The most relevant updates and articles on branding and design of marketing for all industries.

Social Media Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth for Social Media Marketing

Word of mouth is a concept that’s been around for quite some time now. Essentially, it’s the passing of information from one person to another via oral communication. The world is going increasingly digital, and with that, social media has allowed an entirely new means of these exchanges. If you haven’t realized it yet, that has some BIG implications for your business.

According to HubSpot’s latest marketing statistics, nearly one-third of the world uses social media regularly. To complement this, 83% of marketers actively pursue social media marketing initiatives. Even in a B2B industry, 81% of B2B decision makers use online communities and blogs to help make purchasing decisions. Social media is a huge new market that should not be taken lightly by marketers or business owners.

Finding that Voice

One way to incorporate word of mouth in your digital marketing strategy is to do your research. Figure out what social medium your industry and intended audience are most likely to use, and figure out the best ways to interact with them! A few details to take into consideration, for example, may include: what voice to use in your social media postings and responses, how much humor is acceptable with that audience or industry, what time of day your followers are most active (thus more likely to engage), etc.

At the end of the day, your followers are wanting to engage and connect with a person, not a stiff-sounding business robot. Find that balance of personal and professional, and then use that voice to your advantage! By having such a positive presence on your audience’s social media, they’ll feel more comfortable engaging with your material.

Interact and Engage

That being said, this is also where the word of mouth starts to come into play. It’s VERY important that when your audience reaches out to you through social media, you are there to acknowledge it and respond. This is why the time of day that your audience is most active can be very important—because you should be active at that time too. When a customer or potential customer has a question, answer it. If it’s a concern, address it to the best of your ability. If it’s a compliment or commendation, say thank you!

These interactions are how you build loyal customers, and it’s how you take customers through the buying cycle to that final stage of retention and advocacy. Give your followers something positive to share with their followers, and so on and so forth. Before you know it, you’ve built trust with your audience! Now they’re out promoting your business and bringing your exceptional service to the attention of other leads through their social media interactions.

Maintain Your Presence

A last important detail to remember as you move forward with your social media marketing strategy is to maintain your presence. Your audience won’t be offering up a lot of word of mouth if you aren’t there to regularly receive it or respond to it. Part of building those social media connections is about establishing a community! Be there, and be there often. Your followers will appreciate it more than you’ll ever know. Your social media audience will be as likely to engage with you as you are with them, so don’t underestimate the dedication that is required to maintain a strong social media presence.

When done just right, combining a word of mouth strategy with your social media marketing strategy can almost act as a catalyst for the buying cycle. According to Brad Fay and Ed Keller of The Face-to-Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace, many brand-related conversations take place over social media every day. Of those, more than two-thirds of those conversations involve a recommendation to buy, consider, or avoid the brand. Your current customers’ loyalty on social media is what will bring awareness of your brand to other leads in the social media world. Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth in an increasingly digital world!

A lot of this may seem tough to figure out, but going about this in a trial-and-error sort of way will probably be the most beneficial to your social media marketing strategy in the long run. If you need some assistance putting together a strategy or increasing your positive word of mouth through social media, give us a call today! We’d be happy to help!

How to Prioritize Your Digital Marketing Budget.

If you’ve been following our series on digital marketing budgets, you’ve probably read the previous posts. If not, you may want to back up a bit…

In this post, we’ll be discussing how best to prioritize your digital marketing budget. First, let’s focus on where to get the most bang for your buck.

Which Marketing Strategies are getting the best results?

In a few surveys by leading digital marketing research firms a couple years ago, companies reported on what marketing activities had generated the best results.

The charts below shed some light on this question:


As you can see from the results; Email Marketing, SEO, and Content Marketing are the dominant channels for ROI – all yielding over 45% “Good” rating respectively. The fact is, this has been true for the better part of a decade (if not longer) and with advancements in marketing technologies and automation being able to bring together, analyze, optimize, and capitalize on your digital marketing tactics, this dominance is not expected to go away.

My digital marketing budget is going to be limited. How do I prioritize it?

