We just celebrated 5 years in business at Banyan Creative. Its hard to believe how quickly it has flown by. One of our long time partners asked me how I felt about it. I first said, "Has it really been 5 years?" I suppose time flies when you are having fun. (or when you are bootstrapping a business and have two kids under 5 years old). Its been a whirlwind. I'm thankful for the 5 years that we have had so far and look forward to the years ahead. In some one ways I feel like I'm already in the bonus.
Only about 20% of businesses survive their first year. And only half of those make it to the 5 year mark. So I suppose the next big goal out there is the 10 year mark.
Its been an unlikely journey to say the least. Businesses get started for all kinds of reasons. And our story is no exception. We don't necessarily have some rags to riches story. But it has involved a lot of hustle, setbacks, failures and victories. Looking back over the past 5 years, its been a joy and a sense of accomplishment to push through the challenges to meet the goal.
It seems as though the days fly by, because of so many varying activities from sales, client work, billing, accounting, travel, conferences and creative sessions. While its not for everyone (and even my head spins some days), I love the variety of it all. I love learning about our clients businesses's from manufacturing to healthcare and how we can drive results for them on the web.
Personally, its allowed me to shape how my days look and step into a creative role that previous jobs had not allowed me. I started this business because I wanted to bring all of who I am into my daily work. I didn't want to drive to work everyday and have to leave that at home in the car, because it didn't fit.
"I started this business because I wanted to bring all who I was into my daily work. I didn't want to drive to work everyday and have to leave that at home, or in the car, because it didn't fit."
Not everyday is a bed of roses. There is always something to learn and there are plenty of setbacks. In digital marketing, if you don't keep a posture of learning, you will be out business or irrelevant before you know it.
Here are a few reflections, I've learned over the last 5 years in business for those either running a business or thinking you want to start you own business.
1. Its going to take longer than you think
Building a business from the ground up takes awhile. Don't rush the process. Everyone thinks that once people find out about your services you will be in the money. While that might be true for some, for most its not. Marketing can't fix a bad product. You need to have a great product, solve a real problem and be able to communicate that clearly to your target audience.
2. Cash is the lubricant of business
Think of a rusty old wheel that is creaking and grinding just to turn. Think of cash as the grease on the wheel to get things moving. Cash flow is always a battle in a business of our size. Make sure you build up a cash reserve as soon as possible and it will allow you to hire when you need to, and sustain yourself through the slower times.
3. Work like a Farmer. Spend like a Pauper
Running a small marketing agency feels a bit like being a farmer at times. You have to work the land, churn the soil, know when to plant, when to harvest and when to ask your neighbor for help. And also like a farmer, you have an advantage if you wake up early. Cash is precious, and its important when you are starting your own business with your own cash you keep expenses as low as possible. I'm in the services business so I was able to keep expenses low as we built the business. Not everyone can do that, nor do I recommend this for every business. But the point is, be frugal and always ask yourself: do I really need this?
Its no secret that I am a man of faith. Nothing has strengthened my prayer life quite like the pressure of running a business. I believe God cares about our daily work. I believe he cares deeply about the details of it all. We have had our ups and downs Allowing God to be an anchor in all of it to sustain through the emotional mental, physical and financial waves has been so important. Waking up early and planning my day, my week and my year is so important. But even more important, praying through the day has helped me not only keep a sound mind, but make better business decisions based on my faith and my values, not just about money.
5. Hire for Your Weaknesses
No one can do everything themselves. Thats the surest way to burn-out. Make sure you find good help that you can trust from employees to contractors. You can't do it all! Let me repeat that. No really, you cannot do it all and expect to grow your business in any meaningful way. (Learned this one the hard way.)
6. Find Another Business Owner You Want to Be Like in 5 Years
There is has nothing that has expedited our growth like meeting more experienced business owners who you want to emulate. It can be isolating at times and you can get stuck in a rut. You have to be able to find another business owner or multiple owners that you can reach out to for ideas and decision making. For me I was thankful for Xan Hood over at Buffalo Jackson. Not only was he one of our first key clients, but he also provided some valuable transparency to help us avoid some big mistakes we would have made early on.
