Andrew Houglum

Think Twice Before Sending Spam

From time to time we have clients that ask us:

“Can’t we just email to this list we purchased?”

If you have a tiny list (100 – 150 names) you can typically send a single personal email without much issue.

But, usually the risk isn’t worth the reward.

Getting your server IP address or domain name on a blacklist isn’t worth it. Once you are on a blacklist it will take you months and thousands of dollars to get removed.

There are many other ways to get your message out to prospects without resorting to large scale spam.

Spam is still spam. Think twice before sending!

If you are having issues getting your message out, contact us for help.

Andrew Houglum
To SEO or NOT to SEO… That is the Question!

What is that often quoted line from Hamlet? “To be or not to be… That is the question!”

I often think of that quote when a client starts talking about SEO.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is such a marketing buzz word that every business thinks they NEED it, and if they don’t have it they are missing out on life changing, truck-loads of business!

Here are a couple SEO myths/truths that you should consider before hiring a company to do SEO.

MYTH: SEO Gives a Quick ROI

TRUTH: SEO does NOT provide a fast way to get new clients and make more sales.  SEO is a slow process that can take 3-6 months before seeing solid results.

MYTH: SEO is a Waste of Money

TRUTH: SEO is NOT a waste of money, but can feel that way because it may take a number of months before real progress is made.  SEO is an important marketing tool, but should NOT be where you spend your first marketing dollar.  You should spend the first part of your marketing budget on efforts that have more immediate return on investment.  Grab the “low hanging fruit” first before getting every piece off the entire tree.

MYTH: SEO is for Every Company

TRUTH: SEO is NOT a good fit for every company.  If you answer yes to any of these questions, I would consider spending your marketing dollars on other efforts.

  • Is your marketing budget less than $3k – $5k per month?
  • Is your product/service sold mostly to other businesses?
  • Are your sales down and you need immediate new business?
  • Is your product/service a niche product that many don’t know about?

What should I do?

I recommend speaking with a one of our marketing consultant who can assess your business and create a blueprint outlining where you should spend your marketing dollars.  SEO is a great marketing tool, but should only be used as part of a full marketing plan.  Don’t just buy SEO because you heard it was important.


Andrew Houglum
Work Backwards to Move Forwards

“We need help!”

This is something we hear from prospective clients when we first start the engagement process.  Companies turn to consultants once they realize that the skills inside their organization don’t fit the problem at hand.

What is the problem at hand?

  • Achieve the goal!
  • Get to the next level!
  • Get over the hump!

We hear these nondescript phrases that all really mean the same thing.

“I know WHERE I want to go, but not HOW to get there.”

If you are feeling this way in your business, then here is a quick exercise to help better create a plan of “next steps” to get to where you want to go.

First, really define the WHERE you want to go.  You may think you “know” what it is, but until you have written it out for somebody else to understand… You don’t really “know” it.  A simple way to define your WHERE is to explain it to somebody not in your industry.  Talk to a spouse, family member or friend and articulate WHERE you want to be in terms of:

  • What does your revenue look like?
  • Who are your employees and/or vendors? (hire and fire)
  • What kind of clients do you serve?
  • How will that change your day?
  • What processes need to be in place?
  • What automation needs to be in place?

Really get in there and layout what “over the hump” looks like.  By explaining it to a somebody who isn’t in your industry, they will ask questions and force you to articulate items that someone in your industry may take for granted.

Next, start asking yourself: “Immediately before THAT, we have to complete ______.”  Fill in the blank.

For example, you may decide that “over the hump” entails adding 10 new employees to your organization.

But, before you can add a 10th new employee you need to add a 9th… And an 8th… And so on…

In essence you are working backwards from your goal to your current state.  But you do this not just for one aspect of your business.  You do this for every aspect that you detailed in step one.

Finally, the outcome of this exercise is a list of your “next steps” – or a simple plan on what to tackle next in your business that you KNOW will lead you to your goal.

If this seem overwhelming, contact us… This is what we do!


Andrew Houglum
Dream Big! Strategize Small.

A new year brings out grand plans and ideas on how to improve your business.  Ways to “take it to the next level!”

Most business can define what “the next level” looks like, but they don’t know HOW to get there.  Their failure isn’t in desire or lack of business know-how, but in the breakdown of what constitutes a “plan.”

Plan: a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.

We see businesses that think they have a plan, but only really have an idea.  Here are a couple tips on how to turn your idea into an action plan.