For this post, I’m going to assume you have some sort of web presence already. If you’re just getting started, the following guide will apply to you as well, but before you dig too deep into expanding your digital presence, you’ll want to first focus on establishing one. Nevertheless, these steps should help anyone put the pieces together for an effective digital marketing budget.  

Let’s get started:

You have to know where you are, to get where you want to go!

If you haven’t taken advantage of our free website analysis, you should do so right away. There are many free website “auditors” out there and while I’m rather partial to ours because it gives you the ability to compare yourself to a competitor (and some other really cool features), all of them measure pretty much the same stuff.

A report like this will tell you where the problem areas are on your website. Specifically problems that might be keeping you from ranking for keywords on search engines and gaining valuable web presence. Even if you don’t understand everything on a report like this, most of them will give you a general “grade” that can give you a sense of where you stand.

Not only is a website audit valuable for surfacing problem areas on your site, it also serves as a benchmark by which to measure your digital marketing tactics moving forward. And because so many of these reporting systems are free, it doesn’t hurt to check often.

Check Your Website Here, Now!


Please note that while many audits are free, they have basic info and will only point you in the direction of the issue. I.E. “25 of your images still need alt tags”. They will not get into specifics about which images, or their locations are without alt tags. If you are looking for a more in-depth analysis, hire a digital marketing agency to put together an in-depth analysis. At Swell, we consider the number of pages that you’d like analyzed and WHAT you’d like analyzed. Our audits start at about $275 for a few pages and go up to about $5000 for 600 Pages.

Analyze your website for User Experience (UX).

Try to get into the head of your potential customer and travel every page of your website starting with the home page. How do you feel when you first arrive? Is the message about who you are and what you do, being communicated clearly? Is the content digestible and well thought out? Is it easy to navigate?  Is it obvious what action you want your users to take (call, request a quote, come into your location)? Again, pay attention to how you feel while traveling through it. Would you want to work with or buy from your company based on the website alone?

Visit your competitor’s websites. Look at your contemporaries. What are they doing better or worse?

If your answers aren’t positive to most of these questions, then it may be time to design a new website.

While there are many DIY platforms and other inexpensive methods to build a functional website that might even save you a bit of money at first; they may end up costing you more money in the long run. Having a well-designed, well-coded website is crucial to rising in search engines quickly. It’s also one of the key factors in how Google auctions ad space. So don’t skimp.

I’m not saying you can’t do great things on a shoestring budget, I’m just saying, if you’re going to save costs anywhere, it shouldn’t be in the foundation of your entire digital presence in a digitally dominant marketplace.

Very basic, relatively “cookie-cutter”, but effective websites can be accomplished for a couple thousand dollars. However, depending on your goals – most local and small businesses should plan on investing at least $5000 in their website. Larger small businesses, e-commerce platforms, or those with more complicated functionality often invest no less than $10,000+.  

Invest in SEO.

No matter what.

If you’re going to start anywhere, start with search engine optimization (SEO). A well-optimized website is the center of your digital footprint. If you’re just starting to learn, SEO is a series of tactics that earn a website more authority with search engines like Google. Put simply, we’re translating your website in the language that Google understands and then expanding your overall digital footprint by acquiring links back to your website from other related websites.

There are some pretty basic, but essential SEO tasks that you can do yourself with limited knowledge, but beware that best practices SEO is a technical process. Hire a consultant at the very least, and depending on your needs, it would be wise to hire a full-service agency. Even the best SEO can take time to see drastic differences in rankings and authority, so many business owners and marketing departments end up getting overwhelmed on the amount of work and time it takes. But search traffic is the most dominant source of high-quality users you can earn. And since you are truly earning rankings, SEO is a pure investment in the equity of your website.

When we budget SEO strategy at SWELL, we take into account five primary things:

  • your goals
  • your keywords
  • your geography
  • where your website optimization currently stands
  • & your competitive atmosphere.

