When the Internet emerged in the early 1990s, many could not grasp the vastness of the breakthrough. But Jim Clark, founder of several Silicon Valley technology companies, including Silicon Graphics, Inc., Netscape Communications Corporation, myCFO and Healtheon, saw its potential. In a 1995 interview with John McLauchlin. Santa Clara Valley Historical Association president, Calrk said, "The Internet is the de facto standard communications network. We think of it today as a data communications network, but voice is data, video is data, images are data, text are data—all of these things are just data—and so the Internet is going to be the super highway that we all have been looking for."
Clark was right—we did find this super highway of digital information—and it has led us from pencils and paper and vinyl records, to ordering meals from iPads at restaurants and listening to The Beatles’ Help! album on our phones. This ever-increasing digital saturation can be overwhelming at times, particularly when it comes to how it affects your business. The trick is using this super highway for the benefit of your company by connecting potential customers to your business and finding a lasting way to store and protect your company’s digital property.
Potential Customers This Way
Have you ever felt that using the Internet is sometimes like making your way through a cafeteria food fight with digitized information being flung at you like pizza crust and half empty milk cartons? The last thing business owners want to do is have their product or service presented to potential clients in a pizza-crust-about-to-hit-your-face kind of a way.
The key to attracting customers online is all in the delivery—it’s no longer enough to just slap a banner ad on the screen, said digital marketing professionals at the Women Tech Council (WTC) Social Media Summit on May 11, 2010. Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image, an award-winning digital marketing and communications agency, and author of Six Pixels of Separation, a book on how to connect your business to everyone said business owners need to take a whole new approach to marketing. He described explorers of the new world and says business owners need to be like Cortez, who after landing in Mexico (a new world at the time), burnt all of his ships. That, Joel said, is what businesses need to do in order to connect with their customers—don’t look back, only forward to the new way of online communication. Leaving many of your old points of view behind can be scary, but Joel said it’s necessary to succeed.
This new form of communication is all based around community; specifically, the online community you can build for your company, said Chris Brogan, speaking to the WTC crowd. Brogan is a widely read blogger and specialist in building business and personal relationships online, and said by using social media like facebook, Twitter and blogs, businesses can build a community through a network of people who are interested in learning more about company products, or hearing from particular company employees. He said to keep the mindset of having a “human business,” that is “valuing the relationship more than the transaction.” He said that community is his favorite business tool, and on the technical side community can translate into the customer database. “I look at a database as a thing to care and nurture and feed, not something to beat until they buy something,” Brogan said. “I pay attention to people’s birthdays, what they’re doing in their social streams, I spend time talking, massaging and giving love to my database so that they feel loved to be heard.”
Brogan has used this “community tool” with all of his businesses and his success is visible through e-mail marketing numbers. His open-rate is 78 percent compared to the considered 14 percent high right now. Brogan said 14 percent should not be considered high—and if you treat your database like a community you will see success.
Google is Now a Verb
In June 2006, “google” was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary as a verb: “To use the Google search engine to find information on the Internet.” This type of search has been around for a while now, and is the main way businesses are found along the super highway.
Have you googled your company name lately? How is your company viewed on this super highway of information? Are you a big Las Vegas neon sign people can’t help but notice? Are you the “Hollywood” letters on the hill that visitors stop to photograph? Are you a scarecrow on the side of the road people glance at on their way by? Are you even there at all?
People use the Internet to find products and services, and not only to get a phone number or address, but to find reviews and to connect with others who have used the product or service. Lori Gilson, director of marketing for SEO.com, says because of customer reviews, your company’s credibility relies heavily on what can be found on the Internet, and usually the higher a search result on the page, the more credible, or at least “used” the result is.
If you don’t know your company’s placement on Google’s search results page, you better give it a try, says Chris Finken, co-founder of OrangeSoda, Inc. Companies like SEO.com and American Fork-based OrangeSoda have emerged to help businesses understand the world of online marketing—something Finken feels passionately about. “If your business doesn’t show up you are in trouble and need a website that works,” he says.
Finken says there are many ways to remedy that problem and you can seek help from professionals or learn yourself with tools online. “Promise to try,” Finken says. “Online marketing is worth expending some energy on, I promise. Social media is the online form of word of mouth marketing and everyone knows word of mouth is the best way to be successful.”
Gilson says once you’ve reached the top there is a lot to maintaining to do because your competitors are after the same top spots on the page. “If you’re at the top of the Google search results, you’ll be the most credible company to engage in conversations about your product or service,” Gilson says, “you can then integrate social media to create a powerful message.”
