It’s a crazy, scary world out there right now, and it’s hard to think about others when there’s so much raining down on us. We’re trying to keep our businesses afloat. We don’t know what to do about our kids. We’re worried about older family members. Geeze, we can’t even get through the grocery shopping without finding at least one empty shelf where our favorite items usually are. We’re frustrated. We’re grumpy. And there’s nowhere to run away to. But here’s the thing: most other people are feeling the same way.

Dr. Bonnie Henry is the provincial health officer for the Province of BC. Since televised briefings started, months ago now, Dr. Henry has encouraged us to be kind. That’s great advice for everyone, and important advice for business owners and managers, because being kind pays off in quite a number of ways.

It will make you happier – Being kind to others, even in the smallest of ways, results in an increase in a brain chemical that makes us feel happy. Holding the door for someone with an armful, or letting someone cut in front of you is a small price to pay for a happiness boost!

It will make you healthier – Our brain actually releases a bunch of chemicals when we are kind. Together, they reduce inflammation, pain, anxiety, stress, and even blood pressure. They also increase your immunity and protect the heart.

It has a ripple effect – Those who receive or even witness a kind act also gain physiological benefits and more likely to be kind to others themselves. Kindness is contagious, even when you wear a mask.

It promotes a positive and productive workplace – Acts of kindness make people feel stronger and more energetic. They increase feelings of self-esteem and calmness. That combination of physical and mental well-being means greater productivity.

It sustains cooperative success – Whether it’s built into your character or a learned skill, being kind to others builds sustained relationships, cooperation, and collaboration; all keys to success in business and in life. It’s not the kind of “you owe me one now,” trading of favours though. The acts of kindness must be sincere with no expectation of a future reward.

With so many people feeling out of sorts these days, I think being kind will have even greater rewards. Whether it’s in the office, at your retail shop, or out in the community, take the opportunities that present themselves to do some small kindness for someone else. We all want to stay healthy and happy, so consider those opportunities a gift – to you, to others, to your family, your business and your community.

 

blank

blank

blank

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has given online shopping a big boost, and we know that means there’s been a rise in pre-shopping research as well. While we may have thought, and hoped, that this crisis would be short-lived, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, as well as Canada’s top public health officials, are warning otherwise.

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said, “People might think that if we get a vaccine then everything goes back to normal the way it was before. That’s not the case… All of the measures we’ve put in place now will still have to continue with the new reality for quite some time.”

The impact of the pandemic has already taken a huge toll on retailers who rely on in-person shopping, but e-commerce is on the rise. eMarketer is now forecasting that online sales will be up 21% in Canada and 18% in the United States. That’s great news if your website is up to the task.

If the products or services that you provide can be delivered without face-to-face contact, you need to make an investment in your website now. Any delay at this point is just giving money away to your competitors.

So, what makes a great online shopping site? Beyond the basics, you need:

Intuitive categories

Think about your target audience and speak to them in terms they use every day. Don’t force them to choose between blouses and shirts, or couplings and fittings. People are even more impatient than usual right now.

Detailed descriptions

Returning items is also more difficult these days, so help out your customers and your bottom line by clearly and precisely describing each product or service. Remember that colours look different on different devices, so “blue” isn’t enough. Include as many descriptors as you can: dimensions, thickness, material, etc. For services, tell visitors the intended outcome; e.g. A Representation Agreement allows the named representative to make personal care and health care decisions on behalf of the signatory.

Prices

Pricing is one of the most critical decision-making criteria for shoppers of any product or service. The old excuse about not wanting to let competitors know what you charge isn’t valid. Believe me, they already know. So help your customers make an informed decision before they leave your site and never return.

Purchasing options

Simplicity is key here, but give it some thought. Obviously, a product needs to get into the hands of the customer, so they either have to pick it up or have it delivered, but there are still options. Can you offer curbside pickup? Perhaps you could if you had a cordless POS unit. So, get one. Can you offer a low cost vs fast home delivery option? Great. For services, it’s a bit trickier but ponder on it. What options are there for signing a will?

It’s time to get creative folks! The pandemic has accelerated the use of all sorts of technologies, and the world is never going to be the same. Give us a call to get your business ready to do business in a new world.

 

blank

blank

blank

 

Be aware

Data breaches that expose millions of records, like the Equifax theft in 2017, get a lot of attention. Consumers feel betrayed and are outraged that their personal information was not better protected. Unfortunately, these newsworthy events mask a more insidious problem – the personal information we give away every day, unknowingly. Little tidbits, here and there, are collected, traded, aggregated, analyzed, sold, and used in ways we can hardly imagine.

Currently, we have little control over how this happens, but as awareness grows, so will the pressure on brands and legislators to create more transparency and to facilitate informed decision-making by the person whose information is being collected.

Here is just a peek into how your information can be gleaned and used.

Social Media

Social media provides a wealth of insight into personal characteristics. First, most people provide their account information truthfully: name, date of birth, place of residence, etc., so all of the data generated about them is connected to a real person. That data includes the results of collecting and analyzing every action you take. What posts did you like or respond to? What keywords, like “garden,” are included in your posts? What are the ages, races, locations of your “friends?” Have you been talking about buying a new home or car? Have you clicked on an ad for online counselling? How often do you win Words with Friends? That’s a measure of education and intelligence, and an indicator for income – but income will be confirmed when aggregated with other information about you.

Online Tools

You’re wondering if you should buy a house and what you can afford. Well, there’s an easy way to do that – the online mortgage calculator. And that income amount you enter is now tied to your IP address, which can then be tied to your name via Facebook data. Income confirmed.

Search Engines and Browsers

Analytics are not just for web developers and advertisers. You are also being analyzed by the search terms you enter, the sites and ad links you click on, the time, and the day of the week you’re doing most of your searching and browsing. Tidbits. But that search on “symptoms of depression” can now be tied to your clicking on the ad for online counselling. And then, …

Services

Your mom thinks you have an Indigenous great-great-grandmother, and you think it would be cool to get your DNA tested. That turns out not to be true, but you are 10% Asian. Interesting! Even more interested than you are is the pharmaceutical company that just bought your DNA and is analyzing it along with your generated profile indicating an issue with depression.

And on it goes

Facebook launched a dating app that collects a lot more very personal information about its users. Voice-controlled devices have the ability to listen in on your conversations. Apps preloaded on your phone track your location. Wearables like Fitbit (which by the way is now owned by Google) and the Apple Watch collect health information about you.

The big data breaches remind us about what’s out there and how vulnerably our information is to hackers. But we need to also be reminded about what we are giving away, and put more pressure on those who are collecting our information, as well as those who are purchasing it. Technology is a wonderful tool that is used in many positive ways. For that to continue, we need transparency to build trust.

 

blank

blank

blank

 

We end our celebration of the past 25 years in business with our vision for the future.

The year 2020 turned out to be a pivotal one in history. The worldwide protests against discrimination and the devastation that resulted from a lack of a global strategy to deal with COVID 19 were the impetus for both new policy and new technology.

The vast majority of employees around the world no longer congregate at a central location. Those who are comfortable and productive working from home, do so. Others go to shared office locations near their homes, significantly reducing the energy used for transportation. To facilitate this, governments got involved to ensure reliable, high speed, internet services at greatly reduced rates. New laws also required Internet Service Providers to take an active role in reducing scams and spam by reviewing complaints and removing service from known offenders.

Holographic technology was greatly advanced, with meetings occurring via projection and VR glasses, seemingly putting everyone around the same table.

Social media platforms that were unable to moderate, or actually promoted misinformation, discrimination and hate speech, floundered, then failed. Platforms that allowed for decentralized identity (protecting personal info) and community based reputation ranking of content creators became popular. Individuals were then able to moderate and approve messages based on community reputation score as well as content and settings in their decentralized identity systems. Many online communities were created around a single common interest.

Brands were forced to make outright statements about their values and how they promote and sustain action that supports those values. Brand loyalty communities became popular and resulted in customers volunteering their time to do good works funded by the brand. This changed marketing and advertising a great deal, with outgoing messaging focusing first on a cause, and only second on a product or service.