We take all these factors into account and discuss the amount of work it’s going to take to accomplish your goals. Consultancy often starts at a few hundred bucks a month and full-service SEO packages start at around $600/month for a small local campaign and up to $4500+/month for highly aggressive commercial SEO. Beware of companies with large up-front costs, contracts, “too low to be good” monthly rates or “too good to be true” promises or guarantees. Be sure to get an exact list of deliverables from your SEO provider, and if they have trouble explaining any one of the items, that’s probably a red flag.

Ok, I’ve built a great website and my SEO is underway. What now?

Consider your budget.

Make a decision on how much your business can afford to budget on digital marketing. Again, there is no cookie-cutter budget for every company, but most companies with an established marketing budget spend about 30% of their TOTAL budget on digital channels. If you’re just starting out or if you have a limited budget, we would recommend that most businesses invest in digital first – it’s relatively inexpensive, ridiculously trackable and almost always yields an ROI.

We’ve broken down some sample monthly digital marketing budgets below. Obviously these are only examples. Every industry, size of company, and internal resources will have different budgetary considerations. We’ve left the categories broad to simplify things but this should give you a great start:


Marketing budgets are changing and companies are putting more into digital channels every year. If you don’t already have a website that will engage your users, start there. After that, prioritize your technical SEO investment. Only then should you start to consider more advanced tactics. Consider your budget and use the above sample budgets to break it down into priority areas.

We love helping companies of all sizes figure out their marketing priorities. Swell offers a free consultation and investment recommendations to help you figure out exactly how you need to prioritize your budget for your audience and market.

Zuzu the boxer loves

Marketing Highlights with

Disclaimer: The following post is not sponsored content. I’m just a happy customer who wants to give a shout out to a company I totally respect. Among other things, I wanted to highlight their success from a marketing perspective and offer them as tangible examples of amazing brand experience.

If you haven’t heard of and you are a pet owner – get on board with their service, you won’t regret it.

Zuzu the boxer

See – even Zuzu the 9 month old Boxer puppy loves them.

Located in Daytona Beach, FL, Chewy is a delivery service of top pet brands (I’m talking about the ones you can’t find in a Walmart or even most of your local pet shops). From food to toys, treats, and supplies – Chewy offers the things pet owners need at a price you can’t beat. I didn’t even pay anything extra for shipping and my (dog’s) package showed up the next day. THE NEXT DAY. But enough about what they do that’s awesome. Let’s get into their branding.


It’s pretty easy to say you care about animals. I’d guess that more people would tell you they are animal fans than not. But it’s one thing to really like animals and another to display your passion for them through your business model. excels at this for a few reasons.

They won’t sell any supplies they believe to be low quality.

While lower quality pet brands are easily available and would add to diversity of product offering, Chewy doesn’t want to associate with any product that is less than satisfactory from their scientific standards. More than projecting an image of carrying high-quality products, they don’t want less educated pet-owners to even have the option of selecting a low-quality product purely because of price.

I save about 15% on my dog food brand when I purchase through compared to when I shop at the pet store. The people at Chewy make it their mission to offer top brands and quality products at an affordable price because they want healthy and safe options to be available for all pets.

I invest in higher quality brands of food because cheaper food brands will use “food fillers” that place grain or animal-by-products at the top of the ingrediants list because it is less expensive to fill the food with than acutal sources of animal protein such as chicken or fish. While not all pets will need a grain free diet, prioritizing the main ingredients will help ensure your pet remains its healthiest when it comes to what they eat.

They support animals in need.

Who doesn’t love a for-profit company that supports non-profit work? Chewy is dedicated to supporting non-profit organizations that help animals in need. They work with a lot of non-profit organizations that assist pets in some way. As a pet owner, I’m also a pet lover. Not just for my pet but for all types of animals.

Knowing Chewy donates to shelters and other foundations with programs helps me to connect with them on a more personal level. This also assists with customers identifying with their brand, knowing the profit they receive from sales will partially go back into charity they can get behind.

The Rescue and Shelter Network is open to all registered non-profit organizations that specialize in assisting pets in need. Their free rescue network partners with these NFPs by offering access to programs providing donations and fundraising opportunities.

They keep experts on staff.

