23 03, 2020

Don’t Panic. Leverage Digital Marketing During the Coronavirus Outbreak.

By | 2020-03-23T08:27:03+00:00 March 23rd, 2020|Categories: Beacon News, Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC|Tags: , , |

Travel bans are in place. Restaurants are closed for dine-in service. Social distancing is the current collective mantra. As the world hermits itself, many brands are assessing what this means for their marketing budgets. With consumer spending pulling back and collective attention turned towards the continual flow of COVID-19 news updates, it may seem logical to spend less on marketing. But, for many companies, this may not be the best approach.

Not Spending is Not a Strategy

Marketing strategy is always about delivering the right message, at the right time, with the right medium, and to the right audience. This truth is consistent and enduring. Put into action, this also means that strategy must pivot anytime there’s a disruption – and the Coronavirus is certainly that disruption.

The knee-jerk reaction is to cut ad spend – and, if you are considering this, take a step back and breathe for a moment. Pulling back on ad spend isn’t a marketing strategy. Less marketing equals less sales and less visibility, which is the exact opposite of your goal and what you ultimately need for your business. And, considering no one knows how long this pandemic will last, ignoring the present climate will certainly make the road to recovery brutally long. After all, you can’t not market forever, can you? What’s your plan?

Our goal as marketers is to break through the noise and reach the customer. Just because this becomes more difficult, or “feels” fruitless, does not mean marketing is turned off. With recent reports stating that web usage is up 20-50%, it’s more important than ever to have a presence online and pivot your marketing plans. Rather than deciding how much to pull back, the focus should be on what medium to invest in and what message to deliver.  Seize the opportunity… wisely.

Even The Coronavirus Can Present Marketing Opportunities

Whether you’re 100% e-commerce, brick and mortar, or a little bit of both, you can still be successful with your digital spend. The key is to find the right mix and define a strategy rather than “click,” turning it off. Consider moving dollars from a direct response (lower funnel approach) to building brand awareness (top of funnel). This is true for the Ford Motor Company, who shelved ads for their new product launches and instead, redirected focus on new spots touting “Built to Lend a Hand” and “Built for Right Now.” The point here is to stay connected with your current audience and create new connections by showcasing your brand to the larger audience that is online because they are at home. Opportunity!

And yes, you may not be Ford, but you have options. Other brands are introducing new, timely calls-to-action. Dunkin Donuts is giving extra points to those in the DD Perks programs for on-the-go ordering. Sling TV is providing free access to news and entertainment. And, One Medical has offered 24/7 virtual care to its members. These are all great examples of marketable offers that pivot digital strategy to respond to today’s climate.  These ads shine to the online audience because they are different, they feel personalized and, consequently, keep conversions and awareness high.  Opportunity!

Pull Back on Ad Spend Only If You Must

Marketing strategies will vary during this period depending on the type of business. Some will choose to stay the course. Some will pull back partially, and yes, some may pull back completely. Before jumping to the latter, consider moving ad spend around to save where you can – but avoid completely disappearing.

Focus on your top awareness drivers. Invest in building your brand and conversions that are relationship builders. Spend where there’s still ROI, even if the benefit to your business takes a little longer. But, you really shouldn’t go dark. 87% of consumers who interact with a brand daily feel more loyal to them – and this number falls drastically as the length of time since last interaction increases.

Remember: out of sight, out of mind. Maintain your connection to some degree, particularly as your competitors dial back and cost goes down. This helps to bridge the gap and helps you get back to full speed when the time comes. Opportunity!

Also keep in mind that the World Advertising Research Center (WARC) projects a 7.1% increase in global media spend based on the expectation that marketers will simply withhold spend until later in the year. The surge in demand later in the year will drive up competition and prices, making acquiring (and reacquiring) customers potentially more expensive than ever before. Staying connected, even somewhat, will reduce the ramp up and deliver a lower blended ROI when compared to a stop-and-go approach.

In Summary: Adjust to the Coronavirus, Not Away From It.

Again, take a very deep breath. Let it out. And, maybe consider taking another one.

Now do what you always do.

Yes, disruption abounds. Resist the urge to throw in the towel. Adjust your strategy to keep your brand alive, visible and relevant to your audience with special messaging and/or new offers. Take advantage of the situation as your competitors panic and ad costs are driven down. Speak to your audience differently, showing that you are still here… and care… and ready when the pandemic clouds dissipate.

We know it’s difficult. Beacon recommends that you calmly assess your particular business’s situation and plan accordingly. Don’t go ALL-IN and don’t FOLD. Stay in the game. Now is the time to collaborate and brainstorm.  Assess the data, as customer visits are probably different. Pay attention to items being put in shopping carts without checking out, more browsing of your products (pageviews), an increase in virtual tours and other low-risk, stay-at-home activities. Opportunity!

And when the world returns to normalcy, and it will, you will be ready. As always, the Beacon Team is here and available if you need guidance.

26 09, 2018

A Birthday Wish. Let’s Make It Come True.

By | 2018-09-26T17:22:02+00:00 September 26th, 2018|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: , |

Special Message from Beacon CEO, Mark Dirks

As I blow out the candles on 57 years today, I have a bigger-than-normal wish.

Over these years, I’ve had the great fortune of becoming friends and business partners with many, many people. One of my character traits (or flaws) is to constantly push forward with new opportunities and ideas, which apparently doesn’t diminish with age!

I’m reaching out for your help on my newest and maybe boldest undertaking.

I feel like I’ve always been a “business” entrepreneur. I enjoy it. But, over the last two years, the plight of the children and people of Rwanda has really impacted me. I was emotionally overwhelmed with what I saw during my visit to Kigali this past June. The poverty. The genocide stories. The malnutrition in children. The lack of schools. The seemingly constant search for water. The subsistence farming. I could go on and on. But you know what sticks in my mind? The smiles. The friendliness. The drive to overcome. And, how much they need our help. This is why we started the Weaving Hope project.

Life is precious. We understand this more and more as the clock ticks on our own lives, even more so for me as I grapple with the very recent news of my mother’s health. “Giving Back” has always been part of my work culture, whether it was the Arts Council (RJ Reynolds) or the United Way (AT&T). We made it a point to carry this same spirit into Beacon’s culture 20 years ago – giving our time and money to the local community. Now we want to give Rwanda that same love and attention. Life is just as precious there, and these children need a fighting chance.

Fifty-seven years are gone and my eyes are closed over my imaginary cake. I’m quietly wishing to build a preschool in a rural part of Rwanda, just outside of Kigali. It will bring education, nourishment and more importantly, HOPE, to children, year after year! Be a part of our “construction crew,” forever connected to this building that will endlessly change lives. Let’s make it come true.

You can help in one of two ways, or both!

  1. Share this message with everyone you know. Help me get the word out by forwarding this blog or sharing with your social network.
  2. Buy a beautiful handmade African basket for $29.95 (perfect holiday gift!), 100% of which goes directly to the building fund. Visit WeavingHope.com and click the Buy A Basket button at the top. This also brings meaningful income to the artisans so they can support their families.

Learn more at WeavingHope.com and follow our progress. I hope you enjoy the pictures we took of the children and schools, basket weavers, countryside and people of Rwanda, along with the Weaving Hope Team.

These images show the depth of need and are forever locked in my memory.

23 08, 2018

Weaving Hope: A New Venture Aims to Build School in Rwanda

By | 2018-08-23T07:26:10+00:00 August 23rd, 2018|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: , |

Weaving Hope, a new philanthropic partnership between NC-based Beacon Technologies and Georgia-based burton+BURTON®, is targeting the educational and nutritional needs of Rwandan children.  Through the Hope on A Thousand Hills mission of the Anglican Church in Rwanda, the initiative aims to raise funds for a new school through the sale of authentic, African baskets. Launched on Wednesday, August 15, 2018, the Weaving Hope website invites the public to “join our virtual construction crew” and follow the progress by purchasing one of four traditional designs handmade by women artisans in the small Rwandan village of Gitarama.

“Rwanda is bouncing back in a big way from enormous challenges in the last two decades,” says Mark Dirks, Beacon’s CEO. “We want to help keep the momentum going by providing the youngest generation of Rwandans with a solid foundation built on good nutrition and education.” Hope on A Thousand Hills’ school-building mission includes a food program to ensure students receive proper nourishment to deter stunted growth that affects nearly 50% of rural Rwandan children.

In addition to helping young students, the initiative also provides an economic benefit for Gitarama artisans. Weaving Hope’s basket-weavers belong to the village women’s cooperative, which helps many women combat poverty. Weaving Hope helps members of the cooperative sustain meaningful employment so they can take care of their families.

“Women are the backbone of Rwandan society. Helping them leverage their traditional skills and know-how into real, economic gains is so personally rewarding,” says Maxine Burton, burton+BURTON’s COO. “I love the fact that our efforts start and end with the Rwandan people.”

Construction of the school will begin as soon as the $30,000 fundraising goal is met. The logistical and architectural designs are already in place. You can check on the progress of Weaving Hope’s fundraising goal by visiting www.weavinghope.com.

2 08, 2018

Beacon is Going to edUi 2018

By | 2018-08-02T10:23:15+00:00 August 2nd, 2018|Categories: Beacon News, Higher Education, Web Development|

Beacon is going to edUi 2018 in Charlottesville, VA. If you’re a web professional who works with colleges, universities, libraries or museums, you should, too. In fact, we’ll help you get there.

Register here and receive $100 off the registration fee. Or just apply the code “Beacon” on the regular registration form to access the discount.

The conference always features a great line-up of speakers and workshops, and this year is no different. Check out the blog posts from this year’s presenters, and this guest blog post from our CEO and President Mark Dirks.

We hope to see you there. Come and say hello October 8 – 10.

19 07, 2018

GDPR: What Is It? Does It Apply To Me? And So What?

By | 2019-05-06T11:06:03+00:00 July 19th, 2018|Categories: Beacon News, Ecommerce, Google Analytics|Tags: , , , |

If you work in digital marketing, you probably couldn’t help but notice the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) mania sweeping the internet earlier this year. Indeed, before the new regulations became enforceable in May 2018, there was breathless anticipation and countless “What You Need To Know” blog posts promising the low-down on all the important compliance implications.

Any new regulation is bound to create a few headaches as affected parties figure out the new landscape and work out the kinks. But, a law as sweeping as GDPR promised to be — impacting the very foundation of how e-commerce works — has the potential to thoroughly disrupt the status quo, and everyone’s comfort level along with it.

So, has our digital existence been turned upside down since May? Are we really living in a whole new internet reality?

Here, at Beacon, we were very much interested in the potential of GDPR to impact our ability to collect and analyze consumer data via Google Analytics (our preferred data aggregation platform). So, after a couple of months under the new regulations, as the dust has begun to settle, we decided to take a look around at the brave, new, GDPR-compliant world and see what’s what.

What Is GDPR?

Let’s start by defining what GDPR does. According to the European Commission website, the body that created the legislation, GDPR governs:

“the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.”

In simple terms, the new rules aim to protect the personal data of all European Union citizens by explicitly granting them greater control over how their personal digital data is used and stored by others. GDPR applies to any company, person or entity that has the potential to gain access to personal data of EU citizens for non-personal use.

Yeah, But Does GDPR Apply to My Organization?

Because there are no national borders on the internet, EU residents (and everyone else) can easily access websites hosted in other countries. As such, the practical implication of GDPR is that it applies globally, no matter where your company or organization is legally headquartered.

If your website can be accessed by someone in the European Union — and if it’s up and running, it absolutely can be — then you should be paying attention. So, if you haven’t already, make sure your organization undertakes a review of how your site’s visitor data is collected, compiled and stored in Google Analytics (or, whichever platform you use).

What Does GDPR Impact?

There are three major areas of emphasis with GDPR: data collection management, data protection and visibility, and restrictions on data use.

The new regulations affecting data collection management require companies to get consent from consumers before collecting and storing their personal data. This means that when you visit your favorite online store, the retailer will have to ask you for explicit permission to track your shopping session and see what jeans you’re interested in buying. More than that, consumers have the choice to opt out or limit how their online behavior is tracked.

If you grant permission to track your shopping experience, or choose to share any other personal information — like your address and contact information when you sign up for a store rewards program, for example — the retailer has the responsibility of protecting that collected information from falling into the wrong hands. Not only that, because EU consumers have the right to request that their data be deleted, businesses have to know exactly where they store your personally identifiable consumer data in order to comply with any consumer requests.

In addition to requests to delete their data, under GDPR, consumers are enabled to exercise more granular control over what data is collected and how it is used. Consumers are empowered to rescind their data collection permission at any time they want. They can also request that your company turn over their data to a third-party or another retailer.

