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Marianne Carlson, is the president and co-founder of Emcie Media. Marianne graduated Summa cum Laude in 1997 from the University of Maryland (European Division) with a BS in Information Systems Management. Since then, she has managed a diverse career in Information Technology and Web Design.
Emcie Media is a Web Design & Internet Marketing firm serving small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. We are not an IT firm that also does websites. We are a Marketing Firm that happens to be fluent in new media technologies.
MO: Why did you start your own company?
Marianne: My husband worked for the Defense Department, and we have spent our lives moving. Every time we moved, I was back to looking for another job, and although I’ve had some interesting jobs over the years, it was never possible for me to really nurture a career. But in 2007, he retired, and I thought, “OK, now it’s my turn!” I always knew I had a lot of energy and brainpower, so I felt I had enormous potential. But I wanted to get my career onto the fast track, and that was going to be most plausible if I owned my own business. At 51, I didn’t want to be tethered by an employer’s restrictions on my growth. I wanted to jump in and show the world what I could really do.
MO: What are the biggest mistakes you see businesses make in their marketing strategy and how can they avoid them?
Marianne: Most businesses don’t budget enough money for their marketing, and the money they do budget gets wasted by not having a proper plan in place. Good marketing isn’t cheap, and cheap marketing usually isn’t very good. Many great companies, with awesome products and services, and talented management, and brilliant business models will fail because they haven’t got great marketing. But great marketing works, even when some of those other components are less than stellar. I tell my clients that great marketing doesn’t cost you money, it makes you money. My best advice for anyone trying to stretch a marketing budget is to spend a few hundred dollars on a good marketing consultant (me, of course) who can help them develop the best possible plan for the budget they have. Too many businesses burn through their marketing budget before they ever plan it out, and they end up with nothing to show for it.
MO: How has Emcie Marketing evolved since you first launched in 2008?
Marianne: What began as a one-woman freelance web design shop, has grown and evolved into a full-service Internet Marketing firm, with three principals and an extended team of contracted programmers. I am still the public face of the business, the one who works directly with the major clients. I have a very rare and valuable talent in that I am a gifted communicator, fluent in both English and GeekSpeak. Our clients know they can ask me questions and share their ideas, and I will really listen. And I’ll speak to them in a way that builds trust and understanding. I work with them to determine exactly what they need, then I can direct the programmers to build it.
That’s my main role, but I now have two business partners as well. My husband, Don, is our CFO and really manages the business, while my youngest daughter, Paula, is our Director of Internet Campaigns. She handles the bulk of the Social Media Marketing and the pay-per-click campaigns. By bringing them on board, we can now manage every aspect of a company’s online marketing, from designing a great marketing website to driving traffic to it through SEO, Social Media, AdWords, and more.
MO: Can you tell our readers about the new division called “Sell 2 Seniors” that you’ve just launched?
Marianne: We use the tag line “Simply Brilliant!” because we believe that communication is most powerful when it is simple, so our design philosophy is “the brilliance of simplicity”. Let’s face it, a website that isn’t simple – if it’s complicated, confusing, and cluttered – if it’s not simple, it’s not brilliant, and it won’t sell anything. Several months ago, it struck me that there’s a segment of the population that really needs a website to be super simple, and that is our senior citizens. So we set out to learn everything we could about how seniors use the internet, what they like and don’t like, what motivates them to buy, and how to best market to them.
We just launched our new division, Sell2Seniors.com, that specializes in websites that are truly senior-friendly, and web marketing campaigns that reach and motivate the senior consumer. This is an especially lucrative market because people over 50 now control well over 80% of all US assets, and their numbers are growing fast. So knowing how to attract and motivate those buyers is the key to success for a lot of our clients, especially those in the senior care industries.
MO: What did you most enjoy about your time in Germany, working as a Computer Specialist for the US Army?
Marianne: When Don’s job moved us to Germany, I went looking for work – again – and landed a position as an IT Specialist on a US military base in Wiesbaden. I was hired to work on a helpdesk and fix computers. It was geeky work, and I hated it, but I needed to keep my skills current, and options are limited when you’re living overseas. Then in 2003, the unit I was working for got deployed to Iraq, and I spent six months of utter misery with them in the desert. But during that time, I learned two important lessons about myself. 1) I am way too old to be doing something I hate for a living, and 2) I am 100% in love with the United States Military. I can’t describe how inspiring it was for me – truly life-altering – to work beside men and women for whom “Duty, Honor and Country” are not just words.
When I left Iraq, and returned to the States, I wanted to remain working for the Army, doing absolutely anything except IT. So I took a job at the Military Academy at West Point, and it was there that I learned web design. I believe that every American owes a debt to the US Military, but the debt I owe to the Army is a deeply personal one, and one I will spend my life trying to repay. They taught me great lessons about life, and challenges, and commitment, and honor, and then they taught me web design. And now I earn my living doing something I truly love, in a country in which all things are possible. It doesn’t get any better than that.
MO: You’ve written a book called “Websites for Small Business: Good Advice in Plain English for the Small Business Owner”. Could you give our readers some tips for free?
Marianne: My best tip is: Don’t trust your web designer! Every business owner is an expert in his field, but he’s rarely an expert in web design and web hosting. Therefore, he has to rely on the “experts” for advice. The problem is just like when I take my car to a mechanic, as a middle-aged woman, I don’t know anything about cars, and these mechanics see me coming! They sell me stuff I don’t need, they overcharge me for stuff I do need, and I have to take their word for the quality and value of their work.
It’s the same thing with web designers. For example, did you know:
80% of all the domains names purchased by web designers on behalf of their clients, are purchased in the designer’s name! That means that the designer owns your domain – even if you paid for it! This is just one of the horror stories that I hear from clients and business colleagues every day, and I am appalled by the lack of ethics in my industry.
So I wrote the book to level the playing field. Every business needs a website and it could end up being the biggest, most expensive mistake they ever make. This book was written to help entrepreneurs avoid those horror stories.
I am on a personal mission to end these rip-offs, so I’ll give your readers a free digital version of my book if they will visit my website and join my mailing list. www.MarianneCarlson.com
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