CCOs – Chief Communication Officers – became the second-highest-ranking executives in most companies. For years now, they have posted weekly, if not daily, bulletins to the front pages of their websites, providing updates on their progress as companies and advocates for change.

Which brings us to news of our team members from 2020. Most of those CCO updates are done with a content management system developed by James. Our problem-solving wizard developed the first website using blockchain technology, which made it impossible to hack, and created a very simple content management system for text editing. James retired at the age of 55, bought a sailboat with his accumulated bitcoin, and spends his time traveling among the world’s most beautiful beaches.

Joanne was actually the first to retire from the team though. She became a professional poker player for a few years, and now spends summers in both Canada and Australia, avoiding winter altogether.

Andrew left the team when his digital art became a must-have acquisition for the rich and famous. Like most art in the home nowadays, it is displayed on mounted screens and can be switched to a different image with a simple voice command.

Paul began writing music again and retired when one of his songs went platinum. He moved to BC to enjoy the milder weather.

Mike and Angela found a house on an even higher mountain than they used to live, and enjoy life completely off the grid. Mike goes into the office every once in a while to check on his bitcoin.

Nick and Keara have been very successfully running the business for several years now. They still argue about everything initially, but their debates end in agreement on truly amazing strategies to the benefit of their many happy clients.

Thank you to all of our clients for your continuing support. You make us strive for excellence every single day.

 

blank

Continued:
The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s
The Story of Us – More on the Early 2000s
The story of Us – mid-2000s
The Story of Us – The Interlude
The Story of Us – 2007-2015
The Story of Us – The last five years

blank

blank

 

Technology innovation has shown no evidence of slowing down in the recent past. The Apple Watch, released in 2015, was just the beginning of wearable tech, which continues to be integrated into eyeglasses, clothing, and no doubt other things.

The “internet of things” now includes coffee pots, light switches, and home appliances, and can be controlled with the assistance of a smart speaker, with an assistant that will also write texts, make calls, schedule appointments, and order supplies for you.

Shared digital workspaces have bloomed, going far beyond shared files, facilitating production for remote teams; and blockchain technology promises to not only bring us cryptocurrency, but also a new method of sharing all types of information.

Until 2009, our core team members all worked in the office. But by 2016, James had moved to Vancouver Island and Joanne had moved to Kelowna.

Weekly team meetings were now held via video conference. Joanne moved to the Okanagan to help out her aging parents, who didn’t quite understand the “Do not disturb” sign on the door to her “office” in the garage. Her dad made quite an entrance on one of those video calls, wearing only his underpants.

Our team also grew with the addition of three members who quickly adapted to the crazy work family. Mike’s daughter Keara was the first. She’d never really planned to join the company, but a year after graduating high school and getting pretty weary of life at Walmart, Dad offered her an opportunity. By virtue of birth year, she was already a social media wizard and her first job was to keep our business posts up to date. But when she started taking Google’s online advertising classes, we realized she had inherited her father’s aptitude for digital marketing.

Paul joined the team a year after moving to Calgary. Mike was on the hunt for a new web designer. In Paul’s words: Mike phoned me up saying that he had seen my work. I was flattered and straight away looked up IIAS. I saw that they had done some incredible work and when he offered me a job, it took me all of 30 seconds to respond and say “Yes.” I have enjoyed working with this crew, especially the team meetings where I discovered that they were slightly more crazy then I am! (Well a lot more.)

With three years on the team, Nick is the most recent member. By 2016, he had learned a great deal about digital marketing and opened his own company – Nicholas Man SEO. He managed to get his own website into the number one position for “Abbotsford SEO,” but also kept seeing iias.ca in the top ranking sites.

One of the many business books that Nick read said that 70% of billionaires have business partners. Nick says, “That hit home for me because I was thinking even Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Warren Buffet have business partners and I’m nowhere near as smart as they are.” Nick also had a business prospect who spoke highly of Mike. The two thoughts merged. As Nick tells the rest of the story…

I invited Mike out for coffee and we really connected. Mike seemed genuine and nice, with some amazing business experience. But I didn’t quite know what I wanted at that time, so it was just a good coffee meeting and we didn’t talk for another couple of months. But it stayed in the back of my mind and I remember finally picking up the phone and calling Mike again.

I remember saying something along the lines of “Hey, I know this may sound crazy but I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I think we should work together. We have complementary personalities and skills that we could put together and grow a business exponentially larger than if we decided to build separately. I know this is random but I think it’s an idea worth pursuing. I’ll give you the weekend to think about it and then I’ll call you back on Monday and if you like the idea we can sit down and go from there.”

So I called on Monday and we set up a time to meet. At the meeting I remember Mike saying “Two heads on one issue is better than one” and I thought, yes, that’s totally right. So I was on the team. Actually, we started off with a three month probation period, just in case one of us was actually crazy… but it turns out we were both crazy, so we got along just fine.

Turn out crazy is a good thing when you’re in a business like ours!

blank

Continued:
The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s
The Story of Us – More on the Early 2000s
The story of Us – mid-2000s
The Story of Us – The Interlude
The Story of Us – 2007-2015

blank

blank

In case you’re wondering about our story-telling, we’re celebrating our 25th year in business! To commemorate, we’re recounting the memorable moments in our history, how our team came together, and the technology changes that shaped our world.

Last time, we told you about “the interlude” – our foray into the travel industry that didn’t survive the economic crash of 2008. While Mike still owned the agency, after the crash, we had a very clear vision – get back to the future.

Some significant events happened in tech during the interlude. Perhaps the biggest of the big was Steve Jobs’ unveiling of the iPhone in 2007. As a cell phone, it was… well, it worked. BUT, it could also do so many other amazing things! Joanne remembers being at a party when one of the guests brought his iPhone out and started showing videos. WHAT?? WOW!! It was the beginning of the mobile revolution.

2010 saw the launch of the iPad, IBM’s Watson beating Ken Jennings on Jeopardy, and the startup of Instagram. Facebook was entrenched as the most used social media platform though, and that wasn’t about to change. So, refocusing on web development and internet advertising, we changed our logo and built a new website.

blank

Mike hired Andrew, and the former teacher taught us all a few new tricks. He convinced Mike to try Joomla, which turned out to be a very good thing. Custom coding had become too costly an option for many of our clients – some of whom were just getting their first web sites and still weren’t entirely convinced there would be a return on investment. And, as Joomla progressed, it became possible to modify the basic template into a customized site anyway, saving hours of work.

The bad news for Andrew, was that he also had to teach Joanne how to enter her copy into the Joomla sites – a task that he had to repeat endlessly, but he did so with great patience.

With Mike and Angela’s children now teenagers in high school and a void at our front desk, Angela joined the team as office manager.

Paul the first was still working with us then, but the new Paul’s journey to us had already begun. His brother moved to Calgary in 2010, and Paul and his family, which now included baby Finley, came for a visit in 2011. Shortly after that, they decided to move themselves. Paul was now working as a web developer and when he learned that he could continue doing contract work for the same UK company after moving to Canada, the plan was set.

Nick was still struggling with decisions between getting the education his parents believed was necessary and his innate entrepreneurial spirit. He studied engineering at the University of British Columbia, started a painting business, and would soon find his niche in digital marketing.

Continued:
The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s
The Story of Us – More on the Early 2000s
The story of Us – mid-2000s
The Story of Us – The Interlude
The Story of Us – 2007-2015

blank

blank

 

The interlude began in 2006. With our assistance, Ambassador Travel grew from a small local business into a multi-million dollar agency and our largest client. So when the owners decided to retire, Mike bought the company.

The Internet Advertising team moved into the agency’s offices in downtown Abbotsford. The front office was home to 30 very busy travel agents. The phones rang constantly, and would-be travelers stopped by frequently.

The web team occupied the back office, and that’s really where the magic happened. The most significant work was the building of our own booking engines. While others existed, their conversion rates were pretty low. Ours were better. So much so, that in addition to marketing and selling for Ambassador Travel, we were also selling – and collecting commissions – for Air North, Air Canada, WestJet, Can Jet, Harmony, and many of the cruise lines. We also sold travel insurance, and built our own hotel booking system.

Everyone was kept incredibly busy. The web team spent much of their time on agency work, but were also still building and maintaining websites, and marketing for other clients.