Chewy not only offers 24/7 customer service, but their customer service reps are trained to handle more than your typical rep. They send these people to lectures, inform them of latest research and trends in pet science and the pet care industry. Chewy really wants you to know that it’s more than just a friendly face on the other end of the phone, but someone who can guide you in the best direction with your pet questions.


Now that we know Chewy rocks because they truly liveout their mission – Let’s talk about actual marketing tactics. I consider myself an old soul, so I may find this gesture more impactful than other millennials, but around my second or third purchase through them I received a handwritten postcard in the mail. First off; that’s classy. Second; it gives a company with over 800 employees a personal and local feel.


This is the postcard I received the other day from reading, “Welcome to the Chewy family! I hope your little one is enjoying the Greenies dog treats. We’re here 24/7.“

So what makes this ‘thank you’ special? What makes a marketing tactic like this so powerful is how incredibly personalized it is especially coming from a large business. While their products are not handcrafted, their thank you notes are. Someone at that company took a minute to legibly write out my correctly spelled name and even call out one of the products I bought. With as many orders as I can assume handles in a day they still make it a priority to not lose the who the customer IS in the process.

What this shows is that Chewy understands the most basic philosophy of business there can be; provide the customer with a memorable and pleasant experience. The reason? (other than truly caring about what they do): To tip the first domino in the chain of referrals. Word of mouth marketing is old school. Before internet, before social media, people talked (believe it or not). What Chewy has done is combine an online experience with a traditional piece of business advice: CARE. The truth is, even in our business of marketing, referrals are powerful things  because people trust people who aren’t getting paid to promote something and feed a tailored opinion to others. I haven’t met a single person using Chewy’s service who has not had something good to say, so why wouldn’t I trust them – at least to try out? Then when they send me a very personalized message – IN THE MAIL – and experience a great service, it just affirms that my choice has been well placed.

Social proof is another aspect of this. B2C companies are missing out on huge opportunities if they aren’t active on social media because it provides a platform for happy customers turned “brand evangelists” to display their endorsement publicly. I’m a huge fan of companies that engage with their customers through social media and applaud the ones ahead of the game with a help account for customer questions through social as well.

Creating LOYAL customers is far less expensive than acquiring new ones. A loyal customer base has also been proven to yield a higher return on investment over time than investing in getting new customers. Obviously a growing business has to strike a balance, but the best brands know how to appreciate and recognize loyalty.

The next great thing about this is they didn’t have to work too hard to make me a happy customer. They sent me a postcard, which really doesn’t require a whole lot of work. But the fact that SOMEONE took the time to do that, leaves an impact.

Also, the truth is, tactics like paid online advertising, billboards, and commercials are becoming  less and less appealing to audiences. There are ad-blockers now for most browsers, and with SO much bombarding us each day, it has become easier and easier for us to become blind to ads, or even hypersensitive to brand messages that aren’t authentic.

Chewy doesn’t promise anything that isn’t insanely evident about how they do business. But they’ve been able to go above and beyond in simple, but very effective ways. They’ve spent time on WHY they do business, and that has made all the difference. If more marketing and business models can be accomplished like this, the need to get out in front of potential customers dwindles down.  Show me you care in authentic ways, and I will be way more likely to care about you too.

Professional photographer capturing images for marketing materials.

Photography in Marketing: Three Elements to Enhance Your Brand

Pictures speak louder than words. Images can evoke emotion that text can’t. And photography is a visual representation of a story. To most businesses, content equals text, but quality pictures and professional photography is essential if you want to attract more customers. Regardless if some individuals are visual learners or not, it’s been proven that people are drawn to pictures much more than text. This is why having a solid mix of text and photo content is essential for your marketing material.

So how can you judge what would be known as quality photography? How can you incorporate that quality photography into your marketing strategy? Three main elements will help you stay on course with that.


Steel worker loading delivery truck for a photography shot.

Authentic photography can evoke powerful emotion regardless of industry subject matter.

