Yes - We're Alive! It's True!

Big News at Tractor Beam Marketing!

Business is like a box of chocolates. You buy it, put it on the counter, and someone comes along and picks out all the good ones before you get a chance. (We love the square caramel ones...and the nuts...Mmm!)

Well okay, maybe it's not quite like that (unless that somehow made sense?). But one thing is for sure; things have a way of unpredictably changing. As most business people would know, the trick is adapting, adjusting and learning to bend the change so it works to your advantage.

You may have noticed we've been a little silent lately. It's actually been WAYYYYY too long, and for that we apologize. And yes - as you may have suspected, change is in the air (someone's been picking out the chocolates). After spending more than a year doing public speaking, online training and marketing consultation, we made some major adjustments in the past several months which introduced a part of our business which we had previously suspended. 

We re-introduced our web development & full branding design services, which has kept us very busy. And early in 2011, our biggest change occurred when Jake Bergen, our Marketing Director (he was a chocolate covered nut, we're quite certain), took on a reduced role in stepping away from Tractor Beam. Currently, Jake periodically resumes his role to act on a consulting basis for various clients.


Microtek Corporation Meets the Tractor Beam


Microtek-logo---DarkBlue---small James Rozak
, the Creative Director at Tractor Beam has carried on with the program, and recently, a new alliance has been established. Tractor Beam has joined it's creative services with another local web development business, Microtek Corporation! The new alliance lends the marketing & branding talents of Tractor Beam Marketing with the incredibly gifted programmers of Microtek Corporation. Microtek Corporation is a well established business with a long successful track record of web services, with the capability to develop virtually anything imaginable for the internet.

James has long been associated with Microtek Corporation throughout the past 10 years, and the decision to act as the Creative Manager for Microtek was an easy fit. So standby for further updates as we bring further announcements regarding Microtek and Tractor Beam. James is currently working with the Microtek team to revamp their website and branding presence. We're looking forward to showing off the new website soon!

We have some more exciting news coming soon!

September 06, 2010

The Trouble with Recession Thinking

Fire Like a wildfire, recessions can be devastating. But they are an inevitable part of the economic process, and eventually good will come out of calamity. As the wildfire in nature will burn up dead foliage, those very ashes will in due time fertilize a new generation of growth.

But while the fire is raging, it is natural to get nervous, and common to see panic. But panic can cause people to lose their heads, and can make smart people do stupid things. A recession is no time for irrational judgements and frantic actions, despite the overwhelming feeling that naturally arises.

It is the people who push down the rising panic and take the time to think about a realistic plan of action that will come out the least damaged. But very few will take time to strategize, and will focus on ‘doing’ something… anything... instead. Unfortunately, action without thought is just wasted energy.

One of the biggest problems I see right now is that because of the financial crunch that we are still in, small business owners are asking the wrong questions. Most of the time, questions I receive revolve around the cost of a product or service, and how little someone can get said product or service for.

Yet while cost is understandably an issue, cost-based thinking is not focused on a solution. 

So instead of asking yourself, “I can only afford to spend so much on marketing my business… what can I spend it on?”; shift your thinking to a more financially prudent, “What can I do that will give me the highest return on investment for my budget?”

Is newspaper advertising a preferred medium for communicating about your business? A big-city daily daily newspaper advertisement will probably cost you over ten times what a small-town weekly paper will; and your  one-day shelf life for a daily publication will be at least seven times as long in a weekly publication. 

Cost versus benefit in my own personal experience is that local, targeted publications are much more valuable that larger ones; but if course, you have to be cognizant of the market you are trying to reach.

Similarly, people are being swept up in the hype of Social Media; but have no idea about how to execute a sound Social Media strategy. Because the tools are free, many business people think that all the associated support ought to be free as well. 

A lot of folks don’t want to pay someone to show them how to get maximum yield from a ‘free’ service. I have heard it often… “I’ll just do it myself”. Yet months later they have made no progress at all, and are missing thousands of dollars of potential business to avoid some minimal up-front costs that will make their efforts effective. Instead they are throwing their money at random and disjointed promotional efforts.

Nowadays, even low-quality websites can be had cheap. But does your website act like a valuable employee? Does it engage current and potential clients and begin the sales process? Is it a credible and valuable ambassador for your brand?

If your advertising and communications are not giving you a good ROI (return on investment) it is a waste of time, no matter how little the cost.

Don’t cheap out so much that all you are worried about is cost, because it could damage you in the end. Push down the panic, and stop running around like a headless chicken. It is worth your while to take time enough to ensure your efforts are effective.

Jake Bergen is the Marketing Director at Tractor Beam Marketing (www.thetractorbeam.com), the author of ‘Social Skills: Facebook Basics for Business’ available on Amazon.com, and the founder of Social Media Club Edmonton. © Tractor Beam Marketing Inc.

 

August 26, 2010

You Might Be A Design Hijacker If... (Design Hijackers Part 2)


Bad Website Last week you were introduced to the concept of ‘Design Hijackers’. If you missed it, it is available here for your reading pleasure.

Speaking of Design Hijackers; here is how to tell if you are one, and some straight advice on how to fix the problem if you are.

