small biz ads

Making Sense of that Horrible Nationwide Super Bowl Ad

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Making Sense of that Horrible Nationwide Super Bowl Ad

So much has been said of Nationwide Insurance’s totally depressing Super Bowl XLIV commercial that featured a dead child. “Who thought this was a good idea?” “Who approved this?” These are things I keep hearing. I figured I’d try and make some sense of this ad and break it down a little more.

Watch it here if you somehow missed it:

I’ll be honest. I saw it, got drawn in, and then when the boy says he was killed in an accident my initial reaction was that I was kind of mad. Yes, I got mad at a television commercial during the Super Bowl. I’m a 34 year old male who allows :30 TV spots to irritate my mood. I’m sitting there with my wife and our 12 month old daughter pointing out things to her about her first Super Bowl she’ll never remember… I’m enjoying the game, enjoying the ads… “Aww, those horses saved the puppy!”….”Wait, did I just see a nude Mindy Kaling!?”… and then all of a sudden I’m being forced to think about losing a child in an accident. That’s literally about the last thing I want on my mind ever while enjoying a Super Bowl.

So let’s break down this ad. Why did they make this ad in the first place?

I think this particular commercial missed the mark mainly because they failed to clearly get their message across. Nationwide doesn’t offer some magical product that prevents your child from getting into an accident. What they do offer as a large insurance corporation however, is, a heavy influence over how products are regulated on the market. Most people don’t realize that insurance companies do more than just write policies, collect money and settle claims. They also lobby to regulate all kinds of products and manufacturer regulations and grade systems that help keep unsafe products off the shelves and out of our lives. And yes, this in turn does theoretically and practically save lives. That’s the angle they were going for, but clearly missed the mark. This aspect of the insurance business isn’t necessarily done with the sole goal saving lives. They’re spending resources on helping regulate unsafe products and standardizing regulations because less accidents means less insurance claims which means less money they have to pay out. Coincidentally it also saves lives and this is the spin worth mentioning. It’s a hell of a fantastic spin actually.

If Nationwide had made an ad that better explained how they strive to keep products regulated and safe in order to keep our families protected that would be one thing. But instead, they made it sound like they offer some sort of groundbreaking product that somehow keeps our children above the ground at the expense of bumming us all out and almost shaming us into feeling the need to better protect our families.

You can tell the idea was there. Just not the execution. They missed by a lot.

You can argue it was a successful ad in ways because everyone is talking about it and everyone remembers it was an ad for Nationwide. However, that’s not the press you want when you don’t clearly address your message.

Conversely, Nationwide’s other ad that they ran during the Super Bowl, “Invisible Mindy” featuring Mindy Kaling was a great, creative and memorable ad. The problem with that ad though – is that you forget what it’s about and you forget who the ad was for? It could’ve been an ad for JC Penny as easily as it was for Nationwide Insurance! I don’t even remember what the ad said. I just remember thinking Mindy Kaling was funny because she thought she was invisible.

Nationwide is this year’s biggest loser when it comes to Super Bowl ads. They had a couple chances to get it right and got them both wrong for very different reasons.


Marc Bethel is Co-Owner of Commonwealth Creative Marketing, a full-service design and production firm located in Norfolk, VA. Read more posts by Marc at

wix or squarespace

Wix or Squarespace? Which is better?

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Wix or Squarespace? Which is better?

So you’re looking at doing a Do-It-Yourself website and you like the new looks of Wix and Squarespace. But which is better? What are the pros and cons? In this installment I’ll explain what’s good about these services and what’s bad and how to identify what’s best for your needs.

Wix vs Squarespace

The first question to ask yourself when trying to decide what type of website you could benefit from is this:


If the answer is No, go with Squarespace. It’s easy to use. If the answer is Yes, continue on.

Next, you need to ask yourself:


Time is money and you’re time is best spent doing what it is that makes you money. But if you’re comfortable taking on all the edits of a website yourself you should be okay with either Wix or Squarespace. Either way, read on. There is more to ask yourself.


