Stephen Taormino, Owner, CC&A Strategic Media
For many businesses, regardless of their size or what industry they’re in, tackling the digital world can be overwhelming. Developing a digital marketing strategy, deciding which social media platforms to engage in, designing and maintaining a useful website, and tapping into various content marketing opportunities – blogs, podcasts, white papers, video, etc. – can be not only intimidating but also very expensive. Savvy businesses realize that the key to success in this complicated and high-tech arena is a digital marketing partner who can deliver results, and CC&A Strategic Media does just that with a personalized approach.
Stephen Taormino, owner of CC&A Strategic Media, says that his company’s approach is always to work collaboratively with a business to determine what the goals are before focusing on technological solutions.
“When we meet with a potential client, we discuss what the long-term vision is and put a strategy together that accomplishes the client’s definition of success.
Then, we can begin figuring out how the technology has to look to meet those goals. Most of our competitors are focused on a set product – a WordPress-based website, for example – so they try to fit their product into the client’s goals. We do the exact opposite … we understand the client’s goals first and then create the systems that will meet those goals,” says Taormino. “Unfortunately in our industry, many companies will try to fit you into their preconceived box; our job is to create the box that will fit our client’s needs.”
Taormino says that creating customized strategies and solutions for each client can mandate that CC&A invest in hiring new employees or acquire new technology, but, “that’s our job – to take our clients where they want to go.”
Before taking clients where they want to go, Taormino must first ascertain what the clients’ concrete goals are. “Some of the first questions we ask are: ‘What is your definition of success?’ ‘What do you want to accomplish?’ Many times our clients cannot answer these questions because they’ve never been asked from that perspective. Usually they will say, ‘Someone told me I need a better website.’ Well, what do you want that website to accomplish? There needs to be a return on the investment, so it’s important to determine what they want to achieve as a business – brand recognition, increase in sales or higher client retention, for example.”
Once the goals are more clearly defined, CC&A does a competitive audit of the top competitors and companies in the client’s industry to see why these competitors are successful. Then, CC&A develops a comprehensive plan that may include a new website, social media marketing, video creation, public relations outreach, press releases for online and print outlets, and radio and TV advertising. “We bring all the different recommendations to them and outline the result and expected cost for each. It’s designed like a restaurant menu so that they can see all the costs associated with each result. This helps them make decisions on what areas to focus on based on their budget and the most important achieved results,” Taormino says.
Strategically Planned. Measured Results.
In addition to utilizing the competitive audit, CC&A heavily invests in empirical data to guide clients’ decision-making process. “We develop strategies that we know our clients will see results from because they’re all based on proven empirical data. I believe that those who make decisions without analyzing empirical data are, at some point, destined to fail,” says Taormino, who adds that some large companies hire CC&A only for the consultative side. “They need help developing the strategy but not implementing the strategy because they can do much of the technical work and social media in-house, for example. Most companies do not have the capability to thoroughly analyze ‘big data’ internally, which is a huge advantage to us because we do it very well.”
One of the most challenging areas for many businesses is how to truly measure the success of a digital marketing strategy. For companies with a purely e-commerce based model, measuring the percentage of visitors to a site who purchase a product is pretty straightforward. “However, if you are a professional services business, the number of visits to your site is not as relevant as the level of engagement. You may only have 200 to 300 visits in a given month, but if those visitors are spending five minutes and looking at eight or more pages within your site, those are high-quality visitors.”
Google’s Analytical software has definitely been a game changer in the digital marketing world, as it allows business to track website traffic and learn how visitors find and use your site. The challenge, though, is how to understand the data. “If you don’t know how to read it correctly, it can be very misleading. For example, 600 of your 1,000 monthly hits may be spam type robots. Also, you need to understand how they are coming to your site – directly, through a referral, via social media or organically,” says Taormino. “You may be getting a lot of results from Google and think that’s great, but if they are Googling your company name and not the service you provide, that is not as beneficial.”
To help its clients understand Google Analytics, CC&A conducts training seminars. “We want them to be able to look up the numbers on their own and talk with us if they feel like something is not working correctly. We’ve also seen that as our clients become more successful, our competitors reach out to tell them how they could do it better than CC&A. We want our clients to trust us and have that knowledge so that they can say, ‘No, we know how to read our Google Analytics and we know that CC&A is doing it right.’”