1) If you provide a product or service totally unrelated to design and hire a professional to help you with your website, brand, corporate image, etc, etc… yet you continually override their recommendations; you might be a Design Hijacker. Pretty soon you will have a site or marketing materials that were not designed by a professional, that firm will have only provided the technical work for you to play designer.

Now, many designers will do the work to keep the customers happy, but you are shooting your own business in the foot. The effect will be less potent in attracting clients and getting the message across due to poor layout, distracting visual choices and muddled content.

Whether you exterminate pests, cap teeth or defend someone in court; when your customers hire you, they point out the problem and get out of the way. Do the same thing when working with a designer. If you hired them because you liked their portfolio, remember that it was their portfolio you were drawn to and not your own.

You will be given a part in the creative process and need to approve designs and recommend changes, and of course have the ultimate say… but do yourself a favor and stick to what you are good at.

2) If you scoff at the last dozen or so design-type projects that have been undertaken on behalf of your company; you might be a Design Hijacker. Chances are that it is not the designer’s fault that you have a crummy website, business cards, advertisements or logo. There is a high likelihood that it’s your own fault, so again, get out of the way and leave the job to the pros. It is one less thing you will need to obsess over.

3) Are you asking opinions from people who are disconnected from your business? You might be a Design Hijacker. Solicit opinions from staff, clients, or do some market research and figure out what you customers respond to. And listen to the folks you hired. Don’t ask your mother-in-law, she probably doesn’t know much about design OR your business. Remember the old saying, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

4) Guilty of adding a bunch of unrelated cute fluff? You might be a… well, you get the point. Notice I said ‘unrelated’. Cute fluff is OK if it is tasteful and in relation to your business. Mattel sells Barbie dolls and related Barbie merchandise, so cute fluff is a requirement, and oh-so-related to their market and the product.

What you should steer clear of is adding random things like Fred did in our story last week. He wanted to add clip-art featuring puppies to his site just because his target market was girls, and he figured girls think puppies are cute.

They just might find puppies adorable, but they also might get confused by puppies on a website selling cases for their iPod, and with no apparent purpose to the gimmick. Even the ‘Taco Bell Dog’ didn’t last very long.

5) Avoid random font style and color changes. A good designer knows how to  add interest using font variations. But most people don’t. Interpretation: you probably don’t.

Yep, this is straight talk, but it is reality. You wouldn’t charter a plane to Palm Springs and then hijack it halfway there. You’d be nuts to do so, but that is exactly what happens in the design world on a day-to-day basis. If you really want to fly the plane, take lessons and do it right; you don’t want your business image to pile up on the side of a mountain.

Why am I ranting about this? Because aside from the disjointed marketing materials I see so often, I am appalled at the butt-ugly websites I keep running across. And in this day and age, the only thing possibly worse than having a nasty website is not having one at all.

This article was written by Jake Bergen; the Marketing Director at Tractor Beam Marketing (www.thetractorbeam.com), the author of ‘Social Skills: Facebook Basics for Business’, and the founder of Social Media Club Edmonton. © Tractor Beam Marketing Inc.

August 18, 2010

Design Hijackers

Bad WebsiteSo... you want to enhance the image and appeal of your business. That is admirable! It may be a bit clichéd, but the truth is that realizing you need help is the first step.

Today I would like to present you with a scenario which, by example, will hopefully help you avoid some of the pitfalls of becoming counter-productive throughout the process. Many business owners turn into ‘design hijackers’, and end up wasting money on branding and design.

Not that they shouldn’t hire a good designer and/or consultant; but business people can become their own worst enemy.

Our story begins with Fred, the owner of Basket Cases Ltd. Fred’s company imports and sells pink iPod cases exclusively. While the customers who have bought iPod cases from him are happy with them; his products are not selling as fast as he thought they would, and he realizes his business needs to be more than a music player case and a transaction.

His customers should be more attracted to his business and products, and he wants to create a connection and loyalty that comes with a strong brand. Other people have done it, so why can’t he?

In talking about his frustrations of not knowing how to go about creating a brand; a friend recommends Shirley’s Innovation Temple, a local ‘thought leader’ in creative design and branding. Fred ‘Googles’ her company, finds her website and portfolio impressive, and gives her a call right away.

Shirley arrives for the initial design consultation and Fred shows her his boring white sign with black letters, along with his atrociously ugly website and business cards. He complains about what an idiot his last designer was and Shirley agrees; she hasn’t seen a website that revolting since about 1997.

They both have a good laugh, with Shirley assuring him that her studio will help him create a brand that will be the envy of the entire city. Fred is sure that this is the designer for him, so he cuts her a cheque right away to retain her firm’s services.

Shirley is happy because this client ‘gets it’. He really seems to realize his problem and genuinely wants to do something about it.

A couple of weeks later, they meet again so Shirley can present some preliminary design concepts. She has created a package with updated logo ideas, signage, business card and website designs; as per Fred’s instructions.

She proudly unveils the smart and attractive layouts her studio has spent the last two weeks on, and turns to Fred.

