I didn’t know whether to use the headline “You can’t make it up,” or “Only in Maine,” but this story fits both categories.
Town & Country Foods in Greene, Maine, had a big plastic steer in its front yard. You know, a steer…or more commonly known as a cow to those of us who aren’t farmers or beef salesmen.
That’s because Charlie the Steer was made from the same mold as those Massachusetts steers (or is steer the plural? like deer and deers?) Anyway, Hilltop Steak House…owned by Frank Giuffrida, you know the place that always had people lined up for a mile waiting to get in and eat a piece of steak that didn’t come from Charlie’s brothers and sisters?
So, Charlie got stolen by some mysterious people in a minivan, who must have been riding around saying to themselves, “let’s go cow tipping,” which is a favorite pastime of Maine college students. Instead of tipping a live cow, they found a plastic one and decided to take it for a ride in their van, followed by a boat ride. Would you call that turf and surf?
After a great deal of media outreach, Charlie was found on a remote island by a kayaker. The holes in Charlie’s feet had been plugged up with duct tape (Maine’s answer to everything, well, everything that can’t be taken care of by Allen’s Coffee Brandy.)
Charlie was reunited with its owners at the store in Greene, Maine, thanks to the kayaker who was paddling by, minding his own business, when he saw a plastic cow leg sticking out of the woods on the island. Maine’s valiant State Troopers and Game Wardens put Charlie in a boat and ferried him back to the mainland, whereupon the Town & Country staff picked him up and drove him back to his cherished home near Maine’s L/A: Lewiston/Auburn.
Now tourists are flocking from miles around to have their photos taken with Charlie the Steer, and the meat store is racking up beef sales like never before thanks to its new front yard celebrity.
I swear to God. You really just can’t make this stuff up. I can’t wait to tell this story to my friends over a beverage this winter. It will surely get funnier.
Here’s the real reporting from my friends at the Portland Press Herald:
I confess: I was born into a moderately obsessive family. Some people would say I am driven. I have a hard time truly relaxing and shutting down my mind. As I write today, I am looking out my window at a beautiful mountain range, and there’s a cool breeze blowing. I know I have work to do, but I am also mindful that Maine’s summers are short, and sometimes it’s better to take some time outdoors to put a fresh perspective on your work and your life.
I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to live and work in Maine. I live in inland Maine which is flush with dense forestland, abundant wildlife, clear rivers and lakes, and plenty of outdoor recreation to enjoy. I am into road biking as well as mountain biking. I also enjoy hiking, swimming, golf and camping. I’ve always thought of Maine as one of the world’s top destinations for outdoor recreation and inland Maine is full of opportunities.
Our coast is dramatic and inspirational, too. I have sailed the waters of Penobscot Bay on small sailboats as well as 100+ foot schooners and there’s nothing like the smell of the salt air and the views of lighthouses, seals and the famous rocky coast of Maine. My favorite windjammer captain, Kip Files of the Victory Chimes, is known to say, “Penobscot Bay in Maine is the second most beautiful sailing grounds in the world. We’re still looking for the most beautiful.”
Whether you sail aboard a Maine windjammer, shop or eat in the Old Port in Portland, walk on the dramatic rocks of Pemaquid Point, stroll along the quaint streets of Camden, or hike the trails where the mountains meet the sea in Acadia National Park, you will always come away feeling inspired by Maine’s beauty.
So I’m writing this as much to remind myself as to tell you that summer in Maine is short. Although I feel like a slave to my “to do” list most of the time, I need to remind myself to get out there and enjoy this beautiful state that I feel so blessed to call my home.
by NMC Internet Marketing Manager Matthew Rideout
Google’s search engine algorithm changes a lot, trying to provide searchers with the best search results possible. Their goal is to put the best, most helpful content at the top of the search results page.
How SEO Has Changed
In the old days all you needed to do for SEO was make sure your page title, headings, and content all used the same keywords, and that you got links from other pages using the same keywords.
Not anymore. Google is getting better at looking at a website the way a real human would, and deciding if your content is better or worse than other websites about the same subject. Everything from your syntax and the vocabulary used, to the friendliness of the site layout, and several other factors that humans pick up on, are now used as part of Google’s algorithm.
by Ebb Walton, NMC Account Assistant
Google made some big changes to its SEO algorithms in 2013. What does this mean for businesses that want to maximize the number of visitors to their websites in 2014? Before we go over the tactics, first we must understand the changes.
