Straight Up Marketing with a Twist and Shout


Our clients had results worth making noise about in 2016. Here’s a sample of what they achieved with the help of SJ Marketing strategies and execution.


icon-double-diners (002)

8 Emails = $117,000 in Revenue

A resort client generated a little under $117,000 in holiday dining and lodging revenues with the help of an SJ Marketing campaign. The digital strategy included eight emails for which we recommended switching platforms to better access and segment prospects.

The results? Dinner reservations doubled over the previous year and the average dining and lodging ROI per email was about $14,500. The fee for the more effective email tool? $750.


icon-sold-out (002)

Facebook Results Rocked

A client was able to sell out a seasonal attraction ahead of schedule thanks, in part, to the creative strategy brainstormed by their SJ Marketing team. Taking into account a modest budget, we recommended a precisely timed Facebook campaign.

An analysis of past ad conversions revealed that results were 30% better on one day of the week. SJ Marketing created two urgency-based campaigns to take advantage of this timing and consumers took action.


 icon-respond (002)

Online Survey Outperforms Targeted Input

A government agency client achieved more than their targeted public input on a project with over 300 responses to an electronic survey developed by SJ Marketing. The survey was part of an integrated outreach campaign.

Other components included an online slideshow that educated over 4,000 viewers and community open houses, which attracted record attendance. The outreach efforts also helped increase visits to the client’s website. They doubled year over year.


icon-load (002)

Mobile Site Update: Downhillers Up-to-Speed

With the mobile site update they commissioned from SJ Marketing, a ski resort client is attracting more downhillers this season. The new mobile display is designed for a faster load time.

The custom header also features topics that are the most relevant to skier/boarders. It’s quicker and easier to tap the information they need on their way to the slopes.



Ready to start a similar success story for your business? Give SJ Marketing a shout. We’d love to collaborate with you.  Call us at 775.831.6262, or email

– Kelly Houston, President/Account Services

Bookmark and Share

Another Pea to a World of Pods – A Quick Guide to Instagram Pods

Instagram Pods have sprouted all over, so because Instagram holds a special place in my heart, I’ll answer what they are, if you should be a part of one, how to join and give my final opinion — even though you didn’t ask for it. 😉

What is an Instagram Pod?  

An Instagram Pod is a group of people who generally know one another or have something in common (e.g., industry, creative outlook, geographic location), and want to support one another on Instagram. They join a messaging group together on Instagram (a “Pod,” if you will) and let the group know when they have posted a photo, so that other members can go give love to their post in the form of likes, but more importantly than that, COMMENTS.

And now you’re asking, “But why a comment, Amanda?”

Well, the new Instagram algorithm is out in full swing and comments carry more weight than likes; therefore, to overcome the negative effects of the algorithm kicking in, the Pod will help keep your engagement up, which will help you rank higher, and potentially get into the “top posts” area of your hashtags.


More info on Instagram pods here:

Do I Need to be a Part of One?

This is 100% up to you! (Duh, boring answer.)  But really, Instagram Pods can be helpful if you are trying to grow your following, or increase engagement with your current followers. Not to mention, people who already follow you might be more inclined to comment/engage with your posts if they see others doing it.

If you are comfortable with your following and your engagement, or you are not trying to grow your following, then I would not bother with an Instagram Pod.

But…if you are an Instagram-obsessed person (like me) and want to give a ton of support to people who are trying to grow, and you figure more engagements are never a bad thing – then pod away, my friends.

How Do I Join One?

There are multiple ways to join a Pod. If you are a creative entrepreneur, I would recommend joining the Rising Tide Facebook Group, as there are multiple Pod announcements per day based on your business and hobbies. Personally, I would recommend creating your own, and I’m finding it to be the most organic form of an Instagram Pod.

You can form your own by either individually reaching out to people, or making a general post and asking the masses to leave their handle if they’d like to join. Next step, go to Instagram messenger and add all of the usernames to a group, name the group, and send your messages (Instagram makes this very easy), and presto! You are in a Pod.


How to Not Screw This Up (aka, My Opinions About Instagram Pods)

If you’re going to do an Instagram Pod, I STRONGLY recommend doing it with people you know or are somewhat connected to. I recommend the max size of your group to be 20 people, with a sweet spot of 12-15. I do not recommend getting in a massive group with strangers.

If you are the leader of a Pod, I recommend stressing that comments should be genuine, encouraging, and not fake.  (“Love it!” “Adorable!” — both a no-no to me.)


Instagram Pods are just one of many elements out there in our social world. Thank you for reading my take on something I’m passionate about, and please, I’d love to hear your opinions about the Pods!

Leave me a comment on my Instagram page (@amandamclernon). And no, not for my engagement, but because that is the only place I ever check notifications consistently.

– Amanda McLernon, Social Media Strategist, SJ Marketing

Amanda is a guest writer who contracts with SJ Marketing as a social media strategist. She is absolutely obsessed with Instagram and genuine engagement. Basically, she wants to keep social media social. If you are interested in learning more about social media, you can find her on Instagram at @amandamclernon or email her at

Bookmark and Share

I’ll Take Your Numbers, and Raise You by a Format and a Graph

Here I am, coming into week four of a football pool.  I’ve been close to the bottom every week (not the bottom, just close, alright practically bottom) and I can’t figure out why I can’t even be mid-pack.

I can speak Excel, and I can speak football, so I said to Self, “Self, why don’t we use data to win.”  And Self replied,”Heck yeah!”

Do you know what happened that week, I nearly won – I was third and missed by three points, thanks a lot Eagles.

While hunches make us human, we cannot forget one simple fact.  Numbers. Don’t. Lie.  They can’t, they don’t know how to, they just know what you put in will kick something out.

But numbers don’t speak words, that is why they have friends called graphs.  Graphs speak for the numbers, and if graphs cannot, then conditional formatting is there to lend a helping hand.  Let me show a picture because I can feel my nerdiness oozing.

Let’s say I gave you the following charts, and I said numbers are good if they are over 78, and I asked, “Tell me what is typically the best performing fruit?”  Oh and you have seconds to answer because I’m busy.

Numbers say this, “I don’t know, figure it out for yourself.”

Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 10.13.02 AM

Conditional Formatting say this, “Pears and Apples typically perform the best.”

Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 10.13.13 AM

Graphs say this, “Apples are the best by a slight margin.”

Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 10.13.25 AM

Where did your eyes go? My guess it wasn’t Numbers response because it looks like a bunch of nonsense.  Conditional helped a little, but Graphs helped you in a pinch.

While this is a pretty basic example, you can amplify it to how much data collection we do at SJ Marketing.  See, rather than give you a bunch of data to swim through, we want to give you reporting that is clear and tells a story because that is why you hired us.  We are consistently working harder to give you better reporting, and rolling out new ways to show results.  Plus, reporting helps us figure out how to optimize your marketing by seeing trends and anomalies.   So while we have the experience, we do not strictly rely on hunches.

Therefore, if you need a helping hand combing through the endless streams of data and need some help with analysis, or if you want to talk about your football pool, this is why I am here with SJ Marketing, I’m the data nerd.

Click here to check out our company and all the ways we can help your business!

– Julie Sabor, Account Coordinator

Bookmark and Share

Team Building: Blending the Seasoned and the Green and Somewhere in Between

We work in marketing. It’s an exciting and rewarding industry, most of the time, but we’re often called upon to solve a problem for our clients. How can we increase our group business? How can we make the most of our marketing budget? How can we get more people to join our email database? How do we get the top spot in a Google search?

Because we’re so intent on developing solutions for our dear clients, we rarely look at ourselves as an organization, as an agency, and ask ourselves, what are our challenges? What problems do we need to solve for ourselves?

“In an agency environment where we always focus on the client, it’s easy to forget about the company’s greatest asset, its employees,” said Kelly Houston, President.

And when you’ve been around for 30 years, you find yourself with a diverse team — in longevity, age, experience, ideas, and knowledge. Then add to that mix our remote workers, whom we rarely see beyond an email or video call. So, how do you create a cohesive, productive (and fun) culture with such a diverse and geographically dispersed crew?

Two words: Team-building events.

In other words, you make everyone hike two miles straight up a mountain on a sunny 80-degree afternoon. But don’t worry, we’ll have cheese and crackers with some wine (because we’re classy) waiting for you at the top.

With that said, on Wednesday, September 28th, “Elevate SJ” kicked off with a group hike to Snowflake Lodge at Diamond Peak Ski Resort, where we took in panoramic views of Lake Tahoe, munched on appetizers and sipped on a few adult libations, while our resident canine companions canvassed the area.

“Nacho found a deer’s leg, or something. And then got sick,” said Jesse Plate, Digital Services Manager and pet owner.

Aside from that obvious excitement, the SJ team participated in a fun and uplifting activity at 7440’, where we had an opportunity to build each other up by sharing positive traits of each of our teammates.

“It was a nice reinforcement to read positive, uplifting comments from your coworkers,” said Darolyn Skelton, Business Development/Account Executive. Others, like Lynn Finnigan, Copywriter, commented that the group activity made them feel appreciated.
After hearing from others, we each shared a few words of what makes us proud as individuals.  Several agreed that getting to work for a marketing agency in Tahoe was very near the top of their list.

“I felt positive and energized,” said Skelton, who also helped organize the event. “I feel it was a success and it seemed like everyone had a good time.”

It is clear that the event and activities generated positive, and constructive takeaways while creating an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other on a more personal, honest level through socializing outside of the office.

“Getting out of the work environment and seeing everyone as a real person improves trust and helps communication,” said Houston. “That’s worth more than most anything in my book.”

– Brianna Sheck, Account Executive


Bookmark and Share

Straight Up with a Twist

Did you know Smith+Jones has been around for close to 30 years? That’s certainly something we are very proud of, especially in an area where businesses come and go as easily as the snow melts in an industry that changes faster than your last Instagram photo.

We think our longevity has to do with solid customer service, a willingness to listen to our clients, a great product, and passionate employees. But one of the biggest reasons we are still going strong after 29 years is our ability to adjust in the quickly changing landscape of marketing.

With a nod to change, we decided it was time to rethink, restrategize, and reexamine Smith & Jones…who we are, what we do, and how we can do better for our clients. It was time to rebrand.

So how does a marketing agency rebrand? The same way we do it for our clients.  We’ve spent the last 3 months meeting, drinking, talking, surveying clients, eating, researching, and brainstorming on what makes us great and our clients great.

We discussed our strengths, our weaknesses, and our opportunities. We developed our positioning statement, our promise to our clients, and our story. We went through umpteen-thousand logo designs (well, at least 10) and tweaked them over and over until we thought it was perfect. We launched a new website. We changed the way we work together as a team, focusing more on sharing successes, tackling challenges, and optimizing our strengths within the team. Finally, we hired crazy smart digital experts, and additional team members to bring new ideas and a fresh perspective, while capitalizing on our “old” employees experience and strategy.

Basically, we hired ourselves, went through the process we take our clients through, and came out the other side with a much better version of ourselves.

So now, we are excited to share it all with you!

Introducing SJ Marketing (formerly known as Smith & Jones), and as far as agencies go, we’re a true modern classic.

We are insiders in the ad world, and from our Tahoe-based office, we bring a unique, elevated perspective to the table. We are proud to be one of the few marketing agencies that offer it all.  We are the sound alternative to you having to hire multiple niche agencies for strategy, design, and media placement.  We believe in straight-talk, and strong partnerships with our clients; in addition, the antiquated belief that our success only comes from our client’s success.  We consider marketing to be like crafting the perfect cocktail – an art form that can only be mastered with years of experience. Our spirit is fueled by a good deal of research, feisty creativity, and a splash of Lake Tahoe purity.

At SJ Marketing, we are committed to a well-balanced, integrated approach to advertising with a focus on business, strategy, and creativity. We are experts in every medium, and we are quick to adapt in an ever-changing digital and data-driven landscape. That’s what it means to be a full-service agency.

