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Spotlight On: Matt Foreman, Co-Founder of Shoot to Thrill Media

matt foreman web development

When it comes to dependability, the guys at Shoot to Thrill Media, a web design and development company in St. Petersburg, FL, are unparalleled. We feel like we hit the jackpot when we met Matt Foreman and his partner, Mark Lombardi (who you’ll get to meet soon as well). Friendly, responsive, smart, creative, AND fun … we knew we needed to Spotlight them. We are proud to call them Pinstripers, and simply love working with them on our web projects.

Name: Matt Foreman

Title: Co-Founder

Company: Shoot To Thrill Media

City: St. Petersburg

Web site: shoottothrillmedia.com

 

What inspired you to start Shoot to Thrill?

I love businesses! While I was freelance web designing I noticed I was helping out many different types of businesses. So as an entrepreneur I knew I would be able to provide a service that could help other businesses grow online. I knew I had an incredibly talented friend/partner in Mark, so it wasn’t a hard decision to pursue something bigger than freelancing. Shortly after, Shoot To Thrill Media was born.

What do you like most about the your industry and community?

Web design and marketing allows (and rewards) creativity. Whether it’s a new type of design or a new service we start offering, I love being able to think outside the box.

What challenges does your industry face?

I think one of the biggest challenges that the web design world faces is the fact that many people try to cut corners when it comes to web design. Whether it’s a DIY web builder, cheap hosting, or even just not knowing or understanding the value of a strategically built website. Your online image is one of the most important aspects of your business and there are so many things that can tarnish that image that may promote itself as “cheap but effective.”

How do you measure your success?

I think I measure success a little differently than most. I love taking (calculated) leaps of faith, so I put myself in a position of struggle when I’m at a point of wanting/needing to grow. Typically these ‘struggles’ either impact my personal life (like skydiving or riding a motorcycle) or my work life (offering a new service or investing in an unproven system). I measure my success by determining if those decisions are no longer a struggle, but a thrill or a successful endeavor.

What has been your greatest accomplishment in your career?

Being able to help other businesses grow while successfully growing my own business. Our one year anniversary is right around the corner, so knowing that we survived while shouldering all that responsibility is a huge accomplishment for me.

What do you think is the biggest mistake companies make when working in your industry?

Over-promising and under-delivering. We see it all the time, where a company or freelancer will bend the truth (lie) about their skill set just to secure a client. It’s hard to watch clients get away, especially ones with big dollar signs behind them, but knowing your limits and holding yourself to those limits to not harm the client and your own reputation is a great skill to have and it should encourage you to continue learning.

What is the most interesting trend you see in your industry?

I think it’s interesting (and great) that people are realizing more and more the importance of a mobile friendly website. It’s been super important for a few years now, but we’re really starting to notice clients being proactive in ensuring their website is mobile responsive.

How has technology helped/hindered your work?

Well, we wouldn’t be a company without technology, so we appreciate the strides technology has made in the recent past. But specifically, WordPress has come such a long way. It now powers more websites than any other platform, and it continues to grow at such a fast pace. Rightfully so. WordPress is amazing!

How do you stay on top of your field?

I can always admire and appreciate other great websites. It often times encourages me to learn a certain new design, or website function. I personally like to stay on top of my field by always learning and keeping an open mind when it comes to design, so as not to get stale.

What resources do you recommend? (Books, magazines, web, etc.)

If you’re interested in learning WordPress yourself, I recommend Treehouse. Some great courses that definitely helped me along the way. If you want to learn the basics, and how to troubleshoot, check out WPBeginner.com. And as always with WordPress, check the WordPress codex for all your technical questions.

If you could give one piece of advice to Tampa Bay companies, what would it be?

Keep crushing it! Tampa Bay is doing some amazing things. Growing up in the entrepreneurship community here has shown me how creative and determined the community is. Also, look for strategic partnerships. They’re SUPER beneficial for both parties and it’s always great knowing another expert has your back when you need them.

What was your first job?

I worked at the car wash down the road from my house when I was 15. I dried the cars that came out of the wash. Hated the job. My neck was permanently sunburnt.

What are your hobbies?

I love to travel, especially out of the country. I’m always up for an adventure, and the more physically demanding, the better!

Favorite food?

My grandpa’s t-bone steaks. They’re out of this world!

Last book you read?

Startup Stories by Jordan Raynor. Loved the book so much I reached out to Jordan, and eventually interned for him. Now he’s a great friend and mentor of mine.

There’s No Such Thing as a Brand-less Business

brandless_news

A new online retailer wants to make a splash in the business world by offering a range of nondescript everyday products for a mere $3. The name of the company is Brandless. (You can read the story here.) It’s an interesting idea, and we wish the entrepreneurs well, but we hope the moniker doesn’t confuse anyone about what a constitutes a brand. Apparently, we’re also not the only ones to cast a skeptical eye at the name of this new enterprise.

Upon reading about the of the new company in the Wall Street Journal, Donald J. Boudreaux, Professor of Economics at George Mason University penned a “letter to the editor.” He wrote:

“Regardless of its aspirations, a company called “Brandless” has a brand – namely, “Brandless.”  And the goods sold by that company are not generic; they’re branded.  The company’s targeted consumers, who allegedly are put off by brands, might indeed fancy that by buying products from a company named “Brandless” that they are cleverly escaping crass capitalist plots to overcharge for pointless marketing gimmicks.  But these consumers’ understanding of markets is mistaken.”

Professor Boudreaux also points out that whether people continue to buy the $3 products beyond a first purchase depends on the quality of the product being sold—which in concert with the low price—will quickly establish a brand image for both the products and the retailer. (If you’ve ever been to Dollar Tree or Everything’s A Dollar stores you get the idea.)

As Boudreaux indicates, the founders of Brandless are playing on the false understanding that brand equals promotion. They want you to believe the products they sell are foregoing a huge budget for brand marketing and passing the savings along to Brandless customers. It really never works that way but regardless, all brands exist apart from marketing. Ultimately, a company’s image is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, marketing can communicate information about a brand, and it may try to highlight positive perceptions while minimizing the negative. Yet only individuals coming together can say how a brand is regarded. This helps explain the persuasiveness of word-of-mouth advertising; it’s unfiltered honest brand communication, right from the source.

In any event, we all like brands … so much so that we brand everything. (For example, you may have married one specific “brand” of human being.) Recognizable brands save us time in locating and remembering things we like and helping us stay away from things we’d rather avoid. Without brands, every trip to the supermarket would be like a 50-first-dates of trial and error.

b2b marketing

 

Avoid Industry Jargon in Customer Communications

avoid industry jargon marketing_news copySome days ago, an acquaintance shared his recent experience breaking in a new hair stylist. She asked how previous barbers cut his hair, specifically which of two cutting implements was preferred. He didn’t quite catch the first option but heard “shears” for the second. Thinking of the shearing tool used on sheep, he chose that, but he left the choice up to the stylist.

He was a bit surprised to see the woman start with the scissors, but said nothing. After what struck him as an unusually laborious process, however, he commented on her meticulous care. (It was his gentlest nudge to hurry her along.) The stylist explained she wasn’t used to cutting hair with shears. Recognizing the misunderstanding, he quickly encouraged the stylist to change her method—much to her own relief. He then offered that most people referred to what she had been using as “scissors.” In response, she insisted with a terse smile, “Shears.”

Several factors led to the mix-up, and in the greater scheme of things the incident was no big deal. Yet the story does lead one to wonder how often companies—and the professionals who lead them—lose productivity and poorly serve clientele by using “correct” terminology rather than the words customers best understand?

Some industries are more prone to jargon—as well as jargon-based acronyms—than others. Healthcare (jargon examples: topical, hypoglycemic) and finance (examples: securitization, liquidity) are big offenders but technology (examples: Cloud, onboarding and solution this-and-that) may be the worst. (We must admit, though, that people in marketing also habitually throw around terms that are meaningless to the average person.)

Industry jargon can be difficult to avoid because it rises organically as people with similar knowledge and training create a common language of sorts. Additionally, professionals tend to enjoy their jargon as a way of showing off and differentiating themselves from the great unwashed. Understandable … but stop it! You want to make a connection with your customers, and you can’t do that if important information comes across as “blah-blah,” “thingamajig” and “doohickey.”

Here are five steps to help clean the jargon from your external communications:

  • Identify your target audience. Add jargon-killing as another reason why this should always be the first step in any marketing initiative. The better acquainted you are with your potential customers, the easier it will be to understand how best to craft a message that resonates with them. And if you happen to be targeting another segment of your own industry, you may be able to keep (some of) the jargon after all!
  • Test language for common understanding. As we get comfortable in our surroundings (in our bubbles, nose-blind … etc.) it’s hard to recognize what’s jargon and what isn’t. Try presenting your marketing materials and Web content to people outside your industry for their feedback. A good professional marketing firm (like Pinstripe) can also help you “democratize” your promotional content and sales spiels.
  • Identify things by their functions. Not only will this approach help assure that your audience knows what you mean, it may serve the dual purpose of clearly presenting a benefit to a potential customer. That’s a good thing.
  • Avoid acronyms … or at least spell them out upon first reference. Often, if someone can see what the letters stand for, they can figure out what you’re talking about. This however, doesn’t always work. For example, noting UI means “user interface” may not help a lot. In this case, see Rule #3.
  • Encourage customers to ask questions. No one likes to admit a lack of understanding, so customers may smile and nod even though they have no idea what you’re talking about. Keep this in mind, explain your proclivity for jargon (“it’s not you, it’s me.”) and sincerely encourage them to ask questions if there’s something they don’t understand.

This shouldn’t need to be said, but sometimes it is: Ignorance is not the same as stupidity. Customers may not know the right word(s) for what they need, but they are the only ones who can accurately define it. Don’t let understanding your jargon get in the way of your understanding what’s truly important.

b2b marketing

Strive First to Be the Better Version of Who You’ve Always Been

be better_news

If you’re of a certain age, there’s a good chance you remember the Sears Wish Book catalog from childhood, especially if your family celebrated Christmas. Flipping through its pages and choosing items for Santa to bring was a widespread rite of the late fall season. And it wasn’t only children who depended on Sears & Roebuck. For populations in rural areas and small towns, the company’s general merchandise catalog was the household supplier of everything from little girls’ patent leather shoes to their fathers’ power tools. (Please excuse the sexism, we’re going for a nostalgic vibe, here). Though specific product offerings had changed over decades, that was how things had been for about 100 years, starting in the late 19th Century.

Sears stopped publishing its general merchandise catalog in 1993 with the full-sized Wish Book hanging around until 2005. The company was becoming just another department store. In 2004, Sears bought the K-Mart chain to further cement a brick-and-mortar direction in retail. Though still offering a wide variety of products—including such stalwart inhouse brands as Diehard and Kenmore—Sears is far from what it once was. Today, it appears the company may be on its last legs. Revenue losses of $8 billion dollars from 2010 to 2016 prompted the closing of dozens of K-Mart and Sears stores, and things haven’t gotten any better in 2017. Reports are that Sears continues to hemorrhage cash, and many more store closings loom. The Sears in our very own Tyrone Square Mall is being demolished at this very moment.

However, about the time that Sears was turning away the mail-order aspect of its business, another company was starting operation, selling books online for delivery to consumers at their homes. In 1998, this new company expanded its offerings beyond books. Today, it is one of the most powerful brand names in the world, worth approximately $100 billion. Notably, as had previous generations who looked to the Sears & Roebuck catalog, now a huge portion of modern consumers visit Amazon.com to find almost anything.

