Notes from Recent Online Marketing Seminars

I recently attended three different marketing seminars focused around online marketing. The first was sponsored by Constant Contact, which was a good overview of e-mail, and social media marketing. There was a special guest at Faststart Studio; Benny Luo from NextShark who shared his Facebook marketing tips and at a recent OCMA Luncheon, Scott Rogers from Mercantile Mobile Marketing focused on text messaging.

Here are my notes as a conglomeration of these seminars. I hope you find them useful in your marketing.

First thing, what is your goal with digital marketing? Is it to drive traffic to your website, to boost online sales? Each of us has a different purpose for marketing online. What is your goal in digital marketing? The good news is that everything is measurable, so you can define what works and capitalize on its structure. The bad news is, everything is measurable and you can become overwhelmed by the data.

I suggest you focus on driving traffic to your own site. Algorithms can change on social sites and such where you don’t own or have any control over the content or structure. However, sites such as Facebook are weary of the links going away from their site, and therefore have changed the viewing of blatant external links.

So let’s start with your website.

Google Analytics. Obtain a Google Adwords account. You may not use Adwords, but without the account you cannot find the most common keywords people are using when searching for your product, service or site. If you have a website which is subscription based, such as an online magazine, consider a Google Adsense account and allow Google to place ads on your site which you get referral money.

Before I get into the social media or e-mail channels we should talk a bit about content.


  • Use intriguing shots or behind the scenes photos.
  • Be dramatic! Emphasize a key element in the image.
  • Review the image for contrast and clarity. Make it really small, like the size of a postage stamp to see if the image is clear as a thumbnail.
  • Include a person in the photo. Happy, smiling people get more click throughs.

Copy – The words or verbiage.

  • What’s your story? Why are you unique? Inspiring? Problem Solving?
  • Use outrageous titles in your posts, however, be sure to back up the outrageous claim in the content.
  • Know this, most people will gloss-over the copy and not read it all. Make it understandable in the gloss-over. Bullet Points, bold sub-titles, like the stuff I am doing here.
  • Write about what people want to read. Who is everyone talking about? Who should they be talking about? Etc.
  • Start a controversy. Pit two opposing ideas against each other. The purpose is to start a conversation. This allows people a way to share the content.
  • “What’s In It For Me?” Tell them. Give them ideas to take home and use.
  • Define your small group that you can empower to share the content.

E-mail Marketing
From Boomers to Millennials E-mail is still the most trusted platform for messaging.

  • Use a reputable e-mail service provider when sending mass e-mails.
  • Obey the CAN-SPAM Act and send ONLY to opt-in subscribers.
  • Include a call to action and repeat it. Join, Share, Visit…
  • Don’t give too many options to the reader Make it easy.
  • Structure as a conversation. Use conversational tone in the copy.
  • Save a list of readers (people who have clicked on your e-mail links) as a separate contact list to send targeted calls to action. This is your main tribe to empower to share.
  • Check Auto Response notes and Welcome E-Mail for conversational tone.

Mobile Marketing
The use of mobile devices has grown exponentially in the past couple of years. More and more people are using mobile devices INSTEAD OF desktop to access the web.

  • Make sure your website is “Responsive” where it is optimized for viewing on smart phones, tablets and desktop systems.
  • SMS reaches every phone with text up to 160 characters uses text
  • MMS unlimited text and 40 sec. video uses phone number
  • OTT (Over The Top) App Based Messaging.
  • Must get written permission to market by text. “Text JOIN to 1234 is allowed by the TCPA or enter text on a website. The call to action must disclose why they are getting your info.
  • Add a way to cancel. STOP, END, QUIT, CANCEL, UNSUBSCRIBE are 5 words to unsubscribe.
  • Message every 7-10 days is 6-8 times more effective than more frequent messaging.

Social Media Marketing
The landscape for social media is always changing and the rules, which the sites use to showcase your content also change as mentioned earlier. Optimize your brand messaging with these tips.


  • Customize your page with consistent branding with your website. Cover photo can have a call to action.
  • Make sure your profile picture is clear at the smallest of sizes.
  • Customize the App bar at the top to show the most important three apps such as Events or E-mail Sign-up.
  • Include your web link in the top part of the About info so it can be seen without clicking on it.
  • Photo Album posts get more engagement, almost twice as many as a simple word post.
  • Boost Key Posts – use Facebook Ads to help stimulate traffic.
  • Post a photo, THEN add your external link in either the description or in a comment.