  1. Divide your idea into a timeline.  Talking through the high-level steps from today to the idea’s fulfillment can help you divide the process into phases and then into smaller tasks.
  2. Take care of first things first. You don’t have to have every task for every phase decided at the beginning.  Only break the first phase down into tasks.
  3. Keep pushing. If you aren’t meeting with your team weekly (or every-other week) to assess the progress, then the tasks will get lost in the sea of the grind.
  4. Tasks need an owner. If a task doesn’t have an owner, and a clear due date – they will get pushed back and not accomplished.  If a task is too big to have a single owner; then it isn’t a task, but a phase or section and should be broken down further.

At DBM we enjoy helping business take their ideas and turn them into an actual plan.  Reach out if you are stuck and need a plan.

Andrew Houglum
Quit Logging In & Out

How many different email accounts do you login to each day?  Do you keep different browsers open for different “accounts” – like Firefox is for my personal email and Chrome for my business email?

Well… You can stop all that nonsense!

Check out Shift

Shift is a desktop app that allows you to organize your different email and app accounts in one platform.  No more logging in and out to different email accounts or apps.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.


Andrew Houglum
Baby Steppin’

One of my favorite movies of all times is “What About Bob?”  I think Bill Murray is extremely funny in this movie, and it has a great line: “I’m baby steppin’! I’m doing the work!”

The idea is that you can accomplish anything if you just put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

I believe that this is also true in business.  You don’t have to have all your marketing campaigns fully developed on day 1 – you can baby step into them.

The baby step plan involves two items:

  1. Know where you want to go
  2. Know the next step you need to take

Notice, that this is different than the “spaghetti” model – “throw everything on the wall and see what sticks!” That model rarely works, and will cost you too much money.

As we are coming into the new year, my challenge to you is to forget the “spaghetti” model of business and start using the “baby steppin'” model.

Andrew Houglum
The Tale of Two Clients

This week I had an interesting set of experiences with two different clients.  Both clients had unrealistic expectations of how their marketing pieces show be created, but from different ends of the spectrum.

Client #1 – Too Much

For Client #1 we were helping them create a landing page to sell their services.  I had given them the “Golden Circle” of WHY – HOW – WHAT, and they had created about 6 pages of content for a single landing page.

Normally, having more content from a client is better than less content, but in this instance the Client didn’t want to trim any of the content down.  They were attached to all the words that were written instead of allowing us to use the words and construct a landing page that flowed and held a user’s attention.

We worked with the Client to eventually cut the content down to a more standard 300 word landing page.

Remember, for a landing page – LESS IS MORE.  Keep your landing pages between 200 – 300 words, as that is the amount most people can read in a minute.

Client #2 – Not Enough

For Client #2 we were assisting in creating a brochure to outline their entire service offering.  This client’s services were easy to explain to a potential customer… In theory…  But, because the execution contained many different concepts they often had to answer: “What EXACTLY am I getting?”  Or, “What IS xyz service again?”

Normally, this question is easy for a business to answer.  “You are getting X, Y and Z.”  But, in this instance just listing the services wasn’t enough as each service was unique and new to potential customers.

We worked with the Client to expand each of their line items in their service offering.  We applied the WHY – HOW – WHAT principle to each individual activity bundled in their overall service.

Remember, for a new service – MORE IS MORE. Don’t assume that your potential customers speak the same language you do. Be ready and willing to expand your “WHAT” if you are introducing a service to the marketplace.

Get Started

Please contact us if you are having trouble creating a landing page or marketing piece that both explains and doesn’t bore your potential customers.



Andrew Houglum
Landing Pages and the Golden Circle

As digital strategy consultants, one of the things we get asked to create on a regular basis are “landing pages.”  If you aren’t familiar with the term – a “landing page” is a single web page where a marketing campaign will direct prospects to “sell” something.  I put sell in quotes because sometimes what you are selling doesn’t involve money; for example, you may want the prospect to use their email address or phone number as currency to “buy” something from you.

So, what content should you put on a landing page?

If you Google “landing page” you will be overwhelmed with all the classes, tools and templates to help you create a “killer” landing page. But, unless your product fits EXACTLY with their example, you are still left trying to answer the question… “What content should I put on my landing page?”

The Golden Circle

If you have never watched Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” Ted Talk…  Stop what you are doing and watch this right now:

Now, I know what you are thinking…  “How does the Golden Circle apply to landing pages?”