In 2017, we see the delivery aspect of Amazon’s business including digital products and services, but the basic value proposition has remained consistent. That is, Amazon will make it easy for you to purchase the things you want, and they will get them to you wherever you are. And while Amazon’s “catalog” is online rather than a printed book, the impetus for the company’s growth is not very different from what made Sears an iconic brand for a full century.

In retrospect, perhaps Sears’s executives were thinking of the saying, “evolve or die,” when they changed the company’s business model and diversified. (For a period, Sears’s holdings included investment services with Dean Witter, insurance with All-State and real estate with Coldwell Banker). However, that’s a misunderstanding of beneficial evolutionary mutations. To be successful, the basic form remains the same; there’s just a new feature/aspect/innovation that lets the existing entity explore new horizons. What Sears did was abandon focus on what made the company special—the very core of its brand identity.

To the “evolve” maxim, legendary football coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, may have offered the perfect rejoinder: “You dance with the one whut brung you.” It seems that the date Sears walked out on, is the one that Amazon took home.

b2b marketing

Which Type of Video Works for Your Business or Project?

video production_news

Video is an important part of advertising, and can be instrumental in informing your customers about many aspects of your business, from your product line to your company culture to education. With so many different types of video, it’s important to assess your goals and decide which type will best help you reach them. Whether it’s a company overview or a series of interviews to demonstrate your expertise, do some serious planning before you commit to production to get the best value.

Some types of video to consider:

  • Company overview – this video is usually a documentary-style video that can include b-roll of your business in action, short interview clips with your employees and/or customers, shots of your company culture, and usually has a music track playing in the background to help evoke an overall feel. Sometimes these can be quite moving, depending on the business. For example, we are working on a video for Shorecrest Preparatory School, and it’s quite beautiful, with a lot of emotive shots of the students and teachers in a passionate learning environment. The video truly evokes the culture of Shorecrest, and you are lucky if you finish watching it without shedding a tear. We also just finished a company culture video for Big Frog Custom T-Shirts – it really demonstrates what the Big Frog Franchise Group is all about and they are excited to use it to capture the hearts of new potential franchisees.
  • Interviews – interview videos can serve several purposes, and are usually less time consuming than a full company overview and can be repurposed and used in other videos like the company overview, case studies, etc. Depending on your goal, interview videos may involve one of your staff answering questions about their expertise, process, or the company culture. You may invite clients to do an interview video for a case study about your company, or do an entire video with client testimonials.
  • Case Studies – case study videos can focus on a particular project that you’ve worked on and may include many elements, from client testimonials to shots of your employees in action. These videos are a great way to demonstrate just how great your business is and how passionate you are about your work. This is an added bonus for your clients – when you post the video you should always tag your client to drive traffic to their site. Case study videos are a great marketing tool on multiple levels for that reason – you are promoting your work and your clients’ work, plus you are giving clients an incentive to hire you – you feature them in your beautiful videos!
  • Video blogs – this is a blanket term that can include some of the other types of videos, especially interview videos, but these can also be somewhat more casual and some companies do these in-house with camera phones or personal video cameras. Video blogs can be anything from weekly or daily updates about new products, company news, or commentary on what’s happening in the industry. The sky is the limit with video blogs, in a way, because they are very specific to the atmosphere of your blog and your industry.
  • Educational videos – educational videos can be created for your staff or your clients. These may be product demos, or instructional videos for training purposes. You may even create several of this type of video to use for your inbound marketing efforts. For example, a videographer may post a short video on how to create simple video blogs outlining the equipment needed, easy-to-use editing programs, and places to find stock music for background and inexpensive stock b-roll if needed. This is a great resource for potential clients, and if they need a more professional video produced in the future, you will probably come to mind.

Videos are great marketing tools – just make sure that if you make the investment, you plan properly and have clear goals in mind. Contact Pinstripe Marketing if you’d like to discuss your video project – we can help you plan and execute the perfect video for your company’s needs.

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