From There to Here…10 years IN THE LIFE OF A small business marketing agency
Lots of things change in 10 years. I know that in a very personal way, because I’m celebrating 10 years in business this year. To honor this achievement, I’m taking a look back at my little company-of-one in 2007 and then fast forward to 2017, where I’ll offer some thoughts about current day marketing perspectives. Follow along and you might just recognize some of your business steps in the process.
Here’s where the story starts.
In October of 2007, I jumped blindly into paid consulting, fresh out of a stint working in the family business. Hanging out a virtual shingle as a sales/marketing consultant, my first step (after deciding getting a job wasn’t going to be my next step!) was to reach out to a trusted friend, who connected me with his friend, who sent me to talk to a start up tech guy who needed marketing help. With my freshly minted Vista Prints business cards in hand, I left that meeting with my first client. The rest, as they say, is history.
JFields Marketing, LLC has come a long way since those days of me my, myself, and I. Today we are still a small company of two, with two part time contractors in two different parts of the country. We are humbly, realistically mighty, with a client base of more than 75 small to medium size companies, and an active roster of 12-15 clients. We also have a bookkeeper, an accountant, and a line of credit. And that's our story.
Well, that’s not all there is to the story. There’s more. Lots more. Ups and downs. Headaches. Growth pains. Money pain. Growth pains. Hiring pain. Did I say growth pains?
On the positive side, there is a solid history of good work. Helpful marketing and consultation to a long list of satisfied small business clients. There was my own steady learning curve of business and marketing knowledge. And I can’t forget, an amazing gathering of colleagues, who became friends, who were the support that every entrepreneur needs to survive.
And there has been amazing, sometimes mind blowing change in how we all do marketing since 2007.
Home office – I set up my home office with one small desk in a corner of the living room, 250 business cards ordered from Vista Prints, and an HP Pavillion laptop purchased for just over $800. I’m still in a home office but today, it’s a dedicated space off the back of my house, with 2 desks, 3 computers, 4 monitors, a printer, and a router ( to be super specific). I can't forget we sit on ball chairs! It's the best thing that ever happened to my back! With the expansion of technology, the virtual office has exploded, giving rise to an army of freelancers and lifestyle business owners. We've got Leslie in Nashville and Nate in Phoenix helping us out on a regular basis. We're not looking to change that configuration anytime soon as it works really well.
Computers – In 2007, it was an HP laptop using Windows XP operating system, connected to the internet via an Ethernet cable. Later, I switched to Sony Vaio with a Windows 8 operating system, which almost killed me until I got the 8.1 update to mimic the XP environment. Today, I multi-task between an Apple Macbook pro, mostly for recording online classes, and the Vaio, still my daily workhorse for all things business. We’re almost 100% wireless, except on those days when the Internet is not our friend. I've come a long way in my 'baby boomer' computer knowledge, and am happy to say I can figure a whole lot out on my own now. With the ever present help of Google nearby!
Websites - While every business typically had website in 2007, they were static, brochure type information sources that offered company history, a list of key personnel, a page or pages of products and services, and a contact page. While search rankings were important, it was the rise of the Wordpress and blogging in the mid-2000’s that changed the web landscape for good. My site was Wordpress and it stayed Wordpress until my lovely and talented assistant Kendra introduced JFields Marketing to Squarespace. We love our Squarespace site for its' ease, look and user friendliness. You should be getting a feel for it now if you're reading this blog. What do you think?
SEO - Getting good rankings has never been all that simple. SEO has always been an important, yet elusive concept to understand, yet is an important aspect of having a strong web presence. In 2007, Google and other key players in the industry were working hard to develop helpful ways to search the web, leading to Google Search. Google was also working hard to decrease the amount of spam type links and bad comments on blogs, and introduced the industry game changer Google analytics during this period. I, and most of my small business clients, kept our attention focused on using keywords as much as possible.
Today, SEO is still complicated and simple. Many small businesses prefer to hire professionals to dig deep into the weeks of SEO. For others, being smart about SEO comes down to a few things: adding great content on a regular basis to your website; work toward connecting with other high quality sites to encourage back links, and staying on top of the trends toward mobile device use. Studies show that more than 50% of all digital media is now consumed by mobile, vs 42% on desktop computers.
Social Media - In 2007, Facebook was still a toddler, accessed mostly by college students and people with too much time on their hands (there may still be some truth in that last one). MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIN came on the scene not long after, and since then we’ve seen some go away (MySpace, Friendster) but many more added to the field, including Instagram, Google+, SnapChat, Tumbler, Pinterest and others.
Back then, no serious marketer was using the Facebook Business page, first introduced in 2006. Today, more than 500 million businesses have a Facebook presence, bolstered by the option of paid advertising to target specific audiences within Facebook’s nearly 2 billion users worldwide.
Every business and public organization, whether retail, manufacturing, healthcare, service, professional or not for profit, benefits from having a social media presence. B2B services and professionals are most often found on LinkedIN. Retail is heavily reliant on Facebook, Instagram, and for millennials, Snapchat. All benefit from having a Google+ page, but mostly creatives and photographers. Today, we recommend our clients have profiles on the main social platforms and build connections and engagement on the sites their customers spend time on.
Email Marketing - Email has always been a “love to hate” marketing tool. Yet, statistics show that checking email is still what we all do the most. We get a buzz from knowing someone has emailed us, especially when there’s a real connection.
In 2007, I sent out mails on behalf of clients on a regular basis, using my Outlook account to reach potential targets. Those days are long over. The anti-spam law of 2005 created a gate, setting the standard for email marketing best practices, shutting off the pipeline of unsolicited emails sent en masse.
In the past 5 or 6 years, we create email marketing campaigns using sophisticated yet user friendly platforms designed to help emails stay on the right side of spam laws. Constant Contact, aWeber, and ConvertKit are all solid providers, but MailChimp is the go-to email marketing provider we love. MailChimp has this quirky tone. and this little monkey guy thatj ust makes me smile. More than that, is MailChimp is easy to use, integrated with just about every other marketing platform out there, and has a solid customer service team.
Video and Mobile- In 2007, video marketing was in its infancy and the first iPhone was just introduced. I was pretty happy that my little LG flip phone could text using the alpha numeric keys and 3 strokes/letter, and that it took pretty neat pictures. Little did I or anyone else know the tsunami of change that was influenced by Steve Jobs and the mother of all websites, YouTube.
Now, video tops the charts of websites consumers watch most (more than a billion video views each day), and more than half of all viewers are using a mobile device to watch. Mobile phones in particular are changing the landscape of marketing. With our smartphones, we have access literally everywhere and anytime, using that accessibility to seek and gather information 24/7. AT JFields Marketing, we've jumped into the mix, begun creating and marketing online video classes, marketing to a whole new audience of shop owners and small business folks. I’m looking for trends in video and mobile to continue making changes in how we all do business in the future.
That just about covers it for the retrospective look back and review of the state today. It's been a wild and gratifying ride. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead; hoping to meet up with you and other good people along the way. I'd love to welcome you to our online email community, where you can find marketing ideas, tips and short videos to help your marketing become painless! Sign up right here if you like: