MO: Hi, this is Marlene and today we’re meeting with Marty Pippin, whose company is Digital Cusp. Marty is a tenant at Knoxville Executive Suites and I’ll let him tell you little bit about what Digital Cusp actually does.

MP: Thanks, Marlene. Digital Cusp is a digital marketing agency that specializes in enterprise level marketing. We do search engine optimization, paid search affiliate marketing, email marketing, and lead generation. As a byproduct of that, we do tend to have lots of website design and development work as well. Marlene, we also do a ton of website development. A lot of companies come to us, these days especially, looking for responsive web design to try to get their sites much more capable of being viewed and utilized on mobile devices.

MO: Yeah, I understand that. I think that’s what we’re doing with my website, also. Now you mentioned search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Many years ago before we even heard the term SEO I was told that a small business, if they only had a limited amount of money for marketing, that’s where they needed to spend their money, on search engine optimizing. That was maybe eight years ago. Can you tell us briefly the difference between SEO, search engine optimizing, and search engine marketing?

MP: Sure, it’s kind of confusing, but search engine marketing is more of an umbrella term that encompasses all forms of search engine work. Search engine optimization is one piece of that. Today, even that’s been broken down so there’s also what I call hyper local search. Companies with more than one location, a lot of times, need to be found not just for their term, like in the case of Knoxville Executive Suites – office rentals. If you had more than one location, you would want to be found for both office locations plus the city name that you’re in. So, hyper local search talks about down to the geographical area, being found for those terms, whereas search engine optimization is more of a bigger term that means key words and being found for those. Also under that same umbrella is paid search, which is another form of search engine marketing where you’re actually buying the clicks through Google and Bing and Yahoo.

MO: Are your clients usually large companies? Do you deal with small companies? Fifty employees? Two employees? Sole proprietorships with one person who has a good business idea?

MP: You know, we kind of span the gamut really. We do a lot of work for smaller companies. To be honest, the smaller the company is, the less likely it’s going to engage in many of the marketing channels that are out there, but they all need a website. Everybody needs a website. These days more and more importance lies in that than before. So yeah, we work with smaller companies. We work with very large companies as well, managing search engine budgets, paid search budgets that range from ten dollars a day to eighteen to twenty thousand dollars a day.

MO: Do you have many clients that want to get in there and make their own changes and adjustments to the website? I personally don’t. I prefer to hand it off and have somebody do it.

MP: Yeah, and for different reasons. Some people just don’t like to spend money and if I can teach them how to manage their own website, they’re extremely happy about that. They don’t have to come back to me monthly for changes. Other people just like the control. There’s that subset of my clients that want to learn how to do it because when it’s time to change a sentence, they simply don’t to wait to get in touch with somebody and have it done, they want it done then.

MO: I can see that. It’s just not my thing, but it’s good to know there are those options for people who do want to go in and make the changes. What is a favorite part of what you do? I’m assuming you do the selling of your services as well as going in and doing the creative part of it. What do you prefer? Well, what is the favorite part? I don’t mean prefer only between those two choices.

MP: (laughing) Right. It’s a very complicated and evolving space, digital marketing in general. While I participate and can actually confidently manage any of the channels that we do marketing for, I can actually go in and do the coding, though you don’t always want me to be the one doing that. I’d say my favorite part is actually sitting down with the business owner, the CEO, and actually helping them find the places that they didn’t realize they were either losing money or could be making money. Helping them explore the opportunities that are available for them and close the gaps where their competitors have kind of come in and were taking money from them. I guess it would really fall into the strategy side. I feel like thirty minutes to an hour with me, a person can come out a lot better prepared to do combat digitally with their competitors.

MO: How did you get started? Is this something you’ve always been interested in?

MP: Well, you know, I have, but it’s kind of strange. Twenty-five years ago while I was still in college I opened up a company called The WORX Group out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, doing promotional marketing, while I was still working on getting my undergraduate degree. Upon graduating, I managed that company for about ten years, left to get my MBA. Came to Knoxville to get my MBA, came out of my MBA program and went to work for Jewelry Television. Within a couple of years I was the director of e-business development for Jewelry Television. I ended up spending several years with those guys. That was really my first introduction to what I would call big e-commerce in digital marketing and I have not left since.

MO: And how long have you been doing it as your own company?

MP: Oh, about five years now.

MO: That’s pretty good.

MP: After Jewelry Television, I was the president of a small online digital marketing agency startup here in Knoxville called HELO Online. It was actually a part of the DenTek Corporation. When I left those guys I started up this company.

MO: Digital Cusp. I want you to tell me, well, you have told me, but I want everybody to hear how that evolved.

MP: Sure. If I take the last year, for instance, I attended four conferences. I went to Search Engine Strategies, I went to LeadsCon which is a lead generation summit in Las Vegas, I went to Affiliate Marketing Summit West, I went to, well, I went to five, I went to one in Miami that talked about digital brand marketing and another one in San Diego that was kind of a social search and a social media conference. I do these things because I want to stay on the digital cusp, I want to stay on the edge of what’s happening and make sure the people that are working with me have every opportunity to utilize anything that’s up and coming to help them with their revenue generating activity.

MO: Anything new and exciting happening in your industry that we might not be aware of yet?

MP: There’s always something going on. Some of the biggest movement nowadays is still around the social media marketing. For a lot of companies, I’ll be perfectly honest, there’s not much real revenue generating capability inside social media. In others there are. It becomes very case by case. One company could come in here tomorrow and I could say, “Hey, there’s this really crazy fun stuff going on with Facebook ads that would really be perfect for you.” And then the next ten in a row, it may be of no value at all, so it’s hard to say there’s anything really, really different, or new. It’s more in the ways that you can manage the stuff and really integrate the way they work together.

MO: Well that brings us to how you found us. How did you find Knoxville Executive Suites?

MP: I had another client that knew that I was, at this point, I had just recently left HELO Online and DenTek, and he knew that I had just moved all of my operations into my home office and was looking for some place to go and he basically said, “Hey, I need to introduce you to Marlene. She’s got a great place out on Cedar Bluff you might like.”

MO: That’s been about four or five years, hasn’t it?

MP: Yeah.

MO: Any particular way, anything special you think we do that benefits your business?

MP: Oh, yeah. You keep bringing people by my office and saying, “Hey, this is Marty. He does websites.”

MO: (laughing) There really is a lot of that. Business is generated here. And I was going to say you’ve moved around a lot here, so we’re flexible.

MP: Right. And I’ve had many occasions where I’ve used the conference rooms for bigger meetings and I still have tentatively on my books to plan a regular training session monthly, so I’m hoping to use the training room soon. All those things.

MO: Before we sign off, again your name is Marty Pippin, it’s Digital Cusp, and how do people find you?

MP: DigitalCusp.com or they’re welcome to give me a call at 865-567-4844.

MO: Alright. Thank you, Marty.

MP: Thank you.