Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I Have Moved My Blog Site

Well, its official.  I have moved this blog over to my own domain using Wordpress.  You should be able to continue to follow my using the same RSS feed. The new site is StevesAGJournal.


Stephen Eugene Adams

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

10 Ways We Are Messing Up Our Social Media Efforts (Part 2)

Our AlphaGraphics Social Media Activities Can Use a Lot of Improvement In Promoting Our Printing Business

I spent the last couple of days reading "Inbound Marketing" by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. I was attracted to this book because I am a fan of David Meerman Scott and he highly endorsed this book. I will say that, at first, I thought the book to be a little simplistic since I have been studying this area for awhile. However, as I got deeper and deeper into the book, I started to think about all the good advice that I was not following. I wish I had read this book a few months ago before I started on my Social Media journey I highly recommend this book to everyone who is trying to figure out how to market their business in this new Web 2.0 age. It does lay out the steps you should take in a very systematic way. Based upon my reading, here are the things I am doing wrong in my inbound marketing activities. You can read the first 5 listed items in last week's blog. These are the last 5 out of 10 items.

6.  I Have No Mechanism to Touch My Prospects When They Are Not Yet Ready To Buy
We contact prospects and leads, we talk to them, we give them quotes on printed products when they ask for them. However, if they are not ready to buy from us at that point, we don't really maintain a way to keep in touch with them until they are ready to buy.  We do try and put them on our monthly email marketing list but there is no process of touching these people in a special way.  From my reading, I do believe that it is important that our prospects that are not ready to buy at this point, are contacted on at least a monthly basis and that at the end of a pre-determined point such as six months, we give them a call.

7.  I Am Not Controlling My Databases
We have customer, prospect and lead information all over the place and it is not well controlled in any of our locations.  We need an integrated database of contact information and within this database, we need to have as much information on each contact as possible.  For existing customers, we need to document and summarize their buying habits so we can better serve them in the future and for prospects and leads, we need to be able to document each contact we have made with them, how we obtained the lead and how we plan on continuing to contact them.

8. I Am Not Analysing The Success of Each of My Marketing Channels
Actually, this was the biggest Ah Ha moment I experienced from Inbound Marketing.  I have seen the sales funnels many times before in many sales books and in many contact management systems but I have never put much credibility in them.  What I learned from Inbound Marketing is that there needs to be several of the sales funnels for each operation.  Each funnel is designated by how the lead is generated or obtained.  Marketing channels differ from each other in terms of success rates and time to close and once those differences are identified, then an analysis can be made as to how cost effective each marketing channel is in getting to the sale.  By doing this, the more inefficient marketing channels can be reduced or eliminated and more time and money can be devoted to the more productive areas.  Some of the marketing channels (funnels) I foresee setting up are: leads from cold calls, SEM efforts, website (SEO) efforts, telemarketing calls and targeted companies (Book of Lists).

9. I Am Not Analysing the Reach of My Social Media Efforts
One of the great things about Social Media, is that you can measure your reach fairly easy.  How many followers do you have on Twitter, how many first time visitors to you have to your webpage, how many calls and emails do you get from your SEM efforts, how many fans do you have on your company FaceBook page, how many subscribers do I have for my blog and how many connections do you have on LinkedIn. I measure none of that although the information is readily available. It is time to start setting up my charts and showing how my efforts are being rewarded by the growth in reach.

10.  I Am Trying To Do This All Myself
In these economic times, keeping down our payroll costs is critical to the growth and survival of my three AlphaGraphics centers. So I am doing almost all of the marketing and social media efforts on my own.  I am not a trained marketing person, but I am learning rapidly about what I need to do to promote my business in this day and age. I do know, that as the economy improves, I will be looking for someone to help me in my Social Media efforts, both from a creative and technical standpoint.  Doing all of this is kind of fun, but I know, from experience that I will get bored fairly rapidly.  As I always say, my next employee will be hired to do what I am currently doing.

You can always contact us at the following AlphaGraphics websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing       FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing     FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing   FaceBook Fan Page

Twitter: @steveadams291
LinkedIn: stepheneugeneadams

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

10 Ways I Am Messing Up My Social Media Efforts (Part I)

Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs (New Rules Social Media Series)
Our AlphaGraphics Social Media Activities Can Use a Lot of Improvement In Promoting Our Printing Business

I spent the last couple of days reading "Inbound Marketing" by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah.  I was attracted to this book because I am a fan of David Meerman Scott and he highly endorsed this book.  I will say that, at first, I thought the book to be a little simplistic since I have been studying this area for awhile.  However, as I got deeper and deeper into the book, I started to think about all the good advice that I was not following. I wish I had read this book a few months ago before I started on my Social Media journey I highly recommend this book to everyone who is trying to figure out how to market their business in this new Web 2.0 age. It does lay out the steps you should take in a very systematic way. Based upon my reading, here are the things I am doing wrong in my inbound marketing activities. These are the first 5 out of 10 items.

