Posted April 20, 2013 8:00 am by with 4 comments

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The Beal Deal is back!

Jennifer CarioI’m not quite sure where to start with the introduction for my next guest. Jennifer Cario (aka Jennifer Laycock) and I go way back–if I recall correctly, she had to proof read my posts back when I started writing for Search Engine Guide….a LONG time ago. Over the years, Jen has found lots of ways to stay ahead of herย competition–turning a C&D letter from the Pork Council into an amazing publicity opportunity! These days, Jennifer is focusing on Pinterest marketing–when not chicken farming or baking delicious treats!

Here’s your bento box of Jennifer Cario!

Q1. Let’s start with your rebrand. You “merged” with Matthew Cario back in 2011 and changed your name from Jennifer Evans to Jennifer Cario. What challenges have you faced building a new name for yourself?

It’s a reminder of just how much work you really do have to put in to establishing that presence and brand recognition.

Merged…good word choice there Andy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

You know for a good portion of my career in the industry, I’ve had a habit of launching test projects for the sake of experiencing things from the perspective of my customers. A lot of old timers will remember my “Lactivist” blog from back in the early 2000’s that I launched to write about building a start-up on a shoestring. Others will remember the bento blog I launched and blocked from search engines to see if I could build up a strong site using only social media.

It seems a bit funny to consider that I walked into this one without really thinking about it, but in many ways it’s given me a lot of perspective on what it is to rebrand, or even originally brand a name. After fifteen years in the industry, most people would have retained their name for professional purposes, but it was really important to me to make the change universal.

In a lot of ways, that’s been a great thing. It prompted me to write my first print book (Pinterest Marketing: an Hour a Day) and it forced me to stop resting on my laurels a bit and to get back to blogging at Search Engine Guide and SugarSpun and to get back on the speaking circuit. It’s a reminder of just how much work you really do have to put in to establishing that presence and brand recognition.

Of course the down side is that a lot of people still don’t put two and two together and don’t realize this new Jennifer Cario person is the Jennifer Laycock that’s been around for ages. I won’t lie and say it didn’t cause us to take a hit business wise. Much in the same way a name change can impact a company. That said, it’s also left the door and some time open for us to take on new clients and explore some new avenues of business and that’s never a bad thing.

Q2. What change in the SEO industry has surprised you the most in the past 10 years?

I suppose maybe the biggest surprise is just how little challenge there has been to Google over the years.

This is an excellent question…and honestly it’s a tough one to answer. From an algorithmic perspective, I think SEO has continued to make a very natural progression. I’ve argued from early on that search engines, at heart, want nothing more than to be a “real boy.” I call it the Pinocchio Effect and use it to explain to people that search engines want to value content in the way humans do.

Whether that’s through link analysis, social signals, rel=author or any other number of things, it’s all about making that human judgement progression within the algorithm.

I suppose maybe the biggest surprise is just how little challenge there has been to Google over the years. I won’t say Bing hasn’t given it some effort, but I don’t think I honestly thought Google would manage to maintain the monopoly that they have for this amount of time. I would have liked to have seen more genuine competition.

Q3. You wrote an entire book about Pinterest marketing. What’s the biggest misconception about Pinterest that you address in the book?

Pinterest gets written off by far too many companies as “that site my wife likes” or “that site I use in my spare time.”

Excellent question. The single biggest misconception about Pinterest is that it’s for 20-somethings planning weddings and 30-somethings looking for their next recipe or craft.

Pinterest gets written off by far too many companies as “that site my wife likes” or “that site I use in my spare time.”

These people lack vision and they lack an understanding of how social channels progress and move into the world of marketing and monetization. You and I remember the days when Facebook was “that site college kids use,” but look at it today. It’s as prolific as Google when it comes to how people use the web and it’s every bit as important as Google in terms of reaching consumers and their pocketbooks.

Pinterest opened the door to the visual web and content curation in a way no other site before it had. So long as it stays on the right track and continues to innovate while serving it’s audience, it will open more and more doors of possibility for creative marketers. We’ve already seen impressive growth in terms of traffic and engagement coming out of the site and savvy retailers are reporting very impressive numbers in terms of direct and indirect sales boosts.

Companies can likely get away with ignoring it for another 6-12 months…but the majority of companies that find success marketing on consumer focused sites like Facebook would be well served to understand how Pinterest might play into their content marketing plans sooner rather than later.

Q4. Your agency Sugar Spun Marketing offers client services and with Market Motive you do a lot of training. What do you prefer, teaching a man to fish, or getting paid to fish for them?

The truth is, I adore training.

Oooh…tough question.

The truth is, I adore training. It has made up the greatest portion of my career primarily because it’s been the part I most enjoy. My years at Search Engine Guide sparked a passion in me for small business and for start-ups and I don’t think I’ve ever quite left that behind.

Training at MarketMotive has been a wonderful blessing because it’s given me the chance to engage with everyone from the self-published author on up to the marketing directors at Fortune 100’s. There aren’t a lot of people in our industry who have had the chance to work with as many types of companies as I have, and I’m very grateful for that.

At the same time, working with clients generally includes a mix of both. While we WILL handle implementation for clients, I don’t like to and I nearly always try to talk them out of it. We know the best social media content comes directly from the people within a company. There’s simply no way a third-party agency can speak with the same level of authenticity as someone internal.

