Challenge #3 Change one thing at Evolve

I am not afraid to adapt. I thrive in it. I am not afraid to be proven wrong over time. I named our company Evolve because in this industry, what is efficient today might be made obsolete tomorrow. A huge part of that is willingness to change. If I look closely at all of the things we have changed here at Evolve: Digital Labs over the years, the common thread is in execution of work. We work on knowing and challenging our business everyday. As I wrote in a letter to myself for challenge number one, its all about the people working in our organization. We need to help them not just with tools and improved processes, but more importantly, with personal growth. Without mutual planning for the employee and the company, mutual satisfaction seems unlikely. For long term commitments from employees you need to provide satisfaction along the way. When it is put in simple terms like that, it makes me feel embarrassed how neglectful I have been. So, no longer. To Start: I went to the goog and found this Employee Performance Review that breaks down the core categories I would like to discuss. 1. Job/ Technical Knowledge 2. Problem Solving and Decision Making 3. Planning and Organization 4. Communication Verbal and Written 5. Teamwork Personal Skills 6. Company Policy 7. Self Management There is also ample space to review the goals from the previous review, along with make new ones. With the right tool in place, I started an internal debate: at what intervals should these take place? Once a year isn’t close to enough. Once every six months seems reasonable, but considering the change this company has seen in its first 3 years, even that seems slightly underwhelming. I found the answer in this logic: the average employee at Evolve is going to work about 48 weeks in a calendar year. That equates to about 1920 hours. If I met with an employee for 30 minutes every 90 days on goals and performance, we are spending a limited tenth of a percent. For now that is where we will start. I am not sure anyone wants to spend that much goal-driven quality time with me anyway. Finally, I would be somewhat of a hypocrite if I didn’t give my employees the opportunity to review my performance as well. So every 90 days I will send out one for my review to everyone, let the truth ring out. This post is part of Derek’s 30-in-30 Project. Click here to learn more about it from the initial introduction

Challenge #2 Facing your fears and why it matters in business

One of the first challenges that jumped off the page at me, was “to face a fear.” Why? I don’t know maybe because I do like a good challenge or, much like Marty McFly, I hate being told I can’t do something. Even if its me doing the internal talking, once its a public challenge…it’s on. Read more

Adapt Your Brand to Complement Consumer Behavior

At Evolve, we emphasize the importance of knowing whom you are marketing to. The online realm is much different from the physical world; it’s easy for customers to remain anonymous. Without a definite understanding of your consumers’ behavior, it may be difficult for your brand to flourish online.

We’re Emotional Beings

One important factor to note is that consumers make emotional purchases. Before social media, we relied heavily on personal experiences to drive us toward purchases of specific brands. For instance, I drink Diet Coke, not because it’s the only sugar-free beverage out there. God knows it’s not. But I drink it because my mom drank it (and still does). It’s familiar. It’s what I know. And for me, it’s an emotional experience. Bending back the tab on a cold can of Coca-Cola creates a recognizable psssffft, indicating that I am inches away from fizzy refreshment. Advertisers rely on emotion as well. If they can create a 30-second spot with a punch of humor, a heartfelt storyline, or a sense of security, perhaps you, the consumer, will be swayed. Maybe even swayed from a brand you have used loyally throughout your lifetime. While advertising tactics are still very influential, thereas now a new way to play the game. This, of course, is social media. Marketing is now more personal than ever, as brands have a chance to interact, engage, and converse with their consumers. You may not have the brand strength and history of Coke. In fact, your product might have debuted last year. But you can still compete and succeed if you take the opportunity to build relationships and trust with consumers. But you have to use social media the right way. If someone were in need of running shoes, he wouldn’t use Twitter as a tool for purchasing a pair (unless he was asking opinions of others). He would turn to Google and search “running shoes.” But if your brand has a voice on Twitter, along with plenty of Retweets and a loyal following, there’s a good chance that someone in the market for a sweet new pair of kicks will not Google “running shoes,” but “Brand X running shoes.” Catching on? It’s about relationships now. Use platforms like Twitter and Facebook to show your personality and interest in others- and reap the benefits through an increase in conversions and enriched connections.

What Lies Beneath…

Moving on, the non-verbal components of a brand, such as the logo, typography, graphics, color palette, etc. have a huge impact on your brand’s ability to tap into the consumer’s unconscious mind. Most people aren’t aware of the impressive choices you’ve made on your brand’s site: clean lines, appropriate typography, and impressive phrasing. In fact, unless they’re graphic designers or writers, and have been trained to notice those details, those factors are seemingly looked over, unnoticed, ignored. However, the unconscious mind is a powerful empire. I’m not going to go all Freud on you and teach a course on psychoanalysis, but I’m sure you understand that details matter. And although people might not consciously recognize good content or well-designed pages, they will immediately spot a sloppy website.

Consistency is Crucial

Furthermore, it is essential that your brand carry a solid, consistent brand message. If each person on your team knows the company’s core mission and values, then the chances of conveying that to the public are greatly amplified. A strong, clear message is essential in order to successfully articulate your company’s message to users.

Enhance the Experience

Finally, ensure that your company is providing a valuable experience for your consumers. That ties in to the emotional factor; we buy products for the experience. If your website is easy to navigate through, or if the Calls to Action are evident, and if the entire experience is welcoming and beneficial, then people are likely to return. And if the site is a sty of frustration, your visitors won’t return, regardless of how low your prices are. There you have it- and hopefully you’re able to take something from this post. The Marketing world is changing- ahem, evolving- and although it may feel like you’re playing an endless game of Catch-Up, it all pays off if you keep moving forward. Written by Emily Wisely. Find her on Twitter at @em_wisely.

Day 1 Letter to myself two years ago via Will Critchlow of Distilled

Dear Derek, You are not going to believe this, but you actually accomplish a few things in your life you never thought possible. Starting with making it to your 30th birthday (maybe slightly assumptive but…) You started this company with lofty expectations, all of which are still in play and seem obtainable. Obtainable to the point you drive into work every morning with a cheshire grin. Please find some solitude in that, because challenging days are ahead. No seriously. It’s tough enough to weather your baby face. A second kiddo doesn’t help either, but that’s another letter for another day. Here is a heads up on the things you need to know, embrace, and live.
1. The world will not move any faster for you, no matter how many hours you work. Regardless of the midnight oil you burn or nay-sayers you take on.
2. People are your most important asset, treat them accordingly, but do not waste time on penny stock employees. Hire right or fire quick.
3. Managing people is hard, especially wrong people. Managing a process is easier.
4. Confidence as an owner comes from your team and their capabilities.
5. It’s ok to turn down work, in fact, your greatest mistakes come from challenges that are off the goal path. It will cost you sleep and professional respect. The latter being exponentially more important.
6. Learn to delegate, it is more fun to watch others succeed. I promise.
7. Bad client relationships do not get better and dignity’s price tag starts/ends with respect. To hell with the rest.
8. Do not worry about what the competition is doing, this is a big one. It’s absolutely magical what will start to happen when you focus solely on what you are doing and where you want to go.
9. Failures are not detours. They are just part of the journey. Actually overcoming mistakes or failure is much more rewarding and gratifying than most success.
10. If you continue to consume IPA’s at your current rate, you need to live at the gym. Its not pretty. 11. Build a company that you would kill to work for, because you do.
12. Humility is the bifocal for business. Believe it. If you can recognize and understand these things as they happen or even after, you will be me. An extremely grateful person. Actually, you can forget all these things if, you just remember success is a state of mind and not a physical place. Keep good on the promises you have made to yourself and your family. You will never regret making good on those.
Regards,
Derek Mabie

This post is part of Derek’s 30-in-30 Project. Click here to learn more about it from the initial introduction.

Derek’s Big News: The 30-in-30 Project

Derek is requesting dares of all sorts, no matter what industry you are a part of. As he said in the video, however, they have to be able to be completed in one day because he is documenting his progress throughout the entire duration. Additionally, the challenges must somehow pertain to his abilities as a boss and business professional. In other words, Derek is probably not going to partake in the Gallon Challenge unless you can somehow convince him that it will directly improve his skills in client relationships. But of course, it doesn’t, so don’t even try. We know what you’re thinking. One realistic example would be telling him to face the criticism of his employees. After all, it’s pretty important for your employees to like you.

In Derek’s case, however, the suggestion box would be empty. Consider this an opportunity to help Derek approach age 30 like no one has ever dared. This guy is seeking homework for his birthday presents. As far as humbling birthdays go, Derek’s 30th takes the cake.

How I Nearly Lost My Mind: Website Overhaul

First of all, I’m not yet an expert on SEO. The university I attended in the south is still stuck in 1956, so I didn’t learn anything about it there and I certainly never felt compelled to research it myself (until I realized that it is kind of an essential aspect of marketing, and my future). Read more

Announcing an Announcement

Although we canat reveal the details, Evolve is excited to announce that there is soon going to be…an announcement!
Read more

Simple Link Building Trends

Link building matters.

But where do you start? Well, first we want you to fully grasp the point of link building, which is to direct traffic to your site. This can include Facebook “likes” and shout outs on Twitter. Read more

Comfy Sacks Crash Landing!