If you want something custom-designed specifically for you and your brand, you don’t want Wix or Squarespace. You need a custom responsive web designer who you can trust. If you’re fine with using a template then we think Wix has the better options and a few (although still quite limiting) SEO features.

If you answered:

  • Yes I care about SEO > You’ll be better off working with a professional web design firm (yes, work with a firm, not a “web guy” because companies actually respond to clients in a timely fashion and are upfront with their costs)
  • No, I don’t care about SEO > You’ll be fine with wither Wix or Squarespace. You’ll probably find Squarespace to be easier to use however.
  • Yes, I can manage my site on my own > You’ll be fine with Wix or Squarespace here too. If you have a remote knowledge of HTML or coding, you may find Wix to be a little more dynamic on the backend.
  • No, I really could benefit from having a reliable company I could call on to make my web edits > Go with neither.. work with a professional web company like CCM who can do everything for you at the drop of a dime!
  • No, I don’t care about having a template site > If the other questions above still haven’t disqualified you from using Wix or Squarespace, congratulations… you might be in the really small percentage of people that could actually benefit from a web product such as theirs’.
  • Yes, I need a custom-designed site that is uniquely true to my brand! > Work with a professional web design firm like CCM.
seo email scams

SEO Scams, SEO Email Marketing Scams – For Shame!!

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SEO Scams, SEO Email Marketing Scams – For Shame!!

Have you ever gotten an unsolicited email from a so-called “SEO expert” telling you what your website is missing and why you need them to improve it? Does it seem like a scam? Or is it just an ambitious person scouring the web for business doing you a courtesy? How do you know? Here’s the deal with that…

I get about 5-10 of these SEO spam emails each day. There are generally two types of these messages I receive.

1.) The “I happened to notice your site needs SEO improvement” Spam Message
2.) The “I’m wondering if I could help you improve your site” Spam Message

Regardless of the message, first thing’s first. I RUN AN SEO COMPANY. Clearly they are not even paying attention to whom they are sending their unsolicited SEO spam emails to, because if they’d just take a second to look at what type of business I am while they’re on my site hunting for the contact form, then they’d probably realize that hounding my business about SEO is a waste of their time. It would be like me emailing a taco shop to tell them why they’re making their tacos wrong (when I’ve never even tried their tacos) and that they need me to make them better for them.

So clearly there’s the evidence that these “seo experts” are not even paying attention to who you are and what kind of business you have. But step back another few feet and think about this. I am getting about 40 of these SEO spam emails per week and not only am I an SEO company, our website is optimized extremely well. We show up 1st page for just about every keyword that we target. (I’m not saying this to brag, it’s just what we do for a living). So when I get that email that says “Hi, I noticed your site is missing key SEO components and you’re missing out on traffic and leads, etc, etc.” I know that’s a pile of bull because they obviously didn’t take a second to look at my site or run any kind of SEO diagnostics on it. It’s simply just unsolicited email spam.

Do some of these companies know what they’re doing as far as SEO work goes? Who knows? Some probably do, some probably don’t… but if sending blind emails and acting as if you’ve done someone some complimentary research when you haven’t is their idea of marketing, that’s a big red flag to me.

If you think your website might be in the need of SEO improvement, the best thing you can do to find a quality, reputable SEO professional is to do a Google search for a local SEO company in your area or even in your market segment. Who shows up on the first page (not the paid results but the natural ones) probably knows what they’re doing. Call a few places and get a few quotes. Work with whom you feel the most comfortable with that seems like they can accomplish what you want within your budget.

Avoid anyone who quotes you one price and then says they can do it for substantially cheaper when you balk at their original price. I turn folks down for SEO as much as I win their business because I refuse to sell them something that I know won’t work just in order to fulfill their budget needs. Skimping on something might make their wallet happy but they’ll only be disappointed if you can’t deliver results!

Ask for references or look up their reviews and testimonials. Contact those people if you know how. But whatever you do, don’t reply to an unsolicited email about improving your site’s SEO because 10 times out of 10 it’s a scam.


