Happy Birthday, Google!

Google 13th Birthday Doodle
Google celebrates its 13th birthday with a special Google Doodle!

It’s hard to believe, but the website most of us use everyday to start just about anything we do online didn’t exist until 13 years ago.

Their rise to dominance didn’t take place until later, but the company was incorporated in September, 1998. By 2000, they were processing 100 million searches per day… and of course, today they own the US search market. (Market share varies depending who measures it and what they measure… but for all intents & purposes, they’re the search engine that matters.)

In addition to the 28,000 people they employ directly, Google and its products have an impact on the businesses, careers and income on an incredibly high number of people. I’m sure someone has tried to do it, but it would truly be impossible to measure the economic impact of this behemoth. This could be why Google officials were recently testifying before Congress regarding the competitiveness of their operations… but that’s something for another day.

For today… on behalf of small businesses and marketers everywhere… Happy Birthday, Google! We’re celebrating right along with you today!

Yoga as a Parkinson’s Disease Treatment

I never cease to be amazed at the things I learn in my line of work. As someone who works almost exclusively with business owners, I’m always finding ideas, thoughts, services and products that are brand new to me.

Carol Fisher of Inner Key Yoga

For example, recently I have had the great pleasure of getting to know Carol Fisher, who is an instructor of yoga in Walnut Creek, CA. Carol is one of those people you run across that is truly a delight. She was referred to me by a mutual friend several months ago, and we were able to get acquainted during the course of helping her with marketing strategy for her business.

I’ve learned a few important things from Carol, some of which we’ll save for a different post (since it has very little to do with yoga). But in the process of learning about the work that she does, she helped me understand something about the importance of movement, balance and strength for persons suffering with Parkinson’s disease.

Now, I already have a fair amount of knowledge about Parkinson’s disease, in no small part thanks to the Parkinson’s disease doctor who has been a client of ours for several years now. So I’m familiar with the tremor, the gait and other unique symptoms that Parkinson’s sufferers have to deal with.

But until I met Carol, I never would have imagined that training under a yoga instructor could really improve the quality of life for a Parkinson’s patient.

Why Yoga for Parkinson’s Disease?

Evidently, there’s quite a bit of research which suggests that exercise is helpful for Parkinson’s sufferers. Since that’s true, it makes perfect sense that yoga might just be an ideal form of exercise for Parkinson’s disease patients.

And while yoga (nor any other form of exercise, for that matter) doesn’t truly treat any Parkinson’s symptoms, one can see how the flexibility, balance and strength gained through engaging in yoga could, in fact, really improve the overall health, confidence and quality of life for someone facing this disease.

A Parkinson’s diagnosis can, in and of itself, bring a great deal of stress along with it. Yoga is widely known as a great tool for dealing with stress. In addition, the average age of Parkinson’s onset is approximately 60 years. Thus, Parkinson’s sufferers are also dealing with the normal issues related to aging. This means that staying physically active and improving balance and strength are more important than ever… and much more so given the symptoms of the disease.

And this is only the beginning. Carol has begun writing about Parkinson’s disease and yoga, and she is doing a fantastic job of explaining in greater detail how yoga can serve to help Parkinson’s sufferers. Be sure to check it out! And if you happen to be located in the area east of Oakland, California, then Carol and Inner Key Yoga may be just the physical fitness solution you’ve been looking for — regardless of your age! Perhaps a visit to her yoga in the park in Walnut Creek would be a great way to start!

BarCamp Sarasota 2011

**Update** The BarCamp Sarasota Fall 2011 event takes place October 15-16 at GWIZ. Epiphany Marketing is making presentations there as well. We hope to see you!

I’m writing this from inside an Entrepreneurial Roundtable session being facilitated by locally-based technologist Stan Schultes. The ideas being generated within this “open source” group of people are absolutely stellar. There are folks in the room who have been there, done it, and are looking for an opportunity to share back and forth.

