Welcome to The Lower Bridge Blog, where you will find timely, relevant articles on branding, marketing, and communications.

The hope for this blog is simple. We want to be known as a go-to source for comprehensive information on most any marketing topic. We have our favorites, and you’ll see several topics likely revolving around those. You’re likely to find articles on Small Business Marketing, Branding, Content Marketing, Digital and Offline Marketing Strategy, among others.

In this blog, you might also stumble across a running or cycling or golfing blog post – you just never know!

Additionally, we will spend some time covering corporate culture initiatives. Spoiler alert: your corporate culture initiatives should revolve around work from home, flexible time, and treating people like adults. If they don’t, your people are already looking for other jobs. It is not 1992 anymore – you don’t need your people to be “at work” to get work done. If you do, you hired the wrong people.

Geared toward small business owners and marketing agencies that serve small business content, we deliver actionable advice that you can use now to start attracting more leads and customers.

The content schedule (laugh) is fairly loose for this blog. You can expect to see an inbound marketing post one day followed by a post discussing business & life advice or how to lower your mile split time in a 5K race. It’s my blog, I’ll write about what I want.

Yes, we pledge to cut through consultant-speak. No, we will NOT be discussing “leveraging human capital” in this blog. Yes, we WILL simplify marketing concepts by “talking right down to earth in a language that everybody can easily understand.”

For the Marketing MacGyvers out there, we will explore easy and affordable tips for small businesses who need big results. Do you have a limited budget? Welcome to the club! We will help find workarounds for limited resources and limited budgets. Find marketing ideas, tips, tools and strategies to help you reach more customers in less time – for less money. Score!


Pay Attention to the Foundation of Your Business

Did you ever notice that every construction site spends months below ground before any steel or structure rises toward the sky? The Coming Soon signs go up on a site; then it appears that nothing happens, sometimes for months. It’s an illusion of course. The most important work on the project is going on, it’s just not readily visible. Engineers and construction professionals know that a building’s foundation is the most important aspect of the design and build and they spend months on it at the outset. Out of sight, but not out of mind. They know that a beautiful building resting on a pillar of sand is not a winning design.

Your business is exactly like that building, except that your building is always under construction. Every day, you should be devoting time to the foundation of your business: the frontline employees who interact with your customers every single day.

Frontline Employees Are The Foundation

I see so many businesses whose most important employees are the lowest paid and who have the least amount of attention paid to their needs. It’s upside down. Many business “leaders” spend far too much time on the top floor of their building and too little interacting with the foundation of their business.

It’s maddening that some business leaders only appear at board meetings, executive meetings, and high-level strategy sessions, yet assume they have a true sense of what’s going on. Business leaders who only get information about what’s happening on the front lines of their business from directors, managers, and supervisors may not be getting the full picture.

Action Items

To address that lack of clarity, here are action items for this week:

  • Get out into your business.
  • Eat lunch in the cafeteria.
  • Spend a day shadowing a front-line employee and do their job with them for a day.

Recognize that the decisions made in the boardroom don’t always translate well to the frontline. While you may not notice that, your customers will. And your frontline employees most certainly do. Such action items will help you tend to the foundation of your business while you are “constructing” your business daily.

Every Interaction Every Time

It’s often said your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

At lunch today, that lesson became abundantly clear to my guest and me. The restaurant door swung open and the three men entered continuing their conversation. “…If that fat jackass thinks I’m detailing that car when it’s raining outside, he’s got his head further up his ass than I thought.”

The remark drew raucous laughter from the three.

Brand Ambassadors At Work

The men were dressed in full auto service department uniforms (with company and personal nametags…think about it, James), unapologetically bashing someone in full throat. Out the window, it was easy to see the auto dealership across the street where these “brand ambassadors” work.

The hostess sat the trio near our table. We were in earshot of the “private” stories the three shared regarding how they felt the dealership. It provides their livelihoods, but it’s a horrible place.

You Can’t Control Everything

I started to think about the owner of the dealership. The family name is on the door – and on these men’s uniforms. Was the owner the “fat jackass”? Was it the boss of these three employees, or, even worse, was it a customer? This business owner has worked for decades to build and polish a brand with his family name. He was now suffering from employees who did not seem to care about the repercussions of their words in public.