Marc Bethel is a Partner at Commonwealth Creative Marketing in Norfolk, VA and a leading SEO Professional

Launch of Our New Website and Expanded Services

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Launch of Our New Website and Expanded Services

2014 is poised to be an exciting year here at CCM not only for us but for our customers as well. This week we launched our new and improved site which showcases our new focus of building responsive website designs that render as mobile sites on mobile devices and normal sites on larger format screens. You can learn more about responsive web design on our page here.

As excited as we are about responsive site designs, it is the expanded full marketing services that we now offer our clients that really has us pumped for 2014. In addition to custom web design, hosting, site management, printing and SEO, CCM now offers amazing print solutions like vehicle wraps for business fleets, food trucks, delivery vehicles, trailers or pretty much anything on wheels. We also have added banner and tradeshow booths, stands, kiosks and professional signage at discount small business rates.

With out partners at Adams Outdoor, CCM now offers billboard advertising and placement in over 12 markets in the U.S. including the Hampton Roads region here in Virginia. Our wholesale small business rates for billboard advertising are so attractive businesses even save money by using us instead of going straight to the big outdoor companies directly.

In late 2013 we added full service video and… audio production to our agency services. You can learn more about tv, web or radio advertising production on our video production page.

Need to figure out a media marketing plan and where and when to get your ads to run? Media Buying is just another convenient all-in-one service here at CCM!

It’s long been our vision to brand ourselves as the “full service ad agency for small businesses” and now we’ve truly become your one-stop-shop for all your marketing needs whether it’s online, digital, print, video, strategy or out of the box guerilla marketing. Our commitment to you is:

Quality, Effective Work at Reasonable Prices That Won’t Break the Bank



blogging for better seo

Blogging for SEO using WordPress

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Blogging for SEO using WordPress

By now someone has probably told you that you should blog. They may have mentioned that it’s “good for SEO” if you blog but they probably didn’t tell you exactly how or why. Here’s the deal… you can blog all you want but if you’re not optimizing your blog the right way it won’t do much good.

There are basically two reasons to blog. 1. You want people to read what you wrote about a topic. 2. You want to help increase your site’s SEO and traffic. Personally, I could almost care less if anyone read my blog. I blog for SEO purposes mainly. So how do you blog for SEO?

Well, the first step in blogging for SEO purposes is to write blog posts that people will want to read. That’s right… do the exact other reason for blogging I just mentioned. That’s the first step you can take. If you write on a topic that people will want to learn about, or read about, you’re much more likely that people will stay on your blog and read it. But most importantly, by writing something well about a topic, you’re thereby creating content on the web that is relevant to a specific topic. This builds credibility on the topic with search engines like Google, therefore making your blog post much more likely to be indexed as a relevant link for the keywords your blog is about.

Now that you’ve written a blog post about a topic that you want to rank for in the search engines there are other things you need to do to optimize it. I recommend using a WordPress Blog because they’re the easiest to optimize for SEO and they already come with features and plugins that can help you out. Start by giving your blog post a title that contains your keyword phrase. For example I want my site to rank for people searching on SEO blogging, so hence the name of this blog post.

Next, (and write this down… it’s an important one) be sure to create one keyword hyperlink somewhere in your post. Make it link to your homepage, or another page on your website as long as it’s a page that is relevant to the keyword. For example, right now as a web designer in the Virginia Beach area, I’m trying to increase my presence on search engines for the keyword phrase web design Virginia Beach, so I’ve made it a point to create a link in this blog for ‘web design Virginia Beach’. What does this do? When Google bot crawls the web it will crawl my blog post and see I’ve associated a link for web design Virginia Beach with my website. Google now deems my site a little more relevant for that search term because another link now exists pointing to it for that term. This is something you want to do for your own keyword term of focus just one time per blog post. Don’t put a ton of different links in a single post. Search engines are very wise and they’ll see this as being spammy. They don’t like that. You’ll be better off building up your internal blog link-building over time by making a relevant keyword link once per blog or so where it makes sense. Also, (a little tip)… Don’t just make the keyword phrase a link… also give it a title of the same keyword term.  For example your hyperlink code should look like this: <a href=”” title=”web design virginia beach”>web design Virginia Beach</a>.

