Study- Online Marketing & the Death of Small Business

Study- Online Marketing & the Death of Small Business

Mcdonalds 1940

In 2014, Google found that 50% of local smartphone searches led to a US customer visiting a brick and mortar store to make a purchase.  Tech researcher comScore found an even bigger correlation between online searches and local business traffic by stating that almost 80% of all local mobile searches led to a purchase in-store, over the phone or online.

Since 76% of those purchases took place on the same-day as the search was conducted, the benefits of having a strong online presence are virtually undeniable.  But do our small businesses across the United States realize that fact?

The Objective

In March of 2015, Upstate Synergy sent out over 800 survey invitations via email to small businesses throughout the Western Carolinas.  The goal was to see how local area businesses were capitalizing on local searches and more importantly, how businesses that do not have an online presence are doing in terms of gross sales.  We attempted to reach a wide variety of business sectors ranging from retail stores (gas stations, clothing stores, etc.) to professional services (law offices, auto repair, etc.) to hospitality (restaurants, hotels, etc.) and B2B providers.

Each business was asked to answer four brief questions about their sales totals in the first quarters of 2014 and 2015, plus any types of marketing that has been implemented to cause an increase/decrease in sales.

Those questions and the findings from the 241 respondents are listed below.

The Study

Question #1- Compared to the first quarter in 2014, has your annual gross sales increased, remained the same or declined for the first three months of 2015?

First Quarter Profit Small Business

Of the 241 business owners/managers that responded, 28% claimed to see an increase in sales, 37% remained the same and the remaining 34% saw a decrease in sales during the first quarter of 2015.  There figures are within the national averages reported in 2015 so we believe that they are accurate, although it is worth noting that the totals reported by small business owners in this survey were not independently verified.

Question #2a- If your sales have increased, what do you believe was the main factor behind that growth?

Growth Factor Small Business

The top three answers provided were website/social media traffic (41% combined), word of mouth (32%) and in-store promotions (12%).

Question #2b- If your sales have remained the same or decreased, what do you believe was the main factor in preventing growth?

Factors Behind Non Growth Small Business

The top three answers provided were a bad economy (63%), weather/a harsh winter (20%), and staffing issues (8%). Only sixteen people total from this segment (businesses without positive growth) mentioned the lack of an internet presence, which means that only around 10% saw it as a critical issue stunting their growth.

Question #3- How much money do you dedicate towards increasing your online presence every month?  Include website optimization, pay per click ads, social media marketing, etc. paid to your staff of an outside agency.

Here’s where the study gets interesting.  The small businesses that answered with spending a total of $800 or more per month (9%) almost unanimously saw an increase in sales (86%).  Of those who said they spend $300-799 each month (21%), over half of them fell into the increased profit category as well (60%).  The businesses that did not spend any money on online advertising or optimization (70%) came out the worst by far, with only twelve total participants reporting positive growth.

This statistic clearly shows that growth is almost impossible for small businesses without at least a basic online presence.  It is important to remember that this study was conducted in the Western Carolinas where that are a lot of small communities that do not have national retailers present, which would seemingly make success without an online presence much easier to accomplish.  The results do not support that conclusion at all though.

Question #4- What will be your primary marketing focus for the remainder of 2015?

Primary Marketing Focus for Successful Businesses

This question was the most surprising part of the survey since the top answers from businesses with positive growth in 2015 almost unanimously revolved around the internet- search/website optimization (35%), social media (21%), email marketing (14%) and pay per click campaigns (14%).  Direct mail (8%) was the most common offline answer provided.

Marketing  Focus for Flat/Failing Businesses

Almost 97% of the businesses surveyed with flat or negative growth are planning to continue traditional forms of marketing- direct mail (31%), television ads (16%), networking (9%), billboards (5%), and radio ads (3%).  Only 3% of the small businesses in this category mentioned any form of online advertising or website optimization at all, which starkly contrasts the strategies of the small businesses represented that claimed to have had positive growth.