So when you’re ready to party with an agency that knows what it takes to never go out of style, we would love to give you a taste of success.  Visit or call 775.831.6262! 



Positioning Statement

SJ Marketing is an agency for the ambitious and the forward-thinking—for the daring entrepreneur as well as the proven industry leader. You might say we’re a classic martini…with a twist.  We are the trusted partner for those who want it all: ingenuity, expertise, passion and prodigious visibility. With hand-picked teams of strategic visionaries, digital experts, content crazies, and creative gurus, we build brands that are both timeless and unforgettable, with marketing campaigns that truly make a splash. In fact, we’re known for crafting the perfect cocktail for success—with every client, every time.

Brand Promise

SJ Marketing promises to pour our heart and soul into lifting your brand to its highest potential with the kind of old-fashioned respect and partnership you rarely find in the modern world of advertising.


– Diana Evans, Account Executive

Bookmark and Share

Mountains of Data

Prior to coming to the SJ Team, I worked in hotels, in many positions, but my last positions focused on reporting and analyzing data.  In this case it was room rates, commissions, even looking at weather patterns as a cause and effect.  The point I am making is data is all around, in every business, and more and more we are hearing the term “data-driven results” – it is time to embrace the data and use it to propel the best conclusions.

Here in marketing with the shift to digital advertising, we have the opportunity to get trackable results, in real time, where that was not an option in print, tv, or radio.  Of course, numbers on a page, are well, just numbers on a page, do you know how to tell a story?  And that my friends, is what we are here to help with at SJ Marketing.

Here are three basics to get on the data train (toot, toot):

  • Have a clear objective. This could be the same reasons why you reached out for our assistance.  Brand awareness, marketing for an event, community outreach – there is data out there in the form of demographics, impressions, and conversions to name a few.  In the broad sense, there is a lot of data out there to get your measurement; however, without a goal, it is difficult to use the numbers to tell the story.
  • Pictures are worth a thousand words, so I have one word to describe a thousand words – infographics. No one wants to see tables of a bunch of numbers, it makes our heads hurt, and takes too much time to analyze. What do you think when I say USA Today?  Most likely, you are thinking USA Today Snapshots (one of those random surveys that is always in the bottom corner).  One graphic that is quick, to the point, and shows how results correlate amongst each other.  The number one reason why most businesses do not embrace data is because lack of communication; therefore, here at SJ we present the data with dialogue, not show numbers.
  • Correlation versus causation. This is a big one, and definitely a point of contention.  The more I dive into digital marketing, and even in the data world in general, the more I find that data can find correlations to optimize your brand, but to pinpoint A caused B is a whole different story. For example, we can gain customer insights, and put figures behind it. Want to know which keywords gain the most traction for you in search, or find correlations in time of day/week and engagement on social media that can produce a better ad quality and value – we can do this and correlate with ad performance based on historical results.


Bottom line, the data is available to improve the decision making process.  It is available to learn more about your customer base, discover trends, and improve your targeting to optimize your brand.  Just think if your strategy was Lake Tahoe, and data was the mountains, and you were taking a panoramic of your business – wouldn’t you need both to enhance the picture?

– Julie Sabor, Account Coordinator

Bookmark and Share

Mistakes you are (Likely) Making with Digital Marketing

With a few billion impressions of data under my belt and thousands of reports covering millions of dollars of ad spends I am at somewhat qualified to reflect on trends and mistakes that cross industry and advertiser size. Are you guilty of these marketing sins?

Lack of Brand/Non-Brand Balance on Paid Search

Hypothetical Client: How come Agency X is delivering a 20:1 ROI and you’re only delivering a 5:1?

SJ: Well our goal is to generate new business for you, not maximize ROI. If we were only bidding on ads for people searching for you, the ROI would be higher but it wouldn’t help your business grow.

*Side note: there are times when it IS appropriate to have a brand-based keyword campaign; for instance, your competitors or a third party booking engine are trying to steal your business and you have to defend yourself from that loss.

Too Much ROI Focus

ROI is important, but not the only indicator of digital marketing success. More broadly, now that we can track return on ad spend results with some accuracy (see #X) we’ve created a monster I call returnoninvestiosaurus. Symptoms this monster lives in your office include: there’s not budget to promote events or non revenue-generating lines of business, you look at line 28’s revenue rather than the bottom line, you run an “awareness” campaign then ask how much revenue it brought in.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.21.53 AM

No Defined Goals – i.e. Wanting Everything

If you have more than one goal, you should ideally have more than one campaign to meet these goals.

If you want a campaign that has both a massive reach and a high click rate, but only have $1,000 to spend, you’ll likely end up in a cost-per-click display campaign because you are only paying when someone clicks on your ad. On the other hand, the higher the click rate goes, the more often you have to pay, the fewer people you ultimately reach. Your two goals are in a relationship where one will win and the other loses. We’d advise you instead to make two separate plays for your click and reach goals.

YOY Obsessions in a DTD World

You ran paid search in 2007 and had a 10% click rate? NICE. You were ahead of the game though. Everyone else caught up. Your Facebook post had a 30% organic reach two years ago? Great, but that’s an unrealistic expectation for a new campaign. Results that were good last year may be irrelevant now, so take your YOY stats with a grain of salt.

Missing Trends Because They Aren’t Proven

There’s logic behind sticking with ads and ideas that are demonstrably successful. You should use successful campaigns to inform your next budget, but if you focus too much on what you know works well, you miss out on the arbitrage that will put you ahead of your competitors. Instagram is a no-brainer now, but were you on there 4 years ago? Are you afraid of Snapchat because you don’t know how to track its value? How about Facebook Live? The case for value may be ephemeral, but the value is there to be taken on new media even if it doesn’t have a direct ROI.

Not Sure What Your “Conversion” is Tracking

Your website has likely changed since you first set up your analytics tracking. Has it been kept up to date? Are you evaluating purchases/leads/conversions/etc. appropriately? Don’t take your reporting at face value if you don’t know what it’s saying.

If you think you might be guilty of these mistakes, give us a call at SJ Marketing.

– Jesse Plate, Manager of Web Services

Bookmark and Share

Organization Part 2: Calendars, Inboxes & Deadlines

I’m going to go ahead and say it: Getting organized and feeling less stressed allows us to be more productive and efficient. In Part 1 of this series on organization, I emphasized the importance of creating lists and how they can be the foundation of solid organization. Lists of projects. Lists of tasks. Lists to establish priority.

And then there’s those nasty impediments. These obstacles can wreak havoc on your time management if you don’t identify and address them. If one of your impediments happens to be “difficulty staying on task,” setting milestone deadlines throughout the duration of your project can keep you motivated for the long haul.

This is where a digital calendar can work wonders. If you speak fluent Google, I recommend setting up a Google calendar that is specific to each client or each project; that way, you can color code and “filter” your overall calendar view by choosing to hide or show particular calendars at any given time. You can also share specific calendars with others to keep them in the loop.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.42.55 PM

In addition to scheduling final due dates, each calendar can be used to set milestone deadlines for your projects, and to help yourself stay on track from start to finish, you can apply an automatic email or pop-up notification one week before a deadline.

Use a Digital Calendar to Stay on Top of Deadlines:

  • Set up different calendars for different clients or projects
  • Color code each calendar
  • Schedule project deadlines and milestones
  • Set up automatic reminders associated with deadlines and milestones
  • Share calendars with those who need to stay in the loop

Sometimes, part of organization is properly categorizing items, which is especially helpful when a question arises about a past project and you need to find the answer — in that black hole otherwise known as your inbox.

To tidy up your inbox, try making folders in which you can keep past emails. Name your folders by client and then you can add subfolders for each project for that client. If you don’t work with clients, create folders based on topic, or go really extreme with the Trusted Trio method used by the founder of Lifehacker, Gina Trapana, where you categorize your emails using three folders that represent different actions: Follow Up, Hold, or Archive.

Speaking of messy inboxes, another great feature of many email applications is setting up “rules” for incoming emails. For example, I wanted to make sure I never missed an email notification telling me I had something to review, so I set up a rule for my inbox that highlighted yellow the emails sent from our internal traffic system and had a subject line that started with “proof,” which was the preset subject line for these system email notifications. Those emails stood out from the rest in my inbox and it was easy to see I had an action to complete.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.43.05 PM

Additionally, if you’re like me and you subscribe to several email newsletters, consider creating each a specific folder, and then set up a rule to route emails from those senders to each folder. Ultimately, you can keep receiving them if you want, and they won’t clutter your pretty inbox. (But if you’re not reading them regularly, you might just unsubscribe instead!)


Brianna Sheck

Account Executive

Bookmark and Share

Humor in Advertising: Does Your Audience Get It?

Of the top 15 most popular 2016 Super Bowl commercials, according to the USA Today “Ad meter,” 13 were funny. Does this mean they worked? That depends on how you define “worked.”

According to artist and writer Craig Damrauer, “Advertising = Hey you + buy something.” Funny ads, like Hyundai’s “First Date” or Doritos “No Dogs Allowed,” definitely get our attention. In today’s social world, they also get the attention of our friends: 900,000 shares of the Doritos commercial on game day alone.

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 4.53.27 PM

What about the second half of the equation, though? For the most part, we don’t seem directly motivated to buy. In fact, according to Fortune magazine, “one research firm estimates that 80% of Super Bowl commercials do not boost sales or purchase intent.”

So, what’s the value of humor? Perhaps it’s more about the brand than the product: a combination of being memorable (getting our attention) and likeable (we buy from people  we like).

Is humor appropriate for all brands? No, but some that have used it successfully might surprise you. Like Hoover’s “Our products suck.” campaign or the “Censorship tells the  wrong story” series where pixelating gives a funny wrong idea.

As a general rule, though, audiences seem to like funny ads about cars, food, entertainment and alcohol. Here are five more general rules for humor in advertising:

1.  Make it relevant to your objective and your audience. Know them both.

2.  Engage your audience’s imagination and let them “get it.”

3.  Don’t lie or be offensive.

4.  Do entertain.

5.  Do work with professionals. A team like SJ Marketing can do the heavy lifting on a light approach.

As iconic adman David Ogilvy once explained it, “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”

-Lynn Finnigan, Copywriter Extraordinaire

Bookmark and Share

The Internet Affect on Logo Design

Another major company just redesigned its logo (Mastercard). Although different from its predecessor, it’s difference is subtle and doesn’t stray too far from the brand mark that is so recognizable.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 9.07.42 AM

This article describes the redesign process:

Most recognizable companies have changed their logos to be more reflective of who they are, Coca-Cola, Walmart… Generally, a subtle change or evolution is the most successful retaining the brand recognition already developed. Some are more successful than others.

Not too many people remember the “New Coke” fiasco, a new logo couldn’t save that idea. NBC unveiled a new logo in 1976 to replace the Peacock, unfortunately Nebraska ETV Network was already using that logo,

( Although the “N” logo hung around for a few years NBC has gone back to a stylized version of the peacock logo.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 10.01.56 AM

A more recent and controversial and dramatic logo redesign was Instagram. On May 11th, after only 5 years of existence, Instagram’s Lead Designer, Ian Spalter, wrote of the icon change in a post on Medium, “the Instagram icon and design was beginning to feel, well… not reflective of the community.”

Here is a link to an article regarding the logo change and some of the reactions to it:

A logo should be reflective about the company, and although the Internet may not change the process of logo design, it is definitely an additional influence on the final appearance of the logo.


Robert Stelson

Design Director

Bookmark and Share

The Sport of Capitalists

So we still can’t get over that the Warriors lost the NBA Finals.  So we found this great piece – What happened when Venture Capitalists Took Over the Golden State Warriors?  New York Times does a great job, as usual with its reporting on the venture capitalist approach to owning and managing the Warriors. After racking up a historic season, the team’s managers, mostly from Silicon Valley think their management style deserves credit. Are they right?
Go Dubs!  Click here for the the full story.
Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.07.59 PM
Bookmark and Share

How is Blogging Beneficial to Your Business?

