It’s that time of year again.

They’re looming.

Ready to pounce on our checkbooks like ravenous pumas.

The Girl Scouts.

AKA Mini Marketing and Sales Masterminds.

Shopping malls, supermarkets, fitness centers—everywhere you look—Girl Scouts are locked and loaded with stacks of Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Patties as high as the Burj Khalifa.

Add the power of the Internet and Digital Cookies to an already prolific foot coverage zone, do we even stand a chance?

The answer is no. We can’t beat them. And that’s precisely why we should join them. Not as Girl Scouts literally, but as smart, organized, hyper-focused sales assassins. After all, it’s going to take some serious cash to support that bad case of the sweet tooth (and the later trips to the dentist).

I’m not going to lie, I actually found myself getting “annoyed” this year by the local Girl Scouts pushing their scrumptious snack sales via public pitch. I know I sound like Grumpy Gramps, but I’ve been battling the woes of an intense diet since the New Year. So give me a break, I’ve been dodging Girl Scout Cookies like Neo in The Matrix.

But after giving it some more thought, putting personal vendettas aside, and tuning in to a more rational channel—I got to give The Girl Scouts props. They helped me realize some things that a lot of business owners and executives overlook.

Find your purpose

Girl Scouts of the USA have been selling cookie for two centuries. You don’t stick around that long without some pretty solid production or a perpetual goal.

Over 1 million Girl Scouts participate in the cookie program each year. Hence why it seems like they’re everywhere you look. With this giant army, Girl Scouts bring in close to $800 million in total sales over the course of a cookie season.

However, what’s perhaps the most interesting part about the Girl Scout model is that 100 percent of the net revenue from cookie sales stays within a Girl Scout council’s local area to benefit girls and their council. The cookie program is what fuels young girls to think big and take action in their communities.

As put in their mission statement: Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

This type of purpose is what truly builds and sustains sales.

Former Girl Scout Cookie extraordinaire, now rocket scientist Sylvia Acevedo summed it up best: “A Girl Scout Cookie purchase is more than just a delicious treat—it’s an investment in girl entrepreneurs who will grow up to be the female business leaders of the future.”

Provide purpose and meaning to your product and service and watch yourself convert more sales. The difference lies in making a difference.

Be in the right place at the right time more often

Have you ever heard someone say they just happened to be in the right place at the right time? Maybe they found twenty bucks on the side of the road. Or maybe they met the love of their life at a bar on a Friday night whim.

Life is often a matter of circumstance and timing. Sales is no exception to this rule.

You know that it’s unrealistic to obtain a sales conversion rate of 100%. You’re not going to find that twenty bucks on the side of the road, just because you went out for one fifteen-minute stroll in your neighborhood.

But if you assign twenty different routes to your family and friends, and explore the many streets and sights in your town, then your chance of tripping over a green-faced Andrew Jackson increases exponentially.

The Girl Scouts adopt this concept well. They know their power is in numbers and sheer persistence. They know that different approaches breed different results.

Going out and tabling might not work well on Monday morning, but maybe having Dad take an order sheet to the office will. The point is that you never know when, where, and what will work.

One of the best things you can do to increase your sales conversion rate is to simply find ways to be in multiple places at the same time. Whether it be through online advertising, marketing automation, or by scaling your team to promote your brand—the more places you can be, the more likely it’ll be the right time.

Be loud, proud, and if all else fails—simply smile

We were all kids once.

Yet, for many of us, the course of time has led to long work hours, keeping up with bills, and having to buy our own clothes, shelter and food. How tragic!

When you’re simply going through the motions, it can sometimes become a bit of a challenge to maintain a consistent positive attitude and joyous appreciation for life. Even harder? Bringing this type of fire to the daily grind. But if you really want to increase your sales conversion rate, expressing positive energy in your demeanor and messaging is crucial.

The Girl Scouts represent a tradition that’s been in place for well over 100 years. Those that do really well embrace their identity with time and vigor. They make sure Grumpy Gramps can hear them as he passes by fake texting. And those that do really-really well say, “Thank you, mister, for your time!”

If passion and pride don’t wow your prospect—kill them with kindness.

It’s been proven that showing off your pearly whites has many psychological advantages, both internally and externally. In fact, internal and external advantages work hand in hand.

Essentially, if you smile, you start to feel good about yourself. If you feel good about yourself, then other people will start to feel good about you. And here’s the tie-in. When people feel good about you, they’re more likely to do business with you.

So smile. Even at Grumpy Gramps. He might not be having a good day, but he’s got a sweet side too, and his diet could be different next year.

Dear fans of the NBC’s drama ‘This Is Us’: this article contains the lightest touch of spoilers that we could sprinkle in.

We will be discussing (as vaguely as we can) events that occur near the end of Season 2, and how a real-world company has handled some surprising fan reactions. These events relate to an ongoing plot that has been at play for most of the show’s run. We won’t say which plot, or which characters, but we will have to say a little about the company at the center of it all.

So if you aren’t caught up and have a zero-tolerance policy for information about how the Pearsons are doing, just go watch the show.

Seriously.

Go watch it.

DISCUSSION BEGINS HERE

When this week’s episode ended, fans were hot with emotion. In typical ‘This Is Us’ fashion, the episode’s cliffhanger left many fans flustered, sad, angry, and confused about what to do next. For many fans, they took it out on the scapegoat in their kitchen: the Crock-Pot.