Conclusion

The most telling statistic from this entire study is that the small businesses that optimize their online exposure are still alive and well in 2015; with many of them thriving.  Unfortunately, they are also in the vast minority with less than 1/3rd of all small businesses seeing local optimization as a viable strategy.  In total, 156 of the 241 small businesses surveyed have no virtually online presence at all, which ultimately gives their customers opportunities to discover new alternatives online every time they shop.

Why the huge gap in marketing mentalities between those with increasing profits and those breaking even (or worse)?  We actually expected a fair portion of business owners to mention not having a website or not properly optimizing it, but only 12 of the 156 (7.6%) provided that as an answer…despite the world around us proving that search and local optimization is a really, really big deal these days.  When people type in a product name (aka- toothpaste) with a location (Dallas) into the search engines (buy toothpaste in Dallas), then the chances are extremely high that they are looking to make an immediate purchase.

Yet somehow that common knowledge is not represented within this study at all.

As consumers increasingly rely on their smartphones to find local businesses to suit their needs, it could very well mean the death of all of those great mom and pop businesses that so many of us have frequented over the past 30+ years.  Because while the study sample in this instance was relatively small, the trends of downward spiraling are far too large to ignore.  Unless small businesses adapt to marketing in the modern world the way that consumers overwhelmingly prefer it, they will have very little chance of survival.

Tom Brady is a Cheater- The Deflategate Lesson in Communications

Tom Brady is a Cheater- The Deflategate Lesson in Communications

Tom Brady CheaterOn January 18th of 2015, the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots were suiting up to crown an AFC Champion and decide which team was worthy to represent the conference in Super Bowl 49.  Even before the opening coin toss, however, the story of the day had already secretly been written- via a letter to the NFL from the Colts front office.  Inside this letter, Indianapolis issued a statement that other teams had whispered for years- the New England Patriots are using footballs that are not inflated to the league’s minimum standards.

Then at halftime of the AFC Championship game, the Colts demanded an immediate intervention by officials when they realized that an intercepted football by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson appeared to be softer than their own footballs.  That’s when referees officially stepped in and discovered that ten of the eleven Patriot’s footballs were well under the mandated threshold for pounds per square inch (PSI), which is believed to have provided a competitive advantage.

How much of an advantage?  Under-inflated footballs are somewhat easier for the quarterback to throw and also easier to catch, especially in inclement weather.  That’s not the point here though- it really doesn’t matter if there was a benefit from Deflategate or not.  What really matters is the intent to bypass the very strict rules that 32 NFL teams agree to follow, and how a person/team being questioned about breaking those guidelines ultimately responds.

For example, did former Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams gain a competitive advantage from frequently smoking marijuana?  Of course not, but the league suspended him anyway because rules are meant to be followed.  Williams even had a social anxiety disorder that made his self-medicating a little more acceptable by public standards, yet he was prepared to accept whatever punishment the league passed down.

In the Deflategate scandal, however, we see no such acceptance of guilt.  New England head coach Bill Belichek held a press conference to disprove the experts.  Team owner Robert Kraft demanded a public apology before an investigation even took place.  Brady outright denied any involvement whatsoever and preached to the media about how important fairness was in football-

The message was universally clear from the entire organization- there was no guilt to be found from the staff or players inside Gillette Stadium.  Yet the complete Wells Report, which was released earlier this week, shows that the Patriots footballs mysteriously disappeared just minutes after being weighed in by officials.  Video evidence shows that Jim McNally, a 32 year veteran employee with the Patriots organization, ducked into a nearby bathroom with the footballs without permission from the referees.  McNally’s official job title is “locker room attendant” and the Patriots have stated that he has nothing to do with handling game-day footballs.  That responsibility falls to employee John Jastremski, who spends the week prepping footballs to Brady’s strict standards.

