The Sweet Sound of Success

8 04 2014

It was the fall of 1993 when an acquaintance approached me about the possibility of joining him in a start-up.  His plan was to create sales campaigns for businesses, complete with text and images.  He uploaded them onto CD’s that the companies could then send to sales prospects.  It was only a short time later that we became aware of the World Wide Web, that portion of the Internet where graphics could be used to enhance text, where images could be included, and where addresses were given names instead of a series of numerals separated by dots.

 Websites had to be built to 640 x 480 resolution in order to fit the tiny monitors of the time.  A balance between appearance and speed was necessary because 9600 baud phone modems were the standard.  Access to the World Wide Web could only be gained through providers like Prodigy and CompuServe and America OnLine.

 Twenty years later, a close friend and business customer called to announce that he had just landed the largest service contract in the history of his company.  The company had researched potential suppliers on the Internet, read the reviews, and studied their websites.  Upon completion of the research, the company called and offered a contract.

 “Walter, I never would have done this if it wasn’t for you,” he said.  “I’ve always believed that the success stories were all smoke and mirrors.  I trust you.  That’s the only reason why I moved forward with ‘the plan.’  Now, I see for myself what can happen.”

 “The plan” is a sophisticated digital marketing campaign that presents the business’ impeccable reputation to the public through a variety of channels with emphasis upon the quality products provided, the experience of service personnel, the geographic area the business covers, and the level of customer satisfaction the business has earned.

 Buyers have become very sophisticated over the past 20 years as they have grown more comfortable with online shopping.  There was a time when the largest Yellow Pages ad garnered the most business.  Most of the population eventually saw through that ruse.  Flashy, animated, hi-tech websites with bold colors and striking images are slowly being passed by for websites with meaningful, relevant (not boiler plate) content.


Time Flies… The Evolution of Digital Marketing (1994 – Present) Volume 1

1 07 2011

17 years ago, Tanya Harding attempted to put an end to Nancy Kerrigan’s skating career. Schindler’s List won 7 Oscars.  The Channel Tunnel opened between England and France.  The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the web standards organization responsible for managing the interoperability of web specifications, guidelines, software and tools, was created.

That same year two men, one with an IT background and one with extensive marketing experience, joined forces to create the original websites for real estate agencies located in Northern Palm Beach County, Florida.

At the time, it was only possible to access the internet with a Windows-based personal computer (PC).  Dial-up access was made through a 9600 baud modem and had to be done indirectly through America Online, Prodigy, or CompuServe, three companies that provided email and a small variety of services in addition to internet access.  When modems capable of transferring 14,600 bits of information per second (bps) became available that same year, internet speed became astoundingly fast.  Direct internet access also became available through small “hosting companies” that provided internet access and email boxes for their customers.  It often required downloading the content of as many as 14 floppy discs and making complicated configuration changes to the autoexec.bat files before a computer could connect to the internet.  These same “hosting companies” also provided servers where website files could be placed enabling global access.  Service was not totally reliable, and support staffs were overworked.

Just the same, the concept of sharing a combination of text and graphics with people all over the world was intriguing.  A small yet growing group of men recognized the potential and freely shared successes and failures as each one struggled to create exciting, entertaining, informative websites that would tell a story which others would like to read.

My business partner and I quickly recognized the real estate application.  After all, 900 families per day were moving to Florida from all over the world.  Interstate highways were populated with moving vans and loaded-down pickup trucks filled with family possessions.  The concept of making images and descriptions of Florida homes for sale available to people all over the world was a no-brainer.  We did it for companies like Waterfront Properties, Admirals Cove, Investment Equity Corporation, Jupiter Lighthouse Realty, and many more.  We created the first website for a chamber of commerce in the State of Florida.  The Jupiter Tequesta Juno Beach Chamber of Commerce (no longer in existence) was headed by a former marketing executive for Anheuser-Busch who immediately seized upon the concept.

Progressive real estate firms reaped the fruits of their daring dive into the digital world.  Suddenly, people were calling from thousands of miles away to get more information about properties in South Florida. The less daring brokers slowly recognized their competition’s successes and reluctantly jumped halfheartedly on the bandwagon.

The value of “getting on the Internet” was slowly lost.  There became such a profusion of real estate websites that it became necessary to differentiate one business from another.  Websites began to focus upon the ways in which one website and firm was better than its competition – resulting in more sophisticated websites.