The brand saw itself on the receiving end of social media’s fury last week for the small part their slow-cooker product played in the episode. Fans seeking some form of catharsis unleashed their emotions onto their own slow cookers, as the trending tab of Twitter turned into an abusive slideshow of Crock-Pot insults.

Not used to being the center of anything besides a potluck, Crock-Pot quickly took to social media to try and defend their brand. A new Twitter account was created, and the company’s social media team began making amends.

‘This Is Us’ writer Dan Fogelman took to Twitter to defend the company as well.

Their Facebook also has a lengthy response for fans of the show (WARNING: that post contains spoilers). We won’t post it here, but check it out if you’re feeling distraught.

The situation brings up an interesting conundrum. How do businesses react to uncontrollable brand damage? There was no way of Crock-Pot knowing how bad the backlash would be, and no real way for NBC to expect — and subsequently warn Crock-Pot of — that kind of a response. So what is the right approach?

Be Prepared For Anything

The most important distinction to be made in Crock-Pot’s reaction is that it is aggressively reactionary. The company created a new Twitter account to interact with fans tweeting how angry they are with the device, but the Crock-Pot brand didn’t have a Twitter account before this incident. You may not think a company like Crock-Pot needs a Twitter, but for modern companies, it is nothing less than a liability to not be in touch with your audience.

If we had asked at the beginning of the week what your opinion of the “Crock-Pot” brand was, what would you say?

For most people, the only words that would come to mind would be some variation of “good,” “useful,” and “reliable.” Now here comes a primetime, Emmy-award winning show to indirectly tarnish the company’s reputation — the primary thing still getting people to buy Crock-Pots.

Seriously, what other product out there has a more stable brand identity? Elmer’s glue? Morton’s salt?

While this situation obviously can’t be anticipated, it’s important for businesses to at least have the tools and internal architecture needed to respond to something like this.

This case is a testament that every company, no matter the product, market, or brand strength, should have a dedicated social media, PR, and digital marketing team on standby.  You never know when you’ll be blindsided by the wrath of Twitter.

Pick The Right Angle

On top of having the right kind of hose to put out the PR fire, companies need to be savvy about how they put out the fire. The Crock-Pot strategy? Direct responses.

As noted above, Crock-Pot decided the best course of action was to reply directly to people who were showing unwarranted frustration with their product. They created a new account, pinned a post on Facebook, and have been effectively shouting from the rooftops that their product does not deserve the hate it is receiving.

This strategy may, in fact, be the right one for Crock-Pot; most people associate the brand’s with warm, home-cooked meals and a sense of familial togetherness. So it’s on-brand to respond with sincerity, compassion, and personalized assurances. Crock-Pot may not be the kind of brand that wants to utilize this buzz to their advantage with a spin tactic. They’ve stayed fairly vanilla in how they’ve handled things, and maybe that’s a good thing.

This isn’t the only way to go about it though. Social media has proven that any brand can have a unique voice and use it to their advantage, regardless of the situation. Take the notorious Moon Pie Twitter account. The company sells packaged pastry snacks, but their Twitter account has expanded their audience by having a fun personality.

Furthermore, Crock-Pot is in desperate need of new business guidance. Reports coming out just before the episode showed the parent company, Newell, had already seen stock prices drop 49% since their record mark last June. Since the episode aired, the Crock-Pot product’s stock prices have also plummetted, dropping 24%. While the attention from the episode has been negative, the one benefit has been the Crock-Pot brand is now in the forefront of pop culture for a brief period of time. For a company in desperate need of some magic, it doesn’t appear as though they are utilizing their moment in the spotlight as the opportunity it is.

Lessons From Dr. K

Are there other social media/marketing strategies which could have been implemented to turn this into a win for Crock-Pot and Newell? Could this have been spun to their advantage? Possibly, but it’s difficult to expect anything better from the company when they didn’t prepare themselves beforehand.

Pop culture blows such as this are often short-lived. People, businesses, brands, they’ve all come back from worse blows — blows that they themselves might have caused — and turned out fine on the other side. But it’s still disappointing to see such an opportunity being handled in the most bare-bones fashion.

For all the negativity this episode brought, what was provided was attention, something that is as critical to harness as it is difficult to obtain. When businesses get a shot like this, it’s in their best interest to do more than damage control.

Crock-Pot, so far, has been doing an OK job, all things considered. And for a company that didn’t have a Twitter account before this week, that could be considered a win. But how many executives are ever satisfied with an OK job?

There’s always a way out for a company’s PR nightmares. But if you aren’t prepared, you limit your options.

In the words of Dr. K:

“Find a way to take the sourest lemons that life has to offer, and turn it into something resembling lemonade.”

Looking For Marketing Solutions?

Contact us today to see how we can help.

I’ve been here a month, and it’s already apparent no one here wears a suit as well as Don Draper does.

Before I became Content Director at Orpical Group, I was nervous about entering the consulting agency world.

Consulting was not my specific background, so I wasn’t sure if I could easily integrate into the culture. But I knew how to do the job, and the work looked fulfilling, so what was there to lose?

I remember the first call between myself and a company representative. A woman named Michele had called me during a brief reprieve from my constricting schedule of unemployment to hold my first interview. I was overcome with the nauseating combination of anxiety and eagerness only felt during job interviews and middle school dances.

