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Haley Williams, recent Digital Marketing graduate

Greetings, fellow academics! My name is Haley Williams and I am a recent graduate of the East Tennessee State University Masters of Science in Digital Marketing program. I am a part of the first graduating class for the new, digitally focused program and have immensely enjoyed my time in the program.

Firstly, the degree is 100% online. Sounds too good to be true, right? It’s not! I felt completely at ease each semester and was able to fit my classwork around my busy schedule. At no point did I ever feel like my degree wasn’t the same as an on-campus program; it was even better. I know many people have reservations about online programs (i.e. professor availability, learning on your own, busy work, etc.). This degree couldn’t be further from those notions. Professors respond to emails within the first 24 hours (if not sooner) and give you all of the tools you need to succeed for each assignment. It really gave me a sense of pride knowing that (with some guidance from my professors) I could develop a strategic digital marketing plan that would be both measureable, create value for my company, and ultimately be successful.

Second, the degree is focused primarily about digital marketing. It’s not an all-encompassing MBA with a couple of digital classes here and there. It’s a deeper dive; every class is focused on the digital environment and hits on every aspect that a digital marketer would need to know to develop digital marketing plans. In fact, I searched for other marketing master’s programs and none that I had reviewed quite compared to the experience I’ve received at ETSU.

Finally, the return on investment. When I first started the program, I was interning at my current company in the marketing department and often had meetings with a marketing manager. I shared the insights I gained from my courses in those one-on-ones. Since then, that team has developed a robust digital marketing strategy that includes social media, SEO, SEM, and analytics reporting. My degree gives me the upper hand especially in such a competitive field.

If you’re looking to learn more about digital marketing and the ever-changing online environment, ETSU is definitely a step in the right direction. The professors really know their stuff; they’re working on their own digital communications plans everyday. So, take the plunge and apply today. You won’t regret it. I know I haven’t.

Warm regards,

Haley Williams

Copper Cellar Going Social

Bart Fricks, COO of the Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants, brings more than 27 years of restaurant experience to the table (yes, pun intended J). Previously with Mr. Gatti’s and then Ruby Tuesday, the man behind the Calhoun’s Restaurant Twitter handle @Calhouns, says being part of the “social party” gives him the opportunity to stay close to customers.  Fricks says that managing their many restaurant concepts within the Copper Cellar brand is a challenge but customers follow and engage with the restaurants they enjoy most. Their team, Fricks says it is definitely a group effort at this point, uses tools such as Hootsuite to help space out their posts so they don’t bombard customers all at once with messages from each concept.

The locally-loved restaurant brand first launched into the social web with Facebook pages for Smoky Mountain Brewery and Copper Cellar in the fall of 2009 followed shortly with pages for Calhoun’s and Chesapeake’s. By the end of 2009, the brand had accumulated 1,518 followers. It wasn’t until the group really started joining in the conversation that they saw the biggest increase in followers. Posting each concept’s daily specials, events, and responding to customer feedback and suggestions quickly has driven much of their success in continuing to grow in the social space.  Twitter proved to be a bit different story for the brand. Fricks says that in 2009 and 2010, they didn’t do a very good job with Twitter. He took over as the voice behind @Calhouns and began thanking people for following them, retweeting, and jumping in the conversation especially on #FollowFriday where you suggest that your friends “follow” others on Twitter. “More is better on Twitter,” says Fricks, as he encourages the group to be active in the space and comment on what others are saying.

Posting great food photos and monitoring searches like “Where to eat in Knoxville” has helped the brand expand their reach. Fricks says it’s easy to go after big numbers, using an app to buy followers for example, but he’s not interested in that.  His goal is for the brand “to be great at a few things” and not try to be everywhere such as places like Foursquare, Flickr, or Pinterest. For now, the brand is focusing on cultivating great conversations with their customers mainly on Facebook and Twitter.

My favorite conversation point of the luncheon is when Fricks exclaims, “I hate coupons.” Most people assume that restaurants are just going to be in the coupon business. He goes on to say that in his experience coupons have a way of abruptly bringing in clientele which the restaurant isn’t quite prepared for, and then service and food quality suffers. “You can’t just hire servers for 4 weeks and expect them to provide great service then let them go,” which is what would be required for a huge influx of customers which a deep offer coupon. To Fricks, great service and quality of food every time a guest comes in to one of their restaurants is the ultimate goal of the brand.

The Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants is continuing to expand its real estate in the digital and social space. New websites for each restaurant concept are coming soon, and Fricks says they are looking into hiring someone to manage their social strategy. So keep on the lookout for new great things coming from this local restaurant family!

Bush Brothers’ Secret Family Recipe to Marketing

After more than 100 years of canning goods and more than 20 years as a national brand, Bush Brothers & Co. has perfected its secret family recipe—in food products and marketing strategy. Scott Daniel, marketing director at Bush Brothers & Co., shared his company’s philosophy on giving customers what they want and doing it successfully at the April KAMA luncheon.

Add two cups of consumer research …

The “secret family recipe” that Bush Brothers & Co. uses as its marketing strategy starts with the consumer. The company’s immediate approach is to find something people want and find a way to make it in a great tasting and affordable way. How does Bush Brothers do that? Through millions of dollars spent on research each year. However, Daniel noted, “You do not need to have a million dollar budget to learn about your consumer.” He explained by mentioning several low budget ways to research a target audience including social media, surveys, ethnographies or even just talking to them—all methods marketers have at their fingertips.

Three tablespoons of open-mindedness …

“Avoid the marketer’s bias by looking outside your own lens when developing products,” said Daniel. Taking advantage of opportunities for engagement with your customers can prevent personal bias from affecting your marketing activities. Instead of doing what just works, do what your consumer wants. An example Daniel used was that if you talk to someone about baby food who doesn’t have kids, he or she is going to have a different opinion about how to reach the audience from what actually may be the correct way. We are all doing something in our business today that reflects our own personal ideas, and Daniel recommends we take a step back, look at research and visualize how the consumer wants to see a message.

A dash of promotion …

Most marketers struggle with promotion versus marketing. Daniel set a parameter that Bush Brothers follows and that the KAMA audience should follow, too. He said, “Promotion should be an element of your marketing plan, not how you go to market.” Since a promotion strategy just gets engagement, lift up a product or service that reflects your target’s needs and wants.

And sprinkle in fulfilling relationships.

Finally, make your customers proud of your relationship with them. If your brand delivers a fulfilling experience for your target audience, they will purchase your product no matter the price. An example given by Daniel was that, more often than not, Folgers will beat Starbucks in a blind taste test setting. However, when picking a  brand, consumers will most often choose Starbucks because of the relationship the brand has formed.

Mix and serve immediately.

When cultivated, these elements can result in a marketing strategy that will really stand out. KAMA luncheon attendees all learned valuable lessons from Daniel this month, and we didn’t even need Duke, the iconic Bush Beans dog, there to spill the beans.

 

Randy Boyd’s Tips For Business Success

Guest speaker Randy Boyd, CEO of Radio Systems Corporation (RSC), hit home with the attendees at the March KAMA Luncheon when he stated that his employees live and talk about the company’s values every day instead of only pulling out the list at each monthly staff meeting.

Boyd shared the seven values that are prevalent in his associates’ daily lives:

1.)  “Try a lot of stuff and see what works.”

Boyd points out that in order to innovate, you must fail; therefore, he encourages his employees to not be afraid of failure.

2.)  “Be honest.”

“Trust from customers comes from honesty,” said Boyd. It is necessary to be honest within the organization and to be honest with customers in order to have a successful brand following.

3.)  “Create an environment of openness and equality.”

There is a feeling of equality in the many offices operated by RSC, with Boyd even going so far as to ensure that he does not have a special parking spot or a bigger desk than his associates. He is even known to move randomly to departments around the office!

4.)  “Create win-win-win solutions.”

In order for there to be a win-win-win solution, a company must take into account itself, the expansion of time horizons that enable a win for both parties and all other parties affected.

5.)  “Invest in associates.”

Boyd shared the strong focus RSC has on the personal development of its associates by noting that there are dogs always in the office, and that RSC pays for its associates to attend additional schooling.

6.)  “Listen.”

Everyone has three processes of listening, according to Boyd. RSC encourages its employees to hone their processes of listening to become a better communicator and professional.

 7.)  “Have an organization that’s built to last.”

Boyd stressed that building something that will last beyond your tenure is an important thing to take in to consideration.

Boyd’s success is palpable thanks in part to this value system, which shows us that the values he instills in his company are ones that we all can try to practice and learn from today.

Swag Happens: Stephen A. Burroughs Talks Marketing

“When Stephen A. Burroughs was in the womb
his mother could feel his beard kicking.”

The Knoxville chapter of the American Marketing Association hosted viral Internet sensation and local personal injury attorney, Stephen A. Burroughs at its October luncheon at The Orangery. KAMA’s theme this year is “Shift Happens,” because it’s not business as usual any more, due to changes in demographics, economics and technology. Burroughs was speaking to the change in his marketing strategy and the impact the recently launched Facebook memes page has had on his business.

The story about the University of Tennessee freshman who created the tongue-in-cheek Facebook page has been well documented by Carly Harrington in the Knoxville News Sentinel. The Stephen A. Burroughs Memes page gained 21,000 fans virtually overnight and led to Swagfest, a party at the Sunsphere attended by 14,000 members of Burroughs’ “swag posse.” Talk about a branding bonanza – you can’t buy that kind of awareness and exposure. Not to say Burroughs hasn’t been spending heavily on outdoor advertising and bus wraps over the past several years. He said he took advantage of a downturn in the economy that left billboards vacant to negotiate a sweet deal with Lamar Advertising.

