Thursday, September 14, 2017

VistaComm Welcomes Dustin and Joanne

VistaComm welcomes two new staff members:

Dustin OlsonDustin Olson joins us as accounting director. A licensed CPA, he’s a graduate of South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD. Coming to VistaComm with previous agency experience, Dustin has a true focus on efficiency and profitability—both for the project at hand and for clients, who will find him responsive to any and all concerns. Dustin’s most recent experience includes accounting positions at Austad’s Golf and Lawrence & Schiller, both in Sioux Falls, SD.

 


 

Joanne Pullman

After working full-time for VistaComm from 2012 to 2014 in website support and developing, followed by freelance contract work, Joanne Pullman returns to our creative services department as a full-time web developer. She has a passion for every aspect of the website creation process and has created more than 100 responsive websites. Joanne is a graduate of Dakota State University in Madison, SD. In addition to her freelance projects as a web consultant, over the past six years, Joanne also worked full-time for Factor 360 in Pierre, SD.

 

 

See More Here: VistaComm Welcomes Dustin and Joanne

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Teaching the Teacher: An Outsider’s Surprising Take on Ag

Ever heard of an externship? I hadn’t either until Iowa Central Community College contacted me this spring about mentoring a local high school English teacher.

Turns out that Iowa Central’s summer externship program matches high school teachers of various academic disciplines with business professionals in the area for a 40-hour learning experience. This gives teachers a better understanding of the business world, so they can use this knowledge to better prepare students for the real world after high school.

I had the privilege of working with Rachel Hemer, an English teacher from East Sac High School in Lake View, Iowa. Rachel has more than 13 years of teaching experience and is an Iowa native, but she’s the first to admit she didn’t know much about agriculture or the wide variety of professional jobs related to ag, including marketing/communications.

[caption id="attachment_3178" align="aligncenter" width="900"]Iowa Soybean podcast during externship Why is it so important for farmers and ag businesses to tell their story? VistaComm journalist Darcy Maulsby (right) shared her top tips during a Spillin' the Beans podcast in June 2017 at her family's Century Farm with the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA). Darcy's summer extern, Rachel Hemer (left) observed the podcast process while Heather Lilienthal, ISA's producer services director (center), interviewed Darcy. You can listen to Darcy's podcast (titled "Why It's Important to Tell Your Story") at http://www.iasoybeans.com/news/podcasts/.[/caption]

Spillin’ the Beans

Rachel joined me on various adventures this summer, from a “Spillin’ the Beans” podcast with the Iowa Soybean Association, where I shared some of my top storytelling tips from a book author’s perspective, to interviews and photo shoots with Mid-Iowa Cooperative for their next print newsletter. As we traveled around rural Iowa, Rachel asked me plenty of great questions during her externship about agriculture in general, careers in ag, and how to become a more effective communicator.

Just as Rachel was willing to get out of her comfort zone to gain new knowledge, I, too, abandoned my comfort zone of focusing on writing, photography and content marketing so I could to teach the teacher. I realized how many of the things I take for granted as common knowledge, from my in-depth knowledge of agriculture to my insights into effective content marketing, aren’t so common to those who don’t live and breathe this every day.

“It was the complete opposite of what I imagined”

I also was reminded just how much the non-farm public doesn’t understand about agriculture, but they are excited to learn. But don’t take my word for it. Here are some of Rachel’s experiences, in her own words:

During the summer, many teachers get used to not waking up to the sound of an alarm blaring before the sun rises. When my alarm woke me on the morning of July 19, it was so dark I thought for sure it must be raining. But then I remembered it was July….in Iowa….we hadn’t had rain for more than two weeks….and I had a great reason to pop out of bed that early! I was heading out for another adventure with Iowa author Darcy Maulsby!