The only note I have on Twitter is to use the # option to search for conversations your audience may be interested in. For example, if you are looking for conversations in Autocross. Type #autocross and find the dialog and interests in the media.

83% of LinkedIn users are B2B Marketers. If you are looking to communicate directly to other businesses, this is the platform for you.
Company Pages have changed where they are retiring the Products and Services tabs on April 14th. LinkedIn suggests you use either the Company Updates or Showcase Pages for promoting your Products and Services.

  • Company Updates appear on your Company Pages AND in followers’ feeds in every device.
  • Showcase Pages were built specifically to highlight a particular brand or product line. They make it easy to build a dedicated community for ongoing conversation, and followers know to expect news about the product or services.

 Other Tools
There are a couple of suggestions for managing these social media networks. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, are a couple of programs for scheduling and managing your posts. Be strategic about the scheduling. Look at when your audience is online in the various platforms.
Nutshell Mail is a Social Media Monitor that sends the updates to your e-mail inbox in one, scheduled send.

In Conclusion
There are many ways to market your company’s product or services online and if they sound easy, they are however they are also time consuming. Don’t think that marketing online is free. There is an expense in time, resources. As you can see with the example on Facebook, the free lunch is over, you will need to “boost” or “enhance” your post with pay-per-click advertising.

If you would like some more detail on navigating through this overwhelming landscape give me a call, I’d be happy to help you out.
— Tony Colombini, Creative Director, Blacktop Media Network, 949-584-5669

Working IDEAS

Blacktop Branding’s Tony Colombini will be presenting his Creative Thinking Workshop: “Working the Idea, Makes the Idea WORK” at Platt College of Design in Ontario, California.

The course objective is designed to combat the commoditization of design by having a structured idea development process. Colombini will share his proprietary process “Intersection” and offer tips on developing a process unique for each participant and instruct ways on communicating the process in a clear and professional manner.

The course goes into the creation of a Unique Value Proposition and create an unfair advantage in a highly competitive landscape.  We will dig deep into the reason why businesses hire design. To increase sales, grow company, increase size, scale and profit. It’s a matter of measurement.

If you are interested in a Creative Thinking Workshop for your organization, please contact us at 949-584-5669. We offer different topics including: Idea Generation, Form and Function, Team Building.

Lessons from Snake and Mongoo$e

Alone you can be a winner, and with a team you can be legendary.

Last night I was invited to go see the Los Angeles Premiere of the Snake and Mongoose movie. It was a wonderful evening hanging out with legendary drag racers and motorsports industry personnel. Inspiring enough to be able to have a chat with TV Tommy Ivo and others.

Onto the lesson from the film.

As two friends and drag racing rivals in the late 1950’s Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “Mongoose”  McEwen were sharing competencies in their jobs and sharing wins on the track. And they struggled at making a living. That is until they banded together and formed Wildlife Racing, Inc. From that point they put their strengths together and were able to not only increase their standard of living but change the world of Drag Racing. Tom with his keen business and marketing sense and Don with his incredible driving ability. Because in Drag Racing it is all about the win. When you cross the line first,  your sponsors cross the line with you.

I learned that building a team of like-minded, yet varied background personnel will give you an edge, and win. In the case of motorsports sponsorship, it wasn’t just in the size of the logo on the car where they won with the sponsors. It was the access. Fans have access to the racers in Drag Racing. The pits are open. Access was also available with the sponsors. The first major sponsor the team had was with Mattel’s Hot Wheels. Mattel made a commitment to create access for their customers. Re-tooled and marketed toys for the young fans and their families.

At Blacktop Branding and the Blacktop Media Network we build value. Value from creating specific teams for your project. Value when partnering with our clients in their success. The value is quantified by specific metrics to your project. Let’s team-up and become legendary.

SEMA In-Booth Spotlights

Hosted by The Queen of Cars Genevieve Chappell

Not your typical interview but one that will explore deep into the challenges of bringing a new product to market. We will explore possible other uses for the product. Dig into your company history and find unique experiences that your potential customers will appreciate.

The Blacktop Media Network Offers Marketing Opportunities for your SEMA Show Experience. We can help you share your new products with a photoshoot, article creation, and/or video interview spotlights. We will provide a CD to share in your social campaigns. We will also distribute the items to the media as well as push in our multi-channeled network.