It’s my turn to write a blog and as I am brainstorming about what to write, I thought about how beneficial blogs are to business and how they should be an integral part of an online marketing strategy. Whether you are a small or large business, blogging is important and here are four reasons why!

First reason, blogging will drive traffic to your website. According to, companies that blog drive 55% more traffic to their website. A blog is the perfect opportunity to serve relevant content to your customers. You can use your blog as the hub for all your social media platforms as well. It gives your social followers a reason to click to your website. Once you get followers to your website, you have an opportunity to convert them into leads. Don’t forget to always include a lead-generating, call-to-action in every blog.

The second reason to blog is that it will increase SEO. New and fresh content will always beat out the competition in a Google search. Make sure you use keywords that your customers will be using when searching for you online.

Reason three for blogging is to position your brand as an industry leader. When you post relevant information for your target market, you are marketing your business, service or product, and establishing authority in your industry. The best blogs for businesses answer common questions your customers have and create content that is helpful to them.

Lastly, the fourth reason you should blog is to develop better relations with your customers. Relationships are the key to long term business success. Blogging will deepen the connection you have with your customers by building credibility and trustworthiness.

So as you embark on your blogging journey just know that you don’t have to be a writer to be a business blogger. Start by setting your goals, write a compelling title, list your ideas and key message, keep it simple and write in your own voice. Happy blogging!

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 5.50.41 PM

If your business needs help with blogging or social media management, contact us at SJ Marketing!

Darolyn Skelton

Business Development/Account Executive/Novice Blogger

Bookmark and Share

Wag a Little. It Will Make You Smile.

It seems that Lake Tahoe probably has a larger pet population than people population. We love our dogs and cats in Tahoe and the SJ Marketing team is no exception. As a matter of fact, we love our pets so much, we added them to our website. Just mouse over our photos and find our furry counterparts.

I know I love getting greeted each time I arrive with Maggie’s wagging tail, so I thought I’d do a bit of research about the benefits of having pets in an office… and it was pretty easy to find.


Studies have shown that having pets in the workplace lowers stress, adds comic relief, increases the amount of exercise, increases hours worked, and increases job satisfaction. I know our employees and their dogs, Maggie, Nacho, Hazel, and sometimes Stella (my black lab) would agree. They are very happy sleeping next to their owners and getting treats as others walk by.

In an article by, three companies tested the benefits by allowing pets. Their employees overall felt lets stress, were more productive, and had more interaction with their colleagues.

“If you are in a position where something is stressful, seeing that wagging tail and puppy smile brightens the day–it can turn around the whole environment.” says Lisa Conklin, Public Relations Manager for Replacements, one of the companies that decided to allow pets.

Some employees also felt that it made the mood in the office more light-hearted and encouraged employees to go out and walk to clear their heads and refocus. “We work long days and long hours,” says Jen Chappell, a customer service representative at Human Movement. “Having dogs around the office makes it fun, and makes us get out of the office and exercise.”

An article in USA Today suggests that there is actual proof that stress levels lower with pets in the office. The average stress level scores, in companies that have allowed pets, fell about 11% among workers who had brought their dogs to work, while they increased 70% for those who did not. Plus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites dozens of animal experts who report that pets can actually decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as increase opportunities for exercise and socialization.

Of course, not everyone is a fan of dogs and some are allergic. Plus, there’s always the risk of a bite, lunch being stolen (my dog Stella) or an unintentional playfest gone wrong, but the benefits seem to far outweigh the risks. And I know our office and our employees are much happier having dogs near.hazel

I’m just wondering how much more work we would get if we all wagged our tails when someone walked in the office! Even more, I would guess.

Diana Evans, avid dog-lover and owner of food thief Stella.

Bookmark and Share

The Dream Team of Marketing

What takes 8 research sessions, 18 site visits, and 6 clicks in a span of 17 days?  According to Google Research, that is the path a consumer takes to make a hotel booking.  Keep in mind, that 55% of website users spend less than 15 seconds on a website.  So how do you make a memorable impact?

I’m going to use basketball as a metaphor, because it’s playoff season, and who doesn’t like sports metaphors?

So the court is the internet, opposing team your competition of course, the ball is the consumer, the basket is your sale.  SJ Marketing is the coach of your team and this is who we would put on your team:

“The Player that Drives Passion with the Consumer” – this is your Lebron James.  Guy grows up in Cleveland, signs with Cleveland, and then he left.  People were devastated, burning jerseys, because he did Cleveland wrong, not the team, the whole town.  And after few years and a press conference, he comes back to Cleveland.  Not shunned, but back to open arms.  Why?  Because he ignites passion of a community, he evoked emotion, he made Clevelanders proud – love or hate him, he knew he wanted to get back to the passion of the people, and the passion propels the image.

“The Player that Increases Urgency” – I’m gonna go with Kobe Bryant.  Kobe’s retirement game brought in a star-studded crowd and was the hot ticket because they knew this was The. Last. Game.  You needed to act now, you couldn’t wait, you didn’t know if the chance would come back, it was now or never.  All this initiated action, and that is the end result you need…action.

“The Player that is for the Good of the People” – your Magic Johnson.  Magic was one of the greats, but then one decision took his life to a greater purpose that was bigger than the game. He started giving back to the community, he knew that he had a responsibility to be a social role model and he embraced that and it made people fall in love with him more.  Giving back to a community built an emotional connection.

“The Player that Everyone Talks About” – hands down Dennis Rodman.  He wore what?  He’s dating who?  His hair is what color now?  People couldn’t get enough of Rodman’s off court shenanigans.  He was on every tabloid, tv show, and if Twitter was a thing in the 90s, I can only imagine the tweets coming from his fingertips.  He was loud, obnoxious, but that didn’t stop people from talking about him.  While not seen in the most positive light, the lesson learned is the need to create word-of-mouth reach beyond your initial interaction.  Be the spark that ignites the fire.