[caption id="attachment_3179" align="aligncenter" width="900"]interview during summer externship As VistaComm journalist Darcy Maulsby (center) interviewed Mid-Iowa Co-op General Manager Mike Kinley (left), extern and high school English teacher Rachel Hemer (right) not only learned how a VistaComm newsletter is put together, but she discovered the wide variety of great careers available in agriculture.[/caption]

Darcy and I hit the road before 6:30 a.m. on our way to Mid-Iowa Cooperative in Conrad, Iowa. It was time for a quarterly newsletter publication, and Darcy needed to conduct interviews and take photographs. She had told me it was a “jeans and boots” type of day – I hoped my tennis shoes would suffice for what I thought would be a trek through the hot and dusty co-op. I imagined that we would be chatting with the employees as they shoveled out grain bins and fixed machinery.

Our day’s journey was the complete opposite of what I had imagined and full of surprises. Here are my top 5 learning moments:

  1. Mid-Iowa Cooperative is a significant employer in rural Iowa, with nine locations from Whitten to Haverhill to Garwin to Liscomb, 95 full-time employees, and two to three interns per year. In fact, two of their interns from this past spring are their newest hires, who Darcy had the pleasure of interviewing.
  2. People from all backgrounds work at Mid-Iowa. Knowledge of agriculture is a must, but the employees’ educational background need not focus on ag. In the marketing department alone, they employ a former manager of Advanced Auto Parts, a dealer at Meskwaki Casino, an architecture major, and only one agriculture major. Not every employee at Mid-Iowa has a college degree, but most have post-secondary education.
  3. The variety of careers within a cooperative is impressive. We met with Mid-Iowa’s chief operating officer, energy department manager, operations manager, general manager, commodity marketing manager, agronomy sales associate, and an applicator, as well as seeing 15+ other employees working various positions in offices and on-site.
  4. A cooperative’s job is to figure out the future before it gets here. According to General Manager Mike Kinley, a lot of change is happening within co-ops and Mid-Iowa is trying to figure out how to navigate that.
  5. Ag writing is fun! Darcy caught up with acquaintances at the same time as taking care of business for the newsletter. We ventured to the Grundy County Fair for pictures and enjoyed fair food and horse events. Every person we talked with was passionate about their work, making it easy for Darcy to showcase them in her newsletter features.

Our day at Mid-Iowa Cooperative was eye opening for this rural (but not a farm girl) Iowan. I had no idea how many employment opportunities a cooperative has. Everywhere I looked, a different department sign showed how many cogs work together to create success. I’m eager to share with my students, who plan to work in agriculture their whole lives, all the paths they can take when they leave my classroom.


Contact us today

See Full Article Here: Teaching the Teacher: An Outsider’s Surprising Take on Ag

Thursday, August 31, 2017

7 Ways to Keep Up With Digital Marketing

Just when you’ve figured out the game, they change the rules.

That’s the digital world, where the strategy that guaranteed success last year could result in utter disaster today. Never has the pace of change been more frantic, and for those of us in the business of digital marketing, keeping on top of the latest trends is imperative.

How do you stay current? Here are seven suggestions that can help you keep up with digital marketing:

1. Log Some Blog Time

Every industry has plenty of bloggers. The key, obviously, is to choose wisely. If you don’t know where to start, don’t hesitate to ask other members of your team, or those in your network, which bloggers they value.

Another option—sample a few from the list of 51 marketing blogs posted by Campaign Monitor. As you move through the other six suggestions in this post, you’ll see opportunities to identify other digital marketing leaders you’ll want to follow. Chances are good that most of them have a blog.

2. Take What’s Offered

Piggybacking on our first suggestion, many bloggers and industry experts offer an email newsletter. Take them up on that offer. Instead of taking time to check a variety of websites, you’ll receive a concise collection of news highlights from which to pick and choose. If it arrives in your inbox and looks interesting, click through. Otherwise, delete and move on.

3. One More Reason to Link

If you have a LinkedIn profile, you may benefit from joining a variety of industry groups. There are numerous groups varying from general marketing groups to specific groups for Facebook marketing. No matter what slice of digital marketing you want to learn about, chances are good you can find a LinkedIn group focused on that area.

Groups provide an opportunity to follow discussions about digital marketing topics—and to participate as well. LinkedIn is all about networking and is the perfect place to expand your digital marketing network and interact with others involved in social media.

If you’re looking for a starting point, look at HubSpot’s  list of recommended LinkedIn Groups for marketers.

4. Bird is the Word

When it comes to following trends, Twitter is your friend. Two Twitter strategies will prove helpful. First, you can create a stream on Twitter with popular social media hashtags, like #digitalmarketing. Don’t use terms that are too general unless you want your stream to overflow with largely irrelevant tweets. You can see which hashtags are trending on hashtags.org.

Second, use hashtags gathered in the creation of your Twitter stream to make a list of industry influencers. Use the hashtags that you gathered in the previous example and pick out some of the people you’ve found that consistently provide valuable insight. Run through your list daily to see what they have to say. Don’t forget—social media is a dialog, so feel free to chime in and ask questions.

5. Road Trip

Yes, social media is all about the virtual. Sometimes, however, it’s a nice change of pace to learn and network in person. So, attend a digital marketing conference. They provide a great opportunity to hear from industry experts, network with peers and leaders and—additional benefit—change your scenery and get charged up for your job.

Find a conference that sounds fantastic, but time and travel budgets make it a no-go? Be a virtual attendee via social media. Every conference or event will have a corresponding hashtag that you can follow during the conference on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Many of the best speaker quotes will be posted, so you’ll get a great overview of the content being shared.

Download website optimization ebook

6. Listen While You…

Commuter? Runner? Walker? Eat lunch at your desk? All great opportunities to learn about the latest in social media via podcasts. Take the same approach here as above—as you identify industry leaders, see if they have a podcast. As you listen to them, they’ll mention other influencers, and your podcast options will expand. Obviously, podcasts are also a nice way to ingest information for those who prefer listening to reading.

7. Aggregate for Fun and Profit

Feedly - Keep up with digital marketing topics and trends in one place
FlipboardThis is another of those “make it easy on yourself” suggestions. Many industry publications offer a free RSS news feed. Choose an RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Flipboard and use it as a hub to collect and display digital marketing news every day. Find the source once, browse the headlines daily. The only ongoing task is to add new feeds as you come across good resources.

Keeping up is not an option. Tap into these information streams, and you’ll be able to stay ahead of the digital marketing learning curve.


If you’re looking for a partner that practices cutting edge digital marketing every day, consider VistaComm. Contact us at (866) 752-7707.

Contact us today

Original Post Here: 7 Ways to Keep Up With Digital Marketing

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Measurable Marketing: A Case Study of Sioux Automation Center

The Client

Established in 1961, Sioux Automation Center, Inc. (SAC), is based in Sioux Center, Iowa. They are a global leader in the agricultural and equipment industries, manufacturing a full line of livestock feed mixers, baggers and manure handling devices to serve the needs of livestock producers.

The Situation

When conversations began between SAC and VistaComm, SAC was spending a substantial amount of money on digital marketing and getting no usable reporting, feedback or conversion details. Nothing they were doing was measurable. In fact, they did not fully understand what they should expect from their digital marketing dollars.

The Process

VistaComm’s digital marketing experts demonstrated the value of services that could help SAC get more for their money, track granularly and contribute conversions to specific keywords used in their marketing content.

The process involved hands-on, responsive communication by a VistaComm expert who later personally initiated the digital marketing revisions. To assist SAC decision makers in better understanding a complicated topic, scenarios from SAC’s own existing website were used via screen share techniques to demonstrate. These scenarios were supported by a wealth of analytical information.

The Solution

The VistaComm solution for SAC involved several important steps, the most impactful being:

  • Properly configured analytics to better track website conversions to customers.
  • Reconstruction of Google AdWords™ with call and conversion tracking.
  • Systematic recording of live visitor behaviors, the end goal being the elimination of clicks needed to secure information.

The Results

[caption id="attachment_3128" align="aligncenter" width="650"]Measurable Marketing Results for Sioux Automation

258 of the leads generated were calls tracked off their digital ads and website.
[/caption]

VistaComm helped SAC understand and define their audience by making their marketing measurable. SAC can now effectively manage and track goals and objectives, making better use of advertising dollars. So, how do the numbers look? In the first 4 weeks following revisions, SAC tracked 397 responses in the form of phone calls, submitted forms or website visits of five minutes or more. Responses continued to increase through week 16, totaling 1,757 new leads. Of those, 258 were phone calls tracked on their ads and website from potential new customers taking the next step to find out about SAC’s products.

And VistaComm’s partnership with SAC doesn’t stop there. Monthly review sessions are held to discuss outcomes and manage SAC’s digital marketing strategy based on conversions and actual measurable marketing data.

 

Since SAC began working with the VistaComm digital marketing team, we have a much better understanding of what our website can do for us. Their revisions have already positively impacted our sales and the way we approach new business.

Jason Jaworski, Marketing Manager
Sioux Automation Center, Inc.,
Sioux Center, Iowa

 

Contact us today

Read More Here: Measurable Marketing: A Case Study of Sioux Automation Center

Thursday, August 10, 2017

8 Steps to a Foolproof Digital Marketing Strategy

How’s your digital marketing working? Not very well, you say. Well, how well are you executing your digital marketing strategy? You don’t really have one? Now we’re getting somewhere.

Don’t feel too badly. The lack of a well-thought-out strategy may be the most common reason business don’t achieve good, measurable results from their digital marketing. It’s an interesting phenomenon that companies who have no problem creating a detailed sales strategy falter when it comes to doing the same for digital marketing.

We’re here to help. Here are eight key touchpoints to hit on your way to creating and implementing an effective digital marketing strategy.

1. Who Do You Want to Reach?

It’s hard to target effective messaging to someone you don’t know. Impossible, actually. That leads us directly to the critical first step in the digital marketing process—creating buyer personas.

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, created from a combination of market research and real data about your existing customers. These personas help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better. This makes it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, product development and services to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups.

define your personas

To generate these pseudo people, incorporate all the information you can gather on your ideal customer’s age, income, location, interests, wants and needs etc. In short, create the ideal buyer for your goods or service.

2. Organizational Goals

When setting goals, start big and work your way to specific. For example, what’s your organizational mission? That’s the biggest goal. Next, lay out how your digital marketing strategy will help you carry out that mission.

Then, determine more precise targets. These should be measurable and have a time element. For example, “We want to increase lead generation by 60% in the next 12 months.”

Finally, you’ll need to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine if your content and advertising strategies are working. Cost per lead and unique website visits are two examples of possible KPIs, depending on your digital marketing goals.

3. What Do You Have?

The next step is to take stock of the digital assets you already have that can be optimized to help you reach your goal. Specific assets might include your website, blog posts, images and infographics.

Assess how these assets are currently working together. For example, are you making use of content and images you’ve created for your website in blogs. Is your messaging pointing in the same direction across all platforms, or is it inconsistent or unrelated to your primary marketing goals. Chances are good you already have valuable assets that can be used more effectively.

document your digital marketing goals

4. What Do You Need?

Just as important as your inventory of resources are the gaps in your marketing toolbox. Identify the tools you need, prioritize them and determine when you will add them. Often times, an editorial calendar can be beneficial in helping you create and manage new content.

5. Crank Up Your Content

Perhaps the most important step in the process, and certainly the one that most often differentiates a successful digital marketer from marginal performers. Effective, compelling content is essential in guiding potential customers through the buyer’s journey. Hubspot’s definition of the buyer’s journey is, “The active research process a buyer goes through leading up to a purchase.”

You should be creating content that leads the buyer through three stages of the buyer’s journey.

  • Awareness: In this stage, the buyer is just becoming aware of their problem/need. Your content goal may be to position yourself as an expert in this particular area, establishing your knowledge of the topic with the understanding that increasing numbers of potential customers will be looking to find information.
  • Interest: In the interest stage, the buyer is aware of their problem/need and just beginning to look for solutions. Now established as an expert, at this stage you provide potential solutions to the problem.
  • Consideration: By this point, buyers have decided what they need to do but aren’t certain about who can best take care of their problem or meet their need. This is where you seal the deal, making a strong case for your product or service as the best solution. Drive it home with testimonials whenever possible.