All of this means that, going forward, companies doing business online should have a sophisticated, flexible and responsive system of collecting and managing consumers’ personal data.

What Should I Be Doing?

To understand exactly what your company should be doing to accommodate these new consumer-centered protections, speak with your legal team. Your attorneys should be able to provide guidance tailored to your industry and circumstances.

If that entails a re-imagining of your data collection and management processes on your website, or through Google Analytics, give Beacon a call. We’ll be glad to walk you through the platform and recommend a course of action. Give our experts a shout at 866.964.5590.

16 01, 2018

Hannon Hill Introduces an Accessibility Plugin

By | 2018-01-18T12:24:14+00:00 January 16th, 2018|Categories: Beacon News, Cascade CMS|Tags: , , |

As if security and dependability were not reason enough to use Hannon Hill’s Cascade CMS, its newest, innovative plugin makes it a must for Higher Ed, business and content creators of all kinds.

Teaming with Siteimprove, Hannon Hill has introduced a great new plugin that checks for content and accessibility issues as part of the editing process. Unique to Cascade 8.7, it is a significant step forward as the user can identify and correct accessibility issues as soon as the page is published (and before your legal team hears from unhappy site users).

This new plugin makes it easier for content creators and editors to add and check new content with greater efficiency. In addition to accessibility issues, the new plugin also cross-checks spelling, broken links, SEO and more. It’s a comprehensive plugin that one should never have to do without.

In conjunction with Hannon Hill’s Accessibility Webinar, this new plugin gives you everything you need to stay on top of your content issues – especially for those who have had to grapple with vague and hard to find accessibility issues. The aforementioned webinar, scheduled for Feb 8, emphasizes the front end of the process including key maintenance strategies, planning for new site elements and considering accessibility in everything you do. Sign up HERE.

For Cascade users, it’s Christmas in January thanks to Hannon Hill and Siteimprove.

15 08, 2017

eduWeb 2017: Beacon Shares SEO & Accessibility, Compliance Insights

By | 2017-08-21T07:49:32+00:00 August 15th, 2017|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: , |

Considered by many to be the go-to conference for Higher Ed professionals in enrollment management, marketing and IT, the annual eduWeb Digital Summit was one of the year’s most highly anticipated events. This past August’s conference did not disappoint as over 500 attendees from 15 countries and 42 states converged on Boston for networking, presentations, and workshops designed to provide those in attendance with the tools needed to elevate their digital game to the next level.

SEO for Higher Ed

Beacon was pleased to play a significant role in this year’s program. On day one of the eduWeb conference, Andrea Cole, Beacon’s Director of Digital Marketing and Logan Ray, Beacon’s Lead SEO Strategist, shared their insights into Google Analytics, Google Site Search and the ways in which these tools can be leveraged to boost your school’s online presence and help you reach your marketing goals.

Entitled ‘No Results’ No More! Practical Strategies the Pros Use to Improve Site Search and SEO for Higher Ed, this hands-on workshop provided attendees with insights and expert instruction in:

  • Making their websites more visible through Google and internal site search.
  • Optimizing content for optimal visibility in same.
  • Monitoring results to drive improvement and avoid content theft and dilution.

In the event you missed the workshop or wish to review the content covered within, you can peruse the slideshow associated with the presentation below.

Accessibility for Higher Ed

Beacon was represented on day two of the conference by Keana Lynch, Director of UX Design & Development. Entitled Content and Email Marketing Track: The Administrators Guide to Accessibility: Compliance and Beyond, this presentation focused on the growing importance of accessibility and how one can achieve the required 508 compliance. This presentation touched on the major project phases of analysis, design, content, development, and testing.

If you missed Keana’s session, or wish to review the content covered within, you can view the slideshow below.

Andrea Cole, Logan Ray, Keana Lynch, and the entire Beacon team wish to thank eduWeb and all those who attended this year’s Digital Summit. We look forward to seeing you again next year!

20 07, 2017

Our new website has arrived!

By | 2018-03-06T09:39:07+00:00 July 20th, 2017|Categories: Beacon News|

I’ve got to hand it to my team here at Beacon.  They wanted to redesign our website and asked me to give them some leeway, politely saying, ”Let us practice what we preach… and own it!”  Okay, I’ll admit it.  I tend to hover over the website.  So I stayed out of it (for the most part) and they delivered – big time!