The Blacktop Media Network SEMA In-Booth Spotlight will provide a professional photoshoot, article creation with your approval prior to print/distribution, media distribution, and provide files for your social marketing campaigns.


  • Photoshoot: $650.00
  • Photos/Article: $850.00
  • Video Spotlight (edited to under 10 minutes): $850.00
  • Video w/Photos: $1,200.00
  • Full Package: $1,500.00

50% deposit is required to book.
Balance Due October 23, 2012

To Book Your Spot call us at 949-584-5669 or e-mail us at

Collector Car Appreciation Program

Blacktop Branding now offers products to share your vehicle. We have created the Collector Car Appreciation Program. Build Books, Show Boards, Video Spotlights and Featured Articles are now available.

Here are some examples:
buildbook1Build Book – We created this photo album for the Rapidago Project. This example is a small 8×6 inch wire bound book. We also create books up to tabloid size 17×11 inches!



imadgine-showboard3fShow Boards – For the frequent cruise night and car show participant. These boards gather attention and educate the viewer of particular elements of the car.




Video Spotlight – To share online and on your iPad/iPhone or i-anything. Here is an example of a video spotlight for Jack Petitt’s 1957 Pontiac Star Chief.



AND Featured Articles on our sister publication, Blacktop Magazine. Here is an article for a Cadillac from Skuza Motorsports.



For pricing and more details please call T-Bone at 949-584-5669 or, we look forward to creating a product which will match the AWESOMENESS of your car or bike!

The Blacktop Builder Program

The Blacktop Builder Program is designed to increase customer relations and promotions for the custom or restoration builder shop. We offer uniquely designed Build/Lobby Books, Showboard, Posters, and Calendars as a valuable marketing tool for your business.

[nggallery id=18]

buildbook1Build Book:
The Build Book would incorporate your photos, diagrams and text in a professionally designed hard-cover or soft-cover book. We will edit and write the text as best for the project. Great as a promotional tool for your shop or as a gift to your customer.

Design and layout a photo-album with caption from progress photos of the customers build. Incorporate shop logo, sponsors, and other key partners credit. Save the last page as an “Advertorial” of your shop.
Design Fee: $750.00
Printing Fee: 11.25″x8.75″ Soft cover, wire binding: $1.25/page. Hard cover, perfect binding: $1.75/page.
Pricing does not include sales tax and shipping.

The Showboard is great at events to publicize the work and partners in the build. Your logo will be prominently displayed. Use this as a wall-hanger in your shop or as a gift to your customer.

Design and layout of unique showboard using design elements from the project. No template here. We custom design each board to compliment the vehicle’s features. Pricing includes one (1) 18″x24″ full color UV protected print laminate on an aluminum sheet with rounded corners.
Design Fee: $250.00
Additional Boards: $55.00/each
Pricing does not include sales tax and shipping.



Our posters have been well received at events and tradeshows such as The SEMA Show, LA Roadsters Show and the Easyriders Bike Show Tour. Our poster designs offer multiple uses such as a calendar, mini-catalog, with a call-to-action including contact information and even QR codes for direct measurement of traffic to your website. We will consult with you on your specific needs and create three different designs for you to choose direction then offer two rounds of revisions before the final print-ready design. You will also receive the image in several formats for your  marketing needs.

Design and layout of poster. With 3 concepts, 2 revisions, and one final design. Include contact info and call-to-action.
FEE: Design Fee: $450.00

Model fee and studio photography not included. We can use your photos, photos from our vast Blacktop Media Network library, or quote a photoshoot as requested. Printing fee not included in design and will be quoted as requested in quantity and size. 


We don’t build a calendar with a template. Your calendar design will be unique and center around your established brand identity. The design will feature your photos of customers’ cars, or photos from our vast Blacktop Media Network library.

Design and layout a 28 page saddle-stitched calendar with fun-facts on each page and contact info for your shop on each page. Reserve the back cover for thumbnail images of each calendar page and empty field for mailing if necessary. Reserve two pages at center spread for your poster image ad.

Design: $1,250.00

Printing fee not included in design and will be quoted as requested in desired quantity. Model fee and studio photography not included. We can use your photos, photos from our vast Blacktop Media Network library, or quote a photoshoot as requested.


