Archive for October, 2007

Brain Drain in Upstate New York

October 23, 2007

One of the issues we feel strongly about at GrafiQa is the livability of Upstate New York. I recently wrote this op-ed, a version of which was published Oct. 21 in the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. Versions also ran in the Central New York Business Journal, as well as the Schenectady Gazette.

Enjoy. Discuss. Connect.

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Brains Drain from Upstate New York

Sounds like a zombie movie I would like to see.

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the Upstate New York Brain Drain. The Drain, for those of you who don’t know, is the exodus of our brilliant youth to greener pastures around the country. Or, perhaps more accurately, they’re moving to more grey, concrete-covered pastures, where Starbucks grow wild on every corner.

As a result, the economy (and the economic horizon) of Upstate New York is suffering. According to Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s office, the population of 52 Upstate counties decreased by 22 percent among 20- to 34-year-olds and by 29 percent among 25- to 29-year-olds between 1990 and 2000.

There have been a lot of musings on how we can combat this phenomenon. The state’s First Lady, Silda Wall Spitzer, has spearheaded a campaign called “I Live New York” that includes a task force of 400 people from across the Empire State who have come up with the following priorities:

  • Expanding internship opportunities that provide young people with essential skills and give employers access to potential workers;
  • Marketing Upstate communities as attractive and exciting places to live;
  • Developing employee recruitment strategies to connect talented workers with New York employers;
  • Providing workers with continuing education services to enhance career mobility and advancement;
  • Creating coordinated programs to achieve these goals, and then implement them statewide.

Those ideas sound good, and it will be interesting to see how they come to fruition.

As a transplant to Upstate myself, and the leader of a marketing agency operated entirely by well-educated, creative transplants who are all between 28 and 40, I have a unique perspective on what draws young people here. And I have ideas about what keeps them here.

And I’ll be particularly interested to see how the task force achieves the second goal: Marketing Upstate communities as attractive and exciting places to live.

The fact is, we don’t have the large companies, shopping, attractions and 24-hour-a-day access to Starbucks that attract young people to other areas.

But we do have a quality of life that is extremely interesting to entrepreneurs. We also have an economy that makes it possible for competent individuals to become very successful by instituting basic business practices.

But we can do better. We can attract young entrepreneurs by making it easy to bring creativity, innovation and enthusiasm to Upstate New York.

Why not do something revolutionary, such as offering free or low-cost health insurance to employees of small qualifying business? Crazy, right? But think of how alluring that would be to young entrepreneurs and their employees. And, maybe more importantly, their investors.

Some other ideas:

  • Grants for businesses that have reached certain milestones or will use those grants to expand their staffs.
  • Tax breaks for qualifying businesses – eg. city and town tax relief for businesses that meet certain hiring criteria.
  • Low-interest loans for solid business ideas from young professionals either returning to or relocating in Upstate New York.
  • Tax incentives for young, educated people to return to or relocate in Upstate New York.
  • State-wide, coordinated efforts to publicize the benefits of living in Upstate, and to market all the wonderful resources Upstate communities offer small business.

Creative economic strategies supported by a focused marketing plan will help keep a certain percentage of college graduates in Upstate New York. Others will leave no matter what.

The challenge is giving them overwhelming reasons to return.

Some good articles about social media marketing

October 18, 2007

Do you return a blank stare when people start talking about “Social Media Marketing”? If you do, you’re not alone. Chances are, if you’re like most people, you’ve heard this term bandied about in popular and business culture, but you’ve not yet taken the time to figure out what it actually means – much less how it affects your business.

I know you’re busy so I’ll give you the quick Wikipedia definition:

Social Media Marketing (SMM) combines the goals of internet marketing with social media sites such as Digg, Flickr, MySpace, YouTube and many others.[1] The SMM goals will be different for every business or organization, however most will involve some form of viral marketing to build idea or brand awareness, increase visibility, and possibly sell a product or service. SMM may also include online reputation management.

Now that you know what social media marketing is, and understand how it affects your business, the next step is to figure out how to utilize it. For this, I can recommend a couple of good articles.

The first article, How to Leverage Web 2.0 & Social Media Sites to Market Your Brand & Control Your Message, written by Jane Copland at SEOmoz explores 30 social media Web sites and (as the title suggests) discusses how marketers can leverage those sites for marketing purposes. Published in early March 2007, some of this information may already be out of date, but it’s still a good overview and Jane has a quick sense of humor which makes reading it all the more enjoyable.