There are two more things you need to do. WordPress gives you the ability to categorize and add tags to your blog posts. Create a list of “Categories” to choose from. These should include the usual subjects that you blog about. I blog about Marketing, Web Design, SEO and Printing a lot… so those are some of my categories that I choose from. If you guessed that I categorized this post you’re reading now as an “SEO” blog, than you’re picking up quickly. Lastly there are tags. This is where you can add really specific keywords that you want your blog post to show up for. But similarly to the links… you definitely don’t want to go overboard with the amount of tags you use in a blog post. Use 1-4 tags. Preferably about 2 unless your blog honestly pertains to a bunch of things. You can create a new tag every time you blog, but WordPress is smart enough to remember the tags you use the most often and shows those to you to simply click on to tag. For another example, I’m going to create a tag called “Blogging for SEO” and a tag called “WordPress Blogs and SEO” for this particular post.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Remember: Write a well-written post on a topic that you want to be known for. Give it a good title that includes the important keyword phrase. Add a text hyperlink to your main url from within your blog post’s content. Give that link a title=”” tag. Properly categorize your blog post with a Category that pertains to it. Tag your blog with the top 2 or 3 keywords that are relevant to your post that you want it to show up for.

Oh… and one more important bit of advice before I wrap this up. Please, Please, Please… Don’t forget to proof read your blogs. There’s nothing worse than trying to look credible on a topic while sounding like you can’t write using basic grammar. In fact, that can be pretty detrimental to your efforts. So please take a minute or two to read over what you wrote. If you’re not a good writer/speller and you know it, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that to yourself. Have a friend or coworker proofread your post for you before posting. A second set of eyes is always a good thing!

Good luck with your SEO blogging and blog away! These practices over time will help push your site up in the rankings for your keyword terms.


Starting a Business in Virginia

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How To Start a Business in Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia is a great place to do business because it’s a fairly easy state to operate in with fair tax rates. Some states make it more difficult, a few may make it easier, but very few states offer the diverse demographics and geographical beauty, options and cultural diversity that Virginia does, making it an ideal grounds for clientele for any business. Whether you’re thinking of starting a new business in Virginia Beach, Richmond, Fairfax, Roanoke, Danville or Abington, it’s all basically the same. The following is a helpful list of things that you’ll need to do in order to succeed in your entrepreneurial endeavor.

1. Write a business plan.
2. Know your competition.
3. Develop a Marketing plan.
4. Identify what “kind” of business license you should have.
5. Come up with a budget.
6. Market your business.

1. Write a Business Plan

Why are you going into business? What will you sell? How will you sell it? What makes you different? Why are you special? How do you want to be seen in the marketplace? From whom will you get your supplies? What will you offer that will make people come back for more? What is your budget? (see budget below, later). Write out about a 3 pages business plan. Identify the basics and what’s important, but don’t get too in depth with it, spending weeks and months formulating it. The reason why you shouldn’t is because your business will naturally change and evolve every few months for about 3 years until it settles into what you will eventually become.

2. Know Your Competition

Who are your biggest competitors? Are you doing business locally or nationally? Regionally? Identify who the big cats are that are out there as well as some of the smaller players. Sometimes it’s the other small guys that are really the biggest poachers of your business to watch out for. What are they doing that you should and shouldn’t be doing? Know your enemy! But don’t think of competition as your enemy. Competition is what makes capitalism thrive. Competition drives us all. In fact, you’ll probably find that some of your competitors might actually send you a ton of business! Whether it’s the fact that they are so terrible at what they do that their customers come flocking to you because they’ve heard better things, or it’s that your competitor might not offer one of the things that you offer and vice versa, so you two end up referring business to each other. Both of those things happen to me on a regular basis and I’m grateful for it.