Throughout this early evolutionary stage, websites and their message were passive marketing tools.  The information was put out there for people to see.  If they found it, and if they liked what they saw, then they could call or send an email message to obtain more information.  A website address on letterhead and business cards, a flyer or brochure, a sign or a billboard, was the extent of any effort to pull traffic (visitors) to the website.

The earliest search engines and directories were crude, unsophisticated tools with names like Lycos, WebCrawler, Excite, and HotBot to name a few.  Although a slow and tedious process, it was possible to get satisfactory placement in search engine results for virtually any website, since only a handful of experienced web developers understood the process.  Businesses continued to rely upon the interest of potential customers and the law of large numbers that basically said, “There are enough people interested in Florida real estate to assure a flow of traffic to any website.”  Still, a passive approach dominated digital marketing.

Future installments will focus upon changes in digital marketing, the evolution of SEO, Pay-Per-Click, Banner Advertising, CPM, CPA, CPC, CRM, IRED, PageRank, Alexa, Analytics, Google, Bing, the transition from passive to active digital marketing, and the impact of a declining market.

Smartphone Nightmare: Tiny Keyboards vs. Big Fingers

29 06 2011

At 6’4” and 275 pounds, I’m good at holding chairs to the ground, not typing lengthy web addresses into smartphone keyboards.  When you hear, “Awww…  dammit!” in restaurants, meetings, and other public places, that’s me cursing clumsy fingers that constantly hit the “backspace delete” instead of the “m” on my iPhone.

QR Code

QR (Quick Response) Codes were first introduced 17 years ago (1994) by Toyota as part of a digital inventory control system.  They have grown in popularity as an alternative to lengthy web addresses that are difficult to enter on the keyboards of mobile devices.  This is the address for QR Code information:  That 75 character address can be easily replaced with a small, free icon like the one above that will provide “one click” access to the same web page.

In a digital world that is totally dominated by mobile devices, QR Codes are an imperative.  Most importantly:  QR Codes are free, and they are easy to create.  There are a multitude of QR Code scanner and QR Code creator apps that can be downloaded (free) to any smartphone or tablet.  Keep in mind that a camera and internet access are required.  For more information go to:

QR Codes have been placed on the backs of business cards with links to the individual’s personal or business website, on the uniforms of people staffing events with links to their company’s website.  They have been placed on the printed descriptions of artwork in museums with links to expanded information about the art that can then be saved.  History buffs are placing QR Codes on Civil War tombstones.  They link to pages that provide detailed information about the interred soldier.  The applications are endless.

As you embark upon the use of this technology, keep in mind an important pitfall.  Although QR Codes are hugely popular with thousands of websites describing their usage, providing software, etc., there is no active corporate support for this tool.

Enter Microsoft Tag, AT&T Mobile Barcode Services, and Mobile Tag.  These latecomers have developed similar tools that are not cross-compatible with QR Codes or each other.  If you happen to scan a code with the wrong scanner, the result is typically a string of meaningless numbers.  These proprietary formats spell doom for an exciting solution to a major smartphone annoyance, but unless domestic carriers select and implement a fixed standard, the future looks grim.

Buyer Beware!

12 05 2011

Advertising in 2011 is a quagmire with too many opportunities to trap your business in unproductive campaigns that drain your limited resources without delivering the sought after results.  Now, more than ever, it is incumbent upon business owners to recruit the assistance of experienced advertising executives with reputable firms.

Select a firm with a solid client base in your industry.  Whether you are a manufacturer of electrical connections or a developer of digital games, there is an agency with years of experience in your field.  That firm does not have to be local.  The limitless boundaries of our digital world make it possible for you to work closely with professionals from the other side of the world.

Listen carefully to their recommendations.  Much has been said about the downfall of print publications.  Recent statistics point however to circulation increases for major publications.  Only a seasoned professional can guide you to the most desirable publications for your ad placements.

Don’t be tempted by the myriad on-line outlets that offer low-cost self-administered advertising campaigns.  When it comes to advertising, as in all else, you get what you pay for.

Digital advertising is an equally challenging medium.  Banner advertising, sponsorships, pay-per-click and other forms of digital advertising are fraught with crucial details that directly impact performance and cost.  Your only protection from costly mistakes is the digital advertising executive.

A Second Opinion

24 02 2011

A recent post suggested “7 Things That Annoy Website Visitors.”  Experience has taught us that, “one size does not fit all.”  Neither does one set of guidelines.

