Valley Power Systems Case Study

Since teaming up with Marcom, our SEO, Google Ads, and social media presence have experienced significant increases in traffic that have helped us attract new customers.” – Valley Power Systems, June 2020

Valley Power Systems partnered with us in November 2018 to boost their online advertising campaign. Utilizing a variety of marketing strategies, we’ve been able to improve their online presence, resulting in better web traffic and higher conversions.

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ADA Compliance for Websites

The Supreme Court recently shined a light on ADA compliance for online businesses by refusing to hear a case that had previously ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantees disabled individuals the right to access not only businesses but also their websites and web-based applications. 

The initial suit was brought against Dominos by Guillermo Robles, a blind man who was unable to order a pizza on the pizza chain’s website because it didn’t have the capability to accommodate him. He claimed this violated the ADA, which states that anyone with a disability should have full access to the goods and services “of any place of public accommodations.” While Dominos argued that this law only applied to physical locations, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it also included the online services offered by the business. 

This ruling could open the door to many other lawsuits against retailers who fail to make their websites accessible. The Supreme Court’s action implies that they are likely to apply ADA standards to web-based services in the future, leaving many business owners concerned about their ADA compliance. 

What to Know about ADA Compliance

Making your website ADA compliant is a smart business move that will not only protect your company but also help you reach more individuals with disabilities who may be interested in your services. Here are some key things you should know about ADA compliance:

  • The ADA extends to Tier I and Tier III organizations. Tier I is any business that is open at least 20 weeks out of the year with at least 15 employees. A Tier III organization applies to the “public accommodation” category, which includes businesses like grocery stores, banks, hospitals, and retailers. 
  • The ADA doesn’t have specific guidelines for websites, but the Supreme Court’s actions suggest that they should have the same level of accessibility as a brick-and-mortar location. This means using various website programming techniques to ensure a website is functional for individuals with disabilities.  
  • The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) is the industry standard for web developers. It consists of guidelines and techniques to ensure websites are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. These guidelines are broken up into three levels to conform to varying degrees of disability.
    • Level A: This is the lowest level of accessibility. It focuses on ways to improve navigation and translation for readers. 
    • Level AA: This level does more to account for multiple disabilities, including providing developers with direction on color contrast and identifying errors. It’s more in line with what has been considered acceptable in past court cases involving ADA compliance.
    • Level AAA: At this level, a website is designed to be accessible to the broadest range of individuals with disabilities using a combination of programming tools and elements.

What Mobile-Friendly Web Design Means to Your Customers

You have heard hundreds of times by now that you need to have a mobile-friendly website to compete online in 2020 and beyond. However, there is some confusion amongst business owners about what that actually means. Is it enough to have a responsive website that adapts to mobile platforms, or is there more to the equation?

To find the best answer to this question, we have to stop thinking like marketers and web designers. Instead, we should approach the issue through the lens of potential customers. What would mobile-friendly mean to them?

Through years of work, study, and user testing, we’ve identified several traits that need to be present for website to be considered truly mobile-friendly. Here are some of the most important factors…

A Website That Displays Cleanly on a Small Screen

This is the most obvious definition of a mobile-friendly business website, but it’s worth spelling things out. If someone can arrive on your site via a phone or tablet and finds strange layouts, distorted images, or other obvious issues, then they are very likely to click away. This isn’t a very high bar to clear, but lacking basic mobile functionality is a good way to alienate half or more of your potential customers.

A Web Layout That Works Across Several Browsers and Devices

Of course, just because your website looks great on one mobile device doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to display perfectly on another. You can’t afford to lose a huge chunk of business just because some of your customers like iPhones and others prefer Androids. That’s why pages and layouts need to be tested on a variety of screens and platforms. 

Reasonable Page Loading Times

Most of us have been through the frustration of trying to load a website that took several seconds (three or more) to come online. Your average mobile user will simply take their time and attention elsewhere. You can speed your pages up by investing in premium web hosting and streamlining your code for fast delivery. If you are unsure about your website performance, an audit might be able to give you the answers you need.

Content That’s Optimized for Mobile Devices

It isn’t only servers that affect website speed. The content you load onto your pages (particularly images and videos) can play a big role too. For one thing, it’s important that they are formatted with the correct size and resolution to display on both traditional computers and mobile devices. And for another, they need to be identified properly with HTML5 tags to prevent delays and errors.

Fast and Intuitive Website Interaction

Have you ever tried to navigate your way through a website, or complete a purchase, only to become frustrated and leave? This is an all-too-common experience in the mobile age. Remember that many of your customers will be tapping links and prompts with their fingers. They don’t want to type in long strings of information through forms, and will appreciate simple menus, click to call buttons, and other intuitive features that make it easy for them to complete tasks.

Two Business Lessons from the Covid Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic is less than two months old (at least in the U.S.), but it’s already obvious it will leave a lasting legacy. There are some parts of our “new normal,” like remote working and the recognized importance of hand washing, that will likely stay with us for a long time.

When looking at the immediate business lessons of a still-unfolding crisis, though, things are even simpler. In fact, there are two takeaways that really stand out—even though they aren’t new or imaginative. Let’s look at each one.

Lesson 1: Build a Strong Brand

Branding is often treated as a generic marketing catch-all term, or something that boils down to re-designing a logo. What we mean in this sense is that you need to have a definite identity that leads customers to think about you in a positive way.

What we see in the marketplace right now is that buyers are consciously choosing to help the companies and brands they like the most. That’s particularly true when they decide to shop and support local businesses. There are certain entrepreneurs or employees they want to see succeed and will keep buying from them even when money is tight.

Of course, this isn’t the easiest time to be building deeper relationships with customers. The brands that are doing well—whether they are Fortune 500s or single-person venturesare the ones who did the hard work of establishing themselves as friendly and accessible before their survival depended on it.

Lesson 2: Diversify Your Business

The companies being hit hardest right now are the ones without multiple sources of income. If your way to make money involves having diners for a four-course meal, as an example, then your bottom line is probably hurting.

Conversely, businesses that have invested in online sales are hanging in there. Others have positioned themselves to offer expertise and consulting in addition to their normal product and service lines. Some are partnering with colleagues to create new packages that offer more value. These are all good ideas in an economy where certain types of markets or transactions have virtually disappeared.

While it might take years to develop the right brand or reputation, adding new income streams to your business—and particularly from ecommerce or app development—can be accomplished pretty quickly. Now might be a great time for you to start thinking about other ways to make money for yourself and your employees.

7 Urgent Steps for Marketers in the Covid Economy

As the coronavirus has taken over first the news, then our attention, and finally the economy, clients have come to us again and again with one question: “what now?”

The answer depends of course on the situation a business owner or executive is facing. For some, a Covid recession is a major event. For others, it’s a sad reality but not a huge business concern.

If you have the kind of company that is relatively unaffected by the current pandemic, then you might not be concerned with changing strategies or tactics. For all the rest of us, though, here are seven urgent steps you might want to take today if you haven’t already:

1. Don’t Panic or Make Rash Decisions You Might Regret

One of the worst things you can do, in this crisis or any other, is complicate matters by enacting quick decisions that compound the issue. This is a time to think clearly about what’s possible, what’s likely, and which opportunities or obstacles lie ahead. Take some time to get clear about what you’re facing and what you want to accomplish. Only then should you make strategic decisions.

2. Start Using Your Email Newsletter to Communicate

This is no time to be quiet or leave your customers wondering what you can or can’t do for them. While we would encourage you to reuse any outreach tools you have at your disposal; email is particularly well-suited for fast and effective communication. Let buyers know what’s happening with your business, even if nothing has changed. That way you won’t miss out on business because they have assumed you are cutting back.

3. Reach Out to Your Best Customers through Social Media

While email will probably be the preferred method of communication for the moment, don’t overlook the power of social media to connect with your best customers, clients, vendors, or partners. Some of them may prefer to communicate through these channels. And, sending a note through Facebook or LinkedIn (as examples) is more personal than reaching them through an email blast.

