MDMC: Midwest Digital Marketing Conference Quick Thoughts

MDMC (Midwest Digital Marketing Conference) was held on April 15, 2019 – April 18, 2019, at St. Louis Union Station. The event boasts an attendance of over 2,000 marketers with 100 speakers and 80+ breakout sessions. I was thrilled to be invited to participate on a panel about collaboration at this year’s conference and I wanted to take the chance to share some of my thoughts.

There is a Need

When attending the conference, you notice the excitement and enthusiasm of marketers looking to boost their knowledge and network with peers. Many of the breakout sessions and speakers were standing room only, adding to the overall excitement. The willingness of participants to sit in the aisles during speaker sessions illustrates the need midwest marketing professionals have to network and learn from peers.

Highly Engaged Audiences

Not only were attendees willing to stand or sit in the aisles for a particular speaker, they were also highly engaged. During our panel discussion on collaboration, attendees had lots of follow-up questions and wanted to know how they could continue to engage with us. I also noticed some attendees diligently taking notes.

Midwestern Feel

The hustle and bustle of MDMC did not take away the midwestern feeling of the event. MDMC has a very open and collaborative vibe, with lots of attendees networking between events. The conference is very approachable for a hesitant beginner while still having a level of depth for the seasoned professional.

In Conclusion

MDMC is a great conference to attend and be a part of. The year-over-year growth is a testament to the fact that attendees are coming back for more. My recommendation would be to mark your calendar for next year’s event because it will be even bigger and more informative.

SEO Best Practices: Optimize Your Website’s Content

Here at Decantery, we love exploring best practices for our day-to-day tasks, and helping clients understand how we do what we do. Recently, we took the time to sit down with a client and discuss SEO best practices so that they can write more impactful content for their website. This post is a quick overview […]

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The Importance of Fostering Clients into Partners

In high school and college, I worked retail at a large department store—specifically, the shoe department. While some may wince at the thought of encountering the public’s feet, I chose this department for a good reason. The shoe department was the only department where associates could make commission on their sales. Luckily, the store carried a premium selection of designers which made it easy to make a solid paycheck. I could’ve traveled the easy route—work my shift and hope we were busy enough to sell a decent amount shoes. Instead, I learned I valuable lesson: You can make a lot more by providing excellent customer service. I took time to get to know my customers and develop a genuine rapport. I worked hard to dazzle them, providing numerous options so they walked away sincerely happy. And if they were unhappy? I made it right. It paid off! I had repeat customers that sought after me (I also always let the sale dates slip ahead of time), my clientele rarely walked away with a single pair, and my parents were beyond thrilled. Who wouldn’t love when their 16-year-old buys their own car and takes care of the insurance and gas?

Here I am, many years later and still in the service industry. A lot of what I learned in that department store holds true at an agency. Clients want to trust who they work with and know the recommendations being delivered to them are what’s best for their business, not the agency’s. And even thought they may not know exactly what they want, when educated on their options, they feel better about the strategy and tactics put in place. Providing service like this is what it takes to elevate a relationship from client to partner.  Here’s how we’ve been able to make this transition with ours:

Get to know your clients

There’s in an undeniable human element in this business, as the great Maya Angelo put it, “People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.” So, it’s important that you make the time you spend with clients valuable and enjoyable. Start small by asking your clients how their weekend was, and conversely, tell them what your Super Bowl plans are or if you got a new puppy. It makes work feel less like work and it’s a good way to ease into stale status meetings, not to mention, you’re getting to know/like one another! It’s monumentally essential that this develops from an authentic place. Don’t rush things, be genuine, and a mutual respect will organically develop with time.

Give your clients options

Much like my experience working at a department store, it’s important to provide you clients with multiple options so they can be delighted in the final product or decision. This applies in all agency areas—pricing, design, creative, targeting, vendors, etc. This is not to be mistaken for making the client take responsibility. It is our job to provide recommendations that are right for their business. Don’t give options for the sake of doing so. Provide choices that would make a good fit and uncover with your client which of them would be best. Maybe it’s the more affordable or maybe it’s the long-term play. You don’t know every aspect of your client’s business, so truly partner with them in the decision-making process.

Making it right when things go wrong

Being that advertising is a human-driven service, human mistakes can and will happen, unfortunately. Bear Bryant hit the nail on the head when he said, “When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it. ” The worst move and agency could make is lie about a mistake. Will your client be upset that a mistake was made? Probably. Will they appreciate forthcoming and a plan to move forward? Yes. And lastly: always have a solution paired with your apology.