Was I familiar with WordPress? Yes, I was. Did I have proper transportation? My legs were functioning. Was I a fan of routine? To this, I answered “no” with an expectation of friction, but apparently, mine was the perfect answer. “Good,” she said. “Neither are we.”

She was not lying. No hour since I’ve entered this industry has been identical to another. Each objective, project, and client requires nuance; a different shade of creativity colors each solution.

The abstract issues alone are enough to fill a calendar’s worth of work. Devising content philosophies, crafting brand identities, assessing respect in a market, and finding a client’s voice require immense work simply to find the best angle of approach to a problem. On my second day at work, we scratched our heads for hours trying to find a way to make “securing your web domain” sexy. That’s par for the course here.

Agency work is an exercise in capitalist artistry, and it can be equally exciting as it is daunting. To actually harvest these abstractions, agencies need to perform an innumerable amount of minute, technical tasks, requiring knowledge of software and programs across nearly every aspect of the business field. I soon learned the best work experience I had was my education itself, as every day involves being introduced to new clients in various fields and industries, all with their own histories, nuances, and aspirations.

My days became a process of turning vague wishes into billable deliverables. What tangible labor produces a brand that people remember as trustworthy?

To best accomplish these goals, I needed to grow my skill set and my mindset. Thankfully, my environment encouraged this growth. Each day after work I would spend a chunk of my free time looking up skills, practices, and behaviors I could absorb to further benefit our product. By taking the time to invest in my self-improvement, I was making every aspect of my work stronger. By sharpening my copywriting, design, or marketing skills in the evenings, I was seeing improvements in aspects of my work where I would never have considered them applicable.

Coming out of school, my biggest reservation was the notion of losing my education. With no plans to pursue a masters degree, I had considered my undergraduate experience to be the last time in my life where my sole purpose, day in and day out, was to learn. I thought once people entered the “real world,” they had to shelve their dreams of mastering new skills in lieu of producing positive margins for their bosses. In my mind — no matter what field I ended up in — my time to grow had passed.

I was afraid of becoming a drone. Some mindless, water cooler small-talker with a khaki-colored soul. But instead of wading into adulthood, I’ve been thrust into a deep end where it’s not just hard to tread water, but damn near impossible to not learn the butterfly before breakfast.

In consulting agency life, I found a culture where constant learning is more than a motivational poster — it is a necessity, for you and the company, to be valuable. Everything from keyword analysis and meta descriptions to case studies and logo design requires me to be a smarter, faster, and overall stronger student than I’ve ever had to be.

The consequences of my education are even greater now than they once were. The more I learn, the better I can personally help our clients; we never forget that they’re real people, with real visions, values, families, and dreams. When we do good work, their lives are better. They benefit from me advancing myself. Before this job, all my education had always been solely for my own benefit. Now, I can see a positive impact of my growth on the lives and success of others around me — most notably, our clients.

If you think I’m inflating my experience, I promise you I’ve considered the possibility. Maybe all my excitement over the drastically deep pool of opportunity before me is just a new hire’s overreaction to new job growing pains. Developing and executing a content strategy that reflects the identity of a national brand and advances it within a marketplace can’t be this dramatic, right?

I think facts prove otherwise. My coworkers, whether they are industry newcomers or veterans, all exhibit the same symptoms I do. They’re reading self-improvement books and gossiping over a well-designed website. They’ll burst into the room or blow up the Slack channel brimming with passion for a new project. They’re still finding ways to learn, to grow, and to be better people, and it’s the work that’s empowering them to do it.

I’ve learned opportunities for personal growth and development need to be seized in life, not expected. Working in an agency will push you, and frustrate you, and take you out of your comfort zone so often you won’t remember what’s under your resume’s “special skills” section anymore.

But despite all of that, I’m growing, and helping people, and making a difference, all the while improving myself.

With a month under my belt, I’ve begun to see where I can take my own career with a finer clarity. I can grow in this industry beyond what I thought possible in a professional setting. Most importantly, I have autonomy over the direction of my growth.

With growth come goals. While the skills I entered the company with have been honed, new directions of advancement are appearing constantly. Whether it’s boosting my proficiency in graphic design or expanding my coding languages, there’s always more for me to do, and more ways that I can make a positive difference in people’s lives.

That’s the best thing that I have discovered about the consulting agency life; there are no ultimate goals. Our personal growth, as well as our business, is a continuous process of improving. There are short-term goals, like completing case studies or improving a social media account’s ROI, but they come in tandem with the improvement process. Every day I work to better myself produces stronger content, which produces stronger results, which makes more successful businesses, happy clients, and a better version of myself.

It’s the kind of culture I worried I wouldn’t be apart of again. Lucky for me, I found it.

What you need and what you can afford: two vastly different circumstances.

Some of my favorite meetings have been with entrepreneurs and startups. And some of my least favorite meetings have been spent staring at spreadsheet columns and data until my eyes bleed.

My most productive meetings? They follow a simple recipe: a forward-thinking “what can be” attitude grounded by a “what is realistic today” rationale.

When I first engage with a client, I admittedly buy into the vision, whatever that may be. Product, campaign, culture—I’m on board. Earned trust starts with shared excitement.

Once that initial trust has been established, we can move forward and start to set the table. How can our marketing agency and business consulting firm help you reach your goals, or fulfill that excitement?

And so it begins—market research, brand identity, captivating content, beautiful web designs, public relations, digital ads, organic reach—and so it never ends!