A 50% deposit is required to start the job. You will have two rounds of revisions and final approval prior to printing.

What Makes a Great… E-mail Campaign

If you have an e-mail address, you have seen e-mail marketing at work, for good or bad. Think of how you react to e-mail marketing as the recipient. You signed up for the list for one reason or another and now are getting a barrage of e-mail newsletters, offers and information. Which ones do you open? After receiving them for a year or so, do you still open them?
[singlepic id=346 w=320 h=240 float=left]I get all kinds too. I receive daily e-mails from the likes of Seth Godin, which I open and read each day. I have learned through years of direct mail design that flashy doesn’t always equal results. Seth’s e-mail is strictly type on a white background rarely with photos.

The beauty of e-mail marketing is the metrics involved. We can measure how many and specifically who OPENS an e-mail. We can also see how many and specifically who CLICKS on overall and specific links within the e-mail.

For an Automotive Aftermarket manufacturing client we are getting an astounding 44.8% open rate with a 19.6% click rate. Constant Contact (CC) keeps a tally of average results in different business sectors. The CC Manufacturing/Distribution sector averages 18.6% opens, and 12.6% click rate. We are getting an astounding 44.8% open rate and a 19.6% click rate for one of our Automotive Aftermarket Manufacturing clients. We accredit these incredible rates with several factors. A clean double-opt-in contact list, strategic subject lines, quality content and offers, expected frequency and overall value.

In our 5+ years of e-mail marketing experience we have paid close attention to the trends in the audience, industry and the value proposition of e-mail marketing. We’d like to share those with you. If you are interested to learn more, we would like to share with you our white-paper on effective e-mail marketing specific to the motorsports industry. Simply e-mail your request to:

Website and Social Network Content Update Program

[singlepic id=345 w=320 h=240 float=left]Too busy servicing your clients? Our new program is designed to help you keep your website and social network fresh with new content. We will help update your website and social network with new content, offers and project progress reports. We’d like to share that success with you as well. Our offer starts with a twice monthly update of your site (news, new products/services, gallery images of current projects, etc.). We will also update your Facebook Page (if applicable) with announcements of what’s new on your site.

All for only $425.00/mo. 

SAVE $750.00!
*This offer is extended through December 31, 2012, we will waive the $750.00 set-up fee! Regular monthly rate is $425.00. Additional savings when you pre-pay 6 or 12 months in advance.

But wait, there’s more savings!

Regular monthly rate is $450.00
Purchase 6 months in advance for only $2,400.00 ($400/mo)
Purchase 12 months in advance and save even more! $4,200.00 ($350/mo)

949-584-5669 •

How Clear is Your Brand Image?

In a world where information is literally at everyone’s fingertips the challenge is to have clarity of brand.

A well-placed post, a strategic e-mail message, and a successful viral video are great at telling your story. Hopefully that story is of your primary business objective. It is easy however, to get caught up on a new offering, or service, and blast it out to the masses. That blast may send a message that you are ALL THAT. Customers will read the blast and take it as gospel of what you offer. For example, you release a product announcement for a late model vehicle and the audience thinks of you ONLY for late model vehicles. When in reality your profit center is in classic restoration parts.

I get that. Because of my involvement in the industry, going to events, writing for popular blogs and Some people think I am a writer or editor. When my primary expertise is in creative, strategic graphic design. Sure I write for blogs, magazines and websites. Sure I create logos, catalogs and brochures. Sure, I design websites and advertising campaigns. And, sure I develop strategic marketing programs. I am also a trained chef, a teacher, husband and father. I can re-wire a house, pour concrete, and add performance goodies to my hot rod or bikes.  AND, I love to design – to solve visual problems, which help in communicating a company’s product, service or brand. That’s my passion, that’s what I am good at, and that’s my primary business objective.

How do you keep clarity of brand in those single message announcements?
You can do this in several ways:

  1. Start your message with something like; We’re known for our classic car parts and we are excited to share this new product for late model cars…
  2. Consistently use your graphics, colors, images, etc in your releases, posts and videos. Show the consistency of your brand and there is more opportunity to remember your core business.
  3. Use of built-in messages (such as sidebars on a website, background ads in a video, or follow-up links in a blog) of your primary business will help to keep the audience from losing your main brand message.

I’d like to hear some of your challenges. Feel free to comment or send me an e-mail and I will do my best to offer advice as needed.