Provide value

Simply put, do more than just the job. Uncover insight that helps clients understand their customers better and identify opportunities for future campaigns renditions. Help them understand, learn, and feel comfortable with aspects of the industry. Even if they don’t have the time to learn right now, continually offer, because a knowledgeable client will see more value in the performance you deliver when they understand the hoops you had to jump to get there.

Following these tips alone won’t yield a great client relationship. It takes teamwork between the agency and the client to make it happen. We, the agency, must establish a solid foundation from good work with an authentic-positive attitude. Conversely, clients must reciprocate with open communication and a desire to collaborate.  When these worlds combine, a limitless partnership emerges.

Best Practices for Integrating Paid Search & Organic Insights

When it comes to integrating Paid Search and SEO, 1+1=3. The combination of both channels is stronger together, rather than they are on their own. This correlation was compounded when Google dropped their right rail ads from the SERP (search engine results page). Since then, top-of-the-page ad real estate increased from 3 to 4 placements. The increase of ad realestate decreases Organic listings from being seen above-the-fold and can require participation in Paid Search.

It’s imperative digital advertisers understand how Paid Search and Organic can work together.  Paid Search and Organic performance insight should be leveraged through integrated optimization tactics.

Increase Your Ownership of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

When Paid Search and Organic both appear in the SERP results, particularly above-the-fold, the more page space you occupy, the less there is for your competition. Achieving this scenario exponentially increases your chance of being clicked and winning conversions.

So, what steps should you take? Try augmenting high ranking keywords with Paid Search.  Test for a statistically significant amount of time to see if your increased takeover of SERP real estate subsequently drives more traffic, engagement or conversions.

 Using Paid Search Data to Optimize Organic

Often, Paid Search is referred to as a sprint and SEO as a marathon. This is because Paid Search achieves first page results immediately, whereas, Organic rankings grow over time. Websites may launch with Organic rankings from page 2 and beyond. However, Paid Search can appear in position 1 on day one of their launch. For that reason, Paid Search can provide preliminary insight that can be applied to SEO’s strategy. By testing keywords in Paid Search, you can discover whether or not they’ll be good conversion drivers. These types of findings can help you identify keywords that are crucial to your SEO strategy.

Also, analyze top performing Paid Search ad copy to determine what CTA’s work best and utilize them when crafting or refining  meta descriptions. Paid Search best-practices rotate 3-4 ads per ad group, which means you’ll be able to identify phrases that work well for particular keyword themes as well.

Using Organic to Optimize Paid Search

On the flip side, SEO insights can be optimized to improve Paid Search performance. Identify Paid Search keywords with low Quality Score and work to improve them with on-site SEO tactics such as better on-page keyword optimization or creating keyword-targeted subpages. Optimizations such as these signal higher keyword/content relevancy ratios to search engines.

Additionally, Paid Search terms that are expensive, but essential, can be made SEO priorities. Gaining traffic from these types of keywords will take time and effort. But, if you put a strategic roadmap in place and optimize accordingly, you’ll eventually reap the benefit of free, Organic traffic.

Taking a Holistic Approach to Paid & Organic Search

Managing Paid Search and SEO in individual silos is detrimental to performance. By making them work together, you’ll be able to leverage their learnings and achieve optimal performance. 

WHAT Are Podcasts & WHY Should I Care?

So… what is a Podcast?

Basically, podcasts are the internet’s version of radio. Unlike traditional radio, where you catch whatever happens to be on when you tune in, podcasts episodes are consumable at your command (on-demand radio). You can also find them for free on many of today’s streaming services, like Spotify, iTunes, and more!

The Statistics

57 million Americans listen to podcasts and on average, listeners consume an average of 5 episodes per week. Podcasts consumption is not slowing down, in fact, it’s emphatically on the rise given the number of unique monthly podcast listeners has tripled in the past five years. This is some serious business and I’m a huge fan (understatement, more like an unpaid spokesperson).

Essentially, podcasts are convenient, audience-specific, and the best part, largely free. The content available in the podcast-sphere is expansive, to say the least- From talk radio formats, to comedy, current events, opinion/ advice, and storytelling… it’s as varied as your television networks and shows. If you’re not listening to podcasts, you’re missing out on FREE entertainment and education.

Launching a Podcast for Small Business

These reception statistics are excellent news if you’re interested in creating your own podcasts. Listeners of podcast want content that connects directly to their needs. There’s no need to satisfy a broad audience, just your audience. Podcasts function much like YouTube’s application, minus the visual component (which is even better because you don’t have to dress the part- sweatpants welcome!). The overall goal of your podcast is to increase your brand’s reach, further your reputation as an expert or industry leader, cultivate and strengthen customer relationships.

Organizations and business leaders are ideal podcast creators due to the content advantages you may not even realize you have! Need some topic starters or writer’s block relief? Here’s a list of potential episode topics:

  • Talk to your audience about why your service or good will benefit them. You can take this subject even further by breaking the benefits into categories and producing an episode for each area.
  • Interview satisfied customers, manufacturers/ partners, or experts in your field.
  • Give your take on trends, case studies, or current events in your vertical
  • Provide tips/tricks/hacks/misconceptions
  • Seasonal implications

Doctors, retail, finance/ investors, professional development, and technology are just a few of the many fields that can produce content around these topic structures.

Podcast Equipment & Publishing Resources

Before investing in podcast equipment, we recommend testing your level of commitment and find a sound studio to record at. Many studios have packages where they’ll take care of the technical side for you. If the idea of going to a studio doesn’t float your boat, here’s the complete list of necessary podcast equipment and a guide on microphones based on your budget.

After you’ve recorded your audio and edited the episode, it’s time to submit to podcast directories and apps. The list of podcast directory options is long and requires more of your time than you’re likely to give. If you submit to: iTunesStitcher, & Google Play you are adequately covered. If that’s 2 too many, iTunes is your must-have.

Measuring Podcast Success

The means to achieve your overall branding goals is through obtaining subscribers. Subscribers are more valuable than the average episode listener. Podcast subscribers have indicated they’re committed to receiving your continued content. Yay! They like you, they really like you!

How do you get podcast subscribers? There’s no single method, rather it requires a layering of several tactical executions. That’s Marketing 101 folks: conversion requires multiple touch points.

Podcast promotion tactics:

  • Start from Home Base – Take advantage of the properties you already have. Promote on your website, social channels, in-store, and business collateral.
  • Podcast Nomenclature – This applies to both the actual name of your podcast and podcast episodes. Find a balance for your podcast’s name, somewhere between distinctive/ memorable and applicable to your overall theme. Title your episodes based on their content. Abiding by these tips makes your podcast searchable from branded recall perspective and audience search interest. Existing customers will likely search for your business’s name and your relevant audience will be searching for topics you should be producing content for.
  • Advertise – As with all things, the beginning is your testing stage and it’ll take practice to refine your format. Eventually you’ll feel establish and after consistent positive reception, consider ramping up your audience beyond your existing customer/ partner base. Paid Search, Paid Social, and Paid Sponsorships with relevant and popular podcasters and, or bloggers are the next steps to audience amplification.

Keep in mind, you’re not shifting your business model into podcast celebrity (unless you are, then disregard the following).

Don’t concern yourself about the number of subscribers, aim for overall subscription growth, near episode completion, and avoidance of negative ratings… it’s rare for people to take the time to write a positive review but they will take time to complain.

If you experience any of these unfortunate signals, adjust your content coverage, delivery, or sound qualityWhile we don’t produce podcasts, we can sure help you get started and grow. Reach out and we can help put you in contact with affordable sound studios, develop a research-based content strategy, website integration, and podcast marketing.

Danielle Stewart – Think. Do. Share.

The J is a St. Louis institution and has been a part of the community since 1880. The J offers everything from a state-of-the-art fitness center to early childhood education to cultural arts programs. It’s a safe place for people of all backgrounds to come and take part in the J’s educational, cultural, social, and recreational programming.

Operating as a non-profit with over a hundred different programs the J has a lot that makes it unique including its marketing needs. I sat down with Danielle Stewart, Digital Marketing Manager, to discuss the work the J is doing in the community and how she approaches marketing the community center.

How long have you been working in non-profits & at the JCC in particular?

I began working at non-profits while I was still in undergrad, and I volunteered at several many years before that. Adding it all up, I’ve worked at a non-profit for 12 years, 2.5 of that at the J. I volunteered for about six years prior to that – starting when I was 14.

How would you describe the mission of the J?

The J is a gathering place for the community. We offer programs and critical social services for the St. Louis Jewish community and the community at large – and we create a place where everyone can feel comfortable and welcome. We serve people of all backgrounds regardless of faith, race or ethnicity. The J provides educational, cultural, social, Jewish identity-building and recreational programming on its campuses – from our black-box Theatre to swim lessons and from our sleep-away camp at the Lake of the Ozarks to our state-of-the-art fitness centers here in St. Louis.