The buyer of a one-of-a-kind, $17 million, mountaintop chalet does not share the same perspective as the individual who is trying to find the best price for Duracell® Batteries.   Commodity buyers have a choice of dozens of websites for purchasing the identical product at virtually the same price.  They can and frequently will make their buying decision on the basis of website background colors, font size, or some other equally obscure standard.  Most often, their primary goal is to complete the transaction as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Slow loading times, music, videos, cluttered layouts, scattered navigation, required registration, the absence of contact information, and too much Flash are roadblocks on their way to Happy Hour.  Picture yourself waiting in line at the Speedy Mart to pay for that package of Altoids® while the customer in front of you labors over his decision to box his lottery numbers or play them straight.  You sense the ice melting in your Mai Tai, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Few people choose the minute before the airline begins boarding first class passengers to explore the opportunity to purchase a luxury oceanfront vacation home in Bora Bora or a getaway home in the Mediterranean.  Those pursuits are typically reserved for more leisurely moments.

Rather than simply accept the status quo, one must rely upon the knowledge gained from years of experience.  Accepting vague guidelines unsupported by hard data frequently leads to unsatisfactory results.  It has often been said, “There is an exception to every rule.”  Those who blindly accept the ruminations of “experts” are destined to be shortchanged.

If You Build It, Will They Come? vs. To be is to be perceived (Esse est percipi)

27 01 2010

For the past sixteen years my mantra has been, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” The thought, first addressed by Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753) is particularly germane to the internet industry.

In October 2004, PhilC observed, “The answer is, no, it doesn’t make a sound. Sound is a process that only occurs in the ear and brain. There is no sound in the outside world.”  He continued, “If I was deaf and stood in the forest when the tree fell, no sound would have occured (sic), because my ears and brain couldn’t create it. But if a hearing person stood next to me, there would have been a sound, but only in that person’s head – not in the environment. Sound is never in the environment.”

Create the most beautiful website with the most sophisticated design, the most advanced technology.  The website will only exist in the minds of those who become aware of it and then only to the extent of their knowledge.  Case in point: No one is remotely aware of this website.  For those who have read this far, it exists only as a web address, nothing more.  Only the curious few will discover the depth of its significance, until such time as it is presented to the world.

When Barry Poltermann of AboutFace Media ( pulled a question from a popular movie script, he scratched the surface of an important topic, but a philosophical question that has been thoroughly explored, dissected, and discussed for more than 250 years gets to the heart of a burning issue.  All too often web developers fail in their obligation to clients who do not appreciate the intricacies of internet marketing.

We, as professionals must provide the complete formula for success to our clients:  Esse est percipi!

Collaboration is the key.

26 01 2010

Collaboration is the key. When industry voices decry the “lack of professionalism,” overwhelming “black hat” strategies, and the need for organizations to monitor, and certify participants, the real issue is a breakdown in collaboration. When innovative concepts drive our industry to new heights, when brilliant ideas explode into more exciting websites and applications… collaboration is thriving.

Read the definition in Wikipedia. It references “an intersection of common goals,” “sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus.”

At its inception, collaborators created the internet for the exclusive purpose of collaboration. When we started building websites in 1994, we knew nothing about html, little about IP addresses and networking, and less about domain management, hosting, or email configuration. Those who voluntarily, nay enthusiastically shared knowledge grew with us. Those who were secretive and possessive fell by the wayside.

There was no such thing as black/white hat. Everything was an experiment. We constantly tested the boundaries. When someone had a breakthrough, it was shared with the entire community. Others would piggyback their experiences, and before long entire new worlds would open. Color, graphics, animation, mouseovers… The list goes on and on.

The very people who rejected this new technology at first, i.e. ad agencies with their MAC based systems, their Quark, and their commitment to print media were the people we soon observed creating a shuttered and closed environment. They were the ones who would take but wouldn’t give. They were the ones who chose obscure terminology to describe mundane tasks. While they openly spoke of “leisure suit technology,” they secretly worked to determine how it could be built into their existing structure.

The pendulum is swinging in the opposite direction. Openness is the byword. One needs look no further than Adobe to see an absolutely brilliant “today” example of collaboration. The current holder of Flash technology (I submit that no one, no entity owns technology. They only hold it for a period of time.) finally presented a series of videos to disperse the rampant myths about the most successful SEO procedures. Jay Middleton, Worldwide Manager of Search Marketing for Adobe Systems, Inc. and Damien Bianchi, Regional Director of Client Strategy at Global Strategies, collaborated to deliver rock solid, long overdue solutions to a problem of great magnitude.

The time has come for others to jump on the collaboration bandwagon and open the doors. The internet will benefit. We will all benefit.