Niche marketing was also key to Mike’s sales strategy. We built separate websites for golfing packages, a variety of popular vacation destinations, corporate travel, package deals, and more, all with SEO and SEM. We also created customer relationship management systems, along with email bulletins that went out weekly. In Mike’s words, “We had crazy success,” for a while, that is.

In April 2007, the sub-prime mortgage issue hit the media. The next year saw a slow, but steady decline in the U.S. economy, as the dominos of the financial crisis started to fall. At first, this didn’t have much of an impact on travel in Canada, but by the fall, the major airlines started looking at their revenues and decided they could make more money by paying less in commissions to agencies like Ambassador. Since we were making more in commissions than just about anyone else, we were their first target. A round of re-negotiations ensued, but we were still doing okay.

Then came September 2008. Financial institutions started to fail. On September 15th, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and it was as if someone turned off the electricity at our office. The phones stopped ringing. Emails from the booking engines stopped coming. Fewer people walked through the door. Full stop. And the commissions owed to us, didn’t arrive because airlines were going bankrupt.

By 2015 it became apparent that there was no recovery scenario for the travel agency. It was time to get back to our roots.

Continued:
The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s
The Story of Us – More on the Early 2000s
The story of Us – mid-2000s
The Story of Us – The Interlude

 

blank

blank

blank

 

As a distraction from more news about “you know what,” we’re continuing our journey down memory lane. The mid-2000s brought about big changes in how the world socialized from a distance (but it had nothing to do with “that”).

In 2004, with the number of internet users approaching one billion, we saw the launch of Facebook. Followed in 2005, by YouTube, and Twitter in 2006. All became popular fairly quickly, and the advertising value of these platforms became the debate of the century.

Two other significant events again changed the internet technology landscape. In 2005, the launch of Joomla found the sweet spot between templated and custom-built websites. Up to that point, the Internet Advertising team had tested some templates, but found that it was faster, and produced a better result, to hand code. (In fact, it wasn’t until 2008, that Andrew convinced Mike to try Joomla.)

Joanne happened to be working downstairs for the office’s building owner. After a recommendation from him, Mike hired Joanne to develop a presentation about the business. That was in 2004, making her now the third longest-serving member of the team.

Still a musician in London, Paul had his first child in 2005. His interest in websites was just beginning and he took a course in Dreamweaver.

The office was a busy place and starting to focus on the travel industry. In addition to marketing for the local Ambassador Travel company, Mike brought in Air North as a new client. Three years post-9/11, people were traveling again, and Mike’s combination of advertising strategies was paying off big time for his clients. So much so, that when the owners of Ambassador mentioned that they wanted to retire soon, Mike offered to buy the business. In Angela’s words, “I remember we went into this with so much optimism, and it turned out to be the worst decision we have ever made.” Sometimes, you get too good at what you do. That story next time.

Continued:
The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s
The Story of Us – More on the Early 2000s
The story of us – mid-2000s

 

blank

blank

blank

 

Now gaining a reputation for internet advertising, shortly after 9/11 a local travel agency sought Mike out. No one wanted to travel and they were hurting. Always up for a challenge, Mike took them on. His strategy was pretty interesting – particularly since this happened nearly a decade ago.

Knowing that the need and desire to travel would eventually outweigh fears of terrorism, Mike’s strategy was a combination of several key factors. One was to separate “travel” into motivation-driven categories – golf trips, adventures, destination weddings – and market them separately. One was to make the on-line booking process simple, while still making contact with a travel agent readily available. A third was to create more interest in vacations using direct email.

The strategy was incredibly successful. The travel agency morphed from a small community business into a North American enterprise earning millions in commissions.

In 2002, the office moved again to a much larger space above a custom clothing and ad speciality shop. There were more than 10 team members now, and after seven years of the steepest learning curve ever, James needed a break. He returned about a year later, just in time for the release of DotNetNuke and WordPress. James realized that learning and innovation were going to be constants in this biz; and he was one of the best at figuring things out, so onward and upward!

Angela and Mike bought their first home, but Mike wasn’t there much. Angela homeschooled Jordan and Keara.

Catching up with the rest of the team that we hadn’t met yet…

Paul O’Neal was still in the UK, working for British Telecom and planning his wedding.

Nick was in elementary school, and moved with his family from Aurora, Ontario to Abbotsford, BC. He remembers his Chinese parents insisting that the learn how to do math with an abacus, study piano, and improve his knowledge of their traditional language.

Andrew was managing his own media company, developing games and websites, while also instructing at local colleges and universities.

Joanne had left her government job and was working as a management consultant, but starting to realize that what every business client really wanted was more customers.

Oh, yes – the FBI. Well… As mentioned earlier, Paul Nicholson was a fabulous animator, and virtual worlds like Second Life were a natural playground for his talents. Businesses started popping up in Second Life and it was becoming a real-world sales platform with transferable dollars. Paul and Mike had a “great” idea – a Second Life casino!!! (Ya, no.) They built it. People came. Mike got a call from the FBI to inform him, emphatically, that his casino was illegal. Take it down or face the consequences. Dang.

Continued:
The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s
The Story of Us – More on the Early 2000s

 

blank

blank

blank

 

In case you missed our first newsletter this year, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of International Internet Advertising Services Inc., we’re doing a series on our history and the technological advancements that have impacted our world.

The first few years of the new millennium were a crazy time. While the bursting of the dot.com bubble actually gave the company a boost, it would be the aftermath of 9/11 that would eventually take a significant toll. Google and GoDaddy had started their ascent to world domination.

So… the company was going strong and there were quite a few team members that we need to acknowledge for their contribution to that status. Bob Bayer has been one of James’ best friends since kindergarten, and James thought he’d be a great addition to the team. True dat. Bob was a perfectionist with skills. Mike says he could look at a website and tell you if one pixel was out of place. Bob not only made the team better, he helped Mike structure the file server and standardize work flow. In fact, the only downside of Bob’s presence was that his name was forever stuck in Mike’s head. He regularly called other team members Bob, and many years later, still does on occasion.

Then there was Paul the first. Paul was a “mad scientist” of imagery and animation. He created hundreds of amazing website designs and was a wizard with 3D animation. His preoccupation with work projects though, sometimes took his mind off other important matters. He arrived at work one day carrying a bag of garbage. Mike was mystified and asked him why he brought a bag of garbage to work. Paul was confused. He looked at the bag and was clearly shocked. His response to Mike: “Oh, no! I threw my lunch in the dumpster.”

There were others back then who have since move on. Nancy was a designer hired right out of high school and is now doing QA work in Australia. Serguei is in the United States working on stuff he can’t tell us about, not that we’d understand it anyway. Serguei is likely the smartest person who’s ever been on the team. He is a math wizard who has the ability to visualize complex databases. He wrote a book on artificial intelligence before the rest of us even knew what it was. (Thankfully, we can still call on Serguei when we need him.) And there was Leisa, Fred, Danielle, and Gary. Great people all.

Getting back to the state of affairs in the early 2000s, let’s talk about Google. Google wasn’t the first search engine. In fact, there were several others, including Magellan, Infoseek and Alta Vista. According to James, none of them worked very well. One day Mike stumbled upon a new search engine called “BackRub.” This one was very different. He was amazed, and so was James. Mike picked up the phone and called the contact asking if they were looking for investors – he’d like to be one. Unfortunately, they said no. Unfortunate, because BackRub morphed into Google. Still, Google has certainly been a big part of our business.

By the early 2000s, Google was well established as a search engine and began selling text-based ads. Mike completed their online course to become one of the first 100 Google Qualified Advertising Professionals in the world. International Internet Advertising Services Inc. was now really starting to realize the potential in its name.

Continued:
The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s
The Story of Us – More on the Early 2000s

 

blank

blank

blank

 

We know that many of you are concerned about the sustainability of your business in these unpredictable times. While there’s not much we can do to influence public health or economic trends, we wanted to let you know that we are here to help with your web-related needs.

Half of our team has worked remotely for years, and we have remote access to our servers and your websites. You can rest assured, the iias team is here to help when we are needed.

