On Feb 10th, Bless Back Worldwide will be hosting their annual Chili Cookoff at Sycamore Brewing in Charlotte. This is a great mission with a great cause and we are proud to work with awesome nonprofits like Bless Back Worldwide for their marketing communications and web strategy. Check out this awesome feature in Fox 46 News Good Day team with Page Fehling.
You can register for the event here and enter the Chili Cookoff content. To enter you need to make 3 gallon (1 large crockpot) of chili. Prizes will be awarded for best chili and the competition is fierce!
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.
Sterling Technology CEO Tom Blanchard discusses Cyber Security and the Charlotte, Mecklenburg County Hack with Spectrum News
Cybersecurity is not a topic that most small businesses are concerned about when it comes to digital marketing. But here is why you should care and how it can impact you business. Since we deal with a lot of our customers websites and occasionally their sales and marketing data and customer inquiries, we see this topic as very relevant and should be top of mind for all businesses. Having a secure web host is just one of the many things you should be evaluating as a business.
Spectrum News Charlotte recently featured Sterling Technology CEO, Tom Blanchard as a situation matter expert on Cybersecurity and spike in recent inquiries due to the recent Mecklenburg county hack and data ransom situation.
“Some of our clients in the past could have gotten away with free anti-virus software,” Blanchard said. “But the risk is getting too high so they need paid enterprise-level software."
As a business we are noticing more and more that even small business websites are becoming more prone to hacks and its important to have a strong local IT partner who uniquely understands how to mitigate your risks, prevent downtime for your business, loss of money, and in the case of Mecklenburg county, risk having your data at ransom.
The easiest way to sum this up: "if you aren't actively trying to protect your data, just know someone else is always trying to hack it."
Sam Casey is the Managing Partner at Banyan Creative, a digital marketing agency based in Matthews, NC.
Sam Casey is the Chief Creative Officer and Managing Partner at Banyan Creative.