Business UNusual Company Spotlight: Chris Cunningham

I’m here today with Chris Cunningham, founder & CEO of Edge5 Marketing.

JENNY:  Hello Chris.  Welcome to the Business Unusual Company Spotlight!  Thank you for being with me today.  Tell me about Edge5 Marketing and what led you into this work.

CHRIS:  I started my career in the auto industry.  I began in sales and quickly moved to Finance Manager and then to General Manager.  This gave me the full range of understanding business operations and functions—from retail and service to repair and wholesale.  During this time, I got lots of contacts inside of other dealerships.

Eventually, I went out on my own and started a direct mail firm with campaigns for dealerships.  I came up with email campaigns that to this day, no one else does.  My database has been very successful because I had – and have – a new and innovative way of collecting and maintaining that data.  For example, one dealer told me he got more leads from the email campaign that I did than from Auto Trader and Cars.com combined.  And just this week, Chrysler contacted me and has asked me to work on campaigns for all their dealerships.

JENNY:  Tell me about search engine optimization (SEO)/content marketing?

CHRIS:  SEO has changed dramatically in the past three years.  It used to be a complex system.  Now, it’s called Content Marketing.  In fact, it’s evolved so much that at this point, any company calling themselves an “SEO” firm is not up to date with the times.  If you’re paying a company like that $200-$500/month, you’re wasting your money.

When I got started, I wanted to have my own SEO system to get sales faster while growing via organic searches.  I did some research into SEO and found that most SEO companies were not effective in the long term.  Because of that, I decided to write a software program to try and beat Google which I did twice by getting companies on the first page of Google.  The challenge:  This was only good until Google’s next algorithm change.  I contacted Google and met with Matt Cuts from Google’s Anti-spam division.  He told me that it’s all about sources of information; end results.  That’s what led me to build 41,000 business websites in a smart way.  And, to this day, I’m doing Content Marketing for all 41,000 using my network as a content publication source.  And, every service added is only because clients have asked Edge5 to do so.

Too many new businesses offer SEO service at $200-$500.   My advice:  If you don’t have the budget to go with a full service marketing firm, you’re better off keeping the money you’d spend with these firms and take a few seminars instead on how to manage your own.  Two to three days of that will pay-off.

I also learned that Google indexes things like press releases and social media.  Google analyzes data with algorithms using three main tools – Panda; Penguin and Hummingbird.  Each tools focuses on one or more of the following:

a.  Is the website user friendly and maneuverable?

b.  Is the content educational vs. strictly sales oriented?

c. How much of the site’s content is published offsite—in other sources and places?

d.  Are the FAQ’s on the site easy to find by mobile device analytics – are the FAQ’s searchable?  Can a user type in full term search phrases and get there?

If a company does not have someone to consistently do posting, kill your social media accounts.  You must have credibility because users check you out beyond your website.  They’ll go to social media; they’ll usually Google your name—not your business name.  If you start doing email campaigns, have recent and consistent posts.  That will lead to a huge spike after the email campaign in multiple areas like direct traffic and Google and Yahoo traffic.

JENNY:  How do you generate long-term success for your website?

CHRIS:

1.  Be consistent:  If you are educating others and consistent, more traffic will come back to the site.  It’s essential to be consistent.  For example, we help people with crowd funding initiatives but we won’t do crowd funding unless there has been 3-4 months of consistent social media.  It takes a marketing campaign to market a website—from A-Z.

2.  Be sure your website is designed and set up specifically to get traffic.  Don’t expect the site to do it for you.  The look and feel is important but there’s a real science behind site design that often does not get implemented.  You can’t just put up sites and expect traffic to come.  You will get some inadvertent, organic results but not the kind that tip the scales to drive real revenue. I’ve found that even the largest companies in the world who think they have a great site are not generating the traffic they could.  I’ve developed a system of website analysis and in five minutes, I find a list of things that need to be changed completely or refined.

JENNY:  Online marketing really is a science, isn’t it?

CHRIS:  It is.  There’s lots of confusion about online marketing.  I come from a time and an industry that used traditional marketing such as radio and TV.  Those were the options.  Today, there are so many options and the key is to find the right budget and the right marketing strategy.  And, find a marketing firm you can trust.  For example, a good firm can grow with their clients and be nimble and adaptable.  That’s what we do at Edge5.  And, because we analyze data from our tactics on a regular basis, we know how to adapt on the fly as things change.

When you’re looking at your strategy, ask yourself:

1.  What do I want to grow to?

2.  What am I willing to invest initially to get there?

3.  Am I trying to brand myself or get sales?  These are very different goals!  Using Google AdWords (i.e. pay per click) might give you a quick spike in sales but will have no lasting positive effect on branding. Branding is an entirely different approach. Ultimately, branding gets your name in front of people so your overall strategy can flourish in more avenues and you’ll end up with more content, generating more impressions rather than quick sales.

Professionals lump branding in with marketing because the final pitch to a client can seem more appealing. If you approach your pitch strategy with up-front pricing for both branding and marketing options, clients are more willing to pick from you’re a la carte options (giving YOU the opportunity to create customizable packages that fit the client’s needs!) The most important part of this equation is how you prioritize your goals. Believe it or not, in some cases, bolstering your social media may not be the right path when you have the option to run email campaigns instead. Pick and choose the elements of your long-term goals wisely!

JENNY:  What is some low hanging fruit—things that are right in front of people but they don’t do?

CHRIS:

1.  Paid ads on social media.  People thinks it costs a fortune to advertise online but we’ve found that doing it yourself with even a small budget and a good message and promoting posts will go a long ways.  Lots of people don’t do that.  This tiny amount of money can gain lots of followers.

2.  Managing data.  People don’t tend to think about that or know how to do it.  They need to be consistent in collecting and using the data they receive for future marketing.

3.  Don’t dilute. If you have a marketing strategy in mind that you’re confident in, own it! In the long run, it’s much better to invest in platforms that are directly in line with your business (and your long-term goals) as well as those which hold your target customers. Diluting your funds across multiple media platforms for the sake of decreasing your risk will give you little to no reward.

4.  It’s not about the money.  I want businesses to realize that they don’t have to spend an absolute fortune in order to increase their ROI. A well thought-out plan will always supersede an expensive tactic with no substance. On that same note, however, it’s important to approach your strategy with the understanding that some funding will be necessary to success. Essentially, you have to spend money to make money, but the quantity doesn’t have to be enormous if you’re willing to put in the work to strategize.

5. Care for your current customers.  Gaining new business is vital, but you also need to have a plan in place to take care of your current clients. By maintaining the relationships you hold with your customers, you’re not only building trust with them, but you’re also building invaluable authenticity for your business that could result in referrals and desirable business opportunities down the line.

JENNY:  Any final words?

CHRIS:  I was trained in the era of old school marketing and advertising.  People often think that old means it’s no longer valid.  However, there are aspects of marketing from the past that need to be kept – old school techniques combined with new technology delivers the highest results.

Thank you, Chris…..

To learn more about Edge5 Marketing, go to www.edge5marketing.com.

This has been a Business Unusual Company Spotlight! For more information about Business Unusual, go to http://www.jennycapella.com/approach/

Want to meet Chris in person?  Click here for more details.

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