BELLINGHAM - The growth of computer tablets and smartphones is changing how people use the Internet, and a high-tech Bellingham firm is helping companies adapt.
Red Rokk, a marketing firm that focuses on helping businesses get their message across online, has been in a growth mode since opening its Bellingham office last April. In the past two months it's hired four full-time employees and a part-timer and is planning to hire three more people soon, said Tyler Byrd, president of the company.
"For 2013 we're on track to triple what we did last year," Byrd said.
The reason for Byrd's optimism is that as the economy improves, companies are willing to spend more on online marketing and are looking for new ways to connect with customers amidst all the messages that are already on the Internet. To be successful, more business owners are coming to the realization that not only are there many more ways a company can get its message out, it needs to be unique because there are so many other messages bombarding potential customers.
A common customer refrain is, "We want something different," according to Byrd.
One trend that can lead to "something different" is video, which is much more accessible now as computer tablets and smartphones become more powerful. It's a format companies are considering more often, not only as an advertisement, but for communications like news releases and "how-to" messages, said Chris Donaldson of Hand Crank Films.
Bellingham-based Hand Crank Films recently completed a three-minute web commercial for Mackie, a client that sells loudspeakers. The commercial has a zombie apocalypse theme that was shot in Mount Vernon and Bellingham. The commercial can be seen at handcrankfilms.com and the film company's Facebook page.
"I think businesses are looking for ways to communicate their story, and video is a way of doing that," Donaldson said. In the case of Mackie, the company can have some fun with a zombie storyline while showing off the power of these speakers.
Byrd said a more fundamental shift is taking place when it comes to business marketing online, particularly in social media. When sites like Facebook first came on the scene, one strategy among businesses was to try to get as many fans as possible and keep them updated with regular posts. Byrd believes more focus should be done on inbound marketing - addressing those people trying to find out more information by visiting websites.
Savvy Internet users, including marketing firms, can get quite a bit of information about someone who visits a website, which allows a company to tailor its message to the potential client. A business can learn not only who is visiting a website, but what products they were looking at and what other research they might have been doing. It's valuable information to have for the company, which can personalize an email in a way that addresses what the potential customer is interested in purchasing.
"The strategy is changing: Businesses are still trying to get as many people as possible (as fans on social media sites), but the goal is to try to interact with clients," Byrd said.
Because social media is changing so quickly, it's important to respond just as quickly, said Edward Munro, a marketing and communications consultant recently hired by Red Rokk.
"It used to be that all you had to do was put up a website to attract customers, but now many of those businesses are wondering why their site is stagnant," Munro said. "If your market is kids and you don't know that they are more likely to use Snapchat than Twitter, it can have an impact."
While using more video on the Internet is the latest trend, traditional forms of marketing away from the Internet continue to have value, said Yvonne Cartwright, account director at Red Rokk, adding that finding your target group and what medium they use is still important.
"The key (for a business) is to be responsive to the changes," Cartwright said.
Donaldson agreed, saying that video is just a piece of the overall marketing picture.
"What's great about video is that it can be easily measured and shared," Donaldson said. "The key (to video's growing popularity) is about distribution. With so many more platforms, you now have more people able to see video. The TV is migrating across platforms. As a result, kids aren't watching television as much, and businesses are beginning to understand that this is an opportunity to connect with customers in a new and effective way."