In the marketing and advertising world, “what do you need” is a dangerous open-ended question. After all, businesses inevitably need a whole lot of things to effectively enter a market, attract customers, and sustain growth.

Anyone can get behind a whiteboard and dream of a place where they want to be. Few, however, can illustrate the path on how to get there. And even fewer can visualize what it will take in time and resources.

Would I have liked an open floor concept when I bought my first home? Of course. Could I benefit from a real library and office instead of a makeshift spare bedroom bunker? You betcha. Does my fiancé casually drop reminders that four bedrooms, his and her sinks, walk-in closets, and a wraparound porch are all must-haves? I think you see where I’m headed.

My dream home is much like an entrepreneur’s dream business. It’s something to strive for, but to build or obtain it overnight is simply out of the question. That doesn’t mean that we can’t get there.

All you need is a refined plan built around real resources. Keep your refined plan to around 90 days. This will give ample time to get things done, without putting things so far into the future that they seem unattainable.

When you sign up for a gym membership, you don’t expect to leave after 30-minutes looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. You know that you need to have set workouts, consistent dieting, and dedicated time to build good habits and results over time. Whether you want to lose 15 pounds of fat, or put on 15 pounds of muscle, having a reachable goal will give you something to strive for. And at the same time, it will narrow your focus so that you avoid overextending yourself.

After 90 days, re-evaluate your resources. Have they depleted? Or have they expanded? Depending on your strategy and execution, you’ll have three major outcomes: stay the course, do-it-yourself, or move out.

In all likelihood, staying the course means you were smart about what you had in terms of time, money, and manpower. You should have sufficient tools to keep the ship steady.

Do-it-yourself, in my experience, means that you didn’t budget appropriately. I’ve seen this countless times with startups that build a $5000 website, but at launch wonder why they aren’t getting any traffic or sales. Hello, have you heard of marketing?

Moving out could be positive or negative. Upgrade or downgrade. Depending on a wide array of circumstances you may need to go back to Mom with your tail between your legs. Or you could put the house up on the market, hire a realtor, and begin your quest for the wraparound porch. Do those even exist outside of movies based in the South?

Nothing in life comes easy. And money doesn’t solve all problems. But having some money, control mechanisms, and the awareness of what your needs will demand in terms of costs, will make obtaining all of those little necessities a lot easier.

That’s business, that’s life, that’s reality—deal with it accordingly.

What do a VCR, a fax machine, a Walkman, and the term Webmaster have in common?

They’re all obsolete.

Yes, Webmaster is an outdated term.

It’s the year 2018; websites are interactive, dynamic, and imperative to business operations. They are the central command center for a robust, multi-faceted marketing approach.

In a way, a website is an organism. It is a complex system that only works well when various independent parts work together in harmony. If you look at your website under a microscope, what would you find?

Perhaps SEO and social media would serve as the respiratory system, breathing in new life…maybe passwords, firewalls, and encryption protocols are the skin, white blood cells, and spleen…the server could be the heart…the content management system could be the brain…with scripts and code transporting information and lifeblood like nerves and veins.

To look after and “maintain” these independent parts, many of us turn to a single web development company, a contractor, or look to hire someone in-house. Once on-boarded, briefed, and everyone is happy, we give our new “Webmaster” the keys to the city, and task them with the responsibility to:

“Look after all this, don’t let anything break, and build something that will make our company great. Oh, by the way–do all of this fast and on a limited budget.”

Ten years ago, you might have gotten away with this type of arrangement. Just like 200 years ago, the town had one doctor, who made his rounds on a horse and buggy, providing you with a one-size-fits-all treatment, regardless of whether or not you had syphilis, polio, or a broken arm from battle.

“Here’s a shot of bourbon, rub some dirt on it. I’ll notify the morgue, so they can free up a bed.”

I realized I wasn’t a Webmaster…

For a while, I considered myself, and all of Orpical Group, Webmasters. In my opinion, part of this misconceived notion comes from Google and Bing, who both subliminally knight us every time we claim and verify a client’s website for search engine optimization (SEO).

It wasn’t until June 2017 however, when I fully realized I wasn’t a Webmaster, nor did I want myself, or Orpical Group, to be perceived as one.

I always considered us a marketing agency and business consulting firm, but further verification (and understanding of what that meant) really took place once we made the conscious decision to focus a large portion of our time into developing a specialty web service under the growing web security spectrum. The productized-service: GOGET SECURE was born.

This post isn’t a sales pitch for GOGET SECURE, but I want to quickly share some background info on the brand, our motives behind it, and its initial reception to further emphasize how absurd our views of what a Webmaster is can be.

When I started cold prospecting…

At its core, GOGET SECURE is a 51-point proprietary process (it’s actually more now, but 51 still sounds cool) that we developed at Orpical Group to make websites more secure. The service safely, smartly, and thoroughly switches a website from HTTP to HTTPS. As far as we are aware, it’s the only branded SSL Installation and HTTPS Migration Service in the world.

In making the switch to HTTPS, businesses are able to encrypt the connection between their website and a user’s browser. This ultimately results in increased credibility and trust from prospects and customers, improved conversion rates, and higher search rankings.

When we decided to conduct our initial outreach, we aimed to first identify websites that weren’t on HTTPS. In addition, we looked for websites that had login forms or other areas on their website that collected sensitive information, like passwords or credit cards. We developed an app called Bandit that would find these types of websites, then generate a report and browser screenshot showing that the website was “Not Secure”.

