them, and inviting them to become a ranker. To get the job done, we simply paid high school kids to plow through this tedious task. Once we had over 100 rankers in the fold, things became viral, as they invited many others and traffic really grew. One-on-one emails were critical; email blasting would have been futile.
  4. Work the forums — Like I said, youth hockey followers are insanely engaged. There are a couple key youth hockey forums where hundreds of key influencers congregate daily to discuss a variety of topics, including team rankings. Over half our traffic comes from one forum, and will likely continue if we participate. We also have a forum on our site where participation is growing daily.
  5. Contacting key influencers = exponential visits — Because we already have a personal dialogue with parents and coaches, it’s easy to create stories about the teams they’re connected with. And whenever we do this, traffic usually comes back tenfold. Let’s say we run a story on a Squirt A tournament preview, we’ll send a email notice alerting this particular group of 12-15 parents. This generates 300-400 visits.

 

 

CIMA Entertainment: awesome referral from Shi-Shu Style.

Big thanks to entrepreneur Tamre Sutphen, owner of  baby blanket maven Shi-Shu Style. She hooked us up with her buddy Ric Flores from Cima Entertainment Marketing who specializes in the sales and development of strategic marketing, sponsorship, and advertising opportunities. They are experts in designing, packaging, and selling unique advertising and promotional opportunities.

Built a very simple and straight-forward wordpress site that tells their story and hosts all of their case studies. Fun to work with.