High-end cameras are available to the general public pretty easily these days. Even smartphone cameras now possess the capability to capture high-resolution images. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make whoever is holding the camera an expert in “capturing the moment.” When representing your company, you want truly authentic visual images. Images evoke emotion in viewers, so it’s important that you are displaying photography that will create the feeling you want your viewers to feel in order to attract customers. Hiring professional photographers or art directors to capture those types of images is worth the cost if you want a well designed website or well designed print content.  

Hiring an art director or professional photographer can be very helpful in evolving your brand. It’s pretty easy to tell which businesses use stock photos for their marketing. Although stock photography isn’t a distasteful means of content and certainly should be utilized at times, it does at times give off a “cheesy” feel. Website viewers may be turned off by inorganic and inauthentic photos being used to convey the actual business or product. Professionals will know how to capture the story of your business and use those pictures to develop your brand in a visual way.


Machinery cutting wood with sawdust flying off.

Photography can capture the uniqueness of your brand with the simplest details.

Expanding on the idea of stock photography as a replacement for your personalized images is that stock photos are available to the rest of the online public as well. After a while, it becomes easier to identify certain stock images because they quickly become overused. The tighter niche your business is in, the more difficult it will be to find stock photos that represent what you offer. You may even find yourself asking “have we used this one before?”.

Having a cache of photography offers your marketing department a much wider array of options for marketing material. Not only that but the collection of photos that you will have will be unique to your business only. They will highlight your performance as a company, and be representative of what you specifically offer your clientele. Your own photography then becomes an extension of your brand.


High angle imagery of a steel cutting machine in a steel production warehouse.

Professional photographers use lighting and camera placement to capture quality imagery for marketing.

Because online customers are more likely to look at images as opposed to text, it’s important that quality remains central to your photography. Remember, photography is an extension of your brand, so you need to make sure your images are sending out the right messages, and that they are representing your business in the best light possible. This is why good photography is vital to a successful brand.

If you’re thinking about when you will have the opportunity to showcase these images, you must realize that there is endless amounts of possibilities to use and reuse your professional photos. Professional photography is truly an investment for your marketing efforts because the images that come from it can be used in print resources, website pages, and even social media posts. Keeping your content fresh and appealing will help build a stronger following of brand advocates and customer base.

Swell Digital Marketing Agency

We’re Rebranding! Here’s Why:

When my business partner and I founded Paramount, we had one main goal: to help businesses grow. We had no real idea what that was going to look like, but we knew both of us had done so in various ways throughout our professional careers, and we knew it was what we loved to do. We never thought our “brand” would be very public and we never anticipated our vision and mission would matter much to our clients – as long as we helped them grow. So, we launched Paramount without much concern for either and got right to work.

Our focus changed, but our goals stayed the same.

Starting in the business development space, we immediately saw how much need and opportunity there was for insightful, responsive, and personal consultants to help small and medium businesses navigate the complex world of digital marketing.  Not only did many of our clients not even know about SEO at the time, but even more of them barely had a web presence at all. During that first year or so, we probably did more educating our clients on what’s possible from a digital perspective than we did actually doing any implementation. But our clients needed the solutions and the solutions they were getting weren’t great, and they certainly weren’t personal.  To help, we partnered with some amazing vendors here in the United States and got right to work. I even learned web design and optimization myself, and we shifted our focus to helping our clients stay ahead of the digital marketing curve and ahead of their competition.

We realized we were on to something.

As we grew our client list and our capabilities, so too did we grow our network of contractors. Then one day I looked at our team, and realized we had come a long way from a “business development consultancy” and had created a full-service digital marketing agency – capable of not just strategy, but implementation. There was clearly a gap in the market and without realizing it, we had begun to fill it. Contractors gave way to employees, consultations gave way to strategy sessions, and the results kept getting better and better. .

The day had come when we looked at what we had created – simply through reacting to the market – and realized it deserved a proactive and purposeful focus all its own.

I think it probably came as a surprise when I came to our team and asked them how they would feel about working on rebranding ourselves. We were working on bigger campaigns than we had in the past, crafting more beautiful websites, creating highly branded material, and developing brands and identities for clients that we could never have without the talents of our designers and strategists. I no longer felt our own brand (or website, for that matter) was doing justice to the work we were creating, let alone the work we were capable of. For me; it was time for a change. While they may have been surprised that I asked, I wasn’t surprised when our team excitedly said yes.