Landing Page Golden Circle

WHY should the prospect buy what you are selling? What is the top way your product or service will change their life?

HOW will your prospect’s life be improved by what you are selling? I.E. What are the benefits?

WHAT are you selling? Specifically, what are the features that will create a world where what you just detailed comes true?

If you follow this simple landing page content formula, your landing pages will be easier to create and contain all the content your prospect wants.

If need help creating a landing page – let us know.


Andrew Houglum
Google’s BERT Looking at What You MEAN Not What You SAY

Google just released a new algorithm update called “BERT” – which stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.”

In this update Google is using “transformers” or words before/after another word that will change the overall intent of the phrase.  Or as Google put it:

“This breakthrough was the result of Google research on transformers: models that process words in relation to all the other words in a sentence, rather than one-by-one in order. BERT models can therefore consider the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it—particularly useful for understanding the intent behind search queries.” – Google Blog

Here are a couple examples that Google provided with their explanation.

Example 1:

Here’s a search for “2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa.” The word “to” and its relationship to the other words in the query are particularly important to understanding the meaning. It’s about a Brazilian traveling to the U.S., and not the other way around. Previously, our algorithms wouldn’t understand the importance of this connection, and we returned results about U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil. With BERT, Search is able to grasp this nuance and know that the very common word “to” actually matters a lot here, and we can provide a much more relevant result for this query.

Example 2:

Let’s look at another query: “do estheticians stand a lot at work.” Previously, our systems were taking an approach of matching keywords, matching the term “stand-alone” in the result with the word “stand” in the query. But that isn’t the right use of the word “stand” in context. Our BERT models, on the other hand, understand that “stand” is related to the concept of the physical demands of a job, and displays a more useful response.

What does this mean?

Now I know what you are thinking… What does this mean? How will this change my ranking?

First, you should always be monitoring your ranking to see if there is any change.

Second, this change is going to affect mostly “sentence” or “long-tail” type searches.  This should make you happy, as this change should help potential clients who are looking to BUY your services find you.

In a nut shell, if you create long form content that conveys the “intent” that your targeted user should have when visiting your site – you should come out on top.

Please contact us for more info on how it increase your SEO rankings.



Andrew Houglum
KPI Dashboards – I Want One!

One of my favorite business books is “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” or “4DX” for short.  It lays out a specific technique for how you can achieve your business goals.  If you haven’t read the book (or listened on Audible), I suggest you start today!

The 4DX steps are:

  1. Focus on the Widly Important
  2. Act on the Lead Measures
  3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
  4. Create a Cadence of Accountability

My goal isn’t to write a summary of the 4DX steps; I just want to focus in on steps #2 and #3.

Step 2 details how you should know your key performance indicators (KPI), and break them into two groups.

  • Lag Measures – KPI that you can only measure after the sale
  • Lead Measures – KPI that you can measure before the sale

Step 3 details how you should display your specific KPI (Lead and Lag) on a scoreboard for your entire organization.

But… How can you actually do that?

This is where most businesses give up.  They either don’t know how to track the data, or they have lots of data but don’t know how to effectively “wrangle” it into a cohesive dashboard.  DBM Grow can help you:

  • Decide what data to track
  • Build a data model and a platform to facilitate tracking
  • Manage the roll out of KPI dashboard using analytic tools

Here are two affordable tools that we use to create KPI dashboards for our clients.


In Klipfolio you make data widgets called “klips” and put klips together to form dashboards. Klipfolio connects to all major data sources, and is affordable ($70 – $570 / month).  It does have a learning curve, but it doesn’t charge for different integrations.  More about Klipfolio


Clicdata differs from Klipfolio in that you make each dashboard independent of the other dashboards.  You don’t create widgets and place them, you build the dashboard as one complete unit.  But, Clicdata is much more of a “drag and drop” kind of platform. Its learning curve is much smaller than Klipfolio, which usually means the time to create a couple dashboards is much shorter.  It is similarly priced ($29 – $499 / month), but if you want to use a MySQL data connector you will need one of the more expensive packages. More about Clicdata

I Want One! Now What?

If you have a tech savvy person on your team, you can pull your data together and build your KPI dashboards yourself.  Or, take advantage of our nerd team and contact us for a free consultation on what the best plan is for your situation.

Andrew Houglum
5 Tips to Ensure Your Website is Secure

Security is a currently huge hot button issue with all of our clients.  It used to be that if you weren’t “selling” anything on your website you didn’t really have to worry about website security.  But those days are long gone!