This is just one example of the benefits of having an event like BarCamp Sarasota. This year’s event is being held this weekend at GWIZ, which turns out to be a perfect venue because of their various small rooms that seem ideally suited for sessions like those you’ll find at a BarCamp event. The sessions are on a wide variety of topics — both technology-focused and otherwise. Skimming through upcoming session for today, here are some of the topics on the menu:

  • “Leadership and Community Building, Why Now More than Ever?” with Sara Hand
  • “The Zen of Building Sustainable Technology” with Lorrie Vervoordt
  • “Programming Humans” with  Tracy Ingram
  • “Facebook Marketing & SEO” with Thao Tran

At 11am, we’ll be presenting…

Making It All Pay: Growing Your Business with 21st Century Tools

Yes… technology is great! We love it… but without a comprehensive, written, measurable strategy in place, most every business will find themselves floundering in a sea of unfinished initiatives — nearly all of which have failed to produce any significant result from a business standpoint.

For example… how many businesses have websites, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, etc. but can’t point to any new business that they have produced? Or (perhaps worse) know that some business has been produced, but the metrics aren’t in place to identify how much and from which initiatives.

So… we’ll be talking about the strategy piece of the equation… and lining up all the elements in a way that gets you the result you desire. For most businesses, this means new customers, bigger  market share and long-term profitability.

Hope you join us for our session… More reports from this year’s BarCamp event later!

Why Haven’t They Contacted Me Yet?

Ok… admit it. You’ve done it. We all do it. You’ve probably done it lately.

C’mon… tell me…

“How often do you Google yourself?”

Well it’s fun to see where you rank. But if you own a business, it’s critical today to rank #1 on your own name. If you serve a local market, you should at least rank #1 on your own name in your city.

However, as I’ve pointed out again and again to audiences all over the globe when speaking… ranking on your own name isn’t really marketing. It’s customer service. (Ok… it’s also brand protection, which is a marketing function, but let’s not get nit-picky here.)

What Are Your Customers Searching For?

A far more useful idea, however, is to rank #1 (or at least near the top) in Google and those other search engines on phrases that likely buyers will use when they’re searching for the stuff you sell.

For example, if you happened to be looking for a place to eat out in my city (I live and work in the paradise known as Sarasota, Florida), you might run a search like:

“fondue Sarasota”

or

“buffalo wings Sarasota”

Admittedly, you probably aren’t real likely to run both of those searches on the same day… For a nice evening out, my wife and I really enjoy fondue together. And I personally can’t seem to drag her kicking and screaming to a wings joint (happens maybe once every 2-3 years), so I go there for lunch when possible with friends that enjoy hot wings… since one of the local places is my favorite restaurant in the entire world!

But I digress…let me get to the point.

“Why Haven’t They Contacted Me Yet?”

If you happen to be the owner (or manager) of, say…

  • Dylan’s Fondue Fusion
  • The Melting Pot
  • Wings N Things
  • Wings N Weenies

…don’t you think you would contact the marketing firm that owns the website that ranks #1 in Google on the above searches?

For the record, I never really set out to rank #1 on those terms. I just happen to have decided randomly one day to write about those topics. And I happen to know what tools to use to market a local business! And I happen to use those tools myself… so… rankings happen.

You know they’re running those Google searches from time to time, right? I mean seriously… you need to know where your business ranks on those kinds of terms. And you would want (I would think) to do everything in your power to make sure that you had good positioning… so…

In case you’re wondering… yes, we help businesses with search engine rankings. But as I recently pointed out on our small business marketing blog, rankings are only a piece of the puzzle. More importantly, we train small businesses how to be their own best marketers so that they can consistently attract customers in cost-effective ways — both online and offline.

Now… if you’re in a critical situation and need rapid help with the results you’re getting from your website, our website performance assessment is a great place to start.

Otherwise, you can contact us to learn more about how we can help you grow your business!

Today Show: Sarasota #1 Place to Buy a Home

Add this as the latest in the bewildering flurry of confusing and contradictory information about the Sarasota real estate market. According to Today Show Real Estate Expert Barbara Corcoran, Sarasota is the number one place in the country to buy a home.

“Sarasota, Florida is probably what is a symbol of the worst real estate market in the country.”

– Barbara Corcoran

The reason she cites is all about market timing. According to Ms. Corcoran, prices fell one-third in 2008 and are rising rapidly — up 12% this year.

Now I’m not sure where Ms. Corcoran is getting her data, but perhaps she has failed to factor in the pending foreclosures in Sarasota County, which some speculate to number above 7,000! Of those, more than 5000 have yet to even hit the markets. And the other big unknown: what will the impact of the Option ARM resets be when they really begin to escalate in 2010 and 2011?

