Sun, 31 Aug 2014 00:48:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Has Your Well of Business Blog Ideas Dried Up? Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:00:54 +0000 Here are 30+ more to fill the blog idea bucket!

Every morning, I wake up with a to-do list that typically includes coming up with new business blog ideas and writing anywhere between one and five new blog posts. If the number is five, it’s probably because I only wrote one the day before. Brains need re-charging, you know?

In my past life, I was the managing editor for one daily online publication where I cooked up a new in-depth blog post every day. I thought that was difficult. Now that I’m managing quite a few different blogs for our clients, coming up with one idea a day seems like a breeze.

My point is that I have lots of ideas for blogs posts, and it’s kind of a hobby now. I spent a lot of time teaching the mega publishers what to do with their abundant amount of content that is still yet to be digitized, but certainly they have an advantage – lots and lots of content.

If you’re a publisher, there are tons of ways to recycle content:

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Coming up with blog ideas doesn't need to be exhausting – it should be fun!
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If you’re not a publisher, but own some other kind of business, there are still countless ways to come up with blog posts. Here’s a dozen examples:

Still looking for more ideas? Get in touch with us. It’s sort of our thing.


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Marketing Genius: San Francisco’s ForageSF Knows Storytelling in Business by Heart Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:00:28 +0000

Marketing Genius is a series created by BuzzFarmers to give virtual high fives to anyone who develops a unique (and brilliant) marketing idea worth talking about.

During our recent work retreat in North Conway, N.H., our team hiked through the forest near Diana’s Baths. During the trip, my coworker Chris pointed out all of the mushrooms and flowers that were edible. While we were there, it reminded me of a childhood friend who’d explained to me which flowers taste like Fruity Pebbles – and also which plants were poisonous. Since finding food in the forest isn’t something I think of every day, I enjoyed our mountain treks, but soon stopped thinking about the nourishment that hides in plain sight.

That is, until I read a recent email from the San Francisco company ForageSF. An email that’s mostly about … whales?

No, ForageSF isn’t a whale-centric company; they consider themselves “a handmade community,” with classes and events, and even a kitchen where one can rent space. Their mission includes supporting San Francisco-local foragers and also the local food economy by teaching people how to find free food in the wild and also providing affordable cooking facilities.

So, what does this all have to do with whales?

Simply put, ForageSF knows the importance of storytelling in business while communicating with its customers. For a company who offers classes on wild mushroom adventures, sea foraging, and wild food walks, ForageSF chooses to share engaging, welcoming content without forcing their company on their consumers.

Who doesn't like whales? @ForageSF can look at their open rate to find out.
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How do they do it? Here’s what the email looked like.

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Marketing Genius: San Franciscos ForageSF Knows Storytelling in Business by Heart


ForageSF Immediately Captures Attention

Had ForageSF sent an email with a subject line that read “Sign Up for Foraging Classes” versus “We’ll Make You Smarter Than a Whale,” what do you think the open rate would be? Their choice of subject captures their readers’ attention and fills them with questions. Just how smart are whales? What can ForageSF teach me about whales? How can ForageSF make me smarter than a whale? Even though I wasn’t thinking about whales – or ForageSF, for that matter – at all prior to reading the subject, I now have an curiosity about both topics.

Communication Isn’t One-Sided

Just like in friendly conversation, no one likes one-sided dialogue. In fact, there’s no such thing as a one-sided dialogue. If your friend called every day for a one-hour conversation about strictly what they were thinking, you’d eventually tune out. The same goes for content marketing. If companies and brands have a one-sided conversation with you about their products and events, you’ll lose interest, and quite possibly never listen in again. Educate your customers. Your story doesn’t even have to be about your product, but must capture your reader’s attention. ForageSF recognizes this, and by sharing their thoughts every once in a while, they’re engaging their community base.

They Know Their Audience

It’s likely that the people on ForageSF’s email list are already interested in learning more about foraging. Even if they weren’t, sending out a fun email seemingly about whales is likely to interest the people you’re emailing. It is one way to gently reintroduce your company’s name. Plus, the more engaging the content, the more your readers will be willing to share it with others.

Marketing Genius: San Franciscos ForageSF Knows Storytelling in Business by Heart

You Gotta Give a Little Bit to Get a Lot

Another important marketing rule: Give your customers something before you get anything in return. Businesses can’t always – and shouldn’t – just go in for the ask. In this example, ForageSF educated their readers on sperm whales, the brain-to-body ratio of certain mammals, and tree shrews. Then, they went on to share a video from DARE WIN, a participative underwater ethno-acoustic project, which was presented during the 2012 Pariscience International Film Festival. Only after all of the information on whales was shared with the readers did ForageSF mention their upcoming classes. They suggested it as a way to not let whales get the upper hand.

The Tie In

Why is ForageSF telling their email subscribers about whales?

Because whales forage for their food, and ForageSF wants to educate humans to be foragers. See, the two subjects aren’t as far apart as you might have first thought! But regardless of what your company does – or the services you provide – ask yourself, “How can I use storytelling in business and information dissemination as a way to capture my readers’ attention and gain new followers?”

And we’re asking you now: Any ideas you can share with us in the comments below?

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Hidden Gem! Well-Maintained! Must See! 9 Real Estate Blog Ideas That Will Help Clients Find Your Company Tue, 26 Aug 2014 15:00:44 +0000

Do those terms look familiar?

If you’ve ever moved, then you’ve seen them.

If you’ve ever sold a home or helped someone sell a home, then you’ve made sure that someone’s seen them.

They’re three of the most popular phrases that appear in real estate listings, and they’ve held on to their position at the top of the charts since the dawn of real estate itself.

In fact, I suspect that even single-cell organisms used phrases like these to advertise spots in the primordial ooze (Won’t Last Long!) when they needed to net their equity before upgrading to a cozy micron of coveted oceanfront property.

The phrases are popular because, historically, they’ve worked.