Some of the things you may want to consider:

Your marketing and advertising spend: If you are in a business that requires face to face contact or group gatherings, we can suspend your online marketing for a while, and either save that for a future ramp up, or invest it into improvements to your website.

If you sell online, or have considered selling your products online this might be a great time to increase your advertising or setup the online shopping you have been thinking about.

Chat services: On-site chat services are a great way to connect with customers who are already in buying mode, without having to use the phone or leave the page. A real customer service agent on your end can help customers shop, answer questions, and help to close the sale.

Gear up SEO/SEM for a speedy recovery: While it may not make sense to advertise right now, it does make sense to get ready for when it is. We don’t know when that will be, but health and economic recovery will come, perhaps sooner than you think. We can get your site and advertising all ready to give you a great boost when that time comes.

Share your good deeds: We’ve already seen many stories about people helping others during this crisis. While it may seem unsavory to promote yourself in this way, sharing your good deeds also sparks others to do the same. So, go ahead and use your company’s social media platforms to share your good deeds.
Stay safe out there and lets all look forward to brighter days ahead!

 

blank

blank

blank

 

While Mike and James had done everything they could to prepare for the change from 1999 to 2000 that some thought would cause havoc with computers around the globe, Mike spent New Year’s Eve babysitting his servers, just in case. As it turned out, everything was fine.

The office had moved out of the “dungeon” into the “hothouse.” With concrete construction, the computers overwhelmed the building’s air conditioning. Not only was it very hot, but the condensation also caused constant dripping from the ceiling. Mike finally splurged on a portable air conditioner which improved the situation immensely; that being a good example of how the company survived through the year. While Mike was reluctant to spend on anything unessential, others like him were literally throwing money around.

Starting back in about 1994, investors were increasingly drawn to internet-related businesses. Those businesses become well funded with the expectation that investors would realize huge gains in the future. The business model of the day was to grow fast at any means – often offering free services to gain market share. Internet companies had luxurious facilities and rewarded staff with lavish vacations. Spending was wild and valuations were wilder.

Super Bowl ads in January 2000 were $2 million for 30 seconds and 16 internet companies were in the mix. The following year, there were only three.

Beginning in March 2000, the dot-com bubble burst. There were too many companies chasing the same market with no cash or foreseeable profits in the near term. Investors jumped ship and many companies went out of business. Those that did survive lost upwards of 75% of their value.

James and Uncle Mike carried on as usual in the now slightly cooler hothouse. Websites were built entirely by hand-coding, largely using PHP, which was a computer programming language created for web development in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf. Perl, JavaScript, and C++ were older computer languages, but could also be used. Regardless, a website wasn’t a website without HTML, which brings us back to Tim Berners-Lee.

Berners-Lee was truly the father of the internet, and is still alive and continuing to mold his offspring. He didn’t just envision the internet, he made it work – including the development of HTML, which is an acronym for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML is the programming that turns computer code into a visual display. It calls code from a server, takes the content and shows it as described – things like displaying headings in a larger font, spacing paragraphs, placing images with the corresponding text, and allowing the click of a link to transport the viewer to a different display.

Sir Berners-Lee (knighted by H.M. Queen Elizabeth in 2004) also had the wisdom to found the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to create standards for the inter-web. Today, he serves as a director for the esteemed organization, with a mission to “lead the Web to its full potential.”

THANK YOU, SIR!!

Continued:
The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s

 

blank

blank

blank

 

By January of 1996, there were 100,000 websites online. Thirty of those were Mike’s clients, including a “matchmaking” service.

There were now 36 million internet users. Computers at home still weren’t commonplace, but email was a must-have for government offices and most businesses. Of those who were “surfing,” 86% used Netscape’s browser. Internet Explorer had been released though, and by bundling the browser with its Windows operating system, by 1999 Microsoft had converted nearly every user. The Netscape browser became open source as Mozilla and remained technically superior, but not commercially viable.

Lycos was the most popular search engine/web portal and published many of our early sites to their “Top 5% of the Web” directory. Internet Advertising’s website now contained more information about the business, but also continued to serve as a portal to our client sites.

James was now working for Uncle Mike full-time. With his gift for “figuring things out,” he learned what he needed to know when he needed to know it. He was plugged in 24/7 and a sponge for new knowledge.

Then came 1999, a divisive year for the tech industry. Early programmers hadn’t thought beyond the 1900s, meaning that some software would not know what to do when the year 2000 arrived. It was dubbed Y2K and speculation abounded. Some predicted an apocalyptic end to the entire world. Others theorized all computer tech would stop working. Then there were those who didn’t really think anything untoward would happen at all.

Mike was somewhere in between, concerned about his business but not a worldwide catastrophe. Mike and James spent hours doing research, installing software patches, doing tests, and then starting the process over again.

Andrew and Paul were part of the latter group, unconcerned.

Keara was two, hanging out at home with brother Jordan. Angela used the home computer as a learning tool for them, including Freddi The Fish.

Nick was now 4 and more interested in playing outside rather than on any sort of screen time.

Continued:
The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s

 

blank

blank

blank

 

The first web page went live on August 6, 1991. It was created by Tim Berners-Lee to share information about the World Wide Web project which was intended as a communication tool for government agencies and universities. It ran on a NeXT computer at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN. By 1993, another 129 websites had gone live.

In 1995, Mike graduated with honours in Computer Information Systems and Micro Computers in Business. Now, there were 23,500 sites on the World Wide Web. Mike was about to add to that number, although it wouldn’t be easy. Still, the man had a dream. He set up a business and named it International Internet Advertising Services Inc.

Mike and Angela were now married and had a baby boy who kept Angela very busy at home. Mike was kept busy figuring out how to create websites and building a web server to host them. While he was clearly a computer wiz, knowledge about this World Wide Web was hard to find.

At 25, Mike was a husband, father, and ambitious entrepreneur. He persevered. Accessing the WWW through a BBS (short for Bulletin Board System), he put up his first website and somehow managed to convince a few other businesses to use this new form of advertising.

Mike’s site was basically a directory of his client’s websites since Larry Page and Sergey Brin hadn’t yet invented Google. Jack’s Towing was one of Mike’s first clients.

“I remember Jack,” says Mike. “I called him up a few months after I’d created his web page to ask if it had brought him more business. He said no, and I was crushed. I started to apologize. Jack stopped me and laughed as he told me I’d saved him millions of dollars. I didn’t understand. Jack explained that while he was still getting the same number of calls from clients, he was getting tons of calls from suppliers vying for his business. He was able to make some great deals and that made his business far more profitable. He was a very happy client.”

Digital cameras were yet to become popular, so most clients provided printed snapshots. That meant scanning the images, which was quite time-consuming. James was 16 and going to school, but also had a side job digitizing the history of rural BC communities. His job was to scan books and create a website. James and Uncle Mike forged their first professional arrangement: James scanned the images for Mike’s sites and Mike helped James install hardware and get websites running.

Still working for the Correctional Service, Joanne was transferred to Abbotsford in 1995 and became the Regional Manager for Policy, Planning, and Information Technology for BC and the Yukon. She remembers being annoyed walking through the office seeing people playing Solitaire, which was released with Windows 3.0. Still, she defended this to her superiors as a way for staff to get used to using a mouse.

Forty-five kilometers away in Surrey, Andrew was spending a lot of his time designing computers and network systems and teaching others how to use them. Paul was still living with his parents in Romford, going to college and working part-time in a tropical fish shop. Nick had just been born in Ontario.

Continued:
The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s

 

blank

blank

blank

Joanne graduated from the University of Calgary in 1980 with a degree in Psychology. One of her classes was in Computer Science where she learned to code in Fortran. She still remembers the anxiety of her final project – making sure that the punch cards she carefully created didn’t get out of order feeding into the card reader that sent information into the university’s computer.

Having been raised in the Northwest Territories, Joanne’s first job after graduation was in Cambridge Bay – a small village about 1,800 kilometers north of Edmonton. In 1983, she moved “south” to Yellowknife and started a 15-year career with the Correctional Service of Canada. Urgent communications were sent by Telex. The message was typed out on a strip of paper that was fed into a telephone hookup, similar to a fax machine. Joanne recalls the office getting a computer with large floppy discs, but doesn’t remember what it was used for.

