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Blue Heron Restaurant
25300 Steelhead Blvd Duncans Mills, CA 95430
(707) 865-2261

Blue Heron Restaurant

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The Importance of Storytelling in Marketing

Too often, we forget that people connect to storytelling. No matter the medium, your business has to tell a story. It can be written, visual, audio, or anything else you can think of. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and be innovative!

Recently, a story of a man and his wife went viral. Through photographs, the man documented his wife’s battle with, and eventual death from, breast cancer. The story told through those photographs was moving, emotional, and powerful. Similarly, a short commercial from a Thai company made waves with its incredibly moving story that unfolded in only three minutes. It’s even possible to incorporate humor into an irreverent storyline that still manages to conjure up memories of family and spotlight employees.

There’s a reason these things go viral. People crave that human connection, that feeling of rising and falling with another person. Ever since our species could create symbols and form words, we’ve been storytellers.

Storytelling In Marketing

What story does this scene tell?

Photo Credit: goldsardine via Compfight cc

Unfortunately, this is a step that many businesses tend to skip when it comes to marketing. It’s all well and good to create an “About Me” page with bios for your staff, but is that all your website has going for it? We think you can stretch further. But where do you start?

What’s your unique story? Everybody’s got a story. You just have to find the story that fits with your business and will appeal to your customer base. Easier said than done, right? Maybe it’s the way your business got off the ground, or the inspiration for starting it, or the way your employees interact every day.

How can you best tell that story? What resources do you have available? Do you need to hire outside help? Your opportunities are as big as your imagination. You can tell the story with photographs, video, text, artwork, audio… what speaks to you? Perhaps more importantly, what will your audience respond to?

Utilize all your online resources. In today’s marketing age, you don’t have to rely on television and radio to be heard. It’s certainly not as easy as posting a video and sitting back to wait for views, but you can now streamline your marketing efforts with a little of your own creativity and elbow grease.

Have fun. Don’t be afraid to test out all those wild and kind of ridiculous ideas that you have floating around. Ask your staff for their ideas. Work together to create something amazing!

The hardest part of any story is making people care. There are lots of technical bits, too – pacing, structure, dialogue – but in the end, it means nothing if you can’t get anyone to care. Think of your favorite stories. Now think of why they’re so important to you. How can you create something similar for your business?

The effort involved in this process ranges from minimal to exponential. It all has to do with your manpower and time constraints. If you need some help, you know who to call! (It’s us. We’re talking about us.)

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

Sensory Marketing

Many advertisers known that a clever visual pun or well-crafted print advertising can have a big effect on potential customers. But what about branching beyond the visual? There are ways to flesh out advertisements to involve all five senses and give people more well-rounded insight into your brand.

Experiment with Sound

There’s a lot of multimedia out there that allows you to play on the auditory sense. Historically, we’ve used radio to reach people with sound. Today, many users are migrating away from traditional AM/FM radio and going online to streaming music applications like Spotify. The past few years have also shown an increase in YouTube users, blending visual and sound in short video form. Can you use these mediums?

This is an ideal time to get creative. Spotify allows the option of creating, sharing, or collaborating on playlists, which is perfect for a music-themed contest. You can apply this to virtually any business or service by having people create themed playlists for holidays, product releases, and more.

Experiment with Sound

Experiment with Touch

Touch can get complicated, but it’s not impossible to play with in your advertising. Instead of relying on tactile sensation, focus on creating engaging campaigns that inspire action in your followers. Community campaigns like flash mobs or eye-catching stunts that raise awareness are two potential ideas. Maybe stretch even further and hold an adopt-a-pet event at your store or office to bring in lots of foot traffic. Plus, fluffy puppies! Keep in mind that anything you do should somehow tie back into your business so it sticks in people’s memories.

Experiment with Touch

Experiment with Smell

Again, you don’t have to work with literal smells, as that might turn off some customers. Instead, think outside the box. One of our clients recently held a Pinterest contest where users posted pictures of all the things their dogs “love to smell.” This sort of marketing could work especially well for a food or fragrance-based business. Smell is closely tied to memory, so think of ways to link the two. Ask people to think of smells that remind them of a certain time in their life, or a special person. That’s a powerful emotional bond!

 Experiment with Smell

Experiment with Taste

If you can create an advertisement that evokes the sensation of taste, that’s incredible. Taste is a sense of comfort and exploration for many people. Help them imagine their grandmother’s home cooking, or have them offer up a relevant recipe. You can always hand out lollipops! Everybody loves lollipops.

Experiment with Taste

At the end of the day, experiments like these are really about thinking beyond the typical. While many websites are leaning more heavily on visuals and high-quality photography, multimedia is still playing a big part in how users are interacting with brands. Exploring other avenues may be just the thing that sets you apart.

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

Considering the Customer’s Perspective

One of the most difficult things in the world to do is take a look at yourself through a different lens. When we look at ourselves or our businesses, we see the full context of our experience, from startup to present day. We know exactly why everything is the way it is, why certain decisions were made, and are often heavily invested in the method we’ve used to build what we have.

It’s tough to take a step back and look at things from another perspective. Sometimes we’re too close to the company not to take criticism personally. It’s often a business owner’s first instinct to go on the defensive and try to over-explain, or worse, get obviously upset with a customer.

New Perspective

Try looking at things from another angle… like the customer’s point of view.

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

Unfortunately, we must remember that other people are only seeing things from the outside. We’ve had many clients get ruffled over a negative Yelp review, explaining how the reviewer had a skewed experience or is just flat-out wrong. There are a few things to keep in mind in these instances.

An outside perspective can give you new insight. You may immediately bristle at criticism of your business, but it’s vital to pay attention and seriously consider what your customers are saying. Even if you ultimately disagree, remember that they’re seeing things from a different angle, and that angle can be invaluable. They may uncover something that you never see because you’re too close.

Remember that customers have a limited view. Many businesses respond to negative sentiment with explanations, but when you’re online, these exchanges have a very different tone for your customers. Regardless of how polite you are, explanations come off as excuses and any implication that the customer may be wrong will be met with offense. Worse yet, uninvolved parties may feel you’re being confrontational and defensive, and wonder what you’re hiding.

Negative sentiment is a catalyst for change. Instead of trying to explain issues away, always thank customers for their feedback and verbalize the steps you’re taking toward ensuring their negative experience isn’t repeated. Then consider their feedback critically and decide what changes really do need to occur, if any.

Learn which battles are worth fighting. We all know that there are customers that will never be happy no matter what you do. They come into a complaint looking for a fight with their teeth bared. The reasons why this happens are unimportant. What’s important is to remember that when you’re dealing with customers like this publicly or online, you have a silent audience watching in the wings. Keep your head, stay classy, and show that you’re making a true effort to rectify the situation. Even if the initial customer can’t be appeased, other customers will take note of your behavior.

These are some of the many ways you can turn potentially negative criticism into something that makes your business stronger. In addition to customer insights, you may want to ask another outside agency or knowledgeable individual to give their thoughts on how to improve your business. When you hear suggestions, try to consider them with an open mind, even if your first impulse is to reject them. It may be just what you need to reinvent your business!

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

Building a Creative Online Campaign

When you’re braving the choppy waters of internet marketing, it can be easy to get lost. Sometimes it feels like you’re just throwing spaghetti at a wall just to see what sticks. There must be a better way to build a compelling campaign!

There is.

First, let’s go over the basics: marketing is about experimentation and a willingness to try and try again. Even the most successful companies in the world deal with their fair share of dud marketing campaigns… and these are businesses with entire dedicated marketing departments at their disposal. The occasional failure is part of the game.

The other part of the game is having the wherewithal to recognize why something didn’t work. Or better yet, why it did. You can’t just give up because your first, second, or even third attempt to navigate the waters turned up mediocre results.

Creative Campaign

Creativity is key.

Photo Credit: AlicePopkorn via Compfight cc

Here’s some advice to help in creating a compelling, creative campaign.

  • Do your research. Do you know what your current or potential audience wants? Are you sure? Seek out what your competitors are doing online. What’s working for them? What’s not? What do you have that can fill a niche they can’t? Use it.
  • Make it personal without losing your core messaging. What’s going to make people care about your marketing efforts? Maybe you can be a hub for local events, or post pictures of the sort of goofy fun you have in your shop every day. If your audience is parents, share content that will resonate with them, like parental humor or photos of your kids. Just don’t forget that you’re also trying to get them to DO something.
  • Invest in high-quality imaging. Social sites and many websites are moving toward highly visual designs that often rely on high-quality images. Visual storytelling has proven to be something the public reacts to very strongly. Stunning photography or carefully crafted designs convey a level of professionalism and, done correctly, are highly sharable. Can you create creative visual messaging?
  • Learn the art of story. Do you know how to tell a story in 100 words? It’s an important skill to learn. You’ll often hear that “Content is King,” and it’s the truth. People respond to interesting, entertaining, or valuable content. Blend mediums. How can you combine sound and text? Video and audio? Images and story? It doesn’t hurt to brush up on your grammar, too. Polished text is professional text.
  • Be willing to change direction. You may find that something you did on a lark ended up with ten times the reaction of your usual efforts. Don’t wave it off as a fluke. If something you do finds a foothold, be willing to lean further in that direction, even if it means abandoning other “safer” efforts.
  • If you don’t have the bandwidth to do it internally, hire a professional. As in, a professional internet marketer with experience and a portfolio. Many people claim expertise in the digital realm, and if you’re not very familiar, in can be difficult to determine who really knows their stuff. So insist on seeing success stories.
  • The product or service must deliver. Okay, you’ve done your job well and set up a plan that will draw people to you (hopefully) in droves. Now you have to deliver what they were promised.

Above all, find what makes you stand out and don’t be afraid to experiment. Do something completely different! Write a mini-play. Film a video. Think of the advertising that really sticks with you, then put your own spin on it. This isn’t easy, but if you strike the right balance, it can be explosive!

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

Flexibility in the Digital Space

With the constantly changing landscape of technology and online marketing, it’s vital to remain flexible. Many people attempt to apply old techniques to a new market or operate based on information that’s already several years old. While the latter are at least attempting to keep up with the lightning-fast pace of today’s world, ultimately both fall victim to the same problem – they’re not being flexible enough.

Learn Flexibility

Learn to get a little wavey

Flexibility isn’t just about being able to change direction. It’s about being able to change direction quickly. Realistically, many businesses have processes in place for implementing new plans. This often means changes are wrapped up in months’ worth of red tape, if they happen at all.

There’s nothing wrong with having a structure in place before taking the business in a completely different direction. In fact, it’s often necessary to ensure things aren’t being turned on their head every few months, which can be even more harmful that not evolving with the times. In an ideal world, there’s room for both.

Unfortunately, the rapidly shifting arena of the online marketplace doesn’t wait for you to play catch-up. That’s why it’s important to implement a plan for keeping up early. It’s also essential to work with someone who keeps their fingers on the pulse of the internet, whether that person is an internal hire or a consulting professional. Do you know how to set these gears in motion?

First and foremost, you have to believe in the power of internet marketing. We don’t mean that in a “clap your hands if you believe in fairies” kind of way, but in a “you should trust that this outlet will have real value for your business” kind of way. If you’re skeptical or think the internet is a waste of time, then you won’t really invest in getting your marketing off the ground, which will result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anyone can quote you all of the relevant statistics, but it’s up to you to find the place where you feel comfortable and willing to get behind the effort.

Once you’ve found your “happy place” with online marketing, you can move on to implementation. If you’re in an industry where things are very slow moving, this may take some considerable reorganization. Don’t leave everything up to one person – assemble a team that can work together to get all of the moving parts in place. If you don’t have the staff for a maneuver like this, consider an internet marketing agency. We may know of one you can call on. Just saying.

Work with someone who is keeping up with all the latest news. This should be an internet professional, not someone who’s playing catch-up on blogs that may be years out of date. Your internet marketer should really know their stuff. Do your research before hiring and speak with current clients if possible.

Now the pieces of your puzzle are in place. From here, your business should be able to move nimbly in the marketplace. It’s important to work openly with your internet marketing specialist and put your faith in them to do the best thing for your business. Checks and balances for big decisions are expected, but remember to remain flexible and not tie things up so tightly that direction changes are impossible.

The digi-scape moves quickly. In order to keep up, you need to work with someone who knows the information highway and can make hairpin turns when needed. It’ll do wonders for your business!

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

Business Information

We exist in an ideal time for sharing information quickly and liberally. One of the greatest benefits of the Internet Age comes from the accessibility to nearly all of life’s answers. Within seconds, we can find out how to change a tire, bake a red velvet cake, or what’s happening on the other side of the globe. The world is simultaneously becoming smaller and bigger than we could ever have imagined.

Information Sharing
Photo Credit: Shishberg via Compfight cc

Information sharing is one of the many things businesses can offer their customers to help them feel invested and keep coming back for more. However, that shouldn’t be the only reason to do it. There’s certainly merit to the idea of leaving a little breadcrumb trail of “tips and tricks” to show off your expertise and get your prospective clients to bite. There is a point, though, where they begin to see through the charade and feel they’re being led on a wild goose chase with a big price tag as a prize.

If there’s one thing we know about the modern consumer, it’s that they really don’t like feeling like they’re being actively sold to. We see this in their reaction to Facebook advertisements, popup ads, suggested Tweets, and more. They’re seeking that genuine connection; that reason to give your company more than a second of their time. If they detect insincerity, they’re gone.

This is why it’s so important to consider your approach to sharing information. In reality, businesses must be cognizant of their marketing as it relates to sales. But that doesn’t have to mean sacrificing integrity just to get someone to fill out your online inquiry form. Think of ways you can give them real value.

  • Don’t repeat what everyone else has already said. In order to be good at this information sharing thing, you need to find something only you can share. Even if you’re just giving your personal spin on it, it’ll be something a little different. If you’re the 1000th person to write the same “Top 5 Best Online Marketing Tips” that have been circulating for the last six years, no one will care.
  • Give a little without expecting a return. It’s okay to want to, you know, make a profit. But every once in a while, try giving something away with absolutely no expectation of return. People will appreciate feeling like you’re not always sitting there with your hand held out, waiting to be paid.
  • Don’t think too highly of yourself. Everyone’s an “expert” these days. When you really know your stuff, you don’t have to puff your chest and claim your expertise all the time. Just be genuine and nerd out over the things you love. Your enthusiasm will be catching.
  • Let other people have the floor once in a while. If it’s the “Me Show” all the time, things may get stale. Part of sharing information comes from letting others have a voice, too. Encourage discussion and feature guests. Some of our best ideas can come from collaboration.
  • Offer something of real value. If you’re going to give away a “free ebook” in exchange for their email address, then make sure there’s something in that ebook that’s going to make the download worth it. If they give up their info for a half-baked white paper full of information they already know, they’ll lose faith in you immediately.

There are numerous methods of sharing information in the digital marketplace — email marketing, SMO marketing, blogging, and more. Select the medium that works best for you. Are you good at short-form or long? Is it easy for you to whip up a crowd? Do you have an effective opening rate for emails? These are all important questions. Once you have your medium, all you need to do is give the people what they’re looking for.

Easier said than done, we know. But if you need help… it’s out there!

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

Help Your Business Help Itself

September is Self-Improvement Month, so why not try a few popular self-help suggestions for your business? There’s always room for improvement.