3. Develop a Marketing Plan

You’re going to need a name, a logo, a website, business cards, maybe shirts, promotional items and so on. But you’re going to need advertising too. Identifying a budget for advertising is usually very difficult for a start-up. You’ve just sunk all your money into getting the business going, now there’s not much to throw at advertising. The good news is there’s a secret. Networking. Get out there and meet people. Join your local chapter of BNI, or any referral group. You can even find a ton of local groups on Linkedin in your area such as Entrepreneurs of Southeast Virginia for example. Join associations and business-related clubs. This is a cost-effective way to meet people who will refer you business. You can also develop a program where you pay people for referrals if you want. Sometimes that works.

Set aside some money for a quality website, an SEO link-building campaign and the occasional media run. This is what’s important in the first year or two of your business. But plan it from the beginning. If you’re unsure of what types of marketing you should be doing for your type of business, call up a small business marketing consulting company such as Commonwealth Creative Marketing, located in Virginia. They’ll help you identify what you need to do.

4. What Kind of Business Should You Be?

You’ll need to identify and decide what type of business you want to be structured as. Should you be an LLC, an S-Corp, a proprietorship, Inc, etc? You should talk with an attorney that specializes in business law. Find one that you trust, or that a friend of yours recommends… They’ll know the pro’s and con’s and help steer you in the right direction. Usually they won’t even charge you to help give you some advice on this. What they want is for you to assign them to be the registered agent for your business, which essentially means that they would handle writing your operating agreement and handle the annual renewals to the Virginia State Corporations Commission. Usually this will cost most small businesses less than $300 per year and it is totally worth it. It’s worth it because your time is money and unless you were a business attorney in your prior life, you probably don’t know exactly how to word things and to whom they should be filed with the state and how. Having a solid business attorney as your registered agent is well worth it.

Types of Businesses

There are a lot of options for how you can structure your business, but most SMALL BUSINESSES IN VIRGINIA will opt to form as one of these three:

  • LLC (limited liability company) or; LLC-P (limited liability partnership)
  • S-Corp (small corporation)

The similarities:
LLCs and S corps have much in common:

    • • Limited liability protection. With both, owners are typically not personally responsible for business debts and liabilities.
    • • Separate entities. Both are separate legal entities created by a state filing.
    • • Pass-through taxation. Both are typically pass-through tax entities, and while S corps must file a business tax return, LLCs only file business tax returns if the LLC has more than one owner. With pass-through taxation, no income taxes are paid at the business level. Business profit or loss is passed-through to owners’ personal tax returns. Any necessary tax is reported and paid at the individual level.
    • • Ongoing state requirements. Both are subject to state-mandated formalities, such as filing annual reports and paying the necessary fees.

Differences in ownership and formalities:

Ownership. The IRS restricts S corporation ownership, but not that of limited liability companies. IRS restrictions include the following:

    • • LLCs can have an unlimited number of members; S corps can have no more than 100 shareholders (owners).
    • • Non-U.S. citizens/residents can be members of LLCs; S corps may not have non-U.S. citizens/residents as shareholders.
    • • S corporations cannot be owned by C corporations, other S corporations, LLCs, partnerships or many trusts. This is not the case for LLCs.
    • • LLCs are allowed to have subsidiaries without restriction.
      Ongoing formalities. S corporations face more extensive internal formalities. LLCs are recommended, but not required, to follow internal formalities.
    • • Required formalities for S corporations include: Adopting bylaws, issuing stock, holding initial and annual director and shareholder meetings, and keeping meeting minutes with corporate records.
    • • Recommended formalities for LLCs include: Adopting an operating agreement, issuing membership shares, holding and documenting annual member meetings (and manager meetings, if the LLC is manager-managed), and documenting all major company decisions.

Differences in management:

    • • Owners of an LLC can choose to have members (owners) or managers manage the LLC. When members manage an LLC, the LLC is much like a partnership. If run by managers, the LLC more closely resembles a corporation; members will not be involved in the daily business decisions.
    • • S corps have directors and officers. The board of directors oversees corporate affairs and handles major decisions but not daily operations. Instead, directors elect officers who manage daily business affairs.