He gives the illusion of being in deeply intelligent thought. Furrowing his brow, he strokes his chin and clears his throat; then smiles and says, “It is almost perfect!” Shirley visibly relaxes, but somewhat prematurely as he continues, “But…

“Our product is cutting edge and futuristic, so lets add some stars and planets to reflect that.”

Shirley tenses again and her eyes grow wide in shock. “Stars and planets?” Her voice is barely a whisper.

“Our target market is girls, aged 12-18… girls love puppies. Lets add some puppies. I know my mother-in-law would recommend it anyway…”

“Puppies… mother-in-law?!?” Shirley squeaks. Then she remembers that the last website they scoffed at had stars and puppies.

It looks like it wasn’t the last designer’s fault… Fred is a ‘design hijacker’; and is shooting his own business in the foot this time, just as he did the last.

Well, I am running out of room and not finished yet; so we will have to continue our little saga next week (click here for the next installment).

This is a true story that happens almost every day… names have been changed to protect the innocent. This article was written by Jake Bergen; the Marketing Director at Tractor Beam Marketing (www.thetractorbeam.com), the author of ‘Social Skills: Facebook Basics for Business’, and the founder of Social Media Club Edmonton. © Tractor Beam Marketing Inc.

August 12, 2010

Three Steps to Enhancing Your Brand

BoringWhite background. Black or red bold font. There are millions of signs like that in this town and neighboring ones. 

To the general public, that may be all your business is. A boring sign on a building facade.

Kind of sad, isn’t it? If you are a business owner toiling away to create something and to make your company the best in its industry; it may be disheartening to think that your business can be easily discounted by potential clients because of something so trivial.

But for a lot of companies, their sign is the extent of how far their brand reaches.

If you are in this predicament, I ask you to do three things.

First, take some time to sit and reflect on what you do and why you do it. What does your business stand for? Ponder what makes your business different from its competitors. And do this outside the four walls of your business. 

Your favorite cafe or a bench in a peaceful park may be a good spot. I confess, some of the most creative ideas I have for my business come while soaking in a hot bath. Weird? Maybe, but I go with what works. 

I urge you to take some time out from your business to think because sometimes you can’t see the forest through all of the trees in the way.

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it. -Henry Ford

Second, once you find the thing that really separates you from the pack, put it into a nutshell phrase of one sentence or less. Sometimes simplifying is the hardest thing to do; but your potential customers may not have time to to listen to a long, drawn out presentation about you and your business. 

Hit on a word or phrase that captures their attention, and you have just created the potential to crank your brand up a few notches. Of course, it is just potential until it is implemented, which is the next step.

The third item is to start majoring on the one thing that makes your company unique. Put the message out to your clients and prospects in a way that is attractive. People are emotional, and an inner response is created when your attractive signage, website, folder or business card is presented to someone.

It’s the equivalent of dressing your company up. Take the paint-spattered sweat pants off it and put on an evening gown. Or you could be a little more casual, but clean up nice… there are suitors out there that will take the loneliness of being a client-less (or client-lacking) business away. 

Your singular, focused message on display to the world is what will attract potential customers and give current patrons a greater emotional connection to your company.

Become more than a boring sign to your audience. Your business and the livelihood of you and your employees is worth more than that.

Jake Bergen is the Marketing Director at Tractor Beam Marketing (www.thetractorbeam.com), the author of ‘Social Skills: Facebook Basics for Business’, and the founder of Social Media Club Edmonton. © Tractor Beam Marketing Inc.

August 11, 2010

Video Quality... In Case You Were Wondering

IMG_6957 I recently received an email from my friend and videographer Michel Gravel of Onstar Videobox Studios regarding the atrocious audio and video quality of my recent video blogs... he is right, the quality kinda sucked and I knew that before I posted them. But in case you are picky about video quality and were wondering, I posted the videos for content and entertainment sake and not as a display of quality video.

Based on the feedback I have received, I think that I succeeded in that.

On the internet, the generally accepted vlogging (video blogging) style is typically not very professional, but a more 'capture what you can' style. I have seen more closet doors than Home Depot carries as I watch lot of video blogs out there. However, to borrow the expression, "the best camera is the one you have with you". I did note on some of the descriptions of the videos that I was doing the best I could with what I had, something I say frequently and thought I'd put into practice.

Basically I am just playing around with vlogging, and someday the quality might even get OK thanks to 1) experience, 2) better gear, and 3) tips like the ones Michel gave me.

I generally take the road of striving for perfection, as I think is evident in the quality of web work we do, but my resources were limited. I just wanted to try and do... something... anything really. Again, I had some good feedback; crummy audio and video aside. I threw caution to the wind, and I hope people take the vlogs for what they are and not for what they could have been had I possessed better resources. Maybe someday I can go back and do it again with better equipment.

So those are my excuses for what they are worth. If you hate the videos, sorry. If you didn't mind them, I hope they at least made you smile and you got some good information from the lovely people I interviewed!

Rob, Tara and Roxanne were awesome; and if you are in Hawaii, you are fortunate to have such excellent folks on your islands. If you are in the Vancouver area, Onstar Videobox is a good option if you need professional video.

And that's about all I have to say about that.

-Jake