Here are where things begin to get interesting though; an inspection of McNally’s test messages to Jastremski shows ample discussion around Tom Brady’s displeasure of the inflation-rate of footballs used in games.  McNally even refers to himself at the “Deflator” and demands continual compensation for altering the footballs on game days-

May 9th, 2014-

McNally: You working

Jastremski: Yup

McNally: Nice dude….jimmy needs some kicks….lets make a deal…..come on help the deflator McNally:: Chill buddy im just <expletive> with you ….im not going to espn……..yet

October 17th, 2014-

McNally: Tom sucks…im going make that next ball a <expletive> balloon

Jastremski: Talked to him last night.  He actually brought you up and said you must have a lot of stress trying to get them done…

Jastremski: I told him it was.  He was right though…

October 24th, 2014-

Jastremski: I have a big needle for u this week

McNally: Better be surrounded by cash and new kicks….or its a rugby sunday

McNally: <expletive> tom

Jastremski: Maybe u will have some nice size 11s in ur locker

McNally: Tom must really be working your balls hard this week

October 25th, 2014-

Jastremski: Size 11?

Jastremski: 2 or 3X?

McNally: Tom must really be on you

McNally: 11 0r 11 half……2x unless its tight fitting

Jastremski: Nah. Hasn‟t even mentioned it, figured u should get something since he gives u nothing

The report also shows that on January 10th, 2015 (the day before the Patriots/Baltimore divisional playoff game) McNally received two autographed footballs and an autographed game-worn jersey from Brady in the Patriots equipment room.  Jastremski was present for the exchange of “thank you” gifts as well, which is certainly damning for the Patriots organization.

Since the first text messages mentioning “the deflator McNally” date back to before the start of the 2014 season, it is Ted Wells’s opinion that these events may have been ongoing across multiple seasons with Tom Brady’s full knowledge.  After all, why would McNally reference Brady owing him for “deflating services” during the off-season if there wasn’t cheating involved in the 2013 season as well?  Business Insider points out the McNally was investigated by the league for tampering with game balls as far back as 2004 (where he switched out practice balls during games), which gives a completely new perspective on Brady’s legacy as a professional.  It seems likely that he has cheated throughout his entire career.

Additionally, it is worth noting that Brady refused to grant access to phone records, text messages and other communications that could further self-incriminate his involvement, which in itself violates league policies during an official investigation.  Add it all up and it leads to serious trouble for the former Super Bowl MVP.

Although Baltimore head coach Jim Harbaugh denies it, numerous sources have stated that the Ravens had tipped off the Colts prior to the AFC Championship game instead of directly filing a complaint with the league.  Other rumors have surfaced for years regarding Brady’s rule-breaking PSI preferences, yet no team had the courage to put their suspicions in writing in the form of an official NFL inquiry.  And that begs the question- would the Patriots be crowned the reigning Super Bowl champions right now if this was brought to light sooner?

Again, it’s not about advantages at this point; it’s about the integrity of football and having the character to rise above temptation when an opportunity presents itself.  It appears that the New England Patriots have succumbed to that temptation since at least 2013, and possibly as far back as Tom Brady’s rookie year in 2000.  Remember, McNally has been behind the scenes and doing the Patriot’s dirty work since 1983…so who knows the true start date of the Patriots Deflategate scandal.

One thing is crystal clear though; 21st century scandals simply do not remain hidden thanks to the technology we use to communicate within our lives.  Tom Brady was doomed from the very start of this investigation and his claims of innocence will only scar the Patriots organization for years to come.

What do you think is a fair punishment by the NFL for Brady and the Patriots organization?  Should they set a clear example that will not soon be forgotten?  I eagerly await your opinions.

Did you Catch the Marketing Lesson in the Mayweather Pacquiao Fight?

Did you Catch the Marketing Lesson in the Mayweather Pacquiao Fight?