4. Look for Opportunities to Sell and Serve Your Market

Don’t assume there isn’t any business to be found in your industry, or that you know exactly what your customers want. Reach out to some of them and see if there are new opportunities to make your company a more valuable partner or resource. It might be that there are lots of ways you can serve buyers, or the community, that aren’t immediately obvious.

5. Investigate New Customers and Sales Opportunities

If your customers and clients are slowing down, don’t simply take it as a given that you will have to do the same. It may be that you are able to serve other markets (for instance, hospitals or delivery companies) who are doing a thriving business right now. Often, it just takes a bit of creative thinking and investigation to identify new sales opportunities, even in a downturn.

6. Cut Off Any Non-Performing Ads or Campaigns

We started our tips by advising you not to make any rash decisions. However, that’s not the same as saying you should stay still. If there are marketing campaigns or activities that just aren’t going to work in the current economy, then this is the time to pause or discontinue them. Don’t let your money go towards projects that aren’t going to benefit your business for many months to come.

7. Take Advantage of the Downtime to Get Better

One of the things that makes marketing hard is that most business owners and executives don’t have time to read books, take courses, or think about projects like a website overhaul. If there is any small silver lining to what’s going on in the world it’s that we have the opportunity to step back and be more intentional about our plans. Where do you want to be in a few months, and what can you do to make it happen?

5 Reasons to Upgrade Your Spam Protection Today

Recently, we have been reminding clients that our company has been offering state-of-the-art spam protection for years. In fact, we were one of the first creative firms in southern California to introduce inbox controls as part of our web design and hosting services.

With unsolicited emails bringing bigger risks than ever right now—including phishing scams, virus attachments, and ransomware—this is the perfect time to make sure your business is protected. Today, we want to share five simple reasons you should upgrade your spam protection if you haven’t already…

1. Dealing with Unwanted Emails Takes Time

You might think it doesn’t take long to clean spam from your inbox, but those wasted minutes each day add up quickly. In fact, you might be unknowingly spend a dozen hours on unwanted emails over the course of a year. 

Why not use the productive parts of your day on tasks that matter instead of dealing with spam?

2. You’ll Keep Viruses and Ransomware Out

It’s easy for even the most careful business owners or employees to accidentally click on an unknown email attachment just once. Then they may find their computers have become infected with viruses, malware, or even ransomware that restricts file access. 

With strong spam controls in place the odds that you’ll end up struggling with these hassles, or losing access to important data, are greatly reduced.

3. You Can Keep Control of Incoming Email

One worry business owners and managers have about using spam protection is that they won’t be able to receive messages from certain customers, or that they will no longer be able to view email attachments when they need to. However, with our email filtering service you always control what you want to receive and have the option of whitelisting important contacts.

In other words, you won’t miss out on any of the emails you actually need because you’re using spam protection with us.

4. You’ll Get Better Performance from Your Computers

Some companies try to fight spam and malicious emails using desktop software or antivirus suites. However, because these programs have to operate constantly, they can cause your computers to run slowly. And, they may create issues when you need to download or update software.

Our spam protection doesn’t need to be installed on your machines, so it won’t affect computer performance in your office.

5. Strong Spam Protection Costs Very Little

In most cases, getting the best of anything for your business means spending a lot of money. However, when it comes to keeping your inbox safe from spam, you don’t have to break the budget to get the coverage you need.

You can add email filtering to your web hosting package for one low monthly fee. It might be the best investment you make all year.

12 Online Marketing Tips for the Coronavirus Economy

As it becomes increasingly clear that the global coronavirus pandemic is likely to linger for several months (and possibly longer), topics like web design and online marketing might be the furthest things from your mind. However, this global health crisis is also putting the business world in a pinch. The companies that fail to adjust their strategies today are going to be hurting tomorrow—if they don’t disappear altogether.

So, while you shouldn’t spend all your time thinking about your website, it’s a good idea to explore some options to keep your business running in the coming months. And, with opportunities for meetings, conferences, and even simple one-on-one interactions being limited, the internet unquestionably is your strongest remaining sales and marketing tool.