The man himself, Stephen A. Burroughs

The man himself, Stephen A. Burroughs

This deal has made Burroughs omnipresent, or “top-of-mind” as we say in the biz, plastering his face on 31 outdoor boards and more than a dozen KAT buses. Burroughs had perfected his “Blue Steel” gaze and had become something of a Knoxville celebrity even before the memes page took off, catapulting him to viral marketing legend status. Now he’s Knoxville’s own “Old Spice Guy,” if you will. Or perhaps “The Most Interesting Lawyer in the World,” in a nod to the famous Dos Equis campaign.

Laura Bower and Dottie Ramsey

Laura Bower and Dottie Ramsey

Burroughs delighted KAMA’s audience of marketing professionals with anecdotes about Swagfest, like the one about the girl who tattooed “SAB” on her forearm. “The whole thing was pretty surreal,” he said. Burroughs is already planning Swagfest 2, but he’s eyeing corporate sponsors and considering a charitable slant for the event.

“Right now, I’m in the hole,” said Burroughs, when asked about the return on his six-figure investment in Swagfest. However, he believes he’s building brand recognition with future clients.  After all, his business model is driven by car wrecks; he’s ready to help “when the need arises.”

“It’s not like someone’s going to say ‘Stephen seems really cool. I think I’ll go get an injury,’” quipped Burroughs.

Just Desserts

Just Desserts

Burroughs described his evolution from radio to TV to outdoor advertising, which he thinks is the ideal channel for him. On TV you have to be outrageous – the guy in the giant monkey suit, according to Burroughs.  He aspires to a more professional image.

“The message has to fit the medium,” he said.

Who says this guy doesn’t know marketing?

*This post is used with permission. The original blog can be viewed at knoxify.com

The Art of Conversation: Social Media for B2B Communications

“Markets are conversations.”  –The Cluetrain Manifesto

Facebook has more than 800 million users.Twitter has 200 million users.  Google+ just hit the 50 million user mark, making it the fastest growing website ever. Moms and Millennials, Boomers and Tweens – everybody’s texting, tweeting, posting and blogging via desktops, laptops and mobile devices. And brands are falling all over themselves in the mad dash to reach consumers via social networks and join the conversation. But what about business-to-business communications? How are companies talking to each other?

In the B2B arena, the conversation is decidedly different. While B2B buyers have very high social participation, their primary goal in the social media space is to establish themselves as subject matter experts and then build relationships for future lead generation. Social media is based on relationships. Relationships help make B2B buying decisions. Word of mouth, whether online or offline, is still the most effective means of advertising. Particularly in the corporate world, personal endorsements and referrals validate business decisions.

As Ford CMO James Farley famously said, “You can’t just say it. You have to get other people to say it to each other.”

A primary concern of relationship marketers is migrating interactions to a lower-cost communications channel. That’s what makes social media so appealing: the prospect of building an audience of pre-qualified brand advocates on an owned media channel with minimal cost. The undisputed social media channel for B2B communication is LinkedIn.

Eighty percent of companies use LinkedIn for recruitment. Talking shop is expected on this platform, which boasts an advanced search option that allows users to sort by region, business category and other specifics. Setting up a company profile, establishing industry groups and encouraging employees to create personal profiles and “connect” with colleagues are all ways to build meaningful B2B relationships. LinkedIn is an online Rotary Club. It’s digital word of mouth.

According to Christine Moorman, senior professor of business administration at The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, while marketers, in general, expect to increase social media spending over the next five years, B2B product sector companies anticipate lower budgets going forward. Moorman hypothesized that CMOs don’t believe social media activities are appropriately integrated into their companies’ overall marketing strategies. In other words, there’s an urgency to utilize social media tools, even without a comprehensive plan in place.

“Firms are in a period of experimentation and observation about social media. Like television advertising in the 1950s, this period will define winners and losers of this generation’s firms,” Moorman said.

So whether your goal is lead generation, networking, brand management or establishing your company as the thought leader in your field, social media is where it all happens. While the physical handshake and business card exchange haven’t gone away, they are increasingly a precursor to or follow up after a digital dialogue. Get used to it.

“Transparency and conversation are to the Web 2.0 culture what ‘productivity’ and ‘innovation’ are to corporate culture.” – SAP

Slow down and think about it. Incorporate social media into a holistic, integrated marketing plan.  Don’t put tactics before strategies. B2B marketing traditionally lags B2C marketing in terms of innovation, so learn from other people’s mistakes and formulate a well-thought out approach to social media communications.

Things have changed.” – Bob Dylan

Indeed.

*This post is used with permission. The original blog can be viewed at talkstreetsmart.com

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