Archive for the ‘B2C Focus’ Category

Project Highlight: Texas Cavaliers River Parade Website

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Every year in downtown San Antonio, the iconic San Antonio Riverwalk transforms into the stage for one of the most anticipated, family-friendly events of Fiesta, the Texas Cavaliers River Parade. Produced by the Texas Cavaliers, a local non-profit consisting of over 500 business, civic and community leaders, the parade benefits San Antonio children’s organizations through the Texas Cavaliers Charitable Foundation.

The Texas Cavaliers commissioned Robot Creative to design a new website that would highlight the River Parade, support the organization’s mission to improve the lives of San Antonio children and tell the story of the Texas Cavaliers.

Improved Site Structure and Organization


The structure and navigation of this site were particularly challenging due to the three-pronged nature of the organization: the River Parade, the Charitable Foundation and the Texas Cavaliers as an organization.

After defining the goals for the site, ROBOT analyzed the various user groups and researched other parade and member-based websites to recommend a primary focus on the River Parade with secondary attention given to the Texas Cavaliers and the Charitable Foundation. ROBOT developed a site structure that allows users to find the information they want quickly, whether the user is:

  • a parade patron looking to purchase tickets,
  • a company interested in sponsorship opportunities,
  • an individual looking to donate,
  • a member of the Texas Cavaliers looking for member-only event information or
  • a children’s charity applying for a grant.

Functional Requirements
The Texas Cavaliers requested a variety of functional requirements for the site, including:

  • a content management system that would allow the administrative team to make content changes easily,
  • a donation form that integrates with existing donation software and accepts credit card payments,
  • a portal to allow members to access a contact database and a member-only event calendar and
  • e-commerce functionality for ticket and product sales.

Recognizing the need of any non-profit to focus expenses on the charitable cause rather than on expensive website development, ROBOT provided recommendations to help closely manage expenses on the initial development and maintenance of the site. These recommendations included developing the site using a simple WordPress platform for easy content management, identifying cost-saving third-party applications that integrate with the site and recommending a course of action that addresses each requirement over a series of development phases.

Messaging Development
With the expansion of the site to include a rich history of the Texas Cavaliers and its various programs, ROBOT conducted a series of interviews and information-gathering sessions to develop content that paints a vivid picture of the organization. In addition to this, ROBOT focused attention on developing powerful calls to action that encourage visitors to donate, purchase tickets and generally move through the site.

Because the Texas Cavaliers River Parade did not have an existing, cohesive brand at the beginning of this project, ROBOT referenced the logo, event photos and past programs for inspiration to create the new, overall design concept. The design of the site captures the spirit of the Texas Cavaliers River Parade with a focus on large, vibrant event photos as the backdrop for each main section of the site. The iconic images selected capture traditions that are repeated year after year at the parade and other events. ROBOT also developed a series of icons that are repeated throughout the site to lead site visitors to main action pages, including ticket sales and the donation page.

Visit the website at

Update 11/3/13: Robot wins International Marketing Effectiveness Award for Texas Cavaliers website project! Learn more

Case Study: Discover UFC® Website Design

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Mixed martial arts (MMA) is recognized as the fastest growing sport in the world, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC®) is the world’s leading MMA promoter. As much as MMA and the UFC® are growing in popularity, the sport was generally not well understood by fans and potential fans, and the industry lacked a reliable, central source of information.

As the leading promoters of MMA, UFC®’s goal is to become the authority on everything MMA. UFC commissioned ROBOT to develop a website, known as Discover UFC®, that would be an extension of the main UFC® website explaining the background of MMA, the UFC®, the fighters, the rules and more.

While there are a handful of smaller MMA promoters and a variety of websites and blogs discussing MMA news, Discover UFC® is the first attempt to broadly educate the masses on all aspects of MMA. It is the first centralized source of background information on the sport, complete with a searchable glossary, descriptions of skills and fighting styles and introductions to key individuals.