“The Player that Optimizes for Success” – Michael Jordan.  If you have a successful team, you need a Michael Jordan.  The guy that can do anything and only gets better because he doesn’t stop trying to achieve greatness.  You can be good at something but it takes monitoring, training, tweaking, to be great.  Comparing what works and doesn’t work, consistently wanting to improve – settling is not an option.  But these are my words; however, MJ said it best,”Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”

So does your marketing have these players?  If not, Team SJ is here to coach you through to the championship game and make you great!  (Insert cheering crowd, flashing lights, and “We Will Rock You” by Queen.)

Play on,

Julie Sabor

Account Coordinator, Sports Enthusiast, and Metaphor Master, SJ Marketing

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 11.12.07 AM




Bookmark and Share

An Internet Minute, 2016

I remember hearing that an entire SuperBowl’s worth of impressions happens on the internet every minute. That was in 2010, and web impression opportunities for advertisers have more than doubled since then. Smartphone penetration in the US is up from 43% in 2011 to ~70% now.

SJ Marketing‘s clients web traffic and revenue continue to climb, both in absolute figures and as a percentage of total business. These customers of our clients, like people as a whole in 2016, are spending more time (8 hours per day!) browsing the internet, social media, watching videos and reading articles. More and more these digital experiences happen on mobile devices. How big is the internet? Are you ready to feel small?


No like really small.


OK now that you’re prepped let’s look at the size of an internet minute, via Excelacom.




Let’s unpack YouTube:

  • YouTube has over a billion users, roughly 1/3 of the total people that browse the internet.
  • YouTube, looking only at mobile impressions, still reaches more 18-49 year olds than any cable network (sorry Walking Dead and your #1 ratings, we still love you.)
  • Every second, two hours of new content is uploaded onto YouTube.
  • Growth of hours watched on YouTube has increased at least 50% year over year for the past three years.
  • Advertising revenue as well as accounts/channels earning 6 figures have also grown 50% YOY for three consecutive years.

That’s just one website. Is your brand there? Are you reaching the right share of your target audience and creating content that’s topically relevant? Is your video front-loaded so it isn’t getting skipped? Are you hitting your YouTube engagement goals and secondary ROI goals (gulps, do you have specific goals for each of your media plays or are you winging it because your cousin said you have to put your video on YouTube?)

On the internet, every minute every day we’re searching, Vining, Tweeting, posting and lurking more than the previous day. Mark Zuckerberg has made it (one of) his personal mission to connect the world to the internet, so the potential reach of your videos, ads and website are only going to continue to grow. It’s a big world, and an even bigger internet. Does your marketing plan tap into the scale of the web? How about the depth. We can help.

-Jesse Plate

Manager of Digital, SJ Marketing

Bookmark and Share

Getting and Staying Organized Part 1: To-Do Lists

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at work or in life. One way to calm these stressful feelings is to get more organized. As author Gretchen Rubin says, “Outer order contributes to inner calm.” The fact is, when we are organized, suddenly staying focused and meeting deadlines becomes much easier. And getting organized (and feeling less stressed) kind of generates a snowball effect, because it also allows us to be more productive and efficient — and who doesn’t aim to get just a few more things done each day?

Getting organized can seem like a daunting task, because you may already be behind on a deadline, and the last thing you want to do is take time that you don’t have to get yourself organized. But, honestly, taking a few extra minutes (or hours) to do so before moving forward on a project or task can save hours, maybe even days of mismanaged time and wasted energy.

Some people seem to be born with natural organizational skills, while others continually struggle with it. One way to become more organized is to assess yourself, your work style, and gain an understanding of what works for you and what does not. For me, one of the key foundations for getting (and staying) organized is list making.

Personally, I live and die by lists. Writing things down frees up space in my brain and provides a sense of order. And with all of today’s gadgets, it’s easy to find a method of “list making” that will work for you, like a smartphone app or typing up a list in a text document or spreadsheet. Or go old school and simply use a notepad and pen check this out. It’s amazing how my feelings of being overwhelmed can dissipate once I break a big project down into an orderly list format. And, man, does it feel great to cross items off of a list as I complete them!

As you start your list, begin at the highest level — the project. Write down each of the tasks (large and small) that you’ll need to do in order to complete the project. Then think about the best way to categorize and prioritize these tasks. Decide whether you should prioritize by deadline or by how much time the task will require to complete.

Once you have your list made, it’s important to identify any obstacles or impediments — details or resources you require or people you depend on that might prevent you from meeting your deadline — and plan accordingly. Sometimes, we are our own impediment. We often avoid or put off tasks that we do not enjoy or that are especially challenging for us, which is often at the root of procrastination. To prevent this, when reviewing your list, assess whether there are tasks that can be delegated to others. Or, alternatively, identify the tasks you are least looking forward to doing and get them done first, when you are most likely to have the most motivation and momentum for the project. And then they are out of the way and you are free to accomplish the rest of the tasks that you don’t mind as much. Just make sure to keep in mind the deadlines for completing each task.

Stay tuned for more tips and best practices for getting and staying organized.

-Brianna Sheck

Account Executive and Organization Wiz, SJ Marketing

Bookmark and Share

Advertising & Honesty: Are they mutually exclusive?

The other day we were playing around with taglines for an advertising client. One tagline we considered was ”honest to goodness marketing”. The Creative Director laughed and said “no one thinks advertising is honest or good”. Hmmm…that got me thinking.

Back in the big advertising agency days, executives met with clients and discussed what they wanted people to think about their company. They determined their brand, then pushed it out to their audience. Whether it was truthful or not was irrelevant (other than ethically, of course) because word-of-mouth didn’t really spread that fast. If you lost one customer who felt you were not truthful in your brand promise, they had little impact on other potential customers. Besides their friends, how could they tell anyone?

Today, marketing and advertising has to be honest to goodness or your company will fail. Why? Social media; where word spreads faster than, well, than it takes to tweet 140 characters. You cannot make claims that are untruthful because you will be called out and hundreds, sometimes millions will hear about it.

We’ve all seen the PR nightmares that come from a company that is not truthful. Social media is relentless and it’s clear that the days of “telling” customers how to feel about your company is no longer an option.