As I’ve said before, I have friends in the real estate business (and related industries) around here who constantly feed me information about what’s going on. And I must say, the numbers are so loaded with spin by the time they make their way into the public eye that it’s impossible to interpret them accurately.

Ultimately, like any investment, if you’re thinking about purchasing real estate in Sarasota, you need to do your own research and be prepared for the risks you face.

Also Barbara Corcoran’s list: (#2) San Francisco, CA, (#3) Lansing, MI, (#4) Marietta, GA, (#5) Grand Rapids, MI, (#6) St. Petersburg, FL, (#7) Naperville, IL, (#8) Trenton, NJ, (#9) St. Louis, MO, (#10) Saginaw, MI.

Is this encouraging for Sarasota real estate owners? You be the judge.

Sarasota Florist Makes Beach Wedding Dreams Come True

Sarasota Beach Wedding

When it comes to brides, dreams are very important. And the dreams they have for their wedding day are as diverse as the brides themselves. Some want a church wedding, others a museum, a gorgeous outdoor location like Selby Gardens, or perhaps a beach wedding.

Regardless of the venue, the dreams of the bride are central to the success of the big day. And one Sarasota florist specializes in making those dreams come true. Having recently refreshed my acquaintance with Becki Creighton, owner of Flowers By Fudgie, I’ve been thrilled to see recent examples of her work and that of her team. In the just over 10 years that I’ve known her and seen her business develop and grow, they have increasingly focused on making the dreams of brides come true.

And having seen their work, no one does a better job. Talking to Becki recently, I learned that not only does she have a degree in ornamental horticulture, she has also worked in a flower shop since she was 16 years old. Having decades of experience (I have no idea how many!), she has cultivated phenomenal taste and an excellent talent for extracting from her clientele exactly what their dreams look like.

Seeing her recently-launched online gallery of Sarasota weddings and talking with her about her brides, I was surprised to learn that Sarasota has become a destination for brides. They’re coming here (and bringing their bridal parties) from all over the country to get married here. Whether it’s on our gorgeous, pristine beaches or in our spectacular museums and other venues, for a wedding, we have what brides want.

Regardless of whether you’re planning an enormous event, the wedding of your dreams in paradise, or you just want want to send flowers to someone, give Flowers By Fudgie call at (800) 338-5983 or (941) 349-9212. Be sure and tell them I sent ya!

The Machine That Goes “Bing!”

And now for something completely different: In a bizarre move, Microsoft does something brilliant.

At first I thought,

“Well… they grabbed a 4-letter domain name that’s easy to remember… they couldn’t possibly have intended to connect it to the Monty Python sketch…”

That was when I first started seeing the bing.com commercials about the tangential search results. The commercials are humorous, although for me they purport to solve a problem I don’t have.

But now… they started using the funny little high-pitched male voice saying, “Bing!”

And really… what Python fan in the world could forget this moment from The Meaning of Life?

Until Apple managed to emerge from the 1990s somehow still in business, I had always thought of Microsoft as a corporation that was brilliant in its marketing. In retrospect, my admiration was actually aimed at what I would now classify as business strategy. Apple is without question a brilliant marketing machine, and to say they’ve successfully trumped Microsoft in that department is like saying that Alexander the Great had some military victories.

But I must admit… the “Bing!” thing is a brilliant marketing move on many levels.

Whether the “new” search engine actually offers any unique value remains to be seen.

Good Mental Food – Get Motivated Seminar Sarasota

**UPDATE** The Get Motivated Seminar in Sarasota on May 14th, 2009 has moved to a new location. The event will be held at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center. Details here.

World-famous motivational speaker Zig Ziglar is coming to Sarasota on May 14th

No matter what your business or occupation, getting ahead and being successful requires a steady diet of good mental and emotional fuel. Having a great attitude — something so critical, especially in a tough economic environment — isn’t something most of us are going to be consistently good at without some outside input.

So… I’m looking forward to next week’s “Get Motivated” seminar. Formerly known as the Peter Lowe Success Seminar, this event has begun making the rounds to smaller venues in the last several years. And it’s great to see the whole crew coming to Robarts Arena the Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center in Sarasota on May 14th.