Project Description
Discover UFC® is a sub-section of that is meant to be an educational resource for new UFC® fans or people that are new to the MMA sport. The site is divided into five main sections – the Fighter, the Sport, the UFC, the Fan and a glossary of terms. The content of these sections introduces the most fundamental information a person new to the sport needs to quickly become familiar with MMA and the UFC®.

  • The Fighter section of the site uses videos, examples and history to explain the skills and techniques fighters must perfect and describes the multiple martial arts styles for which the fighters train. It also describes the discipline, endurance, intense training and nutrition required to be a UFC® fighter, with example biographies of real fighters.
  • The Sport section covers the different ways a fighter can win, how the weight classes are divided, information about the fighting cage known as The Octagon™, rules and regulations of the sport and a collection of links to the UFC®’s favorite fights. The Weight Classes page contains a full history of title holders for each weight class, presented through an interactive, expandable table.
  • The UFC® section provides a history of the organization and introduces key figures, including the executives, commentators and announcers.
  • The Fan section encourages further fan engagement by providing links to resources such as pre-event shows, Fan Expos and video games.
  • Finally, the glossary defines the moves, phrases and key events to help fans new to the sport get quickly versed in the terminology. In addition to the major sections of the site, a search feature allows visitors to quickly find content anywhere on Discover UFC®.

Visit the website at

Success of Discover UFC® as a resource for site visitors can be shown in the statistics since it went live. A total of 42,829 people have visited the Discover UFC® section of the UFC® website since the section went live in May of 2011. Compared to visitors who did not visit Discover UFC, visitors who did visit Discover UFC stayed on over 4-and-a-half minutes longer (7:57 compared to 3:17) and visited 3.48 more pages (6.42 pages compared to 2.94) on average. The bounce rate for visitors who viewed Discover UFC was also 59% lower than the bounce rate for visitors who did not (21.02% compared to 51.04%).

Top 5 Google AdWords Mistakes

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Anyone can be up and running with Google AdWords in just a few minutes. Let’s face it though – what makes it super cool, also makes it dangerous! After reviewing dozens of accounts, we’ve identified 5 common mistakes that businesses make when setting up their AdWords campaigns. These mistakes can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars a month and/or result in lost click opportunities.

Not Taking Advantage of Targeting Options
Google very cleverly provides a system of account organization that makes it possible for businesses to create targeted campaigns and allocate budgets. More than half of the accounts we’ve reviewed, however, have only one campaign with one ad group and one ad variation that shows up for all keywords and links to the company’s homepage. Businesses are using a blanket approach instead of considering how an ad will specifically address what a user is searching for. Users are more likely to click on an ad if it contains their search phrase, so you should create ad groups that group similar search phrases and link to specific pages on your site related to those search phrases – not to your homepage.

Arbitrary Budgeting
With no more strategy than, “This is what I think we can afford,” a business will arbitrarily set a daily budget, not taking into account what the campaign requires to be successful. With this approach, campaigns may shut off after just a couple of clicks a day and will quickly be deemed unsuccessful. A more strategic approach involves understanding the search popularity of keywords along with the expected cost per click for a geographic area and setting click goals based on your conversion rate. You should also look at AdWords as a part of your overall media budget and make adjustments based on the ROI of each initiative. You may find that AdWords gets a much better return than other media and deserves a much higher percentage of your budget.

Falling for the Default
Google wants you to get clicks – that’s how they make money. Most of the default settings in AdWords are designed to be broad reaching, such as Display Network and broad match keyword matching. If you aren’t careful, your budget can max out quickly on irrelevant clicks that just result in a high cost per conversion. Because most small businesses work with a limited budget, the concern should be quality over quantity of clicks. We usually recommend a conservative approach in the beginning with very targeted settings that you can open up as you evaluate the success of the campaign.

Lack of Tracking
While many businesses that try Google AdWords have Google Analytics installed on their websites, they often don’t have the two accounts linked. This is a simple step – as long as both are set up under the same Google account. The importance of this step shouldn’t be overlooked because it allows distinction between paid and unpaid Google search traffic. Analytics show detailed traffic information (including average time on site, bounce rates and average page views) on a campaign level, an ad variation level and a keyword level, so the performance of AdWords ads should never be in question! More importantly than site analytics, you should also have a method for tracking your sales and customer contact from AdWords ads – even if it’s just tick-marks on a notepad when you ask, “How did you hear about us?”. Set a baseline before you start, and review results on a regular basis, so you can measure the return on your AdWords investment.

