Thursday, December 21, 2017

McD Team Design and Builds Welcome Center Kiosk for Visit Mason City, Iowa

The Music Man panel features a real snare drum with the Mason City logo on it and a real trombone.

Old display
The old Visit Mason City Welcome Center display was informational with some interactive displays. However, it didn’t really stand out to guests passing through the center. 

The area in the Welcome Center where the display was placed had no access to electricity limiting the interactivity within the display. The option of moving the display was considered, but the decision was made to leave the display in its current location and develop a more creative display that would be more interactive and attention-grabbing.

Mason City called McDaniels Marketing for help. After our discovery visit, we were able to design a new kiosk that incorporated a variety of different interactive options and we were able to streamline the interchangeable display for photography and information for the Mason City area.

The new kiosk is three-sided and hollow. Each panel pays homage to the main draws of Mason City - The Music Man and Frank Lloyd Wright; as well as local attractions, events, restaurants and accommodations. The fourth ‘side’ of the display allows visitors to actually enter and view a plethora of Music Man artifacts. Visitors can even play a few notes from 76 Trombones, one of the most iconic musical numbers from the musical, on a scaled down piano.

The River City panel features interactive trivia cubes that rotate; as well as a photobook of hotels, restaurants and attractions.
The three outside panels have interactive features to draw visitors in to experience the display, and will attract those in the area simply by the activities of other guests. On one corner rotating blocks were installed that feature trivia, giving guests the opportunity to learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and Meredith Willson. A photobook was installed on another panel featuring hotels, restaurants and other local attractions. The pages of the photobook can be interchanged as needed and allow for more space for displaying photos of the area.

We wanted the display to stand out in the Welcome Center so we incorporated the colors of the Visit Mason City logo, yellow and red and included the logo on each panel. We were even able to feature the logo on a salvaged snare drum on the Music Man panel. Additional musical instrument were attached to the display drawing attention to the display.

Due to the size of the final piece, the display was developed by our creative team and built under our watchful eye by a local sign builder. The pieces were broken down for transportation and then rebuilt onsite in Iowa. The final display is four feet around and 11 feet tall. The tremendous attention to detail is evident on every panel, inside and out.

Inside the display you can learn to play a tune on a real miniature piano.
The new display now gives Mason City a more striking and interactive Welcome Center that comes alive and is visible as soon as you enter the Welcome Center.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What’s all the hype about HTTPS?

Decisions, decisions…

What the heck is HTTPS – and why should I care? It’s a question our clients are asking more and more, thanks to more and more buzz across the web.

Much like English is the international language, HTTP and HTTPS are the international languages of the world wide web. Most websites are built with HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol). Think of it like an ATM without a password. You can get in and see whatever you want, read through any page you want to, even take anything you want, with nothing to stop you. No big deal right? Until you start collecting sensitive information like credit cards, passwords or personal data.

That’s where HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) comes in, with another layer of encryption that prevents unwanted viewing and data theft. That encryption uses yet another protocol called SSL/TSL (Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security). You can spot an HTTPS connection by the green lock symbol that appears next to the URL in your browser bar. HTTPS has been around for a while – some say since the mid-90s – but the recent trend toward more secure site viewing has put the spotlight on it.

Google is driving it (of course), and if visitors are using Chrome (owned by Google) or Firefox to view your website, they’ll see a warning about viewing a webpage that isn’t secure. Google started flashing the alerts in January of this year, and it’s catching on. Not all sites are experiencing this yet, but they could by the end of the year if they don’t have an SSL in place. You’ll definitely see a benefit to going SSL, as it ensures your site is secure in the areas of ownership, content and transactions (if applicable).

The effort was supposed to initially target sites that require visitors to submit sensitive or personal information but has now spread to all websites. The momentum actually started back in 2014 when Google made https sites a signal that could raise your search engine ranking. But it really didn’t gain traction until this year when Google began putting warnings out when visitors tap the URL.

While most sites haven’t converted to HTTPS yet (30 to 50% depending on which study you read), we do know usage has tripled since 2014, on both mobile and desktop. Not surprisingly, shopping, healthcare and finance rank in the top 10 of industries with the highest HTTPS usage. And there’s no doubt having that extra SSL impacts your ranking – half of the first and second position sites in a random sampling of 100,000 keyword results were HTTPS.

Why make the move to SSL? Our top four motivators:

  1. Security – as we said, protect your users’ privacy and their data. 
  2. User confidence – especially as time goes on, users will be conditioned to trust sites with HTTPS, and turned away by Google’s security warning message. 
  3. Analytics – when you get a referral from another site through HTTP your analytics report simply says “direct.” When your site gets visits from other HTTPS sites, you’ll see the traffic from each referral. 
  4. Because Google says so – history tells us when they drive a change, sites that don’t conform steadily drop in rankings. 