Business Self Help

  • Before others can love your business, it must love itself. Or rather, you must love it. Do you love your company? Do you truly appreciate the service or product you’re providing? This advice seems pretty straightforward. What makes you care about a business or brand? Think it over. If you don’t love what your company is doing, you can’t expect other people to care, either. Find all the things that make you respect and support a brand and apply those elements to your own business. Learn to love it again.
  • When you’ve made a mistake, admit it and make amends. Everyone screws up eventually. As your business grows, you’re likely to come across people who are unhappy with it. You simply can’t please everyone, but when you make an error, the first step is admitting it. First to yourself, and then to any wronged customers. Come clean. Once you’ve done that, take appropriate steps to make amends for the mistake. Show people that you’ve learned. Becoming defensive or sticking your head in the sand will only bite you in the end. Learn how to manage negative sentiment effectively.
  • Learn how to win friends and influence people. All of that age-old advice stands – be the kind of business people would want to hang out with at a party. Be genuinely interested in your customers. Sincerity goes a long way. Let them talk about themselves. Ask questions where the answer will be “yes.” SMILE. It just seems to lend itself naturally to business application, doesn’t it?
  • As Mr. Abraham Maslow once said: diversify your toolbox, because not every problem is a nail. Translation: if you’re only using one method of solving problems, you’re essentially using a hammer on a screw. Different problems call for different solutions. Remain flexible and draw on your employee base for help. Utilize all of your available tools! Try something new!
  • Help your business help itself. The most successful business leaders take initiative and lead the charge for their brand. Are you doing the same thing you’ve always done and hoping something will change? Are you waiting for someone else to come along with the solution? Don’t. Take the reins! That doesn’t mean you have to do everything. It just means it’s up to you to figure out what’s going to make your business work!

Onward, fair business owners. Let your brand soar!

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

Control vs Management: Striking a Better Balance

It’s not unusual to want to be involved in all of the aspects of your business. In fact, it’s completely understandable. When you really care about the company you’ve built, you like to make sure everything’s working smoothly and nothing’s falling by the wayside.

But is there a point where involvement turns into excessive control that can stifle your business’ continued growth?

Office ManagerIn the business world, we all know there will be a certain number of things we can’t control. There will be misunderstandings, mistakes, disgruntled customers, and more loops than we could ever predict. For some personalities, this just isn’t good enough. They’re convinced that everything can be solved or prevented so long as they’re involved.

Unfortunately, it’s often too much for a single person to handle. That’s where the issues start.

Investment in your company is a good thing. Proper management is a good thing. But are you biting off more than you can chew to the detriment of your business? Here are a few warning signs to watch for.

  •  Do you micromanage the activities of your workers?
  • Do you refuse to delegate tasks to the appropriate people, opting to do the work yourself because you “only trust yourself” to do it correctly?
  • Do you insist that you know better than people specifically trained in the tasks they’re responsible for, even if you have little to no experience or training in that area?
  • Are you missing deadlines because you insist on checking everything personally before it goes out and you just don’t have the time to reasonably get to it all?

There are a few elements at play here. First, are you working with the right people? If you’re genuinely concerned about the quality of an employee or contractor’s work, that’s something that needs to be addressed. However, if the employee or contractor is consistently doing good work, you may be keeping them from reaching their full potential. Worse, you may be frustrating them or making them doubt their abilities.

High standards are never a bad thing for a good business owner. However, there comes a time when they need to trust in their people. If the trust isn’t there, action needs to be taken to build it. You hire people to do specific tasks. As a manager or overseer, your job is to manage their workflow and ensure requirements or deadlines are being met. When you hire experts, allow them to do their work. You don’t have to take everything on blind faith. Regular updates are a must, but not to the point of disrupting workflow.

If you can’t loosen the reins a little, you’re going to harm your business and yourself by proxy. There’s just no way for one person to carry all marketing efforts for a considerably-sized business on their own. Remember, a Jack of all trades is the master of none. If you can’t do all the work on your plate on a reasonable timeline, something has to change. It’s okay to admit you don’t know everything… and if you need help with your online marketing, email marketing, you know where to look!

Your stress levels, and your business, will thank you!

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.