1.  My Blog is Hosted by Blogspot
When I initially set up my blog,  I took the easiest route simply because I did not know better. Brian and Dharmesh highly recommend that a blog needs to be hosted with the company website.  There are many reasons for this, but the best reason is that a blog drives activity to the website.  The way I have it set up is that the activity is driven to blogspot, which is a Google entity.  Google does fine on its own, and it does not need to have my activity to help its rankings. The same goes for those who have Wordpress host their blog.  How do I fix this? I really haven't figured it out.  Since the webpage for each of my three centers is a sub-domain of the main AlphaGraphics site and right now AlphaGraphics doesn't have a way to host blogs on their website, I am stuck.  I have considered a separate domain to host my blog outside of the AlphaGraphics website, but I am not convinced that this gets me ahead of where I am now.  Even if AlphaGraphics decides to give us the ability to have our blogs on a sub-domain of the AlphaGraphics site, I don't know how I will be able to cover my three centers with one blog. Someone smarter than me will need to help me with this problem.

2.  My Twitter Name Is Personal and Has Numbers In It
When I set up my Twitter account, I did not do a lot of thinking about the account name.  I did want to make it personal because I did not want to run an account that was an impersonal one of just "AlphaGraphics Arizona". I think people want to follow people and not business names. One of my salespeople posts to a generic AlphaGraphicsAz account, but he is not an avid poster and it really is his personal account. The number in the name was decided upon because there are about 4 million Steve Adams' in the world.  Maybe there is only 3.9 million, but you get my point. The 291 represents the store # for my Mesa center.  I have been using that number for years.  In most of my social media activities, I have been using my full name so I can track my activity on Google. Hence the Stephen Eugene Adams. (I got that advice from David Meerman Scott). So how do I fix this? I think I am pretty well set now but I did change my name on the account to Alphagraphics Steve.  We'll see how that works. I also might start using the AlphaGraphicsAZ account more.

3. I Have Protected My LinkedIn Account Too Much
When I set up my LinkedIn account, I treated it the same as my personal FaceBook account. I only wanted to connect with people I knew and did not allow anyone I did not personally know to connect with me. After reading this book, I figured out that I need to open this thing up.  I need to search for people I want to be connected with and I need to allow connections to people who want to connect with me. I also need to start posting on this channel more often to be able to start more conversations.  Although I have joined some marketing groups over the last couple of months, I need to work this area a little better.

4.  My Website Has Nothing For My Prospects To Do Except Call Me.
Our Alphagraphics site does have a limited CMS feature to it.  I am driving people to my website that may not be ready to buy at that point in time. I am able to control the middle of some of our pages, but not the outside frames.  At this time, I do not know how to put a sign-up form into my web pages and we cannot host a PDF file for download. So our websites lack a call to action.  They can call me, email me, send me a file or place an online order if they are an existing customer. The first thing I believe I should do is to figure out how to put a form onto my site(s) and how to have my PDF's hosted at another server.  Again, this will take someone smarter than myself.

5.  My Content is Not Remarkable
I have been trying to have a blog posting once a week since sometime in December.  Sometimes I go a couple of weeks, but mostly my postings have been weekly. I do not seem to be getting a lot of traction with the number of subscribers to my blog. Using Google Analytics and SiteMeter, I do see that I do get a few hundred people to read my blog each month and the readership does increase each month, but I can't seen to increase my subscribed readership.  So, according to Inbound Marketing, it has to be my content. I am not writing what the industry wants to see.  I think some of this is the paradigm shift that is happening in our industry.  We are printers that have determined that in order to survive going forward, we need to be more marketing and communications consultants.  So I am writing about that stuff and not about our core, legacy businesses. No one expects a printer to write about marketing and communications.  There's not a lot of people who want to read about printing, copying, bindery, mailing services and pre-press design. So what do I do.  I believe that I still need to continue to talk about our shift to marketing and consulting, but I need to figure out how to increase my subscriber base.  If anyone has any suggestions, please leave a comment below.

Next week, I will give you an analysis of points 6-10.  There just as brutal and will cause me a lot of work to correct.