Basically, we took this information and gave a courtesy heads-up to business owners and executives. Our message was simple. “Hey, your website is being shamed (flagged) by Google and other search engines and browsers. We have a specialty service, the only one of its kind, that can help you fix this to better secure your site.”

And prospects shut me down hard because they “have a guy” that handles their website already.

I quickly realized that most of my prospects were passing my report along to their existing Webmaster.

Thankfully, some kind souls did get back to me. Those that did agree to chat with me were hesitant and really put up their guard. But, I am immensely appreciative of those opportunities, mainly because they confirmed my suspicions that I wasn’t crazy.

“We already have a Webmaster.”

“Our website is managed currently by another company.”

I was thwarted like this over and over again. I’m not going to lie, it got frustrating.

So, I started to reply rather bluntly: “If you have a guy, why hasn’t this important security protocol been added to your website yet?”

As an agency, we understand the value of having a Webmaster on call to handle most of your website needs. It’s like having a family doctor when you get hit with a cold.

In fact, we provide clients with general web maintenance services, so we would be a giant hypocrite if we advocated totally against it. With that being said, we developed GOGET SECURE because many Webmasters are not fully dedicated to search engine optimization, server configuration, and encryption. In addition, many are simply unaware of the importance of HTTPS themselves, therefore they have not acquired the knowledge and skillset to encrypt your website. This did not happen overnight for us. We have invested tremendous resources (1000+ development hours) to be able to call ourselves experts in SSL Certificates and HTTPS.

So, is your Webmaster a bad guy? A crook? Digital Pirate? Con? No, we’re not saying that. Nor are we saying that they are incompetent. What it boils down to is this:

Webmasters are freaking busy and frankly a little overwhelmed.

When it comes to something hyper-focused like HTTP to HTTPS migrations, your Webmaster isn’t always going to have 100% understanding and laser-focus. Not a big deal. After all, I wouldn’t want my family doctor performing open-heart surgery.

More times than not, the person managing a website is running around week-to-week, day-to-day, switching gears to meet priorities and deadlines.

A “webmaster” is your modern-day chicken with a head chopped off, working on dozens of things to keep you happy: plug-in and theme updates, designing and developing new content, sometimes hosting your website, UI/UX testing, fixing bugs, analyzing data, pick your poison. Oh, and there is dealing with the marketing department…Good luck, Mr. Webmaster!

Working with multiple agencies and vendors is the way to go.

Doesn’t your family doctor refer you out-of-office for additional diagnosis and treatment when it’s out of their capabilities? Isn’t there a reason why doctors affiliate themselves with hospitals and medical centers?

In the web development industry, there is plenty of work to go around. As our clients, you are relying on us to deliver our expertise, creative services, and technical support. With the growing complexities of the web and digital marketing, it’s foolish to think that anyone of us can cover all bases.

So, I learned that we are a marketing agency and business consulting firm. What does that mean? To me, that means that we’re essentially a hub for your web, marketing, and business operations. There are days when I might look at you and say, “We need to bring someone else in here,” and then I’ll make an introduction to a partner, or vendor that I have personally vetted and trust. There are other days, when I will say, “Oh yea, that’s right in our wheel house.”

Finding the right balance and the right partnerships is key. Embodying the web via a lone webmaster is virtual suicide.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Becoming a better marketing consultant is a lot like working out: you can work your tail off seven days a week, pump out extra sets and reps until you’re blue in the face, but if your diet sucks, you’re preventing yourself from significant gains.

I’ve always heard that getting a six pack (of abs) is 80% what you eat, 20% core workouts. For awhile, I thought that was a load of crap. Just lift heavier, run faster, grind harder, be a beast, insert favorite gym cliche here.

Then, one fateful day, after years of maintaining, I decided to leave the beer in the fridge, and opt out of my regular cheat cheese steak. Slowly, I started noticing results because other people were noticing results. “You’re looking good,” I heard and gleamed (flexed biceps) in return. It’s stupid, but as humans, we’re wired for reinforced recognition. It took me awhile, but I learned that people do not notice inertia, they notice the accumulated product of continuous activity and life.

Marketing consulting is a $43 billion industry, employing over 300,000 people in the U.S. with an annual growth rate of 3.6% since 2011.

Comparatively speaking, when you look at industries like computer systems design, which has an 18% sales growth, the marketing consulting growth rate is pretty weak. But in my opinion, there is no excuse for it.  All industries, in one way or another, can benefit significantly from a lean, mean, outside marketing machine.

So, why aren’t we keeping up?

Simply because we are weighing ourselves down with saturated fats and focusing on the wrong things far too often.

By no stretch am I perfect. I am, however, performing at an optimum level thanks to “adding by subtracting.” Adopting a strict NO-BS mantra has enabled me recently to be hyper-productive, where I can manage everything from prospecting, to sales, to work fulfillment, all the way up to reporting, and then on to new opportunity assessment without burning out. And this is for multiple clients! What’s even better is that I still have time, if not more time, for a little Netflix and Chill.

Here are some things that I’ve cut out of my professional diet to become a better marketing consultant:

Pointless Proposal Development

One line that I’ve been testing out lately is, “We don’t make any money writing proposals.”

While this is a pretty obvious statement, I have found it absolutely necessary to say, especially in early prospecting stages. Proposals have their time and place, but they are time consuming. When you put this out in the open, people seem more inclined to appreciate the fact that your time is invaluable.

