Full Sail University Interview with Rob Croll

First – and most obvious – question: Where did you get the name of the business?
Marlannah is a mashup of the first names of my daughters Marlena and Hannah. I like to tell them that I’m making them famous, but they’re mostly focused on who has more letters in the name!

What does Marlannah Group do?
Along with a network of partners I’ve developed over the years, I work primarily (though not exclusively) with small local businesses in Central Florida to help them develop a strategy for marketing their business online. What that means depends entirely on the business the client is in; some clients need everything from a website to email marketing while others may already have some of the pieces.
We’re able to work with them to help shape how prospective customers will find them online, and what they’ll think about them once they find them.

What kinds of clients do you work with?
I’ve not really focused on any specific industry and am fortunate to have worked with clients across a pretty wide spectrum. Currently, for instance, I’m working with a local printing company, a wedding planner, massage therapist, business associations, an eye doctor and a few restaurants, among others.

Why focus on small businesses?
My focus has been primarily on small business clients because I find them the most rewarding to work with, though not necessarily from a financial standpoint! For me, the Internet has the potential to really level the playing field to allow small businesses to achieve success they could have only dreamed of not long ago. But, the reality has been that most small business owners are simply too busy running their business to fully capitalize on the power of the Internet. They’re overwhelmed by the options, don’t have time to educate themselves, and are worried about the shady characters in the Internet marketing industry. (And there are plenty of those!) The more time that passes, the more the Internet changes and the further behind they feel. The printing company I mentioned, for instance, has been in business for over a decade but hasn’t ever even had a website. They were so intimidated by it all that they didn’t even know how to find someone to help. I really enjoy being able to work with someone like that and show them the potential that exists and help them reach their goals. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to help a small business get new clients because it makes a real difference for them.

What advice do you have for small businesses that need help with Internet marketing?
Enroll in the Full Sail University’s Internet Marketing program! Really, though, I’d suggest that most business owners who don’t have a lot of experience with Internet marketing find a reliable partner who can, at a minimum, help guide them in developing a strategy that works. I know that may sound self-serving, but I’ve seen too many instances of businesses wasting time and energy on marketing that isn’t really going to help them, or building a website on their own that does more damage than good for their business.

There’s a lot of talk these days about Web 2.0 technologies like blogging and social media. Should small businesses be jumping on this bandwagon?
Positively, absolutely… maybe. My favorite book on the subject is Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin because he does a superb job of talking about where all this “Web 2.0” stuff can work—and where it won’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “Should my company have a blog?” My answer is always a series of questions, starting with “Are you a good (or at least decent) writer?” and followed by “What are you going to write about? Will anyone want to read it? How will you get people to it? How much time can you commit to writing?” The key is to understand who your customers are. If there’s an opportunity for your business to interact with—not just sell to—your target market online then by all means do it. If you don’t have something to say besides a sales pitch, though, it’s probably not going to work.

What do you think is the most underutilized element of Internet marketing?
Far and away, I think businesses—especially small ones—are missing opportunities on ‘local’ search. If I’m looking for a dentist, it’s likely that my search will include some geo-modifier like a city name or zip code because I know that will improve the quality of the results for me. In many instances, results from a geo-modified search like that will include paid links, natural links AND local listings alongside a map. The source for those listings near the map is different than the others, and you can claim your listing with the search engine, which gives you control over certain elements of the listing. It’s a vastly underutilized—and virtually free—way of getting found online.

How did you end up at Full Sail?
A big part of why I’m attracted to working with small businesses is the teaching aspect. I truly enjoy helping them understand ‘how it all works’ and how to make it work for them. When I discovered that Full Sail was launching an Internet marketing degree, I was incredibly excited. I feel fortunate to be part of an amazing program that’s part of an amazing organization. And, I truly think this is an extraordinary opportunity for our students to learn the future of marketing and that our graduates are going to be sought after by companies big and small. You can get more information about Marlannah Group and the Internet marketing services it provides to clients at www.MarlannahGroup.com.


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