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Trendsetters Media Group

Keeping Small Businesses Ahead of the Marketing Trends

By Cindy Sanders

It takes one to know one… a small business, that is. In the case of Trendsetters Media Group, this local business understands just how to help other small businesses make a big impression. Everything Knoxville sat down this month with owners Ron and Sandy Morton to find out how they help other local companies navigate a market flooded with new technology. According to Ron, business owners can’t let themselves drown in a tidal wave of buzzwords like tweet, blog, blast, widget, tumblr, and streaming. Some… or all… of those things might ultimately become part of the plan, but the real trick is to get back to basics.

EK: What are the most common marketing mistakes you see companies make?

RM: I think the new digital marketing world can be so confusing and overwhelming for some business owners that they almost get paralyzed, but ‘doing nothing’ to market your products and services really isn’t an option. Everyone is on sensory overload these days. On the other side, we also see small businesses that are all over the map with their marketing without really having a plan. That’s probably one of the ways we best help our clients – by looking at their unique business and how the various options apply. We’re great at sorting through all the noise to help companies find the most effective ways to retain current customers and build their brand.

EK: How has the recession changed the way companies should do business?

RM: We’re back to preaching the basics more than ever. Today’s businesses are so caught up in all the new media options and social platforms that they have completely forgotten how they got where they are. Marketing is like football… if you stop practicing the fundamentals, you quit moving the chains. That doesn’t mean those new outlets aren’t useful, but first you have to know who you are, who your customers are, and what your message is… and that has to be consistent. More often than not, businesses two years and older could survive on their current customer base if they would simply put programs in place to touch those customers four to six times a year. We can help them do that. Businesses that don’t keep up with attrition rates get stuck in neutral. They will advertise and bring in new customers, but their attrition rate is as high or higher than their customer acquisition rate, so they spin their wheels but get nowhere.

EK: If you were going to put Trendsetters Media in a particular category, what would that be? Are you an advertising agency, a marketing firm, a digital boutique, consultant?

RM: I’d say we’re a digital hybrid, meaning we’re still doing some of the analog-type marketing such as media buying and graphic design, but we’re also building and designing websites, working in social media, and are a Google Adwords Accredited Partner.

EK: Ron, what differentiates Trendsetters Media?

RM: My vision for Trendsetters Media is different than my previous marketing firms. Trendsetters is an ad firm with a product… not an ad firm brokering everyone else’s products.

EK: What kinds of products do you have?

RM: We actually call them our brands. They are tangible products that have evolved from providing business solutions to meet clients’ specific challenges. One example is our proprietary direct mail brand. Upscale Mail is the only direct mail product in the market that mails by neighborhood and only to the area’s most affluent neighborhoods. We also have a web-based, multi-line inventory content management system called Edit, a really great online customer engagement platform called Slingshot, and Swat Mob, which is our online business model that handles Google/Bing/Yahoo ad words campaigns and website optimization. Doodads is our ‘swag’ line that offers the ability to get your brand on more than 850,000 items. For the last 15 years, we’ve also produced the Food City Lead Lap NASCAR Magazine Show airing Saturdays at 10 am on WNML The Sports Animal.

EK: Sandy, can most small businesses afford this kind of expertise?

SM: Absolutely. Too many people think only big companies can afford a media firm, but the whole idea of our business is that you get a return on your investment by building awareness, engaging new customers, and retaining current ones. Our mission statement is to provide the same tools and expertise to small-to-medium size businesses as the larger firms do… but at a better value proposition.

EK: Ron, tell us a little about your marketing and media background.

RM: I was fortunate to have grown up in a marketing family, so I had lots of good examples around me. My uncle, Bobby Denton, ran WIVK for years. When he and Jim Dick launched the first AM talk station in Knoxville, they needed more warm bodies to sell ads. I was young and pretty green, but I was a warm body. Working on commission, I’d say that was my first small business experience. I wound up spending 13 years in radio sales before launching my first marketing company in 2001. I put all my experiences from my past firms to work when we founded Trendsetters in 2006.

EK: What business accomplishments are you most proud of?

RM: I’d say the American Advertising Federation Awards that we have won recently for our clients. It’s always nice to win for your clients; however, I must say I was pretty stoked when we won a Gold Addy for our website – not because it was ours, but just because I’ve always found doing projects for yourself to be the most challenging.

EK: Sandy, who are some of the company’s clients?

SM: Bill Cox Furniture, Bobcat of Knoxville and Chattanooga, The American Red Cross, Campbell’s Pool and Spa, Tennessee Dairy Farmers, Renewal by Andersen, Cornerstone Blinds, Blount County Partnership, Faith Promise Church, IFS Freight, Food City, Bristol Motor Speedway, to name some. Between all of the brands, we touch a very diverse group of industries. One business basic is not to have all of your eggs in one basket, and we practice what we preach.

Trendsetters Media Group

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