When John Cashman, president and chief executive officer of Digital Firefly Marketing, graduated from California State University, Long Beach, he had a bachelor of science in biochemistry and was considering medical school. What got in the way of these plans and also moved him to the East Coast was rowing. In 1998, two years after graduation, he was invited to Princeton to train with the U.S. National Team. He ended up competing with the team for six years.
To support himself, he needed a job and started working at ITXC, which did voice over Internet for international phone calls. “I started to learn the ins and outs of marketing, specifically around the analytics of it,” Cashman says. He figured out how much money came in on a particular deal, how to forecast revenue, and how to determine whether or not particular marketing initiatives were bringing in sufficient leads and business. “My biochemistry background was somewhat analytical, analyzing molecules,” he says. “Now I was analyzing dollars.”
The experience he gained at ITXC and in subsequent jobs led him to a different career and eventually to his own digital marketing business.
Cashman and his colleague Steve Ott will speak on “What Does it Take? Essentials for a Successful Website Experience,” Thursday, April 4, from 8 to 10 a.m. at Roma Bank, 2300 Route 33, in Robbinsville, for the Robbinsville chapter of the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce. Cost: $15. To register, go to www.mercerchamber.org. For information, call 609-630-0764.
Cashman offers a number of suggestions for creating a successful business website:
Have a blog. A blog performs two functions: first, it keeps the website fresh and up to date so that Google crawls more often to the site on its searches; second, adding new content all the time allows Google to index more content for your company, thereby increasing the probability that someone is going to find your business via a Google search.
Blogs should have a minimum of one weekly posting and should be about a company’s industry and topics relevant to it as well as about its own products. “Some of the best blogs we have seen and produced are particularly around how-tos,” says Cashman. “If you are a coffee shop, a good blog would be how to brew the perfect cup of coffee.” The blog for his own business-to-business company is about how companies can do their own digital marketing.
As to how to best alert Google to your blog, Cashman recommends focusing on the words you use in its title. Start by Googling the title you are considering. “If you find a title that is similar to what you want, use that title,” he says, noting that below the Google search box you will see titles listed that people are already using as a search string.
Be active on social media, particularly Facebook. A business Facebook page allows a company to build up a fan base through “likes.” Digital Firefly Marketing, for example, has more than 2,800 likes. Whenever the company produces new content on its blog or posts pictures to a company party, for example, this audience of 2,800 sees a Facebook post. But having a Facebook page accomplishes more than just keeping fans up to date. “Google is now taking social media activity into account, so another reason to do this is keeping Google happy and sending traffic via Google searches to your website,” says Cashman.
To schedule Facebook activity efficiently, Cashman recommends using Facebook’s scheduling feature, which allows a business to schedule daily posts in one sitting early in the week. “Facebook will automatically update itself so you can still be active on Facebook without having to be on it every day,” he says.
Make sure your reputation is clean in Google. “What businesses are usually surprised to find is that there might be quite a bit of negative reviews on the Internet that they never realized they had,” says Cashman, whose company also does reputation management. These companies do not know about sites like Yelp or OpenTable, where the general public is welcome to review restaurants and other establishments, products, and services. Whether these reviews are false or true, they may bubble up to the top of Google.
The source of this unwelcome public relations problem is simply that companies do not have good digital strategies. Some may have put up a website two or three years ago that hasn’t been updated, and as a result the business is not likely to come up to the top — even if someone is searching on its name. “The best thing to do is to create content that will push those negative reviews off the front page,” says Cashman.
To screen for unwelcome content, companies should regularly Google themselves. “You should set up a Google news alert for your business name,” says Cashman. “Then if things get posted to Google, it gets sent to you via E-mail.” He recommends that companies address any negative reviews publicly on the site where they are posted. If the review is fraudulent, businesses can try getting the website owner to remove it, even though they usually won’t.
Develop a mobile site in addition to your Internet site. “Fifty-seven percent of the U.S. population have a smart phone,” says Cashman. “If you don’t have a mobile site, it is more and more likely that people won’t go to your site.” Mobile sites are designed to be read easily on a smart phone. “People don’t want to take the time to pinch to zoom in,” he says. Having a mobile site makes it much easier for the consumer to explore a business.
Cashman is a native of Sausalito, California. His father owned a number of different small businesses, and his mother worked for the cities of Sausalito and Tiburon.
After Cashman worked for five years at ITXC, it was bought by a Canadian company, Teleglobe. He stayed there for another year, but then moved to CMWare, a startup in Plainsboro that did mobile streaming software. He ran the firm’s marketing and was exposed particularly to digital marketing, especially related to Google.
After two years, the company folded and Cashman moved to another startup, Jagtag. Based on Nassau Street, it worked with QR codes, little squares that can be scanned by cell phones and used for product tracking, item identification, time tracking, document management, and marketing. “I worked with ad agencies and big brands like Unilever to help support their marketing efforts with QR codes,” says Cashman, who was head of product development, chief operating officer, and in charge of all digital marketing.
In 2011 Jagtag was acquired by Augme Technologies, and Cashman found himself without a job. That’s when he decided to start his own company, Digital Firefly Marketing. About half of his customers are small businesses and the other half are medium to large companies; he has one government contract. His business offers expertise and resources for digital marketing, including search engine optimization, web services, content marketing, social media marketing, and reputation management. “Our office opened its doors in August, 2011, but this has been the year that we have really made our mark,” he says.