By 1988, she has been transferred to Saskatoon to the department of Policy, Planning, and Information Technology. She was initially a Resource Officer and used a spreadsheet program on a computer to calculate budgets. To create a written report, she had to close the spreadsheet app. In late 1988, Joanne was at a conference in Ottawa where she saw Windows for the first time. She was ecstatic that this wondrous new tech would allow here to have a spreadsheet AND a word processing program open at the same time!!

Over in BC, Andrew was living in Aldergrove, building computers, creating programs and video games for Apple, IBM, Commodore and NES systems and running dial up BBS servers. At the time he had the look to pull off the Don Johnson Miami Vice vibe.

Mike was 18 and working his way through college while employed at construction jobs. He was also building at home – a 386 XT clone. He was dating Angela, a grade 11 student who was doing high school the old fashioned way, books, and more books. Computers weren’t part of the curriculum and the internet wasn’t part of her life.

Across the pond, as they say, 11-year-old Paul lived in Romford, just outside of London, England. He was the proud owner of a Commodore VIC-20 with 20 KB ROM and 5 KB RAM.

Mike’s nephew James, a grade 3 student, was already teaching himself how to code. He figured out how to connect a computer to his TV and created a training moving across the screen.

Continued:
The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s

blank

blank

 

It’s a new year, a new decade, and who knows what 2020 has in store for us. While we often make predictions this time of year, in 2020 we’re going to take a look back.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of International Internet Advertising Services Inc.; and, while our marketing materials focus on the more relevant aspects of the team’s work experience, we don’t often talk about our individual histories or how we came to be a team. It’s actually an interesting story, and one that shows how much the world of technology has advanced in our lifetime. So stay tuned!

And in the meanwhile, we wish you health, happiness, and success all year long!

Happy New Year!

blank

blank

blank

All of us here at Internet Advertising count our blessings, we are very grateful for you, our clients, for your loyalty. It makes us proud and really motivates us to continue learning new skills and making sure we’re up on all the latest technologies because you rely on us to do our part to keep your business successful. It’s a win-win and we love that!

Although we will be closed from Wednesday December 25th to Monday December 30th for the holiday season, all of our systems are monitored 24/7 and we’ll know immediately if any problems arise that need our attention. You can also call if anything important arises and leave a message. We will be checking them.

We wish you safe travels, great fun with family and friends, lots of wonderful food, and some time to relax.

Merry Christmas!

blank

blank

blank

 

If you had to write a job description for your website, what would you include? Thinking about your site as an employee is an interesting way to work through identifying the purpose and objectives of your site; and, on deciding how to measure its performance. Let’s try an example:


As the core of our marketing framework, this position has primary responsibility for:

  • reaching our target market;
  • capturing the attention of visitors; and,
  • converting visitors into customers.

Working collaboratively with search engines, social media, and other advertising platforms, you will create interest in our products, describe their benefits, and persuade our target market to make a purchase.


For a position this important, a good effort isn’t enough. No, in this position, you need to demonstrate results. Website analytics is the method you’ll use.

Analytics provide a tremendous amount of information about the visitors to your site. We’ll use some of that data to continue our example.

Is the site reaching our target market?

Analytics are pretty specific about the location of your visitors, and can also determine age and gender for many of them. So, you’ll know if your site is attracting your ideal customers, as well as what platform is sending them your way.

Is the site capturing attention?

Analytics will tell you which page the visitor landed on, as well as the sequence of any subsequent pages they viewed; how long they stayed on each page; and the last page they visited before leaving your site. If you have a high number of visitors leaving within seconds of arriving on your landing page, the site is not capturing attention. You’ll also know which pages visitors are spending the most time on, telling you what content they are most interested in, so you can tweak the information on your other pages.

Is the site getting a satisfactory response to your call to action?

Depending on your business and the features of your site, your call to action could be to make a purchase, set up an appointment, or ask for a quote. The use of analytics here is called “conversion tracking.” What is “satisfactory” depends on how competitive your industry is, but the goal is always to improve the conversion rate.

If you think of your website as an employee, think of us as the Director of Human Resources. With the data analytics provide, we can tell you if your site is doing its job, and what actions need to be taken to improve its performance.

So, is your website doing its job? Give us a call and we’ll let you know.

 

blank

 

blank

blank

 

If only those were magic words that could make an entirely fake negative review disappear. But, they are not, and will not. Although feel free to scream it out anyway.

No, unfortunately fake reviews, which are almost always negative, take much more time and effort to deal with; along with a good measure of self-control. Different platforms have different processes, but here’s how to request the removal of a fake Google review (and the first few steps apply to all platforms).

First, investigate. Just because the review is negative, doesn’t prove that it’s fake. Try to identify the user. Ask staff about any circumstances similar to the review. Maybe the situation has been blown out of proportion. Do your best to find out if there is any truth to the review.

Next, draft a response as if it was a valid complaint. Why? Because even if you do get it deleted, it will take time. Don’t respond online yet, just draft. Take a breather, and go back to it again. This is a really good opportunity for you to show your customers and potential customers that you care about them and the quality of the products or services you provide. Learn more about responding to negative reviews in this great article.

Here’s an example: I’m so sorry you had this experience. We have initiated an investigation but are unable to identify you by your user name. Please call Bev at 1-800-222-2222 with your purchase details so we can rectify this situation with you and ensure that it never happens to anyone else.

Google’s rules are: “Contributions must be based on real experiences and information. Deliberately fake content, copied or stolen photos, off-topic reviews, defamatory language, personal attacks, and unnecessary or incorrect content are all in violation of our policy.” There are other rules as well, and you should read them.

Now, get the process going with Google.

  • From your PC, sign in to Google My Business. (If you don’t have an account, start here.)
  • If you have more than one location in your account, go into card view and click Manage location for the business/location where the review appears.
  • Go to the menu and click Reviews.
  • Find the review, click on the three dots, and then click Flag as inappropriate.​

If the review is associated with Google Maps:

  • Go to maps, and find your business name using search.
  • Select your business from the search results.
  • In the panel on the left, scroll to the “Review summary” section.
  • Under the average rating, click [number of] reviews.
  • Scroll to the fake review, click the three dots, then click the Flag icon.

Complete the form in the window that appears, making sure that you clearly state how the review contravenes Google’s rules. Click Submit.

Now you have to be patient for a few days. If the fake review is still there four days later, take the next step.

  • Get in touch with a Google Small Business Support associate.
  • Log into your Google My Business account.
  • Go to the Reviews section.
  • Click on the home menu and select Support.
  • Choose a method of Contact – Phone or Email.
  • Fill in the requested contact information. Add a screenshot of the review in question.

You should hear back with two days.

You can also send a tweet to the support team, @GoogleSmallBiz, preferably from your own business Twitter account.

As always, if you want help, just give us a call.

 

blank

 

blank

blank

 

Get your calendar. Find a half-day in the next two weeks and block it off for “Password Security.” Do it now, then you can read the rest of this article.

Data breaches have become so common that it’s hard to even make a list of them all. At the recent World Economic Forum, it was reported that North American and European businesses believe that cyber-attacks are the number one greatest risk to doing business globally.

At a personal level, if you’ve ever used Facebook or Fortnite, or applied for credit, you’re at risk – and that pretty much covers everyone in North America. And don’t think that you are of less interest to hackers than others might be. At a recent staff meeting, there were several of us who have received emails that contained one of our actual passwords, and demanding payment. Fortunately for us, those passwords had since been changed. But it proves that we are all at risk for identity theft, bank fraud, ransomware, and the many, many other ways that hackers can make your life a living hell. So, how do you protect yourself?

First, you need a different password for every single account you have. That includes bank accounts, app accounts, email, social media, your phone, your Wi-Fi, and on it goes.

Second, you need each of those passwords to be completely random. Don’t even think about creating a password that you’ll be able to remember. If you can remember it, it’s not secure enough, period.