What Makes A Great… Catalog Design

Those of you who know my background know I have had the opportunity to work with talented crews in developing some of the best catalogs in the Automotive Aftermarket. Creating a catalog with 1000 pages full of restoration/performance parts for the Chevrolet Camaro for instance, has taught me quite a bit about Catalog Design. I bring with that the experience and science I learned with Menu Design from my previous practice. I have also used many catalogs (as I am sure you have too) to build various projects. I look to these catalogs with a critical eye and find myself having to do MORE research because, not only did the catalog not answer the questions I have about a part, but actually created MORE questions. Uggh.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned and hopefully will help you and your company to build a better catalog.

Clarity and Consistency
It goes without saying; your catalog must be clear and concise. In order to take the risk quotient out of the purchase decision, the user has to feel confident in the description of the part. Be clear about what the part is and how it is used. Real estate on catalog pages are valuable and having the proper information, clearly stated and easily understood is paramount! Be consistent on how the information is presented, location with the photo of the part, consistency in the copy form; use, features, benefits, options, units and price. Each part description must be consistent to help in the communication about the part and actually becomes part of your brand ethic.

Does your catalog supply enough information on the parts to help the user make an informed purchase decision? Keep your marketing copy to a minimum (they already have your catalog in their hands) and give all the facts. Be sure to be truthful about your claims. Many garages have a computer on the workbench too now to help them search for tips, techniques and yes parts. They are able to spot a mis-truth at a moments notice.

I have my catalogs on my workbench. A catalog is just as valuable a tool for any project as a good box wrench. How many times have you struggled with a project when you aren’t using the right tool? Think of your catalog as a tool the DIY’er will be reaching for to find the right part to complete their project.

Think of how your catalog will be used. If someone is replacing the front clip of their Nova, ALL the parts needed for the replacement should be listed, and/or referenced. For example, in the copy for the front fender, have a reference for the location of associated parts such as bolts, emblems, tools needed in other parts of the catalog. This is easy to do online with exploded diagrams and hot-links over each part. How would you do it in a printed catalog? Same exploded diagram with part/page numbers of the associated parts listed.

Why would you take up valuable real estate turning your catalog into a repair manual? My answer is that you will save money on tech center calls, returns, build more loyal customer base and keep them from turning to other forms of research and purchasing.

Another no-brainer is availability. Are the parts in your catalog available? I have seen catalogs in the past that are complete in line, however some parts listed in the catalog are obsolete and no longer available, anywhere. It is important to take those products out. Sure there are always products that due to circumstances may not be available for the moment. Yes, keep those parts in. In-fact, state expected time for availability. Being honest up-front again will gain you respect and a more loyal customer base. However, if you know of products which won’t be available for quite some time be sure to take them out.

What about special order parts? Be sure to add that to the description, if parts are available on special order, then, add expected time of availability and order requirements.

Customer service is key to surviving in this NEW economy. Being there when the customer has a question, 800 numbers for tech/sales center support is key. A good website with a forum or blog quotient that is easily navigable with search fields for particular subject matters is helpful for those working after your tech center hours.

Be the expert in your field and the qualified customers will come back time and time again. Studies have shown that consumers will pay a bit extra if they have the confidence that there is support to help them with issues. The challenge is finding the fine line between cost and support. Today more than ever, everyone is looking for the best deal. Be sure to show the value-quotient of your support in their efforts on building their dreams with YOUR parts.

Data Technology
Here is something relatively new to the catalog market. There are programs out there, which help develop your catalog based on your sales and inventory data system. Yes, they can link your inventory/sales database with catalog development software so that every part number is consistent in message. Think of it as a bank of data for each part. All instances for that data are sent to various sources such as Purchasing, Shipping/Receiving, Website Content, Sales, Tech and Catalog Development. When the description or photo is changed or updated in one area it updates ALL areas. Pretty spectacular stuff. Also when developing the catalog, it may devote more real estate to the higher selling product, or you can adjust it to feature a product which you need to sell more of. Also, with some programming you can convert your print catalog files to web-ready pdf form with hot links on the part numbers to go directly to the shopping center of your site.


I trust this article got your attention enough to look at your next catalog project with a more critical eye. If you would like more information please don’t hesitate to call, I’d be happy to help. 949-584-5669 or E-mail: