Web Design Hartlepool

So is it web design, web agency or web development in Hartlepool? Is it marketing agency, advertising agency or ad agency in Hartlepool? Is it media planning, media buying or a list of services like email advertising, banner advertising, social media or Google search… in Hartlepool (of course)… or Middlesbrough… Sunderland, Newcastle. Aaargghhh!

When deciding what tags or keywords to use for your product or service it can be a minefield. Sorry… correction… it’s always a minefield.

Of course not all companies have a digital strategy or digital specialist on hand, and of course there’s always a fear of who to trust and the unlikelihood of getting some simple free advice that’s worth much (see what I did there?) So you sit down, come up with a couple of dozen keywords and the job is done. Of course the job isn’t done. Here are some free pointers (worth lots):

1. You know your products and services inside out. You’re also fluent in industry speak. Remember to think outside the box (or bubble) and connect with what Joe Blogs would search for. Chances are it isn’t what you think they would search for.
2. Don’t trust your new intern because he/she/it uses Facebook and is below the age of 22 and therefore must be qualified.
3. Use the array of Google keyword tools available at the click of a button. They’re not the most precise but give an indication and supply some extra ideas and insight.
4. Remember your SEO strategy will be different to your Adwords strategy.
5. Keywords will guide your content strategy so make it relevant.
6. Some people do offer some free advice. Call 01429 870934 or email


The customer is always right?

You know the old adage “the customer is always right”… right? Wrong!

Worst still is if the customer thinks he is always right.. or is treated as if he is always right. Right? Right.

You see, so many customers and suppliers (and I too sometimes find myself in customer mode and at other times in supplier mode)  fail to value their relationship enough.  It is one of convenience.  I thankfully have clients who appreciate they don’t know it all. They also appreciate the fact that I don’t know it all. They know this because I tell them… and because sometimes its obvious.  But like in all relationships there is give and take, more experience in a certain area on one side and more experience on another. The point is that our business relationship is improved and optimised by the fact that both parties bring their expertise to the table and work together to reach consensus… a road map. There is trust.

Therein lies success.  The antithesis to this success? The kowtowing to the customer which leads to a dismantling of commitment, vision, creativity and proactivity within the supplier agency. Something which starts at the top and rots away at an agency and those who work on the account. It gets to a point where account managers daren’t move… and trust me… they make the day to day decisions on your account.  Not the boss!

If you recognise a lack of these things in your business relationship question its structure. Are you too dominant? Or does your supplier force this upon you and hide behind it (much safer that way isn’t it?).

I have always thought that a good litmus test is to observe whether your agency head would take your side or the side of their own account manager working on your account (this obviously doesn’t include sexual flirting with you partner on IM, selling your trade secrets to competitiors or bad body odour).  If they always take your side then you need to question how committed they are to a mutually respectful relationship.  How much they value the staff they put on your account (today and in the past). How committed are they in ensuring an environment of vision, creativity and proactivity around your account?

Next time demand from your agency that you are treated as if you’re not always right. Right? Right.


A vet or doctor? A builder or architect?

There are lots of SME business owners and marketing heads out there who know their limitations when it comes to the development of an online marketing strategy. I think it’s good to know your limitations… although you should be careful it doesn’t lead to inertia and paralysis through fear of the unknown.

There is also a larger number who brazen it out, especially marketing heads from an offline or PR background who believe that:

1. Simply applying old world tried and tested principles to new world methods is enough.
2. They should continue in an offline bubble, hoping the nasty online stuff remains a fad. “When PR became mainstream everybody got really excited, but it soon settled into the mix”. The same will happen with digital.
3. The burden of responsibility (most often self-inflicted) to know everything in my field (every aspect of my business or every aspect of my marketing discipline) is such that I’ll make it up as I go along, or transform my image into a converted digital guru.

I was reading an article recently about the struggle in parts of Africa against HIV Aids and how the situation is exacerbated by ignorance, a lack or willingness to understand and a lack of organised and effective education. I don’t mean to flippantly relate my point to a world killer, but the article went on to discuss how some sufferers seek the “help” of witch doctors, others from vets, and the better informed/luckier from qualified doctors and nurses. Obviously witch doctors are at worse charlatans, and at best misguided in their own belief system. They peddle ignorance. Vets, although in a directly related industry, are just not qualified for the job. I think most of us, given the choice, would opt for the qualified doctor or nurse.