Home buyers and renters, of course, are looking for Charming Cottages.

They’re looking for Plenty of Storage.

They’re looking for Breakfast Nooks.

They have an image of their dream house, and when they see aspects of it articulated with enthusiasm and apparent legitimacy, they pounce – out of excitement or desperation or the fear that someone else will find it first. Or all three, more often than not.

But real estate has come a long way since the competing classifieds sections of the Pangaea Gazette and the Big Bang Bugler. Have you checked out Craigslist lately? Talk about a cesspool. That scene would blow a single-cell organism’s mind.

The market is saturated with hyperbolic listings, seemingly half of which are scams, and let’s just say that the actual houses, condos, and apartments don’t exactly measure up to the expectations they create. These days, savvier consumers take listing language with a grain of salt, on a case by case basis. They’ve been burnt too many times before.

Good, honest real estate agents and locator apps must separate themselves from that herd of bull by taking a big step forward.

They need an edge. They need something else that home buyers and renters are looking for. They need a blog content campaign.

And to undertake one, they need keywords. Keywords are the modern-day real estate listing phrases – except better – and via strong blog content, they’ll drive search and social visitors to your website … where, with your acumen, you can convert them into clients.

Keywords will draw in motivated buyers researching mortgages, neighborhoods, schools, and movers.
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Sure, they’re not necessarily as direct as “Big Yard With Lots of Trees” or “Beautiful Wraparound Porch” (although they can be), but keywords will draw in motivated buyers who are deep into their research and eager to find authoritative content on mortgages, interest rates, cool neighborhoods, school systems, and more.

They’ll also help you build a relationship with that potential client, so even if the first couple of visits to your site don’t result in a personal connection, handshake, and deal closing, they will result in word of mouth, referrals, Facebook shares, and email signups.

Keywords – the seeds that sow content – are more trustworthy than the boilerplate, watered-down descriptors buyers encounter in the classifieds. Keywords bring smart consumers together with realtors who can actually help them.

Because we love to help small businesses succeed, we’ve assembled a sample list of real estate blog ideas that could jump start your website and generate more leads beginning this month.

Remember: Your goal is to write about something a potential client would be searching for.

The keywords are marked in red and are based on our own in-house research. We’ve stopped at nine, but we could go on all day. For now, we’ll leave the 10th up to you – let us know in the comments if we can slot in a great idea that’s worked for your company!


9 Real Estate Blog Ideas

1. Help Them Make the Big Move as a Family

Title idea: Dear God, Don’t Forget the Blankie: Moving With Children

Suggested call to action: “Looking for a family-friendly home in [insert city], in the best neighborhoods? Let us help.”

Parents need a lot of help raising kids in general, let alone during a move. Many are never the same after experiencing the horror of a forgotten cherished toy or bauble. There are many other items on the child checklist, as well. Any guidance you can give to either new parents or parents moving with little ones for the first time will be appreciated. For many of them, this will be one of the early steps they take during their research. For others who are cramming the night before the movers arrive, your kindness will never be forgotten, and will likely be shared with members of their peer group who will have to plan a move of their own at some point.

Sandestin Real Estate did a fantastic job with this type of post, providing a comprehensive list with a clean design. And, like many of the posts we’ve collected here, it can be refreshed over the years, thus sustaining traffic to your website.

Hidden Gem! Well Maintained! Must See! 9 Real Estate Blog Ideas That Will Help Clients Find Your Company


2. Help Them With Those Pesky Numbers

Title idea: How to Choose a Mortgage: Know Your Options

Suggested call to action: “Work with us and we’ll help you with every step of the mortgage process – from pre-approval to purchase.”

Blessed are those who break down the numbers for people like me, who believe in their heart of hearts that decimal points arbitrarily move on their own when you’re not looking, just to see if they can get away with it. Many home buyers in the market for the first time will need help getting a handle on what they can expect rate-wise, and how they can find the friendliest arrangements for their tax bracket, income level, and credit standing. Hey, nobody’s asking you to do pro bono accounting work for them or to co-sign on their loan, but furnishing resources for those casting about for some reliable financial information will go a long way in terms of loyalty.

The Holyfield Company in Mobile, Ala., has a straightforward, friendly, and no-frills primer on how buyers can get a handle on their mortgage capacity. They’ve also developed a calculator that’s embedded into their site, although that’s not required for a great blog post!
Hidden Gem! Well Maintained! Must See! 9 Real Estate Blog Ideas That Will Help Clients Find Your Company


3. Narrow Down Their Options With City Inspiration

Title idea: The 10 Most Affordable Cities in the Country (and make sure yours is on the list)

Suggested call to action: “Looking for an affordable place in [insert city]? We have more than 100 listings under 100k in [insert neighborhood].”

This breed of post is always evolving to keep up with the changing demographics of American cities. For instance, if I had bought a nice piece of land and built a modest single-family home in an up-and-coming neighborhood of Austin when I moved there 15 years ago, you wouldn’t be reading this right now, because I’d be a millionaire off squandering my fortune somewhere after selling out. So, you might be reading it a couple of years from right now, when I rejoined the workforce after a series of poor financial choices. The good news for both of us is that this post would still be relevant, because professionally mobile home buyers and renters are always looking for reasonably priced housing stock in destinations where they can stretch a dollar on food, entertainment, transportation, and education. Yesterday’s Austin is today’s Nashville is tomorrow’s Boise is the next decade’s …

Trulia has a nice take on this, focusing on middle-class families, complete with infographics! Their blog is definitely one to pay attention to and learn from.

Hidden Gem! Well Maintained! Must See! 9 Real Estate Blog Ideas That Will Help Clients Find Your Company


Order a BuzzAudit and take the first step toward running a more visible, personable, and buzzworthy business with a good professional blog.

4. Help Them Find the Best Neighborhoods

Title idea: The 5 Best Neighborhoods in Denver to Live

Suggested call to action: “Looking for a friendly place to live in Denver? Let us help you find your forever home.”

The “best neighborhoods” format, with some keyword flexibility, can be adapted for college towns, midrange cities, and metropoli. I picked Denver because it’s a good example of the performance median. Plus, it seems like everyone’s moving there. But even people who aren’t moving are interested in lists like these, if they’re done well: Everyone likes reading about their own turf – and sharing it on social media.

Denver realtor Larry Hotz divides his extensive list between city and suburban living. He’s local, of course, but you don’t have to be!

Hidden Gem! Well Maintained! Must See! 9 Real Estate Blog Ideas That Will Help Clients Find Your Company

Another angle on this is schools.

Title idea: The 15 Best Schools in New Orleans

Suggested call to action: “Have you done your homework and decided on a school district? Let’s see what properties make the grade.”

Public education is paramount among home buyers’ concerns for their children after a move. Parents might not know many others in their peer group upon relocating to a new city, and so can’t rely on anecdotal information and word-of-mouth recommendations. They need a source they can trust, which is where you can help. Again, I picked New Orleans because it’s a popular settling spot these days.


5. Be That Friend Who Helps Them Move (No Pizza & Beer Required)

Title idea: Hiring Movers: What to Know About Who to Go With

Suggested call to action: “Have you decided on a final destination yet? Find your perfect home in [insert city here] now!”

We all have nightmare mover stories. Preparing home buyers with questions to ask prospective companies is a great service, and shows that you offer plenty of experience and expertise. And while you shouldn’t call any substandard movers out, you can user this opportunity to plug other exemplary small businesses! In this post, cover insurance, troubleshooting, and what home buyers can expect when comparing rates.

Re/Max’s national site includes an upbeat but realistic look at the moving company landscape, with a good number of links that are helpful to those who trust Re/Max as their moving advisers.

Hidden Gem! Well Maintained! Must See! 9 Real Estate Blog Ideas That Will Help Clients Find Your Company


6. Inspire Them to Move

Title idea: Who Owns the 10 Most Expensive Properties in the World?

Call to action: “On a smaller budget? We have some listings that are just as beautiful for under $300k in [insert your city here].”

Posts like these give new meaning to the word dream house. You don’t want to demoralize middle-class families looking for a fixer-upper, but people do love reading about the lifestyles of the rich and famous. And, hey, it gives us something to shoot for! Great potential for big, eye-catching art.

Vox site Curbed has a great list and embedded map for the “11 Most Expensive Houses Ever Sold in America.” This type of post plays on inspiration, and could also feature recently sold celebrity homes, like Zillow publishes.

Hidden Gem! Well Maintained! Must See! 9 Real Estate Blog Ideas That Will Help Clients Find Your Company


7. Be Their Guide in the Buying Process

Title idea: How Do Short Sales Work?

Suggested call to action: “We’re here to answer any question you have when buying a new home. Call us at XXX-XXX-XXX today.”

Consumers doing research on any major purchase love quick-hitting glossaries, primers, and FAQs that make us feel like we’re on level ground with the seller. While you as a real estate agent might not see much in profit from short sales, a step-by-step guide through one helps home buyers feel well-rounded in their knowledge – and they’ll be grateful for it.

Lender Freddie Mac offers some well-annotated advice on the different options that come up when buying a home, and of course they also integrate great calls to action that initiate a transaction between Freddie Mac and the reader.

Hidden Gem! Well Maintained! Must See! 9 Real Estate Blog Ideas That Will Help Clients Find Your Company


8. Inspire Them to Buy Through Design

Title idea: 18 Tiny Bathroom Design Ideas

Suggested call to action: “Looking for a house with bigger bathrooms? We can help you find it!”

The long tail of blog marketing means tapping into your buyer’s home improvement interests. When they’re window shopping for homes, what are they looking for? Most likely they’re looking for types of houses, home designs, living room ideas, renovation ideas, and similar inspiration. Be their buddy in home design by serving as a go-to resource. You may also attract visitors from those who were thinking of buying another house, but happened upon your listings and change their minds. Link to your listings when you can!

Zillow does a great job inspiring potential home buyers with room ideas, and it’s working so well for them that they’ve created a section of their site called Zillow Digs just for design inspiration.

Hidden Gem! Well Maintained! Must See! 9 Real Estate Blog Ideas That Will Help Clients Find Your Company


9. Ease Pet Parents’ Worries With Helpful Advice

Title idea: Transporting Pets During a Move Doesn’t Have to Bite

Suggested call to action: “Need a big yard or a nearby park for your pooch? Let’s see what we can find for your family’s best friend.”

A close second to the kids’ schoolin’ is the well-being of the domesticated family creature. Trying to shield them from trauma, injury, or loss, owners without much moving experience will exhaust every last recommendation in protecting their dog, cat, or tank of piranha. Throw them a bone! Every pet owner can benefit from a bit of good advice now and then. Mitt Romney, for instance, clearly did not consult a blog prior to transporting poor Seamus.

GL Homes does a doggedly thorough job of outlining pet owners’ options and responsibilities during a move. And any time you can use a photo of a puppy poking his head out of a cardboard box, I say do it. Better yet, find a cat video and get ready to go viral!

Hidden Gem! Well Maintained! Must See! 9 Real Estate Blog Ideas That Will Help Clients Find Your Company

You have so much knowledge and expertise at your company, it seems wasteful to not share it with the world. What better place than your website, where you can also establish links with potential clients? Every day, people are looking for new places to live, and they want the best possible anecdotal and data-driven evidence with which to inform their decisions. 

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Why, that’s kind of what BuzzFarmers is doing with my visit right now,” well, guilty as charged. Is it working? Just as you’ll be helping home buyers and renters with the research you can provide, we hope we’re helping you with these real estate blog ideas to turn your website into another source of revenue.

Let us know what you think in the comments below, and feel free to give us a call any time if you ever want to talk shop!