You can always contact us at the following websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing        FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing      FaceBook Fan Page
AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing    FaceBook Fan Page

Twitter: @steveadams291
LinkedIn: stepheneugeneadams

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Our AlphaGraphics Video Has Arrived

After a couple of weeks of waiting since the Mesa Chamber Annual Awards luncheon, we have finally received a copy of our video that was shown at the meeting.
I am going to make great use of this video.  I have uploaded it to YouTube, I have embedded it into my AlphaGraphics Mesa, my AlphaGraphics Tempe and my AlphaGraphics Phoenix websites.  I have now linked the video to my Google Maps page for each of my centers and I am on the lookout for additional places to put it.

The word on the streets is that the Google rankings love videos on your website so, for me, this is a great test. Enjoy the video.

My Twitter Page  @steveadams291

Monday, April 26, 2010

We're Killing Trees....But Not the Forest

I would like to say that the title is true. At least I thought it was true when I started researching this article. Did you know that between the years 2000 to 2005, the U.S. lost a bigger percentage of its forest coverage than Brazil?  Sure Brazil lost more acreage but the U.S. lost almost 6% of its forest acreage during that time period.  Most of the lost acreage, believe it or not was in the southeast part of the country, and not the northwest where most people believe that the loss would occur. For more information on this phenomenon, go to http://bit.ly/bZPEu0 . However, in some countries as much as 80% of the timber is harvested illegally, often involving the violation of human rights and destruction of protected forests. A key factor behind the threats faced by natural forests is the perception by many societies that they lack economic value. The extraordinary social and environmental value of forests in comparison to other land uses is often not considered. In other words, forests are often converted to other land uses which lack many of the social and environmental values of forest but promise higher economic returns. You can read more about FSC at their website at FSC.org

So Why Does AlphaGraphics Believe That It Is Saving The Forests?

Just recently AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline Road in Arizona received its FSC Chain of Custody Certification. You can review this short video to see what this means in the printing industry.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. This organization was formed for the express purpose of controlling the demise of forests around the world. Not only do they control the cutting of the old large trees, but they control the use of chemicals that may harm wildlife in those forests. The goal of the organization is sustainability.  The perfect environment is that as more and more timber is removed from the forest, it is naturally replaced and that over a long period of time, there will be just as much timber and coverage in that forest as when lumber operations commenced.  In addition, the natural wildlife of that forest will not be disturbed.

So how does AlphaGraphics fit into all of this.  The FSC certification assures that there are procedures in place so that wood that is removed from an FSC controlled forest is identified, tagged and followed all the way to the end user.  So our responsibility is to assure that when a customer requests that a project is printed on FSC certified paper, that we buy the paper from an approved source (Xpedx Paper in our case), that we control the paper when it is in our possession and that we notate on our invoice that the printed product is printed on FSC paper with our Chain of Custody number prominently displayed. 

The FSC label provides a credible link between responsible production and consumption of forest products, enabling consumers and businesses to make purchasing decisions that benefit people and the environment as well as providing ongoing business value.

There are three types of FSC Chain of Custody logos that our customers can put on their products.  The most common is FSC Mixed Sources. This assures that the paper used in the printed product is made out of paper from a managed forest, combined with recycled material.  The second is the 100% recycled logo, which is self explanatory and the third is Pure, which means that the paper product contains 100% new paper from a managed forest.
At this point, of my three centers, only AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline is able to print the FSC logo on printed products.  What this means is that our customers at AlphaGraphics Tempe on Elliot and AlphaGraphics Phoenix - Northwest Valley will have their jobs invoiced out of my Mesa operation to assure the proper chain of custody.
For those who might want to know more about FSC, here is a 20 minute video from their website showing the benefits of FSC.  It is quite moving.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

We Lost...But Really We Won

At the Mesa Chamber of Commerce's Annual Luncheon, AlphaGraphics Mesa was one of the finalist for Mid-Sized Business of the Year. We did not win. Yes, I was nervous, yes I was disappointed, yes I was a little angry for a little bit.  However, as I thought about the whole experience, I believe that when we consider the entire event, we were a winner.  Let me explain.

I have spent a considerable amount of time and effort over the last few months promoting my business with SEO efforts.  I have worked on optimizing my website with the right keyword presentation, I have started a blog, I am doing press releases online so that they are picked up by Google, I am writing online articles with Ezinearticles.com, we are distributing a monthly email newsletters, we have done a couple of 3-dimensional mailing pieces to select customers and prospects and I continue to look at other opportunities to promote my business outside of the internet, such as sponsorships and networking.

So how does the Mesa Chamber experience fit into all of this? 