Evolve loves local businesses. We toss back our fair share of Schlafly Beer and frequent Park Avenue Coffee for its caffeine-saturated beverages and melt-in-your-mouth gooey butter cake. You don’t even know. More recently we’ve discovered a fixation with St. Louis’ own Comfy Sacks, a brand that sells luxury beanbag furniture. Read more

8 Reasons Your Company is Awful at Producing Meaningful Content

1. There is no one to carry the torch and lead your company into the publishing world. If this is the case you need to answer the following questions:
a. is it going to happen from my internal team?
b. Can I hire a new employee to delegate the charge?
c. Can I hire an agency to do it?
d. Am I going to do it?

You should be responding with at least one “yes,” and ideally 2, 3, or 4. So what the hell are you waiting for? If you’re reading this, you should take on the challenge. If you’re a leader within your company, there’s no question. Suck it up, it’s the difference between digital success and digital failure.

2. No insights make you, well, unoriginal and that can be a real motivation kill. If this is the case, answer these questions:
a. Have we stated a purpose for the content?
b. Is the content tied to accomplishing any goals?
c. What is your unique selling point?
d. Why are you a brand/company?

All these questions need to be answered but, answering any one is a big start. It’s funny how a company detached from its brand’s mission statement runs parallel a company that struggles to understand what to write about online. Our most successful clients in Search have a strong understanding of their mission and control of their brand’s voice. Start by answering why youare in existence. Move on to goals. Then do what you need to make it happen.

3. Your momentum is mud because you and the rest of your company have no victories to speak of in the content creating world. If this is the case you need to answer the following questions:
a. Do we have a content calendar?
b. Have we assigned writing responsibility?
c. Have you tried to support an event or promotion?
d. Is there one product to support?

To truly keep momentum and longevity in the movement, it is either paid for or it is part of the culture. No exceptions. Set micro-goals because they create small victories. Small victories create confidence. Confidence creates energy. Energy creates momentum. Sounds like a load of BS, but it is true. You can not fill up a blog in night or a week or even a month…well maybe some business could but it would be a major burden and probably not very good. Business that made a commitment two years ago are kicking most of their industry competitors in the ass. Any company that’s been pushing out content for more than two years is most likely kicking everyone square in the pants. It takes time and momentum.

4. Smartest person in the room doesn’t always have the best time at a party. Unless you want to speak to a very specific crowd in your industry, keep the jargon to a minimum. Know your audience and your purpose. This one should be easy, but it’s sometimes forgotten. Don’t let buzzwords do the talking or writing. Let the facts, figures, and ideas do it for you.

5. The digital maturity of a 3 year old seems to rule the bandwidth online and infiltrate marketing departments across the globe. What makes our information valuable? The solutions we provide or the things we have learned. If you can relate, you need to answer the following questions:
a. What benefits do I get from sharing our known solutions?
b. What would happen if my competitor shared this information first?
c. What process or insights make our product or service unique?

The simple reality is that in order to cut through the clutter, you have to be willing to do more. There are a lot of problem finders in this world; we have all worked for or with them. Guess what: itas multiplied online. So SHARING your solutions and the process to get there puts your company in the PROBLEM SOLVING group, which is far less cluttered. Think about why Apple is so successful. Their products are solution-based and so is their digital equity. Seomoz.org has built a company based on this very notion.

6. You tell and tell and tell some more, so eventually everyone stopped listening. You might be producing content on a regular basis, but not reaching goals. If this is the case you need to answer these questions:
a. How much time do I spend crafting this content?
b. Have I used my clients or myself as tangible examples to show?
c. Am I using multimedia content to bring this to life?
d. What would your boss say if you showed him or her the latest piece of content?

Users like researching online because of the education. It doesn’t mean everyone is going to become an expert and stop calling your company. That is not even possible. Like the license plates from Missouri say, aShow Me.a So give them visual proof. Show off the expertise. Make them understand the value of what you do.

7. The expected and accepted seem to be your forte. Living inside the box is what you consider daring. Does this sound normal? You need to answer these questions:
a. How different is the content on your site vs. the site of your competition?
b. Do you define your products, process, or purpose any differently than your competition?
c. Do you have any unique thoughts to enlighten your industry and its consumers?

Attention span and opportunity play a game of chicken every time a visitor lands on your website. Opinions are compelling. Try a few times a year to make a point and stand by it, you’d be the surprised.

8. Wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight. Consumers have taken over the brand online or your competition is besting you. If this is the case, you’ve got 99 problems and content is just one.

a. How many 5 star reviews would it take to get your rating to a level you are comfortable with?
b. How many brand mentions do you have a day, week or month?
c. Is there an inferior product on the market that is selling more than your company?

Sometimes you have to stand up for what is right, and if you ARE RIGHT, consumers will love you for it. That applies if you need to balance the yelp pages or if your competitor is calling you out. If you ARE NOT RIGHT, take your entire marketing budget and go get it fixed and donat come back until you do. Dona’t ignore what you do best as a company because it’s probably parallel to a passion. That passion fuels leaders, insights, momentum, humility, longevity, advocacy, discovery, and stamina.