To that end, we generally work more from the strategic planning and training side. I would much rather come along side a company and work with them to build a sustainable social media strategy and then help them refine it and expand it through the integration of metrics and analytics. In these cases, we often end up training their team members on the best ways to use social media and working with them to develop new content approaches and marketing campaigns that they go on to implement. That approach sort of lets me experience the best of both worlds.

Q5. Over at your Flexible Life blog, you’re currently sharing how you’re raising chickens. I don’t see much mention of pork. Do you still hold a grudge? ๐Ÿ˜‰

They heard our voices when we called them out on it and they went on to handle it with as much grace as they could.

Aww…the poor pork board. They still get a lot of flack over that. ๐Ÿ™‚

You and I both know how common it is for someone within a company to take action without thinking and for that action to result in a lot of uproar and a lot of serious reputation damage. That’s exactly what happened with the pork board. Some lawyer was working their way through a list of search results and shot off a C&D without taking the time to look or think.

To their credit, they heard our voices when we called them out on it and they went on to handle it with as much grace as they could. That’s more than a lot of companies manage to pull off and I’m the first to give them their credit when it’s due.

That said, I refer to the chickens as our “gateway livestock.” Our mini-farm hasn’t been actively farmed for nearly 30 years…not since Matt’s grandfather was alive. While we have 22 acres of wonderful land, fields, streams, woods and barns, the farm isn’t “animal-ready.” Matt just built us an amazing chicken coop that holds our starter flock of 17 layers. We’ve also added eight fruit trees to the start of our mini-orchard and expect to add a few apiaries (honey bees) next spring…but the pigs and cows aren’t far behind. We just need the time and funds to get fencing in place.

Look for Cario Farms bacon and beef to join our egg and honey production before the decade is out.

Q6. You’re a wonderful chef and your photos starve me to death on a daily basis. Who is your business role model and what would you cook for them and why?

My plan is to stay with friends and family the entire way, cooking for people in exchange for a cozy bed for the night

Thank you! I like to keep my Facebook friends in a constant state of food envy to prepare for a future sabbatical. At some point, Matt and I would like to take a few months off work to drive across the United States. My plan is to stay with friends and family the entire way, cooking for people in exchange for a cozy bed for the night. I’d love to blog the entire journey. ๐Ÿ™‚

As for my business role model, I’ve actually had the pleasure of cooking for him, though I won’t be able to do it again. My grandfather, Russell B Evans passed away a few years ago, but he has been a constant reminder of what I aim to be in my business life.

My grandfather dropped out of high school to take a job in the steel mills to help support his family. He went off to fight in WWII as a marine and was part of the first wave of marines to come ashore on Iwo Jima. He was one of very few in his unit to make it home again and he lived most of the rest of his life trying to make sure he impacted people in a way that made his life worth it.

After the war, he decided the steel mills weren’t going to last forever and he snuck off to night school to get his diploma while raising three kids with my grandmother. He then set about launching the first insurance agency (State Farm) in our small town. There were times he couldn’t put food on the table without the help of family, but with hard work he built an agency so successful that State Farm had to replace him with two separate agents in our town when he retired.

My grandfather put people first and did it in a way that few companies today manage to do. He knew every person that walked through his office door and whether to offer them chewing gum or hard candies. He once saw a customer driving past his office in a new car and called the dealership to get the VIN to get the insurance going. When the customer got into an accident on the way into grandpa’s office, you can imagine how relieved he was to learn Grandpa already had him covered. And when an F5 tornado decimated my home town in 1985, my grandfather delayed his retirement by nearly a year until every last claim by his customers had been closed out.

I haven’t always made as much money as other people in our industry and I likely never will. Money has never been my biggest priority. But grandpa taught me that if you focus on people and on truly taking care of them, you will gain the type of reputation and customer base that grows organically and that eventually becomes stronger than nearly any other type of marketing can provide.

If I was making him another meal…it would be slow roasted city chicken skewers with redskin smashed potatoes and pan fried garlic bacon brussel sprouts. I’d probably take the time to bake up a loaf of herbed artisan bread to go with it and we’d round things out with some home made browned butter pecan ice cream.

In fact…I think I might have to make that in the next week or two and post it up on Facebook…you know…to keep building those stopping points for that cross country blog journey someday.

Thanks Jen! I’m calling dibs on your Raleigh stopover! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Jen – I went through the attempted name change when I got married in 2010 (I even tried to make it gradual with a hyphen!)… I eventually gave up and went back to just using Hoffman (I didn’t change it legally, because I procrastinate like that, so legally my name is still – and will remain Hoffman) . It’s not an easy process – kudos for sticking with it!

    • Thanks Rae! You and Debra (who finally dropped the O’Neil) were among the few women I knew who actually attempted the name change thing. Then again, Hoffman is a way better last name than “Laycock.” ๐Ÿ˜‰ Besides, sometimes we need these things to kick our tails in gear when we get comfy.

  • Great interview Andy. My favorite part is the meal that Jennifer would prepare for her Grandpa who sounds like the kind legend. I respect/admire. An interview and post that inspires hunger!