How is marketing different for a non-profit?

It feels like doing all the same things but with a smaller budget and less people than a for-profit. Of course, we understand that the scope and scale between a for-profit and a non-profit are different, but it doesn’t always feel that way when we’re trying to support all the different programs and services that the J provides. On the other hand, we also get to talk about the great work we’re doing for people in our community.

How is digital marketing in particular different for non-profits?

On top of marketing a service like another business might, we’re also trying to market our mission and how we give back to the community. Our primary business concern is that our programs are benefiting the people that they are designed for and that our supporters know what we’re accomplishing. It’s not all about the bottom line of quarterly reports – our success is also measured in people.

What is one of the biggest issues that faces non-profits?

Exposure. How do we get people to understand the benefits of what we do? That storytelling piece takes resources – money and staff time – things that non-profits don’t always have in surplus. If we can’t tell that story well or get it out to the community, we miss connecting with people we could serve and people who could support our mission.

What is one of the biggest pain points when marketing a non-profit?

Staff time and having enough hands on deck to both accomplish our ongoing goals and projects AND go after new projects and try new things. We always want to explore new options, but it can be hard to take current staff away from their assigned tasks, because, usually, staff are already working at 100%.

What do you see the future of non-profits being?

Communities, and I use that word loosely to talk about different areas, different populations, interests, etc., will always need support. Our communities are changing, and our ideas of what defines community are evolving. The future of non-profits will be to evolve with these communities to meet their new needs and to find ways in which they can be better served or supported.

Do you think there is something missing in the digital marketing space when it comes to non-profits?

It can be a challenge for non-profits to compete with other types of businesses in different marketing arenas, especially pay-to-play areas such as Facebook Ads, Adwords, etc. Just from necessity and resources, a marketing/strategy for a for-profit and non-profit business has to be different. We’re lucky at the J in that we’ve been able to create a digital strategy that helps us maximize our return on advertising investment, and working with great partners like Decantery is a great reason that we’ve been able to achieve that. However, not all non-profits know how to start thinking about this or have partners to help them figure this out. An education piece between agencies and non-profits would be helpful.

Any advice for marketing professionals looking to move from corporate to non-profits?

The main and best resource a non-profit has is people – both those who work at the organization and those the organization serves. Get to know people, they’ll be the ones who help you know where the organization is thriving or where it needs help being excellent.

Are the goals you measure different than those of a corporation?

While I’m sure they do differ somewhat, I’m also sure we care about some of the same things. Are we getting a good return on investment? Are we spending an appropriate amount on advertising for the size of the programs we’re advertising?[

What are the key characteristics when you’re looking to work with a marketing company?

It comes down to three things for me.

  • Is it easy to have a conversation with them? Do I always feel like I’m bothering them when we have a question or need them to look into something? I look for an agency that seems to WANT to be working with us – not just tolerating us.
  • Can they talk about our goals in a way that makes sense for us? We look for partners that have a plan to help us work toward what we need, not what they think we need or what they want us to need.
  • Does their scope of work/proposed cost work for us? This one is pretty self-explanatory, but small budgets make this an even more important matter!

Thank you, Danielle!

Thank you to Danielle and the J for being a part of our Think. Do. Share. project. We appreciate everything you and the J do for our community.

Mark Sawyier – Think. Do. Share.

Welcome to our first installment in our Think. Do. Share. series! Mark Sawyier is Co-Founder and CEO of Bonfyre.

Bonfyre is a workplace culture platform—an enterprise social network designed to support the human connections at the heart of a strong culture by fostering employee recognition, feedback, communications and more.

Its success is based on this equation: happy employeesimproved communication =successful company. This has been met with incredible reception. Bonfyre has been adopted by companies such as Southwest Airlines, Marriot, Commerce Bank, and Maritz Travel Company, just to name a few. It’s also earned a number of accolades, including being named one of the top 10 St. Louis tech startups and reaching over $9.7 in venture capital investment.

We sat down with Mark to learn more about his experiences at Bonfyre and what he’s learned along the way.

When you came up with Bonfyre as a business concept, what was it that made you decide an app was instrumental to achieve your vision?

Mark: We began with the basic idea of building some kind of a mobile app. We first started talking about it shortly after the iPhone came out – we knew the platform was going to change everything. We started out as a private social networking platform for friends and family and, over time, evolved into the workplace culture platform Bonfyre is today.

What did the drawing board look like?