Let me develop another analogy to further tunnel down and dissect the difference between a doctor and a nurse (although I’m sure we all know what we’d prefer). The point I would like to make though is that they are qualified in the same area but in different disciplines. They have different functions and do different jobs.

I’ve never been lucky (or unlucky) enough to build my own house, but I know there are a number of options open to me.

1. Build one yourself. Just think of the challenge of a whole new expertise and trade. The experience and expertise of professionals crammed into 6 months. 2 years. 5 years. Hmm…
2. Get your neighbour’s nephew to build you one. “He’s good at that sort of thing” (if it wasn’t so pathetic it would be laughable). Even if his only qualification is that he knows more than you it is surely a good start. Hmm…
3. Get a builder. The builder will do the job for you and he’ll make a decent job. He wont have developed a strategy (thats not his job – he builds). It won’t have been properly planned, the lay out won’t be to your complete satisfaction and it might not get approval, buy you can make do. Right? Hmm…
4. Hire an architect and do the job properly. There will be a strategy and plan in place. He can advise on best practice, cost effectiveness and who is needed to do the job properly. He will also ensure legal compliance. Jobs a good ‘un!

When approaching the whole online thing (and we’re not just talking websites), what kind of business professional do you wish to be? Who should you be approaching?

If I needed medical attention I would go to a qualified doctor. If I wanted a house building I would go to an architect. If i wanted to know how I should approach digital, and what I should do to ensure an ROI on my investment, I would go to genuine online specialists who deal with digital strategies.

Another blog post

For a number of weeks now I’ve been trying to decide what to write about for my next blog post. At one point I had three ideas swirling around in my head. I just couldn’t choose. The swirl swirled so long that the ideas themselves slowed and turned stagnant.

The ideas haven’t yet been replaced.

I have a block. My juices aren’t flowing. The river’s turned to jelly. The trinitrotoluene is on the damp side. The beaver’s ran out of wood. You get my drift?

The strange thing is that my usual source for my usual ramblings (ie life) has never been busier.

The first stage of our latest site Asensio digital marketing agency has gone live. The requirements for digital marketing in Teesside, Durham, Newcastle and the Universe have never been stronger. We’ve been busy with website design and development, and there’s enough being done on the social media, mobile and search engine optimisation front too. Certainly on the SEO front! Then there’s the new bathroom I’ve just finished over the August bank holiday weekend, the children’s last week of the Summer holidays and nursing my brave Mrs as she recuperates from the curious incident of the garden fire-pit in the nighttime.

I’m sure it won’t be too long until an idea lodges itself where it should. I’m sure another blog post is just around the corner. In fact, wait a minute… well what do you know? How do I manage it?

Happy Birthday World Wide Web.

Today the World Wide Web will have woken up to breakfast in bed, cards a plenty and an array of presents including the obligatory pair of socks.  Later it probably met with friends for coffee, a bit of shopping and then enjoyed a meal out with its significant other half in that posh new restaurant in town.  The World Wide Web celebrates its 20th birthday today.  Happy Birthday to you!

On 6th August 1991 Tim Berners Lee and his team gave birth to the first website.  It was a tad basic, a bit ugly, and a lot boring… a birthing ritual still kept alive by a number of traditional advertising agencies today.

First website.

With each passing year the Web has evolved, morphing and evolving into an essential element of our everyday lives.  From the screech and whistles of early dial-up modems to the introduction of high speed broadband, wifi and mobile 4G around the corner, advances in technology and expertise has improved the online experience and harnessed the essential of engagement.  The Web has become a hyper information conduit, and made the world much smaller by bringing us into easy contact with friends, family and acquaintances…

…it makes me feel so warm when I get friend requests from former school bullies on Facebook!

As well as giving me a job, the Web has genuinely revolutionised communications.  It took Radio 38 years to reach 50 million users, it took TV 13 years, but only 4 years for the Web.  Further to this, social media has revolutionised the Web itself. Facebook reached 200 million users in less than a year!  With 50% of the world’s population under 30 and 96% of Millenials a member of a social network, you won’t appear on Oprah as a talented clairvoyant to work out what the future holds.

How the web will develop is difficult to say, especially given the changes we have seen in so few years.  Nobody had heard of Facebook just five years ago! What we do know is it will continue to replicate the society in which it is growing up: one where there is good and bad, where there is openness and closedness, where there are principles and where are those eager to fob off and make a quick buck (oops trad ad agency tangent again).

Happy birthday World Wide Web! No longer a teenager and well on your way to getting the key of the door.

Mayor of foursquare

I performed my first mayoral duties today at the King John’s Tavern in Hartlepool. I took my youngest for lunch. It’s always best nurturing the father-son relationship in the surroundings of a pub, and as I’ve recently become the foursquare Mayor of the town’s Wetherspoon I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to show my boy what a great man his father is, and of course take advantage of the 20% discount offered to VIPs such as me. He’s only 3 but I could tell he was swelling with pride, no matter how often he declared he had done “wee wee”.

When I arrived I was excited to see a welcome sign to the Mayor on the front door. The red carpet inside added to my excitement and I envisaged hand-shaking dignitaries and school children waving flags. I was here to take possession of my territory!

With that I made my order and then with a flourish revealed my identity to the young woman behind the bar. There was a stunned silence as she took in the information, pushed it around her head and tried to digest the enormity of what had been revealed to her ears.
“You what?” she said. It obviously had been too much.
“I’m your foursquare mayor” I smiled, pronouncing each of the words in staccato.
Anybody would have thought I’d called her a “four-eyed mare” as her eyes widened and she rather vacantly muttered “I’m going to get the manager”.
To my utter relief she returned with a rather friendly chap who welcomed me saying “So you’re our mayor? Give the gentleman 20% off”

I looked at my son smiling, he looked at me swelling, I looked at the proud manager, he looked at the vacant barmaid. She looked through the complicated discount section of her touchscreen till. “You what?” she whispered.

Has Places KO’d Foursquare?

Facebook has just launched Places, in competition to the location based social network Foursquare. Having heralded the all too soon demise of Foursquare in a tweet not too long ago a thought came into my head as I scrubbed teaspoon number 6 whilst staring vacantly through the kitchen window this morning.

As a teen in Scotland in the late 80s a popular term of offence was “spoon”. The phrase “what a spoon” or “you spoon” or simply “spoon” often followed an act of stupidity or nerdiness (if such a word exists – iPhone spell checker not happy). It got me thinking about stupid nerds and Mark Zuckerberg popped into my head. “No! Don’t attack the co-founder of Facebook!” I hear you cry. But never lead by the crowd here it goes…

Before I do though just a bit more about Foursquare. Dennis Crowley, the fresh faced college grad with perfect teeth, and co-founder of Foursquare, hit upon a great idea of connecting social networks more effectively with the opportunities offered by the smartphone revolution and the innate human desire to play games and compete. Facebook’s Places is an obvious response to this, but I have to agree with Crowley’s seemingly “I’m under threat” accusation that “Places is boring”.

Central to Foursquare is the concept of competition – collecting kudos badges and becoming mayor of a location. This is already being used by net savvy companies to offer promotions to loyal mayors. My local Domino’s is doing exactly that. I’m one day away from usurping the existing mayor in a stealth-like coup d’état to get a free pizza (now who’s the spoon?) So what is central to Foursquare is not central to Facebook. What was central to Facebook was privacy. I say “was” because 26 year old Mark (childhood fan of Risk the board game) has now decided he knows what humanity really wants. Supposedly we don’t much care for privacy. This approach, along with it’s 500 million users, fits surprisingly well with a web domination strategy. Seems like Risk came in handy on a number of levels.

So, as well as agreeing with Dennis, I have a complaint of my own. With Places you have no choice of sharing options as you do on Foursquare… If you check-in everybody knows where you are. At least with Foursquare I can check-in to my local Domino’s for the promotion, and choose whether or not I wish fellow members of my diet club to know it’s my fourth day in a row! Even if there was an incentive to check-in with Places (I promise you now fatigue will set in) there are no privacy options.

So I wonder if Facebook’s self seeking ways will see Foursquare continue in popularity. Yes Facebook has the numbers over Foursquare, 500 million versus a much smaller 3 million, but Twitter only offered the service of Facebook’s update status and 190 million users later it has done rather well thank you very much. “Mark, you spoon!”