Well, a few months ago, I was asked by a staff person at the Chamber to "self-nominate" myself because they had not received enough nominations from the business community.  After a little thought, I did. I then learned that I was one of two finalists in the Mid-Sized category.  This was my start of a big SEO effort. I updated my status on Facebook and Twitter several times that we had been nominated. I wrote about it on my blog. (I guess this post qualifies also). I issued a couple of press releases, one with PRWeb.com, and one with Grassroots PR.  I was interviewed by a reporter with the Arizona Republic, which was published online and in print.

I received a few benefits also. 

My new picture that I am now using in my social media efforts was donated by a Chamber member (Steve Nissle).  The Chamber did a great video on my business. I will be receiving a copy of this video which I am going to upload to YouTube and embed it into my next blog, our AlphaGraphics websites, our Google Maps site and where ever else I can put it. I have been trying to figure out how to put a video on my websites for quite some time.  Google loves videos when evaluating the rankings of a website.

In addition to the SEO activities associated with this nomination, I received some RLO (Real Life Optimization) benefits. Even though the nomination had been made public by various means, most people did not know of the nomination until the event.  I had many businesses in the area congratulate me on the nomination and comment about how well I must be doing to be nominated (I do not bring up the fact that it was a self-nomination). I had a lot of people say they wish I had won for one reason or another and our new video was played to a room full of Mesa businesses.  What can be better than that?

So here come the sour grapes. 

The difference between winning and losing was that I did not receive a framed picture of my building (which I already have). I guess I will not be able to wear the tiara, to go to grocery store grand openings or to work for world peace, but I will survive. Instead of having more material for another press release on this nomination, I will work on a press release about our new FSC Certification.

I want to thank the staff of the Mesa Chamber for allowing me to be a part of the process and I sincerely want to congratulate Invision Auto Body for winning the category. Maybe we will try again in a few years.

You can always contact us at the following websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline - Printing and Marketing
AlphaGraphics Tempe on Elliot - Printing and Marketing
AlphaGraphics Phoenix - Northwest Valley - Printing and Marketing

Follow me on twitter: @steveadams291

Friday, April 9, 2010

AlphaGraphics Mesa is a Finalist for Mid-Sized Business of the Year

I'm usually not one to toot my own horn, but I thought you might be interested in a press release I just published on PRWeb.com.

For Immediate Release-April 11, 2010-Mesa, AZ--Stephen Adams, owner of AlphaGraphics Mesa on Baseline Road announced today that they have been notified that they were selected as one of the two finalists to be recognized as Mesa's Mid-Sized Business of the Year. The other finalist is Invision Auto Body in Mesa. The winner of this category will be announced and recognized at the Mesa Chamber of Commerce Annual Luncheon this Tuesday, April 13th.

"We could not be prouder of this recognition by the Mesa Chamber." stated Stephen. "I have watched over the years as many deserving companies received this recognition and have secretly aspired to becoming recognized to stand among the former recipients. Our category is going to be tough to win. Invision Auto Body is a great Mesa company and a contributor to the community."

Other finalists in the other categories include SCF Arizona and the Hilton Phoenix East /Mesa in the Large-Sized Business category and FastFrame and Express Employment Professionals in the Small-Sized category. The event is being held at the Hilton Phoenix/East Valley and tickets are still available by calling the Mesa Chamber at 480-969-1307.

Some of the factors used by the evaluation committee in making their selections included service and involvement in the community, staff retention and employment practices, commitment to quality services and participation in Mesa Chamber activities.

AlphaGraphics Mesa started 20 years ago in a Downtown Mesa location near the current Mesa Arts Center. In 2000, that location was moved to the Southern and Country Club area and then in December, 2005, they moved into their newly constructed building at 535 W. Baseline Rd., in Mesa.

Stephen has been very active in the community serving as President of the Downtown Mesa Association (formerly the Mesa Town Center), President of the Mesa Rotary Club, Chairman of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and he currently serves on the Mesa United Way Board of Directors. "We believe that it is important for all businesses to contribute to the community, both financially and with volunteerism." said Stephen.

Stephen Adams also owns two other AlphaGraphics franchises. His second center is located in Tempe near Kyrene and Elliot and his third center is located in west Phoenix near the Black Canyon Highway and Northern Avenue.

AlphaGraphics franchises that are owned by Stephen Eugene Adams can be reached at the following websites:

AlphaGraphics Mesa Printing and Marketing
AlphaGraphics Tempe Printing and Marketing
AlphaGraphics Phoenix Printing and Marketing

Twitter: www.twitter.com/steveadams291