The good news: It’s not terribly complicated for us to put the SSL in place. We handle it all behind the scenes. When applied, it covers your entire website as well as future pages and content you add. You won’t notice an impact on page load times or server resources, and visitors may actually notice that your site moves faster, thanks to ramped up browser speed only available when you activate HTTPS.

Bottom line: There’s just something about the little green padlock that provides big browsing benefits. We’re ready to help you turn the key. Contact our Digital Director, Susan Crisler at [email protected] or 309-346-4230.

Monday, August 28, 2017

5 Reasons to Boost Your Results with Microsites and Branded Blogs

As human beings, our attention span has shrunk to 8.25 seconds – less than that of a goldfish! Is it any wonder microsites and branded blogs are reporting increased conversion rates of up to 200%? These little workhorses are quick, not-so-quiet secret weapons. So why don’t you have one?

First things first: What the heck is a microsite (or branded blog to some)? A microsite allows you to zero in on a specific product, service, event or marketing effort to quickly raise brand awareness and convey hyper-specific information. It has its own URL, likely completely separate and independent of your main website URL. It can be short-term, like those based around a campaign or marketing effort (like Prudential’s, or evergreen, like those supporting a specific company platform or effort (like Red Bull’s These sites can be bulked up periodically or in the case of a blog, a social media platform that changes all of the time.

Alive Anytime - A microsite McD Marketing built for South Haven, MI

5 reasons why you should consider adding a microsite to your marketing arsenal. 

  1. They have less pages and content than your average website, making them faster to develop and pop up. That more compact, streamlined size and content profile can also translate to more cost-efficient development. Often developers are able to incorporate high-impact images, videos or animations. 
  2. They quickly raise awareness by focusing on specific content. Often tied to a specific product or service, they give your audience a fast, clear way to explore your new offering. And, they’re great for public and media relations, instantly generating interest and audience. In fact, microsites can improve conversion rates by as much as 200%. 
  3. You can mine a whole new array of keywords and SEO value without overhauling your main website. You don’t have the worry of managing your main site through a quick or short-term hard-hitting, fast-moving campaign. And, you don’t over-crowd or congest your main home page. 
  4. They can look completely different from your mother brand – especially important and valuable if you’re launching a product, service, event or campaign that targets an audience different from your norm, such as a more youthful segment. For example, Unilever leverages a microsite for its Axe product line’s unique marketing approach. 
  5. Add a branded blog to your digital footprint, and you raise your social media and SEO impact even more. And, you put your brand stamp out there in an even bigger way. You’ll want to be sure to schedule regular updates to keep content fresh and keep your target audience coming back to mine your brand messaging. And ideally, you’ll build it with a robust CMS that has the ability to allow for multiple publishing of blogs. P&G created the microsite and branded blog and reports that microsites are four times more effective than traditional marketing campaigns. 

Galena Country Journal - A microsite McD Marketing built for
Galena Jo Daviess County IL CVB.

While we’re at it, 3 things NOT to do with your microsite: 

  1. Put out duplicate content – one of Google’s cardinal sins; you’re zeroing out any SEO benefit your microsite provides if you’re not creating unique content. 
  2. Bandying about backlinks – the point of a microsite is to live separately from the mother ship. If you’re constantly backlinking to your current site, you’re defeating the purpose of building that unique online brand experience. 
  3. Piggybacking on your analytics – metrics rule in the online world, but if you’re muddying the waters by using your existing Google Analytics profile as-is, you’ll never know if your microsite fits the bill. A better approach: Create a new site profile under the same account. That way you can tailor and customize segmentation and goals to your microsite. 

You only have 8.25 seconds to reach… oh look a squirrel! The McD Digital Team only needs 6 seconds to get your attention. Think of us like the 6 million dollar man of digital: We have the technology – and the savvy. Let’s talk! Contact Tony Oedewaldt, Director of Business Development, at [email protected] or 309-346-6974.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Technical SEO? Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Has your web development firm said those three little letters to you yet? S-E-O? if you’re building a website you’ve likely heard it more than once. But did you know SEO is more than making sure your site is at the top of the search results? So how does Technical SEO differ from a total SEO approach – and why should you care?