Google Penguin and Hummingbird On average, Google makes around 500 tweaks to their existing SEO codes every year. In 2013, Google introduced 2 new SEO algorithms, Penguin 2.0 and Hummingbird.
Penguin 2.0 is an overhaul of the original Penguin algorithm, introduced in 2012, designed to filter out and mercilessly punish low-quality websites and exclude them from search results.
Three Key Takeaways from a new book
on SEO in 2014 & Beyond
For many years now, search engine optimization has seemed like a mysterious science, where only the tech geeks worked their magic to make websites rise to the top in search rankings. Well, I have good news for all of us mere mortals. Google is now basing its rankings on what real humans want, not the spiders or bots or other mysterious creatures that live on the web.
Matthew Rideout, our interactive marketing manager at NMC, recently recommended that we all read this new book, SEO 2014 & Beyond by Dr. Andy Williams. Thanks for the great recommendation, Matt! I especially like that this book was a quick read, not a voluminous textbook on SEO. Matt has told me that these common SEO practices are brand new; as a matter of fact, even the techniques that were used as recently as 2013 are now obsolete and can actually harm your rankings. Most people are aware that SEO has changed, but you will probably be surprised at how drastically and how recently the changes have taken place.
These are my three key takeaways:
1. No longer can you get away with “keyword stuffing,” which is inserting the words that you think people will be searching for in order to find your site. Here is an example of keyword stuffing, if I were trying to promote Nancy Marshall Communications:
At Nancy Marshall Communications, we are a public relations agency and we do public relations and build and promote websites, because we are experts in public relations, website development and internet marketing, and we know all about doing PR, website development, online advertising, and using public relations to help promote your website and your company so the public and the media can find you.
Is that a sentence that a human would like to read? Probably not!
The key is to create content that sounds like it was written by an expert, not a marketing person. Here’s the same sentence written in a more human way:
At Nancy Marshall Communications, we use our expertise in public relations and website development, as well as internet marketing, to help our clients raise their profile and promote their services.
This last sentence is more readable, and easier to understand. The sentence is created for someone visiting your site (a human), as opposed to the search engines.
2. Quality content needs to be useful, informative, and balanced, with no marketing hype.
3. From a personal branding perspective, you need to get your site name and photos of yourself on as many high-quality sites as possible, with links back to the appropriate pages on your own site. The high quality sites are sites that are owned by accepted sources of expert information or advice.
Dr. Williams’ book is full of expert advice on SEO that is new and based on Google’s latest updates which are called Hummingbird. These updates are based on an algorithm, or a series of mathematical equations which mimic the way the human brain searches for information. With more and more people now talking into their smart phones to find information, the way that searches are conducted has changed dramatically. (Siri, can you find me the best sushi place close to where I am right now?)
If you are interested in SEO, I recommend you read this book. I especially recommend it if a company is trying to sell you SEO services and you suspect that they are basing their methodology on outdated techniques. The techniques that produce fast results, which are called “Black Hat,” will definitely backfire on you because Google will punish you for trying to outsmart them. I compare Black Hat SEO to crash dieting. You might lose 10 pounds in a week but you risk gaining 20 pounds as soon as you go back to your old way of eating.
“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you,
whose presence calls forth your best.”
I believe that your network of contacts is the foundation of your brand. The people who are closest to you, who will vouch for you, who will refer you for jobs or business, and who trust you enough to do business with you are the ones who will help you define who you are and what makes you unique.
Have you ever considered mapping your network? It might be a useful exercise. It would be something you could post on your wall and look at every day. It would be a visual reminder that you need to ‘tend to your flock,’ and stay in touch with these people to show them gratitude for being part of your life.
You could start with your most inner circle of contacts. This would be your family and closest friends.
The next layer might be the people you work with on a day-to-day basis and the friends you see frequently but who aren’t necessarily your most intimate friends. If you send Christmas cards every year, it might be the people on your Christmas card list. Or it might be your Facebook friends.