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Seeing Is Believing: How Blog Illustration Can Make Your Customers Buy In Mon, 25 Aug 2014 15:00:21 +0000 Good illustration is a challenge and can be time-consuming. No matter how cheap you can get an iPhone, download an app, and cut out parts of the illustration process (pen, paper, etc.), creating quality art takes dedication, patience, and concentration. One only has to watch comic artist Sara Pichelli create an entirely digital illustration in rapid time to understand this.

When you invest in blog illustration, there’s a sense of quality that’s conveyed to your current and potential customers. They get a “gut feel” about the care you put into your business. They can smell the richness and devotion of your brand when they see humanity in the line work of the illustrations you choose.

In 2008, Google hired famed comic artist Scott McCloud to create a comic to explain their Chrome browser to the public. Why did they do this? Didn’t they realize they could have released a manual (which they already needed to do) for less than the price per page it took to have a famous comic artist work on one for them?

I suspect they hired McCloud for a number of reasons, but chief among them was they wanted something new and different to match up with their new and different browser. It gave their engineers a sense of pride in their work as they were being interviewed by McCloud, and with him came an audience of comic consumers who would not normally flock to read an engineer’s take on a product. Everyone wins, and the illustration proves more than worth the investment. The final product told a story about a browser, and the act of creating the comic generated a story.

 Seeing Is Believing: How Blog Illustration Can Make Your Customers Buy In

The pinnacle in superb synthesis of commerce and art can be found in the hottest comic product out there right now: The Oatmeal (aka Jeff Inman).

While there are quite a few prizes in The Oatmeal‘s trophy case (New York Times bestseller, ultra-successful Kickstarter campaign, etc.), I would argue that it’s successful due to one key factor: Inman knows his audience better than anyone will ever know an audience. Because he has the superpowers of audience insight and artistic ingenuity, he is able to react creatively to challenges that boost his brand in innumerable ways.

In October of 2013, Inman’s second book, Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants, was released. But there was a problem: Inman’s deal with Barnes & Noble had him make placards to go with display sets of his book. When Inman dropped by his local B&N to see the display, he noticed it wasn’t up. He then realized that it might not be set up at a great number of B&Ns across the country.

Seeing Is Believing: How Blog Illustration Can Make Your Customers Buy InInstead of getting angry at Barnes & Noble for not uniformly fulfilling their end of the bargain, Inman took to the Internet and asked fans to go to Barnes & Noble and take pictures of themselves with the display racks. In exchange, he would draw them as cartoonified characters.

Within hours, his Facebook post was populated with images of people in B&N stores and more than 10,000 “likes” and “shares.” In the following weeks, he seemed to have a great time keeping his promise for at least 16 lucky people.

Order a BuzzAudit and take the first step toward running a more visible, personable, and buzzworthy business with a good professional blog.

I can already hear you saying, “But, wait! I don’t have a webcomic! Why do I need to make illustrations?”

I have two responses to this.

First, Inman’s success with his illustrations in the above example came down to his being in tune with his audience.

Something you probably can pick up from the comic examples I’ve cited is that the artists are definitely in tune with the evolving wants and needs of their audience base. They have to be. Illustrators work on a visual basis – there needs to be an emotional grab right away within their artwork in order for it to be successful.

The best illustrators know their audience better than most people, and those people are the ones to seek out. Both McCloud and Inman will admit that they’re not expert draftsmen, but whatever they might lack in their drawing abilities they more than make up for in their ability to communicate emotional information to their audience.

You need this in your brand whether you know it or not.

Secondly, the success of Inman’s Barnes & Noble scheme worked because it wasn’t malicious in nature. It was objective and creative.

He wanted his books to be sold there. He wanted his audience to go buy his books, and he knew that they needed to at least have the option to be a part of his comics “in crowd.” He definitely accomplished all three things by offering his consumers a challenge assignment and call to action, and solidified the feeling by giving them an award. This kind of creative ingenuity and brilliant responsiveness is an urgent need in your business.

I’m not saying to go out and do what Inman did with his Barnes & Noble challenge, or to hire a comic artist to make a manual for a new product launch.

What I am saying is to look for creative people who are productive and know your audience, and hire them to be a part of your team. As a business owner, I know that you need to sink a good deal of your marketing budget into advertisements and other sorts of stable marketing strategies. But I also know that if you want the exponential growth and success of the exemplary businesses that we all want to become, we have to be willing to experiment.

The experiment I encourage you to try is to find your Scott McCloud or Matt Inman and collaborate with them on your blog illustration. See where it takes you. Worst-case scenario: You have a really good time doing something different.

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Mountain Do: Revisiting Our 2014 Company Retreat Thu, 14 Aug 2014 18:17:44 +0000 Ah, but if only we could go back! (No offense, office.)

Recently, the BuzzFarmers crew – minus Napa, of course, who was off attending GoldooCon (the annual Goldendoodle Convention) in Minneapolis as its keynote speaker – ascended the White Mountains of North Conway, N.H., for our inaugural company retreat.

Cloistered in a well-appointed condominium on the grounds of the sprawling Stonehurst Manor, we forsook the typical garden-variety trust falls and three-legged-egg-toss/ropes-course-relay challenges in favor of deep conversation, card games, cooking, Heads Up, and marathon rounds of living-room karaoke. (Who knew Mary could out-Bublé Bublé, for instance, or that Pat can perform Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light” in the voice of a valley girl?)

Meanwhile, we ventured out often for tubing expeditions, invigorating hikes, team meals at the town’s finest restaurants, and trips to the hardware store in search of reasonably priced replacement shower heads.

Hey, what can I say? We know how to cut loose. Things got a little crazy. But those are stories for another day. Don’t worry: Amanda captured every waking moment on a GoPro. We’ll show you the footage when you’re older.