The second article, Think Small, Win Big: Social Media Marketing, written by Carrie Hill, an expert columnist for Search Engine Watch, discusses specifically how small business owners with modest marketing resources (read: time and money) can benefit from social media.

These articles may not make you a bonified expert on social media marketing, but at least you’ll be able to hold your own at the next Chamber lunch.

Blog action day – GrafiQa Green

October 15, 2007

In honor of Blog Action Day, the worldwide effort to encourage bloggers to blog about the environment on this day, Chris did his part by vacuuming the office floor, thereby beautifying our environment. That’s what creative leadership is all about.

We take the environment very seriously here. The work we do – and that all marketing firms do – can have a serious impact on the environment. The decisions we make, and the way we guide our clients has a far-reaching impact.

And because we believe in the power of design, we’re happy that, increasingly, green is beautiful.

We love The Daily Green, which offers articles, news and tips for individuals and communities. It’s a great resource.

Ecorazzi is a lovely little corner of the Web that celebrates the environment and celebrity. It’s gossip you can feel good about.

Many sites marry design and good, solid environmental concern. Inhabitat, Groovy Green, The Lazy Environmentalist – all of them and many more are engaging the world in the pursuit of a brighter tomorrow.

Before GrafiQa moved into our current home at 293 Chestnut Street a year ago, a lot of green planning went into the design of our digs. First, we were recycling a building – an old fur vault with no windows and zero curb appeal.

We turned it into a beautiful design studio and offices, using local artists and artisans to transform the place. Sustainability is about nurturing local talent, as well as preserving local resources.

We use energy-efficient lightbulbs and follow other green practices in the operation of our office.

Now, if we could just find a truly innovative and beautiful solution for storing recyclables, we’d be blissful.

New Web sites launch

October 12, 2007

A little over a month ago, our fearless leader, Chris, and his wife had a beautiful baby girl. Meanwhile, our fearless web developer, Jason, and his wife are expecting a baby this December, and I just returned from a trip to Florida for another friend’s baby shower.

So maybe it’s because I’m thinking in terms of new life, or maybe it’s because I’m still the new gal in the office, but when we launch a new Web site, I always want to hand out chocolate cigars and tie a Mylar balloon to our mailbox that reads “It’s a Web Site!”

Here are a few spankin’ new sites that GrafiQa helped bring into the world:

Matco Electric
Specializing in large, industrial jobs for clients such as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Tioga Downs and numerous healthcare facilities, Matco needed a site that showcased the company’s expertise and would serve as an alluring resource for potential clients. GrafiQa designed a site that reflects Matco Electric’s high level of service. We gave them a fresh, modern design, and a user-friendly navigation, as well as an online portfolio.

We also trained representatives from the company on the software they can use to easily update the site themselves whenever they need to, without incurring extra technical costs or delays.

Riverwood Gifts
Shoppers who love browsing through Riverwood Gifts on Cooperstown’s Main Street can now visit the store’s new Web site, which was designed by GrafiQa. The site, designed to capture and communicate the personality of the store and its owner, Rick Gibbons, features original photography, Flash animation and retail commerce capabilities.

Landfill Service Corporation
Landfill Service Corporation, based in Binghamton, offers a unique product: A spray-on covering system for landfills that reduces volume, eliminates odor and prolongs the life of a landfill. It’s also easier and safer for workers to use than other methods, such as tarping. GrafiQa created a site that uses streaming video to communicate the benefits of the product, and show it in use.

Beaver Mountain Log & Cedar Homes
Beaver Mountain Log & Cedar Homes needed a Web site that reflected the company’s status as one of the premier builders of log homes in the Northeast. People come from hundreds of miles away to visit Beaver Mountain’s amazing workshop, where entire homes are built, then drystacked, component-by-component to test for accuracy before being broken down and shipped to the building sites.

We built a Web site that comes as close as possible to giving homeowners and potential clients a cyber tour of the facility. We also optimized the site so that when people do Internet searches for log homes and other specific keywords, Beaver Mountain’s site will rank high on the results.

If you want to know more about the work we do on our clients’ Web sites, or you would like to have our expert audit your existing site to make sure it’s doing everything it could, you can reach us at 607.433.8837 or call me at etb@grafiqa.com.