How can a business protect itself from internal sabotage, which at face value is more careless than intentional? Ensure every employee understands the company’s mission and values and how each action they take supports it.

Employee Behavior Is a Marketing Issue

Most small business owners and managers read every press release before sending, meticulously double check every advertisement placed, write brochure copy and monitor online channels for company mentions. But do they understand what living, breathing employees are saying about the company?

  • You and everyone you hire or associate with ARE your brand. When you release them into the wild, they take with them the hopes and dreams of your company. Your team represents you in the marketplace – everything you think your business means, does, and says.
  • Every encounter is sales opportunity. What if I had stopped for a quick lunch with a colleague before buying a $50,000 car at that dealership? The conversation I overheard would have given me pause at least.
  • Every interaction is a brand interaction. What if your company-branded vehicle drives erratically on the highway and flies a bird out the window? Every interaction is a brand interaction, for better or for worse.

Involve Employees In Your Mission

It is vital to keep your employees actively committed to your mission during this time of daily marketplace disruption. Be sure that members of your team believe in what you stand for and the company’s values. If an employee cannot say why he or she works there, it might be time for them to move along.

Goodbye 2016

Not many will stand up and say they’re going to miss 2016. By many accounts, it was an unusually difficult year, filled with more changes than any of us could imagine would fit in one trip around the sun.

Seemingly countless celebrities passed, among them David Bowie (Nikolai Tesla in The Prestige), Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber in Die Hard), Glen Frey (Jimmy Cole in Miami Vice), Nancy Reagan (Lieutenant Helen Blair in Hellcats of the Navy), Prince (The Kid in Purple Rain), Arnold Palmer (inventor of a popular drink), Muhammad Ali (Self in When We Were Kings), Florence Henderson (Wesson Oil spokeswoman), Carrie Fisher (Rosemary Howard in 30 Rock), and Debbie Reynolds (Bobbi Adler in Will and Grace).

Mariah Carey’s career nearly died with about six minutes left in the year. She’s defending herself, but would probably be better just denying it ever happened. It’s not like a billion people were watching. They were. It’s not like there’s a video of what is alleged. There is. It doesn’t matter; it didn’t happen. Who are you going to believe, a billion witnesses, a video, or Mariah?

In 2016, we saw a nice preview of the 2020 election cycle, which should begin in about 90 days or so.

January is typically a time of change. I know I am personally reevaluating what I think I think in 2017, based on what I learned (or didn’t learn) in 2016. For a 2017 New Year’s Resolution? I resolve to put 2016 behind me and focus on how I can help in 2017.

What’s your strategy for 2017? More of the same…or are you ready for some – in the immortal words of Mr. Bowie – ch-ch-ch-ch-changes?

Excitement is High for the 2016 NBA Finals – Especially in Cleveland

The Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25) and the Golden State Warriors (73-9) begin their best-of-7 series tonight at Oracle Arena in Oakland. This matchup is what the basketball world wanted. It’s a revenge matchup of last year’s finals foes. It features the two best teams in the National Basketball Association. We have the first Unanimous MVP versus The Guy Who Probably Should Have Been MVP…it’s all here in this Finals.

Are The Cavs Due?

Tension and excitement will be high as the series kicks off. No major Cleveland Sports team has won a championship in 52 years (and counting). Cleveland’s pro sports teams combined have only made it to the championship round 5 times in that span. (World Series: 1995, 1997; Super Bowl: never; NBA Championship: 2007, 2015, 2016).

Pent Up Demand

Demand for Finals basketball is high. Quicken Loans Arena, home to the Cavaliers, opens its doors during AWAY games for Cavaliers Watch Parties. For a $5 charitable donation, fans can watch the game with other fans on the arena’s Humongotron. Last year, Game 1 of the Finals sold out at Quicken Loans Arena, 2,500 miles from the game’s location. Cavs officials expect high demand again this year. It’s a nice sense of camaraderie. It’s also the team and the arena figuring out a way to generate revenue from an away game. Beer, food, and souvenirs are available for sale during the telecast.