After all, the real reason for our retreat was to connect with each other. To bond. To take a breath and look ahead. Toward that end, the highlight of our time together, the headliner of our festival, the crescendo of our team-building symphony, was a spirited brainstorming session fueled by red wine and bourbon. The staff exchanged unfiltered ideas on the future of our beloved BuzzFarmers: How we can improve workflow, expand our services, more thoroughly blow our clients’ minds, and stay true to our brand while staying ahead of the competition.

I can’t go into details of those internal discussions, unfortunately, but I do have permission to tell you about the restaurants we patronized. It’s always dicey finding authentic and, frankly, edible fare in the dining establishments of major tourist destinations. Not so in North Conway. Our meals were uniformly excellent. Here’s a sampling, complete with some reviews from the BuzzFarmers blue-ribbon panel:


  • May Kelly’s Irish Restaurant and Pub: “I was skeptical that a rack of ribs at an Irish pub could hold up under the harsh light of my vast culinary experience, but these were some of the finest I’ve ever had,” Pat said. “By far the best meal of the trip for me.”
  • Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Co.: “The Thai pizza here, combined with the awesome beer flight, blew me away,” Erin said. “This place was packed during a torrential downpour, and there were a ton of screaming kids, but nothing could distract me from the deliciousness of the food.”
  • Flatbread Company: Chris was in awe of the “mounds of pizza” at this branch of the New England institution. “We had toppings for every taste at the table,” he said. “I tried all of them, and all of them were wonderful.”
  • The Sunrise Shack: “I loved what I ordered, the Yard Sale, a catch all of sorts,” Mary said. “Hash browns, bacon, sausage, eggs, even tomatoes! It was so good, I could’ve cried.” This tiny cafe is known across the land for its warm atmosphere, ambitious menu, and upbeat staff.
  • The Local Grocer: “I’d been wanting to visit this legendary joint for the whole trip, and we finally stopped by on the way out of town,” I said. “So glad we did. The smoothies were extraordinary. I can’t wait to go back so I can try every single thing on their menu.”


Mountain Do: Revisiting Our 2014 Company Retreat


All of that grub gave us the energy we needed to explore the woodsy, watery charms of North Conway and the White Mountains. We ran with the beasts of the forest, swam with the fishes, and rescued stranded tubers (people on inflated rafts, as opposed to potatoes) from the churning rapids. Chris even slept outside under the stars, and Erin’s life is complete having conquered a rope swing. Just to give you an idea of our physical prowess, here’s a quick list of our accomplishments:


Traversing the Saco River

In return for a prearranged amount of money, the Saco Canoe Rental Company kindly equipped us with seaworthy vessels for a wild yet restorative voyage along this magnificent waterway.

The trip down the Saco, besides getting stuck on the shallow parts, was fantastic,” Mary says. “I loved how if we were too far apart, our teammates would wait for us and help if needed. Annnnnnnd Erin helping out that older woman that was hanging on our cooler float.”

Chris agreed.

“I also enjoyed the tubing trip down the Saco, even if I got horribly sunburned,” he says. “There’s always a sense of peace on flowing waters. We had good conversations and lovely weather. At one point, I drifted to the side of the river to wait for our group to reconvene, and a dragonfly landed in the palm of my hand. It stayed there for a few minutes. Quite a humbling experience.”


Hiking Diana’s Baths

The hike through Diana’s baths and the trails leading to it was my favorite adventure,” Amanda said. “The waterfalls were fantastic, and the hike there and around it were a lot of fun.”

Once again, Chris, who’s generally a pretty agreeable guy, agreed.

“One of the highlights of the retreat for me was the trip to Diana’s Baths,” he said. “It’s always special to be there, and getting to share it with others who hadn’t been there before made it even more special. I walked up the river farther than I normally do and found a sun-drenched current that was impossible to ignore. There’s so much beauty in the mountains.”


Swimming in Echo Lake

“There is something majestic about swimming in a lake surrounded by mountains and trees,” Erin said. “It’s as if you’re on your own little planet. And to be there with your friends and coworkers – what’s better than that? Spending the day tossing around ideas in such a beautiful, natural setting was so inspiring.”


Mountain Do: Revisiting Our 2014 Company Retreat


On the 2014 BuzzFarmers Company Retreat, we arrived as six fingers and left clenched in a six-fingered fist, punching through the windows of possibility and karate-chopping the bricks of limitation. We’re renewed and ready. After summiting the White Mountains, we’re gearing up for many more climbs in the years ahead, each of us confident in the knowledge that we’re on the best team in the business.

Don’t believe me? See for yourself:



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Calling All Office Dogs – and Their Humans! Wed, 13 Aug 2014 17:47:54 +0000 Hi! My name is Napa, and I’m the BuzzFarmers office dog. While my official title here at the company is housecarl, I’m pretty much in charge of everything.

Are you an office dog? Do you get up in the morning ready to start your day and head out to work? I sure do! A little breakfast, some yoga stretches, and relieving myself outside. Getting ready is the easiest part of my morning routine. All I have to do is don a bow tie, and I’m dressed for success.

Once I arrive at work, my first responsibility of the day is to make sure all of the office humans are present and accounted for. I greet them with my signature cheerful attitude, and once we’ve dispensed with the pleasantries, I handle my most important morning task: checking for and organizing my toys. After they’re all located and lined up, I can focus on finding a co-worker to partner up with for a while and provide as much moral support as he or she might need. I can also serve as a sounding board for their ideas, and I know they value my objective yet candid feedback.

Some of you might be shaking your tails in agreement. I bet a bunch of you are office dogs, too! Maybe we even share some similarities in our job descriptions.

I’ve been noticing something lately. Tell me if I’m wrong: Office dogs are quite underrepresented online. It seems as if all of the stories I read on the Internet are about human workers, as if they’re the only productive members of society. Who’s asking what it’s like to be an office dog? No one! Who’s sharing our tales – no pun intended – of professional achievement? Also no one!