So we got to work recreating our own identity.

We asked ourselves the questions we’ve asked all of our clients but had yet to take the time to ask ourselves. And we came up with answers we were proud of. We went through the lengthy process of renaming ourselves. We went through revision upon revision to our logo, bringing meaning and team investment into every aspect. Most of all, we created values. We hadn’t just renamed ourselves, we had (re)defined ourselves.

“Paramount” has become “Swell”


There is quite a lot of intention behind our new name, but even more behind our value system. I really can’t say these aren’t the values we’ve operated under as Paramount; because they are. We had just never sat down as a team and defined them. Our values reflect how we do business, they reflect us as people, and we’re excited about the next stage of our evolution with these values at the core of what we do:


Be Decisive. Use proven strategies. Exceed Expectations.


Love what you do. Get better at it every day.


Listen with intention, communicate purposefully, be genuine in all that you do.


It’s not just a buzzword to us. We craft the noteworthy. We create the distinct.


Success is powered by people and we are better together. Invest in each other, trust each other, and watch great things happen.


We are aware of our local and global surroundings and make time for opportunities to make our world a better place.


We are a collection of experts made better by each other. We are not an assembly line. Everyone puts their stamp on every campaign. Knowledge is shared & everyone contributes.



What’s Changing, and What’s Not.

At the end of the day, there’s not too much changing here. Yes, we’re going to be looking a lot different around here in the weeks to come, but our heart will be staying right where it always was.

When we started, we thought the world would welcome a digital agency that’s just as invested in your goals as you are…That looks you in the eye…That brings expertise and modesty to every conversation…That wants you to profit more than we do…That is incredibly transparent. And we feel like we’ve been received pretty well so far. We have amazing relationships with our clients and we wouldn’t be here without them putting so much trust and confidence in us.

Yes, we care about leads. Yea, we care about reach. Of course we care about sales. And we most definitely care about data. But what we care about most is what all these things can help you achieve. ROI is important, but the most rewarding part of what we do is to see our work impact an organization at the fundamental level. Whether you want more sales to be able to employ more people and feed more families, free up more time to spend with yours, or build your audience to have more meaningful conversations with the world; there’s meaning behind your goals. We’re here to help build momentum to get you there and support you every step of the way. And none of this is different from how we began.


So what’s changing? Well, our logo, our website, and our business cards. But not much else. And we truly want to thank you for being a part of it all.


Case Study: Regional Distributor


A regional distribution entity of an international manufacturer collaborated with us to set up an automated online lead generation system for their four Michigan Locations. They struggled with leads coming from their website being less cost effective than others.


First we customized an analytics framework and implemented advanced conversion tracking techniques to give them a better pulse on their online lead platforms. Then we focused on increasing exposure for their digital assets. We started SEO, as well as display advertising across a potential of 90% of websites online. We also began to retarget their existing user base. We were then instrumental in developing a social proof program – gathering reviews from an existing customer base and distributing display based reviews via social media.


With the integration of multiple advanced techniques, we were able to not only double their expected website leads per primary season, but by automating their lead processing, we decreased their cost-per-lead by 62%.


Case Study: Consumer Products


A well-known, international outdoor recreation products manufacturer hired Paramount to engineer an online marketing and advertising structure for two of their best selling products.


After being instrumental in the redesign of their website and copywriting almost all of the content and product descriptions for a 200+ page website and e-commerce engine, we went to work getting the word out about their signature products. We implemented SEO for the entire site and developed an advertising structure that include everything from PPC, to Display Ads and Behavioral Retargeting. Our team even connected them with a popular national outdoor television show, to expand their reach into a vital market.


With the proactive approach and customized blueprint for their online program, Paramount was able to increase their web traffic by an average of 175% every month for the next 12 Months – many months seeing as much increase as 250%. This brought their company’s average traffic from 30,000 to an average of over 70,000 visits per month.

Website traffic month over month