“We’ve worked with CC&A for more than two years. They re-launched our website and handled several areas of our marketing, including online marketing and our social media marketing. We’ve found them to be an invaluable partner,” says Jen Harrington, marketing director of Vehicles for Change, a nonprofit organization and CC&A client.
An Unusual Path
To say that Taormino didn’t intend to run a digital marketing firm from an early age would be an understatement. He saw music as his career path and during his time at Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore City, Taormino was in a band. To capitalize on the newly found popularity of the internet, his band decided it needed a website to market its talents; however, it was shocked when quotes to build the website started rolling in with many of them in the $30,000 range. Realizing this was not in the budget of a high school band, Taormino taught himself Dreamweaver, a web development application, and learned basic HTML programming. Even though he would still pursue jazz performance and composition in college, he had realized that a professional path beyond music exists.
Taormino landed a job as a government contractor before taking the leap to launch his own company – CC&A Strategic Media – a move many would be afraid to make while gainfully employed. “I guess I have a very unhealthy high self-esteem,” he laughs. Taormino also credits lessons he learned early on for his spark to become an entrepreneur.
“When I was 13 years old, I worked for a small construction company during the summers. A neighbor who owned his own construction company and made all of his own decisions, and I liked that ability to control your own destiny and make your own career choices, he says. “My dad also taught me the value of money at an early age. I remember one year I got a bicycle for Christmas, and the following spring, I wanted a new bike. He told me that I could certainly have the bike, but that he would not pay for it. So I worked that summer and made enough money to buy my own bike for $147. This taught me that if you work hard enough, you can afford things in life that you want, and I always had a sense that I could do anything if I put my mind to it.”
A Bold Move
Early on, CC&A was doing well working primarily on web design and development services; however, the company knew early on that it needed to expand its services for future growth and become a full-service digital marketing firm.
“I have always been focused on analytical data, statistical information and big data. I am not a programmer or graphic designer, which is unusual for an owner of a company focused on internet marketing and web development. So I needed to find a way to contribute and position our clients in marketplaces in ways that our competitors cannot,” says Taormino.
In order to expand and offer a comprehensive package of marketing services, Taormino relied on friends from his youth. “I was very blessed as I went to high school with people who would become some of the best minds in the programming industry. I was able to pull from my friends who were already involved in the industry,” he says. CC&A also recognized that those employed in the digital world didn’t want to be housed in a cubicle for eight hours a day. “Our business model is different than most. Our employees can act like freelancers – we have employees on the West Coast who work on the beach on their laptops – and there are no set work hours. They can travel when they want, as long as they make deadlines. However, they get the benefits of being an employee, which is why our employees stay with us, unlike many Millennials who change jobs every couple years.”
Staying Innovative to Reach Customers
Having a website and a social media presence is great, but CC&A recognizes that for its clients to grow their business, it’s critical to continuously find new ways to reach potential new customers. One area that has exploded in the digital world the past few years is content marketing, which allows businesses to share insight and expertise in a particular area. Instead of constantly trying to push a product to its customers, a business educates and provides useful and relevant content to potential clients, which also enhances its online presence and trust factor.
“There are two types of online visibility – you can pay for space through an ad campaign or you create content in a way that people are organically drawn to. If you provide information and educate the public on a particular topic, and people engage with that content, Google begins to see you as an authority on this subject. And the more people who show interest in that topic and click though your website, the higher Google will rank you,” says Taormino. “It’s important to rank high in subject matters that people are interested in, and you need to know what search phrases generate traffic. Otherwise it’s like filming an effective, high-quality TV ad and running it at 3:30 a.m. Who’s going to see it?”
Taormino advises businesses to not continuously generate new blogs and other content to be housed on a website. “If you have a massive archive of blogs that are five years old and countless number of pages in your site, it actually can work against you. If you have all these pages that people are not viewing, Google no longer sees it as relevant and it can hurt your rankings.” Instead, Taormino suggests creating “evergreen content” that is not time sensitive that can be easily updated to make it relevant and shared more than once on social media.
Social media is another area where CC&A uses its strategic vision and industry expertise to help clients navigate what can be a confusing world with the endless platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Instagram … the list goes on and on.
“It’s important to understand the demographics for each platform as well as your target audience – is it Millennials or Baby Boomers? If you are an accounting firm, for example, you are probably not going to see much of a return from Snapchat or Instagram. Don’t invest money where you are not going to see a return,” says Taormino.
Just another example of why a strategic partner is the key to success. I95