Brian Ash is a Springfield MO native. After graduating from Missouri S&T with a degree in Computer Science, he originally wrote flight software for the F/A-18 fighter jet at Boeing in St. Louis MO. In 1994, Brian teamed up with his best friend, Andy Faucett, to start the original Bambino’s Italian Café in downtown Columbia MO. Two more locations followed in Lawrence KS and Springfield MO. While living in Columbia, Brian was elected to the Columbia City Council from 2003-2006.
After selling his restaurant in 2010, Brian started a web based business selling a piece of kitchen equipment he’d invented in his restaurant. Marketing was always Brian’s favorite part of owning his own business and so he makes use of his 15 years of entrepreneurial experience and the search engine optimization techniques he’s utilized for The Drain Strainer to tailor effective advertising plans that get creative on how to bring businesses more customers without breaking the bank. Calibrate Marketing, is a full service advertising agency that approaches marketing like investing. Their marketing agency provides the blueprint for how to leverage technology to help get their clients the best possible return on their marketing investments.
BusinessInterviews.com: Why do you think that it’s important for clients to diversify their promotional portfolios?
Brian: Too many people think they’re still supposed to advertise the same way they did 20 years ago. The problem with traditional media (radio, television, newspaper) is that as soon as you stop those campaigns there is no long term residual effect. Plus, this type of advertising is more suited for image building or short term increases in traffic to promote a sale. It’s rare that you’re going to catch a customer when they are ready to actually buy something.
Instead, since Google has become the modern Yellow Pages, if you can improve your search results and have a website that does a good job of converting visitors into customers, then your website can be working around the clock to send you more business because when people are ready to pull the trigger, they usually first search online for who they trust to spend their money with. Out of sight is out of mind.
BusinessInterviews.com: How can small businesses compete with larger companies with more advertising dollars?
Brian: Small business owners can never compete against the bigger companies if they strictly focus on traditional media. That’s why they should invest their dollars initially in improving their online presence.
Most small business owners think that only large companies with deeper pockets can afford to invest in improving their local search results. The good news is that since most of their competitors aren’t doing anything, it’s relatively easy to improve your rankings. The age of the Internet has leveled the playing field between the mom and pop businesses and the larger companies.
If a local company with a great reputation can create a website that captures the personality of their business and they put some effort into making it easier for potential customers to find their website, then they’ll be able to compete head to head with larger companies who might be more focused on their national search results than they are on their local search results.
BusinessInterviews.com: What are some ways that you help local business owners get more customers in the door without spending a fortune?
Brian: For most small business owners, any investment in improving their local search results will be the highest and best use of their marketing dollars.
They should focus their investment on creating a great website that captures the personality of their business and accomplishes three things with potential customers: 1) Make the business look like the expert in their field. 2) Make them appear trustworthy and popular with many satisfied customers. 3) Make the employees of the business appear friendly and likeable.
You can accomplish these three things with great looking photos, short compelling videos and well written text that makes both the website visitors and the search engines happy.
By creating a website that not only converts well, but is also optimized from top to bottom and from the inside out to improve your search results, you’ll have a website that is easy to find and sends you more business. Your website is so much more than just a website. It’s usually the first impression most potential customers have of your business.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you provide an example of learning a strategy from one client that ended up helping another?
Brian: One advantage of having a diversified client base is learning something that works well for one client that you can share with another client in a completely different field. A specific example is that for one of our restaurant clients, we found a router that provides free WiFi access for their customers if they’ll check in at that business on Facebook using their tablet or smartphone. We later convinced another client of ours who is a car dealer to use this same type of router for their customers who want to surf the web while their car is being serviced.
Checking in at a business on Facebook is a pretty fair deal for most people to get free WiFi access. And a business owner who gets an extra 50-100 people per day checking in at their business on Facebook shows up in the News Feeds of all their friends.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you share some tips on how to turn traffic into conversions?
Brian: Sometimes the very techniques that can improve your search results (lots of text with your desired keywords) can hurt the number of website visitors that you’re able to convert into paying customers who are turned off by a cluttered website.
So the key is to make sure your landing page (usually your Home page) has a very clean design without too much clutter and a clear call to action (phone call, Email or directions to the business). You want to have great looking images that convey your message, a short video that explains what you do and why you’re the best at it, and a strong testimonial from a satisfied customer and that’s about it. You can put the majority of your text on your interior pages that someone can visit if you’ve done a good job whetting their appetite and they decide to dig deeper to learn more about your business.
BusinessInterviews.com: What’s your favorite social media platform and why?
Brian: Depending on the type of business, Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram can be very effective. But the Granddaddy of them all is still Facebook. While the organic reach of Facebook posts has significantly dropped, you can still pay to promote a post relatively cheaply to reach a wider audience and Facebook is a great way to engage with customers and share the personality of your business.
If you do it correctly by first creating a blog post and then sharing the blog post onto Facebook, it can not only generate engagement, but also improve your search results by creating high quality links back to your website. However the best social media to improve your search results is the often overlooked Google+.
While most business owners feel obligated to be active in social media and even hire people to post on behalf of their business, it’s usually much more important to focus on improving your local search results than it is to worry about your Facebook posts for most types of businesses.
If you’re a plumber, focus on your search results. If you’re a restaurant, focus on your search results and your social media. If you’re a local brewery, just focus on your social media.
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