In particular, I’m excited to see one of our clients, Zig Ziglar. Zig will be focusing on “How To Stay Motivated,” which is one of his all-time most impactful messages. Since his head injury a couple of years ago, Zig’s short-term memory has been affected. So, expect him to be onstage with his daughter, Julie, for an interview-style presentation. This configuration has been extremely well-received by audiences all over the nation since they started doing it, and it should be the highlight of the day.

Also in the lineup:

  • Sarasota’s own Dick Vitale
  • Dr. Robert Schuller
  • Governor Rudy Giuliani
  • Dr. Earl Mindell,
  • and, Tamara Lowe (wife of Peter Lowe), who is speaking in support of her new book, Get Motivated, which she co-authored with Giuliani

Should be a great day. According to the literature that came in the mail, admission can be had for only $4.95 for an individual, or you can bring “the whole office” for $19. The registration number is (800) 248-7640. Tell ’em we sent you!

See you on Thursday, May 14th!

Now Revolution Conference with Gary Keesee

Gary Keesee at the Now Revolution Conference

Just flew back in yesterday from this weekend’s “Now Revolution Conference” in Columbus, Ohio, where it was my honor to have the opportunity meet with quite a few entrepreneurs, business owners, and future business owners to talk about marketing in the 21st Century.

My wife and I met Gary and Drenda Keesee last year when they were in town for the Sarasota Financial Revolution Conference. Since that time, they’ve completely revamped the conference, giving it a new name and a new focus. They’ve also completed construction on “The Now Center” in New Albany, Ohio — just outside of Columbus. This past weekend, they hosted the first major conference in that facility and it was absolutely stellar.

Gary’s message is targeted at helping individuals discover and pursue their God-given destiny and to unashamedly achieve financial freedom in the process. These are issues that I’m personally very passionate about, which is the reason that we created our Christian entrepreneurship and business excellence events.

I was honored this weekend to share the platform with not just Gary, but the others who had impactful things to share:

  • Drenda Keesee — powerhouse in her on right, having journeyed with, encouraged and motivated Gary in their journey from enslavement to financial freedom. Arguably some of the biggest testaments to her own giftings are their children, whom she home-schooled and developed into some significant young people.  After briefly meeting their daughter, Amy, and son, Tom, I can tell you first-hand that they and their siblings are showing signs of greatness.
  • Johnny Hocott — a key player in the Forward Financial Group who I met several months ago when he spent some time here in Sarasota. Johnny is focused on developing and training new leaders and I’ve seen firsthand some of the fruit of his labors in some of the people here in our city.
  • Mike Healy — a dynamic and compelling motivator and trainer who is clearly out to win! Mike enjoys cagefighting, which I must confess is something I don’t much about… but it sounds, shall we say… violent? Mike and his wife went from getting eviction notices to a 6-figure income in a 12-month time span and has plenty of important things to share with anyone looking to achieve success.

I couldn’t say enough good things about the event staff, from Jason Freudiger and Amy Taylor to the media staff all the way through to the volunteers. The event ran smoothly despite the inevitable last-minute changes and adjustments. Everyone made the experience a pleasant one.

Did We Meet?

If you’re one of the many people I met this past weekend, I have something for you. Leave a quick comment here and let me know who you are so I can e-mail it to you. Also, if you missed the chance to take advantage of the conference specials, I’ll give you a way to do that.

Florida Amendments 2008 – Voter’s Guide

In the general election on November 4th (or earlier if you’re voting early), there are 6 proposed amendments (numbers 1, 2, 3, 6 and 8 ) to the Florida Constitution. Here are some quick facts for you:

Each amendment proposed affects some language in the Constitution of the State of Florida. You will be voting “yes” to approve the proposed amendment or “no” to disapprove.

Proposed Amendment 1

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution from Article I, Section 2.

On your ballot:

Declaration of Rights

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to delete provisions authorizing the Legislature to regulate or prohibit the ownership, inheritance, disposition, and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want the Legislature to no longer be authorized to affect the ability of aliens (foreigners) who cannot obtain citizenship in the US to own or deal in real estate.
  • Vote “no” if you want the Florida Legislature to continue to have the authority to regulate this activity.

