Marc Bethel

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.

-Marc

 

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Why Prebuilt Themes Are Bad for the Web WordPress, Joomla, Drupal get a bad rap

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Why Prebuilt Themes Are Bad for the Web WordPress, Joomla, Drupal get a bad rap

There’s been an ongoing debate by everyone in the industry as well as with the do-it-yourselfers aspiring to have an easy-to-build, easy-to-manage website with dynamic capabilities… Which of the “big 3” content management systems is the best?  Over the past several years the “big 3” CMS’s have emerged as leaders:  WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.  So which is best for what? and why?

Let’s pick on WordPress for a second…  It’s the most popular of the 3.  Originally developed to be an all in one blogging platform with easy to use SEO plug-ins, content widgets for streaming and open-end development, WordPress quickly became a popular option for bloggers.  Soon after it became apparent that WordPress could be used for much more.  It then morphed into a CMS where anyone, whether skilled in web-design or a novice, could grab a template and make a decent looking webpage.

My first, second and probably 328th impressions of WordPress were that I could identify a WordPress site from a million miles away.  Their templates all looked the same with a two-toned header that runs all the way across the page, a white solid background in the body, a thick footer all the way across the bottom of the page and widget boxes down the right hand side.  You know what I’m talking about… you’ve seen this site a millions times.  Even Joomla templates can be equally as boring and played out for the most part…  as seen here.   Here’s something I came across recently that I find astoundingly yucky:  A very large ad agency in Washington D.C. uses a prebuilt WordPress theme for their own site.  Ummm Shouldn’t an ad agency design their own creative site?  If this is what they’re doing for their own site, I don’t wanna know what kind of creative they’re selling to their clients!

Then I realized that WordPress isn’t necessarily about themes.  It’s not necessarily about blogs.  It’s not even about widgets.  It’s about a content management system that makes building, organizing, managing and editing a website much easier.  At CCM, we have a strict philosophy that we only build our clients’ own themes from scratch, never using/purchasing non-unique, prebuilt themes to be customized, but rather creating customized website designs for our clients based on their needs, branding and uniqueness.  We use WordPress all the time… but a major difference in what we do from what other designers do is that we design the site ourselves and then put it into WordPress so that its easy to manage.  Our clients end up with a creative, unique site design that is easily customizable to their individual needs and branding.  What I can’t stand to see is many of these other designers buying preexisting themes for their clients, putting them in WordPress and trying to customize them slightly.  Nine times out of ten they’ve limited themselves right from the beginning.  Most prebuilt themes were built for a reason.  When you try to take someone else’s work and make it work for your client, there’s almost always going to be something that can’t work out right.  Whether it’s logo placement, an RSS feed in a certain area, or a slideshow it’s inevitably going to happen.  About once a week someone will send me their existing site and ask me if I can make a few edits to it.  Once we begin playing with their pre-bought theme it becomes apparent that what they want simply won’t work.  I have to explain to them that the pre-bought template they’re using is limiting them and if we can build them a new customized site from scratch, this problem will be avoided.

Before working in WordPress as our preferred CMS, we did a lot of sites in Joomla.  Joomla isn’t bad.  In most ways it’s the same as WordPress, and likewise for Drupal.  They all have little hiccups and features here and there that you may like better with one compared to the other, but WordPress gets my vote for the overall easiest to use, best SEO plugins and ease of blog and social media integration.  But in the end it doesn’t matter which CMS you work with.  They all mostly accomplish the same thing.  WordPress just does it easier in my mind.  The real issue is whether or not you’re using your CMS for evil or for good…  For uniqueness or for the ordinarily stale depreciation of the web.

Let’s face it… Themes aren’t going to go away.  We all get why they exist:  someone develops a theme and sells it to the masses of people who need a website for a profit.  They captivate buyers with discount prices and simplicity.  It’s a business.  Look at Intuit, Verizon, AT&T, Godaddy and 1and1.com just to name a few.  They all offer several hundred pre-built themes you can customize in some fashion or another, but they’re ordinary, limiting and existing all over the web.  If we as an industry know what is good for the web, we should commit to using content management systems as CMSs without prebuilt themes.

311 said it best… You’ve got to come original.