Technical SEO (search engine optimization) embodies a truly technical approach focusing on how well search engines can index your content. Google algorithms for example, will crawl your site based on certain parameters and from those results determine where you rank when a specific keyword is typed into the search box. Mobile friendliness, site speed, bread crumbs, a URL-friendly structure and avoiding duplicate content are all good technical SEO practices that impact your site’s indexing. It’s a great start.

But savvy marketers like yourself are taking it more than a few levels farther, implementing a truly thorough approach to SEO that seamlessly and relentlessly integrates technical SEO with on- and off-page content SEO. This is the full meal deal to the value menu; the whole enchilada to the hard-shell taco. We’re talking keyword optimization, user-centric experiential development, leveraging natural and inbound links.

A robust, results-driven SEO approach incorporates equally robust, engaging, original content development. And more, that content must be factual, accurate and practical, it should elicit response and emotion from the reader. Gone are the days of simply incorporating a few hot hit list keywords into your website text and calling it good. Today’s search engines deploy tech-smart spiders to crawl websites looking not just for the right words, but the right wording. They’re looking for style, conversationalism, friendliness, usefulness and resourcefulness. They’re learning and evolving as they crawl, and they’re getting smarter every day.

Thus, today’s smart SEO approach effectively leverages Google’s Hummingbird algorithm (the tool that brought down Mobilegedden in the cyber world). More than keywords, it’s about semantics – how things are said, casual phrasing, and above all else, a logical, natural-flowing question-and-answer format.

And successful SEO delves into the behind-the-scenes of the web world too, implementing Google-compliant meta descriptions and title/browser tags to raise results, and making subtle improvements that make a huge impact in browser pings, like keyword enhancement, image alt tags, crosslinking.

It’s a mad, mad world we live in – and an uber-savvy SEO approach that speaks to the Google gods goes a long way toward taming the beast. We’re web-tamers extraordinaire - contact Tony Oedewaldt today to tap into our tricks: [email protected] or 866-431-4230.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Four Factors to Watch in a Digital Advertising Campaign

Digital Advertising—it’s more than just “the new hotness.” If you’re a business owner, marketing manager or business professional, then you know that digital advertising is no longer optional if you’re trying to reach consumers. From smartphones to tablets and streaming video sites, digital has become THE cost-effective means to reach potential clients. Yet, as essential as it is, the details of a digital campaign still remain murky for many advertisers. This is why many businesses rely on digital agencies for guidance. Here are four points that you should keep in mind when crafting a campaign with your advertising partners:

1) Know Your Audience 

When devising any sort of plan, it’s always important to know your final objective. When developing an advertising campaign, you need to know who you’re trying to reach. Who is your ideal new customer? What do they look like in a demographic sense? Where are they located? What makes them tick?

The reason that this is important is one of the key advantages of digital advertising: targeting. At the bare minimum, digital campaigns can be targeted by age, gender and location. In the age of social media and Google accounts on smartphones, targeting can go deeper—much deeper. A reliable agency will help their clients navigate the sea of demographics available to help focus an ad so that it is delivered only to the individuals who are most likely to interact with it. After all, you wouldn’t serve ads for a 70" UHD-TV to the Amish community, right? Instead, wouldn’t it be better to target those ads to individuals with disposable income who’ve shown interest in electronics? Even better—wouldn’t it be ideal to serve those same ads only to individuals who’ve shown interest in a particular brand?

Digital advertising can be laser-focused, but only if you take the time to form a battle plan. Speaking of laser-focused…

2) Pay for Clicks, Not Impressions. 

“Talk is cheap. Action is everything.” This adage is especially true for PPC campaigns. There are a lot of firms that promote digital campaigns based solely on the number of impressions (ad views) that the campaign will deliver. That’s all well and good if you’re only interested in general brand awareness, but wouldn’t you rather only have to pay when someone actually interacts with your ad in a meaningful fashion?

This is why the notion of pay-per-click (PPC) is so important. Ad views are free; advertisers are only billed when a potential client clicks on the ad and is directed to a campaign specific landing page. Impression-based campaigns charge every time the ad appears on a consumer’s viewable screen—but they don’t guarantee that anyone actually pays attention to your ad. Your budget will go much, much farther if it’s only being spent for actions, not words. The action that you’re paying for is driving traffic to your website, which brings us to the next point.

3) Destination is Key! 

Have you ever gone on vacation, pulled up to the motel and suddenly discovered that it doesn’t look as advertised? The pictures made it look quaint and rustic when the reality is that you’ve just arrived at the Bates Motel? The same thing applies to your PPC campaigns. Think about this—you spend all the time to define your audience, develop killer creative, optimize your program and yet the ads send potential customers to a landing page that is “less than good.” Even worse, the landing page doesn’t match the focus of the ad!