If and when I do need to write a proposal, I use Proposify, which boasts to “streamline your sales process and help you close deals faster.” And it does…sort of. Proposify’s high-quality, easy to customize templates and online portal are great features. But still, on average, to write a REALLY GOOD proposal with research supported by data, a custom letter with prospect interactions, detailed scopes of work, budgeting, and terms and conditions, you’re looking at anywhere from 2-5 hours. Just think: How much could one of your existing clients benefit from that time. Wouldn’t it be nice to bill a few extra hours each week?

New business is great, but nobody has a 100% close rate. I’ve found that many of my prospects don’t even read my proposals and just skip right to the estimate/budget section. In fact, I have the data to support this. Below are two lost proposals in my Proposify system.

Become a Better Marketing Consultant with Less Proposals

This was a proposal that I spent roughly 2 hours on for a custom eCommerce website. The prospect spent 1 minute reviewing the proposal and decided they didn’t want to do it.

Become a Better Marketing Consultant with Less Proposals

This was actually a second proposal, revised after the scope of work significantly changed. In total, I spent close to 5 hours handling resources, researching solutions, writing and editing. All for what?

Both cases show that prospects aren’t reading word for word of my carefully prepared, thoughtful proposals. I’m willing to wager that I could work in something mildly offensive, especially in the additional recommendations section, without any real risk.

I am not saying to stop doing proposals all together. Again, they have their time and place. What I am suggesting is to be very, very careful on who you choose to write a proposal for. From my experience, and from Proposify insights, most people only really care about “what’s in it for me” and “how much is this all going to cost.” Ask yourself: Can those questions be addressed up-front in five minutes or less on a phone call or in a brief email? Ask the prospect: Do you need a formal proposal or is it okay if I simplify things? Most will say the latter is cool.

Any and All Negativity

“You are what you eat.”

“People are products of their environment.”

The list of sayings goes on and on.

Because it is all true.

To become a better marketing consultant I make it a point to examine who I am interacting with and what I am consuming (television, social media, music, etc) almost on a daily basis.

I filter out people on my News Feed that gripe non-stop. I turn off sports radio because I work in Philly and all of our teams are stacked with losers. I hardly ever watch the evening news (morning news is way more optimistic). I plead (politely) with my fiance when I come home and she channels her inner Regina George and gets hangry.

Negativity is a cancer that spreads like wildfire. If you do not control it, then it will run rampant on both your professional and personal life. I have found that the trick is to create mechanisms that catch negativity before, or as it begins, to invade your space. Social media can be the biggest culprit, but there are tons of ways to filter out the crap and stay ahead of it.

The Fantasy World of 9 to 5

This post started as a shimmering thought in bed on a Thursday at 11:30pm. It then entered the depths of Evernote, where it rested until Sunday at 2:30pm, later moving into our content management system. I continue to write the same post now at 7:35am Monday morning, and I will need to resume again later as I will be focusing on work for my clients soon.

My point is this: If you want to be a better marketing consultant, you have to put your “Fantasy World of 9 to 5” to bed. It’s a unicorn, get over it.

In a highly-intrusive world, nobody really works 40 hours per week anymore. Marketing consultants know this about as well as anybody. I have clients all over the United States, and some international, which means I’m always on call.

There have been nights where I have not slept because I was physically “holding up” a client’s website as their web server collapsed. I have had Skype calls with people in Tel Aviv at 2:00am. I’ve made edits to a brochure during a Friday happy hour on my phone for a client in Dallas.

As a marketing consultant, your schedule works around your clients, not the other way around. Of course, you need to have a personal life as well, otherwise you run the risk of doing more harm than good. But a 60-40 balance of work/play is essential. It also becomes a lot easier when you are able to hybrid the two.

Lazy Lunches

I’ve never made much money while my mouth is stuffed with a two pound burrito. It’s hard to design a website, or write up a report, when your barbecue-laced fingers stick to the keyboard. And I’m definitely not super productive after a heavy meal.

Sure, food gives us energy, but if you’ve ever experienced couch-lock after chowing down on some grub, you know that your body goes through a process after eating.

High-carb, high-fat and high-sugar foods (often the things you find at your favorite lunch stop) trigger a neural response as soon as they hit the small intestine, according to Huffington Post and Scientific American. A size of your meal is also found to have a correlation to tiredness due to things like insulin spikes.

The impact of digestion isn’t the only null effect of lunch. It’s the entire embodiment of the activity. I associate lunch with “break-time”, an opportunity to leave my desk so I can wander about in search of a somewhat sanitary food truck. Lunch is an escape for most people. And as we hold that perception we lose focus, billable work, and opportunity to provide clients paramount insight and value.

Yes, lunches can be productive, especially those with co-workers, and of course, clients. Casual collaboration and physical interaction that develop around a lunch table can sometimes not be mimicked. Though in my experience, I have found that more times than not, lunch conversations drift away from creativity and problem solving, and hum closer to after-hours talk.

My substitute for a lazy lunch is snacking on fruits and vegetables and assorted, unsalted nuts throughout the day. This way I can keep my energy and focus up, without sacrificing time and money. If you are going to break for thirty minutes, do something that won’t make you feel like crap for another 30 minutes or longer (e.g. mediate, go for a walk, write, etc).

