By now you’ve likely heard or read something about the Gordon Ramsay Kitchen Nightmare’s episode featuring Amy’s Baking Company (the site may be temporarily offline) – there has been a wealth of media coverage on the details – from Profit Magazine to Buzzfeed to Forbes and beyond. Many of the sites, like Forbes, give you the reader some good advice on what to do/not to do. I’d like to approach it a bit differently.
It is important to keep in mind that the businesses that choose to participate in the Kitchen Nightmares experience are a) struggling to survive, b) aware that it is a televised event and c) they know Gordon Ramsey’s temperament. At the outset, the free publicity, new recipes from a Michelin chef and expert management advice should outweigh the embarrassment of airing your dirty refrigerator in public and being called a donkey or worse.
Many businesses just like yours need a set of outside eyes to help them maximize their potential. We all get too close to our established routines and practices, eat our own dog food, drink our own Kool-Aid™ and think we’re doing well EVEN WHEN the numbers aren’t there to back up our deeply held beliefs. Hiring a regional consultant like Modern Earth to provide online marketing consultation may not get you on national television, and while I can guarantee that no one will swear at you, you may experience some uncomfortable moments as you discover where there are opportunities for improvement in your online marketing plan.
When You Hire A Consultant – You are hiring someone who is more expert than you are, who will give you their honest opinion based on the wealth of their experience. They will point out what is good, and focus on what needs improvement because that is presumably why you hired them. They will be thorough. They will find the dirty laundry, inept serving staff, glasses with lipstick stains, and the rotten food in the fridge. You have hired them to see what is in front of them that you aren’t seeing. If you aren’t going to give them unlimited access to your information and team members, or you aren’t prepared to listen to them, don’t waste your money.
When You Get Your Report – All you will hear are the negatives, and you will become defensive. You will see these 24karat nuggets of wisdom as fool’s gold. You will argue. You will explain. Your feelings will be hurt, even if things are presented in the most pleasant and encouraging way. You will settle into your mental vacation spot in Egypt (we all spent time in denial). You will complain. What you don’t want to do is start a conversation in social media about how badly your hired consultant has made you feel, how inept or unprofessional they are (unless there is actual ineptitude or unprofessionalism happening), and how they just don’t know what they are talking about because everyone loves your frozen ravioli and that it is fine for you to take the money from the staff tip jar, even when your 50% tables are empty and you have incredibly high staff turnover.
Comments – Because a local consultant is not likely to have a camera crew in tow to capture footage for a national television program, they will treat their report to you as confidential. Only you can choose to make its contents public. If you do decide to do so, and you use a social media channel, expect some comments. Some people may agree with you. Some will not. Choose how you are going to respond and don’t feed the trolls. Always be kind. Never say your site has been hacked when it has not. Take responsibility for what you post – even when you may have been wrong. Especially WHEN you HAVE been wrong.
Satisfaction is the Expectation - Some of the people reading your social media streams are former or current customers/clients – and they know what the truth about the quality of your pizza crust. They hear how you talk to your staff, or other clients in your business space. They know if you are selling quality food, and if your delivery guy was on time. When a person has a good experience with a company, they will tell 3 people in person, and maybe mention it on social media. When a person has a bad experience with a company, they will tell 10 people in person and definitely mention it on social media. Your brand is defined by the people who use your services and buy your goods. It’s a World of Mouth, because people will talk about you for good or bad. Indifference equals invisibility. If you don’t know how to manage your social media reputation or are too afraid of the imagined backlash – there are people who can help (like the Modern Earth team).
Get the Help You Need – My concern is that the ABC experience will make some business owners afraid to hire professional consultants to help them grow their business. Too afraid of being made to feel badly about what they are doing. Unable to accept constructive criticism, and too set in their ways to implement the hard work of change and improvement. Too convinced that the old way is still working, when they don’t know that there are new tools and strategies to help them move forward. Mostly I’m afraid that small businesses will abandon or choose to ignore social media as a viable business marketing channel, because of the ferociousness of the backlash (deserved or otherwise) that this ABC brouhaha has created online.
So to sum it up – you are thinking about hiring an outside expert on online marketing because your online presence needs updating, your business is not reaching its full online marketing potential or perhaps you may be in deeper trouble. Step back from your ego and emotional reaction and learn all you can from the experts you engage. Do what it takes to put the recommendations into place and refine the process as you see results. Learn how to use today’s free media tools to your best advantage, and cultivate, curate and manage your online reputation. Share your success, learn from your challenges. Treat social media less like a broadcast channel and more like a cocktail party, where your conversation is going to heard by everyone around you, who will tell their friends when they hear something interesting.
Since 1999, Modern Earth Web Design has specialized in helping small and medium businesses maximize their online presence through great custom web design and online marketing consulting and training. We are here to help you get more customers, do more business and be more successful. If you are thinking about a new website, or perhaps hiring an online marketing consultant, we’d love to talk to you and see if we can help. We won’t call you a donkey.
Join Susan Hurrell, Modern Earth’s Dir. Of Online Marketing at the Canada Manitoba Business Service Centre for 4 upcoming seminars on some of the basics of business marketing. These 2 hour seminars are free of charge, but you must register! The CMBSC is a great resource with all kinds of free programming targeted to the needs of Manitoba Business, and their seminars are streamed to dozens of locations across Western Canada, so if you are not in Winnipeg, check out a location near you and join the video conference if you can’t be there in person.
May 16 – 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Pay Per Click Advertising in Google, Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to put your message in front of a variety of audiences, and only pay when someone is interested enough to click on your ad. You manage it, set the budgets and see the results. Learn the basics of all three core platforms to maximize your time & investment. Register Here
May 23 – 9:30 am – 11:30 am
Can your business be found online when people don’t know your business name? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential part of the online experience. Learn the 10 things you need to change on your website to increase your chances of a first page search result. Register Here
May 30 – 9:30 am – 11:30 am
Are you using all the online tools available to maximize your presence online? After SEO comes SEM – Search Engine Marketing to strengthen your online presence. Learn where to invest your time & money, and what to say no to. We’ll cover the 4 key areas that will have the most impact on your site’s visibility. Register Here
June 4 – 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
With a high targeted demographic and a definite focus, Pinterest is providing businesses and organizations of all kinds with an opportunity to promote products and services in ways they may have never imagined. If you aren’t using Pinterest, your competition may be one step ahead. Register Here
Modern Earth Web Design is proud to be part of a vibrant business community. When you as a local business succeed, we all succeed. See you at the Seminars!
Last week I had the pleasure of attending and live tweeting the annual ICTAM (Information Communication Technology Association of Manitoba) event “The Innovators” at the Winnipeg Convention Center. Philip and I were present as the social media sponsor and Modern Earth Tweet Team to keep the Twitterverse up to the minute on the happenings of the event. We mingled with the crowd as they checked in for the event and caught up with other members of the Winnipeg Information Technology community.
After the networking reception opening remarks were given by the MC Brad Oswald of the Winnipeg Free Press. He walked us through a day in the life of an Entertainment Columnist, going into detail to explain he is a professional television watcher and that he knows a thing or two about breaking the ice. Specifically the thin crackly ice that often times conceals water levels capable of creating a booter. Greetings were then provided by the Honourable Peter Bjornson, Karna Gupta and Charles (Chuck) Loewen followed by the serving of dinner. Once the dessert dishes were cleared there was an obvious shift in the energy of the room – you could feel the anticipation as CBC’s Janet Stewart took the stage to introduce the speakers for the night. Once again CBC’s Mark Kelly took the stage, this year to be in conversation with Bruce Croxon of Dragons Den and Lavalife founding fame.
Bruce started by asking how many people in the room had heard of Lavalife – all hands went in the air. He then followed up with “how many people have used the site?” to which there was a rapid drop of hands. Bruce declared there was no way that was true based on the numbers, but because of the stigma attached to online dating people still don’t like to admit to using sites like Lavalife. He went on to explain that the real driving power behind the success of the site was one of the other co-founders desire and ability to “meet chicks”. Bruce saw this unbridled skill as an opportunity to rein in his friends ideas and put them into a marketable format.
The conversation flowed easily between the two on stage, and Bruce spoke emphatically about his opinion on the supposed innovative crisis Canada is currently being faced with. “We don't lack innovation; we lack support systems" he explained. “Startups are the highest risk category” and due to the banking system in Canada entrepreneurs are faced with an extreme hurdle to surpass, funds are not readily available for startup businesses that have proven they have a place in today’s market. “We can build Canadian companies here that are world class” but in order for that to happen there has to be a shift in the way Canadian business is perceived.Following the conversation there was a short amount of time available for a question and answer period between Bruce and the audience. A variety of questions were asked, from your biggest mistake in business to what to do when faced with hard choices. Striking a chord with the Winnipeg audience, Bruce notes “when all else fails you ask yourself: what would Neil [Young] do?”
It was our pleasure to provide an afternoon seminar to members of the MMPA (Manitoba Magazine Publishers Association) last Thursday. Members of the MMPA were introduced to Google Analytics with Philip Giles (@modernphilip) and Search Engine Optimization with Susan Hurrell (@modernsusan). There were many good questions, and from the feedback, the session was valuable, informative and enjoyable!
If you would like to have some targeted training for members of your association or organization, we’d love to come out and speak to your group. Call us at 204-885-2469 or email email@example.com to discuss our very reasonable rates for whole or half day training events. We believe that a business community empowered with marketing knowledge will thrive – which benefits all of us.
Over the past few days, I attended one of the world’s premiere web design conferences, An Event Apart, which has now become one of the most inspirational events of my life. Now, to give you a brief idea as to what I experienced, it essentially can be described as a 2-day celebration of working in this industry, creating websites professionally, as it should be noted that this is “The design conference for people who make websites.” However, those who could benefit from this conference can be anyone involved in the direct or indirect production of a website; including your organization’s account executives, sales representatives, your bosses, programmers, developers; even your clients.