But that doesn’t mean that brands are not just as important. They are just developed differently. Now companies work with agencies to research what customers think about their company and how they can evolve their brand to be more relevant and meaningful to their market.

In general, the customer is ultimately creating the brand or at least giving it power. Advertising and marketing help to direct the brand conversation, reinforce the positive, and come up with clever slogans and verbiage that are memorable.

So, is “honest to goodness” advertising a good slogan for an advertising agency?


Take a look at how some companies have changed their slogans to be more honest:

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 11.54.13 AM

Walmart’s slogan for 19 years was “Always low prices”. But, low is a relative term and there were some that clearly didn’t feel they always had low prices. And, once social media came into play, Walmart heard about it. Their new slogan is Save Money. Live Better.

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 11.53.06 AM

Campbell’s Soup has a lot of sodium and with our current focus on health, they needed to change their slogan from “Soup is good food” to “M’m! M’m! Good!” Still says it’s good, but doesn’t say it good for you.

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 11.53.24 AM

Sara Lee started out with a slogan that was just untrue and customers told them. “Heck, You Don’t Even Need a Fork” turned into “Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee,” because most (at least in polite society) eat Sara Lee products with a fork. Although, for me, there’s always the late night cheesecake fest sans the fork!

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 11.53.46 AM

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 11.53.34 AM

And, one of my favorites, both Coke and Pepsi had original slogans (in the early 1900’s) that highlighted their supposed medicinal powers:

  • Coke, “For headaches and exhaustion, drink Coke.”
  • Pepsi, “Exhilarating, Invigorating, Aids Digestion.”

At one point, Pepsi actually used “Delicious and Healthful”. Well, we all know how honest those claims were and of course they have evolved over the years. Now, Coke says “Open Happiness” and Pepsi says, “Live for Now”. Neither have anything to do with the drink, but most can’t argue with the honesty (if not the relevancy) of the slogans.

-Diana Evans,

Senior Account Manager, SJ Marketing

Bookmark and Share

Strategy: Does Your Brand Need a Makeover?

Should your brand get a makeover?

This is one of those “that depends” questions.

Before we get to the answer, let’s talk about what a brand is and what a good brand does. We can hone in on the definition of “brand” with three more questions:

  1. Is your logo your brand? Not exactly. But it does play an important role in your visual identity.
  1. So, what is your brand? Visually, it’s a combination of style (bold or subtle, simple or complex), fonts, colors, and positioning of your graphic and text. These elements are consistent in multiple environments.
  1. And what does your brand do? Not only does it communicate what your business is about and who your customers are, but it also sets your business apart from the competition. The best brands convey a personality and evoke a positive emotional reaction.

Take Coca-Cola® for example.

Coca-Cola logo sml

This brand is recognized around the world. It’s fun. It flows. It’s bold. It’s intimately tied to the experience of drinking a coke. But the brand hasn’t always been the same. Take a look at what they tried from 1890 to 1891 (The company was founded in 1886.)


Fun, yes. But what does it say about how it feels to drink a coke? Of course, when the drink was named, and in 1890, extracts of the coca leaf (cocaine), along with the kola nut (spelled with a ‘C” because it would “look nice”) were the formula’s two “medicinal” ingredients viagra cheap buy.

Since Coca-Cola’s script branding reappeared 125 years ago, it hasn’t changed much. Does this mean your brand should never change? Not necessarily. As renowned branding expert, Marty Neumeier, said in his book, The Brand Gap, “If people can change their clothes without changing their character, why can’t brands?”

Of course they can, but should they? Here are some common criteria for rebranding, divided into “Now” and “Not Now” categories.

Now                                                                                                          Not Now

Your brand doesn’t match who your business really is.                  You’re tired of your brand.

You want to reach a new audience.                                                   Your competition is rebranding.

You’re committed to the process.                                                      You can’t afford the process.

“Process” is a key word. Rebranding doesn’t happen overnight. And, just as with anything that is potentially rewarding, there are risks.

Big Risk One: cost. You’ll be investing money and time.

Big Risk Two: negative results. Your customers might not like the new brand.

To minimize your risks, you’ll need a professional, collaborative team like smith + jones. They’ll help you do your research and make every part of your brand an informed, conscious decision.

Success will mean a brand that stays vibrant and connects with existing and new customers. It will sell the soul of your business, in a good way, for 10 years or more.

-Lynn Finnigan, SJ Marketing


Bookmark and Share

7 Ways To Boost Your Creativity

Many of us in the design and marketing field struggle to maintain a high level of creativity. With time and budget constraints, it is always tempting to resort to tried-and-true solutions to creative challenges. The internet is a valuable resource for just about anything and that includes methods to break out of the old habits, creative or otherwise. Most of the articles on maintaining or refreshing your creative juices

contain a part or a rewording of the following article I lifted directly from “7 Ways to Boost Your Creativity” by Gregory Ciotti. Although you may find yourself doing some of these when looking for a creative solutions, some of them may be new and helpful to you.


“7 Ways to Boost Your Creativity”

Creativity can seem innate, but like many things, it is actually a delicate balance of nature and nurture. In other words, creative thinking can be enhanced by external forces, and isn’t necessarily reliant on “good genes” or natural ability.

Luckily, new research points the way to a variety of mental and environmental approaches that can help us improve our creative output:

1. Restrict yourself

Famously, Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs & Ham after betting that he couldn’t produce a story using less than 50 words. The research shows Seuss was on to something. Most people naturally take the path of “least resistance” and build off of older or existing concepts when brainstorming, which can lead to less creative ideas. In order to put the brain in overdrive, you can mimic Dr. Seuss and place restrictions on yourself while creating, which will prevent you from falling back on past successes. If you usually write 1000-word short stories, try to create a story in under 500 words. Only use a small handful of chords in your song or colors in your design. The limiting nature of the task can bring out your most creative side.

2. Re-conceptualize the problem

Researchers have noted that creative people tend to re-conceptualize problems more often before starting a creative task. As Einstein once said “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” Instead of looking at the end goal of a creative project (i.e. “I need to create a memorable painting”), it’s better to re-visualize the problem from other, more meaningful, angles before starting (“What sort of painting would evoke the feeling of loneliness that we all feel after a break-up?”).