Other differences:
Other differences between S corps and LLCs include:

    • • Existence. An S corporation’s existence is perpetual, but some states require LLCs to list a dissolution date in the formation documents. Certain events, such as death or withdrawal of a member, can cause the LLC to dissolve.
    • • Transferability of ownership. S corporation stock is freely transferable, as long as IRS ownership restrictions are met. LLC membership interest (ownership) typically is not freely transferable—approval from other members is often required.
    • • Self-employment taxes. S corporations may have preferable self-employment taxes compared to the LLC because the owner can be treated as an employee and paid a reasonable salary. FICA taxes are withheld and paid on that amount. Corporate earnings after payment of the salary may be able to be treated as unearned income that is not subject to self-employment taxes. For more information and whether this might apply to your particular situation, please contact your accountant or tax adviser.

Key Advice:

Partnerships with little to no employees:

If you’re a partnership that will not be immediately hiring a bunch of employees but rather paying subcontractors with 1099’s for the forseeable future, you should become a LLC, but elect to be taxed as an S-Corp. This is actually an option that you have. The key advantage to this is that you won’t have to pay any social security tax as a business. If you don’t have a payroll, you don’t need to be paying social security tax as a business. But you’ll still be set up as an LLC in this circumstance which best meets your needs as a partnership with no “actual” employees.

Partnerships with employees:

Become an LLC or an S-Corp. As an LLC, the owners are not considered employees. LLC’s do not pay income tax on earnings as a company. Instead, income is reported to the IRS and each owner or partner is given a From 1065-K which indicate your personal earnings for the year. This form 1065-K is what YOU pay your yearly income tax based on. So as an LLC you’re only responsible for paying taxes on what you earned as an individual whatever that amount may be. As an S-Corp, you have to file your business income taxes yearly.

Not a Partnership:

Become an LLC (not an LLC-P). This way you won’t have to file business taxes with the IRS. You will only have to report your earnings on your personal taxes in most instances. *Consult your CPA and/or business attorney as this is not guaranteed legal advice.

How Do I Pay My Virginia State Tax?

If you are selling tangible goods in the state of Virginia, you must pay the State a 5% tax rate on all items sold (as of 2/1/2013) to the state on a monthly basis. It’s as easy as signing up your business at and paying by eform ST-9 with a secure online payment from your business bank account each month.
What is sales and use tax exempt in the Virginia? Anything such as website design, graphic design, consulting, advice, repairs, maintenance, and anything that is not a physical good. Physical goods such as business cards, batteries, tires, food, candles and any type of product is subject to 5% Virginia State Sales Tax.

5. What’s Your Budget?

What will your expenses be? What will each sale cost you? How much overhead do you have? What’s the hard cost of a product or service you offer before you sell it? This will determine your profit margins. If your margins are bad, you won’t be in business very long at all. When figuring out your profit margins, always consider the hard cost upfront, taxes and how this fits into your monthly expenses as well such as rent, bills, marketing etc. As long as there’s still some significant profit left over, you’ll be sitting well.

6. Marketing Your Business in Virginia

Marketing may easily be the single most important part of your business. Businesses who develop their branding from the beginning or their existence always tend to do better from a sales and marketing standpoint. Having a nice logo and branding is where it all starts. These days you can’t just think of a name for your business and go from there… You need to consider a few other things when coming up with a name. Is there a domain name available for this name? You probably want a .com domain and those hard to come by nowadays. You don’t want a website that has a You want something that’s short and easy to remember and something that preferably has your name in it as well as what you offer. Think “Daniels Heating & Air” for example. That’s a good name because you can have the domain name But if all the good domains are taken you could be stuck with which no one will remember, and radio ads are completely out of the question at that point. So go to or any popular domain registrar’s website and start looking up domains that would be good for potential business names for your business. Think ahead. It will be worth it!

The next step is coming up with a great logo. You want something that fits your business that will be recognizeable to people. Your logo should contain colors that you like but not too many. You don’t want something too busy or with too much detail. You want a simple, clear, clean, sharp logo that will translate well to shirts, letterhead, signs, business cards, your website, Facebook, pens, you name it. Not just any design will do.

Once you have a logo designed, the rest can fall into place pretty easily. Get yourself some business cards printed from a local Virginia printer like Commonwealth Creative Marketing that does quality work for affordable rates.

No one uses the Yellow Pages anymore, so you’ll need a good website. Your competition already has a strong website with good SEO (search engine optimization), so you’ve immediately got some catching up to do on the web. Start thinking about what you want your site to say about you, what you want your customers to be able to see and do on your website. Plan it out with a web design company in Virginia like Commonwealth Creative Marketing. They can do great design work and build you a site that is makes you look outstanding on the web. Make sure you’re trusting a web designer that knows how to build a site with quality SEO practices. Otherwise you’ll end up with a nice site, but what good is it if no one can find it. Commonwealth Creative Marketing is your best bet for SEO website design in Virginia.

If you are an entrepreneur looking to start a business in Virginia and you have questions or just want to talk to someone who has done it themselves and works with new businesses everyday helping them, please give me a call anytime during the week. I’d love to offer any advice that I have and help you with marketing your new business.

-Marc Bethel,
Owner, Commonwealth Creative Marketing

Why We Love Working With Small Business

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Why We Love Working With Small Business

Early on in my career I got a “thrown to the fire” introduction to Corporate America.  Out of college I worked for a large corporation that had clients that were even bigger corporations.  Even though I wasn’t working for an “ad agency” like I’d wanted to, I was gaining solid business experience.  It didn’t take long to figure out I didn’t really enjoy the corporate atmosphere of being monitored all hours of the day, the ties, the shoes, the reports, the pep rallies and so on.  I kind of imagined myself doing my job unbothered by bosses and only bothered by people who needed my help… and me sort of acting as a central helper and having time to have fun while I worked.  I wanted to wake up excited to go to work, not dreading it. I also wanted to wear flip flops but I knew that was pushing it a little.

I finally gathered up enough “business experience” in my field that a real, respected Ad Agency deemed me acceptable to hire.  It was a great feeling and I finally felt like I was doing what I’d always wanted to do, working in the environment I’d always wanted to and with the types of people I dreamed about.  What I learned next was that the “Ad Agency World” had problems of its own.  That problem is that when one or two clients go away, so to do employees… practically overnight.  Stability was a problem, and although I felt like I was making a name and a lot of friends and advocates, I still found myself bouncing around from agency to agency for a few years.

During this whirlwind time I had the pleasure of working with clients of all sizes.  Big ones like Wal-Mart, SunTrust, Popeyes and Troy University… and little ones like an MRI/CT Scan office, a local bank and local restaurants.  They were all fun and unique in their own ways, but after a while I found that I preferred the entrepreneurial spirit of the small business owners over the corporate guys who had to dodge mazes of red tape just to decide whether they could answer me honestly or not.

I think the turning point for me was when I was working on the Window World account in 2008.  Window World is a national company with franchisees all over every state in the U.S.  They have a corporate office in North Carolina that I worked with but they didn’t force all their employees to work with us.  They let it be known that the company I worked with was their “preferred” agency and that we had created a fine library of creative print, web, radio and tv spots for them to choose from, but they also left Johnny the entrepreneur in Tucson the freedom to make, and run his own terrible ads featuring him, his son and the family dog.  I kind of liked this philosophy.  Although it would’ve been nice for our pockets if their corporate office forced all their franchisees to spend all their advertising dollars with us, it was rewarding to be working with a company that was willing to let their owners (their livelihood), make their own decisions and succeed or fail on their own.

I really liked talking to these individual entrepreneurs from all over the country, discussing how each of their markets differ and what “would and wouldn’t” work in certain places even when the product was the same in every place.  It was unique.  It was fun.  And the people spoke and breathed with the true American spirit.  They wanted to build their business into a success so that they and their families and children could live a good life.  They were grateful of their opportunities and wanted to make money.  That was it.  They weren’t in it to impress share holders, or to afford 3rd homes for all the titles that begin with the letter C.  They were normal, hard working people like you and me.  They were small business owners.