7. Stay Humble
We live in a culture that is quite self-absorbed. Social media, txt messaging the ability to self-publish to thousands or millions of followers from our iPhones. It seems like everyone is building their own platform megaphone and yelling through it as loud as they can as often as they can to be validated by "followers" who could care less about you or your product. As marketers we are judged on performance metrics at the outset of a campaign. There can be high turnover in our business across the board. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail. Let the work speak for itself. Let the message resonate with integrity. One day you will be on top of the world. The next day you might be kicked to the curb.
Stay humble. Your day will come.
Thank you to all our friends, family and all our current and previous clients that have partnered with us. Its been a real privilege. And thank you to my loving wife, who has sacrificed and believed in me through thick and thin, and through all the ups and downs that come with running a bootstrap-underdog-marketing agency.
Here's to the next 5 years..... Lord Willing.
Sam Casey is the founder and owner at Banyan Creative LLC based in Matthews, NC.
SEO Update - Google Announces Expanded Length for Meta Descriptions and Why It Matters for Your Website
Late in 2017, Google announced that they were increasing the length of meta descriptions. And its a good news for SEO, for those who take advantage of it.
Marketers who leave their meta descriptions unchanged should see improved web presence on the SERP. Snippet size was also increased.
What is a Meta Description? And why it matters in SEO
A meta description tag appears in <head> section of HTML on your web page. Simply put it provides more information to both Google and to the user, as to what your page is about. While Google does not necessarily use meta descriptions to rank your website, it does still parse it. Google also does not always show the meta description in the snippet, but it will sometimes show content that is relevant to the users query. That way, what the user actually sees is relevant to their keywords in the search.
So what is the new length?
Meta descriptions have normally been up to 160 characters. With the recent change Google is allowing up to 320 characters. Google recently released the following statement:
"We recently made a change to provide more descriptive and useful snippets, to help people better understand how pages are relevant to their searches. This resulted in snippets becoming slightly longer, on average."
So practically should go through and updated every single meta description? Not so fast. Google says that you don't need to do that, but we actually disagree and see that as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. We will address this in a later post or read more about Moz recommendations for 2018.
If you choose to not lengthen your meta descriptions, we do recommend as you are blogging and build content that you take advantage of writing up to 320 characters to provide Google and the user more information in the search results.
For Content Marketing and digital marketing purposes thats good news because there is a lot more you can do in those meta descriptions. However, like always don't view the additional space as opportunity to stuff keywords. Focus on good content that matters to your users and to your target keywords.
Got more questions about what this change means for your website? We can help.
Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative based in Matthews, NC.
I have a favorite pair of leather desert boots that I have owned for the last few years. Well worn, broken-in, stylish and comfortable. There is just something right about slipping them on and heading off to work. But after a while of wearing them, these once sharp looking boots begin to look dull and dry. They require some polishing to get them back up to snuff.
Oftentimes the same thing can happen with your website copy. Once it was newly written and something you were very proud of. But after awhile, without proper care that web content can start to look plain and worn out. For most small business owners, unless you are copywriter by trade, you probably don't enjoy updating your website copy to make sure its SEO friendly.
But if you want your website to remain visible and looked at favorably by Google, you need to freshen up your content from time to time to keep it relevant.
Here's Why Updating Your Website Copy is Important to Your Customers
Businesses are constantly evolving and services are always changing. Do you have services listed on your website that you don't offer anymore? Are there others that are missing. If this is the case you are missing out on opportunities. Here are few places to start:
Here's Why Updating Your Website Copy is Important for SEO
Its a time consuming process to create copy for your website that is also friendly to the search engines. But if you don't do it, or pay a professional to do it, your website won't perform well on Google. Also if your copy is outdated it won't have the proper keywords to drive more search traffic. Or even worse maybe you have old copy on your site that ranks well but its a service you no longer offer.
Google values fresh content. Every time you add new content Google needs to index that content on your website. Fresh content = more indexing opportunities. Don't feel like you need to update your site every second of everyday, or make unnecessary changes. But you should update your site with valuable and helpful content. Add an image or two to each post to increase your chances of getting noticed.
Need Help with your Website Content?