As recent news reports have shown us, no system is 100% secure.  We have seen Fortune 500 companies that spend millions on security breached. So what can a small business owner do to protect themselves?

1. Ensure your site has an secure socket layer (SSL) certificate installed

I’m sure you have see the little lock icon next to the web address in your browser, but do you know what it means?  The lock icon means that all the data sent to and from your computer (laptop, smartphone, tablet, whatever…) is encrypted.  Therefore, if a “hacker” is able to look at your data stream, it would be gibberish.

This is not only important to protect your user’s data, as it is sent to your website, but most websites have an “admin” or “management” portal that is accessed using a username and password.  Having an SSL protected site will protect others from gaining access to your website.

The cost of an SSL certificate can vary from $0 – $800 per year.  Most hosting plans will provide you a basic SSL certificate at no cost.

2. Use a web application firewall (WAF)

How many movies have you seen where somebody yells out: “they’ve breached the firewall!” Do you really know what a firewall is? Basically, a firewall is a piece of code that looks at network traffic and stops “bad” traffic and allows “good” traffic.  A web application firewall (WAF) is specific kind of firewall that looks at visitors to your website and stops visitors from doing bad things.  They may be accessing your website through a legitimate means, but what they are doing on your site isn’t.

The cost of a WAF is around $20 per month, but normally WAF providers will also include other services (like a CDN) for no additional charge.

3. Back-up your site daily

Knowing your website is backed up is like a “warm blanket” that removes stress!  If your site is compromised, you can restore from your last back and be back up and running in no time.  Let’s be honest, if your site is down, the only question you want answered is – “when will it be back up again?!?!”

The cost of daily back-ups vary from $0 – $5 / month.  I would first check with your hosting company on how often your site is backed up.  How many back-ups are kept? (If you don’t notice the error for a couple days and you only keep one day of back-up… You are out of luck!) Cost and timeline to restore a back-up.  If your host doesn’t have a clear and quick method for you to see your back-ups and restore them; I would recommend getting an off-site back-up service.  An extra $5 / month is well worth the peace of mind!

4. Update your content management system (CMS) monthly

Almost every modern website is built using a content management system (CMS).  The most common are WordPress and Joomla, but you may know it just as the “admin” or “management” portal.  If your website has login where you can edit the content of your website, then you have a CMS.

A majority of security breaches occur because your CMS was compromised.  Either through a bug in the CMS code or through the “hacker” gaining knowledge of your login credentials.  In the SSL section I covered how your CMS credentials could be compromised, so we won’t review that issue.  The second potential problem is a security hole (or “bug”) in the CMS code.  If you are using a current CMS then the code will get updated monthly, and you should update your server’s version of the CMS when new updates are released.

There are paid tools that can help you track and update your CMS, but generally you simply have to login and click “update.” Of course, do a back-up before you do any updates!

5. Monitor your site daily

This seems like a “no brainer” but check on your website daily.  A simple and easy way to avoid your clients seeing a compromised website is to check it daily and revert to back-up quickly.  This will also ensure you site never lands on a “blacklist” – because once your site is on a blacklist it can take weeks or months to get it removed.

There are 3rd party tools that will “ping” or check your site for you, but you can easily make it part of your daily or weekly processes.


There is no guarantee that your site won’t get “hacked” but there are simple steps you can take to avoid a compromised site or to be back up and running quickly after a compromise.

If you are a client of ours and have our “customer care” plan, these are all things we automatically do for you.

Let us know if you want to learn more.

Andrew Houglum
Can I Afford an App?

When talking with our clients, one topic that comes up regularly is: “I wish I could get an app for that!”

Now they aren’t talking about an app to walk their dog or take out the trash.  For years business owners and senior managers have lamented the fact that only enterprise organizations with VERY deep pockets have been able to afford an app specifically for their business.

But, that time is gone!

And nobody knows!

Companies have been told that simple apps cost $100k+ to develop and release, and so they quit asking the question…

“Can we build and app for that?”

In 2015 Facebook released a programming framework called “React Native.”  React Native is used to develop applications for Android, iOS and UWP by enabling developers to use React (JavaScript library) along with native platform capabilities.

This has brought feasibility of a small business to have an app of their own.

So, if you have ever thought… “I wish we had an app…”  It may no longer be wishful thinking!

Andrew Houglum