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Well, it’s time I took a stand and did something about this. Office dogs have a voice! We deserve to be heard – and not just at 3 in the morning when we bark at absolutely nothing outside. (To any humans who might be reading: Sorry about that, by the way. We like to err on the side of caution.)

I’m starting an interview series with other office dogs on my blog, Napa’s Daily Growl. The lineup is formidable so far. I’ve put together a great dog pack with different backgrounds and breeds and job titles. Will you join us?

Your voice should be heard. Let’s tell the world about all of the fun we have, and all of the tough stuff we do. If you’d like to be interviewed for the Working Dog Wednesday series, Tweet me or contact my co-worker Erin (pictured above, on the left).

Don’t be shy, either. Let’s sniff butts, get to know each other, and have a lively conversation from one office dog to another.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

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Business Art and Design: An Intuitive History Tue, 12 Aug 2014 20:24:29 +0000 There are great websites out there that can give you the history of commercial illustration with facts and figures. What I’m going to do is break business art and design down according to the key points that pertain to how human beings understand imagery.

Here it goes:

Humanity forms.

People gather in communities, creating the need for communication.

History gains context as generations pass and the need for written communication develops.

Illustration becomes primal and necessary.

A long time passes, and some really smart people invent the written language.

Written language can only be understood by the wealthy, while the lower class keeps a hold of illustration.

Since the few are wealthy and the many are poor, the wealthy still use illustration to communicate with the masses (think cathedrals, statues, ceramics, etc.).

The Industrial Revolution happens, and within a hop, skip, and a jump, we have access to printed text, mass literacy, and centralized communication processes.

The golden age of this new kind of media is glorified in Mad Men, where we see a world in which the act of writing for composition has become part of the curriculum, while the art gets pushed out of general practice. You only see it in subcultures and the limited “fine arts” communities. But in advertising, the merging of writing and art weirdly becomes central to prosperity.

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And then the collapse. In the 1960s, we saw the rise and fall of the commercial utopian dream. We had mass saturation of imagery. It’s hard to imagine a world where the main source of information was just relegated to a single television in your house with three channels, the newspaper, and radio. That was it, though. Illustration was king for a while within this commercial utopia. It became a commodity. With the ability to make multiple prints of a work, the artist became disposable, and single images became oversaturated in the public consciousness.

OK, so skip ahead a half century to today. We have no central communication. Everybody watches what they want, when they want, where they want, and how they want. There is no centralized process of media exposure. Can you imagine a cartoon character like Mickey Mouse being created today that has the same kind of widespread recognition? No! It would never happen. There’s no way to get kids – and their parents – to all watch the same thing.

The knee-jerk reaction is to get rid of investing in illustration. Keeping up with the Joneses today seems to mean getting a subscription to a stock photography site, hiring workers cheap, and pumping out as many new Facebook posts as possible.

What if you went the other way? What if you slowed down and focused on creating a unique, recognizable image that reached the core humanity of your consumer base?

Take Spike & Reggie LLC, for example. Six months ago, this client approached me to design them a logo. When I inquired about the meaning behind the name “Spike & Reggie,” I was given a completely personal story that was way too complex for a three-second impression needed to be given by an initial pass of the logo. I immediately thought of Saint Archer Brewery as a brand that had a similar design problem.

The story did reveal qualities about the company: Quick, upbeat, responsive, familiar, trustworthy with a little edge. It got me thinking of who “Spike & Reggie” were, and after poking around on the web, I found a concept that had been abandoned since it was overdone in the Seventies: the sports mascot. With a little study of Tex Avery, the characters Reggie the dog and his sidekick headphones, Spike, were born.

Business Art and Design: An Intuitive History

There was a time when the mascot was king in every brand. But when everyone had it, no one wanted it anymore. And, bingo, where there has been abandonment, I have now found an opportunity for my client to have a unique brand illustration that brings about a powerful nostalgia.

Business art and design styles from the past, due to their saturation, are widely unused. Much like the Spike & Reggie illustrated mascot, many business illustration methods of yesteryear have been abandoned and are ripe to be resurrected. Now, I am not saying go out and get a mascot. What I am saying, instead, is to be open to the past for models that were once successful. Maybe your business needs a really amazing comic book or an animation.

Whatever you’re doing, make sure you aren’t just trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing to move forward in your business. You can’t win that way.

Wayne Gretzky once said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

To know where the puck is going to be, you definitely need to know where it has been.

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Getting to Know Our Newest Managing Editor: Erin Ollila! Mon, 16 Jun 2014 16:08:40 +0000 Within the span of her first two responses during our introductory Q&A, which you can read below, Erin Ollila goes from Lizzie Borden to dwarves to Cambodian food to Ducky from The Land Before Time to backyard recreational sports.

That’s not unlike any casual conversation with Erin. It starts with an innocent “Good morning, Erin, how are you?,” pinballs all over the place, and the next thing you know, you can still hear her voice trailing off down the hallway behind you as you walk outside to your car to head home.

When we’re not around, she talks to Napa the Dog. When Napa’s out with us and nobody’s around, she talks to the security camera. She talks in her sleep. She talks to ATM machines and those annoying videos on gas station pumps. She talks to her food. She got married last weekend, and her vows were written on an On the Road-length scroll trailing behind her as she made her way to the altar. They were longer than her train, and their safe passage down the aisle required the assistance of several adorable children who strained under their weight. It reportedly took her a full five and a half hours to read them. This was reported by her, because everyone else had already left for the reception.

So, Erin is a bit of a chatterbox. Which is great, because she’s interesting, smart, warm, and engaging. She’s probably the nicest person in the building, too. And, most importantly, she’s a fantastic writer, researcher, and editor – truly top of the line. She’s a joy to work with, and we’re so lucky to have her.

Here’s a little more about Erin, in her own words. Suffice it to say, this is … abridged.

BuzzFarmers: Where are you from?

Erin Ollila: I grew up in Fall River, Mass., where Lizzie Borden (supposedly) gave her father 40 “whacks,” but really, where’s the proof? It’s also the hometown of other local legends (besides myself) such as Emeril Lagasse and Hank the Angry Dwarf. My favorite thing about Fall River is the food. You can find yellow-box chow mein, Lebanese Meat Pies, chouriço, khmer bee bong, and many other authentic dishes right around the corner.

BF: What were you like as a child?

EO: The best example I can give you is Ducky from the Land Before Time. We have the exact same energetic, excitable, over-talkative personality, and I’m quite proud of that. I’m told I sang myself to sleep before I could even talk. Happy-go-lucky and apparently quite naive, I was also easily manipulated by my brothers into agreeing to championship Wiffle Ball games in return for their playing Barbies with me for a mere 10 minutes.

BF: Who are your heroes?

EO: My parents: My mom is a nurse, and my father, a psychologist. They raised my siblings and me to treat others with respect and dignity. They were excellent parents and are now even better grandparents. If I could be even 25% as great of a parent as they were, I would consider it a success.

BF: Describe your education.

EO: I have an MFA in creative writing (nonfiction) from Fairfield University, and a BA in English and Communications from Rhode Island College. After answering my father’s “What did you learn today?” question throughout my childhood, I’ve come to consider myself a student of life, and try to absorb as much as I can from the world around me.

BF: Describe your work experience.

EO: I’m an overachiever with 12 years’ experience in Human Resources in the nonprofit setting. Throughout that time, I also worked as a psychiatric case manager for eight years, and a floral/event coordinator for about 16 years (and counting). Most recently, I co-founded a literary journal with a graduate-school colleague, and we’re enjoying watching our baby grow up.

BF: Why did you want to work at BuzzFarmers?

EO: I thoroughly cyber-stalked Amanda, Pat, and BuzzFarmers before deciding to apply, and everything I learned about Amanda and Pat just made me like them more. I wanted to be their real-life friend! Plus, BuzzFarmers presented itself as a place I knew that I would both learn an immense amount, and also have a lot to offer to the team and to the clients. Getting the job and tackling the work so far has been a dream come true.

BF: What are your goals here?

EO: I plan on getting to know my clients needs and doing everything possible to make sure I can meet and exceed their expectations.

BF: What are your hobbies?

EO: I love to spend time with my family and friends. I try to live an experiential life, while at the same time documenting both our mundane and exciting activities. My favorite possessions are home videos my parents took of my siblings and me when we were young (there are a lot!), so I want to be able to give my kids that same look back in time, too. So, basically, I take a lot of iPhone photos, save scraps of paper such as admission tickets and other random oddities, and combine them into a scrapbook for each year of our lives.

BF: What’s your favorite TV show and why?

EO: In all honesty, I watch most of my shows via Netflix or Amazon Prime (I’m hooked on Hell on Wheels, Walking Dead, and Orange Is the New Black). There is just something so satisfying about taking in a whole series in a few weeks or a month. The worst part is having to wait for a new season to release! Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are my favorite shows that are still on air. I grew up watching both my with grandmother, who lived with my family. I’m always ready to solve a puzzle or answer in the form of a question.

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BF: What kind of music do you listen to when you’re working on something or exercising?

EO: I appreciate a good mixtape while working. I could switch among classical, jazz, R&B, and country all day. I like to listen listen to angry hip-hop when I work out and show tunes – or just super-singable songs – when I’m on the treadmill. I’ll admit that I both rap and sing while getting my physical activity, as I pretend I’m performing in a concert. I regularly remind myself not to  break into song in the office, though I’ve taken to singing “Bless You” after people sneeze, and they don’t seem to mind – so far!

Getting to Know Our Newest Managing Editor: Erin Ollila!

BF: Tell me a quick story that encapsulates what kind of person you are.

EO: During my first graduate school residency, I won the Trueblood Award. Named after one of the early students in the program, the award goes to members of the incoming class who are most unabashedly themselves. I can’t imagine winning anything better in my life.

BF: Favorite dish you’ve ever had at a restaurant? Describe the dish and tell us the restaurant.

EO: Really? You want me to choose just one dish? This is impossible to answer, so I’ll give you the first three that come to mind: 1) Beef Satay at Thai Taste Too in Dartmouth, Mass.; 2) Crab Dip at the Taphouse in Ghent, Norfolk, Va.; and 3) Pho at Apsara in Fall River, Mass., before it changed owners.

BF: Are you a mountain person or water person?

EO: I really enjoy the water. I never realized how far people had to drive to get to a pond or a lake or a beach as I grew up on the east coast, so I try to appreciate it as much as I can now.

BF: What’s your favorite feature of yourself?

EO: I almost always wake up in a good mood, regardless of what’s happening in life. It’s a blessing.

BF: Name the first five things you’d do if you won $5 million.

EO: Hug my husband and child. Jump up and down. Sit down. Cry. Not tell anyone else. Wait, were you asking me what I’d spend the money on? Oh, that’s easy. I’d pay off my student loans, buy a reasonable house with a huge yard, send my parents on a well-deserved vacation, bank enough for my child’s education, and deposit the rest and watch it grow!

BF: How tall are you?

EO: 5’1” and proud of every inch! My 8-year-old is quickly catching up to me at 4’5”, and it’s totally freaking me out. Children should be smaller than their parents!

BF: Website you visit most often?

EO: Google helps me find my way.

BF: What are you reading right now?

EO: Old diaries.

BF: Who do you like better, Pat or Amanda, and why?

EO: This is easy. Napa is my favorite.

BF: What’s your favorite form of transportation? Get as specific as you’d like.

EO: Teleportation. That’s about as specific as I would like to get.

BF: Favorite game?

EO: I love board games, especially when more than two people are playing. I also love playing baseball with my boys, but only when they follow the rules and don’t make them up while we play!