New customers are searching for your services today. Will they find you or a competitor with better content? If you aren't really sure if your website copy is helping you drive the right kind of traffic to your website, contact us today for a free evaluation.
Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative based in Matthews, NC. We specialize in SEO search friendly website and web marketing strategy designed to educate and engage your customers.
Content has become an extremely important strategy in online marketing so its natural for a lot of small businesses to ask how content can help their overall strategy to produce the desired results. Here are a few of the top questions we are often asked here at Banyan Creative about content marketing.
1. What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the process of producing useful or helpful information to your target consumer's, rather than just sharing all about your product or service. The purpose of producing that content is to build trust and authority on a specific topic. This hopefully builds trust with the consumer and eventually entices them to buy.
2. Isn't content just a blog?
Most people think of content marketing as regularly updating your blog. And thats a great place to start. But content marketing could include PDFs, Slideshares, Video, Social Media posts, whitepapers, infographics, ebooks, webinars. It can be be any medium used to distribute your content and message to your audience online.
3. Where do I start with content marketing?
It can be a temptation to just start blogging without any strategy. But the most important part at the outset of content marketing is to develop an overall plan and goal for why you are doing and what you hope are the desired outcomes.
4. How do I define my content strategy?
Like any form of marketing, the most important questions we ask our clients over and over is "who is you are target persona", and "what are the problems that they have that you are solving." Using these two questions we can reverse engineer the types of content we are writing about. For example: If our target is realtors, and we are offering a software that saves a realtor time and money, we want to lead with topics about "how realtors can better manager their time to make more money for their business." We want to stay away from leading with our solution at the outset, and offer helpful tips before just selling product or solutions at the outset. Be helpful and interesting. Not so salesy.
5. How often do I need to be putting out content?
It depends. I know most people don't like this answer, but there is no universal answer here. Putting out fresh content all the time is extremely valuable to your business but it does take time, energy, resources, and a good plan for it be successful. Your strategy will help dictate how often you are putting out new content. For most local businesses, it really can depend on what your competitor's are doing. We always say here, if you aren't putting out content at least 1-2 times a month on that topic, its difficult to say you are an authority online on that subject. While we don't necessarily know that posting twice a week vs multiple times a week to have a proven impact in terms of percentage of growth, we do know that Google clearly prefers websites that update their content on a regular basis and helps with the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts in showing up in the rankings on the search engines.
For a great example of a great case study and long term content marketing strategy that has had a huge impact on the bottomline, check out our friends over at https://buffalojackson.com/. They have committed to weekly blogs and monthly helpful tips to their target audience for several years running. And the results are quite impressive helping boost their online sales through their website.
Blog: Sharing Branded and Unbranded Topics Valuable to target audience with Keywords
Knowledge Centers: Offering Helpful Tips
Sam Casey is the owner at Banyan Creative, an online marketing agency focused on small businesses with a focus on long term results.
As a small business owner your website is one of the most important tools you can have. It does 3 really important things for you.
1. It can add value - You want to educate your customers and your prospective customers on what the value of your product or services. Keep in mind, a website has little value without business goals, objectives, or a solid marketing strategy behind it. Does your website add value to your business today?
2. You can collect data - Its a wonderful tool to figure out what their needs are so you can meet those needs. Its all about having the relationship with your clients and understanding how to enhance those relationships. Using a proper website strategy, it allows you to collect the right data you need to drive business decisions and grow relationships with your customers.
3. You can conduct business 24/7 - In the middle of the night, someone can click, put their credit card in, and guess what, you have made a sale! A great website is your frontline sales force. It helps quantify, qualify and for e-commerce business close the sale without any human interaction. Check out buffalojackson.com and see some of our recent work to help grow their online business ten-fold using this 24/7 strategy.
4. It can be found head of your competitors - What good is a website if your customers can't find it? Its like having a billboard in the middle of a desert. A well optimized site using (SEO) Search Engine Optimization. When people don't know who to call for services the first place for most people is to "google it". Are you able to be found for services you offer? Or are you competitors showing up ahead of you? If thats the case you are losing sales.
Need help with your small business website strategy? Contact us at Banyan Creative. We love helping small businesses grow!
Sam Casey is the Managing Partner and Founder at Banyan Creative based in Matthews, NC. We are leaders in digital marketing strategy for small businesses with over 25 years of combined experience.
I met a guy recently who lost over 50 lbs. I hardly recognized him, because I hadn't seen in a few years and obviously with that much weight loss he looked much different. So I asked him "what was your secret to losing all that weight?"
He said, "Eating better and regular exercise for about 2 years straight." I was expecting some dramatic crash diet at the latest quick fix exercise. So this was not exactly the exciting answer I was looking for, but it got me thinking..... We get contacted several times a week from Charlotte small business owners looking for a "quick fix" in their marketing. They want to know "what's your most basic plan to optimize my website?" or "I need leads now! What can you do quick?" I more often respond with something like. "We can't help you if you are looking for a shortcut."
The truth is we are all looking for shortcuts without putting in the hard work over a long period of time. When it comes to their online marketing, small business owners often in tight cash flow situations don't allocate enough resources to advertising or marketing until they are in dire straights. It doesn't help that businesses are bombarded with emails or cold calls with things like "Guarantee SEO #1 Ranking on Google" or "Do this 1 Weird Trick on Facebook to increase your following 4000%"
So lets change our thinking a bit here. If you want to build a web presence like the man who lost 50 lbs. instead of signing a 90 day trial with another web marketing company, why not invest in 2 year strategy of "healthy eating and exercise" for your website.
1. Wean Yourself Off Shortcuts in Your Online Marketing
It’s so easy to adopt SEO or even social media tricks, and when they actually WORK it can be incredibly hard to turn them down. Or maybe you found a certain keyword within your PPC strategy thats driving tons of traffic, so you crank up the budget on it. Another example, if all of your competitors are outranking you thanks to their huge volume of paid/spammy links, the moral high ground’s not gonna put food on the table, or leads in your CRM? So I feel your pain. But keep in mind. Shortcuts are often just for short term results. Regardless of my personal feelings on whether or not they’re good for the Internet, I’m not going to say tricks don’t ever work, but what I am saying is focus on your longterm goals, not a short term ranking or other web traffic strategies.
2. SEO is Hard and Requires a Long Term Investment
It is way harder to build great content and fix bad code and build linking relationships and get people to share and link to your content and then do all that again, over and over, than it is to submit to a bunch of directories, and hire a freelancer or Fiverr.com to spin some content to syndicate on article sites and to comment spam neglected blogs and then buy a bunch of links. But you really get what you pay for here. Small investment often means small return.
However, it’s a lot easier to build great content and fix crummy code and build linking relationships and get people to share and link to your content and then do all that again, over and over, and have it NEVER STOP WORKING, than it is to completely change everything you do every year or so because your websites keep getting algorithmic hits. And it’s a lot less stressful, in the long run, not to have to explain to business owners why their site is never going to rank because of low level tactics.
Just like with weight loss, doing things the right way (the hard way) may not work as fast, but it will work for the long term. Check out one of small business clients results below. They committed to blogging 6-8 times a month, in addition to publishing keyword rich buyers guides for commonly asked questions. While their competitors poured more money into paid advertising, they focused on good, quality professionally written content. They focused on their strengths, not on their weaknesses.
Are you small business in need of a long term SEO strategy? Give us a call. We are in it for the long haul and have a handful of happy clients who have reaped the benefits over the years. Now take the road last traveled. Trade in that ice cream for an apple. You get it?
About the Author: Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative based in Matthews, NC. We enjoy working with small businesses who are focused on long term goals for their web marketing.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
You want to engage your customers. You want to keep your business top-of-mind for your target audience. You want to increase sales. But how? Aha! An email newsletter! You throw everything you have into it, and you send your little e-miracle out into the world. You envision your customers finding you in their inbox, their delighted expressions, eyes devouring every word, fingers clicking every link. Filled with pride and anticipation, you check your open and clickthrough rates.
And then you cry a little bit.
The hard truth is, just because you pour your time and energy (and heart and soul) into an email newsletter doesn’t mean people will open it, much less take the time to read it and act on it. E-newsletters are one of the most common types of emails to send -- but they are also some of the hardest to do well.