Mark: We had lots of ideas about what it would mean to build a better private social networking platform. But with limited time and resources, throughout our journey we’ve always tried to focus on the most essential and what we needed to achieve to prove we had a viable idea and business opportunity. In the very beginning, as a private social networking application for families, we were concerned about app virality and stickiness (something that is still very important to us today).

Would you agree that companies often make the mistake of investing in an app, when a mobile-responsive website is more suited to attain their goal?

Mark: Sometimes. It really depends on what the goal is. Mobile-friendly websites are limited in user experience, features, and functionality- like push notifications. It really depends on what you want to do.

What parameters do you recommend when deciding if you should invest in creating an app?

Mark: Ask yourself, “Does achieving the goal require or benefit from using a smartphone?”.  If it’s important for you to be able to reach out and “touch” the user (ex: send them a push notification), then a native mobile application is important.

The app biz is tough. The statistics for app success are intimidating, to say the least- 77% of users never use an app again 72 hours after installing. What is it that made your early adopters not only try, but continue using Bonfyre?

Mark: It was important to meet the high expectations of the quality for user experience: polished, simple, and delightful. The application must be robust enough to meet needs, but not overly complex to where it gets in the way. Make sure to thoughtfully map out the user experience from A-Z and establish clear goals for each step (and screen). 

When you were starting out, how did you get people to try Bonfyre? How did you cultivate and grow your early adopters/installs?

Mark: General marketing tactics, PR and beta email invites. We built features into the product that allowed existing users to invite others to join. App marketing, which you [Decantery] helped us with; things like app store optimization and pay per account signup. Working with a good partner that takes the time to not just throw ads up, but to get the end goal, which in our case in the beginning was account signup. Now of course, we see this occurring as part of driving new customer relationships.

For those interested in launching their own app, what were some of the surprises you encountered along the way?

Mark: How different the app store ecosystems are and how different the submission process is for iOS and Android. Also, “you get what you pay for” stands true in the app space. There’s a lot of low cost developers and out of the box options and it’s important to find good middle ground. Building a mobile app that will meet the desired goals almost always will not be a very small investment. In my experience, going for the “least expensive” option has a higher probability of not getting you where you want. Particularly for lower cost options, it’s important to spend the time understanding exactly what you’re getting for your money.

What do you believe is an essential design element for user experience?

Mark: Less is more. Always ask yourself what is the action you want the user to take on the screen. Map out the user experience and test it, get user feedback.

Anything you’d caution against?

Mark: Trying to do too much at first or lead users to do actions that aren’t part of your most important objectives.

What do you foresee as the major market trends or changes in the app industry over the next 2-3 years?

Mark: Trends are easy to get caught up in and distract from the most important part of the user experience (polished, simple, delightful.). They can add additional complexity and cost. Unless it’s foundational to the end goal, don’t worry about the “bells and whistles” until you have that foundation reasonably well developed.

We’ve seen a number of security attacks and threats strike the mobile app industry during its growth. How does a fledgling app prepare to defend and protect their users?

Mark: For most applications, make sure users names, email, and password (anything personally identifiable) information is encrypted. If you’re not an engineer, it’s worth doing a bit of research to find some “security best practices for mobile applications” to help educate yourself and have a more informed conversation with someone who is actually building the application.

What’s your closing advice for app entrepreneurs?

Mark: There’s a lot of value in bringing in people who have experience, experience can’t be underestimated. Do not underestimate the value of investing the time in your goals for the application as well as the experience for the end user. Brainstorm big, but take small steps that are highly quantifiable. And lastly, be persistent. The longer you work at something, the more likely you are to succeed at it.


What haircut did you have in high school?

  • Basically, what I have now. Before that it was kind of like James Van Der Beek circa Dawson’s Creek.

Super power – fly or read minds?

  • Fly

If you were guaranteed to be successful in a different profession, what would you do?

  • Astrophysicist

Last movie you saw? Recommend it?

  • Ken Burns Civil War documentary. Learned a lot!

Do you believe in aliens?

  • Yes

The end of Titanic – Did Rose have room for Jack on that door she floated on?

  • Yes

Starbucks go-to?

  • Cold brew, black

Name the most famous person you’ve met

  • Barack Obama

Best underrated travel destination?

  • Captiva island, FL

Thank you, Mark!

Many thanks, Mark Sawyier for taking the time! Your insight and advice is greatly appreciated. Bonfyre’s growth is incredible and an inspiration to technology entrepreneurs and beyond. We look forward to seeing what’s to come for Bonfyre and wish you continued success!