With that in mind, let’s look at a dozen ways you can use digital strategies to keep moving ahead in the coronavirus economy…

#1 Adjust Products, Services, and Pricing

Most economists expect that current conditions will lead us into some sort of recession, at least in the short-term. At the same time, many of your customers or clients are probably feeling uncertain about their futures.

Knowing that, you might want to adjust your product and service offerings to fit the current times. Shorter contracts, flexible orders, and low-cost solutions might all be in steady demand. This will vary from market to market, of course, but your goal should be to give your buyers what they want. Now is the time to look ahead and adjust your website and social messaging accordingly.

#2 Install or Upgrade Website Ecommerce Features as Needed

Health officials are advising against unnecessary trips to the store, and particularly to crowded spaces. That means fewer shoppers and a big hit to retailers everywhere as customers either put off purchases or order online.

Depending on the products and services you sell, this might be the perfect time to improve your eCommerce game. Just because buyers can’t come see you in-person doesn’t mean they won’t want to order. Consider setting up faster shipping, online purchasing discounts, or even carryout-style service for those who are trying to practice social distancing. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to keep buying from you.

#3 Add Online Demonstrations to Your Website

Boosting online orders can be difficult if you are used to closing sales based on the strength of live presentations. One way to overcome this challenge is to film yourself (or salesperson) giving a great demo and then putting it on your website.

This might not be quite as effective as letting a customer try out a product themselves, it can go a long way towards answering the questions they have on their minds that would otherwise stop them from finalizing a purchase. And, shooting, editing, and posting online demos is easy. You can even make customized clips for special clients or individual buyer types.

#4 Increase Customer Engagement With Online Chats

The one thing that’s normally missing from eCommerce is the ability to ask good questions or get personalized advice like you would from a live salesperson or business owner. You can solve that issue and make the buying process more seamless by implementing online chat tools.

You’ve undoubtedly seen in use these already, but you might not realize just how valuable they can be. Not only can you use them to let buyers know when you are or aren’t at your desk, but you can even program automated responses to simple questions. If you want to boost online sales and conversions, integrated chat software could be the perfect solution.

#5 Improve Your Hosting and Web Security

Given that your website is about to get a lot more traffic and become an even bigger part of your sales and marketing plan, it makes sense to upgrade your hosting and cybersecurity plans.

Better hosting make your pages faster and more reliable. Improved backups, encryption, and monitoring all make it harder for online thieves to break into your site and get access to data they should. These are smart upgrades in any economy, but will likely prove to be especially crucial during the coronavirus outbreak.

#6 Fire Up the Home Office

The realities of social distancing mean that up to half of all Americans are going to be working from home for at least the next few months. Contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t necessarily need to involve a loss of productivity.

Besides setting a firm schedule and minimizing distractions, you can get more from your work-at-home time by utilizing remote access software such as TeamViewer and group chat services such as Slack. These tools let you tap into desktops and workstations from anywhere. That way you and your team never have to worry about missing out on important files or applications.

#7 Embrace Virtual Meetings and Conferences

At the time of this writing, thousands of local, national, and international meetings and conferences have been canceled in a period of 10 days. It’s uncertain when these activities will resume, but the smart money suggests it won’t be for many months.

If your business or industry is dependent on these types of sales interactions, then it’s up to you to replace them. That’s where online meetings, videoconferences, and online presentations come into play. With the right software, some good microphones, and nice lighting in a conference room you can host all kinds of virtual events. They might not be as effective as face-to-face interactions, but you can still use them to maintain relationships and close deals.

#8 Review Your Spending on Digital Ads

When times are good, you may be able to get away with setting your pay-per-click ads and forgetting about them. For the next few months, though, you would do well to keep a close eye on your spending and ROI.

It’s a virtual certainty that buying patterns are going to change in a lot of markets and industries. And at the same time, the potential for recession could cause the returns for certain types of campaigns to diminish. You’ll want to save every penny you can, so don’t waste any of your marketing budget on underperforming online ads that can be turned on later.

#9 Stay Ahead of Supply Chains and Schedules

Some businesses are already feeling the pinch in terms of incoming inventory, particularly if it arrives from China. Whether yours is one of them or not, it’s important to update your website as details change. The last thing you want is to make a bad situation worse by taking orders that can’t be fulfilled in a timely way.