7 Tips for Writing a Press Release

October 11, 2007

You should be writing a press release right now.

Over the weekend, one of our clients hosted an open house at their sales facility, and wanted help getting the word out. This wasn’t a high-budget event, so there weren’t going to be billboards or television spots to promote it. What the client needed was a cost-effective method of spreading the word to as many existing and potential customers as possible.

The solution was clear: Press Release.

A well-crafted press release can put your name in the media, introduce you to key players in your industry’s trade publications and – best of all – act as free advertising.

Our content developer, Elizabeth Buchinger, researched media outlets within 100 miles of our client’s sales facility, and compiled a contact list of nearly 50 media professionals to target. She then worked with the client to hone the message they wanted to convey both about the event and the company.

She collected images, wrote the press release and distributed the material to newspapers, television, magazine and radio outlets.

The event was well attended, and the organizer definitely got the sense that people had heard about the event in a variety of media.

But the best return was that, the day before the event, an area TV reporter and camera crew came to the business and spent two hours interviewing the owners.

You literally cannot buy that kind of coverage because it’s just not for sale.

Here are seven tips to ensure that your next press release brings results:

Target your audience. A scattershot press release is a waste of your time and a nuisance to the person who receives it. Take the time to create a media list of outlets where your audience spends time. A company that is opening a lakeside resort might target newspapers, travel magazines, and television programs. A teen center, on the other hand, would do best to form relationships with popular radio stations, alternative weekly papers and social networking web sites.

Make it newsworthy. Think of your press release as a pitch for a magazine cover story. Find an angle that makes your organization so newsworthy that the editor who receives your release will be inspired to give you great coverage and will thank you for sending it.

Write it well and keep it brief. Good writing will spark interest, but that doesn’t mean sending a novel. Editors and the like receive hundreds of press releases a week. If you can’t convey your story and give a call to action within five short paragraphs, you’ll lose their interest, and you won’t get coverage.

Include a photo or other image. Good quality images grab attention and enrich your story. Make sure your images are of print quality, and include caption information.

Follow up by phone or email. PR isn’t about one-shot media coverage; it’s about building long-term relationships that will bring repeated exposure for your organization and build your public profile. Get to know the people at the outlets where coverage is most natural, and learn how you can make their jobs easier. Maybe they’re looking for expert sources in your field. Maybe they want a guest columnist. It can be time consuming, but in the end it pays off.

If you have any questions about designing a PR plan or you would like to talk about PR solutions, you can contact our content developer, Elizabeth, at etb@grafiqa.com or 607.433.8837 x206.

Funnels, conversions and tracking, oh my!

October 10, 2007

So say you’re a Kansas farmgirl with a little dog. You happen on Google, click on a listing, and land on a site’s Home page (in full color of course). From there, you follow a clearly-defined path to the online store, where you purchase a fantastic pair of ruby slippers, and go on with the rest of your day.

You my friend, have just taken an amazing trip through the conversion funnel.

Yes, a conversion funnel does look a bit like the cyclone in the Wizard of Oz; but in fact, it’s a model created by online marketers to illustrate the pathways users take to a given conversion point (like a purchase, or a request for more information). The wider top part of the funnel usually represents entry into the site from a search engine, advertisement or other acquisition channel. Once in the site, the funnel narrows as the user moves along the path, making decisions, and following instructions that will lead her to the narrowest part of the funnel, or the conversion point.

Many people find this tool to be useful when it comes to evaluating how effective their site is at converting users to customers. They measure how many people entered the funnel, and compare those numbers to how many got to the next step, and beyond to the actual conversion. They then use those numbers to evaluate and fix any weak points in the conversion process.

For example, if 5,000 people click on your listing in Google and enter the site, but only 50 people actually purchase your product, then you know, somewhere along the line, the other 4,950 users left the path. If you can detect the point where most people left the path, then you’ve got a shot at making changes that will convince a higher percentage of people to purchase your product.

As with any model, there are skeptics – especially when it comes to talking about human behavior. (We’re not always a linear bunch.) If you’re new to this, however, and you’d like to evaluate the model for yourself, then you might want to consider checking out a free webinar currently being offered by Omniture and applying some of those concepts to your own internal tracking.