“Creative Design.  Powerful Web Technology.  Smarter Marketing.”  That’s Beacon, and that’s exactly what the new site represents.

New Beacon Home Page

New Beacon Home Page

As a web technology & marketing firm, it’s always a challenge to redesign your own website when priorities rest with your existing clients and the new clients knocking on the door.  But the Beacon Team (and I mean nearly the entire team) stepped up and made time to clearly take the Beacon website to the next level with…

  • Looping Video for our home page impact area.
  • More imagery and branding. Less content.
  • Simplified, cleaner navigation to our services, products and who we serve.
  • More examples of our work across a variety of specialty areas on the home page and in our portfolio.
  • Cleaner integration of the Beacon Blog on our home page.
  • Much more effective marketing approach incorporated into the website to lead visitors through the right information to various conversion points, or calls-to-action (contact form, audit requests, downloadable PDFs, etc).
  • Full utilization of our SITEXPRESS product, coupled with more extensive tracking using Google Analytics Universal features.

After almost 20 years of business, with clients in ~45 U.S. states and 5 countries and a wide offering of services and products, there’s a lot of information to organize effectively so that it’s both manageable and easily digestible. To accomplish this, we stepped through the same process that we provide for our customers – first, by spending significant time in the Strategy Phase to evaluate all the underlying data, gathering insights to drive the new design.  The Design & Development Phases were expedited thanks to the SITEXPRESS product, but still required ample time for designing all the creative elements to stay on brand and deliver the messaging.  We then completed the process with some custom development and testing to ensure SEO-friendliness, Google Analytics tracking accuracy, 508 compliance, and cross browser & device compatibility (10 different browser/device combinations).

Quite an effort!  We are already looking at some cool new features for Phase 2 to be delivered later this year!

21 04, 2017

WFU Selects Beacon to Teach Graduate Level Analytics Course

By | 2017-08-15T16:00:39+00:00 April 21st, 2017|Categories: Beacon News, Digital Marketing, Google Analytics|Tags: , , |

Last year, when I discovered that Wake Forest’s Business School was starting a Master’s Program in Business Analytics (MSBA), I had to see how I could help. After all, it’s my alma mater AND analytics – two of my favorite things! So I was thrilled when our many discussions and planning sessions led to Wake selecting Beacon to teach its graduate level course in Digital Marketing Analytics this Spring.

Farrell Hall at WFU Analytics has been a critical component of Beacon’s offering since almost the day the company started back in 1998. It’s why Beacon is one of the longest active Google Analytics Certified Partners in the country.  The entire Beacon Digital Marketing Team is involved with this class, led by Gus Kroustalis, Beacon’s Lead Analytics Strategist and Andrea Cole, Beacon’s Director of Digital Marketing.  The team meets regularly internally to carefully plan each class around important topics, crafting in-class and homework assignments that expose the students to real world tools and thinking.  For most companies nowadays, their website is the centerpiece of their marketing strategy.  So this course emphasizes Google Analytics and walks the students through 7 intense weeks that includes

  • Key Metrics for the Web
  • Consumer Targeting
  • Engagement Analysis
  • Channel Analysis (SEO & Paid Search)
  • Attribution Models
  • Conversion Testing

The demand for critical thinking skills with respect to analytics data is enormous in today’s business world. Students that have tangible experience will hit the ground running and be able to provide immediate value to their employers.  Certainly, technology and the widespread availability of data are drivers, but it’s also about “brain-power”, the ability to analyze data with all the available tools to gain insights, formulate strategy and communicate well-founded recommendations that will improve ROI and/or decision-making.

Companies are clamoring for critical and creative thinkers. Graduates of Wake Forest’s MSBA program will certainly fill this demand.  The students will experience a rigorous, hands-on course that exposes them to actual live data from several of Beacon’s clients that have graciously agreed to participate.  Although they will learn many different tools, the emphasis will be on stimulating their business minds to develop intelligent insights, drive creative ideas and improve business.

It’s exciting that Wake’s MSBA students have the opportunity to work alongside Beacon’s recognized experts in Digital Marketing to get first-hand experience and knowledge. It will certainly make their resumes stand out.  Likewise, my DMS Team is equally excited to collaborate with, and learn from, the high-caliber students for which Wake Forest University is known.

Beacon's Gus Kroustalis Teaching

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