The same goes for working schedules. You and your employees might be forced to miss time because of illness or a need to care for others in the household. Take advantage of file-sharing apps, slack chats, and other tools for work-at-home opportunities. And, be careful not to offer customers deadlines that can’t be met.

#10 Use Email to Keep in Regular Contact With Customers and Partners

Email marketing is always a crucial part of the online marketing mix, but in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s an important lifeline to your customer base. Let them know how you’re doing, offer helpful tips, and alert them to any opportunities or disruptions.

Email is fast, affordable, and targeted. Use it as your primary means of communication when you need buyers, vendors, or the general public to be alerted to changes in schedule, policy, pricing, etc. and you can avoid the kind of uncertainty that might otherwise hurt your sales and marketing efforts.

#11 Maintain a Strong Social Footprint 

While email might serve as your primary means of communicating directly with individuals, this is a great time to keep your company active on social media. Not only is it completely free, but your profiles can be used to state in front of the public at a moment when they might not be hearing from your competitors.

Feel free to share tips, success stories, and personal anecdotes. Don’t forget that you can lift spirits (and help your brand) by posting positive messages and updates from time to time, too.

#12 Don’t Overcommit to Plans or Campaigns

Our final note of caution: preparation has to do with the unknown future. Events are unfolding incredibly quickly, especially when you consider that few could have anticipated exactly how sharply life and business would change in the matter of a few short weeks.

Keep that in mind as you think ahead to future plans and tactics. Until the economy stabilizes and it’s easier to see what medium or long-term outcomes will look like, you don’t want to make big decisions or investments. Your main goal for the next two months should be to look after your loved ones and keep your company moving in the right direction. If you manage that, you’ll have done enough to make bigger plans later.

Need Help Formulating Your Company’s Game Plan?

With new developments and information coming so quickly, it’s easy for business owners and executives to get overwhelmed with the confusion surrounding the current pandemic. This is no time to panic or take your eye off the ball, however. The future of your business – and the well-being of your customers, employees, and vendors—is on the line.

COVID-19 Email Scams

During this rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, when we should be coming together as a people, others have decided to use people’s fear for their malicious benefit.

There have been clickbait emails circulating. Clickbait is designed to attract your attention and entice you to click on a false link which is very deceptive. Some emails are disguised as coming from WHO, World Health Organization, and the CDC, Center for Disease Control. Others emails are promising vaccines, the cure, and securing donations.

You can take these measures to protect yourself and your emails from being hacked.

  1. Mouse over any links being sent to you and see if you are being directed to a non-credible website. 
  2. Check the email for any typos or spelling errors.
  3. Act as if you are going to reply to the email. Notice that the reply-to email address may not be from who you thought was the original sender. This is a good practice for testing if a suspicious email is really spam or legitimately from someone you know.
  4. Don’t open attachments. The attachment may contain malware.
  5. Use your auto-updates. This will ensure that your mobile, tablet, and desktop have the up-to-date antivirus software.
  6. And of course the safest action to take is to simply delete the email.

The Marcom Group’s CEO, Dave Plivelich, Talks Branding on Our Two Cents Podcast


At The Marcom Group, we know from experience that clients are best served when they can call one phone number for anything–which is why we own all of our own hosting equipment and have on-site staff ready to handle everything from design and development, to management and marketing, to the ongoing security maintenance and hosting of your website.

Why It’s Time to Upgrade Your Web Hosting

Web hosting is an easy topic for business owners to ignore. After all, most don’t really understand how it works, never see the computers where their websites are stored and are easily bored by details like server speeds.

So, rather than get into the technical minutia of different web hosting packages and configurations, today we simply want to remind our clients and readers that it’s time to review your hosting package. In fact, it’s likely that you could benefit from upgrading to a better plan.

Reluctant to spend money on something you don’t quite see the value in? Let’s look at a few things you get with dedicated web hosting…

Continue reading “Why It’s Time to Upgrade Your Web Hosting”