Add to this List

I am always looking to explore new ways to become a better marketing consultant to provide unprecedented value to our clients at Orpical Group. The lighter I am, the more efficient I can be, which in turn will drive more profits for our client base.

If you are a marketing consultant and have additional suggestions on fat cutting, please feel free to email me at stefan@orpical.com. I would love to expand this discussion to develop more fit marketing consultants, promote high energy environments, and ultimately gain more profits for our companies and all of our clients. Of course, I will give you credit and link back to your business and social profiles. We’re in this together – there is plenty of marketing consulting work to go around!

About the Author: Stefan Schulz, Marketing Consultant

Stefan Schulz is a web and graphic designer, brand enthusiast, and online marketing expert with 10+ years of diverse experience as a marketing consultant. His work has helped earn Orpical Group accolades including The Philadelphia Business Journal’s Top Branding Marketing and Media Services Companies, as well as Top Tech Employers List.

“I love working one on one with business owners and executives. I love getting tasked with a challenge and I always feel honored when someone has faith in me to find a solution. When someone says to me, ‘We need to figure this out, and we need you to figure it out for us,’ I geek out. To be a good marketing consultant, you need to be like that. It’s like being a full-time Labrador retriever: If your client throws a stick into the ocean, you’re damn excited to go out there and get it for them.”

This is a post that most web designers don’t want you to read. It’s a short, sweet guide that will hopefully help you avoid common “slip-ups” that even the smartest business minds make when hiring a web designer.

Don’t Be Stingy

We all love bargains. Websites are no different. Some people try to justify stinging out on a website by telling themselves the less they pay the more they save. Not exactly. When you nickel-and-dime, you actually run the risk of having a crappy, unprofessional website, perhaps missing content, or lacking functionality. All of which ultimately cost you money down the road. Here a some sample ways of “nickel-and-diming” and their pitfalls:

  1. Hiring someone overseas at a stupidly low rate: They probably don’t speak the same language as you. They sleep when you’re awake. You sleep when they’re awake. The project will take forever. You’ll get the bare minimum. Who wants to be a Benedict Arnold anyway?
  2. Using a free website builder: Just because you can get access to the software to design and develop your own website, doesn’t mean that you should. Case and point: I have Quickbooks, but I don’t do my own bookkeeping. You might learn the software after buying your WordPress for Dummies, and upload some content in a Free Template, but will it really get the job done right? For more info on this see my post on Custom Vs. Customized Web Designs.

Don’t Drop A Fortune

Paying an extra $10,000 on your site won’t change the fact that you will still be getting a page marked up with HTML and styled using CSS. Don’t get taken advantage of. But also don’t expect a designer or design firm to work for pennies. Work with someone who is fair, understands your budget, and is willing to be flexible to help you achieve your digital marketing goals. Your web designer should a “partner in profitability”.

Consider All Your Website Needs

Do you need a logo? Copy and content? Multimedia such as videos? Should the content be optimized for search? Custom scripts? Integrations with third party applications? Need a content management system? These are just some of the many questions any good designer and developer will ask before getting started.

Be sure to work with someone who can provide related services, or at the very least, has access to solutions. Think about when you go grocery shopping. Isn’t it a pain in the rear end when you do your bulk shop at WholeFoods, but then have to stop at Trader Joe’s to get those delightful Triple Ginger Snaps? Same thing goes for web design. Consider working with a full-service firm if you need more than just the basics to consolidate your expenses.

Gearing up for a new web design & want more advice? Sign up for a 30-minute conversation and receive a free estimate for a custom website.

Our team of web designers at Orpical Group work closely with you to outline a web design plan that makes sense. At no-cost, we’ll discuss your ideas for your project and will provide an itemized estimate for a custom website.

Roger Goodell photo courtesy of Zennie Abraham.

As if they haven’t gotten enough bad press following wife beating and child slapping scandals, the NFL gets another black eye following what has come to be known as deflate-gate. Is it a black eye though? Maybe to some but the entire incident has garnered unprecedented press for a game that is traditionally TV’s biggest event of the year.

According to the Los Angeles Times, NBC sold every available commercial spot for Sunday’s Super Bowl, ultimately establishing a new revenue record. Reportedly, each 30-second spot sold for an average of $4.5 million, to generate more than $360 million for Comcast-owned NBC. “This is a record day, I believe, in media, and certainly for our company,” Seth Winter, executive vice president of NBC’s ad sales for news and sports, said during a conference call with reporters. “The NFL and the Super Bowl remain the platinum standard of all media.” This year more than ever, those sponsors will get their money’s worth and they can all thank the New England Patriots and Deflate-gate for the favor.

Bill Belichick

Let’s face it, a villain always makes for a better story.

This year, the Patriots and their deflated balls have become everyone’s villain. The boys from Boston, already known for bending if not breaking the rules, unknowingly transformed the trash-talking, or in the case of Marshawn Lynch (aka Beast Mode)…non talking…brash, bullies from Seattle into the good guys.

This story has generated interest from so many angles. On January 21st, it trumped the President’s State of the Union address as the lead story on four major networks. On the lighter side, Deflate gate provided fodder for late night talk show hosts as well as a very funny skit on Saturday Night Live. From a more serious perspective, it focused a spotlight on the already questionable leadership of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Following his poor handling of the Ray Rice-Baltimore Ravens debacle, it was Patriot’s owner Kraft who came to Goodell’s defense…the same Kraft that played a major role in approving Goodell’s stout salary package of approximately $44 million last season. According to GQ writer, Gabriel Sherman: “So large is Kraft’s sway with Goodell that one veteran NFL executive likes to call him ‘the assistant commissioner,”

From a PR perspective deflate gate is a polarizing promotional pearl.