The biggest challenge then is not using unique and random passwords but remembering them. There are apps for that, and some old school methods as well. Both have their pros and cons. Choosing a method really depends on how you use the internet. Here are three examples:

Bubby is 88 years old. The only device she has is an iPad. She uses email, Facebook, online banking, and plays some online games. Bubby never needs to access any of her online accounts from anywhere other than her own living room. For her, listing her user names and passwords in her hard copy address book is the best method. The chances of her losing address book or someone stealing it are pretty negligible. It if burns up in a fire, she can regain access to all of her accounts with her email address.

Sarah is 16. She has a smartphone and laptop with at least 40 apps. She does some homework and plays a few games, but most of her online activity is texting or chatting with friends, and posting to social media. For Sarah, one of the free password manager apps, like LastPass  or Dashlane, provide great security. She will still have to set up strong passwords and remember her password manager password (but she can write that one password down and hide it in her dresser).

George is 45. He’s a consultant that works with clients all over the country and frequently travels. George has social media accounts on all the major platforms, he does his banking and shopping online, he makes appointments with his doctor and dentist online, he uses Google apps and stores all of his work documents online, and he has a smartphone. George has a lot of accounts and sensitive documents, and he accesses them on his phone, laptop, and PC.

For George, a paid subscription to a password manager is well worth the cost. According to PC Magazine, George should have the premium version of Dashlane or Keeper.

For those of you who exclusively use either Android or iOS, or who are on a PC most of the time, you can also consider iCloud Keychain or Google Password Manager.

The most important thing to remember is that you need to have long, complex passwords that are completely unrelated to anything about you. So, seriously, get on it!

 

blank

 

blank

blank

 

I realized the other day that many of our articles seem to relate more to product sellers than to service providers. While marketing strategies can be very similar, there are a few things that those who only provide services need to keep in mind. So, this one is for you!

Know the rules of your regulatory body

Most professional services have a licencing or other type of regulatory body that governs their discipline; and many of these have rule about marketing and advertising. The Canadian Chiropractic Association, for example, does not allow a chiropractor to “claim professional superiority.” That means, that you can’t say things like you are the best chiropractor in town. You can still advertise, you just need to be aware of any such rules.

List your credentials and experience

Potential customers want to know your qualifications and experience. They probably don’t care that you have kids or pets, so don’t be tempted to expand your bio into areas that really don’t matter. Tell them about your education, your licences or registrations, and the type of problems you have solved. Some regulatory bodies won’t allow you to say that you are “specialized” in something particular, but you can say that you have “ten years of experience successfully treating back pain,” or “providing advice on wills and estate planning.”

Directly address other decision-making criteria

How do clients decide to come to you instead of someone else? In my experience, the provider often guesses wrong, so the best way to find out is to ask them. Is it your experience? Your website? Your location? The fact that you are open on the weekends? Identify the three to five reasons, and make sure that your website and other marketing materials address those issues directly. This information can also give a real boost to your online marketing.

Consider including prices on your website

Clients may be reluctant to tell you that price was one of the factors, but unless you deal exclusively with the rich and famous, price IS one of the factors. Customers comparison shop for services as well as products. If you are able to offer standardized pricing, consider putting those prices on your website, and explain why your prices are higher or lower than your competitors.

Offer online appointment booking

Online booking is a convenience that should not be underestimated. It means that they can book an appointment in the evening or on the weekend when they have the time, and it saves a whole lot of time for them and your office to be able to easily find available dates and times. You can also automate email or text reminders.

Consider cross-marketing

If someone needs a business lawyer, chances are they also need an accountant. If they get their nails done, they probably go to a hair salon too. Find service providers in your area that aren’t competitors but do share your target market. Give them a supply of brochures or business cards, and keep theirs handy at your office.

Encourage reviews

Positive reviews are one of the big decision-making criteria these days, and may be even more important in the service industries. There are quite a number of forums, but Google is likely the most significant. There are things you can do to encourage reviews, and we encourage you to do that! We wrote about this back in June, which you can re-read here.

 

As always, we’re here to help. Just give us a call.

 

blank

 

blank

blank

 

It’s time to plan your fall and winter promotions

While there’s no rush to pack up your flip-flops, as long as the warm weather holds, it is time to start planning your fall and winter sales promotions. Here are some ideas to get you thinking, and we can help with the creative aspects as well as the implementation. Call soon though! A great ad campaign takes a bit of time to develop and set up, and your promotions need to run before these dates.

Thanksgiving, Monday, October 14 (Canada)

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to show your customers some gratitude. A note of thanks, along with a discount or gift with purchase, is always appreciated. You could also use this opportunity to launch new products or services, giving advanced access and deals to your best customers. If you primarily cater to a local or regional market, Thanksgiving is also the perfect time to give back to the community. Make a donation to the Foodbank, give your staff time off to serve up dinner at a shelter, or offer to provide the turkeys. Take photos, and share your joy of helping others on social media.

Halloween, Thursday, October 31

Halloween is big business in North America, and you can take advantage of the attention it gets. You can stick to the traditional pumpkin give-away or children’s party, or hold a costume contest on one of your social media platforms for a nice prize. If you sell something totally unrelated, we’ll have to get creative, but that’s part of the Halloween fun. For the HVAC biz: “Is your furnace about to ghost you?” For the roofer or building supply store: “5 kids’ costumes you can make with tar paper and duct tape.”

Black Friday, November 29, 2019

Black Friday sales are catching on in Canada, but most of the ones I’ve seen in the past haven’t offered the deep discounts shoppers expect. If you’re going to have a Black Friday sale, make it a spectacular one. While Black Friday is meant to be the start of Christmas gift buying, it’s more appropriate to pitch household items for Black Friday than as a gift (see below). You also need to plan your advertising well in advance and focus on your ideal market. There is a lot of noise to contend with leading up to Black Friday.

Cyber Monday, December 2, 2019

If you sell anything tech-related, this is your day. Again, just remember that you are facing a ton of competition, so direct mail to your customer database and social media followers may be the most productive. Since Giving Tuesday is the next day, partnering with a charity to do things like make a cash donation for each sale, or to give a device for every 10 sold, can help you both.

Christmas, Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Direct marketing for Christmas sales can start running mid-November, but general advertising is best left until after Black Friday. You’ll get the biggest bang for your buck advertising products or services that people will really want as a gift. (Mom does not want a new vacuum cleaner!) Offering a free gift with purchase or partnering with a charitable organization to boost their coffers, are some other ways to attract shoppers.

 

Opportunities abound, so call us now!

 

blank

 

blank

blank

 

A simple way to test your web content

Quality content is one of the most important aspects of your website. Your potential customers rely on it, and search engines use it to index and rank your site. Borrowing a tactic used in the journalism industry, you can assess the content of your website by ensuring that you have answered the “5 Ws” plus “how.” (And just in case you’re in a trivia contest someday, since a discovery in 2010, the 5 Ws have been attributed to Aristotle.)

Who: Who are you, and who are you targeting? Your website should describe your company and what they’re about, as well as who your target market is. E.g. “We believe that people of all abilities feel good when they look good. That’s why we offer fashionable clothing items with unseen adaptations that make dressing well easier.”

What: What products or services do you provide? Your home page should give an overview; and different types of offerings should be divided into categories. In most cases, each category will be a menu item with its own page. Using the example above, your categories might be: slacks, shorts, shirts, and sweaters.

When: Your site should tell customers your hours of service; and, if you ship products, when they can expect delivery. E.g. “Our friendly customer service staff are available to help you with selection and sizing, online or in-store, Monday through Friday from 9 am to 7 pm Eastern time. You can order online at any time, and your items will be delivered within four business days.”

Where: Providing the address of your physical location helps build trust, and some potential customers living near you may prefer to do business in person. Your address is also used by search engines and apps like Google Maps, and will provide a distance and directions to your door.

Why: Why do I need your services? Why should I buy these items from you and not a competitor? The “why” is critical. What’s special about your company? Tell your brand story!

How: In this context, “how” can refer to how you’re different; how your products or services are different; or how you actually do what you do. Again using the accessible clothing example, you might have a few short videos demonstrating how easy it is to put on your various pieces of clothing.

 

So, have a read through your website with fresh eyes, and see if you’ve answered all of the basic questions that stem from the 5 Ws. If you notice any gaps, we’re here to help.