Your ads are the invitation and when consumers have clicked on that ad, it shows that they’re interested in your products and services. You want to keep that momentum going—so the ad’s destination URL needs to be inviting informative. It also needs to offer some way for that consumer to convert. We refer to this as the “path to conversion”—and it’s the crucial step in helping transition an individual from “interested party” to “future customer/client.”

Landing page content should align closely with the subject of the ad. Using the earlier TV example, the ad for a 70" UHD-TV should lead to a page showcasing a selection of UHD TVs. An ad for physical therapy services should take surfers to a physical therapy page, etc. The last thing you want to do is run an ad on a very specific topic and direct viewers to an incredibly general page. If they have to hunt for the information featured in the ad, the odds are that they’re just going to hit that dreaded “back” button and leave, unlikely to return.

4) Watch Your CPC! 

Everyone knows what CPC is, right? HA!

CPC is defined in the digital world as “cost-per-click.” Essentially, it’s calculated by dividing the total budget for an ad campaign by the number of clicks generated during that period. What this really measures is how far your budget will go before it is used up. It’s also where many digital agencies insert management costs and other mark-ups. While this price structure is perfectly fine, it doesn’t really make the best use of a client’s budget. A transparent agency won’t add anything to the CPC—opting instead to charge an upfront monthly management fee. This way the “click budget” of the campaign is going to do just that—CLICK! Isn’t that the goal of a pay-per-click campaign in the first place?

Be mindful of the CPC for your campaigns. The lower this number is, the more reach your budget has—allowing you to put your products and services in front of more future customers.

These four points just scratch the surface of the complex nature of digital advertising. Yet, being aware of these factors can help advertisers to make more informed decisions when it comes to everything from placement to choice of digital ad agency. As with any kind of advertising, it’s always best to approach any potential campaign development with “eyes wide open.” Having a basic understanding of some of the core terminology can help your company or organization make informed decisions when setting up campaigns and entertaining recommendations from agencies courting your business.

At McD, we believe in “Deeds, Not Words.” (As does Mega-Force.) We don’t just write blog articles about how things should be—we practice what we preach. If you’d like to learn what we can do for your business, give us a call!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Trade Show Marketing Tips – Give Your Booth a Boost

Pekin Insurance Display, McDaniels Marketing

If you’re thinking trade show marketing starts on the show floor, you’re only half right. Effectively leveraging a trade show presence does make a huge difference – 38% of attendees say visiting a booth impacts their intent to purchase – but with 64% of trade show visitors being new customers, pre- and post-show marketing takes on more importance than ever before. So how do you stop traffic?

Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund Display, McDaniels Marketing

Our “Secret 7” for trade show success? Simple:

  • Motion 
  • Height 
  • Big, bold images 
  • Supplemental lighting 
  • Striking colors 
  • Powerful messaging 
  • Technology 
In fact, some of the biggest trends we’re seeing in trade show booths revolved, unsurprisingly, around technology. From augmented and virtual reality to digital ordering to electronic signage and motion boards, technology takes center stage. A few more of our top tips for trade show success…

It’s a careful balance though, between leveraging technology and making a connection. Successful booths evoke an emotional response. And that doesn’t have to be just the floor itself. The ceiling is prime real estate! Take your brand to new heights with suspended hanging elements attached to the exhibit hall framework (within show guidelines of course) or structural elements designed to rise above the standard 10' size.

Knowing their customers’ goals, and their need to maximize time, exhibit companies are introducing new options that allow for modular construction, incorporation of areas like lounge settings and comfort stations to encourage engagement and are built for easy setup and takedown. A few of our favorites:

While you’re nailing your exhibit concept and design down, don’t neglect the obvious – your potential customer. Successful pre-show marketing starts with pre-show planning, and that doesn’t mean a hastily sent e-blast a week before the show. Creating a holistic strategy with public relations, direct mail, social media, coordinated e-blasts – thoughtful marketing that drives traffic to your booth, whether from surveys, giveaways or new product teases.

Acadian Toggle Display, McDaniels Marketing

Of course, staff is as important to booth engagement as the design and marketing. A few no-nos:

  • Eating 
  • Talking on phones 
  • Standing with arms crossed 
  • Sitting behind a table 

And a few must-dos:

  • Greet people 
  • Smile! 
  • Make eye contact 
  • Stand tall and make people feel welcome 
When it’s time to put some pop in your pullup, give us a ring. With 50+ years of trade show experience behind us, we’ve picked up a secret or two. Contact us today: [email protected] or 309-346-4230.