6. Ad It Up

Are you using paid advertising to increase traffic and make the most of your great content? If you’re not you should be. Here are key considerations to boost advertising effectiveness:

  • Use those personas again: Advertising written for everyone impacts no one. Know your targets and create your advertising to address them. Learn their language, find their pain points and learn the channels they use most often.
  • Retarget: After you target, retarget. Simply put, retargeting is just marketing to those who have already visited your website, and so already have a relationship with you. Retargeting is one of the most effective paid advertising campaigns, so your strategy should include ways to drive visitors to your site so you can retarget them.
  • Give content a kick: Consider increasing the reach of your best content by promoting it with Facebook ads or even LinkedIn. Social platforms have stepped up their game in online advertising and are often times a great way to target key audiences by using the insights their users provide them by using their platform.

advertise online

7. What’s Up with Your Website?

Is your website designed to provide information, or to help turn visitors into customers? Remember the Buyer’s Journey? An effective website provides value to potential customers at each stage of the journey.

8. Go Robotic

Finally, are you utilizing marketing automation? With the advance of technology, so many aspects of digital marketing—email, social media, website actions and more—can be performed automatically. The benefits? Improved overall inbound marketing, lead generation and time savings.


Obviously, there is much more to be said on each of these eight steps. Our digital marketing experts can help answer questions, assess your digital marketing strategy, and help you take the next steps.

Contact us today

Post Source Here: 8 Steps to a Foolproof Digital Marketing Strategy

Thursday, August 3, 2017

4 Surprising Content Marketing Lessons from a Grain Guy

The news wasn’t encouraging. As I was sitting in a grain marketing seminar in western Iowa recently, the speaker noted that corn is in a sideways market and soybeans are in a downward market, with little relief in sight.

In times like this, the ability to make a decision is key, the speaker said. “Sounds a lot like the kind of business marketing advice I give VistaComm clients,” I thought.

The grain marketer encouraged us to think of developing a marketing plan like building a wall. “It happens one brick at a time,” he said. “Marketing is about doing the next right thing, one brick at a time. Without a plan, how do you know what the next right thing is?”

Top 4 tips for success, brick by brick

I couldn’t agree more. As that speaker offered his top tips for grain marketing success, I took the brick-by-brick approach and adapted them for content marketing success:

1. Lay the strong foundation.

Building a solid foundation for a marketing plan reflects a variety of factors, from the economy to the weather. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all these variables, though. Instead of suffering paralysis by analysis, work with a marketing advisor you trust, the speaker advised. The same is true in business marketing. At VistaComm, we look at the big picture to determine practical solutions for your needs, plus we place a high priority on keeping things simple for you.

2. Focus on consistency.

No one knows where the grain markets are headed. Instead of worrying about hitting the market highs, focus on consistent profitability, the speaker emphasized. Consistency is also key when marketing your business. Instead of pursuing random acts of marketing, develop a workable content marketing plan, brick by brick. VistaComm’s team of professionals is ready to help you develop a flexible marketing plan that can be tweaked, as needed, to help meet your business’s unique goals.

3. Emphasize discipline.

A willingness to not only make a marketing plan, but execute the plan, is key. Without adding some serious discipline to the process, you’ll fall victim to emotionally-driven decisions, which are often poor decisions, the grain marketing expert stressed. I couldn’t agree more. Having the discipline to follow a plan consistently removes the guesswork from content marketing and helps you achieve more consistent results, from building stronger relationships with existing clients to positioning you as an industry expert.

4. Realize perfection is unachievable.

This paradigm shift is often difficult for farmers to grasp at first. “Get perfection out of your mind,” the grain marketing speaker emphasized. “Make marketing a process, not an event.” The same is true in content marketing. There are no perfect, one-size-fits-all answers.

Since VistaComm has been serving clients just like you for 20 years, we have plenty of tools in the toolbox to help you meet your specific marketing needs. Count on us to deliver greater peace of mind at every step of the process, brick by brick.