Cleveland is a sports city known best by the moments that have contributed to its lengthy championship drought: The Catch [Willie Mays ’54]; Red Right 88 [Browns ‘81]; The Drive [John Elway and the Broncos ‘86], The Fumble [Earnest Byner ‘87], The Shot [Michael Jordan ‘89], The Move [Art Modell ‘95], Game 7 [Indians ‘97], The Sweep [Spurs ‘07], The Decision [LeBron ‘10].

It is time to throw off these negative memories and bring the city a much needed championship. The Cavs are our best hope this year, and probably next year as well. Golden State is favored in the opening game by 5.5 points, and are 2-1 favorites to win the title. But, as Honest Abe says:

You Have 7 Seconds. Go.

There was a shampoo commercial in the 1980s for Head & Shoulders, which said simply, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

The spirit behind that iconic commercial still rings true today. Ignore the fact that Head & Shoulders was selling dandruff shampoo and your company probably isn’t. You, your company, your product, your service, your employees, your BRAND never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Complicating the matter further, as important as that first impression is, you only get seven seconds to make it. Seven seconds! That’s a shorter time than it took you to read the sentence about first impressions. Count seven seconds to yourself right now. Your first impression is already solidified in their mind.

First Impressions Matter

Prospects are busy, distracted, short on time, short on budget, and short on patience. They are doing everything in their power to get to “No” as quickly as possible. Your goal for your brand is to make the results of the first impression a “Yes” or even “Let’s have another conversation” as quickly as possible. A solid first impression goes a long way to turning a quick “No” into at least another at-bat – or maybe even a “Yes”. It’s critical to get this right.

So what IS your brand’s first impression? If it’s a person, who is approachable, has your brand story straight and is good at telling it, congratulations. Continue to allow that person to tell your brand story at every networking event, tradeshow, and speaking engagement they can.

In most instances, however, almost all of your prospects’ first impressions of your company will not come from face-to-face interactions, but rather through a digital interaction, most typically on your website or through LinkedIn or Facebook. Are your Digital First Impressions working as well as your in-person ones? Do you trust your Digital First Impression to strike up a conversation at the next networking event?

Let’s look at the Big Three Digital First Impression generators: your website, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

The Humble Website

Clear your mind of what you know about your company, your sales cycle, or your funnel. Forget everything and visit your website with fresh eyes – from a Digital First Impression standpoint. Give yourself 15 seconds, which is what the average user spends on any given web page nowadays. It’s harsh, but it’s twice as long as you get in person!

What did you learn? Are you compelled to have a conversation with your brand after seeing the web presence? Do you want to take time out of your already hectic day to engage? If the answer to either of those questions is no, why would you think anyone else would?

Think for a second about HOW you just visited your own website. Did you do it on a phone? Mobile web browsing long ago overtook desktop as the leading way users connect to websites. If you haven’t re-examined your web presence in “a couple of years,” it’s way past time. Is your website mobile optimized, or do you still use a Flash intro, have small fonts, and feature stock photos of bosses who look like Bill Lumbergh? If so, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Saturday, mmmmmkay?

Your website can be an awesome Digital First Impression generator. But to do so, it’s got to be ready for prime time! You’re already paying for it – why not make it great?


If your company does not have a LinkedIn presence, it is going to be even more difficult to break through the noise in the market. If you do have a LinkedIn Company Page presence, congratulations! However, just as with your website, if you haven’t looked at your LinkedIn Company presence in a while, clear your mind and go do so now. I think you’ll be amazed at what’s hiding in the dark corners where you haven’t shined a light recently.

When you moved offices last summer, did you remember to update your LinkedIn Company page with the new information? If you’ve expanded (or contracted), are your Company Size numbers up to date? How many of your employees and leadership follow your company page and list your company as their employer on LinkedIn? If not all, why not?

If you happen to work at a company that uses initials, make sure your employees are pointing to the correct LinkedIn Company page. Say you work at the National Business Association, and your employees all link their profiles to the National Basketball Association: anticipate confusion.


If you have a company presence on Facebook, please go look at it and make sure it’s positioning your brand in the best possible light.

Photos of your team volunteering to plant trees in an urban reforestation? Yes. Photos and a story about the successful blood drive your company hosted in its conference room last month? Absolutely. End-of-the-company-party photos or other brand-damaging communications? You want to go check now, don’t you? Facebook is a great place to make a first impression and humanize your brand, just remember to humanize it positively, because you never get a second chance to make a first impression.