-Mayweather -vs- PacquiaoIf you followed the hype leading up to the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao super-fight, then you probably remember hearing that this was going to be a battle for the ages.  It was supposed to instantly become the brawl of the century for fight fans where the undisputed pound for pound best fighter in boxing was crowned, but somehow that’s not what we ended up with.

In fact, there was truly only one winner during the main event last Saturday night and it certainly wasn’t Mayweather or the millions of boxing fans who tuned in- it was the promoters who put this fight together in the first place and made sure that they hyped it for three long years as ridiculous terms were debated.

Let’s face it- we all knew that Mayweather was the better fighter in this contest.  Mayweather knew it.  Freddie Roach knew it and Manny Pacquiao likely did as well.  We didn’t have to tune in to see the results

And before you say, “…but poor Manny was hurt and they wouldn’t give him an injection in the lock room before the fight,” let me ask a quick question- when have you EVER seen a prominent fighter lose without coming out with some kind of excuse?  Don’t get me wrong, I was rooting for Pacquiao 100% here, and I do believe that he had a legitimate injury.  But that raises an even bigger question- why did he fight at all if he knew he was at a severe disadvantage?

If you look closely, he had well over $100 million reasons to step into the ring anyway, just like Mayweather had almost $200 million reasons not to knock Manny out early in the 2nd or 3rd round.  This fight was destined for a decision before the first bell even rang.

Then out of nowhere, here comes the excuses exactly as they were scripted.  Manny Pacquiao was forced to fight hurt and denied medical attention, Mayweather couldn’t seem to find his offense.  And you’d better believe that the marketing geniuses in Las Vegas are already crafting the story lines for Mayweather-Pacquiao II, the revenge.

By the time all is said and done, who wants to place a friendly wager that these two square off again in about 18 months, with an even bigger Pay-Per-View ticket price and a whole lot more slugging?  Because the way I see it, we’ve only seen about 1/3 of the total action for the biggest marketing con of the century.  Stay tuned for parts two and three; because I guarantee that they’ll be here soon enough…

How One Post on Warrior Forum Drove $400k in Sales

How One Post on Warrior Forum Drove $400k in Sales

As some of you already know, I’ve been posting on Warrior Forum for about three months now under the username “kk075”. For those of you who don’t visit there, it happens to be the largest online marketing community in the world. My initial goal was to pick up a few tips about the latest affiliate marketing techniques since I’m mainly an SEO type of guy, but then I saw all these different questions about how to build a website and where to get traffic from.

Well, you writers out there can relate with me here…when you give us a new place to write about things, we get to typing in a hurry. So I was happy to help others with a few tidbits about internet marketing and other advice I have picked up over the years.  

Then I dropped what turned out to be a bombshell of a post, “Making My First Million Online- My Story.” 

It’s definitely worth a read if you have time; here’s a quick summary though in case you don’t.  In essence, this post was highlighting how I began my freelance writing career, why I moved on to learn about web design, marketing and SEO, and all of my adventures as an affiliate marketer.  It seemed like every year I’d find a way to advance my game to hit that next level in professionalism, and I just kept on grinding until I was a full service internet marketing company…pretty much out of necessity.

 

250k Views and $400k in Sales? From a Stinking Forum Post?

 

Here’s just a few of the baseline stats from that one post. Note that these are as of Saturday the 18th at around 9:00 PM, which is about 36 hours after Warrior Forum featured my post in their monthly email and suggested that you read it. So know that these are very early totals-

– It’s received 14,448 page views (the most of any new topic this year)
– It’s received 198 comments (the most of any new topic this year)
– It’s received 143 thanks on the original post and 258 total  throughout (the most for any topic this year)
– It led to 41 people starting a new website venture (either by hiring me or doing it themselves)
– It led to me giving 107 people specific advice via the forum, PM & email
– It led to three other joint affiliate projects

– This website received 2,106 unique visitors from Warrior Forum in the first 36 hours
– This site also received 87 business inquires from forum members in that same time frame

Think about that for a moment.  A total of 14.4% of people who read that post visited me here.  And all my signature link said was, “Visit my Web Forum”, which is about as weak of a call to action as you can possibly have.  That’s the thing though; I wasn’t trying to sell or promote at all- it was just an experiment on what some good old fashioned storytelling could accomplish.  So why on Earth did my post receive such an incredible response AND convince people to click through?

Let’s talk about that for a moment because it is really a blueprint in itself on how to be successful online.

Telling a Genuine Story

First, it was the way that I told my story. Whenever possible, I tried to be as specific as I could when describing how I made money or where I failed, and something that honest seems to resonate with people. The quote about Google really seemed to grab people’s attention as well, even though I wasn’t writing much about SEO or how it really works.  But people couldn’t deny great advice when it was staring them right in the face-

So here’s the best piece of advice you’ll ever hear- Google has never changed. Not one bit. They only got better at meeting their original objective of making the site with the best content appear in the #1 slot, and you can’t do that by trying to optimize for Google. Instead, optimize your sites for the people you’re trying to connect with…and then Google will see your value. If you do that, then no Penguin or Panda update in the world can touch you.”

In any case, many saw this as game-changing advice and they ran with it. And if nothing but that came out of this whole process, then I’m absolutely thrilled…because a few lives will change for the better. That’s awesome!

 

Giving Actionable Feedback

The second thing that really seemed to draw users in was that every time they asked a question, I would respond to them with actionable advice that they could use immediately. I gave very specific advice about how to hire great writers, how to build a local niche site, and whatever people happened to ask…and I tried my best to make the message as personal as possible to their situation. In other words, it quickly stopped being about me and the focus shifted to you; which is why so many of you are here reading this now.

I also want to point out that I have more “thanks” on my account than the average 10 year Warrior Forum veteran, and a few people have already started quoting me in other forum threads as the SEO authority. This happened because I took the time to care about individuals, which is what every single one of you running a website should be doing. Again though; this post is not about me…it’s solely about you and how you can achieve greater success on the forum and in life.

2018 Update on the Warrior Forum Experiment

Looking back almost three years later, I’ve had countless internet marketers email me and ask for advice on replicating my success on Warrior Forum.  The first thing I always tell them is that being genuine and going out of your way to help others are traits that we rarely see in the web design community anymore- we are all so laser focused on money and paying the bills that we sometimes forget that we’re working for real people with real businesses that need real help.  My success on Warrior Forum was largely because those types of things have always been the core of my business model- just help people first and then worry about the money part later.  It has served me extremely well and continually opens new doorways.

The biggest benefit by far wasn’t the money or the clients or the traffic- it was the networking opportunities.  Daymond John’s (Shark Tank) business manager reached out to me offering a six-figure job within his organization (which I regretfully had to decline) and I met countless other fantastic people that were thriving digital experts in their own right.  They made me realize that my business model was terribly flawed because every single one of them needed a kick-ass copywriter.  So I ended up partnering with dozens of top digital design and marketing firms, let them chase down the huge clients out there, and I sat back answering my inbox as opportunities flowed in daily. 

In essence, I created my own freelance community network where we all went out of our way to help each other, and it resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for my company plus exposure that I couldn’t buy with any amount of money.

Surprisingly, I still get the occasional message three years later from someone who stumbles across that old Warrior Forum post.  I am no longer active there though because I can’t stand their new forum layout/style- it makes finding great posts 10x harder than it used to be.  The result is novice internet marketers starting hundreds of new threads daily on “How Can I make Money Online??” and I just got tired of that scene.  I am still searching for a new marketing forum to call home and I’ve thought about starting my own- maybe that will happen this year.

