Digital Marketing Articles & Tips for Small Businesses
Some things we’d like to hear you say
Digital Marketing Price Estimator
How much does an average website cost?
How much does a basic e-commence website cost?
What should I spend on a content marketing campaign?
What does it cost to start a podcast?
These are just a few questions we try to answer with a combination of 21 years experience creating digital marketing platforms along with some digital marketing packages created specifically around small businesses and organizations.
The Ultimate Website
As measured by best practices, ADA compliance, security, conversions, speed to deploy, ease of use and cost for comparable solutions.
Video, hi-end photography, professional writing all within a secure, modern and easy to edit design.
ANIMATED WALK THROUGH
like google doodles
option to listen / turn on voice over
We are a digital marketing agency focused on helping small businesses and organizations mount a successful marketing effort from $0 – $15k (average) investments.
A brief history of 20 years in digital marketing.
The Plastics Network
In 1995, I left the family business and joined an Internet startup called PlasticsNet. We built the first digital portal for the plastics industry. We worked with equipment manufacturers, resin suppliers and industry media and associations. We were visited by Netscape and interviewed by Newsweek but like many, ultimately succumbed to the dotcom bubble.
Software engineer Patrick Frisbie and I were the first two employees and from a small office in an industrial park in Elmhurst IL, we created the initial pages of a portal designed to serve the second largest manufacturing industry in the country targeting 20,000 buyers and 2,000 suppliers.
But those early days of the web were truly the wild west and on a 60 mile bike ride together, Pat and I reminisced about those early days.
Listen to this 60 second clip of those times:
Fortunately, I left to start this company: Orbis Design in 1998 before the dotcom crash and just celebrated 20 years in business in August of last year.
In the first 10 years of Orbis, we pioneered our own content management system, built a Chromosome search engine for Abbott Labs and literally watched the explosion of the web right before our eyes. What did we learn in those 10 years? As the financial crisis hit we learned that digital needed to grow up. Smaller budgets demanded more accountable value and that wasn’t a bad thing. The web and digital marketing was just 17 years old in August of 2008 (Web birthday: 8/6/1991, Orbis: 8/8/1998) and we all had some growing up to do.
Drupal: Industrial Strength CMS
In 2010 we shifted from building websites on our hand-crafted C#.NET content management system to the same platform Whitehouse.gov was built on — Drupal.
Drupal is open source and industrial strength. Always evolving by the hands of thousands of developers creating and improving tens of thousands of plug-ins. Strong enough to support the White House, it was a no brainer.
With a mega super store of pluggable apps hitting every spectrum of digital marketing, transactional and a security harden code base, it became possible to listen to what people needed without having to think about how to build it.
Drupal is open source, free and the most powerful CMS we’ve worked with. But it’s also complex. That’s why we created “seed”. An easy to setup and edit Drupal build that worked great on all devices and was far cheaper and quicker to get businesses up and running. All the power at less cost.
An Easier, Beautiful CMS for Small Business
An architect contacted me, frantic his site was to be shut down in a month. Our Drupal solution was too complex for a one-man shop and was not 4 weeks quick when new content had to be produced in addition to the build. We checked out Squarespace and was able to create a demo architect site in 1 hour. This could work.
Because we didn’t need to code anything we could focus on the content but with just 4 weeks we also needed to eliminate other bottle necks so we pitched something different. Let’s drive to 6 of his properties, interview him and photograph those properties and then we’d deliver the site complete - no iterative review process.
The architect was blown away by the concept site and I by it’s ease. We created his site in 4 weeks and when one of his clients saw it, she said it felt like paging through an architectural magazine when visiting his new site.
Listen to 2 minutes of a talk I gave to the Chicago American Marketing Association on the experience.
Realtime Website Building
We had converted our client, The Chicago Academy for the Arts from Drupal to Squarespace and completely by accident, stumbled across a new way to create digital.
CAA’s photographer Thomas Mohr was shooting the staff and invited me to tag along while he shot the teachers in their classrooms. Casually, I suggested he give me some photos he took, pulled out my laptop and started placing them into the site. Upon seeing his pictures in context, with copy over the shots, the framing within the navigation — he changed how he shot. We took the laptop to the staff within 20 minutes and they were taken aback, seeing themselves come alive within the site. It felt like magic to all of us.
Listen to a 90 second clip from a Storycorps interview where Tom and I recall the experience:
That was the spark of something unimaginable becoming possible.
Website In A Day
After experiencing building the CAA website in real-time we decided to try and build an entire site in a single day with a local business. It was partially inspired by the show Cutthroat Kitchen — we’re Chefs compete in cooking exquisite dishes in hyper compressed amounts of time. Our team — and not in completion: A photographer / videographer, a writer and myself: the designer. We built the Tea Tree Website in a single day. The client saw the build from the inside out and learned how to manage the site herself.
Listen to a 60 second clip of our team discussing the experience at a local cafe:
We’ve taken the Hypersite concept into e-commerce builds and into longer week builds producing more capable and advanced digital marketing platforms. More than any other time since 1995 have I felt so powerful a shift in the ability to market with so little investment needed. Less time building. More time creating.
Conversation Driven Content Marketing
Dabbling in podcasting and audio for several years and with the arrival of an easy to use podcasting app: Anchor.fm, we introduced a podcasting and content marketing product that made it easy for clients to create content by having conversations. Audio along with transcribing and rewriting into articles, we made it easier and cheaper to get great stories into audience building campaigns.
Listen to a 30 second clip of one of the episodes:
Configurators, Everything In One Spot
We built our first web calculator a few years back for Virgin America where visitors would choose options to calculate mileage points. It was an easy, interactive tool which really engaged visitors.
We began experimenting in 2018 with new types of configurators where visitors can peruse entire product lines and get instant pricing without leaving the home page. This year, we’ve connected these calculators to Google Spreadsheets to make it crazy easy to edit in real-time.
With a financial client, we’re building a new type of calculator we’re calling a rate kernel. The content editor puts a single character string (i.e. PID-602_PNL) anywhere in the content of the site and a calculator is spawned. By changing different elements of the string, she changes how the calculator functions and the data to use (i.e. which rates and sets of rates).
Listen to a tour of the different calculators we’ve been building:
We’ve also bolted calculators and filtering tools onto existing Squarespace content libraries like people or reports. Content admins can use all the same standard and easy Squarespace editing while controlling highly interactive web tools.
The Future: AI & Blockchain
We’re studying and dipping our toes into new technologies like AI driven digital marketing and blockchain driven initiatives (Brave browser audience compensation). We’re particularly interested in how crypto currencies will impact marketing and audience engagement particularly with Facebook’s new crypto announcement: Libra.
We suspect the past 20 years may pale in comparison to what’s coming so we’re working hard to make sure these technologies are accessible to the small businesses and organizations we get to work with.
We are digital marketing specialists from all over the world with a focus on local.
Below is everyone I’ve ever partnered with or continue to partner with in delivering the most current marketing strategies and platforms for the small and nimble.
Businesses and organizations we can meet face-to-face.