Friday, January 29, 2010

Winnipeg Free Press Has It In For Katz

Call me naive Winnipeg, but isn't a newspaper supposed to provide an unbiased opinion to its readers on what's happening in both their local communities and to global events? If this is believed as truth, than how is it that every headline, picture and story that includes Mayor Sam Katz is either questioning his integrity, showing him to look conniving or leaning the reader to vote against him?

Today's front page of the Winnipeg Free Press was a prime example to the hate on they have for our Mayor. "Katz vulnerable?" is the headline, showing a picture of Sam that looks like it was taken after giving blood...tired and weak.

For anyone who's had the pleasure of actually talking with Sam one to one, as opposed to forming opinions based on his portrayal in the Free Press, you'll know the passion he has for this City and for Winnipeggers. For anyone who reads the Winnipeg Free Press on a regular basis, you'll know that they'll publish whatever sells advertising as they continue to diminish in content and revenue.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

CentrePort Team Return to Winnipeg

The team of 30 delegates representing the proposed CentrePort Canada project have returned to Winnipeg from their five-day tour of inland ports in Mexico and the U.S. The big question on the minds of many Winnipeg business people, "So what?"

I don't mean to be cynical, but I just can't help myself. When asked about the purpose of the trip, Diane Gray was reported as saying, "We have a large network of stakeholders that all want to see CentrePort succeed. There is no better way to impress on them what we can be in the future than for all of them to see first-hand what success stories look like." Hmmm.... Is it just me, or would you not hope that the team heading the development of Winnipeg's inland port would already have visited an inland port some time in the past? Maybe even conducted some business with these ports once before? Minus Barry Rempel, CEO of the WAA, my guess is the other 29 have not.

Before leaving, Chris Lorenc was quoted as saying, "the trip signals to the rest of the world that CentrePort is open for business," but is it? Do Mexico and the U.S. represent the world? My guess is that beyond the hands they shook during this inland port vacation, that no one else really knows about it. Even right here in Winnipeg, you ask the average person what CentrePort Canada is and most confuse it with the Airport expansion. The CentrePort team better hurry up and paint a bus to run up and down Portage Ave. to educate the market. We all know this seems to be the lead marketing initiative for most major events happening in the 'Peg.

I've had the pleasure of talking with a lot of Winnipeg business leaders regarding Winnipeg's inland port. The confidence in this project from most I speak with is equal to an impotent man starring in his first porno movie. Semi at best.

I do agree with what Dave Angus said upon his return, regarding the importance of creating a greater awareness to the project. I'm really curious what the strategy will be to accomplish this.

I want nothing more than this to succeed and to wipe the memory of Winnport clean from the minds of all whom it disappointed, both locally and abroad. It's our turn Winnipeg! Let's get this right... we have to. This city and its people deserve it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Is SEO the fastest growing market in Winnipeg?

Search engine optimization or SEO is quickly becoming common speak among business owners in Winnipeg when looking at where to allocate their precious dollars for marketing. For those who've heard the term, but still do not fully understand the process, here is a simple explanation.

SEO is the process of placing a company's website top of the search engines such as Google or Yahoo, for keywords that a consumer would type in when looking for a product or service. In the past, the Yellow Pages provided consumers a quick reference point when locating a business categorized by their industry/service. Now, over 85% of people just Google what they need and normally choose among the top few websites that first appear on the search page to fill their need.

Since its the job of an SEO company to position their clients in a place of high visibility, you'd naturally assume that an SEO company that is any good would accomplish the same for their own website. Therefore, I typed in "seo Winnipeg" to see who came up as the leader. I found Fresh Traffic Group and decided to call them to talk with someone there about this growing industry in Winnipeg's business community.

President Jerry Booth was gracious enough to take time out of his day to answer a few questions.

Me: "Can you give me a sense of the competition in your industry?"

Booth: "When I chose to open shop in Canada, I chose Winnipeg based on a business partner I had worked with for the past 5 years that lives just outside the city. When we launched there were about 3 other companies that offered SEO services... today there are over 190."

Me: "Wow! How has this effected your business?"

Booth: "Its created a serious watered-down effect. The market in Winnipeg are quite confused as a whole on what true SEO work looks like. Its not just a matter of putting a few titles and tags in the code of your website or writing blogs and tweeting. Most the companies in this city have limited experience performing true SEO, and are simply capitalizing on the knowledge gap of the average business owner. In fact, a major ad agency in the city openly admitted to me they don't know what they are doing, and when I asked why they offer the service, they said they're in it for the money."

Me: "That seems a little scary."

Booth: "It is. In fact, I've sat down with almost every major ad agency in this city offering our assistance in SEO. We are not a traditional marketing company, so often we will partner with agencies to manage the SEO portion of their client's marketing mix. There was tremendous interest in each meeting I attended; however, all that's materialized since is a new tab on these agencies websites now offering SEO to their clients. Whether they can deliver is another matter."

Me: "Is the growth in this industry a threat to your success?"

Booth: "Yes and no. The growth in the market has created a lot more awareness to the Winnipeg business owner on the importance of investing in the visibility of their brand online. The threat is that many that are offering the service are under-delivering and leaving a bad taste in the mouth of Winnipeggers. And, typical of Winnipeg, are trying to compete by offering the lowest price to get the sale. Most will find out you get what you pay for. We are top of search for our services in Winnipeg, and we'll remain there proving we can deliver. In time, as the business owner better understands our service, they'll realize that the SEO company at the top of Google is the one to use...why? Because we've proven our ability in our own position.

It was interesting to learn more about this industry. I've been in advertising sales and marketing my entire career, but feel even while still young, I sometimes feel the whole internet thing is quickly passing me by. I know enough to know that I am best to put more time into understanding the power of branding based on a strong internet marketing mix vs. the traditional forms of media that seem to be falling to near extinction.

The internet is here to stay. What is your strategy to remain relevant in how you market your business and services as we enter 2010?