Here are some finalized stats on that Warrior Forum experiment-

  • This website received a total of 256,435 unique visitors from Warrior Forum 
  • This site also received 398 business inquires from Warrior Forum members
  • I partnered with 8 different individuals and 14 different marketing firms due to that post
  • I generated approximately $400,000 in revenue from the opportunities that arose
  • I also turned down dozens of employment offers (a few I probably should have taken)
  • Most importantly, I met dozens of business professionals that I now work with daily

Looking back, what did I learn from this experiment?  The biggest takeaway is that you don’t have to spend a penny on marketing if you can engage people on forums and other online destinations.  Don’t tell people how awesome you are- show them!  Go out of your way to give genuine, honest advice and you’ll really stand out from the crowd.  Also, don’t focus on sales within any online community- people aren’t there to be sold to.  The sales part comes from networking and helping others- $400k from a single post is probably some kind of internet record for a freelance nobody like me. 

But it wasn’t me or even that one post that made this project so successful; it was the hundreds of others that helped aspiring entrepreneurs figure a few things out.  People listened to me because they saw I was the real deal and had their best interests at heart, and in turn they started paying it forward as well.  The way I’ve always seen it, all of us are in the exact same boat regardless if we’re a noob marketer or a seasoned veteran- only good can come from coming together and making each other stronger. 

So for that I’d like to share a big “thank you”- all you guys and girls who joined me on this journey are awesome! 

Google Starts Penalizing Non-Responsive Websites on April 21st 2015

Google Starts Penalizing Non-Responsive Websites on April 21st 2015

Google Responsive Web DesignIn case you haven’t heard the news yet, Google has recently announced on its Webmaster blog that it is going to start rewarding websites that are designed with HTML5 and responsive layouts to better serve the growing smartphone communities across the globe.  Experts are predicting that this will have a serious impact on existing businesses that have not updated to the latest responsive technology and their sites are expected to take huge penalties within the search rankings.

For those who are not hip on responsive technology, check out responsive website guide.

What Impact Will this Have on My Business?

Responsive Design LayoutSo what does the Google Update  mean for local Upstate businesses in Spartanburg and Greenville?  Really, it all depends on how you’re currently using your website and where its traffic comes from.  If most of its visitors are existing clients that you’ve directed there on your business cards and flyers, then you can probably continue with your website as-is over the near future…as long as you realize that your natural search engine rankings will likely drop quickly.

For newer Upstate businesses, this announcement also serves as a golden opportunity to seize a large portion of market share from others not taking action.  Off the top of my head, businesses like local insurance firms, used car dealerships and entertainment venues are going to get hit the hardest since they rely on that natural traffic to generate new leads.  Those who act quickly will likely see their search rankings sour in popularity on the 21st since the competition will essentially become invisible and not indexed for smartphones at all.

What Do I Need to Do?

Responsive web designHonestly, that’s a tough question to answer without seeing your existing website firsthand.  In most cases, your site can be converted to a responsive website and keep the exact same layout, appearance and feel.  Others may be more interested in launching a simple mobile site, which means that your business will have one destination for desktop users and another one for mobile devices.  Since Google can distinguish between the two types, it’s okay to have both at once.

The best move, however, is to take full advantage of this opportunity and have a completely new website designed from scratch with a sleek new look, faster loading times and 100% optimized content to guarantee you the best possible chances of being found.  We will be more than happy to discuss how to proceed with you though; simply reach out to us and we will have a look.

When Do I Need to Act?

Take Action NowGoogle has announced that the latest algorithm update will be taken live on April 21st, 2015.  And almost immediately, the search engines will begin to shift by showing favoritism towards responsive websites.  While the ranking adjustments normally take a few days to normalize, the effects will be felt within the first few hours.

So my advice is for you to take action now…right away…and contact us to see how we can get your site responsive ready before April 21st.  We ask customers to reach out via email so we can do a full analysis on your website before considering any type of commitment, because we went to prove to you now and in the future that nobody knows search optimization in Spartanburg like Web Synergy.

If you have any questions then please reach out to us immediately.  Time really is of the essence here and we’d hate to see you heavily penalized for not acting fast enough.