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Marketing Genius: Startup Customer Service Done Right at HipChat Mon, 09 Jun 2014 19:15:10 +0000

Marketing Genius is a series created by BuzzFarmers to give virtual high fives to anyone who develops a unique (and brilliant) marketing idea worth talking about.

If communication leads to community, then BuzzFarmers has the strongest community known to man. We’re storytellers, so we have a lot to say (some more than others). Good discussion is at the core of the BuzzFarmers culture, and no topic is off limits.

We facilitate that discussion with one of the most popular apps in the BuzzFarmers office: the instant messenger tool HipChat. HipChat is a startup that offers free and paid private chat services for internal communication and collaboration. Unlike AIM, Google Talk, and Skype, HipChat was built for businesses.

We use a private room every day dubbed “The Water Cooler” to communicate with our out-of-the-office colleagues, as well as the ones sitting right next to us. We can quickly bounce ideas off of each other and offer instant feedback, as well as trade links and files in real time. What’s best is that all conversations are archived, and you can use HipChat on any device, so you never miss a thing. And, yes, there’s a video chat feature.

It has made work email nearly obsolete, and no one is complaining. And sometimes you just need a place to share photos of baby pigs and stuff.

Marketing Genius: Startup Customer Service Done Right at HipChat

Why We Think HipChat Is Rocking It

In addition to our personal love for HipChat, we think they do something pretty cool, too.

Communication is the best way to create strong relationships with your colleagues and, most importantly, with your customers. The people over at HipChat pride themselves in their ability to provide a great communication program, as well as to listen to their customers’ wants and needs.

Thus, they’ve incorporated social listening and customer service into their marketing strategy, and that’s why we think they’re marketing geniuses.

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Customer service isn’t always considered a “marketing” role, but there’s no word of mouth like that which comes from great customer service. In fact, customer service is often overlooked until it’s too late. No matter how much goodwill you create with expensive advertising, bad customer service – or even worse, no customer service – can hurt your reputation quickly.

They even devote a section of their Facebook to consumer feedback using UserVoice, where fans can suggest ideas for HipChat’s R&D.

On Facebook, HipChat has a tab called “Feedback” where they actively seek out feedback from their users. Users can then vote on the different “ideas” that users pitch so that the folks at HipChat can determine which bugs should get fixed first, or which features are most aggressively requested.

Marketing Genius: Startup Customer Service Done Right at HipChat

HipChat moderators can respond to suggestions and mark them as “under consideration,” while other users can comment and weigh in .

Marketing Genius: Startup Customer Service Done Right at HipChat

This is certainly more than just customer service, and it’s not limited to Facebook. They answer questions and respond to their Twitter followers within a matter of minutes. HipChat doesn’t offer phone support, but instead leverages their online community support center to both solve problems and keep track of bugs.

Don’t get us wrong – we loved the Y U No Use HipChat billboards from a few years ago, but nothing’s better than a good, longstanding reputation.

For a startup, customer service has never been more important. How’s your company incorporating social listening into their marketing strategy?

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Marketing Genius: WhistleGPS Hits 10k Pre-Orders With Cute Dog Photos Fri, 30 May 2014 16:16:52 +0000

Marketing Genius is a series created by BuzzFarmers to give virtual high fives to anyone who develops a unique (and brilliant) marketing idea worth talking about.

Everyone at BuzzFarmers is always on time, because there’s no such thing as sneaking into the office if you’re late. The second you open the door, you’ll receive a friendly – and frenzied – greeting from Napa, the office dog and housecarl (who has his own blog: Napa’s Daily Growl). Although he’s not very good at answering the phones and sleeps through our weekly meetings, his fuzzy face is a reminder that there is a world outside the workload.

As much as we love our co-workers (and I think I speak for everyone), the connection we share with our pets is one of the most important bonds we have in life. Not only do pets reduce stress after – or during – the workday, but they also motivate us to exercise. Our four-legged friends keep us healthy and active, but who’s taking care of them?

Marketing Genius: WhistleGPS Hits 10k Pre Orders With Cute Dog PhotosWell, the people over at Whistle Labs are releasing an awesome pet product that does just that. WhistleGPS is an on-collar activity monitor and GPS tracking device that measures your dog’s resting, walking, and playing activity in the same way that the Fitbit measures a person’s sleep, steps, and calories burned. One of the most important features of the WhistleGPS is the built-in GPS that works with your smartphone to track the location of your dog in case he wanders off.

Whistle wants humans to understand how the activities they do with their dogs influence their overall health and, ultimately, add years to their lives. The company is also doing great things with marketing and PR, and that’s another reason why we think they’re cool.

Why We Think WhistleGPS is Cool: ‘Worry Less, Adventure More’ with #WhistleGPS

As serious as Whistle is about improving pets’ health with tech advances, at their core, they’re still just dog lovers. And what dog lover doesn’t like a cute dog photo or two? Thus, the “Worry Less, Adventure More” photo contest was born.

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Marketing Genius: WhistleGPS Hits 10k Pre Orders With Cute Dog Photos

Users could enter to win a free device by sharing photos of their dogs enjoying their dream adventures along with the hashtag #WhistleGPS (instead of some brand-less hashtag like #DOLO, which I guess is YOLO for dogs). Even Napa submitted a photo!

Marketing Genius: WhistleGPS Hits 10k Pre Orders With Cute Dog Photos


There was a moderate spread of response on Twitter, but the cuteness was overflowing on Facebook and Instagram.

This not only spread the word about WhistleGPS, and helped reach their goal of 10,000 pre-orders that week, but essentially created a database of funny dog photos, for which we thank them.

The wearable device market is exploding as we try to find new ways to quantify our habits and actions. It only makes sense to apply the same technology to man’s best friend with a health monitor and dog-tracking collar. What do you think is coming next in the world of wearable tech and pet care? Google Glass for your cat? We think Whistle’s strategy of capitalizing on our love for goofy pet photos is brilliant. What do you think?

And, yes, Napa is already signed up!

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