The next layer might be all the associations you are part of: your professional memberships, your church congregation, your school and community groups, and perhaps even the residents in your neighborhood.
Then there might be another layer with people whose names you recognize, but who you might not know very well. You might make it a goal to get to know these people better.
I recommend you create a network map, and you hang it on the wall near your desk. You might want to include an affirmation such as: “These are the most important people in my life and I am grateful for my relationship with them.” Or it could even be as simple as “These are my peeps!”
Happy 2014! NMC President Charlene Williams wrote this humorous article about New Year’s resolutions. Enjoy!
As we near the end of January, many of us have already determined that the New Year’s resolution we made with the best intentions less than a month ago is nothing more than a nagging reminder of something we know we should be doing for ourselves.
According to statisticbrain.com, the top three New Year’s resolutions for 2014 (source: University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology) are:
1. Lose weight
2. Get organized
3. Spend less, save more
The research goes on to report that 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, but sadly, only 8 percent are successful in achieving their resolution.
While 8 percent is pretty meager, I have to wonder if that percentage is actually an increase over past years due to newer technology and social media platforms that offer up the latest in self-help techniques right at our finger tips. It seems that keeping resolutions should be much easier. Let’s take each of the top three resolutions for 2014 separately:
#1 – Lose weight – No surprise here. This is a big one. Just Google “weight loss” and you could read for the next six months about the tips, tricks, and lifestyle changes that will result in a new you. Just be sure to do your reading on your hand-held device while on your stationary bike. Take my personal advice and do not watch the Food Network while on your stationary bike. The conflict is too great.
You can even join and participate in Weight Watchers without ever attending a meeting. Just download their app, enter your credit card number and you’re ready to roll…hopefully, not literally.
And, don’t forget Pinterest. You can find just about any low fat, low carb, low cholesterol, low calorie recipe you could ever imagine. And, how about those pins of the cute little outfits appropriate for super models? They do wonders to guilt you into not eating.
Lastly, you can download the free My Fitness Pal app to your mobile device. You will be able to enter your food intake and log your activity. This only works if you’re completely honest. Food you eat while you are preparing the food you track does count. Sorry.
#2 – Getting organized – I must admit, I had no idea there was a magazine called Getting Organized available online. One of the featured articles in the current issue is 12 Things to Simplify Your Workday. I stopped reading when I got to number 2 – check it out.
If the online magazine isn’t enough, wikiHow has a five-part series on how to be organized. After Part 5, you’ll even find a list of warnings – don’t worry, nothing like horrible side effects from taking prescription medication. Just benign warnings like, “Don’t expect to get organized overnight unless you’re really fast at it, or it’s a small area.” Thank goodness! In addition to the warnings, there is a Things You’ll Need section with the second bullet being “Patience” – which leads right into other resolutions that are even harder to achieve.
It would not be fair to Pinterest if I didn’t give them props for this one, too. You can find a plethora of ideas on organizing your home, office and life in general. Have you ever seen so many neatly arranged closets in your life? The best part is, you can have those same organized spaces by using either old bureaus, left over wrapping paper rolls, or used pallets. Oh, yeah…we’ll have to be sure to organize all the left over and old stuff we’ll need to renovate our storage spaces to look as good as those on Pinterest.
#3 – Spend less, save more – First, let’s cover “spend less” by starting with comparison shopping. You can shop online for just about anything by doing a quick Google search for your item of choice. The popular shopping sites are abundant, including Amazon, Overstock, Etsy, eBay, and the endless number of stores, shops and manufacturers that have online shopping carts. Of course, this can work against you, if you let it. The temptation is great when Amazon seems to know what you want even before you do. Seriously, their newest plan for “anticipatory shipping” is a system that predicts your future purchases.
To help us spend less and save more, coupons have made an online splash in a big way. Not only can you download savings in the form of various coupons from coupon, store and manufacturer sites, (check out SmartSource when you have a chance, maybe while on the stationary bike mentioned in #1) you can also get tips on extreme couponing from the Krazy Coupon Lady or Coupon Mom. I think I should add my own warning on this section, just like wikiHow did for getting organized…if you happen to find yourself in line at the grocery store behind someone who has taken this coupon advice, please see “The Things You’ll Need” section in #2 above.
With all the online help today, there are no excuses. This is your chance to help boost that 8 percent success rate. Get in front of the screen, boot up and get started.
“If you believe relationships build business,
then make building them your business.”
Scott Stratten, author, UnMarketing
When a baby is born, the first thing he or she wants to see is the adoring face of its loving mother. Then, throughout our lifetime, we are conditioned as human beings to connect with happy, smiling and familiar faces whether we are a newborn baby, an elderly person in a nursing home or a business executive giving a presentation in a crowded convention hall. There is nothing more compelling in business or in life than a bright smiling face with an open attitude of warmth and acceptance.
If we have the opportunity to do business with a happy, smiling professional we know, like and trust, or another professional we don’t know anything about, we are most likely going to go with what we know. It’s the human connection that makes the difference.
Whether we’re in the business-to-business world or the business-to-consumer world, human interaction is ingrained in the fabric of everything we do. In our day-to-day dealings with clients, potential clients, vendors, and our professional peers, we should strive to make authentic connections so the people in our professional network know us, like working with us and trust us.
Zig Ziglar, the late great sales guru, said, “People will listen to other people they know, but they will do business with those whom they trust.”
What does it take for people to know, like and trust you? They need to know you care about them as individuals, not just as talking heads you are only interested in because they can further your business goals in some way. You establish the “know, like and trust” factor by asking them about things other than work and finding common ground. For example, I find that asking about a person’s family, where they grew up, upcoming vacation plans, or hobbies they are passionate about are all good conversation starters. By asking these basic questions, you are guaranteed to find something you have in common with virtually anyone.
People love to talk about themselves, and everyone loves a good listener. Being a good listener and giving the person you are talking to your full attention are important parts of the equation, too. Make eye contact with the person you are speaking to and treat them as if they are the only person in the room. Say their first name frequently. During the course of your conversation, also refer back to things they mentioned earlier to show you are really hearing what they are saying.
Like the business contacts we are working to connect with, we ourselves want to do business with people who we know have “got our back.” It takes a great deal of time to identify, build and maintain business relationships fortified by a strong foundation of trust. However, it is very much worth the investment. It’s kind of like building the “circle of trust” Robert De Niro’s character Jack Byrnes refers to frequently in the classic comedy “Meet the Parents.” Though future son-in-law Greg, played by Ben Stiller, eventually makes it into Jack’s circle of trust, you will find that, just like Jack, you cannot like and trust everyone. Aligning yourself with individuals that share your values, respect you as a business person, are competent in what they do, and are trustworthy themselves is critical to building a strong circle of trust that will bring you personal happiness as well as success in business.
In a world driven by technology, social media now plays an important role in building human connections. While it can never take the place of face-to-face contact, social media can be critical to maintaining and strengthening the connections you have within your professional and personal networks.
Recently, when I was leading a PR Boot Camp, an ad agency owner questioned whether social media is really worth the time or not. I responded, “How could it not be worthwhile to have an ongoing dialogue with your current and prospective customers?” If people want to read what you post, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or another social network, or to admire the photos you post on Instagram or Pinterest, how could that not be to your advantage?
Also think of it this way: thanks to social media, you can maintain a connection with many more business contacts than you ever could before. I travel a great deal to conferences, workshops, and networking functions throughout the country as part of my position as CEO. I always meet lots of great people with interesting stories to tell and professional experience to share. It’s one of the most gratifying parts of my job. Before social media, I could never make the time to maintain connections with all of those people. The occasional email, phone call, or holiday card was just not enough. With social media tools like Facebook and LinkedIn, I have established a community in which I can communicate with my “tribe” on a near-daily basis. When we do have the good fortune of meeting again in person, we can pick up right where we left off without missing a beat.
The takeaway from this article is that the ability to build relationships and make connections with people is one of the most valuable skills you can possess as a professional. Likewise, a strong circle of trust is the most powerful tool you can have when it comes to growing and sustaining your business. I encourage you to get out from behind that desk and get to know those you do business with on a personal level. Cultivate your network with the help of social media but don’t rely on it to do all the work. If you work at it consistently, your own happy, smiling face will begin opening doors where there were only walls before.