Proposed Amendment 2 – Florida Marriage Protection Amendment

This amendment would add a new section to the Constitution.

On your ballot:

This amendment protects marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and provides that no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.

The direct financial impact this amendment will have on state and local government revenues and expenditures cannot be determined, but is expected to be minor.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want the traditional definition of marriage as “one man and one woman” to be the working definition of the term in the State of Florida
  • Vote “no” if you do not want to keep the traditional definition of word “marriage”

For more information, read our position on Florida Amendment 2

Proposed Amendment 3

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution in Article VII, Sections 3 and 4 and would add a new section in Article XI.

On your ballot:

Changes and Improvements Not Affecting the Assessed Value of Residential Real Property

Authorizes the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit consideration of changes or improvements to residential real property which increase resistance to wind damage and installation of renewable energy source devices as factors in assessing the propertyâ€s value for ad valorem taxation purposes. Effective upon adoption, repeals the existing renewable energy source device exemption no longer in effect.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want to allow the Florida Legislature to have the authority to prevent upgrades to homes in Florida that are installed specifically for the purpose of A) protecting it from wind damage (hurricanes and tornadoes) or B) adding alternative energy (such as solar) from changing the value of the home for the purpose of property tax assessments. In short: if you spend money to protect your house, you won’t be penalized with property taxes (assuming the Legislature actually uses this new-found authority and passes a law to prohibit you from being taxed on this kind of thing).
  • Vote “no” if you do not want the Legislature to have the power to prevent you from being taxed on these upgrades.

Proposed Amendment 4

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution in Article VII, Sections 3 & 4  and in Article XII, Section 28

On your ballot:

Property Tax Exemption of Perpetually Conserved Land; Classification and Assessment of Land Used for Conservation

Requires Legislature to provide a property tax exemption for real property encumbered by perpetual conservation easements or other perpetual conservation protections, defined by general law. Requires Legislature to provide for classification and assessment of land used for conservation purposes, and not perpetually encumbered, solely on the basis of character or use. Subjects assessment benefit to conditions, limitations, and reasonable definitions established by general law. Applies to property taxes beginning in 2010.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want land owned by taxpayers in Florida which cannot be developed because of conservation easements (e.g. the land has been declared a natural wildlife habitat) or because the owners have chosen to use the land for the purposes of conservation (e.g. there isn’t a conservation easement, but the property is being used like there is one) from being taxed like other land.
  • Vote “no” if you do not want to provide this tax exemption.

Proposed Amendment 6

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution in Article VII, Section 4 and would add a new section in Article XII.

On your ballot:

Assessment of Working Waterfront Property Based Upon Current Use

Provides for assessment based upon use of land used predominantly for commercial fishing purposes; land used for vessel launches into waters that are navigable and accessible to the public; marinas and drystacks that are open to the public; and water-dependent marine manufacturing facilities, commercial fishing facilities, and marine vessel construction and repair facilities and their support activities, subject to conditions, limitations, and reasonable definitions specified by general law.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you want waterfront land used for the purposes listed above to have its property tax assessments reflect its usage. In other words, it’s one thing to operate a marina or a boat launch on your waterfront property. It’s another thing to build luxury condos there. This amendment would allow for the property taxes assessed to account for this type of distinction.
  • Vote “no” if you do not want to provide this distinction for assessed property taxes.

Proposed Amendment 8

This amendment would change existing language in the Constitution in Article VII, Section 9.

On your ballot:

Local Option Community College Funding

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to require that the Legislature authorize counties to levy a local option sales tax to supplement community college funding; requiring voter approval to levy the tax; providing that approved taxes will sunset after 5 years and may be reauthorized by the voters.

What it means

  • Vote “yes” if you the Legislature to allow counties to use a sales tax hike to raise money for community colleges. The counties would have to allow citizens to vote and approve the sales tax increase, which would automatically expire in 5 years unless a new vote authorizes it to be renewed (in 5-year increments).
  • Vote “no” if you do not want the Legislature to allow counties to levy sales tax increases for this purpose.

Was This Useful?

I hope it was helpful for you to have a preview of what’s on your ballot and some simple explanations of what these amendments are all about. If so, please leave a comment!