Set It and Forget It
This is probably the single most critical mistake a business can make with any advertising initiative, but especially one that is so easy to review and adjust. The keywords you select, the ads you write, the settings you apply, the cost-per-click bids you set, the competition and countless other factors are all subject to regular evaluation and changes. Because every one of these factors is easily trackable, you should review your account on a regular basis, at least monthly in the beginning. Look at it as a fine-tuning process that has the potential to get big results.

Google AdWords is a powerful small business marketing tool that can be deceptively simple to set up right “out of the box”. If you really want to harness its power, approach your campaigns strategically and take the time to get to know the system. It will pay off with highly effective advertising that gets results.

What’s the Deal with Daily Deals?

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It’s the latest craze in social media-based marketing. Through “daily deal” sites like Groupon and Living Social, businesses low-ball their prices by offering limited time promotions of 50% off or more.

You’re probably wondering how your business could possibly make money on these deals – especially when the site usually takes a cut of up to 50% off the already low sale price. The truth is that you likely wouldn’t make money – at least not on the promotion itself. But you can still get a lot out of these promotions with the proper planning and follow up.

Consider the Goal
If your goal is a quick revenue boost, daily deals can provide it, but it will be at the expense of a profit. A better goal is to boost your customer list for future marketing. It’s the age-old concept of loss-leader pricing. A business offers a product or service at an insanely low price with a single purpose – to get customers. Revenue from sales of the deal itself may not even cover the cost of goods sold, but every person who purchases the deal becomes a new customer to market to in the future. Everyone knows that it’s less expensive to market to existing customers than to prospect for new ones.

Another valid goal is education. Thousands of people may be subscribing to your local Groupon or Living Social site and see daily deals each day. If you offer unique products or services that many people may not have heard about, daily deals can be a great way to get the word out to a large group of potential customers.

Consider the Promotion
When you are planning your promotion, of course you have to think about what is going to entice your target audience to purchase your product or service now. A potentially less obvious consideration is: what offer might lead to increased average ticket sales through commonly bundled items? If you sell tennis shoes, for example, you could increase the average sale by getting customers to purchase socks or other work-out accessories at full price. Think about what you should offer for a discount that will provide room for upselling at the point of transaction or for ongoing customer retention opportunities.

Have a Follow-Up Plan
The key to getting the most out of your promotion is to have a plan – to collect customer information when offers are redeemed and to reach out to your new customers later. Before you send out your promotion, put processes or strategies in place to ask for customer email and mailing addresses. Then, plan out your promotions for the rest of the year to directly market to your newly expanded list.

Think about When to Send
With the growing popularity of daily deals, businesses are lined up to participate, so know that it can take several weeks to get rolling. Other than that, you should consider when to send out your promotion so that it is most beneficial for your business. Want a revenue boost during a tough season or want to get rid of some of that extra inventory at the end of the year? Make sure you consider whether you have the staff and inventory to handle a big boost in demand!

Could daily deals help your business boom? Plan it right and follow through, and you just might see what the hype is all about.

Case Study: A Pool of New Customers

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Love to Swim and Tumble School provides swim lessons, tumble lessons and parties with one established location in San Antonio and a newer location in Schertz. The goal of this initiative was to drive new enrollment at their Schertz location.

Challenge: Develop a Selling Idea 
For this deal to be the most effective, buyers needed to get hooked with the deal and then be converted into year-round enrolled students. One lesson might have done the trick, but Love to Swim and Tumble School felt confident that after a full month of lessons, buyers would love the program and remain enrolled. The offer was crafted for one month of swim lessons at half price, with a waived registration fee. To prevent a crash in revenue due to regular customers cashing in on the offer, the deal was limited to new customers and was only valid at the Schertz location. We didn’t want the regulars to feel excluded, so the deal included an offer to benefit them as well. They were able to purchase the deal as a gift and receive referral bucks.

Keep The New Customers Coming Back
Once the Groupons were purchased, it was time for the real work to begin. These deal customers weren’t just any customers – they were new prospective year-round customers that needed to be tracked as sales leads. With over 1,200 students in and out the door each week, tracking them would be no easy feat. The school set up their software to alert staff when a Groupon customer checked in for their last lesson and to prompt them to ask about the customer’s experience and whether or not they wanted to remain enrolled in swim lessons. In less than 2 steps and 1 minute, the customer’s enrollment was continued.

Love to Swim and Tumble School sold a total of 295 Groupons, and has had approximately 141 redemptions so far. “Groupon was a great way to reach a large audience and to get new people through the door. Now it’s our job to impress these people and get them to remain enrolled after the one-month deal is over”, said Carra Millikien, General Manager of the Schertz Location. It looks like they’re off to a great start! Of the new customers obtained through Groupon, 94 have already completed their free month and 60 of these have decided to remain enrolled.

Beginner’s Verse for Search Engine Marketing

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This is Part I of ROBOT’s “Search Engine Folklore: Two Tales of Fact and Fiction”.

Myths, legends and lies abound in the Land of Search Engine Marketing. Some of these stories are true (FACTs), but many are false (FICTION). We’ve compiled the most common tales to help set the record straight.

Designed for the apprentice seeking basic information on search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click advertising, “Beginner’s Verse” is a collection of short stories will enlighten readers with answers to frequently asked questions. Read “Master’s Manual” for more advanced topics.

Fiction: There is a formula to getting ranked on search engines.

There is no set formula to SEO that everyone knows about. Every search engine competes to be the best search engine for users, so each has a unique method for ranking – and they don’t publish it. Just remember that if a method was published everyone would do it. Marketing companies are always trying to figure out what search engines are up to, and there are some widely accepted best practices. But don’t buy into any tales involving the ONE RIGHT WAY unless it’s published by search engines directly.

Fiction: Hiring an SEO company will guarantee a #1 ranking.

For organic searches, no legitimate company is going to guarantee placement for a competitive keyword. If your name or product name is unique, you can probably expect to rank for those. For general and competitive search terms, however, you are going to be up against a lot of competitors who are making many of the same efforts. Make sure the company you work with has the right keyword goals in mind. Shooting to rank for slightly less competitive keywords can be a great way to get results. For paid search results, it’s an open market, so if you are willing to pay for it, you can get in the top position for any keyword.

Fiction: SEO is all about putting the right keywords in your site.

While you should certainly consider the keywords and search phrases for which you would like to be found, search engines don’t put much trust in keywords alone anymore. They want to see that you are providing the information for which users are searching. Your site’s navigation, headlines, internal links and other factors help search engines determine the hierarchy of the information on your site and to understand what your site is about. If your information is clear, addressing what users are looking for, keywords will naturally be included in prominent places.

Fact: Website changes are necessary to improve your rankings.

Search Engine Optimization is, at its core, “optimizing” your website to make it search engine-friendly. While there are a number of off-site factors that can affect your search engine rankings (such as incoming links and competition), most websites require changes. These can be as simple as increasing keyword concentration in content or as extensive as restructuring navigation and rewriting content.

Fiction: Results are immediate.

While this statement is true for pay per click campaigns (once you setup your account, your ad will show up almost immediately), the statement is NOT true for organic search engine results. Search engines regularly crawl through the web, indexing sites as they go. It may take as long as 30-60 days before search engines find and update your rankings, and your positions may fluctuate drastically for a few more months before they level off.

Fact: Search Engine Marketing requires regular, ongoing maintenance.

Organic search engine optimization and pay per click search advertising campaigns both require ongoing attention in order to get continued results. On the organic side, search engines are finding new sites everyday, and they are also regularly improving their methods for ranking websites. With sponsored search or pay per click campaigns, your competitors are constantly adjusting their bids to improve their ad positions. A sustained effort by someone who follows the latest trends, monitors your progress and makes necessary recommendations and adjustments can keep you ahead of the curve.

Fact: You will need to hand off access to your accounts if you work with an outside marketing company.

Every search engine marketing company works differently. Some are setup to give you full access and full transparency, charging you separately for their services. Others use their own proprietary systems and/or mark up the cost of the clicks, and these companies generally provide less transparency. Each is a valid way of doing business, but make sure you know what you are getting into and whether you will retain any setup or access if you decide to end your contract.

Fiction: Submitting your site to search engines will help you get ranked.

In the early days of SEO, submitting your site with your primary keywords to search engines was a critical step in the process. Search engines are now less inclined to believe the information you provide in your submission. They crawl the Internet and rank websites based on their own methods. They look closely at your content and what sites are linking to you to decide how your site will be ranked. While it still isn’t a bad idea to let search engines know you are there, you should focus on submitting your sitemap (see “Master’s Manual”).

Fiction: Paying to be ranked high in directories will help you rank better in search engines.

Links to your website from relevant directories can be beneficial for your site because they confirm for search engines that your content is valuable for the item or service in that directory. However, your position on the page in that directory likely has no impact on your position in organic search results. Rather than spending your entire budget on one directory listing, your best bet is to develop an overall link strategy (see “Getting links to my site…” below)

Fact: Getting links to your site from other sites will help your ranking.

Links to your site from a website related to your business work as referrals and legitimize the content on your website to search engines. Not just any link will do! Develop a link strategy that includes paid and free directory listings, links from partner or affiliate websites and any other relevant incoming links you can arrange. Look for links from websites that rank high in search results themselves, and beware of link farms that contain hundreds of links to irrelevant websites. These sites are often blacklisted by search engines, and links from these sites can actually hurt your rankings! Also, the text in the link (known as anchor text) should contain keywords if possible, rather than just your website URL.

Looking for more thrilling tales that will test your skills as a master of SEO? See the “Master’s Manual for Search Engine Marketing”, which addresses more advanced topics, from programming considerations to social media.

Master’s Manual for Search Engine Marketing

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This is Part II of “Search Engine Folklore: Two Tales of Fact and Fiction”.

Myths, legends and lies abound in the Land of Search Engine Marketing.
Some of these stories are true (FACTs), but many are false (FICTION). We’ve compiled the most common tales to help set the record straight.

With thrilling tales that will test your skills and knowledge, Master’s Manual addresses the advanced topics of Search Engine Marketing, from programming considerations to social media. For more basic topics, read “Beginner’s Verse”.

Using social media outlets (such as YouTube for videos and Flickr for photos) will improve your rankings.

From a link networking perspective, videos or photos that are linked back to your website from high-ranking sites like YouTube and Flickr can benefit your rankings on search engines. However, unless your video or photo is really popular on these sites and ranks high for your keywords within the site search directories, your search engine rankings likely don’t get more benefit than the link itself provides. Focus on developing excellent content on your website and securing incoming links from relevant, high-ranking websites. If YouTube and Flickr help you develop and publish your content, that’s great. Don’t just use them for ranking in search engines, though!

Your web host can affect your ranking results.

If your site loads very slowly, doesn’t load at all or experiences down time, search engines will catch on and will not be likely to recommend your site to searchers. Consider this before hosting your site yourself, and look for a quality hosting solution that meets your technical requirements, including bandwidth, traffic, multimedia, server requests, etc.

Other websites’ bad practices can affect your site ranking.

Hosting companies often host many websites on the same IP address – known as shared hosting package. If you share an IP address with a website that has been blacklisted by search engines, your site ranking could also be negatively affected. If you would like to keep control in your hands, consider asking your hosting company for a dedicated IP address.

How your site is programmed can affect your ranking results.

Different programming languages may or may not be search engine-friendly. For example, Flash content is generally heavy on images, and search engines rely heavily on text to understand the content on a web page. An alternative way to achieve movement and interest on a site is to use jQuery, which is a much more search engine-friendly language. This is just one example of how programming can affect how search engines view your site. Consider the goals of your site, and then look for alternative ways you can achieve those goals with the features and functionality.

Your content management system can affect your ranking.

Content management systems (CMS) come in many forms and levels of sophistication. They usually make it very easy for anyone to edit copy and change photos, but they may not provide the necessary accessibility to the code of your site to apply metatags (title, description and keywords) or they may not organize pages in your site so that search engines can easily understand the overall site structure. Page generators often create URLS that aren’t search engine-friendly (see below). Consider whether you really need CMS, and if you do, choose one that has been recognized in the industry as SEO-friendly.

Your site will rank the same in San Antonio, Texas as it does in San Francisco, California.

Over the last couple of years, search engines have adjusted their ranking methods to account for the geographic location of the person searching (based on IP address) relative to the companies listed in the results. After all, it doesn’t make sense for someone living in Seattle to search for a plumber and get results that include companies from Chicago. This helps local businesses, but can be a challenge to those doing business nationally and internationally. Your SEO company should consider different strategies to help your rankings depending on whether you are trying to rank locally, regionally, nationally or internationally. And keep an eye on your statistics to see where your traffic is coming from!

A new website or updated website can only improve your rankings.

If you are modifying your website, moving it to a new domain or building a new one, don’t just forget about the old URLs. Search engines don’t like things to move or change without explanation. If a search engine crawls a page and can’t find it, this reflects poorly on the rest of the website because it tells the search engine that the site is poorly maintained and that other pages might likely be broken as well. If pages are removed or moved, use server-side 301 redirects to ensure that users and search engines are redirected to the right page.

Your site URL matters.

A site or page URL provides a short summary of the content on that page, so the more descriptive (and intelligible) it is, the better. So URLs such as will naturally rank better than

Submitting a sitemap to search engines can help your interior/secondary pages get indexed faster.

Search engines find your site by crawling the web, following links to your site from other websites and looking at site submissions that are sent in. Most Incoming links will be directed at the homepage of the site and don’t provide a detailed picture of all the other pages on it. To index interior pages of a website, and to understand the hierarchy of information on a website, search engines rely on the navigation and/or other links within your site to point them there. To speed up the process, you can create and submit search-engine friendly sitemaps.

Creating duplicate versions of your site increases your odds of being found by search engines.

Search engines consider it to be shady or dishonest behavior to have duplicate content, known as “mirrored” or “cloned” content, in several places. Such behavior, intentional or not, can lead to your site being blacklisted by search engines. If you use several different domain names to promote your site, make sure you designate one as the primary and redirect the others to it using server-side 301 redirects, or create unique content on each site.

Seeking more basic information on search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click advertising? See the “Beginner’s Verse for Search Engine Marketing” for a collection of stories that will enlighten you with answers to frequently asked questions.

Laying the Path for More Web Traffic

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Terramano is a family owned business that manufactures and sells authentic handmade terracotta and saltillo tile. To increase sales through the internet, Terramano wanted to focus on improving organic search results and Google AdWords campaigns.

Key Challenges

  • Content – Terramano’s site was built with a template site editor and looked nice, but it only contained basic information on the company and was not written to what the customer wants or needs. There were no clear product descriptions, few keywords, and the navigation did not clearly indicate the information to be found on each page.
  • Tracking – The site editor allowed for only minimal tracking that showed the number of visits per day. We were unable to see statistics regarding entrance and exit pages, geographic location, sources of traffic, and the time visitors spent on site. If we were going to evaluate the quality of traffic, we would need to put detailed tracking in place to measure the performance of the site.
  • Keyword Differentiation – Terramano was unsure which keywords people used most when searching for their products out of the many variations, i.e. mexican tile, terracotta, saltillo, clay tile, etc.


  • Keyword Development – Extensive keyword research determined which search terms Terramano should focus on. For example, “terracotta tile” and “mexican tile” are searched far more often than “saltillo tile”.
  • Content Development and Website Restructure – We restructured the site and navigation to be more user-friendly and intuitive, developing content for the Home and Products pages that better explains the different types of tile and available colors, sizes and finishes. Also included in site changes were new photographs with descriptive file names and image tags containing keywords and information about geographic areas served, since Terramano’s products are sold throughout the US and Mexico.
  • Tracking Installation – Moving the site out of the content management system allowed for more sophisticated tracking. We took this opportunity to clean up the code and install Google Analytics, which provides detailed information on site visits, including traffic from Google AdWords.
  • Link Strategy – We developed a link strategy for Terramano that included recommendations for industry trade groups and organizations they may want to join.
  • AdWords Campaign Restructure – Keyword lists in Terramano’s account were expanded based on research and the campaigns were reorganized. One set of ads now targets users looking for tile floors in general, and another set targets users searching specifically for terracotta or clay tile. Conversion tracking also measures which keywords and ads result in contact form submissions.

Since February, Terramano has climbed in organic rankings for all of their keywords, and is on the first page for many. They are now getting visits from serious prospective clients and receive several form submissions every week. Organic search traffic for August compared to March increased by 70.1%, and has been steadily climbing month by month.

For pay per click search engine traffic, the number of site visits has increased by 150% due to more effective ad wording, which improved the average click through rate from 0.55% to 10%. The quality of these leads has improved as well, demonstrated by a 12% decrease in the average bounce rate. Terramano continues to climb in rankings and looks forward to selling their unique products to a more targeted audience.    

Search Engine Rankings*


* Search engine rankings change often. These results are from August 25, 2010 and show rankings for searches within the San Antonio area.

10 Reasons NOT to Outsource Your Marketing

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Partnering with a marketing firm, creative firm or ad agency can be a really rewarding experience.  But outsourcing isn’t right for every business. Our last article gave 10 reasons why you should outsource, and this counterpart gives 10 reasons why you should not outsource.

1. You are not prepared to respond to growth
The purpose of working with an outsourced firm should be to increase business. If your organization isn’t equipped to deal with rapid growth, then you might want to get your resources in place before trying to boost your sales.

2. You don’t have a designated point of contact 
Managing an outsourced team may be simpler than managing an internal team, but someone still has to do it.  Be prepared to participate. Client involvement is a critical success factor of the marketing process – don’t expect good results if you work with a firm that can “do it all” without your input.

3. You aren’t willing to let go
If you aren’t willing to trust an outsider with your marketing, do not outsource to a full-fledged firm. Hire freelancers and the cheapest production labor that you can find. You will pay a lot more for solid advice and experience – don’t bother paying more unless you are going to be receptive to it.

4. You aren’t prepared to give it 6 months to 1 year
Whether you are hiring an internal marketing department or outsourcing, be realistic with your expectations with regard to timeframes. While there are some short term efforts that can lead to immediate boosts in sales, many marketing efforts take time to develop and then track. Be prepared both mentally and financially to commit to a trial period of at least 6 months to 1 year.

5. Your team has trouble reaching consensus internally
There’s no point in having a team of talent standing ready in the wings if you aren’t able to reach consensus within your firm. A single dedicated point of contact can help streamline communications, but even better is a single decision maker with the responsibility to report back to the management team on critical items.

6. You are not open to spending money to make money
Hiring anyone costs money. Be prepared to set goals and hold whoever you are working with accountable – whether that’s an internal hire or external/outsourced arrangement. Look at your marketing, design and advertising as investments. Choose carefully, always consider the ROI and monitor results regularly.

7. Your busy schedule keeps you from meeting regularly 
Since you are generally paying for services on a monthly basis, it’s important to be able to meet and communicate on a regular basis. If you can keep your appointments, you will do great. If the nature of your business causes you to reschedule often and/or have trouble scheduling, you might wind up paying for time that is never used.

8. You already have marketing resources provided to you
If your business is a franchise or a distributorship with materials and planning available to you at no cost or little cost, it might not make sense to outsource. You may wish the materials were better or that the headquarters were more on the ball, but consider the costs of doing it yourself carefully and try to work with your providers before making an investment on your own.

9. You don’t need marketing
Seems crazy, right? While it is rare, some cases do exist. Some firms just don’t need the kind of marketing that requires an outside firm. Some examples: you work exclusively through a regulated bidding process; you have too small of a staff to be able to follow up on leads or to deliver product; you are content with where your business is and are not interested in growth.

10. You need tons and tons of marketing
There is a point at which businesses can reach critical mass with their marketing efforts. At that point, it might make sense to begin to bring some or all of the marketing initiatives in-house. You can always bring in an associate marketing person to handle the organizational side of the relationship, or hire an executive level Marketing Director who will have autonomy to make marketing decisions independently. At the far end of the spectrum, an entire department can be installed to deal with all aspects of the organization’s marketing.

Whether you are outsourcing or hiring an internal marketing department, it will help to be prepared, committed and very self-aware of your own organizational challenges. And if you aren’t sure if you are ready to outsource or not, just be up front with any known issues when initially interviewing a partner-firm. That firm will appreciate the directness, and may even be able to offer advice and solutions to some of your challenges. Whatever your decision – best wishes for your marketing in 2008!

10 Reasons to Outsource Your Marketing Department

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1. Multidisciplinary team at a fraction of the cost
A single marketing director’s salary can range from $30,000 (right out of school) to six figures (with more experience). And then you are limited to one person’s experience, skill sets and personality type. A full-fledged marketing department ideally includes researchers, strategic marketing professionals, writers, designers, photographers, project managers, etc., all adding their own specialized skills to the marketing efforts of a company.

2. Easier to hold accountable, reprimand and let go
Your marketing needs and budgets will likely vary and evolve as the business grows or changes. If your business is evolving rapidly, outsourcing allows you to retain the skill sets that you need at any given time, without the HR repercussions for letting them go. And if you’ve ever tried to manage a truly creative person… you might already know how fun that can be.

3. Collective wisdom and experience of working with a variety of clients
Some of the most creative marketing solutions and out of the box thinking can come from experiences in other industries. You can take advantage of the diverse experiences and practices that “your team” gains with their other clients.

4. They have the organizational systems, so you don’t need to create them
One of the main struggles with marketing can be organizing all of the ideas, deadlines and project plans. A marketing firm will have experience juggling all of your ideas and guiding you through the process of plan development and implementation.

5. State of the art equipment that you don’t have to buy
A fully outfitted design station starts at $5000 and requires yearly updates. And that doesn’t include scanners, high end printers, photography equipment, and a variety of other needs. Don’t underestimate the costs of outfitting a marketing or design department internally.

6. Stay current on industry trends
If you are in a highly competitive industry, currency can provide you with a marketing edge over your competition. You don’t need to pay for the training, certifications and continuing education that is required to stay current – just look for a marketing firm that can demonstrate that they support ongoing education.

7. Easier budgeting
Many business owners spend an incredible amount of time chasing ideas that can easily be discussed in a single meeting. A seasoned marketing firm will be accustomed to back of the napkin estimates and can quickly run through ROI scenarios so that you can hone in on the realistic ideas.

8. Network of reliable vendors & someone to manage them
Your outsourced marketing department will have resources that extend beyond their walls. The buying power and the relationships that they bring to the table can be invaluable resources.

9. Increase your reach and visibility by extending your network of contacts
The vendors you work with will become an extension of your team. The relationships you build can lead to champions for your business, additional opportunities and ultimately revenue.

10. Keep your marketing efforts moving forward, even with other distractions in your business
Whether your organization is experiencing a full on crisis, or just having a busy month, marketing activities and planning are long term activities that are easy to push to the bottom of the to-do list. An outsourced firm can ensure timely delivery of your initiatives, regardless of what else may be going on in the business.

Consider your growth goals, current staff, management capabilities and resources carefully before making the decision to implement an involved marketing plan on your own – outsourcing might just be the answer to your marketing dreams. If you aren’t quite sure, our next issue will deal with some of the reasons that we would not recommend outsourcing.

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