Contact us today

Post Source Here: 4 Surprising Content Marketing Lessons from a Grain Guy

Thursday, July 27, 2017

5 Reasons Active Website Content Is Critical to Growing Your Business

Editor's note: This article was originally posted n 8/18/16 and has been updated with the latest trends and statistics from this year's B2C survey results. 

There’s no denying—content marketing is here to stay! A recent update to the annual survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs generated 480 responses from B2C marketers from multiple industries around the globe. Of these respondents, only 40% said they have a documented content marketing strategy.

 

[caption id="attachment_2807" align="alignright" width="225"] Click here to receive our free Agri-Insights magazine in your inbox.[/caption]

These marketers know their audience and what will get them to read online content—blogs, web pages, social messages, etc., all optimized for search engines using key words that trigger the search. Their ultimate goal? To generate new business by creating content the reader actually wants to consume when he wants to consume it, as opposed to interrupting the consumer as ads, emails or cold-calling often do.

They are attracting readers with interesting articles, helpful tools and relevant information. The result? Readers are “following” them online. Soon after, they become leads. And ultimately, new customers. This steady traffic makes fresh, active content on their websites not only good, but critical.

Active content speaks for itself. It’s new stuff—recently added, changed, fresh. And why is this so important to the success of your business? If you keep your audience coming back to your website for more educational and inspiring content, they can learn more about you and what you offer.

“Content has been one of the most important reasons we have traffic to our website. Our content works hard for us, thanks to VistaComm.”

Richard Stinson, Communications & Media Manager
ProAg®
Amarillo, TX

Active website content is critical to your business because:

1. It helps drive traffic to your website.

Every time you post something new, it’s one more cue to search engines like Google that your site is active. In addition, the SHARE option grows your audience and traffic, too.

Fact: 53% of US companies surveyed by HubSpot listed blog content creation as one of their top priorities for growing their inbound marketing efforts.

2. It helps you generate more leads for your business.

A reader finds your site through a great blog you’ve posted. You propose more help or expertise through a free offer. They click, fill out a form, send it and receive a free gift. Now YOU have their contact information! Once you have that information make sure you are engaging with them through a mix of marketing channels to stay top of mind when they are ready for a purchase.

Interesting: 89% of B2C marketers use Facebook to distribute content which is tied with email for the top spot (Content Marketing Institute).

Channels B2C Marketers Use to Distribute Content

3.You will be considered an expert authority.

Many customers will search online before coming into a store. If they’re finding answers to their questions, they’ll think of you first. They’ve come to know and trust you online. According to Google 81% of shoppers conduct online research prior to a purchase. And when a sales opportunity arises, you’ve have laid the groundwork for great opening conversation.

Good to know: Usage of visual infographics as a tactic is on the increase: 51% in 2014 to 67% in 2016 (Content Marketing Institute).

4. Your content has a long-term effect.

You post a blog or a new piece of informational material one day and it lives—in fact, it builds, gathering more and more potential customers for you. According to HubSpot 1 in 10 blog posts are compounding, meaning organic search increases their traffic over time.  What’s more, when you write something, you own it and can repurpose it in several ways for your own use accross multiple marketing channels.

Food for thought: For print ads and billboards, you’re merely renting the space. 

5.You can post product releases and event information.

Once you’ve built up traffic to your site, post product announcements, valuable promotions and event information, too. After all, this constitutes new information and it stands a far better chance of getting seen where the traffic is. If you have been capturing customer information along the way, this allows you to target specific customer groups with products and promotions that are most relevant to them.

Who knew: Americans are launching social apps an average of 17 times a day—or at least once every waking hour.

You know why you need to keep your website content current. Now, where do you turn to get the content? One great resource might be already-written information from your print or e-newsletter publication. Simply post these articles to your website's blog or news section as new and relevant content. Here are some great topic ideas that not only work for newsletters, but your website, as well. If you still find yourself stuck or in need of help request a consultation, from one of our marketing experts to get you started!

See More Here: 5 Reasons Active Website Content Is Critical to Growing Your Business