 

blank

 

blank

blank

 

Analyzing how users interact with your website provides valuable information about how to improve the site’s performance. Google Analytics, the one we use most often, provides a lot of data, but you need to interpret that data within the context of your overall goals, and objectives set for each page. Let’s look at some examples of the metrics to watch for different purposes.

Acquisition: The acquisition data tells you how people found your site. By measuring changes between before and after time periods, this metric will tell you if a tactic worked. For example, if you’ve optimized your site for search engines (SEO), then your organic search numbers should be up. If you’ve had an ad running on a couple of social media platforms, your social media numbers should be up. If you’ve sponsored an event, attended a trade show, or engaged in some other marketing to get your name and URL out there, your “direct” numbers should be up. In all of these cases, you’d also expect your “new user” numbers to have grown. If your goal is to increase new users, you can also compare the metrics for each method of acquisition.

 

blank

 

Behaviour: The behaviour data tells you where people go on your site, i.e. which pages they visit, how long they stay on a page, and which pages they leave from. This information can be used in several ways. For example, the pages where people spend the most time, are the pages that people are most interested in, and vice versa. Let’s say you sell jewellery and two years ago, you had a big run on Bangles. In the last year though, only 1% of visitors even clicked on the Bangles tab. That could be telling you that bangles are out of fashion, OR, it could be telling you that the younger generation don’t know what a bangle is. What do you do? Move the product listings to the Bracelets page, and delete Bangles from your menu.

 

blank

 

Here’s another example. Let’s say you’ve put a sale on bracelets and done a bunch of advertising. The behaviour data shows that you’ve had a huge increase in visitors to the bracelets page, but the “Bounce” rate for that page has also increased dramatically. (The bounce rate is the number of people who leave your site from that page.) So, they came to the bracelets page, spent a minute or two on the page, and then left the site. That could be telling you that there’s a technical problem on the page; but if that’s not the case, then chances are that no one was impressed with your discounts.

Behaviour stats can also tell you if people are actually reading your blog (time on page), if your name or keywords are misleading (bounce rate from Home page), or if your shipping rates are too high (high exit rate from shipping rate page).

Audience: the audience report tells you three things: 1) when most visitors come to your site; 2) where those visitors are; and, 3) the type of device they are using. When visitors come to your site is an interesting metric. For example, if you post a weekly blog, is the posting date related to visitor traffic? Conversely, if that just happens to be when homeowners are most often looking for the paint you sell, that might be a great time to offer a one-day sale.

 

blank

 

Where visitors are located is another bit of information that you can use to grow your customer base. For example, if you have mainly catered to locals in the past, but see a lot of regional or national interest, you might want to look at options for shipping to those locations.

Type of device used to be something we looked at regularly, but these days, it’s certainly best to ensure that your website adapts to any size of device.

If we’re running any advertising for you, we’re already keeping a close eye on those metrics, but if not, give us a call to get analytics set up. It’s definitely worth the small investment.

 

blank

 

blank

blank

Industrial psychology has long been the foundation of advertising. The use of different colours, for example, to elicit feelings of excitement, trust, or luxury. That bright red “SALE” banner is no accident, nor is the choice of blue for IBM, Facebook, or BMO. Whether or not we actually trust Facebook, knowing what we know, isn’t the issue. The fact is, that North Americans subconsciously associate blue with trustworthiness, red with excitement, black with luxury, and we are calmed by shades of light green.

Green is also associated with environmental friendliness, so much so, that the word “green” is now synonymous with products that are not harmful to the environment. So, it seems to make sense to use a green-themed web design to sell eco-friendly products, right?

The “call to action” is also a traditional standard in advertising. Tell potential customers what to do and how to do it; or in the online world, show them where to click and what info to provide. We often use a commanding tone to influence compliance, like “Call now!”

So, here’s where ethics get a little trickier. Let’s say you are raising funds to save the whales. You have a great website design with blues and greens depicting nature, the oceans, and cute little baby whales. You make your pitch, and below have a bright red button that says “Donate Now.” All fair, so far. But, when you try to leave the page by any means other than clicking on Donate Now, a screen pops up that says, “Do you really want all these baby whales to die? They are relying on your donation to save them,” with two buttons below – “Yes, I want to save the whales!” and “No, let the whales die.”

That is an extreme example of a tactic known as “confirm-shaming” that tries to guilt you into doing something that you wouldn’t otherwise do. It is also used to convince you that you really should do something now, rather than think about it any longer. Some examples include things like “Are you sure you don’t want to order now?” With the choice of clicking “Yes, I want to get 30% off.” Or “No, I’m happy to pay full price tomorrow.”

Fair or not?

Here’s another trick (or is it?): providing you with the “most popular” options. Some would say that this is just making it easier for the shopper to find an item someone mentioned to them; but others say it is a way to manipulate you by associating these items with “popularity.”

Then there’s the false sense of urgency created when an item is shown with a note like “Only 3 left at this price.” If that’s true, well… but, some of these are simply random numbers.
There are truly devious tactics out there – the old bait & switch, the sneaking of extra items into your cart, misdirection, and more. Most ethical people would stay away from these on principal, and in the long term, they don’t work anyway because customers will figure it out and never come back.

blank

Looking at these examples, the poles seem obvious enough: A standard call to action is fine, expected even, and deviousness is definitely over-the-line. But how to we deal with everything in the middle? Pondering this, I’m reminded of Rotary International’s Four-Way Test, and it seems a very helpful way to assess tactics in our very competitive world:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

From a business perspective, if you can’t answer “Yes” to all of these questions, you will not be successful over the long term. Being truthful and fair, building good relationships with your customers, and ensuring that they derive the benefit promised from your product or service are paramount.

The more I think about it, the more I like this test as a measure of good advertising practices. So for those who are committed to ethical behaviour, like we are, thanks Rotary. And for the others, we’re on to you!

blank

blank

Now that our cell phones are actually multi-function devices, setting them aside completely while on vacation may not be feasible. Not only do they serve as a camera for those holiday pics, they are also our time keepers, our route maps, and our kid trackers. So, if you’re not ready to leave the phone behind, let’s at least look at some ways to minimize the work related disruptions.

Set an email auto-responder

Most email systems have an auto-responder that will send an automatic reply to everyone who emails you. You write the message yourself, so you can state the dates you are away, as well as who they might contact if the issue can’t wait until your return. Two things I’ve learned: Set the autoresponder for specific dates, so you don’t forget to turn it off when you get back. But, give yourself an extra day on both ends.

Change your voice mail message

If you’re not in the habit of changing your voice mail each day, change it the day before you leave on vacation with the same info as the auto email. Don’t give your cell number on that message.

Turn off notifications

Agree on one method of staying in touch with those travelling with you. Ideally, choose one that your work contacts don’t have or don’t use to contact you routinely. Then, turn off notifications for everything else.

Consider wearing a watch

If you really want to unplug, consider wearing a watch and buying them for the rest of your travel crew as well. You can get some pretty inexpensive ones, and you won’t be tempted to check your phone quite so often if you don’t need it to check the time.

blank

Pack old-school activities

A pack of cards, a few engaging board games, and a bit of creativity, will give you things to do together, rather than all playing games on your separate devices.
Save the social media posts for when you get home
This is a good practice for security reasons as well. We all want to share, but waiting until you’re home to post those vacation pics, will also keep you from scrolling through all those posts from everyone else.

Wishing you a safe and restful vacation.

blank

blank

In our last article we talked about the power of positive customer reviews. But what do you do when a customer isn’t happy? Unfortunately, now and then, we all have to deal with one complaint or another, and there can be an upside. Here are seven steps for turning unhappy customers into fans.

1. Listen, carefully and patiently

If a customer is lambasting you over the phone, keep your cool and listen as carefully as you can. You need to hear the product or service issues, but you also need to hear how this emotionally impacted your customer. Were they embarrassed that a gift was late? Angry that their child was hurt? Disappointed that the size was off and they couldn’t wear the dress for a special occasion?  Don’t take it personally, or get caught up in the emotion, but let them finish their rant and take in as much information as you can. If the complaint is in written form, read it through a couple of times to try to understand.