Right after I left that job, I started working with Matt, Sarah and company, whom I started my first company with about a year later.  We all shared the same philosophy that small businesses were the ideal client for us to work with.  Small businesses deserved nice marketing, quality websites, and “ad agency” creative, but at a fair price.  Small business website design quickly became a staple of our company, followed by discount printing and search engine optimization for small business.  Every client I talk with is different, but they all have the same entrepreneurial spirit that we share.  And that makes doing business an easy and special thing. Oh, and I get to wear flip flops 9 months out of the year.



5 Things a Web Designer Needs in Order to Build You a Great Site

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5 Things a Web Designer Needs in Order to Build You a Great Site

things a web designer needsKnowing that you need a website, or that you need a BETTER website is one thing. But in order for a web designer to be able to knock your socks off by constructing what you have imaged in your head is the most important, and sometimes tricky part. As an owner of a web design firm, I see a big mix of clients come in my door. Some know exactly what they want and lay it all out on the table for our staff to clearly see. Others just seem to be unhappy with their current/old site and want something new. The later always seems to segway into several meaningful conversations about what “you like” and you “don’t like”, what you’ve seen out on the web that you like, and how you envision your new website looking and working. It’s okay to be somewhat unprepared with knowing what you want. Part of my job is to help my clients figure that out. But in an ideal fantasy world, it sure would be nice if every client coming through a web designer’s door had an answer to these five questions:

1. Why do you want a new site? To be more specific… Why do you hate your current site? Does it not generate enough leads? Is it too difficult to navigate? Does it look old and boring? There are many, many reasons why someone could need a better site. It’s first understanding what you don’t like about what you have that can lead to finding out what you would rather have. If you don’t have a website there are more reasons to have a site than simply “because we need one”. The key is listing out the REASONS why you need one. Is it to provide information to the public? Is it to educate the public? Is it to capture leads? Is it to sell products? Is it to promote something?

2. Do you need a Content Management System? Since every site’s functionality needs are a little different, so then are the requirements of how the site should best be built. If a client wants a blog on their site, I’m definitely going to build their site in WordPress 9 times out of 10 because it’s easy to use and SEO-friendly for blogs. To be honest I’d probably build almost every site in WordPress if we could. eCommerce, blogging, commenting, logistics and more are all factors that need to be discussed with a designer before coming up with a plan. What is the future of this site? Who will manage it? These are also important questions.

3. What’s your domain name? Don’t have a domain name… well, let’s think of some ideas and find one that’s available. Already own a domain name… well, you should have your domain/DNS account access ready for your designer so that they can easily set the DNS for the new site and take your new site live without any delays. The same applies to your hosting account if your new designer won’t be hosting your new site for you. You’ll need to go and set up your own hosting account. Do this ahead of time so the designer isn’t stuck waiting on you. If you give a designer reasons for delays, they’ll move on to the next project and you’ll be stuck waiting for them. This can turn a 1 week delay into a potential 3 week delay.

4. How do you feel about colors and pictures? You have a logo, right? Is it always a certain color? Well then, that’s definitely going to be one of the main colors on your site. The question is… what other colors look good next to this color and which colors do you like and not like. A good designer can automatically figure this out and present it to you in a mock-up, however the earlier the input on this from a client, the better and smoother the design process will go. Color is something easy to think about when picturing your new website in your head. The same goes for images. Do you like the idea of pictures scrolling across the top or body of your site? Do the pictures have a message with them that you can click on? Or do you imagine a static page with little to no images or movement and a more clean look? Do you like a background that’s white, black, gray, something else? Knowing what you like will save a designer some time and headache from the beginning.

5. What’s your message? Any site can look pretty and artistically impressive, but within regards to its effectiveness the content is king. A site won’t show up in search engines without well-written copy, titles, tags and so much more. A site won’t persuade, entice and peak any interest if the content doesn’t have a clear message. Ask yourself this: If my new site could say one thing in one sentence, what would it say? The answer to this question is what is most important about your business. Sites can be complex and contain many messages, but this alone, this is your most important message. This is what will become the basis for all content to be written around. This is the heart of your message. Why You? Tell your designer what makes you different from others that do or sell the same things that you do. What makes you different or the best? The answer to this question will be your main call to action on your site. Knowing the answer to this question can be the difference in whether your phone rings or not.