The “community tool” Brogan refers to is important to companies wanting to reach the top of Internet search sites, Gilson says. “Companies getting the highest ranks are those that establish a community through blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media. When it comes to SEO and social media, make sure you are engaged in your network, you’re building a community,” Gilson says. “You can optimize your social media to show up at the top of the search results. You can end up taking the top positions—with your site number one, your Twitter is number two, your Facebook is number three, your LinkedIn is number four and pretty soon, you have the complete and full credibility of everything that is being searched for in your industry.”
New Versus Old Marketing
Whether you are just starting out on the highway or have established yourself as a neon Las Vegas sign, Finken says it’s important to use this new form of marketing to add value to the Internet. “Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, just focus on being proud of what you do. Tweet things that you would be glad someone sent you, not just because you are supposed to be using Twitter. Have a company Facebook page if your employees and clients are asking about it, not just because you heard you needed one. Make sure the content of your website and blog is something you would want to read, too. It also never hurts to have fun and make fun of your industry, business or company.”
Jason Baer, social media guru of ConvinceAndConvert.com says traditional marketing is like archery, using targeting and interruption to convince; new marketing is like ping pong, using human engagement and dialog to drive preference and loyalty. In a way, the ping pong approach can be intimidating, putting your business online for any conversation to happen. But Finken says it’s worth the risk. “It’s always worth representing your business professionally and honestly in any online conversation. You can’t stop competitors from pretending to be an unsatisfied customer online. You can’t stop a bitter ex-employee from devoting their lives to your demise on Google. But you can respond professionally to the good and bad online and you can resolve any ongoing issues quickly and professionally.”
Both types of marketing are still relevant, and Finken says you should be meshing the two. “When you wrap your car, add your website. When you send out a ValPak coupon, add your website. When you advertise at the high school football game, put your website on the banner. It’s a simple thing but with more and more people using the Internet to find what they need, remembering you have a website and putting it everywhere you’ve listed your logo or phone number can make all the difference in the world,” Finken says. “Online marketing doesn’t need to replace traditional marketing and shouldn’t. Traditional marketing raises awareness and causes people to either call or go to a search engine to get more information.”
The Digital Storage Dilemma
The digital super highway brings along with it, not only the question of how to get your message heard—but also how to save those messages and digital information important to your business. Digital information is not permanent like a piece of paper—but as more and more information is digitized, finding your own way to store it is a challenge.
How do you store your company’s digital files and how long can you plan on being able access them? Just as vinyl records have been replaced by MP3s, your digital storage device will need to be replaced eventually. For example, the life of your Help! album on vinyl is probably about over. If it’s on a CD, then it only has 100 years at the most. You could listen to it on iTunes stored on a hard drive, but hard drives crash unexpectedly. Technology will ever be reaching for a way to keep new and old forms of digital information to last longer and convert easier. For businesses with large amounts of data, the same storage dilemma arises when faced with saving and storing digital information like financial records, business forms and processes, website material, e-mail messages, digital artwork, and other information vital not only to the company’s long term survival, but for its ability to function real-time. Innovators across the world have stepped up to address this digital dilemma—including some companies in Utah.
Provo-based Milenniata produces a disc that is projected to last at least 100 years and probably thousands. Naval Air Warfare Center China Lake conducted a study on many different discs invented today, where the discs were stressed in a combined temperature, humidity and light cycle. While many other discs were ruined, the report states, "None of the Millenniata media suffered any data degradation at all. Every other brand tested showed large increases in data errors after the stress period. Many of the discs were so damaged that they could not be recognized as DVDs by the disc analyzer."
This type of digital storage could be a viable way for businesses to store information. Currently, the products sell for about $15 to $20 a disc. Any type of information can be stored on a Millenniata DVD. They must be produced using a Milenniata burner, but can then be read by any standard computer.
Since 2005, Pleasant Grove-based Mozy by Decho has been offering a form of storage “in the cloud,” which replaces a computer hard drive back-up system. Instead of backing up files to a large server in-house, companies (and individuals) can store information through the Internet. Mozy provides a back-up solution to more than 1 million customers and 50,000 business customers, backing up 25 or more petabytes of information to multiple data centers around the globe.
Salt Lake City-based Sorenson Media Company has been addressing the problem by compressing information, particularly video, so it can be stored and viewed on the Internet. With video becoming a major form of online communication, this technology is becoming even more relevant to the average business. Many online marketing campaigns include a moving picture explanation to supplement writing or photos—videos are used on company websites, blogs or third party sites like YouTube to help disseminate information or start the conversation about products and services. Right now Sorenson Media Company is the only online video that allows encoding to happen client-side before it’s uploaded to the web.