2. Acknowledge and apologize

Be compassionate, but not emotional. Speak in a steady tone, and with a soft voice if the customer has been loud. Acknowledge that the customer is disappointed or angry, and apologize. Commit to resolving the problem to the customer’s satisfaction. Example: “I’m so sorry the dress didn’t fit. Please give me an opportunity to make this right.”

3. Get to the root cause

You need to really understand what went wrong in order to fix it, not only for this one customer, but to make sure it doesn’t happen to others. Review the process and repeat back the customer’s main points to get confirmation. Example: “So, you did use the sizing chart on our website, and it indicated that you would be a size 8. You ordered the size 8 of the dress, and that’s item number 088765, and it was way too big for you.”

4. Take responsibility for finding a solution

Tell the customer that you are going to take care of YOUR problem, and resolve the issue to their satisfaction. You can simply ask what you can do, or offer some options. Example: “Ok, so as soon as I get off the phone with you, I’m going to look into that sizing chart, but first, I’m going to give you a full refund, and see what else I can do to make this up to you.” Remember that the issue isn’t just the wrong sizing, but the impact of that as well.

5. Offer a better than expected solution

You can turn an unhappy customer into one of your biggest fans by offering a solution that exceeds expectations. Make your offer and ask for confirmation that this is a satisfactory solution. Example: “Did you like the dress? I’m wondering if you’d like to try it in a smaller size, or would you rather choose something else? It’s on me, whatever you decide, and I’m still giving you a refund on what you’ve already paid.” (They choose something else.) “Ok, so I’m going to issue that refund, and I’m going to put a credit for that same amount on your account, so you can pick out something else whenever you’d like to. How does that sound?” Chances are, they will be quite happy.

blank

6. Thank them

Yes, thank them, for bringing the problem to their attention, because you care about your customers and you want them to be happy with every purchase.

7. Follow up

When appropriate, (e.g. after they’ve used the credit) follow up. Call or email to let them know you took the issue seriously and want to make sure they are satisfied. Example: “I wanted to let you know that the sizing chart has been revised, so I sure hope the new dress you ordered earlier today fits perfectly. If you do have any issues at all, please call me directly at ###.” Do make sure that the issue is truly resolved in-house, if it was a problem on your end. Even if it wasn’t, send a more generic email to make sure they were satisfied with whatever the resolution was. Example: “I understand that you had an issue with one of own products recently. If you don’t mind taking a few minutes, please let me know that the issue was resolved to your satisfaction.”

 

blank

blank

In days of old, nothing was more coveted than the word-of-mouth referral. People trusted their families, friends, and colleagues to point them to the best providers of products and services. Now it’s 2019 and consumers want to hear from as many people as possible about what they think of you.

Take a look at these stats from Brightlocal.com:

  • 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 95% of people aged 18-34)
  • Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business
  • 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars
  • 91% of 18-34 year old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • Consumers are likely to spend 31 percent more on a business with excellent reviews

That makes it pretty clear. More reviews mean more business. If you want to prosper, you need reviews, lots of them. And here are another couple of tidbits: 73% of people think a review older than 3 months is no longer relevant, and 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past two weeks. So, you also need a steady stream of reviews.

How can we make that happen? Well, let’s first look at the reasons why people don’t post reviews.

  1. For some people, they just never think about it. Less than half of consumers over the age of 55 have ever posted a review.
  2. While a large majority of 18-34 year olds have written at least one online review and may intend to, they simply forget.
  3. They don’t know where or how to post a review.

Now, before we go on, I know there are business owners out there who fear that making it easy for customers to post reviews will just encourage crazy rants and maybe even malicious fake reviews by competitors. Here’s the thing – the positives far outweigh the possible negatives. And chances are, by encouraging reviews and being involved in the review process, the number of positive comments will far outnumber the negative ones.

Okay, so how do you get more reviews? You address the top three reasons why customers don’t write reviews. You ask your customers to write a review each time they do business with you, you remind them, and you make it easy by showing them where and how to post their review.

That may sound like a lot of work, and it would be if you tried to do it one customer at a time. The good news is that we can make the whole process easy for you too by setting up a “review funnel” system for your business.

This system offers a number of benefits, including the potential to deal directly (and privately) with really unhappy customers, reducing the amount of time needed for monitoring, and streamlining the process of adding a response (which 89% of consumers read).

blank

Are you ready to bring in new customers and build brand loyalty with more reviews? Visit https://www.iias.reviews for more information or give us a call at 604-556-0211 and ask about improving your online reviews.

blank

blank

I’ve just been reading about the technology behind what has been termed “deep fake videos.” I have to say, it’s scary. Our job is to help our clients promote their products and services, to help businesses grow. Yes, we want them to make a good first impression. Yes, we want them to highlight the best features of who they are and what they do. Yes, we want to increase their customer base and sales. But, we are steadfast in advising all our clients that they need to do so accurately and honestly.

Deep fake videos have mainly been focused on embarrassing celebrities and/or creating ridiculously farfetched content to ratchet up views for profit. Sure, it’s entertaining, and can be hilariously funny. But – there is a down side to not being able to believe what we see with our own eyes.

This video explains how deep fakes are created. You might notice that there is something a little off in the video of Obama. Now, watch this video of David Beckham speaking nine languages in a public service announcement promoting the fight against malaria. It’s pretty perfect.

That video was made by Synthesia, a UK company headed by CEO Victor Riparbelli. He believes that within three years, we won’t be able to tell the difference between fake and actual video – there will even be the ability to create a totally fake human doing and saying whatever.

So, how does all of this relate back to Internet Advertising and what we do for our clients? Obviously, fake is fake if it’s not accurate. We don’t want to create videos that show vacuum cleaners flying all over the house to clean your blinds, door frames, etc., in addition to the floor. That is dishonest. But what if it was easier and cheaper to create a truthful video by computer rather than recording live action? Is that ok? We’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

And, can our honest clients compete against the fakers? We still firmly believe that good will eventually prevail. It doesn’t take long for word to get out these days, so scams are short-sited regardless of your morals.

Conclusion? Well… be aware that you won’t be able to tell the difference between true and fake, so it’s probably best not to buy any flying vacuums; and, have faith that honesty is still the best policy for your business.

blank

blank

Most marketers will tell you that social media marketing is a “must have” in today’s world. While we don’t disagree, we also know that a lot of businesses are not getting the most out of their efforts and expense. Like any other marketing tactics, social media marketing needs to be goal driven, strategic, and part of an overall marketing plan.

It’s important to realize that “social media marketing” is not even one tactic, in and of itself. Rather, it can include posting to a social media account, engagement with potential customers, and paid ads. Those three, can be comprised of any combination of text, images, videos, or audio recordings, and can be the primary content or a divergence.

That said, let’s look at three ways that social media marketing can give a real boost to your business.

You’re launching (or relaunching) a brand

Social media platforms are a great choice for building brand awareness. Whether you’re just starting out or introducing a new product line, social media gives you the flexibility to “layer” shorter and longer content using a combination of text, images, and videos through paid ads and posts. You can target your theoretical consumer market and collect data to tweak that as needed. Social media is also very useful for brand building because you can encourage questions and provide timely responses in the brand voice. You’ll need to make sure that the design of your social media pages reflects your new brand, includes an engaging brand story, and has links to a well-planned website. The most important aspect though, is having your social media feeds monitored in real-time so you can hold virtual conversations with those who show an interest.

You need to create a big splash for a short time

Perhaps you need to move a lot of product at year end, are holding a special event, or decide to offer a flash sale on a slow week – social media is definitely the way to get the word out. You’ll not only reach the social media communities you’ve cultivated over time, but also a wider audience of potential customers. This type of blitz campaign is relatively inexpensive and can have lasting impact. You do need to have a strategically designed website to make sure that there is a smooth path to follow for potential buyers, otherwise, you could end up just frustrating and annoying people.

blank

You need to hold on to your customers for a long time

If you’re in a business with a long sales cycle, sell products or services that last quite a while, or are dependent on after-sales maintenance or consumables, you can build customer loyalty by fostering a customer community. The key here is providing useful content and incentives to get and keep customers following you. Again, you’ll also need a website that makes it really easy for customers to purchase supplies and a way to talk to someone if they’re interested in a new product or service.