A critical question to answer before you begin: do you really need an email newsletter? Sounds basic, but it’s important. Do some research in your industry and determine if an email newsletter is actually an effective form of communication with your target market. Does your target audience subscribe to email newsletters? If so, what kind? Do you have the time/budget/resources to produce the kind of e-newsletter your target audience wants? What is the goal of sending your e-newsletter, and can that be accomplished through this platform?
Here’s the thing: the answer might be no. And that is okay. If that’s the case, make the smart decision to direct your resources toward a platform better suited to your particular target market. If, however, you determine you should proceed with an email newsletter (or you have an existing one that needs help), we’ve compiled 7 crucial tips to be successful.
7 Tips for Creating Email Newsletters People Actually Want to Read
You’ve determined you should create an email newsletter. So, answer this question: Why are you sending the e-newsletter? If it’s to tell all the people all the things all at once: stop it. It’s too much. Good email newsletters are not a weekly information dump; they are focused. Rather than including general information about every aspect of your business all at once, choose one vertical, or choose a particular industry topic, and create a theme around it. Each email should have a common thread to tie it together.
2. Define the Relationship.
Expectations can make or break any relationship. So, set the expectations regarding your e-newsletter right there on your “subscribe” page -- and be specific. Tell potential subscribers exactly what kind of content will be in the newsletter, and tell them how often they’ll hear from you. Not only does this improve your potential subscribers’ experience, having provided this information up front is a great way for you to lower your unsubscribe and spam rates later on.
3. All about that… subject line.
Okay, so your e-newsletter has subscribers now -- but how do you get them to actually open this specific email? It’s all about the subject line. You have to get creative with the email subject lines. It’s tempting to keep the same subject line each time -- it will be familiar, and your subscribers will recognize your e-newsletter by it, right? Well, yes, that is probably true. But unfortunately, it’s also boring. Repeating the same subject line offers no intrigue, no incentive to click this one. Right now.
A much more effective approach is to come up with new, creative, and engaging subject lines each time you send your e-newsletter. Need some help? Check out these tips.
4. 90/10 Rule (Don’t be that guy.)
Even your most devoted customers can only tolerate so many sales pitches before they tune you out. Writing a good email newsletter is like being a good friend: stop talking about yourself so damn much. You know that guy. Don’t be that guy. You also know that company. You know, the one you subscribed to that one day and then everyday thereafter flooded your inbox with “Buy! Buy! Buy!” Think about it: were you happy to see their emails in your inbox? Or did you roll your eyes, click delete, and eventually unsubscribe altogether? What if that same company would’ve sent you emails with relevant, educational, and timely information? Information to help you, interest you, or entertain you -- not just ask something of you. Totally different experience, right? Bottom line: the content of your email newsletter should be 90% educational and only 10% promotional.
5. CTAs give me ADD
We all know the Call-to-Action (CTA) is critical. So don’t muddy the waters with too many of them. Choose one primary CTA to highlight above and beyond the others. You’ll likely need multiple CTA’s in one newsletter, but they don’t all need equal emphasis. Position the non-primary CTA’s as more of an afterthought, kind of like, “if you get around to it, click here too.” Don’t expect your readers to bushwhack their way through a cluster of CTA’s and hope they figure out what’s most important. Clear the path and show them.
Email newsletters are notorious for looking cluttered, so when it comes to the design & copy of your email newsletter, the minimalist approach has it in the bag. Your two most effective weapons against e-newsletter clutter are concise copy and adequate whitespace. So, channel your inner Kon Mari, and purge the page. Edit ruthlessly, ensuring your copy is tight, clean, and concise. Then, maximize the whitespace in the design. Utilize margins, spacing, and image placement to visually alleviate the cluttered feel.
One note about images: be sure they include alt text. Alt text is the alternative text that appears if an image doesn’t load. Many people don’t have images enabled in their email, which creates a problem if your email newsletter is image-heavy (and an even bigger problem if your CTAs are images). Alt text will show your readers what to click even if the image isn’t enabled.
7. Bye, Felicia. (A.K.A. Make it easy to unsubscribe.)
(Yes, really.)You’ve worked hard to determine your e-newsletter’s focus, you’ve laid out specific expectations on your subscribe page, you’re writing short and engaging subject lines, you’ve developed a strong content balance, and your CTA’s are clear and inviting on an uncluttered page. Your subscriber numbers are rising, as are your open and clickthrough rates.
But you can’t stop staring at that “unsubscribed” number. Your email newsletter is amazing. So, why do some people still unsubscribe?
Stop. Stop worrying so much about your unsubscribe numbers. You want your emails delivered to people who will be happy to see them and who actively engage with your content. So really, by removing themselves from your list, unsubscribers are doing some valuable targeting work for you. Leverage this as an opportunity, and don’t bury your unsubscribe link in a miniscule footer or ambiguous wording -- you don’t want anyone marking your newsletter as SPAM because they couldn’t figure out how to unsubscribe instead. Having a clear unsubscribe process keeps your subscriber list thriving and healthy.
Banyan Creative is Charlotte digital marketing agency helping small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-profits with their digital marketing campaigns that look beautiful, attract customers, engage visitors, and inspire buyers.
“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” — Émile Coué
Overnight success is a myth. Give up believing there is one magic bullet to make your business more visible online. You have to put in the work. And you have to sustain that effort every day.
Successful people know that making small continual improvement every day will be compounded over time, and give them desirable results.
Unsuccessful people think that by doing one thing or one tactic it will take them to where they want to go so they can take their foot off the gas and relax to a life of ease..
We often laud the quick success, or the one hit wonder. We live in a culture of instant success. But success is hard to replicate over and over again without daily discipline to get a little bit better each day. We all have limitation. But all of us can improve just 1% each day.
In our roles as small business marketing experts, we are constantly approached by clients looking for fast sales growth. Often they have a big goal with a focus on making some large improvements that don't actually exist within their budget or timeframe. I would compare it to a brand new runner who wants to run the Boston Marathon right out of the gate.
Many business owners think that just by redesigning a website, running a campaign, putting a small amount of focus to marketing effort will all of a sudden yield magical sales growth that they don't currently have.
Contrary to this thinking, our best clients we have a realisitic focus on 1% growth everyday. 5% growth each month. 10% growth each year. And they are committed to that discipline in their marketing. Patience and diligence over flash then fizzle. They don't expect one channel to be the gravy train. They test, They evolve. They tweak, they revamp, and sometimes even take a few steps back after a failure. Until they hone their messaging to matter to their audience.
The truth is that overnight success, also leads to overnight failure. Focus on daily disciplines in your marketing that yield a 1% growth every single day. Realistic goals look more like growing your email list 5% each month. In one or two months thats not impressive or sexy. In 18-24 months thats serious marketing growth.
For most small businesses, your goals should be to acquire 2 new emails a day, 5 more visits to your website than yesterday. 1 more blog post a week. 2 new articles a month. 1 new compelling video each week, 1 more good new conversation over the phone or in person. By itself none of these activities are impressive. But do them everyday for a year straight and all of a sudden your marketing presence, and your pipeline will start to look a whole lot more impressive than your competitors.
Why? Because most companies and invididuals lack the daily discipline to win 1% or 1 day at a time. Small, quiet wins are how to build a great business that you are can actually sustain and grow with over time.
Get better 1% everyday and win long term.
Banyan Creative clients shine winning top Charles Schwab award - Congrats to BP Capital Advisors team
Congratulations to BP Capital Fund Advisors for winning the Charles Schwab Mutual Fund OneSource Select List for Q2 2017. We love to see our clients shine.
BPCFA is an SEC-registered RIA, led by a 12-person Texas-based team with decades of combined energy investing experience. We seek to build portfolios that preserve capital throughout the energy cycle while providing investors with exposure to the unique technologically-driven growth taking place in the United States oil and gas industry.
The BP Capital team has managed billions of dollars in public and private energy investments since the 1950s. The firm’s success was built by leveraging in-house research, extensive on-the-ground operating experience, and deep relationships across the energy industry.
Banyan Creative continues to assist the award winning BP Capital Executive team with a targeted digital strategy.
Sam Casey is the Chief Creative Officer and Managing Partner at Banyan Creative.