Oftentimes, the best approach is to picture the intended audience of your next creative project. What inspires them? What are they sick of hearing about? What are the problems they face but are rarely able to talk about?

3. Separate work from consumption

It has been shown that we are particularly terrible at creating when we try to combine the gathering of information and actual creation.

Researchers recommend only consuming information in an “absorb state” where you are not attempting to multitask. In essence, the absorb state is a form of “batching” that emphasizes forced consumption over output. No interrupting yourself to start working on segments of your project while you are consuming information, instead use tools such as Evernote or Pocket to remember key ideas, insights, and articles that you will apply later when creating.

4. Stay positive

Although negative moods can sometimes spur creativity, researchers have found that it is during strong positive moods that our best creative work is done. In fact, the feeling of love or even thinking about love was shown to best encourage creative thinking. Getting yourself to a “positive place” is not as trite as it may sound—any number of mood boosters (quick exercise, envisioning the future, recalling good memories) will do the trick to influence your mood, and your creative efforts will be at their best when your attitude is positive.

5. Use counterfactual thinking

Counterfactual thinking, also known as asking, “What might have been?” has been shown to increase creativity for short periods of time.

To experiment with this technique, take events that have already happened and re-imagine different outcomes, alternating between the subtractive mindset (taking elements out of the event) and the additive mindset (adding elements into the event). A silly example of counterfactual thinking in action can be seen on The Big Bang Theory, when one of the main characters makes a game of the phenomenon, asking his roommate: “In a world where Rhinoceroses are domesticated pets, who wins the Second World War?” You, however, can apply it to more realistic scenarios, such as mapping out outcomes whenever you are doing creative problem solving, subtracting or adding “what if ” elements that would have affected the outcome.

6. Daydream… after getting started

While research has shown that daydreaming can help with creativity, it is important to note that studies have revealed that daydreaming only works when you’ve already committed effort towards a project. The reason? Daydreaming can be beneficial because it allows for the incubation of ideas. But incubation is only effective when we already have information to chew on. So be sure to get started on your project before drifting off.

7. Think about others

Research has shown that this “psychological distance” is an important part of being creative. For instance, one study found that people who thought their work would be used by someone else came up with more novel ideas. Conversely, those who were told that they would be using their own creation later came up with less novel ideas. One such test in the studies above included telling participants that their drawings would later be used by other subjects to create a story. Those who had been told this came up with much more “creative” drawings (as evaluated by a selected board). When creating, even for personal projects, think about how someone else will enjoy, use, and incorporate your creation into their lives.

-Robert Stelson
Graphic  Design, SJ Marketing

Bookmark and Share

The Best Answer to Any Question – Quora

It’s the best question and answer site out there. I might not read their digest emails everyday but am always rewarded when I do.
Here’s an example of a good Q&A but they have something for everyone.

Q: What things should I master/get really good at that will give me the best head start in any career?
A: Peter Nguyen, Private Personal Stylist for Successful Entrepreneurs
Great question.

Here are 8 things that accelerated my career recently (in my 30s) that I wish I learned in my 20s:

Carol Dweck, a Stanford Psychologist, studied and wrote about this concept of “Growth vs Fixed” mindset.

A fixed mindset believes that all our talents and abilities are something we’re pre-programmed, or born, with. People with fixed mindsets, then, believe that certain people are just “lucky” when it comes to their skills and abilities. So they avoid anything that could possibly help them get better because “it won’t matter in the end.”

A growth mindset, however, believes that most things are malleable. Almost anything can be improved through learning and work. Your physical appearance. Your social skills. The quality of your work. All can be better if you have a growth mindset.

A growth mindset is the key to improving in all areas of your life.

What You Can Do Next: Watch Carol Dweck’s TED talk “The Power of Believing You Can Improve”

Imagine walking into a huge grocery store for the first time, looking for bread. You ask a worker in the fruit section for help, and they reply “That’s not my section.” Then ignore you.

You walk a few steps to the meat section and ask a worker behind the counter the same thing. This time, they reply “That’s not my section. But let me find out for you.” And they go and help you.

Next time you’re at the grocery store, who will you ask for help if you need it? Who’s more useful to you?

Now imagine you’re the person behind the meat counter, and the lost person is your boss, a customer, or a VIP.

Schools (at least in America) train us to only solve problems we’re given. When we’re thrown problems that weren’t meant for us, our default mindset is “It wasn’t assigned to me, so I don’t have to do it”

Be the solution. Train your mind to “default” to searching for solutions, to take action, on anything you can. Business is a team effort. Even if you’re a solopreneur, the rest of your team are your customers. If you aren’t willing to constantly solve problems for them and go above and beyond, you don’t have a business.

What You Can Do Next: Start small. When you see a piece of trash on the ground that people are walking past, pick it up and throw it away. Overhear someone lost and asking for directions and you know the way? Jump in and help them. Don’t know and have your phone on you? Jump in and offer to look it up.

There’s a great video by Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk where he gets brutally honest with a guy he just met who asked Gary to give a shout-out for his company.

Everything in life comes down to the quality of the relationship – your family, friends, romantic interests, and yes, business network.

And the man in the video is a perfect example of how to approach relationships wrong. He tried to take / ask for something before he developed a valuable relationship. And to develop a relationship you have to give. And give a lot.

Picture meeting someone on the 1st day of college. You get friendly, talk about your majors, swap numbers to set up study times. The next day, they’re texting you, asking you if they can borrow $100. Would you give it to them? Probably not. But if your best friend of 5 years (who’s saved your ass a handful of times) hits you up, you’ll be sending him money before he could start telling you why he needs it.

Gary calls this “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hooking”. Psychologists call this The Law of Reciprocity. When someone does something nice for you, you have a deep, psychological urge to return the favor. Studies have shown that the return favor often far exceeds the original kind gesture.

To say it another way: When you do something (nice) for someone, they’ll repay you with interest.

Kelly Houston

Bookmark and Share