With such a broad audience receiving potential benefit from a conference, you may wonder what kind of topics could possibly be covered, and how were they presented? Well, I’m so glad you asked. The morning kicks off with conference co-organizer, the “King of Web Standards”, Jeffrey Zeldman running you through his version of the “Ten Commandments of Modern Web Design”. Up next, Eric Meyer – the Grandmaster of CSS (in my opinion) – steps on stage and gives you his expert insight on how to define a “Strong Layout System”; that is, of course, once browser support catches up to the vast features found ingrained into CSS3.
The fun doesn’t stop there; another 10 of the web’s finest, most-well known advocators and practitioners take the rightfully captive audience through their one-hour talks, fully immersing the audience’s willing minds into their topics of choice. This includes Jon Tan, co-founder at Fontdeck describing web typography, Luke Wroblewski (the busiest man in web) running us through how content appears online, and who’s writing it. Scott Jehl (his credits include the responsive implementation of national newspaper The Boston Globe) gives us pointers on responsibly designing websites responsively. Josh Clark, or as announced by Jeffrey Zeldman as “Doctor Touch” runs us through the slides found in his topic “Designing for Touch”. This brings day 1 to an end. Yes, there’s still another day, as jam-packed with information and ideas that you can really take with you.
Continuing on the trend that was formed the day before, Jeremy Keith opens the morning by telling us how to embrace the “Spirit of the Web”, Colleen Jones gives us reasons to want to offer the ability to “compare” to our users, and Karen McGrane explains how to plan and strategize content delivery for web, no matter your end-user’s device. The afternoon sessions begin with their best foot forward, as the stage gives away as Aarron Walker, Director of User Experience for MailChimp, speaks inspirational material surrounding brands that create emotional connections with their audience and the reasons to why you’d want this. Finally, the day finishes strong with Kim Goodwin laying out the facts of how compartmentalising your users my be the biggest cause of bad user experiences, and Jared Spool preaches to the choir on why it’s the most excellent (great) time to be a User Experience Designer.
I now want to cover the points that I consider being my favourite, the moments I experienced that really stuck with me. While Eric’s presentation on “Strong Layout Systems” may not be for everyone, the style and tone in which he delivers the technical details transforms this topic into information that is incredibly approachable. The entire context surrounding the talk dealt with our needs as front-end designers requiring a system to form our creative layouts. Covered was our ability to adapt the tools we were given in the past to create our websites as we needed; using floats and position on block elements. From there, he gently leads us into well informed coverage on the CSS3 features which will give us as web designers the control we need through the properties of “grid” and “flexbox”.
Another favorite moment for me was when Aarron Walter took to the stage shortly after lunch on the second day. Throughout his one-hour block, chock full of inspirational images and examples, Aarron walked the crowd through the reasons as to why companies want to build their brand in such a way that it invokes an emotional response from its audiences. The reason is simple: connect with your audience on an emotional level and they will want to share this experience with everyone they encounter.
During the keynote he informs us on how to build this connection with your audience through the usage of your brand’s voice, story and narrative, building your audience’s trust through honesty and small kindnesses, by focusing on the quality of the product or service you are crafting and leaving whatever you create full of human presence and personality. Furthermore, Aarron walked us through the concepts of “finding your tribe”, using design personas, embracing the varied tones your voice may need in order to remain consistent and why becoming the real you will lead to the best you.
Finally, a personal highlight came for me after what had concluded to be an already great two-day event, which, interestingly enough, occurred after the presenters were wrapped for the day (yes, the good times kept rolling). I don’t know what the environment or culture is like at other conferences but at An Event Apart the presenters are fully part of the experience, part of the crowd. The majority eat their meals (delicious food!) among the masses, attend their fellow presenters’ talks, and are readily available after the show’s done for the day in the halls, lounge or restaurants of the host hotel. This all only adds to the feeling that one picks up on, emitting from within the conference walls – the feeling of community. And so, with that said, perhaps by chance I crossed paths with Eric Meyer on Tuesday evening. After shaking the hand of someone who’s spent nearly two decades dissecting the inner workings of CSS, Eric Meyer, Jon Tan and Jeremy Keith invite me to sit down and join them for a beer (and ice wine).
At this point, my experience can’t get any more surreal – but this invitation to sit down leads into the 4 of us spending the next 2 hours discussing everything from their favourite past An Event Apart conference moments, different thoughts on how information should be delivered on the web, Eric’s own CSS reset and how he decided to release it under the GPL, and why An Event Apart has never crossed the invisible divide between Canadian and American soil. The time spent talking with these gentlemen, after hours, as friends do with drinks, will definitely have an impact on me for a long time to come.
However, as they say “everything good thing must come to an end”, and with the clock nearly approaching midnight, I went back up to my room. But as I pulled out my door key, a true excitement washed over me for what had just transpired; feeling truly appreciative for the entire trip and all that I was able to experience, listen and just discuss with like-minded colleagues… And, of course, the cherry on the proverbial cake, the time spent with Eric, Jon and Jeremy. Cheers!