It has expanded an already massive interest in the Super Bowl, generated thousands of hours of TV, radio, and internet discussion, and pages and pages of press while prompting usually reserved personalities like Joe Montana to comment on the situation. Just about everyone has taken a side. The best part about deflate-gate? It promises to be around for a while. People will want to see if Commissioner Roger Goodell has the inflated balls to stand up to his good friend, Robert Kraft’s deflated balls. We’ll be watching.

It’s about to be 2015.

We expect stuff to happen at the click of a button, or even easier, from a voice command—order this now, learn more now, register for this now.

Now, now, now, now.

We’ve really evolved into a bunch of Vladimir Putin’s, haven’t we?

So when things don’t happen instantaneously, we immediately get pissed off. Cause that’s what pre-programmed authoritarians do, right?

The reality of the matter is that we need to shelf our obsession with instant gratification. And by we, I mean we the guys doing the marketing. If we don’t, we’re inevitably setting ourselves up for disappointment—more demanding, more yelling, more headaches, more foul moods, less success for everyone involved.

For 2015, I’m making the boldest, most daring, most ridiculous marketing prediction: Companies that work hard to market their products or services will have more success.

Is your mind blown?

My old man always told me—and still tells me—that finding a job is a job in itself. The more that I think about that, the more I realize its relevance to sustainable marketing practices.

As marketers, we demand results. But, let’s face it. We can get a little greedy. And consumers are savvy enough to pick up on those tendencies. Serving up irrelevant content, and considering yourself smarter than your customers made CMO’s list of 10 Ways to Annoy Your Customers. Both of which are by-products of? Yup, you guessed it. Lazy, greedy marketers.

Yes. Marketing automation is an important concept and is something that should be practiced in balance. Understand that there are pros and cons, and that there lies a serious problem today with marketing automation overload.

I recall when I was first applying for jobs—before I landed my current position. I wrote up what I thought was a surefire gem of a cover letter and blasted that baby out with my jack of all trades resume for the whole wide world to see. When I never heard back from anyone, I was like, “Well, this is crap. The economy sucks.” But in all seriousness, my approach sucked. I sold myself short.

It wasn’t until I changed my approach that I started to get the engagement, interviews and ultimately the great job that I was looking for. Instead of automating my job search, I carefully read ads, picked up on cues, and altered my cover letter and resume to fit what that particular employer was looking for. I tried different layouts, fonts, added photos. Anything and everything that would elicit a response.

The same approach can and should be replicated for premium marketing results. You want to sell more product? You want to secure more clients? You want to grow your business? You want to drive around a Porsche and smoke cigars like Tony Soprano?

Then you better hit the whiteboard. Spend more time strategizing and less time filling out your time sheet. Spend more time testing and less time automating. Spend more time working hard and less time working on cruise control. Spend more time building relationships and less time taking shortcuts. The results will show.

The more things change—the more they stay the same. Those who work hard and smart, and never give up will find true success. Those who learn and adapt from mistakes of consistent effort will find true success.

If you happen to be one of the millions of users who use Gmail for their email service provider, you have most likely seen the pop up message when you logged in letting you know that images in your email are now being enabled by default. This information corresponds with the announcement a couple weeks back from Google and Gmail that they will soon begin caching and serving email images from their content delivery network (CDN) to assist in speeding up the process of browsing through email.

Now some users of the Gmail services might be unhappy with this new default setting, but rest assured you still have the option to disable it.  In your setting’s panel, you can select “Ask me before displaying” which will convert your email back to the old Gmail setup.

Some are saying that this move by Google and Gmail is to expand upon their already great spam detection system and thwart even more spam emails for its end users.

One of, if not the largest solitary problem that Gmail has with spam is that mass e-mailers otherwise known as spammers are using images that contain keywords that could be, but aren’t necessarily flagged as spam. While, only a theory there are some who are saying that Gmail is trying to use optical character recognition (OCR) to weed out some spam, but that is another discussion all on its own.

Spammers also make use of several techniques to fool spam detection systems by sending their emails from a slew of different internet protocol (IP) addresses, have multiple subject lines, varying alt tags for their images, among other things.

By taking control and caching images, Google/Gmail can now take as a signal that items are spam when there are enough people who are reporting the email as spam, or saying not to display the images in the email. There is even a possibility that Gmail could replace the spam image with one of their images which state it is spam.

What this Means to Email Marketers

This move by Gmail deprives Email marketers of data that they were able to collect previously through the use of images, items such as the approximate location of the recipient.

Prior to the image loading, change, email marketers were able to attach coding to an image which would be able to retrieve the approximate location of the recipient when they opened that email message. However, now that Gmail/Google is opening the information before it reaches the intended recipient, the location which is sent to the marketers is that of Google/Gmail and where their servers are located. In short what this means is that an email marketer can no longer customize an email in order to promote a brick and mortar store which is closest to the individual consumer.

Whatever the motive it is clear that this move by Google/Gmail will trip up many email marketers, but will make the end users experience much more pleasant. This isn’t the first time email marketers have been tripped up by Google/Gmail, and it certainly won’t be the last. As technology increases marketing techniques, will change and grow with the changes.